Tag Archives: crafts

Magic In Your Pocket

I turn my head and you may go where you want.
I turn it again, you will stay till you rot.
I have no face, but I live or die by my crooked teeth
Who am I?*

 

I admit, sometimes I look too deeply into the symbolism in things and it can ruin an on the surface enjoyable experience. (Eg- The Christian symbolism in the Narnia books, or the attitude towards women in so many Disney movies…) Perhaps it’s in my blood from one too many literature or art history classes.

Other times I feel like I don’t look deeply enough, or question why things have become symbols. A few months ago on Extribulum Sam wrote a short articles about symbols in writer’s tool kit and the power of things like mirrors, coins and keys and looked at the whys.

I enjoyed it in part because such a kit is not exclusive to writers, it creeps in everywhere. Besides interesting textures and colors, symbols pop up in crafts all the time. Coins bring to mind values, perhaps of different places and times. I’ve used keys in charm collages, as a symbol they are shorthand for thoughts about freedom and escape, or of feeling trapped. As Sam pointed out, a key found out of context is a mystery.  

So I read his entry and went along my way. Then thought of it again last night, sort of laughing at myself. Before things went pear shaped at Brimfield last week I’d purchased a handful of old foreign coins to wrap-little vestiges of times past with portraits of rulers long dead.

I’ve also been making wire work keys recently. Not for any great reason, saw something that made me think that when you see Alice in Wonderland things the keys never match the description of small, golden and ornate from the book and I decided to make one. Didn’t get just the right key for Wonderland yet, but I’ve been enjoying making them. I didn’t give much thought to why they strike me, or anyone, as an appropriate focal point for a piece of jewelry. (Perhaps as a symbol it’s so ingrained that we don’t conciously think about it anymore?)

I’ve seen wire wrap keys around (well, around the internet, never in person) and many were gorgeous, but so intricate it felt like they were losing the outline of a key, which was sort of the essence. So I went in the opposite direction to make something simple, like the sketch of a key with an outline that might still fit in, if you found the right lock.

We discussed that a little on dA, guessing where the keys might lead if you found the right lock…

*does anyone know where this comes from? It’s one of those I remembered it but tried to look online and found it plenty of places, but never with a provenance.

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A Sparkle from a Moonstone

Sheer blue moonstone.

I love so many different types of stones that choosing a single favorite would be like choosing a favorite dessert-totally impossible. Sometimes you want chocolate, others ice cream, or perhaps it’s fresh fruit you’re craving…

Moonstone is one of my favorites.

It’s a type of feldspar, like labradorite (another favorite of mine). Feldspars are a family of silicates that make up about 60% of the earth’s crust. Large parts of the moon’s crust are composed of feldspars too.

Moonstone is one of the traditional birthstones for June, along with alexandrite and pearl.

Moonstone has a beautiful shimmer-called adularia-the traditional color is blue, and the nearly clear moonstone with that ghostly rich blue is especially highly valued. There is also grey moonstone and peach-both have a soft white shimmer, and rainbow, which normally is a white or white/clear base with many different colors. The colors come about because the stone’s structure is layered, and those layers refract light at different angles. (Like a built-in faceting system!)

A rainbow moonstone piece with peridot.

Moonstone sterling and gold fill pendant

A newer moonstone pendant. They’re tough gems to photograph. The shimmer of this is more on the purple side of blue in most lights. You can also see the spiral from the back through the translucence of the stone.

I like working with rainbow moonstone because of the gorgeous range of colors. The whole rainbow really will appear in some pieces. I also like the fact that each stone will have its own unique pattern of shimmer and color play.

It is a comparatively soft stone. It has a Mohs hardness of 6, which makes it softer than quartz or garnet (though harder than opal) and more easily scratched. I try to avoid the temptation of moonstone rings, since those take the most knocks.

(Title from Cat Steven’s Moonstone.)

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A Study in Emerald

A quick conflation- emerald is May’s birthstone, and today is was the last episode of BBC’s Sherlock on PBS. Who knows how long until the next one. So I’m letting some fangirl out. (And going to go read The Adventure of the Empty House for meagre consolation.)

Neil Gaiman’s brilliant A Study in Emerald is a fun mix of Doyle‘s world and Lovecraft‘s mythos is available on his website. As a bonus this version looks like an old fashioned newspaper. Very fun!

A quirky collection of emerald Cthulhu and Sherlock themed crafts in honor of May’s birthstone and Gaiman’s story. (Yes, the comma was left out intentionally, they’re all emerald colored pieces!)

