Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ra & Riddle of the Sphinx

My Ra necklace was inspired by the story of the Sphinx. There seems to be two riddles of this Sphinx: the first is why it was built. The second the legendary question the Sphinx is said to ask travelers. 

Egyptologists believe the 'travelers' question came about centuries after the original Sphinx was built and bears no meaning to why it was created. Actually, the Sphinx has been around for 45 centuries according to a NOVA special I found (which I highly recommend if you're interested in the subject). The Sphinx is the biggest and oldest statue in a land of colossal ancient monuments (according to Nova). The head alone is the size of the White House, and the body is nearly the length of a football field. And research done on the statue reveal that it was carved out of one massive piece of limestone. Truly amazing.

The riddle is mentioned in early written works like the Odyssey where the Sphinx is described as a monster terrorizing the people of Thebes. It is said that the Sphinx asked travelers a riddle that if they failed to answer correctly; they were killed. Oedipus is one of the travelers and is asked:

What goes on four legs at dawn, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?

Oedipus answers "man, who as a  baby crawls on four legs, then walks on two legs as an adult and in old age walks with a cane as his third leg.'

But this riddle has nothing to do with the origin of the great Sphinx. The statue itself is quite unusual with its 'part man-part animal' structure that seems to be guarding two of the pyramids. Typically deities had a human body with an animal head, but the Sphinx is the opposite. It has a man's head on the body of a lion. Which experts believe symbolizes the intelligence of man with the power of a lion; or power in control. This would likely be ascribed to a pharaoh. Experts conclude that the Sphinx represents both a god, and a pharaoh.

Unlike pyramids (or tombs) where we know who is buried inside them, and thus who likely built them, the Sphinx is more of a mystery as to who built it and why. Given its size and stature, only a pharaoh is likely to have built it. And probably it was a pharaoh who was buried in one of the two pyramids behind the statue, which were built by a father and son: Khufu and his son Khafra. But which one built the Sphinx? And why? 

One of the clues are hieroglyphs at the base of the statue. An important set identify the Sphinx as the guardian to the after life using a combined symbol of the falcon (Horus) which is positioned just above the symbol for the horizon (Akhet). These two together means "Horus on the horizon" or the name of a deity that guards the entrance to the after life. Not to be confused with Ra (the sun God) with the head of a falcon but the sun disc overhead. Ra was thought to travel among the living during the day, and passed over the horizon to the underworld at night. Only to then appear on the opposite horizon the following day for rebirth.

To ancient Egyptians, the horizon had great significance. We see it throughout their symbolism. Another hieroglyph has two lions back to back. The curve of the lions' backs represent the horizon with the sun disc held between them. This represents the deity Aker, the god who guards the gates to the after life. 

So why are all these symbols of the sun, lions and horizon important to the Sphinx? The answer is found in the sun temple directly in front of the Sphinx. When the setting sun hits just right (the spring and the fall equinox) it creates a line right over the shoulder of the Sphinx, past the pyramid of Khafra and marking the journey over the horizon to the after life. So likely the Sphinx was designed and built as the guardian to the after life for the son Khafra who wanted to ensure a safe journey. Mystery solved.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Will it ever stop snowing?

Right about this point in the winter I just want to see the flowers start to poke their heads above the snow. I just love those first arrivals with crocus followed by groups of snowdrops and small hyacinth. It blankets our side yard and tells us like a big neon sign that we're nearly through the other side of winter. 

These are some of our snow drops from 2 years ago. A girl can dream ... can't she? I got up today to heavy grey skies, a cold that felt like my head was in a fish bowl and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed. I managed to stay up today only to watch the snow start to fall. Five hours later ... yep, still snowing. The thought of having to get out there and shovel once it stops is enough to make me cry. Yeah, I'm sick and don't have control of my senses. 

I've been meaning to post these little copper flower earrings, but my pesky day job has been busy lately. So today as I dream of crocus and snowdrops I'll post the only flowers I have in the house at the moment. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bernini Spiral

Yes, I have changed the name of this stitch. At least for me. A few posts back I talked about its origin, and its likeness to the columns that Bernini carved in St. Peter's Basilica. I'm sticking with my story.

