Tag Archives: crafts

Blue Beyond the Sea

1539-cu-lapis

A piece of lapis with a wire work bail I made to echo its pyrite sparkles.

 

Lapis is sometimes considered a secondary birthstone to sapphire. That’s probably due to its brilliant blue color, and the fact that through the middle ages the word sapphire was used pretty loosely!

 

 

Lapis is a vibrant blue stone consisting of lazurite and usually pyrite and sodalite as well as a host of other minerals. It’s the pyrite that gives lapis its midnight sparkle of stars.

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To look at things in bloom

“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now…”

A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

 

rhodochrosite-tree

I’m cheating a bit, since his cherry blossoms are white. Right now white on trees is a little too much like snow. The cherry I watch every year (a little nervously the past two-the recent winters have left it very bent and twisted) has pink blooms. Light with darker centers, as if they’d been white but stained with cherry juice!

 

I’ve made pink pearl trees to try to get the feel of cherry blossoms, but I haven’t found any small enough to please me. I’m perpetually on the prowl for deep enough rose quartz, but this fall I stumbled on another option for cherry blossom pink stone chips. It’s called rhodochrosite.

 

In its pure form rhodochrosite is nearly rose red. The name comes from the Greek for rose and coloring. Its more common forms are pink and light brown, sometimes grey. Rhodochrosite gets its color from manganese, and the more calcium replacing the manganese the paler it is.

 

Rhodochrosite is fairly soft; it has a Mohs hardness of 3.5-4. That’s one reason it’s rarely faceted, and when it is it’s normally the purer red form for collectors. This does mean that it can be carved into wonderful figures and turned into decorative boxes. I think I first saw the stone with its banding on boxes rather than jewelry. The downside is that it isn’t a good gemstone for rings, and possibly not for bracelets, depending how tough you are on them.

 

It seems to form near silver mines. First it was found in Romania, then later banded stalactites were found in an old Incan silver mine in Argentina. They’d been forming since the mines were abandoned in the 1300s. Argentina is still the principal source of banded rhodochrosite, which is why rhodochrosite is sometimes called rosinca or Inca Rose.

 

The manganese content makes it difficult to refine silver ore so miners used to just dump the rhodochrosite. (*cringe*) Then collectors realized what was being lost!

 

Now it’s Argentina’s national gemstone, and also the state mineral of Colorado.

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A Few Features

Shannon of Abstract Lucidity very kindly nominated me for a creative blogger award. While honored, I’m not sure how that sort of thing works so far as the tagging others or who to tell, etc. So instead of nabbing others, I’m just going to use it as an excuse to mention a few favorite crafty blogs. I also have to apologize, I’ve been having trouble getting links to work and while they’re back I’m still having issues getting images to show. Sorry, you’ll have to click the links, but they’re worth it, promise! Just beware, you might get sucked in for hours…

 

I’m not supper active in blogging, and some of these people aren’t either, so they might not be updated as often as you hope. But they’re all worth a visit when you want some inspiration.

 

Deri made the fantastic Tut I showed off last week. She has a way with tiny details (and I mean *tiny*) and distilling intense historical research into a deceptive simplicity. She seems utterly fearless about tackling difficult places and times for inspiration. She’s probably best known for her brilliant, mad, and sometimes morbid series of Tudor dolls. (Deri’s also a lot of fun to mess with when it comes to giving her more doll ideas than she can sanely cope with…)

 

Rhissana is always so nice, patiently sharing and explaining doll and general crafting tips. She’s recently got me looking at too many cheap things to play with on ebay… (fair warning, they might start showing up on here…) Her dolls have amazing, delicate details both in their bodies and costuming. She’s also upcycling royalty-Queen of the dollar store steampunk and Duchess of Kitchen Drawer (and everything but the Sink) magic. Beware, if you click, you’ll never look at yard sales or spray paint the same way ever again. And you’ll want to try everything.

 

The first doll artist I started watching was Cynthia. Like the others, I first found her on deviantart and she is wonderful about sharing her knowledge and joy of dollmaking. One of my first entries showcases two of her autumn themed dolls and their fantastic photosessions. She always gives them the best props to play with. It makes me wonder, do you need the right garden and library before you can adopt them? I love the gentleness in her doll’s faces and the delicacy of their wings. (Okay, and envy it too. Those wings, *sigh*) She’s done some wonderful character adaptations.

 

One funny thing, I hadn’t thought about it until I was typing this up, both Cynthia and Rhissana have done variants on Alice in Wonderland. Both adorable and such different takes. So here’s Tea Party Alice and Miss R. White and her Alice Doll! For another set of contrasts The Little Prince has been ‘translated’ by both Cynthia and Deri. So it seems like I’ve a bit of a theme of artists who like to play with cultural touchstones! 

 

Chris is a polymer clay artist with an ancient (scavenger’s) soul…. Her works have the most amazing textures I’ve seen in clay-you want to pet them through the screen. And I love how she uses upcycled elements and turns them into treasures. It’ll make you want to run to the craft store and clear out the shelves. Her work has such a natural growth feel that makes it look so easy. If only!

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Turkish Blue

Tree of turquoise chips with sterling silver and copper.

Tree of turquoise chips with sterling silver and copper.

Turquoise is one of December’s traditional birthstones. (As designated by the American Gem Society. The other two are zircon and tanzanite.)

 

To me it’s such a summery color. I guess on the right winter day you can have a turquoise sky brilliant against the snow and bare trees.

 

Turquoise supposedly gets its name from the middle French for Turkey, since the trade routes that first brought turquoise to Europe came through that country.