 

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On Paleoart

play with wire, precious

metals and watercolors

touch of the brush–salt

and paint diffuse in water

dreaming of vast ancient seas

 

I don’t have the widest range of hobbies. I like to play with photography and go for long walks/low impact hikes (I’m not a fan of heights; last time I was on a proper up mountain type of hike to look out over a waterfall my friends had to peel me off of a tree after a panic attack), but I don’t really live in an area where I can do that alone (or at night) safely.

 

So I mostly make things. Neither wire work nor sewing are particularly easy on the wrists. Add to that a job with a lot of time spend on the computer and shelving heavy objects and my wrists are a bit of a disaster.

 

But I get so *bored* when I can’t type or make things, and reading is never as much fun when it’s my only option for entertainment. So awhile a go a friend had suggested painting might be a lower impact kind of creative project.

 

Great idea in theory, didn’t work out in practice. I don’t do abstract so well, but honestly don’t have the patience for proper depth and the degree of detail I want (and detail=still rough on wrists) so I kind of fell into paleoart. I had a nice notebook with watercolor paper and decided that it would be a dig journal for a steampunk character I was creating. For practice I started making artist trading cards with different fossils, or imaginings of what they would have looked like alive. Some are the fossils you’ve seen on here in my jewelry: ammonites and orthoceras.

 

I also tried to play with crinoids (a class of echinoderms–distant cousins of starfish and sand dollars–their name means lily form) and some of the critters from the Burgess Shale. (Go to the website, that’s a hike I’d love to do, and the song cracks me up.) Those animals are actually pretty tough to get a handle on.

 

The Burgess shale is a fossil field dating from the mid Cambrian (much earlier than the ammonites or the brachiopods I was showing before, about 500 million years ago). It is known for having a wide range of fossils of soft bodied bottom dwellers.

 

They were an odd looking lot (to modern eyes at least). It was sort of like life was trying out all these different forms and directions and saw which ones survived and which thrived. But they’re really fun to doodle. Like a combination of dragons and the children of elder gods with a bit of really cranky sea urchin thrown in. One illustrator on deviantart did a fantastic homage to the six classic species of the Cambrian explosion.

 

The Natural History Museum (London) has a really nifty 3-D model of an anomalocaris that you can move around. And see why it’s such a hard critter to figure out! They also have a 3-D model of an ammonite fossil and the inside of a brachiopod on the menu next to the anomalocaris.

I had some small scraps of watercolor paper where I was pleased with the crystal bursts and didn’t want to throw them out, so that led me to making even tinier watercolors to set behind glass cabochons to wire wrap for pendants. (Probably reaching the pinnacle of nonmarketable jewelry, I’m afraid. But I do enjoy making them.)

 

So, vacation for joints was pretty much a fail, and I’m not very good at watercolor. But I fancy I get some good depth in my paintings of shells. And people keep calling my ammonites cute. I’m not sure how to take that…

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Problematic Portraiture

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

 

 

Today William Shakespeare was baptized and officially became William Shakespeare. Huzzah!

 

I will admit, I really don’t like Romeo and Juliet, it’s right down there with As You Like It for ones I Don’t Like! But they’re oh so quotable. Like the seven ages of man speech:

 

All the world’s a stage,

 And all the men and women merely players,

 They have their exits and entrances,

 And one man in his time plays many parts,

 His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

 Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

 Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel

 And shining morning face, creeping like snail

 Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

 Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

 Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

 Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,

 Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,

 Seeking the bubble reputation

 Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice

 In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,

 With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,

 Full of wise saws, and modern instances,

 And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

 Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

 With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,

 His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,

 For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

 Turning again towards childish treble, pipes

 And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

 That ends this strange eventful history,

 Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

 Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

As You Like It (II, viii)

 

 

Cameo based on the Chandos portrait

So, another piece of information we don’t have about Shakespeare is- what did he look like? It cracks me up when people use the ‘it doesn’t look dashing, romantic, clever, handsome, poetical, whatever enough’ to really be Shakespeare argument against the most likely portraits. Seriously? (You could even argue that the more low level official looking a guy was the better he’d have to be at sonnets!)

 

This pendant is based on the Chandos portrait. (It was on wrappers from chocolates I got in England so was handy and a good type of paper to use with the sealant! Esteemed history, I know…) It is claimed to be a portrait of Shakespeare painted from life between 1600 and 1610. There is no concrete evidence that the portrait is indeed Shakespeare, bit this far it is believed to have the best claim. Partially because it generally agrees with the Droeshout engraving.

 

The Droeshout engraving for the First Folio

The Droeshout engraving was for the cover of the First Folio, and was vouched for by Ben Jonson. The biggest argument against it is the poor artistic quality of the engraving (which is a weak argument, I doubt many of the most artistically beautiful portraits look much like their sitters!) and the fact that Jonson wouldn’t be the first person to okay something without actually checking it out first. But both that image and the one at his graveside were at least created while people who knew him lived, and they were certainly intended to be him.

