Long before there was Rome and the Romans, there was Etruria and the Etruscans, though the name they called themselves was the Rasenna, from the region which is now, roughly, Tuscany. They were famed for their jewellery making skills, employing innovative techniques with gold wire filigree and granulation, or making motifs with tiny granules of gold. The people adorned themselves with layers of necklaces, earrings and headpieces.
Advances in Victorian archeology brought the works of these ancient smiths into the popular imagination.
Here is my humble take on the Etruscan revival. I made it in honour of the recently discovered Warrior Princess, buried holding a spear. She was initially mistaken to be a prince, until bone analysis revealed her to be a middle-aged woman. The body buried with her, almost entirely cremated, was that of a man. Archeologists now conjecture that the jewellery found with the cremated body belonged to the man. But the tiny bronze box with five needles and thread, also found in the tomb, keeps its secrets.
They are wearable for every day, simple and lightweight but filled with ancient mystery!
The intricacies of illuminated manuscript borders have long been an influence on the work I make– before I made jewellery I was a painter, and my eye was trained looking at the wonderful examples of these magical texts at the Getty museum in California. There was something incongruous about these very old texts in this modern, less-than-intimate museum. Maybe that added to their power. Now I live in a medieval city, a place that often looks like something from these texts. I recognise the pastoral space, the tiny rooms, the changing seasons.
Below are ear chains designed for a special client– they hang from 5 piercings in the ears, like garlands. They were inspired by the floral borders of books of hours like the one pictured above.
I have just returned from Prague. People say it is a fairy tale of a city, and you don’t really believe it. How could it be? That is, until you see it yourself. Despite the onslaught of tourist hordes, all traveling in massive groups, the city’s dark soul survives, suggesting narratives around every bent corner.
While many beer lovers champion Czech pilsners, there are myriad microbreweries around the city making up some original, gorgeous beers that break with tradition. The best was Klasterni Pivovar, where we went every night for their special November ale.
My obsession with Czech glass beads, one of my favourite materials, was a driving force in this trip…this is the subject for another post. I found only one source in the city, and will most likely have to return after doing more research, and travel farther outside of the city.
We spent a day traveling to Kutna Hora, to visit the surreal ossuary of the Sedlec monastery. This also merits it’s own post– as you can see I will be writing about Prague for some time! The Kostnice, or bone house, was relatively free of tourists on the day we went, and had the cold static of an unquiet grave about it. Not really a peaceful place at all.
Around every corner was something that inspired my jewellery, as if the whole city were talking back to me. From the Art Nouveau facades to the elaborate iron work of the heavy doors, the sparking crystals and blood red garnets winking from every tourist trap of a shop, the dark glamour of the place ameliorated a lot of the indignities of tourism. It is a testament to the power of this place, and to the Czech people. The ones we met remained gracious and warm– something the Brits of York could learn in the face of their own tourist invasions!
While the Kafka museum in Prague was unforgivably pretentious, my dealings with security in Heathrow were indeed Kafkaesque. I was retinally scanned (twice) but still interrogated by immigration, X-rayed a total of 4 times, frisked (twice) and everything in my carry on and purse dumped out and examined down to every crumpled receipt and tissue. The second security agent pulled me out of the queue and actually lifted up my clothing so she could search inside my trousers and underwear– this was in front of the large crowd also queuing; it wasn’t a private search. It was shocking and intimidating, especially given the signs every where that say that failure to comply will lead to fines and possible imprisonment. If this is travel in the 21st century, perhaps staying home is the better option?
Check back soon for happier tales of ossuaries, beer halls and beads, beads, beads.