Saturday, September 29, 2012

Space Gypsies and the Bead Markets of Earth

As I mentioned earlier, when Space Gypsies visit the Bead Markets of Earth, they park their caravans on the dark side of the moon, where it's hard to get a fix on their exact location.  They are a hardy race, but the depredations of the wars have left them wary. You can count on them to visit Earth regularly for the best beads in the known Universe. They are especially fond of Africa and Central Asia, where ancient beads seem simply to spring from the soil. The other thing about the SGs is that they are oblivious to commercial branding or inherent "value," so they pick what they like, and combine colors freely, since they don't believe that colors can clash. These elusive folk have a way of thinking for themselves and following their own roads. Unpredictability is a good thing.

Here's a 44-inch-long lariat fastened with a curious gray mother of pearl button, long enough to serve the owner in many ways, as a bracelet wrap, a long necklace, a hip wrap for firelight dancing, or even wrapped about a turban. You can see it's quite the magpie's hoard of many beads:  painted Indonesian pottery, hand made rose petal and lavender beads, Masai pink Cheyenne trade beads, glimmers of fresh water pearl, natural seeds, labradorite, garnet, tiny faceted oxblood seed beads, and others. It's a fascinating treasure to entertain the eye.

And of course what SG is without a goodly selection of very long beaded earrings?  There are never too many, even if they do crowd one's helmet during extra vehicular activities.

I was able to pin one of them down long enough to obtain these lovelies, soon to be available in my Etsy store.  The first selection is a fine example of the SG penchant for combining salvage with antiquities; you may recognize some of the previously purposed metal, perhaps not.  The second selection displays antique mercury glass bugle beads and rare Japanese lacquer beads on steel, suspending mourning jet glass half moons.  Both evoke unknown planets and remote orbits, but the SGs will never reveal where they have been or where they are going.  However, if you want to meet one of these interstellar travelers, I suggest parking yourself in a suq near a bead merchant and keeping a sharp eye out for shoppers who look unaccustomed to gravity.  There's a certain sway in the walk.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nuthatch Butt

I dunno why just as I get the shot set up the little cutie moons me, but there you have it.

Fall is here for sure. Nuthatches grab what they can and fly off to someplace private to cache their food for winter.

See the bittersweet vine? Those bright berries seem to be a good source of dye for my natural dye puttering. Hoping that gorgeous tomato-y red won't wash away. I have seen some birds eating them, but they are toxic to humans and pets. Like so many things, bright, shiney, alluring . . . and poisonous!

Here's your sound track for that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Blackberries, Silk and Linen

Now curing on a tree limb out back:  two silk scarves dyed with a couple of handfuls of blackberries, and a linen sample dyed with an assortment of pansy petals and blackberries.

They'll need to dry for a while and then just sit around for another while, and then get laundered gently, dried and then pressed.

'Think I'll finish the scarves with some crocheted bobbles to weight their ends, and the little linen sample seems to cry out "reticule"!  I could see it with drawstrings and tassels, as a sweet little evening bag, just big enough for a phone, cash and keys.  You could slip it over your wrist and dance the night away.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Textile Museum: A Magic Carpet Ride

You can enjoy an online tour through the collections of The Textile Museum in Washington DC. The sample above is from an online presentation, "Pieces of a Puzzle: Classical Persian Carpet Fragments,"  a true magic carpet ride that includes technique and design segments, along with more beautiful examples.  The site includes other presentations and fine resources for the designer artist.  Take a peek, and I'm sure you'll agree!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fresh New Goodies!

Tzitzimitl is the Aztec star diety and I think a fitting name for this stunning Dias de Los Muertos necklace with a Mexican folk art calaca as its centerpiece. The holidays in honor of the dead have their roots deep in ancient Mexican culture. See how the bottle cap is stitched to the baseplate with binding wire? Cool, and an example of how structure can be design, or at least I think so.

The bottle cap was really made beautiful with techniques I learned from the demented Michael deMeng, using acrylic paints. I call that "deMengified."  With a bit of inventiveness you can make a thing look, I dunno, extremely rare, when it's only a smooshed bottle cap found in the street. Thank you, Michael!  You should tap on that link and go visit his blog; you won't be sorry, I promise.

It all started with a small, adorable calaca I got from 
Susie C. on Etsy. Mui autentico, and they just make me weak in the knees with happiness. The first ones I used, you will see in a previous post, I didn't paint, but Susie described that as "raw," so now I'm getting out the brushes.

