Les Invalides, Paris. Photo Credit: Entreprise GALLIS                                     Brittania Brooch


by Christine Dumont

"To see the past in a shard of slate"

Last year we left the UK for Brittany and I was looking forward to new sources of inspiration to keep the mojo happy. This region of France offers rugged geology and sublime maritime vistas, and we were delighted to find a house that suited our needs.


Brittany is famous for its 2800 kilometres of coast; no matter where you are, the sea is never far. The other thing that struck me is the ever present slate. You find it on the roofs and walls of houses and even in garden fencing. And so, I started new work with a shard of slate to represent the land and an abstract rendition of kelp to represent the sea. A brooch to celebrate my new adventure!


As I continued my search for the perfect shard of slate, I started parallel research into why there was so much slate around me. Turns out there are many slate quarries – now abandoned – and that humble millefeuille-like rock has played a major role in the history of Brittany since neolithic times.

I looked at this little chunk of blue stone in my hand and its history unfolded in my mind. I saw it mined, split and shipped to find a place as a wall stone or, more dramatically, on the roofs of cathedrals or heritage buildings such as the Hotel des Invalides in Paris.

My celebratory brooch needed to have dimensionality! There would now be two shards of slate to capture the way it shaped landmark architecture.


Slate crumbles easily. Stainless steel plates lined the shards to provide strength without much added weight. I attached the stainless plates at an angle to enhance the dimensionality I wanted.

What did I learn?

  • I learned much about the local history. This has brought me great satisfaction as I feel more connected to my environment.
  • I learned new technical skills. Working with stainless steel is not easy as it is hard to cut and drill.
  • I learned a new construction approach. Working with steel and slate opened new doors to 3D design.

At the Breakthrough2020 retreat you will:

  • benefit from learning about the local history from a short presentation,
  • apply the method described in the post to incorporate historical considerations into your work,
  • sharpen your ability to see and observe what is meaningful to you.


How does history influence your work? If it doesn’t, think about how it might be a source of inspiration.

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