The inspiration for this necklace is the “Lady and the Unicorn” series of 6 tapestries on display in the Cluny museum in Paris. Woven around 1500, they are considered to be one of the greatest works of art of the Middle Ages. Each tapestry represents a lady with a unicorn surrounded by fanciful animals and flowers.
What I loved most about the tapestries were the vibrant colors, the richness of the design, and the charming animals hidden among the stylized greenery. I wanted to recapture those three elements in my own unique design.
I made the Cloisonne enamel medallions first. Sadly, I don't have pictures of the actual enameling part because my phone was stolen and I hadn't backed up. (Lesson Learned!) To be entirely honest, I had a different design in mind when I created the cloisonne medallions. It was similar, but I never really loved the shape- it felt way too static and clunky and I wanted something a little more elegant and lyrical.
So after I made the enamels, they sat in a box in my studio for about 6 months while I mulled things through. On rainy days, I would thumb through the little box and try to figure out what to do with it all. I even considered just making the individual parts into separate little pendants and maybe a nice bracelet, but eventually I sat down and drafted a new design that I liked a lot better.
This necklace was a huge challenge for me. If I could go back in time, I totally would have gone to jewelry making school after college. It would have saved me many hours of frustration and tears. Anyway, I decided to play to my strengths- I am really good at fusing stuff. I do it all the time for my champleve pieces. I think fusing is easier than soldering and way less messy, so I made everything out of fine silver and fused all the wires and little balls first. Easy as pie! Then I just soldered the little tube settings and the scalloped bezel wire afterwards. I did lose a few little balls later on (argh!), so it was still a learning experience to fuse it like you mean it, then seriously, fuse it one more time for good measure!
After everything was attached, I sawed out the exterior first, then used my tiniest blade to cut out the delicate leaves. Just for fun, I scribed a design on the reverse.
Yes! All those links were made by hand. I actually made the links first, as practice for the larger piece. I fused them in place, soldered on the tube settings, then individually sawed them all out by hand. I made a couple extra. You know, for good measure. It was fun!
Here are some more in progress pics. As I went along, I would keep checking the fit of things and make sure there were going to be no surprises later.
After it was all assembled, with the links all soldered and ready to go, I set all the rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and the diamond. (The diamond was recycled from my first wedding ring! I knew eventually something good would come of it!) They would be able to handle the plating process with no problems. As a side note, I have actually had enamels plated and gotten mostly good results. It's important to do some tests though because some of the softer colors lose their luster and get a bit hazy after the plating process. I had my necklace plated at Red Sky Plating, and I think they did a great job. The enamels were a breeze to set afterwards because I had been very careful to make sure it was a good fit, and also, that scalloped bezel is just wonderfully forgiving.
So there you have it! I lived, I learned, I cried a little, bled a bit, but I can't wait to make the next big thing. I read somewhere that to become a better artist, you need to run towards difficulty. Sounds like a good plan.