At last I got up the gumption to try cutting up that wonderful old bullet riddled, sandblasted, rusty enameled pot I found out in the desert. Those little dots on the deep dark blue background look like stars to me. The painted Indonesian clay beads add to the idea -- they look sorta like little planets. And steel hoops, of course, with brass rivets. Now do check out those ear wires. At last!  Black niobium, which I ordered in 20 ga. wire from Unkamen Supplies on Etsy. I have been wanting black niobium for a very long time, and Ralph was kind enough to make up a batch for me and get it out to me within a week. Awesome, Ralph! It's a wish come true.

These babies are five inches long, so have a long neck or improve your posture, dears.

More of those painted pottery beads with sweet etched patterns in them. These are made with, from bottom to top, tropical seeds, bone spacers, Indonesian bead, antique Kuchi spacers, Indonesian bead, stacked bead caps and ta-daaa! tecktites, the glass fragments that result from meteor strikes when the fragments of earth are melted and fall back as glass; knobbly glass beads topped with bead caps, and again ta-daa!, antique crescent shaped black mourning beads worked into findings to suspend the whole shebang, hanging from some of Ralph's black niobium again.

I call them "The Bead Markets of Earth."  Because, of course you must know that Space Gypsies always park their caravans on the dark side of the moon before shuttling down to earth for the best bead trading in the known universe.  They're 3-3/4 inches long, and I think yummy as all get-out.

Time for a break from making. Because the workroom looks like the Clingons sacked it, so I got some cleaning up to do.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tarim Desert Inspiration

Inspired by the Tarim mummies, the vestige of a mysterious people who lived a nomadic life in the Tarim Desert, along the Silk Road. The desert is also called the Taklimakan, and the area is now home to the Uyghur people.

The ancient Tarim textiles are especially interesting, with some of the oldest known examples of felting and braiding. A study of their artifacts reveals so much that is enlightening about human history: they bridged the dawn time when livestock were kept for textiles rather than slaughter only, showing modern people just how important is the cloth on your back, especially in a high altitude, alternately freezing and baking desert. There's evidence that the development of felt and braiding are rooted in a nomadic lifestyle, since furniture for weaving would not be required, and trampling hooves in a coral would have created the first felt, which was then taken up and put into boots, and with much gratitude. Flash of inspiration!  Don't eat the sheep!

After that, selective breeding selectively produced the long haired goats and sheep we know today.  Imagine ur-sheep with short coats which would explain felting long preceding spinning and weaving.  Well, I diverge, but that's inspiration.  Among these people, finely worked textiles were a sign of wealth, and they were sumptuous, indeed.  And inspiration for this evocative, sumptuous neckpiece, that can be worn in several ways, since the hand dyed kumihimo braid that is its foundation is 40 inches long (oh hours and hours of braiding).

Fascinating beads, too:  contemporary Indonesian glass head (looks very old, though), painted pottery, woven fiber, found shell fragment, ostrich shell, wood fired pottery, recycled African glass and an antique trade bead.  Just listed in my Etsy shop.  I think it would be glorious tied over a hip scarf with all those tassels flying about on a dancer in motion.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Place in Heaven Is Assured

I cleaned out the fridge!  After removing all the science projects, it looks spick and span, or ship shape and Bristol fashion, but the pickin's are slim. You have to admire the reflection of that can of Crisco, don't you?

The project really took off when I realized that with such a sunny, dry day as today, I could take all the shelves and trays and bins out on the deck and take the pressure washer to them.  It just blew away all the gunk.

Now I am feeling virtuous, but I need to get out to the grocery store.

Abbie, of course need do nothing to earn her place Up There.  I'm her project and she is pretty good at redeeming humans -- they start to wonder what did they do to deserve such a sweet friend, and then start trying to live up to it.  That's what earns her place.  Works for me!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Autumn Equinox (On the Cusp)

In a week, I'll begin another year,  my 70th year.  Who would have thought such a thing? Shocking.  But I had best get used to it, because if I am lucky, there will be more, and with them more losses. September always sets me off; my birthdate has managed to collide with many tragic losses.  Oh, I won't make the list, but I am feeling a bit like this leaf, found this morning, walking with Abbie -- tear stained and getting crispy around the edges, but still green, mostly.

The mind is so odd and incomplete -- we know we are mortal, but can't understand it. We know  about age, passing time and its encroachments, but we can never truly accept them.

So here it is, wabi sabi autumn, my birthday, and long thoughts about impermanence, and the beauty that is implicit there.  It's a lonely feeling, sometimes, thinking, trying to understand, the one thing we can't comprehend.  It just remains a mystery, how we can think of aeons of time, even measure them, and yet be so perishable ourselves.

