I make jewellery. No wait. I MAKE jewellery. These days my hands are never clean looking. Normally I don't really care what my hands and nails look like. But recently while out to dinner with some friends I felt like the "one of these things doesn't belong." Each of my friends had such nice nails. Nicely painted nails, clean hands. We were sharing sushi so I felt the need to announce that my hands were in fact "clean". As I said the words, I realized that I wasn't ashamed. The public announcement was to put the other diners at ease. I am actually very proud of my raggedy nails and the permanent black stains. To me it is a sign that I am working in my studio. I am making jewellery.
I remember as a child watching my grandfather's hands as he spoke. His large hands were always animated as he told a story. The better the story--the more his hands moved. His hands were never clean looking. He worked with his hands too. The diploma on the wall in the hall said that he was a "mechanical engineer". But I knew him as someone who could fix anything. He ran a building in New York City and although he had several "men" working in the shop, my grandfather preferred to be the first to assess what needed to be done to fix something. Which could be the 20-story building's boiler, plumbing of some sort or one of the 3 elevators that periodically got stuck. My grandfather started out as a farmer in western Canada. He ended up in NYC during the depression as he had to find work; any work to make money to save the family farm from creditors. Being young and strong he held several jobs and he found he liked mechanical work more than farming. (And a Scottish lassie named Jean who also lived in NYC was another draw to stay in the United States!)
My grandfather's hands and nails were always black despite his attempts at using various cleaners and even trying to scrape his nails with an awl. I watched him try to clean up once before going to do his business banking. He gave up and tossed the scrub brush into the sink and told me, "If the man at the bank doesn't like the colour of my hands, well then he'd better not like the colour of my money either. There's nothing wrong with hands that are dirty from working."
I wonder what he'd think of my studio and the jewellery I'm making. I hope he'd be proud. My grandfather ingrained in me the need to go to university AND to learn a trade. He figured that with the ebb and flow of economics that I would need to draw on one or the other to make a living. After working on a print magazine for years--and having clean nails, I'm down right proud of my new look and my studio work!