Monday, 7 November 2011

How I come up with a character

I've been asked a few times how I come up with a character for my jewellery ranges, and I've never been able to tell them. Not because I'm keeping my cards close to my chest, but because I honestly don't know. I know Apis Mellifera arrived in my head during a car journey the day after watching The Prestige for the millionth time. I tend to think a lot anyway, but when driving, there is nothing for me to do but think. I arrive at my destination, and immediately start scribbling things down.

I'd already decided to do something with a doctor, because I'd seen an amazing necklace by Galibardy shaped like a stethoscope. So, on a long drive, I started thinking about Nicolai Tesla, and what other experiments he might have done. In the film he transports the main character from one place to another – I began to imagine he might have managed to transport other friends through time. So a time travelling doctor, who finds work as a magician, was the start of the Mellifera dynasty.

The introduction of a wife gave me scope for children, and as Scott agreed, the children would no doubt be twins. I've always had a thing for twins, not in a sexual way, which is partly why I fell in love with my husband (shallow?). So what were the children going to be like?

The first thing that happened was that someone accidentally called my friend Claudia 'Calusa'. This sounded like someones name, possibly a daughter. Apis had been named purely because I was drawing a lot of bees at the time, and Apis Mellifera is Latin for honey bee, whilst Millie was named after a woman at work who gave me a lot of buttons.

After that, all in the same week, Ian saved a photo of 'the northern lights' to the laptop, we watched QI with Professor Brian Cox, and I started drawing with wire for an exhibition in December. The wire loops and spirals started to look like planetary paths, especially when combined with large spherical beads which looked like planets. I imagined a softly spoken astronomer, describing the paths of planets with enthusiasm. Could he be Calusa Mellifera?

Everything kicked off this morning. Looking online Calusa is actually a Native American tribe, and so it was no longer right. So what to call him? I searched for 'astronomy' on Google images, and found photos of the Andromeda galaxy, which is a spiral, and references to Edwin Hubble, who Claudia's cat is named after – so the astronomer just had to be Edwin.

Now there was a name, and an occupation. As Apis and Millie were married in the 1920s, he'd be born around then, meaning by the time he was working, it would be about the 1950s. This is awesome, because I've been wanting to do something 50s related for ages, and was even annoyed with myself for making Apis travel forward to the 1920s instead of the 1950s.

So now comes the gathering of inspiration. I travel through the internet, following links, finding things out, and saving any picture which appeals to me. This morning, I followed a link from Edwin Hubble, and after reading about the doppler effect, somehow ended up looking at pictures of swans, as well as galaxies, spiral and otherwise, and planetary orbits. Somehow the two sorts of shapes complemented each other.

Finally, I thought about colour. I've been using this amazing chartreuse green wire for wire drawing, so I looked online to see why it's so named. It turns out the story behind chartreuse is better than anything I could come up with.

Chartreuse is named after a liqueur, which has been distilled since the 1740s by Carthusian monks. It gets its colour from the chlorophyll in the 130 herbs it contains. The monks started distilling it in 1605 after a mysterious manuscript was found by Marshal Francois Annibal d'Estrees (an employee of the French king Henry IV) with the recipe for an elixir said to promote a long life. It is still distilled now, in the same distillery as Genepi, a liqueur similar to absinthe.

So all the elements I need for a collection are in place. Now, like a liqueur, it ferments inside my head for a bit while I'm messing around with the photos I've saved, until suddenly, there's a rounding off story which brings it all together.

NAME – Edwin Mellifera
OCCUPATION – astronomy professor
TIME PERIOD – 1950s (particularly space race)
SHAPES – spirals, coils, swans
COLOURS - chartreuse
HISTORY – IE how it ties in with Apis

“In 1929, Millie finally fell pregnant. Due to the unforeseen time shifts created by Apis travelling forward, there were slight mutations, and the pregnancy was a multiple birth. In the 1920s, it was much more difficult for women to cope with prolonged labour, but Millie pulled through, although the babies were weak.

With his medical background, Apis developed a medical tonic using herbs, which was fed to both twins from the age of 6 months. He believed it would make them strong and live longer, but all he managed to do was further mutate his own children. The guilt he felt was what caused him to give up trying to live in the time period he had travelled to, and he began his long struggle trying to travel back to his own time.

Edwin's mutations were primarily positive. His tremendous intellect led him to Cambridge university in1948, where he studied Astrophysics, and he contributed to the 'space race', although on the side of the Russians, due to his father's background. He worked for Sergei Korolev on Object D, and assisted Gargarin in being the first cosmonaut.”

Here's the album of images

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