Monday, 1 February 2010

Greetings in Braille...

"If my senses fail, stay with me 'til they go
'cause I don't want to be alone.
Greetings in Braille, they'll describe everything,
colors aren't everything."

Greetings in Braille, by The Elected has been a favourite since I first heard it and Braille has intrigued me for a long time. In 2003, I was doing a portfolio development course at Dundee College in preparation to apply for universities. We had to undertake a personal research project and I decided to base mine on eyes and vision. At that point I'd never considered jewellery as a serious career path, that hit me like a hammer half way through first year and there was nowhere else I was going to end up, but up until that point, I had been primarily textiles based.

I progressed through this course, through this project and like in every other one, I used lyrics as inspiration. It was fairly typical practice for me, but I started to incorporate typography into my work and eventually I used Braille. I can barely remember how to read it, and at the time I was mostly embossing it in thin metal so new it backwards better than forwards. But it is something I keep coming back to. So today I Googled "Braille jewellery". The typical twee things came up, as did high tech gadgets and old faithful designs, but then these images by Klára Jirková did and they incorporated a process I researched in depth for my undergraduate dissertation: body modification.

Body modification is the practice by which we adorn and alter the body through piercing, tattooing, branding, scarification, microdermal and transdermal implants, even breast augmentation and other types of plastic surgery fall into this category. Any practice which permanently and deliberately alters the body for non-medical reasons is considered to be body modification, though some are more commonly done and accepted than others. In Jirková case she uses transdermal implants to create her "Braille Tattoos".

By implanting small silicon beads, which are approximately the same size as a standardised Braille dot, just below the surface of the skin, Jirková created raised patterns. These hark back to the use of scarification and kelloids - the raised skin left once a scar has healed - which were often seen used as rites of passes and identification to different African tribes. In this case, as with tradition, the tattoos are ornamental and beautiful to those who can see them, but can also be felt and read by people who are blind. Thus transposing an incredibly visual means of body adornment into a multi-sensory adornment.

I looked at a lot of truly horrible body modifications during my research of the past few years. But this is beautiful in it's tactile simplicity. Although the idea that the Braille tattoo on the hand would be used as an ID seems a little redundant. However, as with most of these designer designed body modifications, it is still only a theoretical process and all these photos were manipulations created by Jirková to explain her concept.

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