24 February 2010

Ming Mariposa

I am a little behind on my Etsy Wire Artisans Guild theme challenges, but even though I am a month behind on this one, I could not pass up such a cool theme! The theme for January was "Ming Dynasty", and as soon as I thought of it, my mind went to the fantastic hair ornaments you see in old Chinese period movies and operas. I was lucky enough to live in Eugene, Oregon, home of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, where they have an amazing collection of Chinese art, including a rich assortment of court garments and accessories. The elaborate hairpins, with their exquisite designs immediately came to my mind, and I decided to try my hand at making one.

As I researched my design, I came across some interesting information about hairpins and hair ornaments. In ancient China, engagement was an important social rite where a man and woman confirmed marital ties. It was next only to official marriage in significance. Marital ties were made by following “parents" order and on the matchmaker's "word”. However, maidens in the age of adolescence had the tradition of pledging in love with tokens of love. Under the pressure of the society, young men and women would deliver tokens of love in private. Others just could not tell.

There were ten traditional tokens of love: bracelets, arm-wrapped gold, finger rings, earrings, perfume satchels, jade pendants, true lover's knots, hairpins and twin hairpins, and silk skirts. No matter what they were or how valuable they might have been, tokens of love always became closely associated with the people giving and receiving them. Presenting the tokens of love was just like submitting one’s aspirations, showing the other person they will be loyal for life.

During the Ming (1368-1644) period, hairpins featured multiple styles, featuring a diverse number of designs at the tip of the hairpins. The most popular forms included flowers, birds, fish, insects and beasts, as well as flowers such as: plum blossoms, lotus flowers, chrysanthemums, peach blossoms, peonies and lotuses.

I chose to make a hairpin, also known as a buyao, which literally means "shake as you go". The elaborate "buyao" hairpin was an exquisite hair ornament denoting noble status, which was often be encrusted with jewels and featuring carved designs. An intricately wrapped butterfly sits on the end of the two-prong, sterling hairpin, which I hand forged. The Chinese animal symbol Butterfly represents love, specifically young love, and legend has it that the Butterfly symbolizes an undying bond between lovers. I imagine the piece I made as part of a bride's elaborate hair dressing, as a beautiful addition to her most special occasion, but it would look stunning for any special event.

To give my piece that dancing movement so prized in ancient hairpins, I suspended clear blue sapphire briolettes from the edges and bottoms of the butterfly's wings, and swags of delicate silver chain in the upper wings. I wrapped tiny red and pink tundra sapphires along the edge of the upper wings, and suspended two keishi pearls in the apex of each wing. The body of the butterfly is a marquis briolette of iolite, wrapped so it also moves, and dots of brilliant red rubies shine from the center swirl of each lower wing. Hours of time and love went into making this piece, and I plan on exploring hairpin designs quite a bit more in the future.

Before I go, I want to share one link with you with some particularly stunning hairpins. These Chinese hairpins are decorated with brilliant blue kingfisher feathers, and are truly amazing works of art. Definitely worth looking at!

I am so glad you took the time to see and read about my latest piece. Thanks for letting me share it with you!
Until next time,


Magda said...

Just beautiful, lovely butterfly:) Greetings:)

pippijewelry said...

Thank you, Magda. :)

ReBecca said...

I’ve enjoyed my visit to your blog and Etsy shop – LOVE your work! Two of my favorites are the Egyptian Coil bracelet with amethyst and the Sapphire and Swiss Blue topaz earrings, very yummy!

pippijewelry said...

Thank you, ReBecca!
If even just looking at my work has brought you pleasure, then I have succeeded. I am so thankful to be able to make the things I do. They bring me much joy, and I want to share that joy with the world. :)

Pretty Things said...

That is MOST awesome!