Sunday, 26 May 2013

inside my jewellery box

Stories of stones & jewels & maybe a ballerina  
by Adi Cloete

Remember the excitement you felt when you got the chance to look inside your mother or granny's jewellery box? Feeling like you found treasure!
And your jewellery box that played music while a ballerina would spin around and around. Magical childhood memories getting lost somewhere between the ballerina and the little objects of intrigue.

Well, it's still exciting to peek into people's jewellery boxes.Especially when the jewellery box belongs to someone with a passionate jewellery heart. 

My quest takes me to visit Karin in District Six on a very windy afternoon. In the lounge we unpack all the little boxes and discover a collection of necklaces, rings and earrings, which she had collected since all her jewellery was stolen in 2007.
Apart from the jewellery that she wore on the day of the break-in, and a few odds and ends they didn't notice, her entire jewellery collection was stolen. 

About 5 years after that she was in a shop in Long Street browsing with a friend, when she looked down and there was a ring of hers in the showcase! 
It was the very first ring that she had commissioned for herself in 1994. An amethyst ring made by Mike Cope. The stone was given to her by an old friend and comes from Rio. She had carried it around in her purse for about 10 years(!) before having a ring made. She immediately told Honest John, the shop owner, that that ring belonged to her. After explaining when and how she had lost it, he returned her ring to her.
The ring that came home :)
Karin's first commissioned ring ever, by Mike Cope

Here are some of the pieces that emerged from Karin's treasure boxes. 

flowers for the ears
left: silver quartet of Sedum bloom earrings bought on etsy made by Karena of Tundra Dear, with silver clay  and Tourmalines. 
middle: Silver protea flower earrings by Liz Dunstan (Paarl)

right: silver and Peridot flower earrings by Jane Eppel (Cape Town)

turquoise bird collection
The turquoise comes from the Royston mine in Nevada and was bought online from davidjamescabs on etsy.  Mike Cope was then commissioned to make the pendant and the small stones were added to the earrings which had been bought years earlier from him.

Kitty jewls! 
The lost-wax pendant was bought on ebay. We discovered that on the back there is an inscription 'ps relax'.
The silver "Cubist Cat" cloisonne earrings designed by Sue Coccia, were also bought on ebay.

a love of birds
This beautiful bracelet expresses Karin's love of birds and was commissioned by her as a special 50th birthday gift. The gold used was a golden chain gifted from her mother.
Liz Dunstan designed & made it and silver, gold and Amethyst was used.

birdies to adorn the hand 
by Firepetals with silver, bronze & a tourmaline.

Silver & opal watch bought from Alon Shina in the Waterfront.

pebbles, petals and moonstone
left: silver bangle bought from the Antique Market for a wonderful R300!

middle: Silver & Moonstone ring bought online.

right: Silver Pebble and Labradorite pendant by Giselle Petty (Cape Town)
Fab Flower
 Made by Liz Morell from East London, with silver and Tourmalinated quartz beads.

     pendants connected to other parts of the world
left: Silver cross pendant from sub-Saharan desert Tuareg tribe, traditionally used as a talisman against the evil eye and considered a powerful good luck charm
middle :Frida Kahlo picture frame pendant from Mexico, a gift sent from a friend in San Diego

right: Tuli Maori tribal symbol pendant made by Liz Dunstan, symbolizing 'The Bird Messenger'

locket ring
Karin bought this Tree of Life locket ring as a gift for her niece in New York...who still has to receive it :)
The ring was made by Giselle Petty with silver and 18ct gold detail.

lovely labradorite 
Bought from Monique Huppertz at Design Indaba in 2007.
This necklace is made with silver, carved ebony and beautiful large labradorite pebbles.

left: Karin bought this gecko brooch in Alice Springs on her first trip to Australia to visit her sisters. It is oxidized silver with yellow gold discs.
middle: another fabulous Mike Cope piece! a Buddha brooch with silver & paua shell inlay. The brooch was actually made for a friend of Karin who then left it in her care while she was traveling, and in the end gifted it to her.
right: a brooch that belonged to Karin's Grandmother, made with silver, onyx and marcasite. 
a favourite combo
These silver pin cushion earrings by Firepetals and silver circle pendant with fabric inlay from Liz Dunstan is often worn together and a firm favourite! And for the record: Karin bought the first pair of pin cushion earrings in this range.

