Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tokens and trinkets; heads and hands

What a lucky coincidence. This is a favourite place I visited relatively recently, when my epic search for a job was still at its beginning. The museum in Birgu which houses La Vallette's sword and hat (and a swank hat at that), then absent from its gilded shrine since it was on loan. But my selective memory chose to rest on this head of a mourning and perhaps even penitent lady, the ex-votos and a general view.. a dramatic interior .. and some other religious tokens, yellowing documents and altars.. some three of them if I'm not mistaken. I found a job in Birgu and it feels promising.
I find myself trying to justify this obsession, in the wake of (very) amusing accusations, not directed at me personally, but put into even more amusing songs, tagging similar obsessions as (god forbid :o) 'hip' obsessions. But I won't be dwelling on this. I only court such thoughts when I presuambly run out of things to do.. which of course is never really the case; therefore I am not ready to exist on a false premise. Oh and I could never be hip because I actually have 'hips'.
So instead I'll write about how I kept shunning my father's craft until now. When I tried to throw my first vase I was given some 6 equally sized spheres of clay. The first flew off the wheel, as did the second and the rest. I wasn't a natural but my dad wasn't too keen on teaching me either because I ws keener on making my own dinner set rather than make an artistic career out of it.
Nowadays I stick to one or two types of clay and engobes and try to avoid working in the garage when the dad is there.
I need the material to serve my needs. I need to realize my superficial needs, those little dreams with holes pierced through them to serve as charms or tokens for the jewellery. At one point, after almost everyone you know has generously donated you every little piece of unwanted and odd object they owned, after all the scavenging at jumble sales and bazaars and the life-long hoarding.. you find your little creations actually begging for something else. Often, I find, it's direction and a fundamental idea.
To cut a long story short: I stopped pooh-poohing the possibility of creating something valid (within the superficial boundaries offered by all things bling and fa'xx'on) and created some hands and heads.

These heads and hands are slip cast and hand-drawn.. tiny paint-brushes, magnifying glass and all. Each carries its own little story: one carries favourite lyrics about the risen christ, another has tea-party cut-outs, skulls, tattoos, anatomical diagrams, architectural plans, dodgy menus and a tribute to red-heads. Bleeding hearts, mustaches, dramatic statements and pretty dolled up faces. Gloved hands, apple trees, sailor's hands, heraldry, and HOLY CROSSES.

What are 'labti' called in english?
Threaded plastic encasing displaced realities.. trifles really.. moments in spoken time and surprisingly related pictures. Neck pieces, mobiles, objects of security... although the feathers and teeth are still missing from the small equations.
I need to thank all of those who donated me so much of their stuff.. tin boxes and all. (which I must admit always come in handy when one insists on keeping every stray button). I have tried to give new life to these trinkets.. hopefully they will find new homes..
Just like those stories we grow up listening to.. travel realted stories, ghost sightings, familiar anecdotes that pass through you and are somewhat altered. Poetic license, shifting ownership.. an organic affair.
My great-grandma had 20 children. 16 of them died at the age of two. The second survivor child, my grandma, was brought back to life when her dad placed a live fire under her cot. The story carries numeric resonance and I've carried it with me since I was a child.