Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Inspired by Reading Book Club Interpreter of Maladies

                                          Mrs Sen's  Short Story  by Jhumpa Lahiri

For April we read Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri for Andrew Thornton's Inspired by Reading Book Club. I have read several books by Lahiri:  The Namesake,  Unaccustomed Earth and part of the Lowlands ( that was in the New Yorker Magazine) so I thought I was ready for this book of short stories.  I especially admire Lahiri for her eloquent prose, articulate portrayal of anguish using the smallest details of daily life, poetic story construction and array of  interesting characters.  But I was not expecting to be ravished by the beauty, the sadness, the prose that is so engaging that one is no longer reading but being, and the images of landscape, dress, hair, weather, and the inside of feelings made into tangible objects that I found in Interpreter of Maladies.  Caught up in all of these experiences, I created the fish in the picture above and from there went on the create a necklace inspired by the story, Mrs. Sen's.
A brief summary would be that Mrs. Sen, a young married woman ( about 30)  is missing her homeland of India,  feeling isolated and lonely and unable to find her way.  The loosely parallel situation of Elliot, a young boy she is babysitting after school  propels the story.  About halfway through the story, we learn through Elliot that there are two things that make Mrs. Sen happy:
the arrival of a letter from her family and fish from the seaside.  How letters from home and fish play out determine the remainder of the story.  I chose to make a necklace with fish because I felt it was the best way I could portray the poetry of feelings in this story.

                                                Polymer Fish  Mary Harding

                                     Polymer Fish  Mary Harding

 I call the necklace Mrs. Sen's Fish.  I made the fish from polymer clay, my now go to medium for creating 3 dimensional images of the imagination.  This fish just sprang from my hands and I felt that Lahiri was guiding me all the way--that is how deeply her work has been affecting me for the past weeks.

But as usual for me, the making and the thinking are different and I have struggled to turn these fish into a necklace that at least comes close to what I wanted it to be.  I knew from the beginning that I wanted the  larger fish to curve around like a necklace so I constructed a framework out of 10 gauge copper that I annealed and forged and then wrapped in linen.

                                               Copper frame wrapped with linen
Copper frame for necklace

I had originally planned to have the clasp in the middle of the back of the necklace but soon learned it would seriously throw off the balance of the necklace so I chose a side clasp which surely worked better.

Early on I decided to change the linen wrapping for a Sari silk dark burgundy since it showed off the focal fish better and I liked the idea of making a reference to how Mrs. Sen dressed:  " a different Sari everyday."

                                          Fish on dark burgundy Sari silk

The necklace went through several other changes but in the end I went for a slightly asymmetrical simple design and two different Sari silk wrappings of the forged copper frame.  Here it is:

                                 Mrs. Sen's Fish  Necklace by Mary Harding

Thank you once again Andrew for creating and continuing to lead this wonderful book club Inspired by  Reading.  I am looking forward to another year as I realize that Interpreter Of Maladies was the last book selection for this one.
Thank you for stopping by. I hope you will check out what others have created.  You can find a list of who is participating here. and below:
Jenny Davies-Reazor
Sarajo Wentling
Jeanne Steck
Mary Harding
Karin Grange
Ann Schroeder
Mary K McGraw
Rachel Stewart
Christine Damm
Andrew Thornton, Laurel Ross, Alison Herrington, Terri Greenawalt, and Karen Hiatt


  1. Wow, Mary-- I have been waiting all day to see what you would come up with and I am not disappointed! What an amazing piece! So many aspects are stunning-- the method you used to wrap the long fish to the fixed sari-wrapped element, the idea of wrapping the wire to create the base, the little sculptures themselves... so much work and love went into this. So glad that you have embraced polymer and made it your own special medium. I adore your style and insight.

  2. I just can't stop looking at your wonderful piece, it is so fluid. Every gorgeous element leads naturally to the next one and it is such a great and unique interpretation of the short story.

    1. Thanks so much Karin. I am so touched by your kind words. I am such a fan of your jewelry that I am honored to hear from you !! So glad you are participating in this book club. It is the best, isn't it!!!

  3. Thank you Christine. I love polymer for this kind of creating. It is so versatile and seems to know what I want to make before I do. Thanks for all the kind words about how the necklace was made!! You are so encouraging!!

  4. Your description of Jhumpa Lahiri prose is so eloquent. I also was in awe of her writing. And now I want to read her other books.

    I like how you wrapped the copper frame with sari silk and your fish is amazing. The whole design is understated yet conveys the sense of the story. I really like it.

  5. LOVE this piece-the combinations of textures and colors are really, really nice. When I read this book, what really kept coming to mind was fish and saris, fish and saris and the extreme opposite sensory characteristics they each have. I am glad to see that you really captured the emotions of that story in this piece.

  6. Wow! I am just blown away by your fish and the construction of your beautiful necklace. It's really a gorgeous piece.

  7. Oh this is amazing - beautiful fish! Every little detail is in sync - especially love how you wrapped the frame because she wore "a different sari every day". Beautiful!

  8. Totally in awe, Mary. Totally in awe. xo

  9. As always, I'm amazed by your process and creation! I love the finished piece and the colors of sari silk you used.

  10. Thank you so much Mary for sharing your thoughts on the book, as well as your process for creating this amazing necklace. As always, I look forward to seeing what you create. You did not disappoint!

  11. I always look forward to seeing what you'll make! I also found the stories incredibly moving and I would often think about what happened to the characters next. The piece that you made captures the poetry of the story beautifully! The textures are lovely and give the piece so much visual interest! Nicely done! And thanks so much for participating!

  12. I really like the structure you have fabricated as the bones of the piece - I think it would sit so well, wear so well. I like the abstracted aspects of the fish as well, not too narrative, but definitely tracing inspiration to the story.


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