Monthly Archives: April 2014

I went to the Muizenberg court – an institution which I had not known existed – on Thursday. I had been asked to appear in the case against the intruder who pepper-sprayed me, and whom I drove out of the house. I’d been told to appear there “at half past eight for nine” but given no other instructions.

The Court is behind the Muizenberg Police Station, high on the slopes. Heading up the cobbled road for my 8:30 meeting with the prosecutor, I was joined by a dozen or so people who, to judge from their clothing and the woe on their faces, were among the poorest and most marginal of our citizenry. More stood on the steps and ramp leading to the building, and in the corridor which one entered, more milled about. Among them were several people in uniform, police, court officials and people wearing the badges of a security company. None of the dodgy-looking men behaved in an aggressive or cocky way as they might in other circumstances but stared at the floor, avoiding eye-contact as I made my way through them.

The Court, when I found it, turned out to be a wood-panelled room about the size of two classrooms, divided down the middle by a waist-high wooden barrier. On this side were wooden benches like church pews in rows with aisles along the walls. A distressed-looking couple sitting in a pew leaned against each other, the only people on this side of the barrier, and the only other “white” people in the room. On the farther side were desks occupied by five or six functionaries, some in black gowns, shuffling stacks of manila files. The Magistrate, a dapper man with grey temples, sat on his plinth behind a raised wooden panel and looked down on all. He was telling them about how hard he worked, a sixteen-hour day, he said, and how little time he had for other activities – no time to go to church or assist the pastor, no time to relax with his family… They listened respectfully. It didn’t look like something that would bear interruption. I found a pew near the front, where I could observe proceedings and perhaps seize a moment of attention from one of the functionaries.

After a while, the magistrate gathered up his books and papers and left the room, a clerk following after him, and the attention of the others was released. I went to stand at one of the gates and, after seemingly being pointedly ignored for some minutes, caught the eye of an attractive young woman in black robes and with very thick spectacles, which made her eyes flash in and out of focus as though seen through a goldfish bowl. I told her that I wasn’t sure who to speak to, that I was a plaintiff. Oh, a plaintiff, she said, you’ll have to speak to the prosecutor, indicating a petite woman in her thirties, I’d guess, who sat furthest from me conferring with a young man in a brown suit. I hovered at the gate but her attention did not waver from whatever she was discussing. There was a loud banging at a door leading to the court on their side of the barrier, which they ignored. Soon it was repeated, along with the rattling of the door handle. Relax, the door will be unlocked, one of the women said, softly. The banging went on, and she went nearer the door and repeated it, but no louder. The banging and rattling went on intermittently until someone came with a key and the door was unlocked. Two policemen entered, escorting an old woman of exceptional thinness, tininess and abjection. They seated her on a bench on the court side, where she slumped, looking down at her writhing hands, her face shrouded by a doek. All this time the prosecutor didn’t look up.

I moved to the other gate, nearer to where she sat. Eventually I threw caution to the winds, entered the sacred precinct and walked towards her desk. She looked up. Michael Cope? she asked. I guessed that she had recognised me from the copy of my ID attached to the case, and that she was expecting me. She seemed sharp. Good signs. She then told me that the accused’s attorney had offered to settle the matter out of court, through mediation, but advised against it – It’s a water-tight case, she said. I don’t see what his lawyer was seeking. He is probably just doing whatever he can for his client. I agreed, telling her that in my opinion, by committing serial crimes which relied on people’s trust he was contributing to eroding trust in the community, aside from the assault. In that case, she told me, you can go. All that will happen now is they’ll set a date, and there’ll probably be a bail application. We’ll get hold of you to prepare you for the case. Thank you Mr Cope for coming this morning.

It was almost nine. The Magistrate had returned to his seat. The pews had filled up. Outside the court the view of False Bay over the rooftops was vast and grand. The ritual of Justice, with its robes, its inner sanctum, its arcane terms, was about to begin.


