Charlie Raven Black started making earrings for other people when his roommate asked if he could make them a pair of earrings similar to his. Having been making his own earrings for a while, Black considered for the first time that he could start selling pieces like the ones from his personal collection.
He found himself drawn to earrings because they do not have to be made in different sizes. Trying them on is not necessary, the customer just has to like the style. Black also said he appreciates the significance that his specialty has to the LGBTQ+ community.
“Earrings have always been a symbol in the queer community [as a] signal to other people that you are queer and [help] build that community,” Black said.
Although Black makes a lot of jewelry, he also has embroidered work and a collection of teddy bears with gay phrases. He was inspired to make and sell teddy bears after he made one for his boyfriend. He noticed that no conventional stores made anything similar. Black said he liked taking a grocery store bear and being able to add an air of tongue in cheek to it.
As a transgender man and member of the gay community, something that Black considers is how making goods specifically for queer people can be seen as an act of defiance. Black said he wants to make things that the members of his community can delight in, but he also does not want to be shoe boxed as a queer artist and nothing more.
“Straight people don’t have to deal with that,” says Black. “Straight people make art and it’s just art.”
Something that he loves, however, is working with the queer community that he has found in Denton. Black says that some of his biggest inspirations are local artists such as Avery Lyda, 3Patch, Sarah McPartland and his boyfriend Henri Dugas.
Black got involved with the Denton scene when he moved back to the area from New York to be with Dugas. Almost immediately after the move, he started vending his works through Punks and Painters and Old Bear Vintage.
Originally, Black had wanted to work at Old Bear Vintage, but all the positions had been filled. When stopping by the shop with one of his friends, he mentioned that he made earrings. Old Bear Vintage’s owners saw his work and immediately wanted to sell his earrings.
“As soon as we saw [Black’s] jewelry, we knew we had to have it in our shop,” said Rebecca Woods, Denton artist and co-owner of Old Bear Vintage. “We love how innovative his earplug earrings are and love that he repurposes old trinkets into the cutest earrings. As a queer-run shop, we love supporting a local queer artist.”
As far as making earrings go, Black finds materials at thrift stores, yard sales and in the miniatures section of Michael’s. In his eyes, most things have the potential to be earrings. The only requirement is that it is of moderate size, not be an impractical weight and can be attached to an earring hook.
Some of the things he has made jewelry out of include earplugs, doll house plants and key chains. The array of choices is one reason his customers said they keep coming back.
“I wear a lot from [Black],” said James Dolly, host of concert series Punks and Painters and lead singer in Denton band ¿everything is temporary?. “I probably have 10 pieces by him. I specifically don’t wear earrings to my shows so that I can buy them from the artists. [Black] is one of my favorite earring makers.”
In the future, Black will be selling his wares at the Legalize Festival at Killer’s Tacos and his work can be found daily at Old Bear Vintage in Aura Coffee.
Courtesy Charlie Black