I have avoided this stitch. It is one that has had me frustrated and baffled at many points. Never quite knowing which row I'm on and whether I should be switching up the beads. That is, until I realized that all I was really doing was peyote, in a circle, at an angle. Yes that doesn't necessarily sound easy. But it was the key that allowed me to relax and just bead. Peyote was the first stitch I learned. There is comfort in this stitch for me. A rhythm my fingers feel on their own.

Lately I've been wanting to combine beads and leather. I like the look. It feels slightly boho, not as heavy as full on beadwork and wearable everyday. This gorgeous thin, off-white leather was introduced to me from Melinda Orr. I would never, in a million years, have picked this up on my own. I would have looked at it in the store and moved on. But she sent me some, and it challenged me to get outside my box of browns and blacks. And now I can't imagine why I never thought of using leather in this way. Aren't friends amazing?

I think that I'm moving through a blue phase, perhaps an ombre phase. Whatever it is; I'm just letting it flow. There has been a lot of blue beads on the table lately and I've been working the hue. I can't say that blue was ever my 'go to' color. Normally it is green. I love green. 

One of the new tricks I've been embracing is glue. There, I said it. Yes, glue. It isn't sexy, doesn't feel 'handmade' and needs plenty of ventilation. But a tiny bit of it isn't reeeeallly cheating. It turned my Bernini spiral into a beaded bead that stays put. I used a flat disc bead at the end and dabbed just a touch of e6000 around the edges and attached them to the spiral. Now the 'bead' doesn't flop around on that sweet leather cord. Voilà

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Twisting Beads and Words

I haven't been creating much lately as my mojo seems to have been frozen under all this snow that is piling up around me. Which is strange since typically this is the time of year when I'm beading like a crazy person and making piece after piece.

But this year is a little different. I recently had a rather harsh encounter with someone in the beady community that really surprised me. She was quite demanding with her request to alter some writing I was doing, and simply would not stop until it met her approval. The accusations were of the nature that I was being careless in my opinions and potentially dangerous in my advice. That of course stopped me in my tracks as I would never want anything that I was doing to mislead someone or cause them harm. I bead because I love it, and no one should get hurt in the name of beads. In my opinion. After all, its just beads.

I was so taken aback by the aggressiveness and harsh depiction of me that I needed to walk away. If only for a bit.

I have a rather stressful day job, and often deal with abrasive people. I'm used to it, and tend to take that in stride knowing that it is part of my job to navigate issues and problems and figure out the way forward. 

But my hobby is supposed to be something that relaxes me. Something to take my mind off work. So when she came at me relentlessly, I have to say I was a bit like a deer in the headlights. I needed to take a break.

Slowly I'm easing back in. But my blog has been neglected, and I apologize if I haven't been round to see your blog. I did finally finished a piece that had been on my bead table for some time. It uses a glass ribbon cab and a bit of twisted, bead braiding. Simple, relaxing and repetitious. It made me smile as it ended up looking a bit Scandinavian with all that blue and Viking-esk bead caps on the end. Thanks for those Melinda, and thanks for shoulder to lean on.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Inspired by Basketry

I have always loved baskets. It probably stems from my mother who was quite basket crazy. She would hang them on the walls, take them out in the garden, use them as storage in the kitchen, and even as storage in her hatch-back car. I inherited many of her baskets, but my favorites are her Navajo patterned ones and her old hamper picnic baskets. I just kind of love the handmade look to baskets. 

I decided to create a bracelet that had that woven look to the sides but a sturdy rim. This is a right-angle weave attached to leather using hemp. And for just a touch of an old-world, Egyptian look, I decided to include a brass scarab cabochon as the focal. 

The craft of basketry seems to have changed very little over the centuries. In doing my little history search for this post I came across gorgeous baskets woven today as well as wonderful, rustic antique ones from around the world. You can see my collection on Pinterest, or the Etsy treasury I created below.

