Saturday, December 19, 2009

where things begin and end

I've always been drawn to the edge, where one surface meets another, where one thing finishes and another begins. Conjunctions, boundaries, places of transformation.

My Masters research gave me an opportunity to give this deeper thought and look more closely at thresholds and liminal space. I read widely, wrote a paper and worked in the studio. The tiger from my father's childhood, the zoo, Calcutta ... all was on hold.

And once free of this course, I began to consider the tiger in a light of liminality, particularly in relation to colonisation and control. Skin, claws, teeth were all covetable trophies to be had. A demonstration of culture over nature, of man over beast, of ultimate power. I began to seek out these feline relics of the Raj.

When I visited London earlier this year, I found several pieces of jewellery made with tigers' claws in various collections. This necklace made from tigers claws and gold (c. 1865) is in the South Asia Room at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was purchased from the Paris International Exhibition in 1867. Each claw is between 30-40 mm long and about 30 mm wide. They are quite thin with a fine edge and a sharp point. The claws also have an interesting 'grain' and subtle variations in tone and colour. The sign suggested that tiger claw jewellery was worn as a protection from evil, and was very popular among the British as an 'exotic souvenir of their life in India'.

I want to make a set of claws, one that I can wear, on my fingers ... just in case.

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