Tag Archives: wire wraps

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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Nightingales

I saw these cards and had to make some pendants out of them. I love the imagery of open cages, capture and freedom and the shadowy escaping birds.

 

It reminded me of the Hans Christian Andersen story. Here, illustrated by the wonderful Edmund Dulac. I suspect that the edition I had as a child edited out some of Andersen’s attitude towards non western culture, because I do not remember the Chinaman this and that…Sometimes rereading children’s stories is an odd experience. (Though I do remember rabidly disliking his treatment of the little mermaid!)

Through thinking of that story, once nightingale is in my head it brings me to John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale. The main site has images of the original manuscript, complete with some corrections and false starts. I love seeing the progression of things!

 

From Ode to a Nightingale:

 

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

  What thou among the leaves hast never known,

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

  Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,

  Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

    Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

          And leaden-eyed despairs;

  Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

    Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

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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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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.

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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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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:

 

I

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!’

II

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.

 

III

‘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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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!

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