Monday, August 27, 2012

Namib Nomad Fantasy Tribal Fusion Tassels

I have a weakness for tassels, and also for deserts.  I have been puttering with kumihimo braiding and natural dyes.  At last they have all come together in a neckline ornament with shells and beads and beach glass, named for the Namib, the most ancient of deserts, a place where life subsists on fog from the sea.

The hook began as a shard of bone found on the Oregon coast, mammalian, but what mammal, I cannot say.  I cut out the hook shapes with a jeweler's saw (the spiral plastic blade worked best), and trimmed the edges with my Dremel burs.  Beware!  Wear a mask if you are doing this.  It smells bad and is probably bad for you.  But the results make me happy;  I love the texture. Finished it off with a good coat of polyurethane and wax for a soft shine.  The effect of the dyes on shell fragments is quite delicious, too.
I used an 8-strand braid pattern and bamboo fiber crochet yarn.  The tassels were died separately, in madder and alkanet, with an alum mordant.  You'll see details also of Himalayan nettle yarn, netting the large, nacreous bivalve shell.  The shell picked up some of the madder dye, which makes it look opalescent in moving light, and the sea glass fragment above also took on some color.  I don't think either actually absorbed the color; it's just that they were porous from sea tumbling and the color settled into low spots.  The bead is a precious antique Molkowane palm nut bead from Africa, the Kalahari,  most likely made for home use, not trade, and thus it's just oozing mana.

There's no reason to restrict the piece to the neckline -- it could be part of a headdress or looped onto a bag or belt.

The thing I love about tassels and hanging beads is that they fuse movement to ornamentation.  In this piece, as the parts move, different things are seen, so it is multi-dimensional.

Here's a detail shot of the bone hook.  It looks fabulously old, right?  I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for more material like this as I walk the tide line.

It's always good to explore new directions and think of far-off places.  And use alliterations like Namib Nomads.

Now available in my Etsy shop!


  1. You and I seem to have very similar tastes when it comes to fascination with desert culture, colors and - bone. This is a beautifully creative and sublime piece.
    xoxo Juliette

  2. Priscilla, do be very careful about breathing bone dust, or any other organic dust.
    Best practice is to work wet, as when drilling shell.
    That said, I love the piece itself.
    One more desert culture and natural dye nut,

  3. Janet is Soooooo Right! I use the same mask I use for enameling when drilling shells and bone and keep them wet, too. And do the work outdoors if possible. Thanks for the reminder, Janet -- honest, folks, it won't help to cut corners on this safety practice.

  4. Such beautiful soft it.

    I picked up a few of those sea beans last winter on a south texas beach...I need to find them & attempt to drill them. ;) Here's a great article on them:

  5. I love the giant ones, entada giga. Not easy to drill, actually, with very hard shells. Thanks for the link, And they'd look so cool netted.

  6. Genius big hook. Wow, how inventive! This whole piece is so intriguing, so soft and evocative of the desert indeed. And such warm and muted colors. I was so amazed at the tassel shops when I went to Morocco.
    Going back to that pic of the hook over and over. Wonderful.