Interwoven Sentiments - Atlas Obscura

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Interwoven Sentiments

Learn about one of the Victorian era's most fascinating mourning practices while creating an eternal keepsake.

The 19th century of the Victorian Era was a time rife with sentimental culture. Death rates were high due to numerous factors including disease, war, and high childhood mortality. Queen Victoria was an unlikely fashion icon and submerged herself in mourning after the deaths of both her husband, Prince Albert, and her mother in 1861. Aside from her mostly black wardrobe, she was widely known for her love of mourning jewelry, which very often contained the hair of a loved one inside. Victorian hair work became popular in both jewelry and shadowbox form during the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. Wearable human relics were transcended into a fashion statement during this time period.

In this workshop, participants will learn to create wire-work items traditionally used in shadowbox creation. We will be working with copper wire and horsehair to form intricate twists and braiding that can be manipulated in various ways to form flowers, leaves, berries, and other shapes. Participants will be able to make an item suitable for mounting in a frame or wearing as a brooch or hair clip. All materials, including horsehair, will be provided by instructor. Participants are welcome to bring human hair to work with if they'd like!

Professor Karen Bachmann teaches at both Pratt Institute and Fashion Institute of Design. She specializes in jewelry, holloware, and decorative art with a particular interest in medieval memento mori and 19th century sentimental work. She is a practicing studio jeweler and a former master jeweler at Tiffany & Co. She has had work published in Art Jewelry Today, and the Lark 500 series books. Written published work includes “Hairy Secrets: Human Relic as Memory Object in Victorian Hairwork Jewelry.” Her most recent publication is an essay on hairwork in the book Death: a Graveside Companion (Thames & Hudson).


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