Monday, 29 June 2009

Specimens of Beautiful Colour

After selling out first time around we are happy to announce the return of the Bronze Hummingbird Skull necklaces by New York jeweller Erica Weiner. I thought this would be a good time to take a peek into the world of the Victorian fascination for the tiny hummingbird. 

The Victorians were quite an experimental lot when it came to jewellery, especially with their love of the exotic. Perhaps it was a combination of their tiny size (only 3 inches long including the beak), their exotic south American origins and the vibrancy of their plumage that made the hummingbird so popular for mounting onto earrings, necklaces, fans and brooches.
A visitor to Harry Emanuel's wonderful shop in 1865 described his stock as 'including hummingbird heads mounted in necklaces and earrings' and the international fashion for these birds endured until the 1870s. Leading jewellers such as Ward & Co and Boucard contributed bird and beetle jewellery to the International Exhibition of 1872 where the pieces were referred to as 'specimens of beautiful colour'.

Whilst, today, we would flinch at the thought of such jewellery it's fascinating all the same to see the extravagant and macabre display of how the Victorians showed their love for such creatures. 

I think this long heritage of 'hummingbird jewellery' is why I haven't taken my Erica Weiner necklace off since I first saw it. It is so tiny and so intricate, it just seems impossible that something so fragile as a hummingbird skull can be cast in solid bronze. A tiny sculpture that I wear everyday. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A Charming Miniature Cup of Tea

What is it that thrills us so much about tiny versions of everyday things? A quick stroll through the Victoria & Albert Museum's online collection attests to this historical craze with hundreds of such objects from minuscule chairs to tiny portraits, with perhaps the most popular being the dolls house.

This morning we opened our very own little box of miniature tea cups and saucers by ceramicist Bethan Lloyd Worthington.  Many of you will recognise and perhaps be collecting her work and this new limited edition Dusky Pink version of her popular Tea Service jewellery has just been launched today.

Either as bracelet or pinned to your favourite blazer, these charming, tiny pieces of a tea service are objects on which to contemplate our obsession with miniature worlds.

£24 from the Jewellery Department

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Ceremonial Bowls by Samantha Allan

These bowls, which are part of the Contemporary Folk Ware Exhibition, are inspired by a combination of the romance of early Delft ware and maritime Scrimshaw, both of which commemorated special unions and historical events. 

(Delft Bowl circa. 1690 - Victoria and Albert Museum) 

Each bowl is hand made using a collage and lacquer technique which combines images of broken pieces of delft ware with words found engraved on pieces of 18th century scrimshaw such as ‘Homeward Bound’ and ‘I’ll sail the waves if you wait for thee’. Samantha personalises the bowls with a specific date and pair of initials that the customer gives her in order to celebrate a special day, such as a wedding or birthday.

Samantha has had a long standing interest in scrimshaw work and a love of the sea. She puts it down to the weekly trips she made as a child to the 19th Century Docks Museum in Hull where giant whale skeletons are suspended from the ceilings and a soundscape of whale calls is played throughout the vast rooms.

(18th century engraved whales tooth - known as Scrimshaw)

‘Scrimshaw, which is basically the tattooing of pieces of whale bone and teeth, is an uneasy thing for me to be inspired by. My fascination for both whales and the scrimshaw causes a tension as one has to be sacrificed to make the other. But at the time of the great whaling fleets, in the 18th and 19th century, when men had no choice but to be away for years at a time, I find it moving that the scenes on scrimshaw often depict the sailor’s longing for things such as houses, loved ones, dances. It is this sense of longing that I wanted to create in these bowls”. 

Samantha’s work which combines various historical events has led to commissions from museums and art galleries across the UK. 

Bowls £65 each form the Contemporary Folk Ware Exhibition