Saturday, December 28, 2013

Goodbye 2013

The last piece I will ever make -- in 2013.  I've been thinking about the seriousness of resolutions, how they are actually promises you make to yourself, and so have decided a good resolution needs a reliquary, a place to honor it and keep it close. So I made one from an old bottle, found buried in a house lot in Sedro Woolley, Washington.  It is marked "FF" in a circle, which identifies it as made by Foster Forbes Class Co., probably around 1942.  It has the beginnings of iridescence here and there, and it had no top.  I made a stopper from a crystal bead, rhinestone spacers, copper tubing and paper torn from a 1880s schoolbook, which was also the source of the pretty floral line art used to collage the front and back. The bottle was drilled to add a rhinestone fob salvaged from broken earrings, and then suspended on salvaged chain from an antique button.  It was then finished with more of the salvaged chain, spliced to six crystal beads, also salvaged, and a pretty hook to close. The stopper can be removed to insert the resolution represented as a written word, or another symbol of your promise to yourself for the New Year. It will soon be listed in my Etsy shop.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Good Movies for Holiday Sharing

My favorite comes first.  With Peter O'Toole's passing, we need to say goodbye, and fondly thank him for his gift.  There's a perfect movie for that:  "Dean Spanley."  It's a New Zealand jewel, based on Lord Dunsany's short novel, My Talks With Dean Spanley.  Sam Neill plays the Dean, a delightful performance, and the central gem of the piece, but Peter O'Toole shines even brighter. It's about reincarnation, and it's about dogs, so what's not to love?

Next, a film from Russia, historical, fascinating for the sets, costumes and ravishing portrayal of court life among the descendants of Genghis Khan,"The Horde."  As long as you are wanting a bit of delicious escapism, why not really, really escape, far, far away?


And, a third, another Russian work, "The Russian Ark," filmed on location in the Hermitage -- a bit like being invisible passing unseen through moments of history, and among the fabulous treasures of that great assembly of the greatest art. In one scene, you can see the reflection of light shining off the surface of a Reubens, so finely painted the texture is more of canvas than brush strokes, and in another, a glittering Romanov ball scene with a huge cast in the finest formal court dress dancing the mazurka, in the waning days of the Winter Palace.

  A feast for your eyes and imagination; bon appetit, and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Floods of Stone and Ice

Friend Jena and I made a timely escape from the gloomy weather on the west side of the passes, over east, to the Columbia basin, to an area geologists call "The Channeled Scablands." It's a fabulous landscape, created by ancient floods released from continental glaciers in Pleistocene times. But that's not the whole story -- long before the glaciers began to melt, even long before the glaciers, in Miocene times. great lava flows flooded the area over a period of thousands of years, thousands of feet deep.  When the glacial floods came blasting through, hundreds of feet deep, armed with boulders and grit traveling at highway speed, the lava was scoured and sculpted into a regional-scale picture of drainage patterns.

Our hike covered five miles of trail in the Ancient and Dusty Lakes area, near Quincy, Washington, rambling through two embayments of scoured lava cliffs, over a frosty sagebrush steppe ecosystem, under bright skies in blustering northerlies, that kept us moving briskly, but not too fast to enjoy our glorious surroundings.

Frozen sagebrush

Frozen lava

Jena views the Columbia

Priscilla views lava cliffs

A closeup view of carved lava

Going east for a day-long dose of sunlight is the best way to make up for the short, dark days before winter solstice.  Today, sunrise was at 7:51 am.  Sunset will be at 4:18.  'Scuse me while I take my Vitamin D.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sparrow Is Seven Years Old This Month!

