Wednesday, 30 November 2011

So what's with the Darwin Fish, then?

To understand what the significance of a little fish with legs is, you have to understand what the little fish without legs means. The fish symbol adopted by Christians is called Ichthys, which is the Greek name for fish. Written in the original Greek, it becomes an acronym and I think it’s really quite clever: ΙΧΘΥΣ – ησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ, (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), which translates into English as “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour”.

Fish also feature quite prominently in the gospels, what with the “feeding of the five thousand”, etc… The ichthys is also seen in 1st-century catacombs in Rome, where according to tradition, ancient Christians, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ, used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes.

It was later revived in the 20th century when members of the University of Queensland Evangelical Union used the ichthys symbol when they formed a temporary Christian commune to be a witnessing presence at the Aquarius Rock Festival in 1973. From this time people started to display the ichthys symbol, sometimes together with an Aquarius Festival sticker in the rear window of Kombi vans. The car bumper sticker came soon after.
The “Jesus Fish” has become an icon of modern Protestant Christianity. Apart from the now famous bumper stickers, it can  now also be seen as pendants or necklaces as a sign that the owner is a Christian.

In 1983, two friends, Al Seckel and John Edwards who were involved in the Southern California atheist and freethought movements, co-created the Darwin fish design, which was first used on a freethought leaflet entitled “Darwin’s Views on Religion” for Atheists United in 1984. It was then sold by Atheists United and other freethought groups, which got free permission from Seckel and Edwards throughout the 1980s, for it to be used on bumper stickers and t-shirts. In 1983, Chris Gilman, a Hollywood propmaker, claimed not to have seen Seckel’s and Edward’s design, joked about the idea as an “advertising” alternative to the “Jesus fish” when the employees’ conversation turned to a court case involving teaching evolution versus creationism. He manufactured the first plastic car ornaments in 1988, and started Evolution Design in 1990. Evolution Design’s fish faced right, while Seckel and Edwards’ design faced left, like the Christian symbol. When Evolution Design was at risk of losing its trademark on the design, they began threatening to sue creators of look-alike Darwin fish emblems and unlicensed products. Recruited by one of the sellers of unlicensed products, Seckel and Edwards in turn sued Evolution Design for copyright infringement. Seckel and Edwards did not seek royalties, but wanted Evolution Design to allow free use of the design by anyone authorised by them. Seckel and Edwards felt that in the spirit of parody and free speech, their design predated Gilman’s claimed origin of 1988. During the discovery phase Gilman was not able to offer any proof that he had created the design during the 1980s (which during that time was widely distributed), while Seckel and Edwards were able to supply postmarked and dated material containing their Darwin fish design from as early as 1983. The suit was settled when it became apparent that Seckel and Edwards had not properly protected their design.

So, that’s where I come in. The Darwin fish, fortunately for me is available for free reproduction, and being a “free thinker” myself, I liked the idea of incorporating this design into various jewellery designs. I started with a simple representation on a silver chain and have since started making “pebbles” where the Darwin fish is engraved onto a melted and flattened blob of silver and blackened to bring out the detail. I’m not a big fan of that ubiquitous Christian symbol, the cross; why wear a symbol of torture? Darwin fish are a fun, friendly poke at creationism and are sure to set off heated debate for anyone who wears it with pride.
Source: Wikipedia, accessed 30/11/2011

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The price of exclusivity?