Basketry is one of the oldest crafts around originating back to ancient Egypt when materials like grasses, reeds, stalks of flax or twigs were abundant. These were used to make not only baskets, but mats, bags, beds, sandals or even reed rafts. It is said that basketry came first and influenced cloth weaving, pottery and even carpentry. Some say that basketry inspired pottery as early baskets were lined with clay for waterproofing and those that accidentally burned left behind thin-walled pottery. I love discovery out of what might at first glance look like a mistake. 

One of my favorite examples of a mistake is about Ivory soap. Ivory was originally just another bar soap, but the guy who ran the mixing machine accidentally left it on while he was out to lunch and it over whipped the batch of soap. P&G decided to sell it anyway, and once out on the market people were clamoring for the 'soap that floats' because at the time woman would have to dig around in the bottom of the washtub for the soap. I know, I know. I'm off track again. But sometimes I love the little side stories.

Basket Case

My mother loved baskets and often joked calling herself a Basket Case given her rather large collection
Antique Native American Indian Hupa Basket
Antler Basket with Dried Philodendron - Item 670 by Susan Ashley
Vintage Woven Boho Basket / Boho Decor / Southwestern Decor / Mexican Tight Weave Basket With Lid
Washoe Polychrome Degikup Native American Indian Tribe Paiute HUGE GIANT Coiled Native Globular Basket Giant Enormous Willow Rod Coil
Large Red-Man Picnic Basket w/ Accessories 50's & 60's
Straw Flower  Pine Needle Basket handmade
Tlingit Indian Style Spruce Root Rattletop Basket
Vintage  Hupa Basket - Mint Condition - Rattle Snake Band Basket - Native American Basket -  Indian Basket - Home Decor
Vintage Round Coiled Basket with Lid, Finely Hand Woven
Large Vintage Woven Basket or Purse - Black Straps, Handles
Native American hand woven coil basket southwestern
Vintage Native American Round Lidded Trinket Basket with Knob
PNW Native American Designs
Papago Horsehair Mini Basket & Lid Genuine Tohono O'odham The Desert People
Native American Basket / Authenticated Indian Coil Basket With Lid / Rustic Southwestern Decor / Unique Storage / Antique Handmade Container
Vintage Coil Basket Southwestern Design

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beneath the Surface :: Lessons

Recently my daughter was struggling with a problem. It would have been easier for me to pick it up and fix it ... probably within an hour, maybe two. But instead I decided that it was a good life lesson. A frustrating one, but a harmless one. It took her nearly 5 days to resolve; I coached her, but only when she asked. Sometimes there are things in life that you can't teach. It is something you have to live to understand.

My daughter Anne works with me a lot in my studio, and it is amazing to see how she creates. It's different. Different from what I might chose. But isn't that the best part? I have to hold myself back from saying "why don't you try this ....." because I don't want to stop her creative process. 

When we were at Beadfest last year Anne spent time by Melinda Orr's side. And I had the pleasure of watching her learn from Melinda. Branching out and doing things I would never have thought of. The two of them created birds' nests. Something I would have looked at and said ... "maybe we need to straighten this up a bit over here ..." But then look what she ended up making. Something she wears constantly, and takes such pride in saying "I made it."  Sometimes the lessons learned aren't for her, they're for me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beneath the Surface :: Keys

I found a pile of old keys up in our camp when my mother-in-law and I were cleaning out cupboards. I asked if they went to anything? But these keys have long since unlocked what they were meant to. Whatever doors, chests or closets they went to are long gone at this point. I was left just wondering what beautiful old wood features these might have unlocked. 

I originally thought I was going to polish them and give them new life in a piece of jewelry. But instead I decided to keep their years of wear and deep coloring as is. Sometimes the tarnish you pick up in life adds character and for people who care to look beneath the surface they might find a deeper beauty. 

It has taken me a long time to get to this point in my life. To stop looking ahead, and try to live in the moment. To stop collecting, and to start thinking about what are the few things I would put in a suitcase and take off traveling. You have to think more carefully when you know you're going to have to carry it. 

It isn't an easy thing to let go of the burden you can feel with all the responsibilities of life. They pull at you. And keep you focused to lists, dates and achievements. Not that these things aren't important. But when is it enough?

