Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Remember Me - Mourning Jewelry by Karen McGovern

It's such a shame our friendship had to end.

Once again we are hit in the gut with loss. Prince? Really? PRINCE????

2016 can kiss my a**.

This one hurt me more than I ever expected. Prince Rogers Nelson was a huge influence for me during that wonderful, horrifying time of my life called ADOLESCENCE. When I was trying to figure out who and what I wanted to be in life. His music defined at least a decade of my life and I am torn up with the loss of this vital, amazing, spectacularly talented individual. I'm gutted.

On the heels of LMAJ's David Bowie blog hop where we all created designs inspired by Bowie, recent events have me thinking about a traditional form of jewelry design that many of you may not be familiar with--mourning jewelry.

For hundreds of years, people wore jewelry specifically created to commemorate a loved ones death. Bits of hair and bone worked into intricately elaborate jewelry designs treasured for generations. Rings, brooches, lockets and more created in memory of a family member's death. This was especially popular pre-photography, when these incredible designs were literally the only way to remember someone and honor their passing. I find this jewelry deeply moving and incredibly fascinating. Mourning jewelry has been around since at least the 16th century, but is mostly associated with the Victorian era, when mass production made it more affordable. Members of the royal family would wear mourning jewelry for decades. 

Designs were over the top elaborate, like George and Martha Washington's amazing brooch featuring hair from both, rubies, gold and more. Faceted quartz crystal was used to cap bezels containing amazingly detailed scenes created with the deceased hair and sometimes bone. There was often an inscription on the back of pendants and brooches, and on the inside of ring bands. Stunning, deeply personal works of wearable art.

While the trend in mourning jewelry has basically passed, many artists still create some form of this today, myself included. Perhaps one of the most intimate and reverent work I have created to date was a pendant I made for a family that had lost their son while mountain climbing. I created a vessel pendant to their specifications for this man's mother to keep a bit of her son's ashes. I was humbled by the request.

Below are examples of historic mourning jewelry--all are just beautiful.

In closing--I first heard "When Doves Cry" on a beach in Traverse City, Michigan. I remember the exact moment. I don't know what it was that blew my mind more, the lyrics, the voice, or the incredible guitar. I was 17. From that moment on I was a obsessive fan. I bought every record, and played them endlessly. I was also an aerobics instructor. I played Prince in my classes constantly. Every time. It didn't matter how racy or risky or strange the song was I worked it into some sort of a fitness routine. I remember teaching a class that was absolutely packed--stomping to "Baby I'm a Star". We fogged the windows in the gym, and people came in off the street and see what the Hell was going on. I remember the one and only Prince concert I got to attend. I nervously wore a red leather mini-skirt. I'm not exactly a red leather mini-skirt kind of girl, but at that time, I wanted to be anything that I thought Prince would want me to be. I was in the third row center stage, staring with worshipful wonder at this tiny elf of a man destroying a guitar. I will never forget it. I will never forget the music, I will never forget the impact it had on me when I was a young girl trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Prince said I could be anything.


The Beadwench said...

Wow just wow... Prince sure had an impact as much as Bowie.. two amazing men gone way to soon.
Mourning Jewelry in a morbid way is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much for this kind reminder of it.Beautiful blog post with beautiful words!!!

stacilouise said...

He was a legend. Thank you for sharing the mourning jewelry, I had not heard of it before. how special!!!!

JAIME said...

this year has indeed been painful!!!David Bowie was my man. Prince was, well he just was himself. A BEAUTIFUL TALENTED MUSCIAN,DANCER, SEXY GUY.i do believe hw was one of if not the best guitars players ever. Hemade youstop and listen and gave you goosebumps. To die LONE IN AN ELEVATOR IS A UNBELIEVABLE. HE WAS WHO HHE WAS AND THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER LIKE HIM ......SO VERY TRAGIC!

embroidery digitizing said...

great post.thanks for sharing it.

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