In late 2009 I began making necklaces out of clay pipe fragments that I found along the Thames in 2009. It started out as a bit of a pipe dream (ha ha!!) but I have since set up a company and a web site using my middle name: Amelia Parker.
Clay pipes date from the 16th century. People used to smoke them until they became clogged up so they just threw them away and started a new one. There were hundreds of different manufacturers creating these pipes – more info here and history here.
The idea for creating the necklaces came to me a while ago whilst on the foreshore at Wapping when it occurred to me that the straight fragments with their random shapes, sizes and discolourations from centuries of being battered by the tides, were beautiful and, with their ready-made holes, perfect for threading. So I took a pocketful home with me. I had to clean them thoroughly, both inside and out as a lot of the pieces still contained compacted 17th century ash, and Thames water is full of nasty diseases – I don't want the Health and Safety boys coming after me!
Then it was a matter of grading them by size and coming up with designs that I could duplicate in the hope that I may be able to take the idea further. So I got in touch with The Museum of London and the PLA to make sure that I wasn't treading on any historical toes or ignoring any ownership issues.
The initial designs shown here received good feedback. I created specific pieces to give as presents to friends I visited in NZ and Malaysia and all three of them were impressed and said they loved having a bit of London history around their neck to remind them of their time here. And they all Googled "clay pipes" to find out more.
Since then I have come up with lots more designs, all of which can be found at www.amelia-parker.com
Please do contact me to find out more.
Clockwise from top left:
Earth: randomly pattern wood and plastic beads; Kirsty: thick shafts with large glass beads; Katy: fine shafts with 4-sided metal and glass beads; Red chips: misshapen pieces of red coral; Rachel: shirt buttons; Autumn: random plastic and metal beads