Thursday, March 24, 2011

Henk Brinkman- Horseshoe talismans

I haven't done an Etsy interview in well over a month and quite honestly I miss doing them. A few months ago I discovered Henk Brinkman, an interesting guy who creates even more interesting jewelry in Decatur, Georgia.  I asked him to tell me about the origins of his horseshoe nail necklaces and was entranced with his serendipitous story. Here is his tale in his own words. 


For the origin of horseshoe nail jewelry you have to go back to Medieval Eastern Europe and the wandering gypsies. Blacksmithing was one of their renowned skills. If your horse needed new shoes gypsies were most likely to provide that service. Gypsies also believed that anything forged in fire had magical powers and could ward off evil. They would make a talisman out of horseshoe nails and hang it around their children’s necks to protect them. Thus the first horseshoe nail necklaces were created.


Horseshoe 7-Nail Pendant, gun blued (HNP002B)
In 1970 I had been traveling with my best friend from Holland through Europe & Asia and after a few months we ended up in Matala on Crete. One day I changed my routine and took a walk into the mountains. A decision that would literally change my life. I crossed paths with  a guy wearing a horseshoe nail pendant. I was fascinated and he was willing to teach me. I used most of my remaining cash to buy nails and tools and started to make horseshoe nail jewelry.


A week later while selling my jewelry in Syntagma Square in Athens I met an American girl who was looking for a ride to Florence. My friend and I were about to leave for Dubrovnik in Yugoslavia, so I could not help her. I gave her a horseshoe nail pendant instead and told her it was magical and would bring her luck in her travels and happiness.
The odds are astronomical, but I ran into her again two weeks later in Venice, Italy and this time magic happened.  A year later I left Holland, moved to Boston and married her, all because of a few horseshoe nails.
Even though I am very skeptical when it comes to “magic”, it is very hard to ignore the many amazing stories people who bought my jewelry, have shared with me over the years.

What intrigued you about this particular style?

What intrigued me most was the history of this craft. But I was also intrigued by the seemingly endless possibilities of designs I came up with using horseshoe nails. My designs are all original; I never copied anyone else. After I moved to the United States, I sold my jewelry in Holyoke Center in Harvard Square. A  Harvard professor was fascinated in my jewelry and did extensive research in its history. In 1973 we moved to Atlanta and I started to attend craft shows all over the country.

Horseshoe 3-Nail Pendant (HNP035S)




You mention on your Etsy shop that you only design in primary numbers. Can you further explain?


You must understand that I never “designed in prime numbers” It just happened to be the case.
I never set out to use prime numbers. It never entered my mind. I knew most of my pendants were made of an odd numbers of nails, since most have one nail in the middle. But it was that same Harvard professor (mathematics) who discovered that all my pendants turned out to be prime numbers. I don’t know if this is significant, it just happened. In 1976 I was doing a lot of craft shows and I had designed a pendant, using 76 nails. At least I thought I had. I even had a sign that stated that fact. It was the largest thing I ever created out of nails  and it was not for sale.  One day a very observant customer told me that I was wrong about the number of horseshoe nails. It turned out that he was correct. There were only 73 nails in that pendant; which oddly enough is another prime number. Go figure.


Horseshoe 11-Nail Pendant (HNP005B)

Besides creating your jewelry what other hobbies do you have?

I actually gave up making horseshoe nail jewelry 25 years ago when I started to develop arthritis in my hand.  I just picked it up again two months ago. My other “love” is architectural pen & ink drawings, which has been my “other job” for the last 30 years.
I also love doing ceramics and carpentry. Photography has been a hobby since I was 12 years old.


Pick up your own good luck piece at Henk Brinkman's Etsy shop





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