Driven by a passion for history and historic preservation, I strives to keep old world craftsmanship alive by utilizing techniques from the past into my contemporary designs.
Victorian Era Hairwork & Table Braiding
Hairwork, or the use of human hair in jewelry, is a craft that has existed in various forms since at least the 17th century. Hair was incorporated into "momento mori" pieces, which is Latin for 'remember that you [have to] die'. While it sounds morbid, momento mori jewelry was often worn as remembrance jewelry of loved ones who have passed. Hair, by its natural properties, doesn't decay with the passing of time and could provide a tangible connection to a person in the age before photography existed.
While hairwork jewelry was used for remembrance jewelry, less morbidly, it was often also used as sentimental keepsakes for persons still living. In the early 19th century, a thriving jewelry business existed creating hair keepsakes from a lock of hair from a small child, a lover, or a soldier gone off to war, as just a few examples.
One of the ways the hair was utilized was to make images or knots, then protected under glass. This type of work was called "palette" work and was utilized in rings, brooches, and more. Another type of hairwork developed later in the 19th century was "table worked hair". A special table with a hole through the center was used to accomplish the exacting weaves and patterns. Hair was prepared, counted and weighted with bobbins, placed on the table and woven with a method similar to that which produces lace. These table braided strands, could be used to make bracelets, necklaces, and watch fobs.
As the craft became popular, the patterns for table worked hair were published in popular magazines of the period, like "Godey's Lady Book." It is from these patterns that I pull my braiding designs from. My designs utilize both palette work and table work.
Traditional Hand Engraving
Engraving is the process of cutting or carving a design into a hard surface. It is an art form that has existed for the past several centuries, both as a form of embellishment for items and as a form of reproducing images, as in printmaking. Early examples can be seen from the engraved petroglyphs on rock walls from the prehistoric era through the gilded armor of Medieval Ages, to the engraved work on items purchased today at Tiffany & Co.
While there are various modern methods now used to engrave, such as pneumatic, rotary, and laser engraving, I choose to stay with the traditional methods of hand push and hammer and chisel engraving. An engraver uses a graver, which is a sharpened steel tool, driven through the metal to make a design.
In hand push engraving, the engraver uses his palm to apply pressure to help the graver cut the metal. Cutting a straight line isn’t that simple though. The engraver has to control the depth, pressure, and speed of the tool with one hand while guiding the metal into the graver with with other hand.
Hammer and chisel engraving utilizes a graver in a chisel handle and a chasing hammer. Both hands are required to perform this type of engraving: one hand to hold the chisel and one hand uses the hammer to tap the graver through the metal. Because the engraver can’t move the metal into the work to make the cuts, the engraver moves around the work while working with his graver and handle.
As I explored the history of engraving and studied old artifacts, I came to the realization that for centuries prior, engravers were able to do exemplary work without the assistance of modern technology and that fascinated me. It’s like it was magic! It is just my goal in life to someday create as beautiful and finely done works of art with the same simple tools that were used by engravers for the past hundreds of years as a way of preserving a traditional art form.