Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Television Themes in Jewelry: 'Dead Like Me' & 'Carnivale'

Well, being 'under the weather', and so is the weather at present moment, I figure I could show my latest pieces based on two of my favourite television shows from HBO, Dead Like Me and Carnivale. I found Dead Like Me on television one night in syndication, while Carnivale was introduced to me through my friend, Laura, who was eager to 'spread the love' of the show by lending me Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. Both of these shows deal with some rather darker issues than most shows on cable (hence airing on HBO) and creating something of a cult following. The imagery and concepts in both these shows provided me with a lot of themes to work with.

Knowing how my brain works, there'll probably be lots more!

Dead Like Me introduces the viewer to a pagan story about Frog and Toad and the Jar of Death. When Toad was commissioned by God to take car of the Jar while he was busy creating everything else, Frog was eager to help. Unfortunately, Frog was so eager that he jumped on the Jar, causing it to break. That is why everything must die, Georgia Lass muses, played by Ellen Muth. "Makes you wonder how much better the world would be if frogs just stuck to hawking beer. So there you have it, the mystery of death finally revealed. We all die, some of us sooner then later. For me it's going to be much sooner. But that's only the beginning of my story."

Georgia Lass was 18 was she was struck by a toilet seat that fell from an orbiting space station into the atmosphere. Instead of being ushered into the afterlife, she remains on Earth as a grim reaper working in the Accidental Death/Dismemberment and 'Outside Influential' department. Every day, she receives a Post-It note giving her a name, place, and ETD (estimated time of death). Her job is to find the person at said location before mentioned time and take their souls before they 'bite it', so to speak; a courtesy offered so that said person about to expire (always in some violent manner) wouldn't feel any pain when said person died. 'George', as she prefers to be called, appears as another person to the living (credited as 'non-George' in cast listing) and still has to maintain the life and responsibilites of a living person, such as employment and housing, because reaping doesn't get paid through 'proper channels.' George, her boss Rube (played by Mandy Patinikin) and her merry band of reapers live amongst the living merely as observers, but even that can prove to be dubious!
I had made two necklaces as a tribute to the story that introduces the series, as well as the recurring imagery of the frog and toad. George even has a pet frog named Mr. Blinky!

DEAD LIKE ME necklace, no. 1. I really wanted to make something special, so I opted to spend a little bit more money on materials and the luxe look of gemstones at one of my favourite local bead stores, Earthworks.

Here's a list of materials used:
  • hematite frog pendant
  • rose quartz flower beads
  • faceted black onyx beads
  • tourmaline coins
  • silver-plated chain
  • silver skull and crossbones charm
  • eyepins, jumprings, lobster clasp
To incorporate a little bit of Daisy (played by Laura Harris), introduced in Season 2 as the starlet who died in the great fire that ravaged through the Gone With The Wind set in 1939, I found these rose quartz flowers that I thought she would approve of. I had fallen in love with the tourmaline coins from a previous project and found they were a good compliment to the rose quartz. It turned out as well as I thought - princess-gothic mix. What do you think?

DEAD LIKE ME necklace, no. 2. My boyfriend, Nick, had said that I should find something that would resemble a jar and pair it with a frog charm. I had something that I thought would work, and the result is no. 2!

Here's a list of materials used:
  • white turquoise stones
  • ceramic jar pendant, handpainted
  • bar links (from previously owned necklace)
  • silver frog charm
  • eyepins, jumprings, snap clasp
The selection of the white turquoise stones was primarily to compliment the 'Jar of Death' that the silver frog is protecting. I had handpainted a rough skull on the jar. The bar links were from a necklace I didn't wear anymore, and thought it was a better alternative than chain. I kept the original clasp from the bar links.

The design theme were a few things in mind. Wanting to keep it earthy, but streamlined, I used the bar links and polished white turquoise. The patterns in the white turquoise remind me of packed earth, and do pretty well next to the 'Jar'. I didn't want to use any kind of rope to string the necklace with the risk of making it look too 'crafty'. The bar links were a good choice to elongate the necklace without the 'busyness' of chain.

The show takes place in the American Dustbowl, 1934. A young man named Ben Hawkins (played by Nick Stahl) is picked up by a travelling carnival comprised of "a tarot card reader and her catatonic/telekinetic mother, a blind mentalist, a bearded lady, cootch show, and conjoined twins, amongst others." Run by the mysterious Management, he has designs on Ben because he posesses an untapped gift: the ability to heal the sick and lame and raise the dead, but at a cost - he must take life from something/someone else. He travels with the carnival in search of meaning behind his disturbing, apocalyptic dreams, whom he is sharing with another man across the country, Rev. Justin Crowe. Convinced these dreams are messages from God, he discovers and practices his own gifts, each one pulling Justin into darker consequences. The show works on elements of the great contrasts between good and evil, dark and light, although it's not entirely clear from the start on what side each one stands. (Author's note: Thanks to for summing it up so nicely.)

Carnivale was a 2-season stint on HBO that had so much potential. Explaining Carnivale is like trying to explain Lost; the two series are very similar in style. They both feature ensemble casts, a number of episodes were directed by Jack Bender, who had also directed some prominent episodes of Lost. Plot reveal devices in both shows were similar as well, depending more on character's dreams and memories as they're revealed in the show. The good vs. evil/light vs. dark theme in both shows is also obvious. Both series also have omnipotent characters that seem to have knowledge of our protagonist's and antagonist's fate, Lost Island-dweller Jacob and Carnivale's mysterious trailer-hermit Management. (Author's note: And the newly-thought theory that Crowe and Hawkins could be a mirror to Jacob and 'MIB'?)

CARNIVALE necklace, no. 1. This was also Nick's idea. He was waiting for me in Earthworks as I was picking up some supplies for something completely non-related. He had picked out a sun charm and a moon charm, suggested that I make a Carnivale piece, and that was the end of it. He twisted my rubber arm. I had documented the creation process for this necklace that I'll be posting seperately. I'll talk about the choice of beads, design elements, and the special detail that stands this piece out from the rest.

Dead Like Me
was wrapped up nicely with a direct-to-DVD movie starring Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond from Lost!), so here's hoping HBO will try to wrap up Carnivale the same way. The 2nd season had answered a lot of questions, at the same time creating even more (in true Lost fashion).
What do you think of my creations?

Photography credit: Cassandra Watsham

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