Nineteen months ago, I bought a three inch copper bracelet by Tsimshian artist Henry Green that depicts Raven and Mouse Woman. I had wanted a first-rate Northwest Coast bracelet for years, and this one far exceeded my expectations, with its size, material, and design combining to make it a unique work of art. I rarely wear it without receiving some comments about it – and they are never anything less than positive.
When someone asks casually about it, they are usually a young woman, interested in the bracelet as a miscellaneous piece of jewelry, or else someone of either gender with enough knowledge to at least recognize what they are seeing. Either way, I tell them the artist and where to see his work. If their eyes aren’t glazing over, I add an explanation of the two figures and their mythological characteristics.
However, it is the artists whose reaction intrigues me. Almost always, they ask if I can take it off so that they can handle it. They take it reverently, and turn it over slowly, since it is impossibly to see the entire design from one perspective. Sometimes, they start from the beginning, and examine it two or three times. They rarely say anything as they look, except a “Thank you” when they hand it back.
All the queries, of course, are a tribute to Henry Green’s design ability. However, although I only commissioned the bracelet, I can’t help feeling that the comments are a reflection on me as well. If nothing else, they suggest that I had the good taste in my choice of artist.
However, I admit that the constant reactions are a little unnerving at some level. Unless I’m very much mistaken, I don’t think that I attract a lot of attention as I’m going about my business. I am reasonably certain, for instance, that I have never featured in an “I saw you” ad in The Georgia Straight (not that I have wish to). But the bracelet is such a conversation piece that people notice it in a way that they were never notice me. It gives them the starting point for a conversation that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Sometimes, it feels as though the bracelet is wearing me, instead of the other way around.