Thursday, November 6, 2008
Pieces of History at Castle in the Air
One of the most amazing treasures I brought home from my recent trip to the International Quilt Festival in Houston was a collection of antique reliquaries, including one from the 18th century (pictured in the center of this photo). These miniature shrines have been used for centuries to exhibit the physical remains of saints and other religious figures. It's next to impossible to know whether the contents of a particular reliquary are authentic, but for collectors this often adds to the charm of these odd and beautiful pieces of history.
A few times each year, local artist Ulla Milbrath teaches a reliquary making class at Castle in the Air. Students bring in relics from their own life to commemorate within the little shrines they make, which can be small enough to wear as pendants. I made two reliquaries in one of Ulla's classes, preserving the umbilical cords and bits of hair from my darling daughters. It's a religious experience in itself to combine soldering and other jewelrymaking techniques with the love and personal investment inherent in making reliquaries.