A Monk Named Jimmy

Here is the story behind my piece of artwork “Making Obstacles into Opportunities”

At times I dabble in jewelry making, it fulfills a more crafty, fun side of creativity for me. I haven’t been making much jewelry lately, it has been on the back burner as I am concentrating more on my encaustic and book art work. Several years ago I started making jewelry out of old spent bullet shells. I would take semi-precious gemstones, feathers, bones and other natural and beautiful objects and insert them into the casing. Something about the juxtaposition of an object that causes destruction paired with something that is natural and beautiful. They were very popular for a while and I had them displayed at many places. One of these venues was KALEID Gallery in San Jose.

One day I received a message from the gallery that there was a monk named Jimmy who came in and really loved my amethyst bullet necklace. Jimmy didn’t have any money and wanted to know if I was open to any kind of trade for the necklace. So I went to KALEID to meet and talk to him. He wore the saffron robes of a Buddhist monk and had a large staff/walking stick that was filled with talismans that had been tied to embedded into the staff.  They each represented something important to him and he wanted to add the amethyst bullet necklace to it.  The meaning of it was important to him and resonated with his beliefs. He was a very kind and sweet person and as I talked to him I learned that he had had a very difficult life full of pain and addiction. He didn’t really have anything to trade, he had barely enough money to live off of and that was in halfway houses but I could tell he really, really liked the necklace. So I asked him to write for me, write about anything he wanted, his life, dreams, experiences, etc. knowing that it would be interesting and that one day I might use those writings in my artwork.  So we traded, one amethyst bullet necklace for 3 written pages.

The writings were about his life and journey they were wonderful and sad and hopeful. As a child of parents who had many addiction issues I know all about the recovery process and how the disease can devastate. Jimmy and his writings really resonated and touched a sensitive spot in me. I saw him a few more times at the gallery but then he disappeared and I haven’t seen him in many years. When I first received the handwritten pages I didn’t really know how I was going to incorporate them into my artwork so I held onto them. As I was working on my new series “In the End We all Return to the Earth” they seemed to fit perfectly. I used one of the pages as the substrate for the piece, making sure to highlight the ripped out binder paper edges and his childlike handwriting. The sewn sections representing healing and mending and the phrase that is highlighted in the piece and the title of it is “Making Obstacles into Opportunities”. It is a common phrase used in recovery. I remember my Step Dad saying that to me when I was younger – we have to be grateful for what we have and learn how to turn our obstacles into opportunities.Making Obstacles into Opportunities