Hair Jewellery

Source: Forget Me Not; Geoffrey Batchen

My time at the British Library has been hugely inspiring. Almost every source has something that could be the beginning of a whole new project. One of the things that encouraged me to start drawing again after a long spell of conceptualising, was this image of a piece of Victorian memorial jewellery, with ‘Lizzie’ engraved on the back of the clasp. This particular example has a strap woven out of human hair. That got me started...

And then I saw the real thing in the Manuscripts section of the Library. Two bracelets belonging to a member of the Trollope family, possibly Fanny, were enclosed in a box, alongside other containers holding a painted miniature, a watch and several private letters.

In the case of both bracelets, the clasps are made of metal and are the part that gives the jewellery weight. The straps, made of intricately braided hair, appear like very fine metal thread. It's the lightness and elasticity of the strap, and a few rogue hairs that have freed themselves that reveal that it is hair.

See one of the pen and ink results below.

Elf Lock © Lizzie Ridout

The drawing was named after the old belief that tangled hair was deliberately knotted by Queen Mab and her elves and would bring the wearer bad luck. As a result 'bed head' was then known as 'elf locks'.