The Importance of Harvest

The hedgerow harvest has been magnificent this year. For me, preserving this rich abundance of ripe fruits, hips and haws is often about grabbing and trying to hold on to the life and vibrancy of summer – the large plump sloes I’ve collected remind me of cherries, and in particular a jewellery commission that I did; a pendant of two ruby cherries.

To give the cherries their glowing colour, there was no better gemstone than ruby. This remarkable gem actually emits red light wavelengths when illuminated, so brightens more vibrantly than others when lit. I chose to pave-set, 80 smaller fine quality rubies to cover the surface of the rounded gold background of the fruit. The effect is stunning – a surface of glittering facets and tiny polished beads of gold holding everything in place.

The gold wire ‘stalks’ set with green garnets provided a natural loop for a chain, and I added a concealed brooch fitting to make the piece dual-functional.

The importance of a successful harvest, especially in our rural farming communities, made it the focus of celebrations such as harvest festivals, homes, suppers and thanksgiving services. 

In the past,  it was believed that the spirit of the corn resided in the last sheaf of grain to be harvested. These last few blades of the crop were woven into a ‘Corn Dolly’ that was kept safe to contain the spirit and to return it to the fields when the next crop was planted in the spring. The corn dolly was ploughed back into the soil in hope that this would bless the new crop.

A countryman’s favour was rather like a simple corn dolly, a plait of three straws tied into a knot to represent a heart.

In many areas of the UK, each village or even farm, had its own unique design.

The Corn Dolly is an object that has long fascinated me however, creating a corn dolly from precious metal wire led to a host of challenges. I devised a way of supporting the hollow forms by making a solid core of carved wood and weaving the gold around it. Once the dolly was complete, the wooden core could be burnt to remove it from the inside.

The end of harvest also corresponds with the Autumn equinox and the ‘harvest moon’ which is the full moon closest to the Autumn equinox. When I created the ‘hare in the moon’ pendant I wanted to explore the myths and legends that connect hares and a full moon – there are many, across all cultures and ages.

Amongst a field of ripe corn, hares will often hide out.

But for me it is an autumn moon at harvest time that brings the animal to my mind, and its fluid, fast movement as it dodges man and the combine-harvesters. I depicted the hare stretched and running swiftly. For me, this movement and continuity is to contrast the halt of growth and stillness of forthcoming winter.