Mike Cope: another favourite
Orb locket with a cabochon moonstone and radiant cut garnet.  
Karin commissioned Meagan Meredith to custom make a chain for this piece after seeing a beautiful chain on Meagan's Frog Prince necklace.
and more Mike...
2 double sided pendants.
Carved silver tree holding a magnificent Labradorite
 & a silver disc pendant with engraved patterns inspired by Aboriginal songlines or dreaming tracks. 
3 gorgeous Mike Cope rings - daisies from Papkuilsfontein on the left with silver and 18ct detail, a silver vine leaf design with oval garnet, and a stunning Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan in an Egyptian inspired design.
a Phoenix pendant and Seraphinite pendant- a heart chakra gemstone - both also by Mike Cope

chrysocolla pendant
Karin bought this beautiful chrysocolla from Lorna  Quinton, one of the most talented gemstone cutters in Cape Town, and then asked Liz Dunstan to make the pendant of which the bail can clip open and closed.
It is worn mostly on a string of carved jet beads.

last but not the least
2 rings that Karin made! Organic silver signet rings with a lotus and a bird etched onto them.

And so: a glimpse of 37 pieces, as part of Karin's jewellery collection.
What stood out to me through discovering all the stories surrounding her jewellery, is her love, joy and excitement about jewellery. It's not just about collecting jewellery. It is also the story of each piece, the stones and the goldsmith that made it,that contributes to  the magic. It is all those layers that Karin values and treasures.    
I think the chances of seeing Karin un-bejewelled would be rare and completely out of character!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Netsuke- Japan's Miniature Treasures

As a little girl I loved collecting precious miniatures to display in my printers tray. I later discovered Netsuke and they have fascinated me ever since. The article below is written by Helga L. Zipser who has been in the antique business for 30 years. She owns La Petite Galerie, Inc in Tampa, Florida and she specilaizes in European porcelain, furniture, paintings, silver and glass. Her writing descibes and details what Netsukes are and their history.

Netsuke is a uniquely Japanese art form. These superb little objects of wood, ivory and ceramics, as well as dozens of other materials, tell the story of Japan from earliest times. Here we find the peasant, the fisherman, the beggar rubbing shoulders with the scholar, the samurai, the warrior, as well as an enchanting collection of animals, fish, insects and benign and ferocious gods. Also represented are objects of daily living, eggplants, tea bowls, flowers. The mythology as well as the various religions of Japan from Buddhism to Shintoism are represented in netsuke form.

Considering the great interest of netsuke in the United States and Europe, very little is actually known of the beginning of these miniature carvings. It is certain that netsuke (literal translation: to attach the root) came into existence as early as the 15th - 16th century. As the Japanese had no pockets intheir kimonos, they had to find a method to carry small belongings, and a convenient way was a leather pouch attached to long double strings and pulled through the obi (a long sash or belt which was worn around the kimono). The netsuke, which always has openings through which the string passes, acted as a toggle, holding the pouch in place. Early netsuke were purely utilitarian, being fashioned of small stones, pieces of bamboo and other woods, shells and gourds. The pouch was mainly used for tobacco, whereas another implement, a small box of either three or five compartments, called an inro, was used for medicines. Sometimes these two items were carried together and suspended from the same netsuke. About 100 years later the Japanese used the ojime bead which acted much like our watch chain slide and kept the inro from opening or turning.

A typical katabori netsuke depicting a cockerel in wood. Unsigned, 19th century. 4.2 cm.

There are several types of netsuke of which the katabori, a completely carved three dimensional work of art, is the most sought after by collectors. A kagamibuta is a bowl shaped netsuke with a metal lid, sometimes decorated, sometimes plain. This was most often used with the tobacco pouch as an ash container. Manju netsuke are round and flat and resemble a button. In Japan a manju is a flat, round rice cake. They can be solid ivory or wood, or beautifully carved and reticulated. This latter type is called a ryusa netsuke. Sashi netsuke are elongated Katabori pieces.

