Monday, November 3, 2008

John's Mojo

I first met John Stancato nearly 20 years ago at a craft fair in a park in Ft. Lauderdale. An older gentleman, he had recently retired and was looking for something to do to fill his time. He thought making wire jewelry looked interesting, but he couldn't get any wire jewelers to talk to him. I wasn't surprised--back then, way prior to the Internet and all the "sharing" that goes on here, wire jewelers were proprietary and paranoid. Anyone who showed any interest without a wad of cash in their hand MUST be stealing ideas! Sad.

Personally, I've always been a believer in karma. What goes around comes around. Plus, I wasn't at all paranoid, and since wire jewelry making had been around for thousands of years, it was ridiculous to harbor any "proprietary" delusions. I was happy to talk to John. He and his wife Eileen were just the most delightful people, laughing a lot, obviously crazy about each other, and genuinely interested in what I had to say. (At that time, I had only been making wire jewelry for a couple of years, and hardly considered myself an expert!)

Thus began many years of an ongoing and fulfilling relationship. I saw them a couple of times when I did shows in the Ft. Lauderdale area, then they moved to Lady Lake, which is northwest of Orlando. I opened my store in 1992, and they would come down occasionally and we'd talk and laugh and share ideas and designs. We spoke on the phone once in awhile. It surprises me to look back now and realize how little physical time we actually spent together, when I know in my heart how close we were.

John became quite successful at wire jewelry making. He would always swear that I taught him, but I beg to differ. I remember showing him a couple of moves, and talking about different techniques, but John was a natural talent. He didn't need any real "teaching". He just "got it". He made jewelry until it overflowed his workshop, then he started giving it away to friends and family. When everyone they knew was adorned to the hilt, John and Eileen decided they needed a different outlet to get rid of the already-made stuff, so John could make more! They tried a couple of craft fairs, but craft fairs aren't easy. They're time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting. (I quit doing them about 4 years ago because they became cost-inefficient, especially for the amount of effort involved. Hey, I'm not 25 any more!)

Fortunately, John and Eileen lived in an area that's kind of "artsy". North Central Florida...Mount Dora, The Villages, smaller towns with quite a few retirees looking for things to spend their money on. John eventually had his pieces in three different galleries, one of which he'd go into a few days a week and make jewelry on the spot. Everyone loved him--he was quick-witted and had the most amazing, infectious laugh. I'll never forget it. Even the thought of that laugh makes me smile!

Sadly, my dear friend John passed away in July 2006. Of course, I wished--and still do--that I'd made more of an effort to see him more often. But I had my store, I had gotten married, had a was busy. I know John understood, and probably didn't think anything of it, but it still makes me sad.

Eileen and I have kept in touch. She calls periodically. I send her a note or a newsletter now and then, sometimes with new pictures of my son Ricky. Then last week she called with an offer. She had all of John's tools and supplies and didn't really think they'd be worth anything at a garage sale, and would I like them?

Would I like them? Are you kidding?! I know Eileen knew exactly how much that offer would mean to me. Wow. John's stuff. John's mojo. I couldn't wait! So Eileen and John's two daughters, Marie and Linda, came down last week with a van full of goodies. I had no idea it would be so much (although looking around at my own work space, I should have had an idea--we wire-workers are a pack-rat bunch!) Eileen and Marie and Linda and I all had lunch at the restaurant next door, and we talked about John and laughed...a lot. It was so great. I got a bit emotional, but what's a few tears among friends?

Then I spent the next four days organizing and putting away all the fantastic stuff I'd inherited. Tools and stones and beads and wire and all kinds of little bits and pieces of really cool stuff! And my favorite thing? See that little white box in the top left corner of the picture above this post? There were a couple of those, they're what I call "leftovers". Beads and bits of wire and stones that sit around on the workbench until you're so sick of the clutter that you scoop everything into a box or a ziploc bag and start fresh. Then you "rediscover" that box or baggie, maybe years later, and have a new infusion of creativity because of these little bits that you'd forgotten all about! I've had these "leftovers" for years, but it never occured to me that other people may have them, too. And now that I think about it, I'd be willing to bet that anyone who does anything crafty has their equivalent of the "leftovers" box buried somewhere in their work space! (Come on, admit it! You're not alone!)

I haven't actually had the opportunity to make much since Eileen brought me this stuff. Like I said, it took me four days to organize and put it all away. Then we had an "event" here in Cocoa Village Saturday night, so I had to be ready for that. But today is the day! I'm digging in to the beads and stones, tapping into the fresh creative juices that have been dying to flow since last Wednesday. And I'm going to use some of John's tools. Maybe a little of John's mojo will rub off on me!


Stormee said...

What a beautiful story. John sounds like a couple of people I have met at craft shows. Like you I have stopped doing craft shows, it seems that the only people that make money are the ones that collect money from the vendors. I do like doing the small art shows though. And I still do a couple of those a year. How blessed you are that his wife gave you all his tools. You had better get to work. LOL.

Lenox Knits said...

What an amazing treasure trove. I can only imagine what my family will do with my stash when I no longer need it. I'm sure you will make some amazing jewelry in his memory.

Anonymous said...

You and I had exchanged notes here about John this past summer. I knew both John and Eileen from the Baker Street Gallery in Mount Dora where I worked... I was rearranging my jewelry box the other day and came across a few pieces that John made me... seeing these things brings tears to my eyes. He was our most popular artist, not only because of his skill and the beauty of his jewelry (with people coming from near and far just to see his new designs), but because he was such a sweet, lovely and funny man. I think of John and Eileen often.
Carol (Bello)