I got to thinking more in depth about creating pieces of lasting beauty this week with several custom monogram projects strewn in my path.
Custom pieces are by far my favourite thing to create because I’m working in collaboration with the client. This results in a combining of ideas, styles and stories which manifest themselves in a piece of artwork which is always a pleasant surprise to both myself and the client. You can never really anticipate what will happen during the design process and what wondrous beauty it may produce.
But what makes a piece special? Something that you won’t get bored of after wearing it for a month? Something that you want your children or friends to love and cherish and add their own story to when you’re gone? I believe there are three key elements to such a miracle of creation; classic appeal, story and personal attachment.
Classic appeal is about the aesthetic and feel of the piece. It goes without saying that a well balanced and visually pleasing design is vital to giving any piece of wearable art longevity but there’s more to it than that. The piece doesn’t need to be expensive and diamond encrusted to be memorable and extraordinary. It doesn’t need to be gaudy to catch your attention. It doesn’t have to be based on the style of a certain time period (in fact that may even do the piece harm and make it dated. It helps when considering the design to think about styles that have managed to remain timeless and consistently pleasing in form). What really matters is the client’s personal taste because that’s part of the story of the piece. They need to love looking at it for the rest of their lives. The challenge is to synthesise their entire life experience and all the things they find visually pleasing into one tiny piece of wearable art. No mean feat, and it takes great communication to produce the finest results.
Story is about creating a visual and tactile memory aid similar to smelling a cake which reminds you of your 6th birthday or a perfume that makes you think of your grandmother. Maybe it’s not even as specific as a memorial piece but gives the wearer a strong feeling or a sense of self. It’s also important to remember that the making of the piece is part of that story so ensuring that process is as pleasurable as possible is vital!
Important factors to consider when designing the piece is why the wearer has requested it be made in the first place, how to create the trigger which will release the infused memory and how to make it unique to that wearer. These considerations are doubly important when someone is having the piece made for someone else because then you need to amalgamate at least two stories.
The trigger may involve a place, event or even a date and finding the right symbols to communicate these things but also coordinate with the aesthetic requirements of the piece can often be quite challenging!
Personal attachment is about what makes the piece unique to the wearer. The simplest way to achieve this is by creating a locket into which they can insert a photo or text. The use of a monogram, initial, name, date or pictorially, a family crest or symbol are also common methods used to elicit the desired memory.
I find the most interesting pieces manifest themselves when you have to get more creative. Quite often I’ve found people wanting to include a reference to their affinity with a certain animal, their beliefs or even a specific season. The beauty of it is that there’s no idea too small or too grand because the art is a piece of them, dictated by them, and for them alone. And if the piece gets passed down the character of it’s first owner will still shine through even as the next person adds their own memories to it.
I hope this small insight into the design process will aid you when searching for or creating an heirloom of your own. Remember to take the time to consider exactly what would make it special to you so you’re making an investment rather than acquiring another forgettable bauble to get tangled amongst all the others at the bottom of your jewellery box. If you’re searching for a gift which will be treasured be sure it includes the elements of classic appeal, story and personal attachment and you can’t go wrong!