There's something about butterflies with their shimmery wings that sets off associations with fantasy and metaphor: ethereal, delicate, powerful, transformed, something of the stuff of magic.
There were ancient priests in butterfly-wing cloaks, there are children wearing butterfly fairy wings. For early Christians they were a symbol of the soul, and Tinker Bell the fairy human-butterfly sprinkled fairy dust…and then there are ordinary gardeners like me who feel a sense of grace when butterflies choose my garden.
The butterfly I love the most is a tiny common Bosbloutjie (Bush Blue), from the family of ‘Blues’, a violet winged creature which I see fluttering about my sage and lavender bushes. Having them visit makes me feel as if I’ve done something right!
Really these are wild creatures, and no-one who lives in Cape Town is far from the wildness of Table Mountain where a wide range of indigenous herbs line the stream beds and mountain sides. Finding a Bloutjie would begin with finding the plants they prefer. Fynbos has a large range of wild Sage plants (mostly edible), and the Bloutjies also prefer the fine flowered pretty indigenous Plectranthus ground covers. (Easy to grow in the garden.) Seeing a butterfly in the wild also involves a bit of luck and grace, but it always changes my day.
I’ve loved interpreting this butterfly as a charm, and the purple-violet enamelled version, fired at 800°…makes me very very happy!
When an underlying pattern shows through enamel glass, it’s called basse-taille (pronounced bahs-tah-ee, related to bas-relief) In this instance it suggests a shimmery wing, and there is a long history of jewellery butterflies using basse-taille enamel. (‘guilloché’ is the term used when the underlying pattern is engine turned, as was popular for much of the 1930’s-50’s enamelling.)
My original carving in wax allowed me to detail the soft veined wings, and these subtle lines also show through in the violet enamelled version, making for a little bit of a butterfly wing shimmer. I use this technique on most of my enamelled charms, and its actually a very ancient technique which lends itself intuitively to any transparent enamel work. The image here shows the wing detail on the plain silver Bloutjie charm which has come out really well.
When I decide to make a new charm, there are two main reasons which sustain what is essentially quite a long process: aesthetics and meaning. This particular little butterfly, a Bloutjie or more specifically a Bosbloutjie (Cacyreus lingeus), feeds and lays its eggs on edible herbs, the same ones we we use in medicinal and healing products: lavender, mint, thyme and sage.
Sage specifically is also a symbol of wisdom. When you combine this concept of healing and wisdom with the traditional symbolism of a butterfly around rebirth and transformation, it becomes a powerful symbol for the ability and courage to transform oneself.
Look out for them in your garden and in the bush, or wear a
silver butterfly charm near to your heart to inspire you through a process of change! JL.