Five jewellerypeaces made out of my own hair:
spun - chrocheted - felted
Project: Not a Chain
My search for the meaning of a chain led to tradition and status. For centuries already, necklaces/chains have been used as an expression of status and personality. The bigger the jewel and the richer the material, the greater the prestige enjoyed by the wearer. Among traditional peoples, natural materials such as feathers, shells, stones, bones and hair have been used to symbolize that wealth. That was a first reason to choose my own hair as the main material. I searched for something close to me and to nature.
A necklace does not always consist of a chain, and a chain is not always a necklace. This is a misconception in many Dutch-language dialects. The word ‘chain’ (ketting) is misused as a synonym for ‘necklace’ (halssieraad). In Not a Chain I have played on this linguistic confusion.
During my research, the word ‘chain’ took on even more meanings. As a material, chain has other functional manifestations that have nothing to do with necklaces/jewels: as a lock in combination with padlocks, in pulleys, for fences, bike chains, chainsaws, etc. Functions that evoke power and strength and hence form a second reason to choose my own hair as my material. A hundred thousand human hairs (the average number per head) can support ten thousand kilograms. Hair is one of the strongest materials and is undervalued as a raw material!
So the word ‘chain’ has a whole range of meanings. Sometimes the word is even combined with other words in order to elucidate even more the situation being described: chain dance, chain collision, chain smoker, chain letter, etc. Situations that imply an action/reaction whereby a ‘chain reaction’ emerges between the different links. In Dutch the word schakel (link) led to schakelen (to link), which literally means ‘bringing about a link’. My work emerged through action/reaction: how does the material react? How can I combine this material to form a whole? What forms emerge during the making process? The findings I came across during the process helped determine the design.
For years already I have been saving my hair because of my fascination for this material. After washing or brushing it, I keep the ball of hair that has come loose in the process. By spinning this hair on a spinning wheel, I make out of individual strands of about 60 to 70 cm a continuous long thread – a kind of inter-linking. With this I crocheted and tried out macramé. I also felted and that went incredibly well, better than with sheep’s wool. With warm water and olive soap, the hair quickly sticks together to form nice, uniform spheres.
I integrated in my designs the metal chains in their different manifestations: chain as a support for a pendant or a string of beads, as a decorative element or amulet. Or purely as an extension and fastening. In the hair chain, the links as form are even the only remaining reference to the chain as necklace.
In short, I largely drew my inspiration from the traditional ‘chain’ which only rarely consists of chain as material. And from status which almost always goes hand in hand with lavish clothing and impressive headdresses in which complex forms are woven. My plaiting-based hair jewels ultimately failed to make the final selection.
Fascinating research that largely evolved towards research into an interesting and extremely sound material. A fine and instructive project!
workshop sepia-casting with tin
Brugge plus vzw
master degree project
Atelier in Antwerp
© Dries Dockx 2018