The British Museum shows off treasure buried for 1000 years

From time to time, we hear about hauls of treasure being found, dating back a thousand or more years, such as this one described here in this 2007 article from the Guardian. Do you think your jewellery will still be around in 1000 years time? Would you want it to be? There has been a growing trend in the western world for "throw away" fashion, buy something cheaply and then if it gets ruined in the wash or falls apart, no problem, just throw it away go and buy another one. But this wanton waste of resources is not sustainable. Quite apart from the drain on the planet's resources in producing the textiles that are then discarded in landfill, the way the world's economy is heading, it is no longer financially viable to produce such cheap and shoddy garments. Even poor sweatshop workers are feeling the pinch!
Fortunately, this trend seems to be changing, and rather than buying cheaply now, and never mind the consequences, shoppers are being more careful with their money and in turn becoming more discerning with their tastes. They can no longer afford to be replacing worn out clothing after only one season, and are looking towards better-made, more classical styles, and as result, are often looking for products that are made a little closer to home.
I'm hoping that these trends will have a positive effect on my jewellery sales. After all, would you rather buy something that is truly unique, where you have had a relationship, of sorts with the person who made it, who you can turn to if something goes wrong? Do you think the Chinese seller on Ebay would be interested if you lost one of your earrings and needed another made to match the remaining one? Do you think they'd still be around to take care of you if you needed to repair one of their $10 "silver" rings?
The thing is, I have been seduced by buying inexpensive jewellery, too. Who hasn't? I recently bought a fine (.999) silver bangle from a shop in town. It was made in South East Asia and is really lovely. Now, I only paid something like €40 (£34) for it, but today I started thinking about if I had tried to make and sell a similar bangle. It weighs 25g, and with today's silver prices, the metal alone comes in at something like £25 (€30), and that's without all the work that's gone into making it. A bangle like this would take me at least a morning, or 3-4 hours to make. If I bought it for €40, I can only imagine what the shop bought it for and in turn how much the poor silversmith who made it, earned. I feel really guilty about buying it now! However, a similar thing is happening to me every day, thanks to the horrendous rise in metal prices and the state of the economy.
Today, I was comparing how much a shopping basket from my metal supplier cost in 2006 and how much it costs now. This is an example of stock I bought in November 2006:

Sterling silver 1mm round wire 2m             £6.30
Sterling silver 0.8mm round wire 2m          £4.33
Sterling silver 2mm round wire 2m             £23.26
9k medium solder wire 5cm                        £0.60
9k easy solder wire 5cm                             £0.60
Sterling silver sheet 0.9mm 1cm x 50cm    £16.12
9k sheet 0.2mm 4mm x 30cm                    £16.02
Total                                                            £67.23
VAT 17.5%                                                  £78.99

And the same basket today would cost:

Sterling silver 1mm round wire 2m             £14.11
Sterling silver 0.8mm round wire 2m          £9.45
Sterling silver 2mm round wire 2m             £53.26
9k medium solder wire 5cm                        £1.65
9k easy solder wire 5cm                             £1.65
Sterling silver sheet 0.9mm 1cm x 50cm    £38.51
9k sheet 0.2mm 4mm x 30cm                    £42.56
Total                                                            £161.69
VAT 20%                                                     £194.03

So, a big leap. But have my prices increased to reflect this? Well, no.
My costs go up and up, my prices stay the same. However, my jewellery making, like the throw away culture we have, is no longer sustainable. I, in effect work for nothing. Would you do that? I suppose not. Everyone wants jewellery at South East Asia prices or the prices offered by dodgy "here today, gone tomorrow" Chinese sellers on Ebay.
So, I return to my original question. Would you want your jewellery to still be around in 1000 years time? I can't promise that either I or my jewellery have that much life in us, but speaking for my jewellery at least, I'd like to think it will stand the test of time. The fact is, if you don't start looking closer to home to buy your stuff, and you buy junk, then you're cheating yourself and you're cheating the environment and you're cheating your own economy. Think about it this Christmas.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Party styles

With the party season fast approaching, you might be on the lookout for that extra special and unique accessory to wow and turn heads. How about a one of a kind necklace from my shop. You know you won't be embarrassed by someone else turning up in the same thing and it might just open the door for some interesting conversations! Here's a selection from the shop:

New bracelets for Christmas

A rainbow selection of silver and semi-precious bead bracelets that would make stunning Christmas presents! Take your pick from the bracelets section of my shop.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Cherry berry earrings

Cherries, berries or linden bracts? Cute botanical hook earrings in sterling silver.
For sale in my shop

Leaf and berry dangly earrings

Cute and sparkly hook earrings made from sterling silver and carnelian beads.

For sale in my shop

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Silver fern pendant in silver and bronze

Silver fern, the symbol of New Zealand. This pendant in sterling silver and bronze, riveted together, lovingly recreates this pretty leaf as an engraving on the bronze. The bronze will acquire a patina over time but can be polished back to its original colour if desired.

For sale in my shop