Tag Archives: Forest of Arden

An unusual setting for a touchstone

Deciding how to set the touchstone was a major design decision. In ‘As You Like It’ Touchstone is most comfortable in Court, the Forest of Arden is his unusual setting. But how was I to show that in jewellery?

I wanted to ‘set’ a touchstone in my piece and it was important to set it in a way that reflected the character of Touchstone in the play. Whilst other characters change in the play, Touchstone never fully embraces life in the Forest of Arden and I therefore decided to retain the stone’s original functionality.

So I created a precious metal testing kit: A silver box pendant with a swivel hinge opening that holds a fragment of a real touchstone, which can be removed and used with the Touchflower pendant to test precious metals.

‘The Noble Fool’ Touchstone pendant and Touchflower in sterling silver and gold.

‘The Noble Fool’ Touchstone pendant and Touchflower in sterling silver and gold.

Many of the fools I looked at in past productions of the play wore the traditional ‘motley’ patchwork of a Court Fool. This ‘harlequin’ patchwork inspired the diamond shape of the box. The fretwork pattern common to both pieces was inspired by the embroidery on the costume worn by Touchstone in the RSC’s 2000 production. The fretwork lines around the edge of the front and back of the box were inspired by the marks made on real touchstones during testing.

David Tennant's Touchstone costume from the RSC's 1996 production of 'As You Like It'

David Tennant’s Touchstone costume from the RSC’s 1996 production of ‘As You Like It’

Sketchbook work on the fretwork pattern using swatches of fabric from Touchstone's court costume in the RSC's 2000 production of 'As You Like it'

Sketchbook work on the fretwork pattern using swatches of fabric from Touchstone’s court costume in the RSC’s 2000 production of ‘As You Like it’

The Touchflower was inspired by historical images of decorative touch needles, its shape being reminiscent of a flower that appears in an Elizabethan tapestry depicting a forest scene. The tapestry was inspiration for the RSC production that I researched for this piece. Each petal of the flower acts as a touch needle for a known alloy: 925 sterling silver, 9ct, 14ct, 18ct and 22ct gold.

Sketchbook work - looking at flower shapes in an Elizabethan tapestry that features on the front cover of the programme for the RSC's 2000 production of 'As You Like it'

Sketchbook work – looking at flower shapes in an Elizabethan tapestry that features on the front cover of the programme for the RSC’s 2000 production of ‘As You Like it’

The Touchflower

The Touchflower

As a set, the Touchflower represents the Forest of Arden and the box pendant represents Touchstone trapped in his Court persona. He is able to step outside his ‘box’ on occasion to enjoy the freedom of the Forest, but he always returns to the comfort of what he knows.

The quote that appears on the back of the box – “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” (Act V, sc i) – is to me both a good illustration of Touchstone’s character in the play and a great reflection of the actual role a touchstone plays in the identification of counterfeit or sub-standard precious metals.

The back of the box and touch flower

The back of the box and touch flower

Please note: Although I have taken inspiration from its productions and costumes, the Royal Shakespeare Company has not endorsed my jewellery collection or had any direct involvement in this project. I would like to thank the RSC for granting me permission to use images obtained during research as part of this blog. 

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Into the unknown – research begins

‘The Noble Fool’ Touchstone pendant and Touchflower in sterling silver and gold.

‘The Noble Fool’ Touchstone pendant and Touchflower in sterling silver and gold.

When I began my research for ‘The Noble Fool’, I chose As You Like It because it was one of my favourite plays. It’s a play I have been in twice and seen on stage five times (three of which were at the Royal Shakespeare Company).  It’s a popular play, with interesting characters and settings and a richness of themes.  I have never seen it staged the same way twice and it lends itself to a variety of interpretations.

Starting out, I was particularly interested in the character of Touchstone, the fool; the character of Rosalind who disguises herself as a man for the majority of the play; the contrast between the beginning of the play in court and the remainder of the play which takes place in the Forest of Arden; Orlando’s love for Rosalind; and his idea to pin poetry to the trees in the Forest.

It’s amazing to look back now at my starting point, the beginning of a journey that took me more than four months to complete. In design, where you start is very rarely an indication of where you will end up and I could never have envisaged my final piece when I set out on this project.

The thing that excites me most though, is that I can revisit my starting point again and again and never end up with the same result. So now that ‘The Noble Fool’ is finished, the question is, where shall I go next with this play?

Currently, I have no answer, but if I do, I’ll let you know…