Does this happen to anyone else? You have something in your head for what feels like forever, and then you finally do it, and you feel like jumping up and down you’re so excited, but no one really understands why.
This was me this week.
The title of this post refers to world history and my own history. I can’t actually pinpoint when I started making jewelry, as it was sometime in my childhood or early teenage years, working alongside my very crafty mother. I can tell you that I was 21, a wide eyes and somewhat nervous college student when I attended my first craft fair as a vendor. It was a springtime church fair and I split a table with my best friend who was selling handmade soaps at the time; the most memorable thing about that event was “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” on loop over the PA system all day, driving us up the wall.
It took awhile to find my groove. Beaded jewelry gave way to what became my signature piece in my original jewelry business, Duchessa, which was begun with a college friend and eventually became a one-woman shop. This signature piece was custom initial pendants modeled after the one worn by Anne Boleyn in her most famous portrait, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Unfortunately, the wrath of her husband, Henry VIII was fairly complete and there are very few images of Queen Anne from her lifetime; the NPR portrait is from after her death and the details and likeness are often questions. Regardless, this remains the most famous and well recognized likeness of her and her B necklace was worn by the title character of the television show Ugly Betty, catapulting it back into the public eye. The Other Boleyn Girl, book and movie, and The Tudors television series also helped stoke the renewal of interest in the Tudor period and particularly, the enigmatic and tragic Queen Anne.
Did my geek flag fly a little bit high in that last paragraph? Getting back on track, I love history, particularly the middle ages into the renaissance, and Anne Boleyn has always been a character of particular interest. So when my original business partner said “do you think you can just make a B pendant?”, I set out to do it and it soon became my star item. I sculpted my letters from polymer clay, then painted and glazed them, and carefully added freshwater or faux pearl drops onto the metal loops I had integrated in to the letter. Some remained pendants, some wound up as pearl enhancers with hinged bails, and most went onto freshwater pearl necklaces for the complete package.
I always dreamed of being able to make the perfect pendant and have it cast in metal. I once did a small batch in bronze, but they were so heavy! I loved the pendants, but they just well, weren’t metal. Then with the birth of my daughter in 2014, I found that I didn’t have the time and energy to devote to painstakingly attending to every detail of the ongoing process to prepare each piece. I set it aside, along with my somewhat embarrassingly large collection of Anne Boleyn related books and memorabilia.
Then in the late summer of 2015, with a just over 1 year old I began exploring silver smithing and founded Seashore Design Studio. Fast forward another entire year and a few new skills later, and I finally decided to give my old friend the B pendant a shot. A few pieces of silver here, a few solder joins there…I was getting more and more giddy. It went into the tumbler and I waited. Once it came out I grabbed some lovely round freshwater pearls and wired them on with sterling silver headpins. Oh. My. Goodness.
This is a very, very long winded way of sharing how absolutely over the moon excited I am about this. I fall in love with most of the pieces that come off my bench, but this particular design is the culmination of years of pondering and planning, and incorporates the new skills I used to dream of having. So maybe not everyone is a history nerd like me, and maybe this piece doesn’t have mass appeal, but it symbolizes for me a culmination of creative efforts and learning process.
My updated version of the classic Anne Boleyn letter B pendant in fine silver with freshwater pearls can be found right here – it’s sleek and elegant and has a large enough bail that it can easily be slipped onto any change or build onto a necklace.
And as always, I am unendingly grateful for those of you who are on this journey with me. So if you’re reading this, drop me a line please, and tell me, is there a historical figure you’re stuck on? I know this can’t just be me.
Thank you for reading!