The Chain of Office

It all started with this postcard from a work of Escher:

I was intrigued by those mathematical structures and wanted to try to turn it into a semi-flexible piece to be worn as jewelry. I already made chain male for a necklace: (prototype from iron) so I started there.

I cut a lot of hexagons from cardboard and wove them together. The cardboard wasn’t stiff enough, so I wasn’t satisfied, but I knew it could work one way or another.

Then I tried it with rings from zinc, but they weren’t thin enough to form a flexible piece.

So, the next step was thinner rings. I didn’t put them together like a chain male, but fixed each ring with a twist.

And there it was: a semi flexible little mat that was perfect to drape as a brooch… keeping its own shape but flexible enough to follow the shape of the body.

This brooch was sold by a gallery to Marietje van Rossen, the mayor of Hellevoetsluis, a classy lady who was fond of contemporary jewelry. She contacted me via the gallery and that was the start of what would end 6 years later in an exhibition in ‘Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam’ with a collection of modern chains of office for several mayors.

She didn’t like the heavy, masculine chain of office that was not very comfortable to wear for a woman. A chain made a flexible as my ‘Matje’ would fit a female body much better.

First prototype for a flexible chain with the municipal coat of arms of Hellevoetsluis.

After quite some meetings, phone calls and prototypes, she decided to start a project group with several couples of a mayor and a jewelry designer and asked jewelry specialist Liesbeth den Besten to support them.

In the meantime, journalists and a columnist wrote an article about this initiative.

Artikel Rotterdams Dagblad
Artikel Volkskrant Jan Blokker
Artikel NRC ‘Keten’ Youp van het Hek

We all know that official mills don’t work very fast, but in 2001 the project came to an end by presenting the new chains of office during an exhibition.

Liesbeth den Besten also wrote a book about ‘the new chain of the mayor’.

Persbericht Stedelijk Museum
Financieel Dagblad ‘Ambtelijke molensteen’

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In 2015 we read a retrospect:

Now, 2 decades later, I found several articles online about cities and townships who ordered a new, modern chain of office!