We humans are a curious and impatient animal. From the dawning moments of our consciousness we have been asking questions. Will this hurt me? Can I eat that? When will the rains come? Why do the birds leave? As time has passed we have become adept at answering and those answers have become increasingly sophisticated, intuition and cultural memory giving way to experimentation, to fact. But there is still one question whose answer alludes us. It is in the lullaby of our mother’s heartbeat as she carries us and the expectant faces that greet our arrival in to the world. What does the future hold? Who will this child become? Will they be happy? Will they be rich? Will they find love? And for millenia man has been looking to the sky for answers.
That there is a Horoscope in every newspaper, from the free paper on the bus to the broadsheets, that every person, regardless of their attitude to Astrology, knows their star sign and its meaning, is testament to the enduring power of stars. We may now look to the smartphone rather than the soothsayer to aid in their interpretation, but we have not come so very far from those first narcissists who gazed up in to the firmament and thought, what are those, and then very shortly thereafter, I wonder how they affect me?
It is not just our birth that is marked by stars, we carry them with us throughout our lives. They are in our nursery rhymes, our customs and our sayings. We get a gold star for good behaviour, an ‘A Star’ for the best exam results, we wish on shooting stars, thank our lucky stars, are starstruck by superstars, sports stars and movie stars. If things go according to plan, the stars are aligned, if they do not, the endeavour was ill-starred; either way, the outcome was written in the stars.
As well as these shared influences, we each plot our own star maps by which to navigate our memories, a guide that includes both the ordinary constellations that marked moments of the momentous, first kisses, first journeys, first nights away from home, and the celestial happenings that are events in themselves, stars strewn across the vertigo inducing void of a clear night like an infinite string of lanterns, moon-bows in the frost, auroras on the horizon, dark nights scarred by comets, the twilight mornings of eclipses.
And so, when a good friend sent me a photograph of his new-born son, what came to my mind but stars. I wanted to give something personal, something to pin-point the unique moment of his arrival. Luckily for me, this baby had the good sense to make his entrance under the cover of darkness. I knew the date, the place and the time and from this was able to obtain a sky chart, quite literally the stars he was born under.
I bought blanks to make a matching set of cufflinks and necklace for the new parents and then began experimenting with the best medium.
At first I thought of painting on to paper and sealing this behind glass but the effect was a little flat. Eventually I settled on painting the constellations on to the glass and the sky on to the metal backing, which added depth and an interesting combination of textures.
I included a copy of the sky chart in the box I wrapped the finished pieces in, the constellations on it significant co-ordinates in the star maps of my friends’ lives, the very first mark on their son’s. I wish them all many years of safe voyaging.