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Saturday, June 8, 2013

"September Song"

The title for this work is from a song by the same name.  I love Willie Nelson's rendition, and if you would like to hear it, here is a link.
The lyrics compare the months in a year to the seasons of a lifetime.  I will be 60 next month, and I am certainly in the autumn of my own life.  Last fall I took a photography class, and my homework forced me to look at growing things coming the end of their existence.  Some of what I saw was just breathtaking!

One clear, crisp day, I stumbled upon a patch of weeds beside a wetland.  They had shriveled and turned bronze. I crouched to look at their pale green seed heads, and through them I could see the bright blue sky and deeper turquoise of the water.  It was such a beautiful scene, I was sad not to have my camera with me.  I picked a few of the weeds and took them home, wanting to recapture the beauty of that image in beads, and thus began my "Battle."

I call it a battle because this work was created for an international, invitational, single elimination beading tournament called "Battle of the Beadsmith".  This is the second year of the event, which takes place entirely on Facebook.  If you would like to follow the battle, please request to join the group here.  Once you are a member, use the "photos" tab at the top of the page to view each battle underway. I guarantee you will see a huge collection of fantastic work by 192 beaders, representing 40 countries.  You even have the opportunity to vote for your personal favorites in each battle.  (Use the "files" tab for information on this.)

This necklace is about having gone to seed, not the bloom of youth.  It is about berries clinging to shrubs, and seed heads with their fuzzy fruits blown away.  It is about silhouettes and thorns revealed in the absence of greenery, and empty pods.  It is about what is left when the abundance of summer is over, simple shapes, emptiness, and essences that remain when foliage dies back, and living things begin to think of sleep.  It is the diametric opposite of my lush Bead Dreams lilacs.

Detail of embellished bezels and connections.
I began by capturing the stones I had collected to represent the colors from the day in Autumn gold bezels, and arranging them in shapes.  I had a piece of lace I thought might be the basis for the design, and made some sketches, but they all felt too busy and profuse. While I was working on the components I designed a scrollwork embellishment for one of my ballgown clients, and those shapes began to appear in the necklace layout. I finally had a sort of double heart shape, with some framed focal bits, held gently in the center.  For a while, I thought the title of the piece might be "November Valentine" but although it LOOKED like a heart, somehow I had the nagging sense that was not quite what it was.
On a cream velvet neck form.
I carried it down to my costume studio early one morning, and pinned it on my dress form to think about the neck strap, and I forgot it was there when my work day began.  A client noticed it on the form when she arrived for her fitting, and remarked that the shapes looked like female reproductive organs.  
After she left I stood looking at the piece, astonished!  Symbologically, she was right on, if not perfectly precise in anatomical terms.  There is a tremendous femininity to the shapes. I see ovaries, fallopian tubes, and a uterus.  Hearts have represented femininity and fertility for ages, as Dan Brown's symbologist protagonist Robert Langdon would happily explain.  I had decided before my client arrived to create a spider-spun, delicate neckstrap, and to place a similar web component at the base of the lower heart.  Essentially, I was putting a cobweb in the entrance to an obsolete womb.
Back side view.
Once this clear relationship between the glorious autumn day and my own life was established, it was easy to see how to finish the work.

I am really proud of the structural design, and when I am able to use more images, I will show you some process photos and explain how the curves are maintained.

I am a designer fond of negative space and shape, and my "bare bones" day of inspiration is evident in the final product, I think.  What my work means to me, (and it represents much more than I have said) may, or may not be what a viewer sees.  Each viewer, like my client, will bring her own ideas, pictoral language, and symbology to the party.  So I will stop explaining, and leave whatever truth there might be to the eye and the imagination of the beholder.

But I will add that I love it, and no ranking or battle won will mean more to me than the work already does. Life goes on, seasons change, and it's a long, long while, from May to December... but the days grow short when you reach September.