Since he was a boy, Jason “JJ” Thomson has struggled with spelling and comprehending words.
Creating objects in copper, brass and sterling silver as an art student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Thomson learns more about his learning disability — and shares his journey with others.
When the senior begins one of his woven metal necklaces, for example, he selects a word that is challenging to him — such as “disability” — and incorporates it. He does not know how many tries it will take to get the spelling right. His failed attempts at spelling are in the piece, along with the final, correct word. It is all there in a beautifully made object, just barely hidden, to reveal how one individual learns and processes words.
Seven of the large necklaces were in his Bachelor of Fine Arts presentation at Crossman Gallery, along with some of his brooches and rings — each formed with meaning.
“Each piece is a challenge to spell a word correctly and shows the thought process. Every single piece, every mark, shape or movement means something,” he said. “There’s a concept behind it. There is meaning in why there is overlapping; why there is a certain word; and why I’m exploring these words.”
“The brooch series are letters that I have trouble sounding and separating by their look,” he said. There were six brooches in the exhibit with titles including “GJ,” “bdp” and “ae.” The surfaces are intricately chased and burnished and are assembled in tiers with space rivets.
Thomson’s rings, too, have meaning. They are miniature metal labyrinths in which a colorful stone may be discovered within.
“I see the stone as something hidden,” Thomson said. “I relate it to myself as my learning disability is something personal. The stone is a positive. You should view your disability as a positive, not a negative thing.”
Thomson said he wants his work to be worn and to generate discussion and awareness about disabilities. In April, he presented his work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Asheville, North Carolina.
“I didn’t imagine myself getting to college,” said the Lake Bluff, Illinois, native. He credits a summer program for prospective freshmen in the UW-Whitewater Center for Students with Disabilities with helping him achieve that goal.
Thomson graduated May 14 with a BFA in metals and jewelry. He has been accepted at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, for graduate school.
A photo essay by Craig Schreiner