Netsuke can be carved of different materials; ivory and wood being the most popular. They can also be fashioned from horn, tortoise shell, metal or ceramics. They are classified by collectors according to age, subject matter, origin, style, carver or school. Unfortunately, we don't have the space to go into the many different subjects and designs. Suffice to say that these dear little figures tell us a story. Study the faces of the people, animals, gods and devils and you will see a full range of human emotion; joy, sadness, distress, frustration, anger and love. Inspiration for early netsuke came from the Chinese. Compare the Chinese foo dog to the Japanese shishi and you will at once see the similarity. As netsuke art became more sophisticated the carvers reached back into their rich history, religion and fables as well as every day life, for inspiration. We now find the kabuki entertainer, the noh mask, the sumo wrestler, the kappa (water imp) and Raijin, the god of thunder. Although women are in the minority when it comes to netsuke art, we still find them represented. The pearl diver comes to mind, as well as the mermaid, a mother and her baby, a beggar woman and of course, Okame (goddess of mirth) who is always represented with her serene, happy face.

There were thousands of netsuke carvers and to identify them takes special skill and patience since some of them have identical names. The history of netsuke is usually divided into three periods: the early, middle and late periods.

The early period
(17th through early 19th century)

During this time the subject matter came mainly from the Chinese, and netsuke portraying Chinese legend, history and customs were greatly admired by the Japanese. The earliest of the carvers never signed their pieces. Some of the outstanding carvers of the latter part of this period were Masanao, Tomatada and Okatomo (all from the Kyoto area).

An ivory netsuke of a rain dragon. 19th century - unsigned.

The middle period
(most of the 19th century)

Netsuke carving came into its own during this time. Many of the artists now had influential patrons. They trained and schooled other carvers. During the middle period, the netsuke carver perfected his art, concentrating on Japanese themes, striving for excellence of design and execution and using materials of tremendous variety. Some carvers of this period were Mitsuhiro, Masakazu, Kokusai and Kaigyokusai.

A ceramic netsuke of a badger holding a saki container. Signed Ogata Kazuhei, late 19th - early 20th century.

The late period
(late 19th and early 20th century)

During the latter part of the 19th century Western influence and style were introduced to Japan after two centuries of isolation. European merchants clamored for Japanese wares, good, bad and indifferent. The excellence of netsuke carving diminished, but the little carved objects found great favor with the foreigners who took them back to the West. With the advent of Western style clothes in Japan, the netsuke lost its practical purpose as a toggle and became strictly an art form. Among outstanding carvers of this period were Tokoku and Sosui.

Netsuke are popular collector's items today, treasured both by the Japanese and Westerners. A really good netsuke seldom shows up at a flea market or general antiques shop. People interested in learning about netsuke would do well to seek the advice of a knowledgeable dealer or collector. Most of the netsuke being sold are of poor quality, flat and lifeless. Although some are carved in Japan, most originate in Hong Kong and some are not even ivory.

A seated rat in wood by Masanao of Kyoto. 18th century.
There are some fine books written on netsuke collecting, both in Japan and in the West. Here are a few titles of books you might want to locate: "Netsuke, Familiar and Unfamiliar", by Raymond Bushell, "The Netsuke Handbook by Ueda Reikichi", by Raymond Bushell and "An Introduction of Netsuke", by Joe Earle. It is often worth trying the public library or a good book dealer for more information.

Last, but not least, we should mention the contemporary netsuke. Although new, some of these are extremely well carved and beautiful. These netsuke are strictly works of art and, as such, command high prices, sometimes costing more than a fine antique.

Mermaid with coral ball. Ivory - Sumi, circa 1985.

A seated Daruma emerging from a nine year meditation, carved in wood with inlays. Koju (school of Tokoku), late 19th century.

Prices of fine netsuke range from several hundred to thousands of dollars. Before investing, study, read, look, feel. Learn about damage and repairs. Buy one good netsuke rather than five average ones. Signatures are not as important as good carving and charming subject matter. Hold a netsuke in your hand and feel the warmth of the wood admire the glow of the ivory. Explore the world of netsuke. You will most certainly fall in love and it is a lifetime love affair.