Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Alexandre's Sacred Heart: A Modern Tribute to Mourning Jewellery

Stories can be told in many formats. From the usual - but not to be overlooked! - novel or poem format, to fine art, illustration and photography, to a film, or even fashion.
Fashion, from vintage 1930's-70's style, to the Japanese street-style Lolita, to historical fashion, has always been a huge interest for me. In recent months when sewing my own style seems to be too much of a big undertaking, jewellery and jewellery-making has been a great option. One thing that particularly interests me is (surprise surprise) historical jewellery.

Obviously I don't have the funds or means to start splurging on emeralds and sapphires - though that is the dream, my friends! - but Victorian and Edwardian jewellery is very dear to me. I have a small collection of 1890's-1910's jewellery as well as some more vintage pieces which I may show in the future, however the idea of making modern jewellery out of more accessible materials, but inspired by the past, is a fascinating one.

I have a morbid side (which does actually come in useful for writing, a business that relies heavily on schadenfreude), and I suppose it reflects itself in a lot of other things that I create. I like the eerie, and the gothic and dramatic, as well as the romantic and sweet. Unlike Momoko from Kamikaze Girls, who claims that she only wants to fill herself with sweet things, packing her school lunch with candies and fruit - I admire both the sweet and the savory sides of life, at least through creativity.

Therefore, combining jewellery with romantic Victoriana and the macabre, you end up with something that would make my mother scream with repulsion: mourning and memento mori jewellery!

The Victorians often used locks of hair in their remembrance of loved ones, spending time braiding, weaving and making pieces of art out of the tiniest sections of hair. It was a way to keep a physical reminder of the deceased, as hair does not decay in most circumstances. I have seen examples of art made from individual hairs, carefully sculpted and preserved as a tribute to a loved one - though what really interested me was the brooches, lockets, and even bracelets; it was a way to carry a part of their family with them always, next to their heart or around their wrist. There are even existing examples of teeth used in jewellery as tribute to their beloved.

I used to find disembodied hair rather off-putting, but over time and through reading classical pieces of literature that touch on the subject, I grew to associate locks of hair with tenderness. There is something heartfelt about exchanging locks of hair, or using the hair of a deceased loved one to remember them by.
In recent years, it has definitely gone out of practice, at least where I live, and is even seen as a little disturbing.
Perhaps this could be put down to how modern society sees things such as death and mortality. Oftentimes, the subject is kept very quiet and only touched upon when absolutely necessary, such as when disaster and misfortune strikes a family and/or a nation. Even then it can be a difficult thing for people to wrap their heads around and talk about, almost like it is a little taboo to take an active part in preparing for death, taking care of the dead, and showing grief... This may not be the case everywhere, but from experience and through reading of other people's experiences, many people today seem to balk at anything that so much as implies death in relation to the real world.
Books such as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory" by Caitlin Doughty and "The American Way of Death" by Jessica Mitford may be of interest to you if you'd like to read more on the topic of death practices in western society, however I should get back to mourning jewellery!

There are a couple of modern tutorials for hair jewellery online, however I preferred to try things my own way as a part of an experiment first. It actually turned out really well and I am pleased with the results!

Nobody I know, in my entire lifetime, has ever passed away, except for my poor old dog Frasier, when I was 12 (rest in peace in doggy Heaven). In that regard I am extremely lucky. So instead of making a trinket for a real person, I decided to make one inspired by the fictional universe instead. It sounds kind of silly to make a memento inspired by a fictional character, but I liked the concept too much to resist.

Inside of the finished pendant - © Ellie Morris

Seeing as I am going through a strong resurgence of love for the French novel and film Les Amitiés Particulières (I watch it probably once or twice every year, in order to preserve my tears, haha), I decided to base it off one of my favourite characters - Alexandre Motier.
It's no secret that the boy commits suicide in the story, as I think everybody that goes to watch or read the story knows beforehand, so I don't think I needed to warn for spoilers? Either way, I rather like him a lot as I feel like I can identify with him and his feelings in places, and he was such a bright and blameless character that I think he deserved so much better than what he got.
His death was probably one that has affected me the most in canon, both because it was so horrific and unjust - what frustrates me the most was that it could definitely have been prevented, had the timing been right, has Georges not miscalculated or cracked under pressure, or had it taken place in a different era... - and because of his very young age.
It really breaks my heart every time I watch or read, and I always end up stopping the film or closing the book just before things take a very depressing turn, so I thought that a story with such an emotional impact on me would be perfect for my experimental mourning-inspired locket.

Before trimming the ribbon - © Ellie Morris

In Les Amities Particulieres, the main characters Georges and Alexandre exchange locks of hair to show their adoration of each other, as back then that was a romantic gesture. Book-version Alexandre is a blonde boy, and there are many in-jokes between the two particular friends about that. By coincidence, I had about 15 inches or so cut off my hair four years ago and kept the remains. My hair is blonde too, so I decided to use a small section of that to represent the lock of Alexandre's hair that he gave to Georges.
I tied it with white silk ribbon. Silk ribbon was used a lot in the 1920's (you can see many examples of silk ribbon embroidery in textiles and sewing guides), and I had some on hand. I considered dying it but in the end I kept it in its original white state, to represent purity, and because it made a jarring contrast to the reds, yellows and golden and bronze shades I also used.
I backed the hair section with red velvet-effect fabric which I frayed and distressed in places for an uneven colour and antique feel. The red went nicely with the hues of the images I pasted to the locket, but it also reminded me a bit of the matching red ties that Georges and Alexandre wore. (Yes, it was a very minor detail, but I absorb tiny details and facts like a symbolism sponge. I know I'm weirdly obsessive over random things *hides face*).