It needs a sound track; click these and enjoy some September blues:

La-de-da, de-la-de-dum 'tis autumn.  Bob Dorough with the lyrics here.

Call the north wind to come on out  . . . to shout, la-da-de-la-de-dum, 'tis autumn.

The falling leaves drift by my window.  Those autumn leaves of red and gold.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More Chucho, Is that Chuchissimo?

The radio is rocking with Paquito D'Rivera as I finish off these photos and begin to think of how I shall list the necklace and bracelet set.  I like them so much, somebody should snatch them up before I decide to keep them!

A cobbled long necklace of rosary chain, a bit of old red tin, a picture hanger, a milagro, two tribal bits, one brass from Africa, the other silver from Afghanistan, some sort of steel thing from an automobile found in the street, to which is riveted (with a gold ball ear post) a resin inlaid picture of Mr. Eyebrows With Hypnotic Gaze in a local brew bottle cap, and a funny little black seed with reclaimed bead cap.  I have papered over the backs of the tin, the bottle cap, and the front of the whateveritisautomobile thingy.

You see a combination of modern, commercial chain, dead stock (the red beaded brass chain) and bits of a well worn black rosary with connector medal.  It's chucho again:  old and new, all mixed up with ethnic sources, found objects, precious and profane materials.

Here's the back with text from an 1800s Wilson's Reader having to do with human physiology.  I like the way it is framed by that thingy and draws attention to words that may explain what it is all about.  But, querida, it is chucho, and it may be about nothing, or about something so abstruse words are useless.

Abstruse, that's recondite.

On to a bracelet combo that I have held onto for awhile.  A wide fold formed copper cuff that has been left work hardened so it has a bit of spring to it, and the thin recycled thrift bangle that has been transformed with a small collection.  On steel jump rings are a tourist's souvenir faience scarab, a bright chunk of sponge coral topped with a fossilized sea skate gill plate and next to that a piece of crinoid stem (the local folk call them "corkscrew critters" where I found this one near Athens, Georgia).  I love the natural finish of the copper left from the last annealing, and everything has been generously waxed with Renaissance Wax to preserve the finish and create a soft luster.

A hint to my friends who struggle with pix of your work:  add a small bit of white paper to the shot and use it for white balance when you do the digital fix-up; it helps to remove that gray cast that makes for a dull photo.  There are many ways to tweak your pix to make them more interesting; my favorite is Photoscape, which is downloadable free and easy to understand.  I have the other photo program but it isn't so user friendly, and I just gave up on it.  A few sessions with Photoscape, though, and you will have photos that will present your work well.

It's all about compensating for lighting, which is hard to get right in a home studio.

Lighting is what shows off those textural details that make your work interesting, like the hammer marks here.

See the little scalloped piece of paper in the back?  It isn't so intrusive, is it?  I think it actually adds something to the composition.

And this is one fat, special, chucho copper cuff.

All to be listed soon in my Etsy shop.

Back to the bench.  I'm on a roll with this chucho idea.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What is Chucho?

Chucho.  I have been thinking about the fact that my work ranges around quite a bit and trying to sort it all out into style consistency. It's consistent for me, but honestly, anything I make is dictated by its ingredients and what they may say to me, so it can be wide-ranging. Lately I have been thinking "chucho" -- it would cover that sort of urban ethnic-amuletic-tribal-post steampunk-space gypsy- found object assemblage thing. Imagine curanderas on the corners instead of Walgreen's, commutes on foot, laughter instead of blaring horns, making do; I could go on and on with the idea. It's irreverant, ironic, iconic, magical realism, and above all, really human, and so kinda tough. Here are some things I've done that define the idea:

Carmel Ripple, whatever, every flavor is divine at Our Lady's Ice Cream Parlour. The focal objects are very old paper sample spoons that I have waxed for preservation, vintage pictorial holy beads depicting the Blessed Virgin, Civil War era bone buttons, and some well worn gray mother of pearl buttons. The assemblage is light weight yet long enough for dramamatic impact; they're 3 and a half inches long, and make a whimsical statement sure to get you into some interesting conversations. Irreverent reverence, for starters.  Available at my Etsy shop.

And since all things are impermanent, and the paper ice cream sample spoons moreso, these earrings will be just as crazy chucho fun when they drop away from the assemblage.

Chuco is impermanence, survival, another chance at life, reincarnation, resurrection, inevitable loss . . .

