Friday, July 3, 2009

Design Insight: 'Carnivale' necklace

I've had lost of people compliment me on execution of my pieces, so, in this blog, I thought I'd go through the design processes for the Carnivale necklace!

My boyfriend, Nick, is the guilty one for this necklace's inception. We were in one of my favourite stores, Earthworks, when he flashed a sun charm and moon charm, followed by the bug planted in my head, "You should make that Carnivale necklace with these." The sun and moon are the most classic icons for light and dark, good and evil; the dualities of man and nature that we witness every day. These icons are most prominently featured in the show's title sequence logo. Take a look at the promo shot above, featuring the Season 1 cast.

The characterization of 'light' and 'dark' are in Ben Hawkins (seated by truck wheel, played by Nick Stahl) and Rev. Justin Crowe (far right, fist in air, played by a brilliant Clancy Brown). As the series plays out, the audience is witness to the actions, intentions and motivations of these characters, whether they are suited to benevolent or sinister means. The best lesson learned from this show would be not to judge a book by its cover!

This piece is merely meant as a basic theme piece; everything selected was to achieve an overall look that matched the atmosphere the show had created. The selection of stones used were for colour representation of the show's setting; the show takes place during the 1930s in the American Dustbowl, known in history as the Dirty Thirties. The Dust Bowl (geographically defined as western Canadian and American prairie lands) suffered periods of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damages. With the already stagnant drought that has dried up the soil, the winds pushed the dirt eastward and southward creating huge storms known as "Black Blizzards" or "Black Rollers", with visibility no more than a foot in front of you, sometimes as far as New York City and Washington, D.C. Many farming families (known as 'Okies', as many had migrated from Oklahoma) had deserted these useless farm lands and homes and travelled to California and other states, finding much better living and working conditions, although they were often viewed upon in contempt by state residents. Experts and historians will say that the Dust Bowl, leading to the Depression, "was a human and ecological disaster caused by misuse of land and years of sustained drought." In a land of dirt and sand, broken dreams and displacement, a travelling carnival would provide some distraction to the difficult times of the era. Enough of the history lesson, onto the necklace!

picture jasper, purchased from Earthworks
round bronzite beads, purchased from Earthworks, and the 'mystery stone'

The oval jasper stones are a great colour representation, and the detail in the stone is used as symbolism for the erosion and damage done to the farms in the Dust Bowl. I wanted to find something that would compliment the stones, but to have more of a metallic-based colour. I had some bronze chain at home that I intended to use for this necklace, so I leaned toward darker gold/bronze stones. The bronzite was a great option; small and round, and won't distract from the beautiful detail in the jasper. It has a 'broken cats eye' look when angled in the light; it reminded me of crags and rocks found in the American deserts. I had added a few other stones in the mix - two yet-to-be-identified tube bead stones from a previously owned necklace, and a rectangle cats eye bead in bronze.

Next, with sun and moon charms in hand, where to put them? I already had something in mind at home while shopping for these beads. A cabochon pendant with a dark green faceted glass piece in a bronze setting. I didn't have the glass pendant with me when I was selecting the beads, but I had confidence that the colours would 'go' together in my theme; I had been saving this pendant for a real special project like this. The pendant has an open back setting as well, to give the cut glass more depth. I like to make magnets out of clear glass bubbles and put images behind them, which made me think of a creative twist I could add to the pendant. Hunting through random magazine clippings I keep in a box for such weird purposes, I found an article about the occult of the number 23 from a periodical Canadian magazine, Macleans. Above the article was a mosaic of images related to the print. What my luck, a tarot card amongst them! In fact, it's the Hanged Man, the 23rd card of the Tarot! Serendipity, it's just big enough to fit in the open back of the pendant.

from the opening sequence of 'Carnivale'

Tarot cards have a big presence in Carnivale. The opening sequence features a deck of tarot cards blowing in the wind, and as the camera pans into the depths of the card's picture, historical footage of soup lines, baseball games with Babe Ruth, the Ku Klux Klan, political rallies and the Charleston show us how we are taking part in this "magical age" around us while we remain oblivious to it. Sophie, played by television favourite Clea DuVall (I've seen her in CSI, Law & Order, Heroes, Buffy and a handful of movies) provides tarot card readings with her catatonic/telepathic mother, Apollonia. With a theme like the occult vs. god-fearing (some will view this as a 'good vs. evil' symbolism), the tarot card is the most accessible means of portraying that message. Looking up the significance of the Hanged Man in the tarot, this is what I found:
"Serenely dangling upside-down, the Hanged Man has let go of worldly attachments. He has sacrificed a desire for control over his circumstances in order to gain an understanding of, and communion with, creative energies far greater than his individual self. In letting go, the hero gains a profound perspective accessible only to someone free from everyday conceptual, dualistic reality." (from
What a great representation for a hero's struggle between these two forces. Do your own analysis!
Here's the 'hardware':

I used some clear double-sided tape and waterproof sealant on the open back to seal it in. End result is an awesome centrepiece!

I had used two different bronze chains to link the beads together; larger links between the beads, smaller chain running up to the clasp. The beads compliment each other really well, and the choice of chain brings out the earthy hues in the jasper. With beautiful beads like these, and the unique centrepiece of it all, I simply alternated the beads up the chain using eyepins with 3 links in between each. It allowed more space between the beads, adding length to the necklace, as well as showcasing the individuality of each bead.

The end result: fantastic! Exactly how I had pictured. I threw on a lobster clasp (THE most reliable in my experience) and added a rectangle cats eye bead to the hoop end. I usually like to add an extra bead or charm to the hoop end for weight. The finished package! I am also considering making a pair of mismatched earrings, one with a sun charm and one with a moon charm.

The colour and symbolism themes are the most important detail in the design process of these pieces because of its recognition to the inspiration. I had primarily used the above photo for colour reference, which is always a good idea to have on-hand when shopping for beads for a project like this. Common elements that appear in your favourite television shows - the frame on the back of the door of Rachel and Monica's apartment in Friends, the loud jewelry worn by Peggy Bundy in Married ... With Children, the Rambaldi artifacts and symbol from Alias, bloodsplatter inspired by Dexter, or even the 'bling' worn in these trendy reality shows - can be really awesome fan pieces that everyone can appreciate! (Half the time when I come across these shows, I see something I can easily make. I'll find a concrete example and prove it!)

(Author's note: Now, I just came up with these ideas as I was writing this blog. I lay no claim to them. In fact, I insist you use these ideas and share your creations!)
I had a lot of fun making this necklace. I hope this has inspired you to keep your hands busy while you watch your favourite television show!

Photography credit: Cassandra Watsham

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