I spent a good part of today sewing a silk ribbon to close a piece that I have been working on for well over a year. Given the rather limited demands that sewing a straight piece of fabric will put on the brain, mine was at liberty to muse extensively on the genesis of this piece and the reasons it has taken so very long to complete it.
The piece began, as many do, as a hazy image in my head that I sketched out in one of my books (mind you, this is so long ago that I can't even figure out in which book I made that original sketch). Then came the collecting of materials; hours digging through beads and stones and pearls searching for the right combination of size, color, and texture. Then I began fabricating samples for the main collar which involved resolving structure and getting loops and groupings just right. Finally, fabrication. I spent hours crocheting the silver into a long band of gem and pearl encrusted loops. All along, in my head, the piece closed at the nape of the neck with a giant silk bow.
I finished the silver collar and I was pretty well pleased with the look, weight and texture. But here, I faltered. A bow just was not a metalsmith's closure. A bow was certainly not a meaningful resolution of the issue of closing a piece. And so began the year of struggling and trying to come up with a proper jewelry solution.
I made more sketches and drawings. I purchased a handful of carefully selected citrine cabochons. I set to work making the fanciest, most complicated slide clasp with moving parts and all, like a proper metalsmith. There were sketches and storyboards and extensive soldering, fitting, and planning.
Unfortunately, the closer I got to finishing the clasp, the worse it looked with the piece. It just felt wrong. So I stuffed the clasp away in a drawer and went back to sketching. Nothing worked. Forged hooks, box clasps, various tricky catches and closures all fell short. Then the collar got tossed in a box and all but forgotten. I was never going to finish it. It was an utter failure.
A few weeks ago I was cleaning my bench and I found the unfinished clasp with the citrine still waiting to be set. It was still wrong for the piece but, as I looked at the clasp, with all its inane and overwrought complications, I realized that the simple answer had been the right one all along. The silk bow.
The piece had always been about the lusciousness and luxury of costly materials and rich textures. It desperately needed the sensual accent of the buttery, warm silk contrasting with the sparkling, crunching stones and metal. The soft swishing contrasts with the clink of citrines and pearls. The fabric becomes a focal point, given its scale in relation to the piece and the body. More importantly, it creates the sensual counterpoint to the metal and stones. The materiality of the piece gains depth through the contrast and the piece becomes a whole.
And so, today, I made a bow.
“Am I not a man and a brother?”
10 months ago