27 April 2010

Going back to my roots: 't Paeremes

As you know I've been working on a series of jewelry inspired by traditional jewelry from Zeeland. It is not only the jewelry were I found inspiration. When I was a kid I've had pocket knives, very simple ones, but handy for carving sticks and so on I found in the orchard. At some stage I even followed a wood carving course, my fellow students were all pensioned men :-)

These two interest come together in the 'Paeremes'.In the olden days farmers from Zeeland had a really nice knife as part of their costume. They carved the hilt with scenes from their lives. I learned all about the knifes from the book 't Paeremes' by Pieter Brouwers
There are 3 elements to each knife: 
1. The crown, which almost always has 2 big farmers horses eating from a food-trough. 
2. The cage, which holds the soul of the knife. This is an open section, cage, like, with 1 little ball in wood inside. If you could carve this well, it showed your craftsmanship and if the sound was good, it proved the wood used was quality too.
3. The decoration on the sides, here you find a variety of carvings; the owners initials, a year, pictures of animals or tools, scenes from daily life or the bible, a coat of arms. 

I found very few good pictures, but here is one and you can see some more here (site in Ducth).

So far so good, when did this inspire me to do something with this info and my love for ceramics? Well, that happened whenI found ceramic knife blades on the internet and just had to buy them. I had them for a while; I did not simple want to copy one of the knives in porcelain or clay. Carving is meant for wood. But I liked the elements, the little soul, which makes the knife come too life,  especially and the crown too. After pondering for a while I started working. First I made a plain hilt in porcelain, than I started trying what patterns could work and I let the material 'speak' to me. In the back of my mind was this quote from an old Dutch/Flemish legend 'Tijl Uilenspiegel', which was mentioned in the book. One of Tijl's skills was carving too, apparently he had carved a knife-hilt with a skull in the cage and a dog laying on top of the cage, symbolizing 'faithful until death'. I found this such a lovely idea and it stuck with me, but found it a bit dark and gloomy at the same time. Kept pondering about life, death, faith, dog, animals while working on it. I found that a phoenix was growing from the wavy pattern I had applied to the hilt, an egg (a new life, a new soul) is caught in the cage. The phoenix who rises from death is much more optimistic ;-)

In contrast to the white of the blade and the hilt I made a piece of ebony wood to size to 'connect' the 2. I still have to varnish the wood and I'm thinking of having a leather holder made for it. Otherwise it is finished.

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