Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Brooches and other beauties...

Recently, I have been sitting down to my workbench with the express purpose of creating something that will challenge my skills and imagination. Of course, sometimes, one or the other is challenged. That is certainly the case with my newest creations - brooches. While I could have taken one of several options as to my inspiration, I chose to look at the styles of brooches most closely associated with Scotland and the use of base metals. This brought me to the designs and allure of the fibula brooch and the penannular brooch, both relatively simple in concept, but challenging in design. I want my designs, as always, to be just a bit different. And while the fibula brooch can be almost anything, the penannular brooch is proving more generic, so I am trying to find ways to make my creations just that little bit different. Both these brooches go back millennia in terms of their history and both started with the express purpose of simply fastening garments. Both present me with limitless ideas.

The fibula brooch is most associated with the early Roman empire, the name taken from the Latin for "brooch" was most simply a fastening device made from one continuous piece of wire. The brooch itself is made of four parts - the body, spring, pin, and hinge. The most recognisable is the safety pin style of fibula, but the use of an alternative spring mechanism (rather than a single loop of wire) transfers the fibula to something more design-led. For my fibula-inspired pins, I have used long lengths of both copper and bronze wire and created loops and spirals, accented by gemstone beads. So far, I have created three of them, but I have so many ideas, I have no doubt I will soon have a dozen or so from which clients may choose. One of the designs is shown here, with a single amethyst accenting the undulating length of bronze wire. This is the longest of the current offerings and is about 4 inches long. The gauge of the wire means that it can be worn with fabrics such as linen or cotton, rather than simply large weave woolens. I haven't named this piece yet, but I anticipate that most of my fibula-inspired pieces will bear the names of Roman goddesses and queens.

In addition to using plain wire, these pieces lend themselves to the look of an antique piece by introducing patination. I have done just this with this second brooch - a copper brooch accented by a single malachite bead. By introducing a patination agent, I've been able to darken the metal, polishing it after to create highlights and even more depth to the design. I love this piece. It is much smaller than the bronze fibula brooch, measuring about 2 inches in length.

In addition to the movement of the wire and the use of patination, I've used many of my various tools to create different textures and dimensions to the pieces. These pieces take a great deal of work to create, due to the need to create a tapered pin, a spring, and a design that can hold one's interest. I certainly felt the work the next day in my shoulders and arms. Who knows, after a lifetime of trying to find exercises to alleviate the appearance of "bingo wings," I may find that forging brooches will provide me with just the right exercise!

The second brooch I referred to and that I have enjoyed creating is the penannular brooch. This is a two-part brooch consisting of a large circle (usually with an opening) and an attached pin. The pin is placed through the fabric of the garment that is being fastened and then the brooch is rotated so that the pin rests against the circle, having been accessed through the opening. In addition to the semi-circular penannular brooch, it is possible to create a brooch with a complete circle and a separate pin. I will be creating some of these in the days to come. I will also be creating these in sterling silver and some will be mounted with gemstones and cabochons.

These brooches are often associated with Celtic cultures, such as ancient days here in Scotland or in Ireland. The size of these brooches means that they are often used for fastening heavier weave clothing, but I am working on some small and much lighter brooches that could be used on finer materials.

This first penannular brooch may be my favourite. Here I've combined three lengths of bronze wire and twisted them for a braided look (not the easiest thing to do in the world, by the way). I've then applied fire to the ends of the wire to create a bead from all three pieces. I've added an oxidising agent to give the piece an antique look, using sandpaper to remove the patination from some of the metal. The final look is very ancient and I love it. It is a rather small brooch and would look amazing on a scarf or cowl.  I am really quite taken with this brooch. I am sure it will sell well when it is first offered at the Gale Centre on June 11-12.

The second penannular brooch I am sharing here is more common for this particular style of brooch. Here I've used hammered copper, polished to a bright finish. This brooch is quite large, so would be best used when fastening a heavy wool scarf or something with an open weave. I can see this brooch being used on a tartan wrap. (I am looking forward to coming up with wonderful ways to display these brooches on my table.) 

I have two other penannular brooches - one small copper brooch and a very large brooch with fabulous wirework at the terminals. Because of where I live and sell my designs, I am quite sure keeping a fair number of these in stock will make good business sense. They are lovely brooches that convey a feeling Celtic antiquity, and I really love that. Not only that, but the process of creating them is metalsmithing at its most basic and probably using the oldest methods there are. I feel so accomplished when I complete one.

Other news - I am currently working with a Canadian designer on a new logo and look for the business' website, packaging, and materials. I have long searched for a graphic that would give me just what I wanted to convey in terms of magic and joy. Hopefully, the new look will be up and running by mid-month.

As always, thank you for your interest in The Selkie's Haunt. Your interest in my business means so much.

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