Come Fly With Me
Medium/Materials: Copper, silver, brass, found object
Dimensions: 3 x 4 x .75 inches
Photographer: James Zike
The piece is largely inspired by the Steampunk movement as well as my personal Naval service, with each part implying either an aspect of sailor’s lore or air-travel. The steampunk motif is widely populated with ideas of airships sailing on clouds and powered by steam.
The US Navy Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist pin is the starting point for this brooch. The silver wings are awarded to naval personnel that pass the qualifications and do work in support of air warfare missions (such as being in a squadron or deployed to an aircraft carrier). While I was in the Navy I started the qualification procedure, however my contract ended before I completed the process, so the set of wings I had purchased preemptively have been sitting unused for eight years. It has finally found a purpose.
Propellers can act either to pull an aircraft through the air, or to push a vessel through the water, in either case providing the means to travel. Compasses are a navigational tool used by all travelers; in this piece I hung the compass upside down, like a pocket watch, as it is meant to be used by the wearer, not the observer. An old tradition is to gift travelers with a compass so that they will always find their way home again. This particular compass can be pointed in the wearers preferred direction, possibly as a reminder of where home is.
Swallows have long been associated with sailors; either as a symbol of sailing prowess or as a superstitious guarantee they would return home, as swallows do every year. The rope motif is used on ships,often on hand rails, to decorate as well as to provide grip if you need to suddenly grab hold of the rail during an abrupt sea swell. The anchor may seem an obvious sailing symbol, but the chain holding it is fouling the anchor (a traditional Naval symbol), making it unusable. If an anchor cannot be used, you cannot be held to one location. The phrase “hold fast”, written on the anchor, is a traditional tattoo for sailors to get across their knuckles, starting as a superstitious belief that it would help them hold tightly to the ropes as they climb the rigging lines on sailing vessels. Today it is seen as a reminder to hold onto the things you care about in life.
The knot sample is pulled from nautical décor, but also from practical sailor knowledge. The knot used is a square knot, often known as a reef or sailor’s knot and is used in a situation where two ropes need to be tied such that they can be easily separated, like when “reefing” a sail to reduce the surface of the sail in strong winds; this purpose implies the temporary nature of a given situation, especially hardships and trying times. The bird on the track is an albatross. These birds are heavily associated with the sea and it is considered bad luck to kill one, as old tradition regarded them as the souls of lost sailors. This albatross has its own clouds to fly on. The back of this charm features a phrase that deeply resonates with me, “you can't take the sky from me”, a line from the song “The Ballad of Serenity”, the theme song for “Firefly”, a show with heavy steampunk overtones.
The final piece of this brooch is the back plate. When worn, the back plate provides more stability so the brooch doesn’t droop from its own weight. The plate is decorated on one side with a celestial design of silver dust fused to the surface and patinas with blacks, blues and purples, resembling the bright night’s sky underway, well away from city lights. The reverse side of the plate features a small “map”, meant to convey a sailor's greatest treasure (memories of a loved one, perhaps), kept safe and hidden close to the heart. The map is a reminder that the hardships of life can be overcome if you are working toward a goal.