Vikki Kassioras on ‘Life of Long Days’
We recently spoke to Vikki about the inspiration for her new series of 12 pairs of earrings, Life of Long Days, now available at e.g.etal…
How and why has The Epic of Gilgamesh been the main source of inspiration for Life of Long Days?
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest written story on Earth and comes to us from Ancient Sumer somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE. This ancient poem is especially interesting to me as it is a mixture of adventure, tragedy and morality. We see the young arrogant King Gilgamesh of Uruk become whole through meeting his ‘soul brother’ Enkidu and experiencing true friendship, trust, courage and loyalty. Later in the epic we see a distressed Gilgamesh after his friend Enkidu dies and he sets out on a quest for immortality.
As I read and re-read The Epic of Gilgamesh I was reminded of the ethereal experience of reading myth. It is this feeling that I have kept in mind when designing and making the works for ‘Life of Long Days’. I want to convey something of the contemplative state that reading literature places me in as well as experiment with how this could influence design decisions when making work.
The reading of classical mythology, ancient literature and poetry has often informed themes in my work. For me these works are my connecting threads to the beliefs, aspirations, fears and concerns of ancient people and I believe also modern people. The Epic of Gilgamesh reminds me that humans have a shared collective consciousness and that contemporary parallels can be discovered within ancient stories. These myths and stories with their use of archetypal symbols can even now still shed an interesting light on what it means to be human.
How have you articulated these ideas in Life of Long Days?
They are intrinsically a part of the work. For example, many of the pieces are made from Etruscan chain that is formed from soldered links that are then woven one into the other to construct a length of chain. I make this chain myself, by hand. For me each circle symbolises the quest for immortality that Gilgamesh embarks on while the chain represents life with each day linking into the other. This type of chain was believed to have originated in Mesopotamia and has been made by many cultures throughout history.
You seem interested in earrings as an historical object—why is this?
It interests me that historically jewellery was more than just decorative; it served an important function in day-to-day life. Ear piercing is the one of the oldest form of body modification and archaeologists digging in Iraq have unearthed examples of earrings that were dated back to 2500BC. It is believed that wearing earrings protected the ear for it was a vulnerable body orifice through which spirits could enter. The ear was also believed to hold the soul.
I feel that there is a lot of scope for playful experimentation when making earrings and they have always featured prominently within my production collections. Earrings hang from the body and can move freely, multiple components can softly chime as they move while also framing the face.
Do the techniques used in the creation of this series differ from those you would normally employ?
Much of the work I make utilises the ancient technique of fusing. This group of work differs in that I have not used this technique. Making these earrings was an opportunity to use traditional methods of fabrication such as soldering, saw piercing and hammering. It was a small but welcome detour in my work and it’s allowed me to explore my research and interests in a fresh way.