Welcome to the Challenge of Literature blog hop hosted by Erin Prais-Hintz. Erin challenged participants to create an accessory which draws inspiration from a favourite literary work which is great for me as books are a passion of mine. I thought it might be difficult to choose something at first but after a quick scan of my book shelves one book jumped out at me as being perfect for this task - "Wide Sargasso Sea' by Jean Rhys.
Written in the 60's, Rhys's book in effect creates a back story to the 19th century classic novel Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) by giving a voice to Bertha, the mad woman and wife that Rochester keeps locked away in the attic at his home at Thornfield. I studied Jane Eyre at school and can't say I was ever a fan of this genre of writing but then, 7 or 8 years ago I started studying humanities with the Open University and Wide Sargasso Sea was part of my course - and I loved it! Not only that, it made me go back and re-read Jane Eyre with a completely fresh eye.
Set in post colonial Jamaica, Wide Sargasso Sea deals with themes of oppression, slavery and entrapment and the complexity of identity, drawing parallels between racial and gender enslavement. You can read a plot synopsis here. The novel draws its title from the Sargasso Sea, a vast area of the northern Atlantic Ocean that is legendary as a place where ships are becalmed or ensnared in tracts of floating seaweed and is a metaphor for the way the protagonists become trapped in their own worlds.
The reason I chose this book as inspiration is because of the intense imagery that Rhys creates with her writing. Themes of madness, oppression and dangerous passions pervade the novel and the setting itself becomes a metaphor - a hot, lush, overgrown tropical island with a palpable and growing tension between the classes of inhabitants and individuals within their relationships.
The particular imagery that inspired me for this piece is that of the garden at Coulibri, the family estate of Antoinette (Bertha in Jany Eyre). There is a sense of intense and voluptuous tropical beauty but one of excess that assaults the senses with its colours, perfumes and tangled growth that's going over into wildness and decay:
"Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the bible - the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild. The paths were overgrown and a smell of dead flowers mixed with the fresh living smell. Underneath the tree ferns, tall as forest trees, the light was green. Orchids flourished out of reach or for some reason not to be touched"
So, whilst I had some reservations about using a reference to 'death and decay' in a jewellery design...I decided I could work around this without being entirely literal and so here is my creation - a necklace which I've called 'Coulibri Revisited'.
Up front and centre on this necklace are three huge, glossy ceramic buttons that I think create that big, blousy feel of tropical flowers. I had only intended to use one of these with other beads but as I shuffled things around they just kept coming back together so I took it as a sign. The stamens have been made by knotting thin leather cords through the button holes.
I've tempered the reference to death and decay by adding the lovely ceramic leaves - the yellow colour suggesting they are perhaps on the turn and hanging as if about to fall, without being too sinister!
At another point in the book the house at Coulibri is burnt down during an attack by the island's slaves and I've oxidised two bronze flowers to try and give the effect of charred remains.
The necklace is fabricated on a curling wire yoke or bib to represent tangled roots and vines and I've continued this theme by stretching the cord ends up and around the leather cords.
I have to admit this is not finished and doesn't have a clasp yet. I'm also not sure whether it needs anything more added...whilst the imagery I've used is of excess and the overblown I'm kind of thinking enough is enough here - or does it need more of a 'tangle...?
Ceramic flower buttons by Poppy Valou
Ceramic leaves by Marla's Mud
Bronze flowers byTHEA too
So, I hope you enjoyed my interpretation...I would have liked to have gone into more detail about the book but it's just not practical when you have so many other blogs to hop of and investigate but, I would thoroughly recommend it as a good read.
You can get to the other participants blogs using the links below.
Wow, Lesley! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post...you truly have a way with words! And your piece is beautiful. Love how you explained your design...and the stamens with leather....genius!ReplyDelete
What an inspired piece! Truly sensational! How have I never heard of this book?Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorites and Rochester's wife was always an intriguing figure. Now I have her story line to explore. I'm off to the bookstore...the beads will have to wait!ReplyDelete
Very tropical...and literary! I'm in awe that you selected my favorite Rhys novel (I wrote about it for my entrance to grad school). I'll be thinking all day of a related clasp--the key that lets Antoinette out of the attic? her dreams? certainly not a white cockroach!ReplyDelete
This is absolutely beautiful Lesley - I love how you have attached those ceramic flowers. Such an unusual colour scheme too, and I think it is gorgeous. You could add more, but I think that would be a personal choice - I don't think it needs it, it is lovely as is.ReplyDelete
I have read this book and really enjoyed it. The flowers are just perfect.. Love how you added the stamens... Great effect and the tendril of wire for that tropical growth. I have live in the tropics so do know how rampart growth can happen... Literally overnight.ReplyDelete
I don't believe you need to add more... Looks great just as is.
