The Old in the New

The Tara Brooch is considered one of the most important extant artifacts of early Christian-era Irish Insular art, and I am delighted that it is displayed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

The Tara brooch is a circle of cast silver which is gilted with incredibly fine filigree work in gold. It is inlay with beautiful beads of precious stone of amber and glass, and is less than 2 inches in diameter. 2 inches!!!! The Tara brooch dates from approximately the 8th century, and it was created in a time of new Christian influence in Ireland, a time where many other pieces were executed with similair taste, skill, patience, beauty and fine craftsmanship.

I’m sure you are all aware of the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow, as well as the Ardagh Chalice. These pieces which have stood the test of time, and constantly inspire awe and steal the breathe of on lookers. These pieces have become, in this day and age, even more beautiful then they were perhaps intended to be at the time of their making – as we are looking at them from a time where we can barely spare half an hour to make our own dinners.

The monastries that gave birth to these pieces were often considered important cultural centres, as they were heavily involved with the creation of such exquisite pieces. I imagine this to be the modern day blogosphere, where crafters get excited, and share information and processes with each other – discussing in detail their methods, sharing photographs, ideas and links to places that will be of use. Well, almost. We are, of course a modern age, and our outlook is of course different, and the needs of our society today have somewhat evolved, but I believe under the surface – the requirement and desire for aquiring beautiful objects to adorn ourselves and our surroundings with are what our lives today are loosely based around. We must work with faster methods, cheaper materials that are more easy to aquire and it is common practice to take shortcuts (in reason). When we compare the handcrafted products of today, with those of earlier times – the trickle down of ideas can be clearly seen, but the materials, tools products and skill necessary are the things that are changing – embellishing one universal lust for beautiful objects with the soundtrack of our own special era.


The Tara Brooch in all it’s beauty! If I remember correctly, it was found in a Bog in Ireland by some boyo out digging, or during excavations or something of the sort. I wonder what the boyos of the future will think of what they be digging up from us lot!…….. A couple of Gameboys and squishy ball shaped sacs of silicone near little piles of mercury fillings and strange plastic fingernails “used to adorn the hands of women in the past with a toxic glue that would take weeks to come off” *wow* “they must have been so weird and magical to adorn with such oddities!”. “My great grandmother used to wear those!!!” says little Tina Brooch.

The reason I posted a picture of the Tara Brooch is because it keeps coming to mind lately and it reminds me of a beautiful past; one where clothes were handmade and of good quality. Where the makers of clothes were skilled, and worked with the land to extract fibres with known properties, using what they needed and cleverly integrating any left overs into other projects. There were simple, fine weaves that were handmade and beautifully executed, made with purpose for purpose.

The Tara brooch reminds me of a time where things were durable, strong, and of a muted palette and adorned with beautifully handcrafted items, far superior to the work of any machine. The patience and skill of someone who makes a brooch to this standard is not seen, or rarely seen anymore today (and if you are aware of anyone who works to this standard by hand can you please let them know I love them and put us in touch?). It seems that today if anything of the like of this brooch was to be made, it would be designed digitally, messed around with, a carving made which would then be casted, and used to make thousands of the same item; in order to recoup the money "lost" in the time spent making the original. Perhaps I am wrong but it just seems like this to me. High street stores being mainly where most folks buy their fashion and accessories – stores which clearly cater for multiplicity, and not individuality like they claim. What are the precious handmade items today?

If the Tara Brooch is a splice of life at the time when it was made, I think it is fair to say that my Hama bead brooches are a splice of life at the time when they were made too. I.e, today. I find the contrast between the two pretty interesting. The two items are so very different- yet essentially they stand for the same thing, at different times – and I believe that so much can be learned from looking at them in respect to one another. So much can be seen, in my opinion anyway – in contrasting the two I can see reams of information about the production values of our culture, the ethics and viewpoints of it’s people and perhaps get a glimpse of the future. (Though there be two options presenting themselves i’m gonna stick with the good version 🙂 )

Hama beads are sold originally as a childrens toy. They are widely available, and they are cheap, plastic, durable, and available in a huge variety of colours. They are machine produced in a machine age for machine people. They are an interesting raw material, that in my case has been reappopriated into jewellery and items of interest for clothing and on your person.

They usually come in packs that contain boards that are already pre shaped for you that you just add your pre-packaged coloured beads on to, to make the picture on the box. It is when simple principles like the idea of fusing plastic is taken away from the context of being a childrens toy that things start to get interesting as this re-appropriation of goods seems to be what people are doing best these days, and what gains most interest.

I feel that this is due to necessity. We have no choice but to come up with clever uses for all of the things in our world full of manmade and natural objects, as we are realising now that we have enough raw materials to mandelbrot set our way into creation for infinity…and the exciting part is that new ideas, items, thoughts, products, tools, needs and processes are being born every second of every day……. these add onto our already endless range of possible creations, and becomes slightly overwhelming, to say the least – but incredibly awesome.

It is the creation of these items which satisfy. The items that can in the future say something about our state of current desire. Mashing things up and making new things based on the old. These items which cross pollinate areas of life are interesting to me in many more ways than one and I hope i’ve come across clear. My writing is a bit rusty, to say the least!

I have a feeling I will be back to edit this post with more angles and areas, as it is something which interests me immensley and I am not sure I have expressed myself fully. How and ever, thanks for reading!

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One thought on “The Old in the New

  1. I like your brain bits. Your writing is deep and beautifully expressed, never think its rusty! Loved reading that, and I was unaware of the Tara brooch or that burrow thing! 😀 xxx mmm

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