A tiny pottery vase. 2.5cm high, with a painted blue flower and green leaves. I believe it is a forget-me-not.
A yellow Tupperware pastry cutter. The smaller side, a scalloped rectangle, used every year near Christmas for cutting windows in the lids of fruit mince pies. Pineapple fruit mince, bricks of sweetened shortcrust pastry, rows of circles stamped out with the rim of a Vegemite glass, chubby fingers snatching the cut-out lid-centres to scoff the sweet, raw pastry.
A Pandora bracelet with 23 silver charms. Some charms are layered with blown glass in shades of pink and green, some have pink or green gemstones. A silver swan and a silver daisy, both gifted by me, excruciatingly unoriginal Mother’s Day or birthday gifts, yet guaranteed to bring joy. The kind of jewellery I stand in vehement opposition to yet a reluctant adolescent promise not to pull it apart and turn it into something else.
Two gold rings. A diamond engagement ring, too small for even half of my pinkie finger. A sapphire and diamond ring, bought for the occasion of my birth. Worn in clusters with many others, three or four to a finger, across slim hands with talonous fingernails. Perfect for clinking against cups or additional percussion when striking the keys on the piano, playing I’m in the mood for love.
Two Royal Albert tea cups with saucers and plates. My choices from an expansive collection. The rarity of their use seemed to indicate their preciousness; perhaps they would break if you even were to touch them (so don’t touch them). They lived high on a shelf with the equally un-used dinner set. They now live in a cabinet, safely behind glass.
A handmade Heiji doll from a pattern in a much-revered book, Stuffed Dolls from a Fancy World by Kyoko Yoneyama. Based on a character from a book I never wanted to read, Heiji wears a blue milk-maid’s hat and two frizzy plaits. Faceless, her fabric eyes fell off long ago. I had the best of intentions to replace them. Not everything I keep is looked after immaculately.
Two Swarovski crystal animals. A bird and a rabbit. Both broken (likely by me) and repaired (sometimes by me), multiple times. The bird, missing its left wing and half of its tail. The rabbit, missing its left ear, the right one chipped and encrusted with super glue.
An Avon Key to My Heart boxed soap. Circa 1980. A pink heart shaped soap, like a locket split in two with a white key shaped soap nestled inside. This object kind-of doesn’t qualify. It’s not the original soap, the one I secretly obsessed over. I carefully opened the pink, embossed box, trying not to leave a trace of my seemingly criminal presence. Within a foamy plastic pouch and a layer of clear cellophane, the soap with its secret treasure perfectly slotted inside. I didn’t inherit the original. I found this one at the Penguin Markets when I was in my 20s. The foamy plastic wrapping has been replaced by crude kitchen paper towel and the heart layers are cracked and crumbled. It stinks. I don’t remember hating the smell. Maybe I should throw it away?
A grey shell necklace. 80s style. Slices of shells cupped together along a thread so the pearlescent sides face inwards. To be wrapped around a black turtleneck skivvy, after back-combing and hair spraying a Robert-Smith-esque tease into a perfectly placed, unshifting bob.
A silk scarf. Patterned in red and black geometry. A photograph of the scarf, worn. A familiar pose, chin tilted upward and a hand casually folded inward against the side of the lower jaw. I’ve tried to wear the scarf. I put it on and move it around, I tilt my chin upward and I take it off again.
A black leather handbag. Softly worn. Ghostily scented with musk lollies and Horizon ultra-milds.
A pair of gold coloured embroidery scissors in a hand sewn, cream silk case. The scissors, shaped like a rooster with the sharply pointed blades for its crown and the round handles, an extension of its talons. Plated in something gold coloured, this has been rubbed back all around the handles. The case is scuffed and worn, embellished with cream lace, ribbon roses and plastic pearl and gold beads. It hangs from a gold-ish chain over the brass knob of my bed head, just in case I need to snip any stray threads while I sleep.
A hand sewn and embroidered silk bedspread. Custom made to fit a cast-iron bed frame, slept upon for four generations (don’t fret, the mattress is new). A bolt of raw silk travelled from India to be quilted into nine squares. Within each square is a detailed candlewick embroidery of ecru cotton with the subtlest accents of pink, yellow and pastel green. Much like the tea cups, this feels too precious to use. I placed it on the bed for the fourteenth anniversary, running my hands over tiny knotted stitches, landing upon a stitched signature, dated 1998, I was fourteen.
A bottle of Estée Lauder Eau de Private Collection Spray, about two thirds full. The smell of it envelops me, at once winded with a kick in the sternum and held in an expansive time and dimension travelling embrace. My brain feels again like it’s bursting through my skull and my head is full of black and stars.
A bottle of Estée Lauder Beautiful Eau de Parfum spray, almost full, perhaps unused.
An unfinished embroidery. A central circle filled with colourful embroidered flowers, ensconced by 8 smaller circles. Each small circle with a central posy surrounded by pencil lined circles. Softly sketched into the surface of the fabric, the circles indicate the placement of intended stitches, some completed, some not even begun. It is stilled in a frame like a clock forever stopped at 9. 9 o’clock, somewhere around the time of death, immediately after I carefully administered a needle into the right lower abdomen, medicine to dry up salivary secretions, in the hope of gentling and quieting the remaining few breaths.
A lock of short grey hair, tied in a pink ribbon, quickly and ungraciously contained in a brown craft paper box. I almost didn’t get this, I phoned and requested it at the last minute. They suggested I didn’t view the body, it would have deteriorated too much, especially considering it lay in the bedroom overnight so we could all say goodbye, and so I could say hello and happy birthday to myself the next morning.
A letter. Handwritten on Baroque style, cherub patterned paper. Heartfelt, knowing, extraordinarily difficult to look at.
A gold locket. A replacement for the wedding ring, lost whilst bushwalking a week after the death. The ring might now dwell at the bottom of a tarn or brightly adorn the wrist of a pademelon. The locket holds two pictures. Grainy slivers of memories, to be carried around and held, preciously.
Gabbee Stolp is a visual artist based in the Derwent Valley, lutruwita/Tasmania. Gabbee’s practice exists across several mediums with a primary focus on contemporary jewellery, object-making and textiles. Gabbee’s work examines material, memory and place, evoking biological and metaphysical themes including grief, loss and human-induced extinction. Gabbee creates gentle tools with which to reflect on time and change and the way our human lives are invariably connected to the deep history and ecology of the places we live.
Gabbee completed a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) with First Class Honours, at RMIT University, where her major studio area was Object Based Practice/Gold and Silversmithing. She has exhibited widely in Australia and New Zealand and was the recipient of the ‘Bell Bay Aluminium People’s Choice Award’ for the Women’s Art Prize Tasmania, 2022. Gabbee is a founding member of State of Flux Workshop, a contemporary jewellery studio and gallery in nipaluna/Hobart. She has also worked as a registered nurse in aged care for the past eighteen years.