Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tree of life

In the last 2 weeks I have given two talks on my work. This has lead me to thinking about why I make jewellery and what is important to me.
In the face of a mass produced market it has been important to me to create 'limited runs' of handmade jewellery, exploring different concepts. For inspiration, I mostly look to ancient jewellery and textiles. I referred to this in a previous post on an embroidered bag.
The Tree of Life is an interesting and rich symbol. I remember looking in a book on artefacts from South-East Asia, and seeing this motif repeated and abstracted across a wide range of media. When I did a search in the collections of the V&A Museum, artifacts from all periods and media came up again, mostly of articles that can be worn/carried on the body. If they could not be worn, they were made for display within the home. When I worked on a community project with a group of Turkish women, I was struck by how relevant these symbols still are and are lived with in an active way. Each week the women would bring in items that they had made, tea towels, pillowcases, curtains, tablecloths, headscarves, all embroidered worked with floral motifs, referencing among other things the tree of life.
Here is a selection from the V&A , the British Museum and the Louvre.

Workbag, embroidered in crewel wool and chain stitch on  linen, 1701-1702


Belt,  Skopska Crna Gora, 20thC


Cuff, Greece, 20thC


Square of fabric illustrating "Aphrodite's marriage", Coptic-Arabic Period, 7th-8thC, Louvre


Headscarf, Zara, 1920-1930


Jonah wall-hanging, third-fifth centuries AD, Louvre


Gold band with sphinxes and stylized tree, late Bronze Age II (1400-1230 BC) Louvre


Æthelwulf Ring, niello, gold, late Anglo-Saxon 828-858


Dress, Turkey, 19-20thC