Monday, April 30, 2012

Blow the Candle Out: Romance, the Sea, Sex and Old Folksongs

As I worked on this necklace, I remembered and began singing that old Kingston Trio song, "Blow the Candle Out," because it makes me think of sailors' valentines, crafted on long watches at sea, thinking of home.  "When I sailed into Portland Town, I called upon my dear . . . come roll me in your arms my love, and blow the candle out."  All that rolling and candle blowing seemed raw, biologically driven romance back then.  But now I read the lyrics again, I see they married first.  I have to ask, did someone sanitize this song of a sailor's yearning?  It seems so tame today, not at all raw, but at least sauteed or blanched.

On to how it was made and the components:  I spliced together two lengths of found steel chain using a beefy brass jump ring from a deep sea fishing lure and hook assembly found at a thrift in Rockaway Beach, OR.  The lure was battered and bumped and so it surely had met some very large fish.  When working with this sort of found object, you need to know that the metal components have been designed to take huge force factors exerted by large fish that resist their sad fates.  Annealing with a creme brulee torch may not work very well.  My intention was to use the hook itself for a fastener, which I did, but it was very hard to push that steel around -- I expect it was an alloy even tougher than tool steel.  There's a research question.

After degreasing, blackening and tumbling the chain, I began work on the components:

- fabricated a set of jump rings in 18 ga. mild steel wire, set them aside, removed the pin back from the pretty little enameled ship brooch, fabricated another piece to hang beneath it and suspend the cluster of curios.

- etched the bottom of an old watchmaker's vial, netted it in black waxed linen, drilled the cap and added just the right bead, a vintage brass plated resin bead.  I threaded the cap with a head pin and ended it in a loop that I then bound with white linen (more sailor's knots) in a half hitch pattern, because I think connection points deserve care, and paying attention to the thickness of wire used deserves care.  The connection there was only 20 ga. and it didn't stand scrutiny.  The knotting added to the nautical theme and solved the problem, as well.  Form following function will never fail you!

-   Once netting was done and the cap assembled, I added sand, a scrap of antique text, "kiss the child," a little sea star, and finished off the linen as a knotted and beaded tassel, using one job's tear and some shark vertebrae.  Then the whole thing was grunged with dirt and sand, for the look that it rolled out of the sea and cast up on the beach at the tide line one morning long ago.  You'll notice that the contents are not clearly visible, you have to look closely.  Maybe you can't see the tiny star at first, but it's wonderful knowing it's there, and peeking between the netting to see if you can see it.   With motion, the sand moves around inside so the sea star may or may not be visible.  You have to toy with it; that's the point.

The rest was pretty straight forward:

-  a bit of sea pottery was drilled with my handy diamond hollow core drill bit, bumps ground down, and assembled with more steel wire to two very old and mellow African brass beads and a contemporary Chinese resin bead that just sizzles with contrast while evoking faraway ports.  It got grunged, too. 

- Next, another dangling charm for the assembly, after a long pause to consider the effect of just two, which took a while.  In China, where they give mystical consideration to the meanings of numbers, two is unlucky, but three means abundance (more than two is many; it is a ancient culture, with roots that go way deep beyond modern literacy and counting, hence the magic the numbers still evoke).

-  The next charm was assembled from another bit of China, an ancient brass coin, and a traditional tribal glass bead from India, whose form originated with the wearing of jasmine buds.

-  I used the ginormous fish hook for the fastener and finished off the loops on the end of the suspending bar and a few chain links with the sweetest little brass dangles, again from tribal India.

So this sailor saw the world, made this gift for his sweetheart from things he found there, and finally came home to Portland Town and rolled her in his arms (after they got married, of course).

And they lived happily ever after.  The end.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blog Plug for "Women of a Certain Age"

Go here to help lift your spirits and continue to refine your own unique, individual taste.  What fun!

Shoes by Zaha Hadid, from her show Form in Motion

For instance, shoes-to-die-for, by Zaha Hadid, above.  Here's the go-to inspiration place for those of us who just can't find the right thing to wear on the retail racks.  You know, we don't want the youthful trollop look and we also don't want to wear sweatpants, blue hair and sensible shoes.  And we aren't through yet, either!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

O Good Grief Another Bangle Stack

I found a faux concha belt in a thrift store and thought it would be good to cannibalize.  It was made of steel and had lots of sturdy parts.  All it took to make the bangle here was to whack it on the horn of my anvil with a leather mallet until it curved properly.  I then altered it with a riveted-on mask charm and attached a bangle that handily fit the holes on either side and finished with a handmade charm.

