Polly Gasston’s Wreath is a delicate tiara composed of ivy leaves interwoven with golden buttercups, evokes English hedgerows and summers,
as well as reworking the
tradition of Olympic laurels.
Artist goldsmith Polly Gasston combines meticulous attention and unlimited patience in the creation of her individual one-of-a-kind intoxicating jewels.
Influenced by the Ancient Near East and deep antiquity, Gasston believes that 22 high carat gold is the purest, simplest symbol of wealth, of triumph, revered and recognised everywhere; and its beautiful colour, reassuring weight and physical warmth, combine to make it the most marvellous substance through which to express the joy her work gives her.
Polly Gasston commented,
“I have always been fascinated by the beauty and variety of wreaths, and it has been a dream of mine to make one – not a copy, but a wreath in the Classical style, inspired by the ancient Hellenistic goldsmiths: but for whom, and how, and why?
It was the World Gold Council that answered all these questions, and gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with their generous offer of sponsorship for enough metal to make it possible: a pressing reason to move out of my comfort-zone in terms of craftsmanship, and a wonderful and unique chance to show the result to a discerning public.
Without the support and interest of the World Gold Council, the wreath would never have been made.”
The inspiration for the wreath came from a life-long love of the gold artefacts from the Hellenistic period of Greek history. Wreath of leaves, made of gold foil on wire frames, had many uses at this time, and there is a surprising number that date from the last three centuries BC, to be seen in museums around the world.
Many of the wreaths were used in religious ceremonies, and as temple offerings, adorning the heads of statues of the gods. They would have been commissioned by successful soldiers and politicians, and others who had acquired wealth and power, and who wished to maintain the gods’ interest. Sometimes they were worn by athletic champions in their triumph rituals, and sometimes simply as personal adornments by the great men of the day.
Polly Gasston commented,
“I wanted my wreath to follow the basic principles of the Hellenistic Greek examples I have seen, with a few small differences. While not wanting an overtly religious feel to the piece, I felt is should nevertheless have a spiritual dimension.
I think the twin principles of balance and proportion are at the heart of all good design. I decided that I wanted to use leaves other than the classic oak, olive or laurel.
I wanted a strong masculine idea, counterbalanced by a gentler feminine one; I wanted to symbolise the winter and the summer, the darkness and the light: the strong and the refined, the permanent and the ephemeral and, after a lot of thought, I finally chose ivy and buttercups.”
Wreath is full of subtle contrast in metal texture, natural gold ivy leaves contrasting with brilliantly polished buttercup petals. Gasston has always understood at the most basic level why the Ancients revered gold, and why civilisations have risen and fallen in its pursuit.
Other metals are ductile and malleable but the alloy of 22 parts of gold to 1 of silver and 1 of copper, gives the most perfectly obedient material to work with. She never polishes her work, partly because she does not have to and partly because she loves the natural glow it acquires in daily wear.
The intoxicating nature of gold speaks for itself.
“Putting the wreath together was one of the most difficult things I think I’ve ever done. The leaves are so thin, their stems so fine, the buttercups so delicate – and they all had to be wound into the gaps in the gold wire frame, and secured, without soldering.
It took about three weeks, but I don’t know how it could have been done any differently”, said Gasston.
Behind the scenes
Polly Gasston photoshoot
Gasston’s handcrafted work with its intense botanical detail paying tribute to the English country garden posed a challenge for photographer Robert Wyatt.
“Wreath was just so soft, simple and beautiful and it needed the simplest of lighting,” said Wyatt.
The photography captures the essence, mood and spirit of a quintessential English bride, and resonates with a modern interpretation of the spirit of the Olympic laurel, a fitting tribute especially this year; the summer of the Olympic bride.