Tag Archives: magpiesmiscellany

Points and Wire

I’ve mentioned the awesome Dusty before- she of the chrysocolla and ammolite gems and of the generally stunning wire wraps. (And square wire guru. It’s her influence that has me still trying to make my peace with square wire!)


She’s done some fantastic collaborations with a flintknapper on deviantart, Daniel Pierce.


Daniel is a Paiute & Shoshone tribal member from Big Pine California. He’s continuing the tradition of flintknapping, using both natural and cutting edge (sorry, unintentional but unrepentant pun) materials. His obsidian points are gorgeous–very sleek and tactile, and he’s done some fantastic work with glass and fiber optic materials too. (I’m partial to the purple!)


His work is an awesome mix of the traditional and the modern, and Dusty’s wrapping suits his work to the ground. (Or else his shaping suits her wrapping, they feed off of each other nicely.)


He’s an awesome guy we’ve both gotten friendly with and watched his artistry progress in what feels like an astonishingly short period of time. (His photography has really improved too…)


Last year he contacted a number of us and asked if we’d be interested in some of his pieces. He was cleaning out his collection as part of a fresh start and new styles. It was a fantastic chance for a lot of us to try working with a different type and shape of material.

He also seems to have some of the worst luck out there. He lost his home three weeks ago in a fire, pretty much everything was gone: personal items, supplies and the tools of his trade. He was debating giving up his art. (I think all of his admirers set his rear straight on that nonoption immediately.)

Dusty decided to sell the pieces she’s made using his work as part of a fundraiser to help him get back on his feet and get creating again. I thought it was a great idea and took out the blades I had yet to use. This one is a mix of my older style and a new ribboning effect, the other I’m still bickering with. Clicking on the images will bring you to the shops.


You can ogle his deviantart gallery for points and finished blades with handles, plus some step by step photographs of how he gets from chunk of obsidian to finished point. Which is amazing and requires patience I don’t think I can comprehend, since I get bored cleaning off fossils! There’s an interview with him on the Modern Flintknappers website.


Filed under Crafts

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…)


Filed under Crafts, Natural Science

Stases and Searching

sta·sis [stey-sis, stas-is]

noun, plural sta·ses  [stey-seez, stas-eez]

1. the state of equilibrium or inactivity caused by opposing equal forces.

Origin: 1735–45;  < Greek stásis  state of standing, equivalent to sta–  (stem of histánai  to make stand; see stand) + -sis -sis



rut, pitfall,

evil to avoid?

Or the deep breath

before the freefall?



Stasis II



            not calm

            nor patient.


in the Sargasso


for the barometer





on lodestone,

cradling a useless compass

            going nowhere,

            pointing everywhere.


                                    for the stars

                                                to shine.


            not calm.

Gathering potential



                        I hope.


It’s a word I’m mildly obsessed with, since it’s a state I find myself in probably too often. I don’t normally post things without analyzing them a bit more, but wrote these at work and needed to exorcize them as it were.


So, how do you break stasis and regain the impetus to movement?


Filed under Poetry

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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Filed under Poetry

Pack Rats and Upcycling

Old watch part, broken charm, vintage stamping.

I was given an illustration of a pack rat awhile back done by an artist and graphic designer I admire. It was meant kindly, but I was really insulted (by the giver, not the artist). It was a mean looking rat with a horde of junk.


Is that me?


I save a lot of stuff, and some of it I should probably get rid of, but a large extent I think there’s inspiration to be found in clutter. You never know what will be the perfect bit to finish off a project.


Small plastic fruit from a Christmas cracker? Perfect for the pirate doll I made so she doesn’t get scurvy. (True story.)


We won’t get into keys and watches and the old *stuff* that make excellent bases for steampunk projects. (My Wells watch is one of my favorites. Two broken watches and a piece of velvet too small to sew with.) I’ve made chainmail from wire scraps (the low/high point being micromail I made using scraps from my wirework wrapped around a doll making needle so the rings would be small enough) and charms made by hanging small bits and bobs off of said chainmail. I’ve jazzed up old hats by making flower fascinators out of ribbons, old buttons and broken earrings… 



Denim from no longer usable jeans and an old button.

People upcycle the most wonderful things. I’m such a sucker for the melted and reshaped crayonsOne artist makes fantastic classic jewelery from the security lining of envelopes.


Give pack rats some credit!


So, continuing with the Poetry month theme, here’s one of my favorite poems.