It's called La Bruja as a tribute to Fanciful Devices, who sent me the Uruguayan $10 bill that covers one of these bangles.  Marina is definitely the sorceress of the bangle stack!

There's a link to her blog over to the right of this column.

This new set is so richly detailed and unique you may not want to wear them all at once, or you may want to cast a spell and pile them on. 

The plentiful charms include a corazon milagro, souvenir Egyptian faience pharonic charms, a netted bottle with mysterious contents sealed and collaged with a fragment of antique text, wrapped sari silk, a seabird femur, the repurposed concha with lac bead and tin charm, a recycled iridescent shell inlay bangle a bit better for the wear, and a British two pence coin.   All the bangles were then antiqued with desert canyon dirt for that look of archaeological antiquity and sealed with encaustic resin.  And I thought I would quit  making them after the last stack . . .

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea (Fuzzerbee and me)

I joined Fuzzerbee of Etsy, whom I met and immediately befriended (it was as though we had always known each other) at Art Is You in Petaluma last fall, for a little 4-day beach vacation in Rockaway Beach, Oregon.  There the great Pacific rolls into the shore this time of year with cool winds and a battering surf.  Magnificent and a little too grand.  And it was windy and rainy.  And US 101 is lined with many antique and thrift stores and the car kept stopping at each one, until we were well and truly satiated.  So, no seascapes here, just pictures of The Rockaway Hoard, which follow.

You'll see some bones that did come from a backshore prowl along the jetty that produced wonderful driftwood and bits of things that had succumbed to the sea or predators.


Here's an overview of some of the good pickins.  We were easily able to justify all this effort because we were pretty sure we would find something we wouldn't find at home -- fresh old things, you might say.

These antique clay pipes were found in a dusty box in the back of a store in Wheeler.  I have since learned they can be dated by the size of the hole at the base.  This one seems to be a copy of something that would have been briarwood, maybe.  I love the spiky little knobs and the smudge inside where the tobacco had been smoked.  These are found mostly in the British Isles, where sailors had imported the Foul Habit from the Americas.

Bird bones found in a jetty backwater, well bleached and clean.  The center one appears to be part of the neck vertebrae.

Nice crusty old tea tins and a tray with a Chinoiserie motif and black background on all three -- calling for something, not sure just what, yet.

Fuzzerbee and I agree that, despite the rare charm of the pipe bowls, these percolator tops took the cake -- found in another dusty box in a back room; someone had collected them and given up an unusual collection.  It was hard to get away with just these two, but there were very few of these smaller ones, most were more like lids.  Well, some people will collect anything.

Another nice piece of porous bone, arranged with the vertebra and a ginormous fishing lure and hook that appears to have seen quite a bit of action.

I have to thank Fuzzerbee very, very much for these glorious Mahjong counters, so special and delicious it will take me a bit of time to internalize them enough to do something with them.  Whatever happens will have to be spectacular!

More of Fuzzerbee's largess, with Mahjong tiles and chess pieces, along with a piece of pottery I found on a retired railroad track.

Beautiful bleached bones!

We enjoyed a righteous burger and wifi service at The Whale Spout, and I recommend a visit there where you will meet The World's Sweetest Waitress, if you ever get to Rockaway Beach, Oregon.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stack 'Em Up -- More Bangle-o-Rama Drama

Here's an 8-bangle stack with a beachy theme: hand painted shells, sea urchin spine, a steel spring bangle with an engraved shell seahorse, an anchor, a holy medal, shark vertebra, vintage beads. Torn silk, hemp and inlaid bone, distressed and aged to have that look. You know the one where a traveling dancer just keeps adding to the stack and never takes it off so it gets a lifetime patina. And go ahead and dance like nobody's looking. Barefoot on warm sand.

Wonder of Wonders!

Okay, artists and lovers of  art, what would you say if you could visit the collections of great museums all over the world, without having to go through the airport scanner?  Any day, whenever you like?  Well, indeed you can!  Visit Google Art Project, bookmark it and return again and again.  Let's see, today, I think I'll visit the Tate, or shall it be the Ufizi?  Hey, both!