GORGEOUS! I love the flow of this piece and the fun colors! Sounds like a lovely read!ReplyDelete
Lesley, this is a beautiful piece! The colors are gorgeous, and I love every element you so carefully chose to fit the theme of this challenge. I wouldn't change a thing!ReplyDelete
The flowers are so lovely =)ReplyDelete
Wow stunning! I'm loving seeing all these entriesReplyDelete
That piece is so perfect for the book. I love the flowers!ReplyDelete
Your necklace is fabulous as it is! So lush yet not overdone. And I love how you explained why you choose each design element.ReplyDelete
That is a fabulous piece!ReplyDelete
Wow, Lesley - this is a beautiful creation! Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, so I was surprised that I had not heard of this book before. I look forward to checking it out of the library. Great job!ReplyDelete
il est superbe ce collier !!! bravo !!!ReplyDelete
Yowza! I love this bold piece! I haven't read the book - but it sounds fantastic!ReplyDelete
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Love it that you used a book by Jean Rhys!! Love your write up and thoughts on her book.ReplyDelete
Simple yet stunning - your design is beautiful. I love the vibrant colours and you've made me want to read the book.ReplyDelete
Your necklace is stunningly beautiful nothing more is needed except for a clasp. I have not read the book, but it sounds interesting.
Lesley - I like the symbolism you have worked in... the yellow leaves and your bronze pieces don't read decay and turning to me - but made so much sense with your interpretation. The vine/copper is lovely - do that on the clasp leather, also! I think you have a great balance between decadent/lush and well composed design. I have read the book, and recall its intensity, (to me oppressive,)but evocative. I know many people feel strongly for it, as you do. Nice post!ReplyDelete
Thanks everyone for taking the time to visit. This has been a great hop - love seeing what everyone reads and a few new titles to try out and some ild favourites to revisit!ReplyDelete
Love the color combo.ReplyDelete
Miss Lesley! This is truly inspired! When I read the passage I was thinking tropical and overgrown and lush...then I scrolled down to see your interpretation and I am blown away! The construction of the focals, the leather cord knotted as the stamens is really amazing to me. I love the elements of the about to fall leaves and the charred blooms. I actually created a piece that was called Thornfield's Secret Tower with a key that I imagined was used to lock up the mysterious woman. So this is a full circle for me! Thank you for playing with me in this Challenge! Enjoy the day. ErinReplyDelete
What a truly stunning piece! I love all the details, and the way you explained every part of it. The colors you chose really makes it feel as though it's in an overgrown, neglected tropical garden. The leather for stamens - outstanding! And, I've never heard of that book, but I'm going to see if I can find it. It sounds like a very good read. Like you, I'm a passionate reader! Fantastic job!ReplyDelete
Oh yes, totally lush! My family is from Trinidad and having visited I can totally relate to the feel of this necklace as from that type of atmosphere. To my eye it's done... but to someone from the West Indies I'd bet they would be aimimng for the more is more!ReplyDelete
Stunning statement necklace - I think you captured the garden perfectly. Love the flowers and how you were trying to capture the dying and charred plants is perfect!ReplyDelete
I think it's perfect the way it is. I love the necklace and the imagery behind it.ReplyDelete
I love this necklace, and you've done a lovely job of pulling your inspiration from the story. I really liked your writing about the process behind it all too.ReplyDelete
Oh Lesley!! This is incredible! I am floored by this piece, it is just so rich and captivating. It has the air of mystery about it and in light of what you say of the book it is even more fascinating. Bravo! Adding that one to my to read list!ReplyDelete
Thanks for pointing me to this book, which I just finished. Seemed a good time to come back to look at your necklace again. In Jean Rhys' writing you can feel the heat of the tropical landscape! And in your piece, I can see the brilliant colors, smell the pungent garden and imagine the tangling overgrowth. You have beautifully represented Antoinette's childhood refuge!ReplyDelete