Monday, April 30, 2012

Blow the Candle Out: Romance, the Sea, Sex and Old Folksongs

As I worked on this necklace, I remembered and began singing that old Kingston Trio song, "Blow the Candle Out," because it makes me think of sailors' valentines, crafted on long watches at sea, thinking of home.  "When I sailed into Portland Town, I called upon my dear . . . come roll me in your arms my love, and blow the candle out."  All that rolling and candle blowing seemed raw, biologically driven romance back then.  But now I read the lyrics again, I see they married first.  I have to ask, did someone sanitize this song of a sailor's yearning?  It seems so tame today, not at all raw, but at least sauteed or blanched.

On to how it was made and the components:  I spliced together two lengths of found steel chain using a beefy brass jump ring from a deep sea fishing lure and hook assembly found at a thrift in Rockaway Beach, OR.  The lure was battered and bumped and so it surely had met some very large fish.  When working with this sort of found object, you need to know that the metal components have been designed to take huge force factors exerted by large fish that resist their sad fates.  Annealing with a creme brulee torch may not work very well.  My intention was to use the hook itself for a fastener, which I did, but it was very hard to push that steel around -- I expect it was an alloy even tougher than tool steel.  There's a research question.

After degreasing, blackening and tumbling the chain, I began work on the components:

- fabricated a set of jump rings in 18 ga. mild steel wire, set them aside, removed the pin back from the pretty little enameled ship brooch, fabricated another piece to hang beneath it and suspend the cluster of curios.

- etched the bottom of an old watchmaker's vial, netted it in black waxed linen, drilled the cap and added just the right bead, a vintage brass plated resin bead.  I threaded the cap with a head pin and ended it in a loop that I then bound with white linen (more sailor's knots) in a half hitch pattern, because I think connection points deserve care, and paying attention to the thickness of wire used deserves care.  The connection there was only 20 ga. and it didn't stand scrutiny.  The knotting added to the nautical theme and solved the problem, as well.  Form following function will never fail you!

-   Once netting was done and the cap assembled, I added sand, a scrap of antique text, "kiss the child," a little sea star, and finished off the linen as a knotted and beaded tassel, using one job's tear and some shark vertebrae.  Then the whole thing was grunged with dirt and sand, for the look that it rolled out of the sea and cast up on the beach at the tide line one morning long ago.  You'll notice that the contents are not clearly visible, you have to look closely.  Maybe you can't see the tiny star at first, but it's wonderful knowing it's there, and peeking between the netting to see if you can see it.   With motion, the sand moves around inside so the sea star may or may not be visible.  You have to toy with it; that's the point.

The rest was pretty straight forward:

-  a bit of sea pottery was drilled with my handy diamond hollow core drill bit, bumps ground down, and assembled with more steel wire to two very old and mellow African brass beads and a contemporary Chinese resin bead that just sizzles with contrast while evoking faraway ports.  It got grunged, too. 

- Next, another dangling charm for the assembly, after a long pause to consider the effect of just two, which took a while.  In China, where they give mystical consideration to the meanings of numbers, two is unlucky, but three means abundance (more than two is many; it is a ancient culture, with roots that go way deep beyond modern literacy and counting, hence the magic the numbers still evoke).

-  The next charm was assembled from another bit of China, an ancient brass coin, and a traditional tribal glass bead from India, whose form originated with the wearing of jasmine buds.

-  I used the ginormous fish hook for the fastener and finished off the loops on the end of the suspending bar and a few chain links with the sweetest little brass dangles, again from tribal India.

So this sailor saw the world, made this gift for his sweetheart from things he found there, and finally came home to Portland Town and rolled her in his arms (after they got married, of course).

And they lived happily ever after.  The end.


  1. Of course! ;)

    What a great collection...and wonderful story to go with it. But I gotta tell you..that hook is scary. Genius and scary. ;)

  2. *Applause*...and now I'll want some more!!! :D Love it all, particularly the net around the vial, brilliant!

  3. Well....I do hope that whoever purchases this prized item appreciates all the hard work and skill that went into it. Sometimes, I would guess, people don’t realize how much goes into the creation of something and in your case how much time went into your education to get this far...Keith’s classes , I am sure , do not come cheap...all of this of course figures into what you have been able to do here...I couldn’t come close...I stand in awe and jaw
    dropping to the ground amazement at what went on here...just the little vial alone...

  4. This is freaking amazing - love what you did with the vial - extraordinary work! But that fish hook scares me...

  5. Easy, easy, folks! I promise I filed the pointy parts down and burnished them smooth.

  6. The other day just the title came up in blogger...I was expecting a torrid tale of an unsavoury romance lol! This is so much better, the detailing is amazing and the netting a delight. Love the ship as well