When we were little, my sister Colleen and I got really into Shakespeare. Sometimes our tastes diverged, like 4th grade was also around the time I got heavily into Elivis Presley, where-as Colleen was more of a Monkeys kind of gal. But we both definitely agreed on Cleopatra being super glamorous and fun to play, even if much of the complexity and tragedy of Shakespeare’s play was lost on us at the time. There was a costume box with hand-me-down dresses with a gold lame number perfect for Cleopatra and even a Halloween hair adornment with a golden snake and a circle of gold plastic beads. According to my mother I wore my Cleopatra outfit for a solid six months and there is even a picture of me sitting on Santa’s lap dressed in the full regalia, but I have not yet found the photographic evidence. The most crucial element of the home-version of my costume was humanely retrieved from a hole beneath a bush near our drive-way where we knew a big family of grass snakes lived. I would reach in and gently, temporarily capture a few snakes to wrap around my arms as Cleopatra’s asp. In my pursuit of catching snakes for our game, I was nearly bitten by a rattle snake once. The raspy rattle is quite memorable.
When I was coming up with my new series I tried to think of what I’ve traditionally wanted to decorate myself with and immediately thought of Col and I playing dress-up with the snakes. Colleen also had a python for a few years and would take it out with her. The snake’s name was Nam and Col took her just about everywhere; for hikes, swimming, out for hot-wings… Once we went out for a midnight hot-wings run and Colleen was wearing Nam under her hooded jacket. It was winter in Ithaca, NY so she had on a big winter jacket with a furry hood, like the Snow Queen. When she placed her order at the hotwings counter, Nam emerged, hovered in front of the cashier gal and flicked her tongue, tasting the air near the cashier’s face. People often won’t even see something that is unexpected. Its a little glitch in our human hardware. At first, the cashier didn’t see Nam, then she looked up to take the payment and, of course, had a bit of a scare. After the initial freak-out, everyone came over to admire Nam.
Snakes are very elegant, meditative, almost hypnotic in the way they move. Making this new collection is very meta in that way. The pieces are all one-of-a-kind. Rather than casting them, I am hand-forging them with a hammer and the torch, then meticulously polishing and finishing them. Most of the pieces are hand-engraved, which is a time-consuming process requiring a deep level of focus on just the tip of my engraving knife. Some of the new snake pieces also have embellishments of granulation, gold tongues and small rattles that sound like very subtle chimes.
So far I have sold one to a really nice, interesting lady. She is an antiquarian working for the Getty Museum and bought the bracelet for herself directly from me at the Renegade show in LA last weekend.
This up-coming weekend I hope to find homes for a few more at Renegade San Francisco!
Rachel Hanel photographed the new collection and the model was her beautiful cousin, Aliya. I also have some amazing new images by Rachel’s incredible assistant, Sarah Halpin, who organized a special Lord of the Flies-themed shoot. Those photos will be coming soon!!