Welcome to my recently launched Glamourbilly website! I'm not much of a blogger, but I'll use this space to share ideas, inspiration, and little tidbits of life from time to time. I'm putting my perfectionism aside here, otherwise I'll never get through a post (ha!). So what you get is my stream of consciousness complete with typos, bad grammar, and far too many ellipses...
Today I'm sharing a piece of jewelry I made called "Old Chunk of Coal" after the song by Billy Joe Shaver. This one isn't for sell, it's mine, because it's intensely personal.
I grew up in Logan County, West Virginia (the heart of coal country). When I was very little we moved to a town called Christian, WV, and we lived on a hill just above some train tracks where coal trains would rattle through every so often. I would have called this necklace "Coal Miner's Daughter", but my Dad was a school teacher so that title isn't fitting for my necklace. (There is a Coal Miner's Daughter necklace coming soon...keep your eyes peeled for it.) But my grandfathers, and a number of uncles were coal miners, as it was a booming industry back in the day.
This necklace is in two individual pieces, and can be worn separately. The top, shorter piece features a tiny vintage pick and shovel with a small lump of real coal in the center. It was a brooch, likely from the 1970s, that I repurposed as a pendant.
The longer piece features a piece of black lava stone that resembles a chunk of coal, a vintage heart pendant with a cross on it, and the coin in between is actually a $1.00 piece of coal scrip from the Logan Powellton Coal Company with Christian, West Virginia engraved at the bottom.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with scrip, it was a form of payment a coal company would issue to it's workers instead of cash. The scrip could be used to buy goods and supplies at the mine's company store. Some areas of Appalachia were so remote there was no place else to shop, and the company stores had a monopoly on commerce. But being paid in scrip, instead of cash, put miners at a disadvantage, as you can imagine, and the use of scrip was ended in the 1950s. You can read more about Appalachian history and coal scrip here.
I live in New York City now. A few years ago I performed a cabaret featuring country music of the 1970s. I chose "Old Chunk of Coal" as the final song of the show because the lyrics really speak to me, and so I thought it was a fitting title for this necklace. I'm not sure I've reached diamond status yet, but I'm a work in progress.
"I'm just an old chunk of coal
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day
I'm gonna grow and glow till I'm so blue, pure, perfect
I'm gonna put a smile on everybody's face
I'm gonna kneel and pray every day
At last I should become vain along the way
I'm just an old chunk of coal now, Lord
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day"