Tree of Life brooch | Silver, bog oak | Private collection, AU
How to translate one's heritage, the clay of your own country into silver and gold? For her collection Jerephaes in 2004 Francis Willemstijn used the many generations in her own family-tree to travel back in time to Holland's seventeenth century. It led to jewellery dominated by images of sailingships and coats of arms.
Heritage is based on traces of the past which are about to disappear forever. Willemstijn got intriged by traditional costume with its specific jewellery and in paticular by the many customs during a period of mourning. She did not work from the images of complete dresses or suits, but focused on the materials that were employed in the specific jewellery: hair, jet and garnets. With these she started experimenting in search for contemporary expressiveness. Some times the special history of a material offered a startingpoint. Bog oak, consisting of oakwood that acquired new qualities by being submerged in swamps for many centuries, was often used as a cheap replacement for jet. The red dye madder, used as 'turkish red' in the long skirts and the pasants scarfs, is the ground root of a plant with the same name, which was cultivated on a impressive scale in the south of Holland from the Middle Ages untill well into the nineteenth century.
Fortunately paintmill 'De Kat' in Zaandijk, situated in the polderland to the north of Amsterdam, could still supply the red dye. The colour and the madderflowers compensate for the sombre mood that initiated these jewellery pieces. In an almost timid attempt the red lights up between the black and grey; emotionally charged symbols like the cross are overgrown with flowers. Not unlike developments in other fields of contemporary dutch design, Francis Willemstijn's jewellery is proof of the strength of the cultural heritage in Holland and the way it can be renewed for our own times. The pieces are a connection between past and present, between tradition and innovation, between death and life.
Ward Schrijver, 2006
Untitled bracelet | Bog oak, silver, glass, jet | Private collection, USA
Hair necklace | Human hair, glass, jet, silver, textile | Private collection, USA
Madder brooch | Wood, silver, enamel, garnets, madder | Private collection, USA
Cheesehead necklace | Oak, cotton | Private collection, DE
Stripes brooch | Wood, iron, gold, silver | Private collection, USA
Overgrown brooches | Silver, bog oak | Left: Private collection, NL
Mourningflowers brooch | Silver, polystyreen, wood, madder | Private collection, BE
Double Cross brooch | Silver, bog oak, paper
Bog Oak bracelet | Silver, bog oak | Private collection, NL
Mourningflowers brooch | Silver, polystyreen, wood, madder
Millingen brooch | Bog oak, garnets, silver, madder
Cross brooch | Bog oak, silver | Private Collection. NL
This collection has been made possible by Fonds BKVB, NL
Photography: Francis Willemstijn