Yes, it’s a children’s poem, but I still love it. And really I really feel like Hector some days. (Especially with his twists of wire, I’ve bags of different metals that are still long enough for binding wraps!) Shel Silverstein’s Hector the Collector:


          Hector the Collector

          Collected bits of string,

          Collected dolls with broken heads

          And rusty bells that would not ring.

          Bent-up nails and ice-cream sticks,

          Twists of wires, worn-out tires,

          Paper bags and broken bricks.

          Old chipped vases, half shoelaces,

          Gatlin’ guns that wouldn’t shoot,

          Leaky boasts that wouldn’t float

          And stopped-up horns that wouldn’t toot.

          Butter knives that had no handles,

          Copper keys that fit no locks

          Rings that were too small for fingers,

          Dried-up leaves and patched-up socks.

          Worn-out belts that had no buckles,

          ‘Lectric trains that had no tracks,

          Airplane models, broken bottles,

          Three-legged chairs and cups with cracks.

          Hector the Collector

          Loved these things with all his soul–

          Loved them more then shining diamonds,

          Loved them more then glistenin’ gold.

          Hector called to all the people,

          “Come and share my treasure trunk!”

          And all the silly sightless people

          Came and looked … and called it junk.



What’s your take on *stuff*? Too much, too little, are you a save or a thrower? (Or hopefully at least a donater, let’s try to fill our landfills as slowly as possible.)

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Filed under Crafts, Poetry, Upcycling

Who Goes There?

I’ve always liked owls and the variety of portrayals of them. They can be beautiful and deadly, fluffed up and cute, Victorian or tribalsuper modern or very folksy. I’m glad they’re sort of in style now, because it means I have a better chance of finding them to nab for design elements before they go out of style again!

Although too many seem to have rhinestones this time around…) I haven’t found any stampings I like yet, but I did find some cute wrapping paper with owls that pop more than the Arthur Rackham version I love but have yet to make into  a pendant I’m entirely please with.


My mother used to have a blue and purple retro print style poster with the rhyme

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

For a long time I didn’t know it was considered a traditional nursery rhyme (I don’t think she did either). It’s original meaning was probably intended as a ‘children should be seen and not heard’ kind of thing.

I like the more general and less harsh idea of it being a reminder that sometimes we need to just shut up and listen to others and look around… It’s one we all need some days!

Some good old-fashioned nonsense with great imagery, Edward Lear‘s The Owl and the Pussy-cat:



The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

    In a beautiful pea green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

    Wrapped up in a five pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,

    And sang to a small guitar,

‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,

      What a beautiful Pussy you are,

          You are,

          You are!

What a beautiful Pussy you are!’


Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!

    How charmingly sweet you sing!

O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

    But what shall we do for a ring?’

They sailed away, for a year and a day,

    To the land where the Bong-tree grows

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood

    With a ring at the end of his nose,

          His nose,

          His nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.



‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling

    Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’

So they took it away, and were married next day

    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

    They danced by the light of the moon,

          The moon,

          The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

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Filed under Crafts, Poetry

Pendants and Papyri

“I arrive as a dweller on earth-I do what is right”

– the coffin of Hor, incense priest of Amun, Late New Kingdom (22nd Dynasty, circa 850 BCE)


First, props to the ancient Egyptian scribes. Papyrus is not easy to paint on.

Ancient Egyptian scribes started young, probably around age 9. They had an intricate language to learn!  

Egyptian hieroglyphics consisted of several hundred symbols, most of which could be used phonetically or as more of an ideogram, depending on their context and nearby modifying symbols. Hieroglyphics is used to refer to the most formal written form of their language, the version represented on public buildings and funerary art. It could run right to left, left to right, or top to bottom.

There was a cursive version called hieratic that scribes used for contracts, records and letters. In later times another variant called demotic appeared. It was probably a descendant of the hieratic styles of northern Egypt and became more common once the Greeks conquered Egypt.

So by the late period a scribe would have to know at least three written versions of his native tongue plus Greek. (Hieroglyphics were still used for public buildings and religious regalia.)

A scribe’s basic materials were simple: a wooden palette with a few holes for different colors of ink (made from soot or ground minerals plus beeswax) and reed pens.

The ancient Egyptians were the first to write on paper. They created theirs from the papyrus plant, a tall reed with a thick triangular body. The outer layers were peeled off, then the pith was cut into strips. Those strips would be placed in two layers, one horizontal and the other vertical. They’d be covered in linen and pressed. The fibers would adhere together with their own sap to form a durable paper.

