Snow Circles

Copied Ferne Jacobs, Snow Circles, 1999, coiled and twined waxed linen thread, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 2001.32

Artwork Details

Snow Circles
14 1812 7810 58 in. (35.832.627.1 cm)
Credit Line
Museum purchase
Mediums Description
coiled and twined waxed linen thread
Object Number

Artwork Description

Ferne Jacobs built this sculpture starting from the center of each circle, expanding and shaping the surface into a poignant vessel. She coiled and twined this form while her mother was dying. The title, Snow Circles, references a short story by Irish author James Joyce, “The Dead” (1914), that muses on how falling snow indiscriminately covers both the living and the dead. As Jacobs explains, “Stitch by stitch, cell by cell, I'm building a body,” and the circles speak to the cycle of life, from mother to child.

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, 2022

Luce Center Label

Ferne Jacobs started work on Snow Circles while her mother was dying. The title was inspired by James Joyce's short story "The Dead," in which one character, Gabriel, watches snow fall on the Irish landscape and muses how it covers both the living and the dead. The circles within the woven walls of this vessel symbolize the cycles of life and are connected to show that one cycle moves onto the next, as a mother gives life to her children, who survive her passing. The folds and curves of the fabric evoke Jacobs's description of her baskets as "a place for breath, or for wind." ("Ferne Jacobs: The Will of the Weave," Angeles Magazine, May 1991)

Luce Object Quote
"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead." James Joyce, “The Dead,” Dubliners, 1914