Tag Archives: mythology

Antiques, IDs, etc

-from Dulac's The Sleeping Beauty and other tales

I spent two days at Brimfield last week. Brimfield is a major antique show/flea market in the area. (Well, Brimfield is the town the show is located in…) It lasts for six days and is held three times a year. Thursday I brought two friends who’d never been before. They just didn’t understand the scale of the show when I tried to explain it. There’s a book, 1000 places to see before you die, and it describes 120 acre (divided into 23 fields) Brimfield show as the world series of flea markets.

We had fun looking at old clothing and vintage hats, got frightened by some truly disturbing mixes of doll parts and old tins, and searched for treasure. (Despite two days of looking I was sadly unable to find a pith helmet. I did find a really fun Edwardian bowler, but it was well out of my price range…) I’m glad both of my newbies found fun spoils to bring home. We lucked out on the weather. I’ve done the show in driving rain (Dyed my socks pink once when I put CVS bags over them under my sneakers to keep from getting too squishy…) and in brutally hot weather too. So clear if a bit dusty was a kind start.

One of the tents had vintage trims and lace as well as buttons and modern cameos with an old-fashioned feel. We unearthed some unusual ones too. Two of us split a package of carnelian colored cameos with a Wedgwood style look that are of the god Ganesha. I also picked up more modern cameos in black and bronze of an eastern style goddess.

Any idea who she is?

They were very eye-catching. I’ve yet to decide what to do with the Ganesh pieces. The black and bronze I figured out how to do a two-tone basket weave style wire wrap with a sneaked in swarovski crystal, and I’m pleased with how she looks, but I’m not sure who she is! She reminds me of portrayals I’ve seen of the goddess Kuan-yin, but I’m not as familiar with Eastern mythology as I ought to be, so if you recognize her please let me know!

My second day I got sad news and an old book. My favorite antique book and print dealer is retiring. I tried to explain to her husband that she couldn’t retire until she found me an Arthur Rackham illustrated copy of the Tempest, but he didn’t seem to find that a valid objection. I bought a (quite mangled and therefore something I could afford) copy of The Sleeping Beauty and other tales that had been illustrated by Edmund Dulac from about 1910. Dulac is another one of my favorite golden age illustrators. He used richer colors than Rackham, and had more of a pseudo-eastern flair, though I don’t always find his little creatures as much fun as I do with Rackham. But he also has such wonderful shapes and detail. I would love to get my hands on a copy of his 1909 Rubaiyat or his illustrations of Edgar Allen Poe’s works.

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On stories, spelling, and 1001 nights…

“The Sultan Shakriar, convinced of the falsehood and inconstancy of all women, had sworn an oath to put to death each of his wives after the first night. However, the Sultana Sheherazade saved her life by arousing his interest in the tales that she told him during 1001 nights. Driven by his curiosity, the Sultan postponed her execution from day to day, and at last abandoned his sanguinary design. Sheherazade told many miraculous stories to the Sultan. For her tales she borrowed verses from the poets and words from folk-songs combining fairy-tales with adventures.” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s preface to his Sheherazade score.

My friend Jenny convinced me to enter a doll in the Eastern States Exposition this year. (After two years of trying and me wimping out.) I decided to enter one of my fairytale inspired dolls, and opted for Sheherazade.  She has (possibly too) many friends. It started with the blue one, entirely Disney’s fault, that blue=genie. Then came the mix of modern comic artists and Victorian illustrators, and I had to do a multicolored rush of them, and a Sheherazade to tell the tales. She ended up taking a red ribbon at the show, so once the holidays are a distant memory I’ve got to start plotting how to get a blue one next year. (To at least color match Jenny’s many fiber ribbons. She even spun the red highlights in Sheheradade’s hair; how many dolls get custom highlights?!)

Color and shape-wise I was first influenced by the vibrancy of P. Craig Russell’s  work in the story Ramadan. (This is a story in the amazing Neil Gaiman’s  Sandman.) Then I saw the work by Mark Buckingham and Daniel Vozzo in the series Fables, not as striking as Russell’s but great movement and hints of detail. (Disclaimer: Yes, I’m a bit of a geek. These are both wonderful comics/graphic novels steeped in art, history, literature, philosophy, and the liberal arts in general and seasoned with complex story arcs and an off sense of humor.)

I like using the more brilliant colors of modern influences in my dolls, but really want to catch a hint of the delicacy of the Victorian/Edwardian illustrators.  For example, the gentleness of the fabrics in Dulac’s Sheherazade.  I also want to figure out how to make her curled Turkish slippers.

I will guiltily admit that I’ve only read the Burton translation of 1001 Nights and that only in pieces. I find a distressing number of the characters really annoying. Sinbad especially. He goes on an adventure, everyone dies but him, he marries and becomes wealthy, then gets bored and goes on an adventure and everyone dies…rinse and repeat. You’d think he’d learn…

I’d heard that a conductor I liked was going to be working with our local symphony, and how two of the pieces were interpretations of the 1001 Nights. So of course I had to go. They played Ravel’s song cycle based on three poems, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s suite , both called Sheherazade. I enjoyed them both, though I’ll confess that I’d like Ravel’s cycle better without the poems!

*note on spelling* Sheherazade and Scheherazade are two different anglicized varients of Shahrazad. It’s a Persian name that means ‘person of the city.’ I tend to use the one without the ‘c’ just because that’s what I’ve run across, like these two music pieces. Apparently with the ‘c’ is more common among certain translations, and is the one microsoft prefers.