My papyrus was in the form of a notebook I was given as a gift years ago. (Ah, modern comforts!)

This piece is, oddly enough, based on one of my favorite t-shirts. I bought it at the British Museum when I was there years ago. I loved the saying, but almost never wear t-shirts anymore. So somewhere along the line of sealing images behind glass to wire wrap, my brain went well you have that papyrus that you never used…

I made a few attempts to scale down the hieroglyphics. Based on a t-shirt. Based on the painting on a coffin. So it’s at least once again removed from the original. If anyone has a proper image of this inscription I’d love to see it! I found the exhibit information listed on the British Museum’s website, but they didn’t have images of the right portion of the coffin.

(I’m sure it’s somewhere along the perimeter of the wooden coffin, that’s where the styles match up…)

I wasn’t sure what colors to use. The shirt wasn’t terribly close to the original colors and the coffin was paint on wood rather than ink on papyrus. So I chose copper, green, blue and brown metallic paints since those colors crop up in Ancient Egyptian art fairly often, and I thought the metallic colors were pretty and might be a nod to their jewelry. I outline the hieroglyphs in black to try to preserve their shape.

(Given the texture of the papyrus I’m thinking a stiffer brush might be worth trying the next time, though I suspect paint texture has a lot to do with how well it would flow.)

Then I sealed the papyrus behind glass and waterproofed the papyrus from behind as well. I usually paint the back before sealing it, but I wanted to keep the texture of the papyrus. You can see the two directions of the stems and I was afraid that painting the back would lessen that effect.

Once it was dry I wrapped it in silver coated copper, bronze and blue colored copper. I topped it off with a blue lapis bead, because, really, it was that or carnelian for classic Egyptian jewelry gems, and carnelian didn’t match!


Filed under Crafts, Historical Facts and Trivia

In what distant deeps or skies…

I had that whole poetry stuck in my head problem again while working with tiger’s eye. It’s such a vibrant stone. (This particular one was very lively. And irascible. It kept trying to escape on me!)

So, besides bickering a little with the stone, I can never play with tiger’s eye without Blake running through my head.


The Tyger

by William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

 The Tyger is another piece I enjoy simply for the words themselves. Its symbolism doesn’t really do anything for me (for that I tend more towards John Keats) but I like the rhythm. You can almost feel the powerful beast padding through the forests of the night.

William Blake (1757- 1827) was another denizen of the Romantic era. He was a poet, painter and printer. I generally prefer his poetry to his other work. When I read the line “burnt the fire of thine eyes” it isn’t Blake’s own blocky and marginally striped tiger that comes to mind, but instead the work of another era. Henri Rousseau‘s 1891 painting Suprise! leaps up immediately to take it’s place.

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Filed under Crafts, Gems, Poetry


ImageI was trying to find a new way to wire wrap geodes as inspired by the other wire wrappers I watch and to get over my issues with square wire. I have trouble controlling square wire and keeping it flat so I prefer to twist it and use it to accent round wire. Other wire workers find square much more user-friendly than round because it’s less likely to slip off.

I was working with a black and white geode with crystals around the inside that reminded me of ice rime. In short order I had Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan stuck in my head with its like about ‘caves of ice’ stuck in my head.

 The shadow of the dome of pleasure

Floated midway on the waves;


Where was heard the mingled measure


From the fountain and the caves.


It was a miracle of rare device,


A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was essentially cofounder (with his longtime friend William Wordsworth) of the English Romantic movement. He treated his chronic pain with laudanum which left him with an opium addiction. (It probably exacerbated said ill-health too.)

Kubla Khan is an unfinished poem, he calls it a ‘fragment.’ It was inspired by an opium dream. The story goes that he fell asleep after reading about Kublai Khan and his summer capital of Xanadu. He dreamt of Xanadu for hours, then woke and tried to write down the verses of his dream. He only got a few set down before he was interrupted by a visitor and was never able to regain the lines.

The visitor was simply referred to as a “person from Porlock” and it’s still unknown whether there’s any truth to the story. Many poets and researchers have tried to identify this person while others say it’s unlikely that there ever was such a visitor. I myself am inclined towards the theory that it was a literary device to excuse the fragmentary nature of a poem that he felt complete despite that, or perhaps to create the feel in the reader of a disrupted dream.

It’s one of those analyze till the cows come home type of poems, but I just like it for the sheer beauty of the sounds and the imagery.

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Filed under Crafts, Poetry