Hand-framed Maasaï Necklace – one of a kind

How it is made

  • An atelier next to the Paris Luxembourg garden

    Michèle Bernard opened her atelier over 40 years ago, when the neighbourhood was still a hub for artists and craftsmen. At the time, her street was bustling with tailors, framing workshops, shoemakers, pattern makers, hairdressers as well as cafes. Today, things are quieter. Thankfully, the Luxembourg garden offers plenty of distraction and Madame Bernard regularly visits their museum for which she also makes the frames.

  • Choosing the materials

    To bring out its vivid colours, Madame Bernard selects a black wooden frame and a rare, acid-free Italian paper as backdrop to frame the Masaai necklace. The glass has anti-glare and UV protective properties, which not only allow reducing the reflection on the glass but also protects the necklace from being burnt by the sun and moonlight.

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    Maasaï beading

    Beadwork is an important element in Maasaï culture. The necklaces are worn according to the age and social status of an individual. Those of a higher social status wear more colourful beads. Unmarried females wear large flat beaded discs around their neck when dancing as a sign of grace and flexibility. And a woman getting married wears a very elaborate and heavily beaded neckpiece on her wedding day, and once married, she wears a long necklace with blue beads.

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    Cutting the wood

    As a first step to make the frame, Michèle Bernard cuts the wood at a 45-degree angle into the correct dimensions.

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    Building the Frame

    To connect the four wooden parts, she first glues the edges together and then staples them from the inside. This step requires particular concentration so as to precisely join the edges neatly together.

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    Preparing the backdrop

    Madame Bernard uses a shear from the 19th century to cut the Italian paper and carton that constitute the backdrop of the frame.

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    Fixing the necklace

    The necklace is fixed to the backdrop with tiny invisible nails, which are carefully inserted at different places through the pearls and the leather lining of the Maasaï necklace before being flattened on the back of the carton.

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    Cutting the glass

    Madame Bernard uses a Japanese glass cutter, which is one of the most accurate and precise ways to cut glass. It functions with petroleum and works even better than cutting with a diamond, which requires such a high degree of mastery that in most cases the result is not precise enough. She then thoroughly cleans the glass to ensure that no dust gets trapped inside the frame.

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    Assembling the elements

    After the glass is attentively cleaned, it is placed inside the frame. Madame Bernard adds another thin piece of wood to create a larger space between the frame and the backdrop and to make sure that the necklace does not touch the glass.

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    Fixing the holder ring

    To be able to hang this piece of art, Madame Bernard adds a ring on the back of the frame, which she places with care so that the frame hangs evenly on the wall.

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    Finishing the back of the frame

    With a hammer and small nails, Madame Bernard fixes the carton in the frame and to create a clean finishing, adds Kraft paper on the back of the entire frame. Now the piece just needs to find its place in a home or office space.

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