Here’s my interpretation of the Head of Orpheus, Phrygian cap and all. There are a great many treatments by artists and sculptors of this theme, and I guess there always will be, since the singing head stands, at least in part, for the continuation of the voice expressed through art, and this theme (along with all the tragedy) will always be of interest.

Orpheus and Lyre: Silver, amethyst.

Orpheus and Lyre: Silver, amethyst.

I based the frame on a renaissance engraving of a rather fanciful lyre. The amethyst is simply to complete and balance the design.

Actual size:

Orpheus and Lyre: Silver, amethyst.

Orpheus and Lyre: Silver, amethyst.


My friend Duncan Miller sold this stone to me about twenty years ago. It’s a moonstone, although it looks more like an ocean-stone, with flashes of light that move across it like moonlight on the sea. He insisted that the stone was right for me, although I could think of no setting for it. The stone has languished in various drawers, and endured a move of workshop, during that time, and occasionally I have taken it out and looked at it. Once, about 10 years ago, I created a sort of fringed frame for it, but that didn’t satisfy me, and I never went further.

Recently, investigating images surrounding the Orpheus myth, I have been drawn to images from the Renaissance.  I was attracted to ship images, like the one found on the crest of the City of Paris, and suddenly I remembered the moonstone.

Crest of the City of Paris

I’m very pleased with the pendant that resulted. It has no relevance to the Orpheus myth – except perhaps as a reference to Jason’s Argo. Orpheus was a crew-member on that quest, and he would calm the testosterone-drenched Heroes down with the music of his lyre when they fought among themselves.

ARGO: Pendant; silver, moonstone

ARGO: Pendant; silver, moonstone

It’s about this size:

ARGO: Pendant; silver, moonstone

ARGO: Pendant; silver, moonstone

I’ve been thinking about Orpheus and his myth, and making a few pieces with him in mind. Here’s a pendant depicting Charon. It’s dark, but the far side gleams. I thought today a good date to post this, since it has to do with transitions and the underworld.



CHARON – pendant;silver, paua shell

I’ve been carving waxes of renaissance-themed things. When you carve a wax, It’s pretty-much like any other carving, say wood or stone –


you work away removing material until a satisfying form emerges. Wax carving has an extra option, though –  the ability to add material by melting blobs of new wax on. This gives the wax carver a safety margin not available to the marble worker. If you cut too deep, never mind – you can add more wax. If you break off some small feature by accident, it can be welded back in place.

But there’s an extra process that is not usually seen. The wax is going to be embedded in plaster than melted away in a kiln, and metal will be poured into the gap left behind. But how will the metal get in? There must be channels or sprues through which the molten metal can enter, that will take the metal to all the right places and make sure that everything gets filled – by no means a certainty.

IMG_9444The mantis-like structure squatting on the back of the Head of Orpheus will bring the silver to all parts (I hope). After that it gets cut off, and everything filed up, polished and engraved.

Here are a couple more waxes for pendants, where the sprues can be clearly seen.

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I got a stone from Namibia, a pietersite. Pietersite is an interesting stone – it starts off its life as asbestos, and gets silicated – the fibrous blue asbestos being replaced by silica – becoming tiger’s eye. The tiger’s eye is then subjected to tremendous temperatures and pressures, becoming a fubarite version of tiger’s eye – the stone that was discovered by Sid Pieters in 1962 in Namibia (now also found in China.)

It’s impossible to photograph pietersite because of the way that it changes depending on the angle of the light. Flashes move across the stone resembling aurorae. Perhaps HD video could come close.

Nevertheless, here are two pictures of the stone:

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With a dark sky and flashing aurorae, the stone said “night” to me. I had been thinking about the goddess Nyx (night) and posted a poem that I’d written based on an Orphic Hymn to Night. So I thought I’d represent her (in two phases, before and after midnight) on a ring. Here’s the result:

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Nyx; ring, silver & pietersite

Nyx; ring, silver & pietersite