TANGIBLE TRUTHS: A necklace made of hair for Gudrun

A Life Full of Holes

 “The walkabouts. The light will stay on” Gudrun replies. The walk-a-what? I have never heard of the band or the song. Have you? For a change, my ignorance about the Walkabouts is not a result of my negligence of trendy music trends but rather due to the age difference between Gudrun and I. Gudrun is about 20 years older than I am and listened to the band while traveling the world. In the 90’s. When they were trendy. 

The reason Gudrun and I talk about her taste in music is the nature of the project the two of us are involved in. I’m creating a bespoke piece of jewelry with her hair. It was cut off after her first chemotherapy treatment and now the two burgundy braids are wrapped in blue paper and sitting in a box on my desk. Discarded but ready to transform into something new, something valuable again. Asking her about a song that is currently stuck in her head is one of my questions to approach the difficult task of making an intimate jewelry piece for someone I hardly know. 

This is how we ended up talking about the Walkabouts, this is how I ended up on youtube listening to their hits, playing them one by one while I work. It’s not “The lights will stay on” that catches my attention but “Life full of holes”. Oxymorons and I have the same intense relationship as a moth has with light. I love poetic language and, yes, catchy quotes.

“There is a travelers truth, it says:
There is no truth at all
In a life that’s full of holes. “

The line haunts me for days. Having a hard time finding a point of entry to this piece I finally got a taste where it is taking me. Listening to the walkabouts on repeat has left me with this sense of endless traveling, this urge to get lost on foreign beaches. I have this habit of collecting shells, stones and sand samples from my visits to the shores of this world. From time to time my friends remember this and they return from their journeys with gifts from the beach. My brain must have followed a similar train of thought when I remembered a limestone full of holes that my friend Katha brought back with her from the french Atlantic coast. Thanks to this magic synapse formation said stone is now the centerpiece of Gudrun’s necklace. With hair braided like ropes wrapping through its holes. One side polished and soft, the other rough and raw like nature intended. And a tassel of loose, burgundy hair, ready to be stroked by a beachy breeze. 

I was nervous handing this piece over. To be honest, I am nervous every time, even when it's a Circle of Friends necklace and my customer already has a clear idea how the final piece looks. With the Tangible Truths series, it's different. I sit down with the women who hand over their hair to me and we talk. I don't get instructions which braiding they want to have, or what metal they want me to use. No "I want it to look like this", just a conversation about color, about music, about how they are doing at the moment. And then I start. Walking through this unknown territory, not sure where I will end up, and hoping the woman receiving the piece will get it. And Gudrun got it. Though her long burgundy hair is a part of her past, the piece reminds her of the transformation she is capable of. 

Sybille PaulsenComment