Finished pendant - © Ellie Morris

The image I used of Alexandre was the one that Father Lauzon showed to Georges after the boy's death, where he was sleeping peacefully in a chair during happier times. For the front of the locket, I used an image of the Sacred Heart, which I got from the Graphics Fairy; it is from a French Holy card that was supposedly glued into the front of an 1851 religious book. I thought it was really beautiful, and could represent Alexandre's Catholicism, the religious environment of the school around him, and his love and brightness. Mourning jewellery often ties with religious symbolism and meaning, so  I found it fitting. The colours were also gorgeous and looked lovely with the vintage brass lockets that I purchased on Etsy.

Outside of locket - © Ellie Morris

Finally, I also used a silver cross that I found in my jewellery box for contrast, and made a rosary-style beaded chain from 8mm faceted clear beads, and antique gold-coloured head pins from the craft store.
If I were to make a similar style in the future, I would definitely use eye pins instead as the tutorial I followed recommended, as it was really tough on my hands to bend both sides of the head pins with pliers. The only reason I used head pins was that I couldn't find any eye pins locally, so next time I'll order them online!
I'd like to do something similar out of amethyst beads, or even rose quartz, jet, or lapis-lazuli in the future, as it has been such a fun project and I'm rather pleased with the results! Of course, the hair segment that I made was nothing compared to what those nimble-fingered Victorians could do, but I still like how it looks.

In case you are interested, here are some mourning hair jewellery examples that I found at Chatsworth House earlier this summer. They truly are works of art.

Chatsworth Hair Jewellery - © Ellie Morris

Chatsworth Memorial Locket for Blanche - © Ellie Morris

I hope you like how it turned out too, and (hopefully) found my reasoning behind my findings choices and imagery interesting!


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Poetry: To Snatch the Moon

Fairy Moon - © Ellie Morris
To Snatch the Moon:
Dazzling, Olympian, full fairy moon,
Solid and gilded, like silver spoon.
Fractions of light reflect on puddles of ice,
Mournful, tender, ignorant of vice.
Her peaceful watch over civilians below,
Guiding strangers with sky aglow.
Deep, dark dusky clouds sail to spirit her away,
“Throw her in prison, hide her, make her pay!”
Squashing her radiant shine, flooding paths with darkness.
Pitch black, ghastly, ensnared by starkness.
Held hostage by the sky, she seeks asylum behind the sea.
Back to nightfall’s silence; swirling, dim reality.
Stars may flicker and burst, and fruit bats soar,
But the Celestial Goddess to rule the sky, is no more.
-- Ellie Morris

I had a go at some more poetry the other day, and it turns out that I rather enjoy rhyming verses. Usually I don't bother with rhyme, but I'm not really sure why now, as I found this really simple and fun to do despite it being a rather straightforward, no-nonsense verse.
The main inspiration behind this was from a week ago, when I went downstairs past midnight to spend time with my dog, as I couldn't sleep. On the landing there is a big window overlooking the street, and I caught sight of the full moon reflected in a puddle. It was so bright and clear reflected in the water, that I watched it until some clouds covered the moon and removed the sight.
Oh, and sorry for the blurry photograph - I had a hard time focusing my camera because of the low light!


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Maxime - NaNoWriMo Week 1

The tale of Maxime de Faye, a bold, vivacious and precocious child star, but troubled and suffocated by a hectic schedule and the need to keep his personal life secret. His films and performance may be otherworldly, but reality can be jarring in the head space of young teenage boy who is overworked, bombarded with the responsibility of an adult three times his age, and forced to smile despite feeling lonely in a world filled with countless names and faces. 
That is the summary so far, though it will most probably change by the time the book has been finished. It is set in the 1960's and has a m/m relationship, though that isn't the main part of my story, as there are other themes too. It brings me back to when I used to write m/m couples though, which is fun!

Villa in France - © Ellie Morris

So it's week two of NaNoWriMo! In fact, I did decide to be more active on the NaNo site, but mainly in the way of updating my word-count and occasionally writing in the forum. Still not sure about the technical or social side of things, like digital and physical write-ins, but it's actually an achievement for me that I'm writing on a daily basis; I had been so exhausted and demotivated in the weeks before November, but reading the NaNoWriMo workbook and deciding to take the challenge changed that somewhat.

And it was going so well! Close to 1,700 words or more every day, I had enjoyed every second of it. Things flowed so naturally for the first week, and I couldn't wait to start writing again every evening; sometimes I would stay up until two or so in the morning because I was so inspired.

But then I caught the flu... (or a cold, as my Dad says, but I think it's the flu as I haven't felt this ill with a 'common' illness since I was eleven, and that was swine flu, so...) I had to put a stop to writing for a couple of days so that I could rest, but I spend most of my time daydreaming about my characters and smiling about their exploits that are yet to come!

I hope that tomorrow I can get back to Maxime and his associates, as I find myself missing him already; it's rather like being separated from a new and exciting friend that one just wants to spend all their time with!

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