The stories of werewolves are many and feature in European folklore going back to the middle ages but as far back as Ancient Greece. You know how it works. The full moon rises and changes start to take place, rampage, violence, blood, fear all follow if the werewolf has passed by. A popular gothic horror theme, they still crop up in books, TV and film pretty frequently today. The terrible tales tap into our primal fear of the unknown, things that shape-shift, the dark and whatever lurks there. Not to mention the pleasure of getting an excellent safe scare from a spooky story.
Making the Necklace
So what has a werewolf to do with music and necklaces? This necklace was a project I was working on in 2017-18, but for one reason or another, it never made it into the book it was intended for until 2020. Consequently, I’ve started thinking about the themes I looked at while I was making it again. It was also great fun to make mixing folklore and stories in with my synaesthesia.
It started with the Contemporary Jewellery Exchange. A simple idea, two jewellers are paired, and they make each other a piece of jewellery. The resulting jewellery was then going to be in a book. The organiser paired me with Fliss Quick, and after some back and forth on email; we decided our workspaces and soundtrack to our working lives would be the basis of the project. We exchanged mixtapes (or playlists if you prefer) and sketchbooks.
On Fliss’s playlist was one of only two songs that have ever made me pull over in my car to listen. “The Werewolf” by Cat Power. Hauntingly beautiful, simple and atmospheric storytelling. The yearning and sadness in the song are stunning. It stops you in your tracks. This was the song I used to inspire my piece of jewellery. If you’re wondering the other song that pulled me up short was Muse’s “Muscle Museum”, never heard anything like it before!
Sketches and Design
Sketchbook out, listening and drawing trying to get the swirling shapes and colours of the music of cello and guitar and voice all down on paper. Here’s what I drew.
A literal interpretation of the werewolf in the story seemed too good an opportunity to waste. I definitely wanted to include a wolf somehow. I’d been chatting to Fliss during this process and finally remembered to ask her what kind of jewellery she wore. I laughed out loud when she replied she didn’t really wear jewellery! Loved to make it but never wore it. Of course, that gave me the green light to go big with this piece so she was unlikely to wear it but would be more inclined to hang it on the wall. The necklace I made was indeed more of a painting to wear rather than a jewel that was painted.
My themes and ideas for the necklace developed over a couple of weeks. As the literal image of a werewolf started to combine with the patterns and colours of my synaesthesia. It was about reality, perception, storytelling and the boundary between imagination and what is real. What is real, anyway? Given that as a species we are functionally blind for 40% of the time. As our eyes move about our brain, stitches it all together into the three-dimensional world, we perceive. Your mind is good at filling in the gaps, things out of the corner of your eye or in the dark will look like things you recognise. Was that a wolf I just saw in the deep dark woods?
I started working on the design for the painting. I sketched out a truncated illustration of a werewolf before a full moon stepping from the bushes into a pool of synaesthesia. The point being that the moon is real the bushes are real the wolf looks real, and the pool looks like a pool of magic. However, it’s the werewolf that is the fairy tale and the synaesthesia that is a real phenomenon. I based the pool on sketches from my own synaesthetic experience. My experience is my experience, and your experience is your experience and perception of the world is a funny thing.
How the Necklace Was Made
The whole picture is airbrushed freehand and using stencils onto some aluminium sheet. The aluminium sheet has been textured under the painting for the pool to reflect the light through the transparent paint adding great depth. It mirrors an engraving and enamelling technique called guilloche enamel. I constructed the neckpiece from midnight blue and white suede airbrushed with a little glittery paint.
I’ve started thinking about this piece again as I would like to do more of this combining folklore and stories with the patterns from my synaesthetic drawings. I want to use music and stories to weave fantasies into the jewellery I make. I’ve added hand engraving to my skillset over the last year, and I’m excited to combine it with airbrush paintings, traditional silver/gold work and stone setting. We’ll see where this leads, follow me on social media using the links at the bottom of the page and you’ll see.