I took a look at my current key ring and realized that I was carrying around several keys that I no longer use. Why not unburden myself, pull off what I don't use? And create something new, from something old to remind myself to reassess my load from time to time. An old key for a new filter on life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Blog Book Tour :: Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading

I know that I've already told you about Karen's new book Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading, but when she said she was doing a book tour I just had to jump in!

You all may know that Karen is the reigning queen of freeform, and for good reason. Have you seen her work? There was one piece she showed on her blog as a work in progress that I just could not wait to see how she finished called: Messages in a Bottle. Yep it is in here, And yep, it is as amazing as I thought it would be. But I'll let you guys all run over to Karen's blog to get a preview from her.

I thought instead that I would give you a second peek at some of the work in the book. Aaaaaand, since I already shared with you one of my featured pieces, I asked Karen if instead of talking more about me (which of course is fun and all) it would be ok to give you all a peek at someone else in the book: Bobbie Rafferty. 

I could gush all afternoon about Bobbie's beadwork, and was thrilled when Karen said it would be great to give a shout out on her piece. But what I really wanted to know was the story behind the intriguing face? And so I asked Bobbie, and she told me that it was something a friend gave her years ago who owned a bead shop where she taught. Where she of course also frequently shopped ... what self respecting beader could hold back if you just happened to be in the shop teaching?!

Her friend bought several of the faces, but people weren't buying as the light purple tint on the profile seemed challenging? So her friend handed one to Bobbie and said "do something with it." Bobbie certainly did! But she did confess that it took her 10 years to finish, LOL. This baby went back and forth across state lines and was part of a pack up and move, then rediscovery before it was complete. 

Bobbie told me her inspiration was the sea. She said ....
"She just always looked like a mermaid or sea nymph to me, and the color of her face was the soft pinkish purple you find inside a shell. I had tiny shells from the beach, which I thought I could weave in, but getting the needle through the natural lengthwise hole formed by the swirl of the shell was impossible. I was afraid that they were too delicate to drill a hole into. So even though I swore everything would be stitched around the face, glue became my friend in making the hair. After that, I completed the bezel, made some ruffles to imitate waves and seafoam, started expanding the freeform."

I can imagine that this piece lured many to pick it up, and Bobbie said she sure did ...
"Once she was finished, she was always front and center in my display at shows, serving as a great lure for passersby into my booth.  She was in an exhibition at the Kentucky Artisans Center. I wore her to a couple of events. And then at one show, she went home with a charming lady who fell in love with her."

There are just so many wonderful pieces to pour over in Karen's book. And it isn't all just eye candy (which I know we all love). She's also got lots of instruction on stitches. and she makes it a point to show how artist bring their pieces together. Anyone who has tried freeform has likely struggled a bit with it - at least at first. It feels messy, and there aren't any instructions. So getting a sense of the thought process can be very helpful when you're trying to find your freeform style. Karen really covered a lot of territory in this book!

I hope you'll take the time over the next few days to stop in and visit the other artists on the book tour. Oh and there is a drawing too! Just hop around to the blogs and comment. Each comment (per blog) counts as an entry in the drawing (a total of 8 for each participating blog). Karen will announce the winner on her blog Saturday January 24th.

Book Blog Tour and Launch Party  January 15-20, 2015
Thursday (January 15) Karen Williams of Baublicious
Friday (January 16) Cynthia Machata of Antiquity Travelers
Saturday (January 17) Nancy Dale of NED Beads
Sunday (January 18) Bobbie Rafferty Beadsong Jewelry
Monday (January 19) Natalia Malysheva of Aqvatali
Monday (January 19) Sarah Meadows of Saturday Sequins
Tuesday (January 20) Ibolya Barkóczi of Ibolya-gyöngyei 
Tuesday (January 20) Mandi Ainsworth of Bead Circle 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Time to Stitch VI :: Beading with Graphs

Today Therese and Christine are hosting the next installment of their popular bead weaving hop A Time To Stitch. This time the theme is to use a graph to bead our projects. And Amy, from Amybeads, graciously offered up graph patterns for us to use for this hop. Quick shout out to the charity Bead-it-Forward Quilt that Amy chairs for breast cancer research. These little 2x2 beaded squares come together in quilts sold to raise the money for the charity. 