Save the Gypsy Ta-Tas! Recycled and redesigned bangles in juicy pinks and lavenders carry the theme, save the ta tas, now, not later. Each charm is an original, small bit of assemblage art, starting with the vintage toy plate suspending the iconic pink ribbon and a Mexican milagro of breasts. Ten bangles in all. Wear them all at once, combine with others you have already, or wear a few at a time, the choice is entirely yours.  Chucho is recognizing you have choices when you're feeling cornered.  Also at my Etsy shop.

Chucho doesn't blink at the wretched truth, but accepts it with an ironic shrug, sniffs it for magical possibilies, and ambles on, looking for new mischief. Think Trickster Coyote.  Deceptively flea bitten and very powerful because we always collaborate in our own destruction and resurrection.  What does that say about innocence?  Chucho is guilty until proven innocent?  I mean, you're alive and kicking, you must be guilty of something, right?

Chucho is also things you at first think are garbage, but on close examination they turn out to have a unique and rich beauty. Unintended, uncontrived color and texture. New formal combinations unexpectedly pop out at you, and you laugh at things that scare you. Memento mori, you know. I love these little terracotta skullies, rusty horseshoe nails, old hinges, smooshed bottle caps that end up looking like mandorlas. The earrings went to live with Mary in Wisconsin, and I suspect they're not just for Dias or Halloween anymore. The pendant is assembled from bottle caps, rivets, an old lucky horse shoe blingy brooch with a stone missing in exactly the right place, a wooden rosary, and it's still available in my shop, too.  Chucho is bricolage, found objects, the patina of generations of long, dusty journeys.  It's spiritual; it's archaeological; it's anthropological.  Ai, viva Chucho!
I can't think of any comment suitable to embellish this, except to ask you to tap and enjoy; may you be deeply provoked!

Now you may go on with your day.  Remember all he said.  Find more about this and other inspirations here:

Practice compassion, be kind, no dogma necessary.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Aureate Plum, Arroyo Seco, NM

Lucky, excited me!  I am to be represented at Aureate Plum Tea House, in the sweet little village of Arroyo Seco, NM, not too far from Taos.  I now have the perfect excuse to travel there on my expense account, he-he!  Aureate has online sales as well as a museum and gallery, and represents artists and makers of quality (ahem, that would be moi).  Above is a link to a play of the new album of Chimney Choir, who Aureate hosted in a recent shindig.  Quality all around, my friends!  It's worth a visit to Arroyo Seco, go, online if you must!  A delightful way would be to tap up that link to Chimney Choir for a musical background while you explore the website link.

Portraiture of Best Friends, a Handy Hint

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I will
have fries with that.

It really helps to say "treat" instead of "say cheese."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

House of York Historical Romance Assemblage

Okay -- ultra feminine bricolage, perfect for the cover of a bodice ripping historical romance, just listed in my Etsy store!

This was an exciting weekend design journey -- I decided to rework the rhinestone brooch that had been part of a rather underwhelming necklace.  When I laid it out on my work bench these other parts seemed to jump right to it with little effort from me; I mean it just sorta happened!

First problem was the floral brooch.  It is plastic, even though it looks like enameled chippy pot metal.  It didn't conform well to the surface of the rhinestone brooch.  Solution:  I warmed it up on my handy coffee cup warmer (from the local thrift) and carefully curved it while it was still soft.  It was then papered over a la Keith LoBue, as was the rhinestone pretty; they were wired together and then papered one more time.  I love doing that; it adds another dimension of interest in the old text, it is real bricolagey and I am crazy for the delicious old old papers and fonts with bits of words that fool you into trying to explain their presence.  Provocation, I call it.  Makes you think.

Here you can see how the papering helps to stabilize the wiring, gets it away from the skin of the wearer, and finishes off the back, unifying the parts.  A curious owner might want to make sense of the fragmentary text, which came from an 1800s encyclopedia and actually has the words "mind and body" in one of the sentences.  Pretty new age for the 1800s, eh?

I used a modern chain, an old black glass rosary, and cobbled-together chain fragments and antique filigree beads for a three-strand necklace that helps in scale and visual texture to balance off the rather heavy pendant.  Surprise, the scholastic key award seems to belong -- the result reminds me a bit of those old royal orders that were worn as badges and chains and were weighty in significance, but still quite pretty.

I think the whole array turned out looking much older than the parts ever did, and they were both antique and vintage, mostly.  Oxidized with Jax Pewter Black, then finished off with a generous coat of Dorland's and Dirt, allowed to cure, then waxed with Renaissance Wax and lightly buffed.  It looks like it got passed down in the family.  Distaff line, most likely!