 

It’s an opaque stone with a texture somewhere between waxy and glassy. It takes polishing well but is relatively soft. (Mohs 5-6) The color can change with exposure to cosmetics, oil, sweat and detergents as well as bright light. Turquoise seems to be another of those stones that is popular for rings but probably shouldn’t be used for them! At least take them off before washing your hands.

 

Turquoise is a secondary mineral; it forms when acid solutions leech elements from other minerals. It doesn’t have a crystal shape, so tends to form clusters or nodules in veins and often grows with other copper related minerals. (For example, chrysocolla or malachite. Great color combinations.) The blue in turquoise comes from the copper, and the green hints from iron and chromium.

 

Turquoise is one of the most ancient gemstones; it has been mined for at least 5000 years. The mines in the Sinai were already worked out by 2000 BCE! (And people have been making imitations almost as long. The Egyptians had faience, a type of pottery glazed in a turquoise color.)

 

In the states we tend to associate turquoise with the Southwest. In a lot of places it’s a lucrative secondary to copper mining. Apparently the classic Southwestern silver and turquoise jewelry is a fairly modern phenomenon. Supposedly the concept was pushed by traders in the 1880s. Before then Native Americans used turquoise in solid beads, mosaics and carving rather than settings.

 

Some of the turquoise minded in the southwest is still gem quality (especially the Sleeping Beauty and Kingman mines), but a lot of it is treated to get it stable enough to use.

 

It’s kind of frustrating, because it is hard to tell if material sold has been dyed or stabilized with plastics or epoxy. On the plus side, it has also led more recently to a type of stabilizing/reconstituting that adds brass or copper veining through the stone. It doesn’t make any pretense at being natural and is a lot of fun to work with!

 

The best imitation is called Gilson turquoise. It has both uniform color and veined variants. The most common way to fake turquoise is to dye naturally white stones that possess similar textures (and veining patterns).

 

Value for turquoise seems to be very much in the eye of the beholder. Some hold out for the most turquoise of the turquoises with very uniform color-the best quality of this type comes from Iran and is the most desirable in the middle east and much western jewelry.

 

Others prefer the stone to have a cob webbing of matrix when the pattern and color is complimentary, emphasizing the richness of the color. This is the type generally preferred by artists in the Far East as well as by many Southwestern artists.

 

Oh, and apparently there’s a Turquoise Museum in Albuquerque, NM. Who Knew?

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Through the Looking Glass Invite

I’ve had my dolls in the Wesleyan Potters annual juried show for the past few years, but this is the first that some of my jewelry will be joining them at the exhibit and sale. I’m really excited. (And perhaps a little terrified, I hope it goes well and they make a good impression!)

It opens this Friday. To my great regret I will not be able to attend their little mid-morning champagne to-do, but consider yourselves invited if anyone is in the area!

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And Rocks Falling…

My new Gibeon meteorite pendant in copper.

A short addendum to my earlier meteorite intros.

 

I just finished wrapping my last piece of meteorite a few days ago. So meteorites were already a little on my mind when I went to a small mineral society show and picked up some tektites. I thought they’d make fun earrings to go with a meteorite pendant. (Otherwise the show was a bust.)

 

Tektites are small, unprepossessing black stones with an unusual texture and unique origin.

 

“Tektites are terrestrial rock melted and flung into the atmosphere by the force of an asteroid or comet impact.” Nicely summed up on http://tektites.co.uk/

 

They’re natural glass of a kind with a high silica content and extremely low water content. The shape was determined by how far the melted rock was thrown into the atmosphere before re-entry. These guys are the most normal type-splash form. They are rounded shapes that range in size from millimeters to centimeters. The shapes are the result of the ground at the impact site being molten or vaporized and ejected from the site of impact and thrown thousands of kilometers away.

 

The ones I picked up are from what is called the Australasian strewn field. That is the largest, and newest one known. The impact struck around 800,000 years ago, and the strewn field covers at least 10% of the planet’s surface. No one knows where the primary event occurred.

tektites

 

One kind of wild (scary) fact is that tektites from this field have been found with stone axes in southern China, showing that early humans must have been alive and active in that region when the object fell.

 

Can you imagine? Besides the destruction and likelihood of mass deforestation…It’s scary enough to think of something like that happening when you know what is going on, but to have no idea, a sudden boom, mass destruction and then a rain of small rocks?

 

Since people sometimes misinterpret/misrepresent these-just to reiterate, tektites are *not* meteorites, they are made from earth disturbed by an extraterrestrial impact.

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Tea Time!

Autumn for me signifies the transition between drinking ice tea all day and sipping hot tea all night.

 

For ice tea I like to blend English breakfast, green tea, rooibos, peppermint and spearmint. With hot tea I tend more toward plain black teas. I was in the mood, so collected a tea treasury on etsy while nursing the last of my orange spice with Assam. (They changed the blend, I don’t like the new one as much. Grr.)

What’s interesting is that all tea proper-be it white, green, black or oolong comes from the same species of tropical/subtropical evergreen-Camellia sinensis. There are different varieties and subspecies, but for the most part the difference comes from how the plant is treated after it is picked. (And of course, what flavors and scents it is blended with.)

 

The rooibos and mints that I like to add to my ice tea are technically not teas at all. That’s why sometimes herbal teas are called tisanes or infusions to avoid confusion.

 

But still, such variety due to what seems like a minor thing compared to the whole *same plant* aspect kind of amazes me. (Especially given how much I adore some teas and loathe others.)

 

Though I suppose it’s like a grapes and wine thing. I don’t think we normally eat the same breeds of grapes that most wines come from…I’m not much of a drinker (or any sort of gourmand) foodies want to weigh in on this one?

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