Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Brooch-ing the Subject . . .

My sister recently scanned this wonderful photo of my mother's convocation at what was then quaintly (and a bit chillingly, no?) called Normal School, i.e. Teacher Training College (Edited to add: This Wikipedia entry defines the term -- essentially, it's a school for establishing Norms for teaching, thus Normal School). My mother's fifth from the right, in the top row, and she must have been all of 20 when it was taken. My sister said Mom brightened immediately when L. brought it up on the screen for her, long-term memory releasing names from storage, recognizing faces not thought of decades.

I thought of Mom at Normal School and during her teaching years when Une Femme issued her call for a peek at our brooches. Why? Because I remember many, many years ago, my mother telling me that one of the things she'd learned during teacher-training was always to wear something that would garner some interest -- and a brooch was one of the examples she'd offered. My mother and her sisters were always fashion-conscious, but raising large families, they were all dressing on tight budgets -- sometimes the only way to freshen up a look was with a bit of costume jewelry.

I'm more likely to draw my students' attention through a pair of boots than with a brooch, but I do like to sport a bit of bling on the lapel of my grey cashmere flannel coat, especially during our long bleak, rainy winters. The piece below is an inexpensive replica of a vintage style, glass "jewels" . . .
This over-exposed (and without the flash!) is a vintage brooch that a friend found in a thrift store and gave me on my 50th birthday -- vintage for vintage, I guess!
I'll be fastening on this poinsettia soon in honour of the season. It's made of leather, cut, painted, and assembled petals and leaves, stamens. . . Vintage as well, bought the day Nola was born, when I went out to pick up some groceries for the new family and couldn't resist a bit of shopping in their hipster 'hood. . . it's a lovely reminder of the occasion.
For variety, I like this bar shape, silver wire twisted around and through amethyst and clear glass beads. Again, inexpensive but a nice lift on a dreary day.
The starfish is studded with sparkle, hence the difficulty in taking its pic -- one of my daughters is always trying to get me to gift this to her. One of these days, but meanwhile, every time I wear it, it gets admirers.
This brooch is ever so 90s, no? It's a ceramic piece -- I have the quarter-sized earrings to match, clip-on! 90s, I told you!
Another inexpensive piece that gets comments whenever I wear it, this one is made of metallic zippers, coiled into the sculptural shape you see, and finished with gladd and metal balls.
And this fabric brooch is 6 or 7 years old now, but I still enjoying pinning it on occasionally.

Finally, my most treasured brooch, but one that I wear least for fear of losing it, can also be worn as a pendant. It's silver, carved by a Kwakiutl artist, and it tells the story of Raven stealing the Light (Raven's eye and the sun in his beak are both gold). Paul had it made for me to commemorate my first degree (I was over 40 before I earned my BA, so it was a big deal!).
So there you have it -- I think my Mother was right. Not just for teaching, but for all interactions, it behooves us to think of small ways that our sartorial presentation to the world might engage and garner interest. And brooches are one small and lovely and, truly, delightful way to do that. To prove it, just check out the collection Sue's pulled together for us. I know I'll be doing that on and off over the weekend.


  1. You have some of my favorites here from looking at all of the brooches today...I love the last cool!

  2. Can´t even make my mind up about which one I like best. But the last one, with the raven, that is really special.

  3. I agree with Viktoria -- that last brooch is a stunner. I have a similar bracelet (all silver) that I inherited from the GM I'm named for.

    The free-form bar pin is also a style I'd happily wear.

    Thanks for sharing your collection!

  4. Materfamilias, you have a wonderful collection!! I especially love the Raven, the bar brooch (wire wrapped stones always catch my eye) and the zipper brooch, so clever and unusual. I hadn't thought of it, but yes, especially in a climate where winter coats are a must, brooches would be one of the few bits of jewelry that could be seen when out and about. Thanks so much for joining the party!

  5. Your grey coat sounds cozy and it must be a great spot to showcase these lovely pins.
    My uncle was a teacher and went to Normal School in Victoria before it became known as Camosun College. I often wonder why it was named Normal School! Do you have any idea?

  6. Wonderful from witty to deeply symbolic. I can really see them on you. Hard to pick a favourite, hmm. The Raven is an easy choice but I also love those winding zippers.

  7. I so enjoyed this post (and love the Raven brooch . . .) and it could not have been more timely. Last week, I took a large box of jewellery to my writing class as a stimulus for the students, as part of the work they are doing on 'appearances'. (The previous week I had asked them to consider clothes, using poems by Robert Herrick and Kim Addonizio and an extract from Anna Karenina - namely, Anna's arrival at the St Petersburg ball - as the stimulus.). They loved poring over the pieces, some of which were almost 100 years old and which included brooches, and went on to produce some suitably inspired writing. One student had commented, at the start of the session, that she had no interest in jewellery and never wore it; by the end, she acknowledged that it was far more evocative than she had imagined.

  8. What a great collection of brooches. All these brooch posts have me digging in my jewelry box - I usually rely on earrings and the occasional bracelet since necklaces, other than a string of pearls, just don't do it for me. But a brooch on my winter coat - that I can do.

  9. You have a lovely collection of brooches. I wish that I had more of them in my little jewelry collection.

  10. I love your collection. I grew up in Rhode Island, at a time when the main "industries" were costume jewelry and artificial flowers--so the glitter in the first piece brings me right back.

    A friend whose family had scrimped to send her to college announced that she didn't want to go. Her wise mother matter-of-factly responded that the alternative was to work in the jewelry factory. A brief summer of factory life and my friend was gratefully college bound. Elle

  11. Beautiful brooches. Yes, many in my extended family went to Normal School. I think I should go too...

  12. Your mother and mine are from the same generation and share a flair for fashion - yours a teacher, mine a nurse, but they both seem to have had an attitude that reached out. Your mother's comment about the brooch is one I've heard from my mum. You have a lovely collection.

  13. I love your wonderful array of brooches (and your title -- I considered that one but it suits you better). I am especially fond of the zipper brooch, the wire wrapped bar brooch, and the raven, but the starfish is very appealing as well. I seem to have a thing for creatures in my jewelry.

    Now that I think about it, I wore brooches on my coats all the time when I lived up north. Certain brooches just seem to become a part of certain coats.

  14. While all are beautiful, the last one is my favorite. It is truly a work of art and is very special.

  15. The zipper brooch is my favorite but it's hard to beat the poinsettia reminding you of the birth of your first grandchild.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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