 

There’s a Hilliard portrait some believe is meant to be Shakespeare, but the man in the portrait appears to be of a significantly higher social status. But it is a gorgeous painting.

 

I also used the Chandos portrait in a helmmail charm bracelet I made for myself awhile ago. Every other image is from a play, and each charm refers to a specific quote. See how many you can catch.

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Fossil Echoes

nature, she echoes

variation on a theme

of fractal design

changed over millennia

past fossils like growing leaves

 

Brachiopods (literally arm-foot) appeared at the beginning of the Cambrian and peaked during the Ordovician (490-445 mya).

What’s fascinating is that while most of them have gone extinct, some species of brachiopod are still around, so it’s a story of survival. Even though I’m working with fossils of creatures that died hundreds of millions of years ago, a number of their descendants and cousins are still on sea floors the world over. (Around 100 different genera still exist, over 5000 are known to have existed.)

Brachiopods are bottom feeding marine creatures with two shells. (You can see the lip of their joint nicely in the fossils I picked up.) They’re symmetrical when viewed from above, unlike bivalves.

Mine are members of the spiriferidia. I think they’re of the Mucrospirifer genus. Some of the rock hounds on deviantart are thinking along the same lines, but I don’t have a location of origin to narrow matters down.

The one I bought more recently was from southwest Ontario and identified as a Mucrospirifer thedfordensis from the mid Devonian. (That’s about 385 million years ago.) My previous stash were probably from the same general area. (I’ve been told New York State is another possible origin.) This genus reached its highest levels of number and diversity during this period, so it’s a probably a safe guess that all the ones I’ve worked with are all (loosely!) around the same age.

I’m not sure all of my original stash were of the same species to begin with; since some were chubbier like the thedfordensis and others were much slimmer, though they all share the same basic shape and nice curve. I don’t know how much variation existed between individuals of a species.

Mucrospirifer thedfordensis

(I’m not very good at identifying fossils beyond the general. Anyone know of a good, *simple* guide for fossils? I like playing with ammonites too but can never divide them into species either.)

They would have lived in soft mud on the sea floor and attached to the bottom with a fleshy stalk. They were found all over the world. Brachiopods took a hit at the end of the Devonian period, but a diverse number survived into the next hundred million years. A lot of brachiopod species went extinct during the Permian Mass Extinction ( about 251 mya), along with a lot of the other ‘classic’ species we’re familiar with–like the trilobites. The corals of the era were so badly destroyed it took over 10 million years for them to recover, and 150 million for biodiversity to bounce back to pre-extinction levels. (Some of the Mucrospirifers survived the Permian Mass Extinction and held on into the Jurassic period.)

Walking past the brachiopods on a dealer’s table en masse they reminded me of fallen ginkgo leaves. I decided that I had to play with that resemblance by wrapping them with ‘stems.’ Now I want more to experiment with, and to learn how to properly identify the little suckers. I’d really like to take the term butterfly shells literally and do a butterfly shaped wrap somehow.

(Yes, I wrote a tanka over a fossil, I wrote a few about different types actually…)

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A Tag Sale Type of Night

A Tag Sale Type of Night

Paw through the shining hoard
captured in a fly fishing box—
embossed best quality plastic—
in a pseudoscientific order.

-throw away, come back to me-

Blue stone and battle axe earrings.
Not a personal statement! Just
perfect for a character
I never got to play.

-throw away, come back to me-

Blue vial necklace, pewter knot.
Very cool, if made for a flatter girl.
Why did I think a glowstick added
was a good idea? *never again*

-throw away, come back to me-

Boomerang with opal doublet,
small fire smoldering under
faulty adhesive—but real opal,
and a gift to boot.

-throw away, come back to me-

Wire wrapped fluorite—lovely
Stone, a dark purple eye. Reminder
of a summer’s day, but damned if
it doesn’t tangle with everything.

-throw away, come back to me-

Stone pendant on black silken cord.
Its weight reassuring the first morning
I woke with ill-thought-out red hair,
something to toy with at a concert.

-throw away, come back to me-

Chain mail choker, now one of many,
and not the best. He’d needed the money
to pay off that ticket. And I liked it,
so heavy and sleek.

-throw away, come back to me-

Stoke the glass into flames, twist
the metal black and snakelike.
Stone eye look back once more
And tell me what you saw.

-throw away, come back to me-

 

The pack rat thing reminded me of this poem, thought I should dust it off and look at it again. But I don’t really feel the need to change it. The same things still haunt me a bit and work as well as any other reminders. None have been melted down.

 

(Though I think my wirework has greatly improved.)

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