earrings

The tassel is eccentric and novel and it’s job is to bedazzle. There has always been a unique and visually appealing quality to them that holds satisfaction for the eye. The tassel does it duty well in beautifying whatever it may be attached to, while also holding it’s own. The interest lies in the fact that  the tassel has no great meaning or true purpose as a symbol or object but that people continually covet and employ them.There’s something truly satisfying about their ornamental form and structure..the way the loose elements are held together in a bundle that swings, bustles and brushes in a decorative and refined manner.

Behind the image there is an energy emitted of cultural substance and history as well as a richness and pomp that many find irresistible. It is an object of embellishment and symbol of lavishness that is timeless and always relevant. The tassel will never go out of style.

In the world of textiles the tassel is formed from different varieties and colors of thread that are wound around a central grouping of same threads. This method was originally devised to stop cord from unravelling during the process of weaving. From this it was swiftly seen as an attractive feature and became the tassel that we know and admire today.

The degree of intricacy exhibited in the tassel’s creation has varied wildly over time. Practitioners of the craft in France were nobly named “Passementiers”, requiring of the craftsperson a 7 year apprenticeship to become a master in only one small area of the field. Throughout the years trends and forms shifted and changed from the elementary Renaissance varieties to the incredibly voluptuous and complex Victorian styles.

Tassels have always been employed by people for many different purposes. They have been worn as talismans on headwear in the middle east as well as by children on hoods to ward off negative entities. In feng shui they are used to disperse stagnant energies in homes and on rearview mirrors of automobiles to enhance the flow of beneficial chi. Tassels are also attached to mortar boards for graduation ceremonies and are moved from right to left to signify completion. Today tassels are still found most often as finishing components on textiles. They are attached to curtains as sashes as well as on wall hangings and pillows. In contemporary fashion they can also be found dangling from purses and shoes and can even be found in entertainment adorning the pasties of burlesque dancers.

The tassel seems almost to have been made  to play a part in jewellery design and finding it there  remains fresh, unique and modern. The form has the power to enhance our confidence and increase our beauty. As earrings they hang beautifully on either side of the head, dancing in sweeping glittering gestures and as pendants hang over the torso enticingly….As a symbol of luxury and eternal style the tale of the tassel doesn’t end here.

When I think of lace my mind goes to a place long in the past. To an image of rich aristocratic wardrobes, cameos, jewels, velvet and laced up bodices. Dualistically, the picture splits in two to a dimly lit workroom populated with talented hardworking craftspeople. Both young and old these individuals make a meagre living…gathered around swathes of intricately hand stitched fabrics. Intensely laborious and candle lit.. skill and talent breeding possible blindness, bent backs and callused fingers. Working in a pattern from the simplest foundation to the most complex details, each person playing their part in the process…A portion of lace travelling from one to the next. At each phase increasing in beauty and complexity until it’s appointed completion.

The first officially documented lacemaking occurred in Belgium and Italy. In the 15th century Charles V decreed lacemaking be taught in religious and learning institutions. Hints of the craft in varying forms are also to be found in Egypt and China at much earlier periods. In these times girls as young as four and five would be sent away from their families to learn the craft of lace making preparing them for a lifetime of this activity. Many of these girls would only make it to a certain level of expertise and remain there. The craft was very much in demand and was based on the fluctuating fashions of the time. This industry was supported in the majority by sizeable influxes of monetary support from nobility. Large portions of the economy of the time was made up in the it’s sale and trade.

During this time of Renaissance and Enlightenment small fragments of lace even functioned as currency which birthed a bartering system of sorts. In the 17th and 18th centuries lace remained extremely valuable and was actually willed from one generation to the next. Sadly with the invention of the lace machine in the 19th century, the value and uniqueness of the craft decreased, yet today the art of handcrafted lace lives on.

The lace series of jewellery began as a foggy mental image of a butterfly made out of woven silver threads, the fine and intricate mesh forming it’s delicate wisp of a wingspan. I was struck upon receiving the image by the concept of the butterfly as a symbol of transformation and all that that entails in the processes of creative expression. The romance and beauty of the idea, however abstract and seemingly unachievable remained stuck on the walls of my peripheral thoughts. As time passed and other projects flew by the image continued to haunt me. In general the concept  of lace itself began to fill more and more of my conscious mind. The repetition became almost compulsive and so i knew that something needed to be done. I immediately began thinking of various ways that i would be able to reproduce the lace itself in metal and began researching various casting techniques.. Some of these techniques held promise, while others would have cut out a great deal of the detail in stitching and netting that i was so intrigued with reproducing.

After a bit of searching i was able to find a few varieties of lace that i wished to reproduce and began my casting experiments. With a bit of trial and error i discovered my own unique way of preparing the lace for casting and soon had several varieties at my disposal. Of the successful castings the results were quite pleasing..even the smallest details in texture and stitching reproduced well. Now that i had a number of samples of sterling silver lace, it was time to incorporate them into their own designs.

Because the lace pieces were so delicate i began thinking of ways to encapsulate, surround and protect them so that they could be translated into wearable objects. I began by carving a variety of simple geometric frames based on the concept of stone cuts, (round,oval,marquise,teardrop etc). The concept being that their forms would balance the organic nature of the lace as well as idealize and treat the lace as a ‘gem’..  After completing the carving and casting of the frames i began the process of sawing the lace to fit inside of them. Once the lace snap fit inside the frames they were soldered and finished.

Early on I came to the decision that these forms would be paired as earrings as well as bracelets . I had been interested in the concept of assymetry in jewellery for quite some time and wanted to blend it into the designs. In a subtle way each earring displays a different portion of lace of the same variety held within the same form of frame.

The next aspect of this series of earrings was to design the earwires. After forming from wire a few different shapes and varieties i decided to go with a longer and more dramatic type than i’d ever used before. The pieces still didn’t seem quite finished so i decided to apply a hammered texture  to the length of the wires. The texture is subtle and glittery and ties in with the organic nature of the lace.

Within the processes of this series the butterfly itself was never made manifest but was destined to stretch the objective and technical portions of my practice where transformation definitely played it’s part.