Ok, so I picked one of Amy's patterns (the bull) to bead up my 2x2 square but things did not go as planned. Yes I did bead something resembling the Bull, but no it is not 2x2. I even tried this baby twice, and both times it is not quite right. 

The first version uses size 10 delicas, which Christine and I found out from Amy are a rare and not often found delica size. Amy (an avid 2x2 square beader) said she'd never heard of size 10 delicas. Christine then fessed up saying she bought her's from a now closed local bead store. I found mine at an off-the-beaten track bead store in Manhattan, but I think they mislabeled some of them. Why might you ask do I know this? Well, you'll note that my so-called 'squares' are wonky, caused by slightly mismatched bead sizes. Heavy sigh.

The first one, I was going for a subtle pattern (pink on gun metal grey), which you'll see doesn't show up well. And is also too small for the Bead-it-Forward Quilt. I was trying to create a 2x2 to send, so I specifically asked at the bead store for the right size delicas. But you can see the tan/ bronze 'square' is also not so square. 

I gave up at this point, and moved on. I decided that a I'd use a recent Ombre cuff I made as inspiration. I wanted that Southwestern look only with leather this time. I was thinking rustic, but just could not decide on the closure. I went back and forth a few times thinking I might include snaps. But in the end went with a fiber/ button closure on the back to give it that ranch, lasso rope feel.
I'm going on record to say I tried beading graphs, but graphs did not like me much. Amy how do you do this? Seriously. I think I'm just a bit too 'freeform' in the way I bead. I also cannot paint by numbers, at least the colors never match up because I follow what's in my mind's eye - never the instructions. Perhaps that's why I could never seriously consider carrying out forgery, well that and the lack of artistic talent for painting. Yeah, I'm sticking with that answer.

Thank you Christine and Therese for constantly pushing me to try new techniques, stitches and styles. I love this challenge and can't wait for the next installment. Bring it on! Be sure to check out all the other artists participating today: our hosts (Therese and Christine), Samantha, Karin, Wendy, Dagi, Lola, Paula, Karin G, Becky, Ana, Alenka, Debbie, Nelly May, LiliKrist, Sally, Maryanne, Kim and Amy.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Cyprus :: Boat Design

For years, I've had a love affair with this old Cypriot design (5th- 4th centuries B.C.) sometimes called the 'boat' design. I came across this design years ago from a replica by The Metropolitan Museum, and I have been wanting to incorporate it into a pair of earrings ever since but just hadn't found components I liked.

I love the simplicity and fluidity of this half moon shape, which has appeared in many materials such as crystal, carnelian, shades of metals; especially in copper. Perhaps the 'boat' shape comes from the area's fishing activity? That I couldn't confirm, but would make sense.

The island of Cyprus sits in the Mediterranean Sea, nestled up by Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. This location gave it a cross-road position in the area and strategic export trade for the Mycenean people who settle on the island. But it also made it a prime location for repeated invasions through the centuries. Thus, the island was visited, invaded and talked about through the ages in many languages. Writers have called it by names such as: Kryptos (Greek for hidden), Cuprum (Latin for copper), Kerastis (fertility), Kypris (name ancient writers gave to Aphrodite; including Homer), Kypros (Greek for Henna, a plant native to North Africa) but Kypros also means copper (pre-Greek word; Etocypriot language). Just to name a few, but there are many more. 

Most attribute the naming of the island back to the copper discovered on the island during the Bronze age (2500 B.C. to 1050 B.C.), which is pretty friken old in my book. 

While I love the smooth shaped stone of the Met's design, I wanted to use a metal in my earrings. It seems more like what would have been created in Cyprus centuries ago. I also decided to use a bit of chainmaille at the top to hold the design together and give it that old world look. I included earring posts with medieval flare that I'd been hoarding for some time, but have now found the perfect home. Maybe not exactly a 'replica' of the original Cypriot earrings, but I never seem to follow instructions to the letter. That's just me.

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