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.