(Ode to my wife Yvonne de Wit who designs and create original jewellery from treasures of the South African Earth)
“The moon is bland in colour. I call it shades of grey … And to find orange soil on the moon was a surprise.” Gene Cernan, astronaut, Apollo 10, Apollo 17
When artist Yvonne de Wit came to South Africa from her native Netherlands, it was with an open mind and with what became a growing fascination in the different types of rock and soils that the southern part of this great and diverse continent had to offer.
Through experimentation, she discovered that grinding diverse stones and pieces of rock found in different locations, offered up extraordinary colours, unusual ‘dusts’ that, when framed in silver, produced jewelry that reflected the land in a very different way.
Ideally, one needs to handle each piece of her collections to see, understand and appreciate the skill with which she works. Consider her chandelier earrings, for example. The artist explains that she picked up stones, ground them finely and then felt they would work as three ‘pendants’ from the ear. But they needed to balance. If one looks at the final pieces, one will see how delicately, intricately and exquisitely each hangs, individually, from a tiny common point. They are not soldered together; each of the three pendants somehow hangs perfectly in place. And in harmony with its opposite piece on the other ear.
For the artist, this says something about nature, and our place in it. How, ideally, our relationship with soil, air and water should be in perfect balance. How delicate that relationship is. And what surprises the dust of the earth harbours for us, despite our many preconceptions. Like the astronaut who expected shades of grey on the moon — and found orange. While Yvonne has an innate connection to the soil beneath her feet, she recognises that water has an inevitable and appealing connection. During whale- watching in Hermanus one year, she was fascinated not just by the creatures themselves, but also by their habits. The result? Her finely crafted ‘whale’ pendant. No, it is not the animal itself she has re-created (although many might think so). The artist was entranced by the very fine combination of water and air, expelled from the blow-hole as the whale rises to the surface and exhales. Yvonne has captured a moment essential to life on earth — exhalation before inhalation.