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Pumpkins and Persephone’s Time

I’m a little bit of a mythology junkie, and a lot of a shiny junkie. Or maybe it should be the other way around…

Either way, I figured it’d be appropriate to cut my teeth here on my favorite season and share a taste of its art and mythology as well as its influence on my own projects.

I think most people know the basic story of Persephone; for some reason it’s always been one of those myths that just seems to strike a chord. I think I first heard it in elementary school at a play. Maybe it’s the whole explanation of natural cycles bit, or the sort of sadness/beauty/longing mix that seems just right for autumn.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti isn’t my favorite of the pre-raphaelites (I’m torn between Waterhouse and Millais) but there’s still something fascinating about his painting of Persephone. Interesting contrasts, and really nice ivy in the background!

Rossetti's Prosperine (Persephone)

Rossetti's Prosperine (Persephone)

A more modern approach appears in a piece by A.E. Stallings, one of my favorite poets. (Discovering her was possibly the only good thing to come out of a writing class I took in college.) She has a wonderful was of mixing the modern and the ancient into an elegant whole.

This caught me right away:

Persephone Writes a Letter to Her Mother

First—hell is not so far underground—
My hair gets tangled in the roots of trees
& I can just make out the crunch of footsteps,
The pop of acorns falling, or the chime
Of a shovel squaring a fresh grave or turning
Up the tulip bulbs for separation.
Day & night, creatures with no legs
Or too many, journey to hell and back.
Alas, the burrowing animals have dim eyesight.
They are useless for news of the upper world.
They say the light is “loud” (their figures of speech
All come from sound; their hearing is acute).

The dead are just as dull as you would imagine.
They evolve like the burrowing animals—losing their sight.
They may roam abroad sometimes—but just at night—
They can only tell me if there was a moon.
Again and again, moth-like, they are duped
By any beckoning flame—lamps and candles.
They come back startled & singed, sucking their fingers,
Happy the dirt is cool and dense and blind.
They are silly & grateful and don’t remember anything.
I have tried to tell them stories, but they cannot attend.
They pester you like children for the wrong details—
How long were his fingernails? Did she wear shoes?
How much did they eat for breakfast? What is snow?
And then they pay no attention to the answers.

My husband, bored with their babbling, neither listens nor speaks.
But here there is no fodder for small talk.
The weather is always the same. Nothing happens.
(Though at times I feel the trees, rocking in place
Like grief, clenching the dirt with tortuous toes.)
There is nothing to eat here but raw beets & turnips.
There is nothing to drink but mud-filtered rain.
Of course, no one goes hungry or toils, however many—
(The dead breed like the bulbs of daffodils—
Without sex or seed—all underground—
Yet no race has such increase. Worse than insects!)

I miss you and think about you often.
Please send flowers. I am forgetting them.
If I yank them down by the roots, they lose their petals
And smell of compost. Though I try to describe
Their color and fragrance, no one here believes me.
They think they are the same thing as mushrooms.
Yet no dog is so loyal as the dead,
Who have no wives or children and no lives,
No motives, secret or bare, to disobey.
Plus, my husband is a kind, kind master;
He asks nothing of us, nothing, nothing at all—
Thus fall changes to winter, winter to fall,
While we learn idleness, a difficult lesson.

He does not understand why I write letters.
He says that you will never get them. True—
Mulched-leaf paper sticks together, then rots;
No ink but blood, and it turns brown like the leaves.
He found my stash of letters, for I had hid it,
Thinking he’d be angry. But he never angers.
He took my hands in his hands, my shredded fingers
Which I have sliced for ink, thin paper cuts.
My effort is futile, he says, and doesn’t forbid it.

It was published in her book, Archaic Smile. I think it’s out of print now, but is well worth the hunt. I love my slightly beaten up copy dearly.

I get along well with the colors of fall, and so a lot of my jewelry (and to a lesser extent sewing-I’ve a great greens and red and russets quilt that I *will* finish someday…) ends up with a bit of a seasonal bias. There are just so many semi-precious gemstones with just the right textures and tones for autumn. Of course, rutilated quartz and garnet are amongst my favorites all year round.

gold fill 14 K rutilated quartz garnet wire wrap

And I don’t think anyone really dislikes tiger’s eye. The shimmer alone is winning even if you don’t count the richness in tone.

gold fill 14 K red tigereye

Still very much a trial and error type of project, but I’ve been trying to modify the tree of life pendant idea into a fall foliage style. This one has a mixture of garnet, citrine, and goldstone on copper.

copper tree with mixed stones

Just because I was feeling brave, an old poem with my own take on Persephone. Don’t worry, these won’t show up often, if ever again.

I think of Persephone now,
as the night carries a cool caress.

I think of her
poised perfectly, hovering—
if one can do that in a stately manner—
on the edge of the world.
The Sun’s warmth on her back,
a last bruised rose of summer
biting her fingers desperately;
even as she crushes the first
of the amber leaves
under her marble heel.
Behind her–
Her mother’s voice calling,
honey-thick yet corvid,
fading in the distance.
Still ahead—
In the melting dark
beyond the cold winds,
waits her near-silent husband.
He speaks only as the rocks,
slow and cold and judicious.
A rumbling echo.

Does she smile a moment—
feel the clinging heat
and the vise-like cold—
and bounce on her toes,
glad of the moment’s gift?

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