Salmon Spirit, terra cotta clay tile, Beth Hemmila 2003
It's no wonder that after college I spent time in the ancient art department of the Detroit Institute of Arts, absorbing images and understanding the connection of myth through the writings of Joseph Campbell. In my art I drew on ancient materials -- metal and clay -- to create deeply etched prints and sculptural tiles. Below are two every day objects that inspire my jewelry concept "Stories in Metal."
Each day holds the possibility of touching a copper penny. Gosh, don't you just love to run your fingers over Honest Abe's smooth face? It's as if a small bit of his authenticity and power are transmitted to you while touching that penny. A coin is a great example of a sculptural relief where the image is raised from the background. I admit it, I'm a relief junkie, and that's probably why I'm addicted to this technique and use it when I design keepsake charms. The penny also intrigues me because over time it develops a patina -- a sheen caused by the aging process and handling by humans. When you hold a penny, you are touching an object that has been handled by tons of people and gradually add to its unique color. Imagine a huge group of people coming together over time to paint their human essence on top of Abe Lincoln. Mind blowing! I bet you didn't realize that you're part of big collective art project.
Consequently, all my charms are oxidized to simulate the aging process and handling by centuries of humans. My keepsakes appear as if they have been recently unearthed from some archaeological dig in an exotic far off land. Do you feel the power of uncovering something from the past? I want my charms to offer a hint of a long, lost story and impart this awesome power of the past.
Do you recall when handwriting letters and having pen pals was fun? Back in the 70's I remember a upsurge of wax seals, where you could place a delightful gob of melted, red wax on the back of an envelop and impress a monogram. I don't know why this small, wax seal holds deep memories -- secrets, love, tenderness, and bonding? Here's a chocolate wrapper that not only fulfills our need to be loved by sweetness but you receive a little red embossed heart and poem, offering a bit of enchantment. Maybe a secret lover is sharing a tender remembrance of themselves.
These wax seals inspired my desire to embody mystery and narrative in my charms where each person can uncover their own stories. Alas, my jewelry encourages you to be a sentimental archaeologist!