Still glossy, happy and occasionally popcorning, my sweet Sparrow is 7 years old this month.  She is proof that GPs are not just "pocket pets," but can be companions for a nice slice of your life. She wants you to know certain things are necessary for happy healthy GP lifestyles, though:  Guinea pigs need to have Vitamin C supplements, first of all.  Sparrow takes chewable Vitamin C from my hand just as readily as carrots.  I provide her with timothy hay, dandelion greens in season, fresh water, an orange crate for hiding and a salt lick, along with good quality guinea pig feed.  She has learned to wheek when she hears the crackle of vegetable bags, the regrigerator door, or the knife chopping vegetables for stir fry.  She knows her name and responds to "hello piggie."  She is also grateful that I don't handle her alot and disturb her peaceful existence, but she is not fond of getting her nails clipped, although that is one of the necessary things.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October in Icicle Canyon

On the west side of the pass, October often brings gray, foggy days to the Seattle area, but there's a simple solution -- go east.  Over Stevens Pass to Leavenworth and into Icicle Canyon for a day of dazzling light.  The air, filled with the scent of Ponderosa pine basking in sunlight, invites you to breathe deeply.

In a darkened gorge at the bottom of the canyon, Icicle Creek carves stone walls into shapes that inform millenia of Earth going about her seasons, unhindered.

Larch, pine and fir grow tall reaching for the light from deep shadows cast by the canyon walls.

The high terrain that barricades The Enchantments also creates a localized ecosystem with rainforest features as prevailing winds rise and drop a treasure of moisture.  Here, a shaggy cedar tree supports tatters of moss, hanging over tannin stained waters that have drained deeply forested ridges.

Higher in the canyon, rejoice your eyes and body in warmth, fragrance and brilliant color.  Bottle it in your soul, etch in on the tablets of your heart to save for the long, gray days of coming winter.

And don't forget, winter means snowy days which means snowshoe trips with my dear friend, Jena.

I said, "cheese, Jena," and she said "Camembert."

Monday, October 14, 2013


A Lohan is not Lindsey, far from that, but one of the wise men who urged the newly-enlightened Buddha to spin the wheel of Dharma, or teach enlightenment. Lohan beads are not easily found these days; a complete set is quite rare, usually very expensive, and found in the form of a mala for use in Buddhist practice. Traditionally, they are carved from Chinese white olive pits, and each face is different. This one has an intriguing set of dots on his forehead, and I am guessing it is because the face is that of a saddhu, or ascetic wandering monk, who, even today, can be seen in India, living on alms, practicing austerities, with painted faces that perhaps signify their retreat from the ordinary life, setting them apart.

A fibula of steel with a mix of Chinese antique bits: bone mahjong game pieces, antique coin, carved olive pit Lohan head, and coral branch with red African pottery bead and rustic tin cap. It measures 3" wide by 3-1/2 inches long at its longest point (the tip of the gambling counter).

This fibula has been hand wrought from steel stock with a pin finely tapered with the hammer, twisted and curled, then tempered and quenched in oil for a glossy finish. It will make a fine shawl pin, or sweater ornament, for loosely knit or woven textiles. Just listed in my Etsy shop, here.

Lord Buddha found that austerities are not the way to enlightenment, but that that the path runs along the Middle Way. Wouldn't you just know it -- moderation takes more discipline than either self abnegation or profligacy!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Song From The Acequia

The yellow winged blackbird is a South American species. The male looks just like the redwinged variety you see each spring, but his epaulets are bright yellow. There have been sightings of the yellow winged species claimed in the western US, which experts say are actually immature redwinged types, which don't develop a fully red epaulet until maturity. Right. I could swear I saw one in Oregon ranch country, on a beautiful spring day, flashing his yellow epaulets, singing his territorial announcement from a cattail perch in an irrigation ditch. I think they are moving in on you, redwing boys!

Kim, of Numinosity, surprised me with a gift of her own earrings, and some delicious lampwork headpins, and the headpins were just too sweet to let sit for very long.  Here they are, in these earrings, together with an array of ethnic and vintage wooden holy beads.  I pulled a bit of sari silk through the wooden beads and frayed away the yellow weft, leaving just a splash of color at the top, which got me to thinking about the yellow winged blackbirds I saw one spring on a trip to Oregon's John Day fossil beds.

The wooden holy beads were originally used for a stretch bracelet, with elastic cord strung through the holes at each end. That arrangement makes them a bit of a challenge to re-assemble, but here's my solution:  first a steel half hoop with bent ends that went into the top holes; I drilled a hole in the bottom, just to the crosswise channel, and inserted a little brass eye pin, trimmed to fit and (gasp!glue!) epoxied into place.  Then, a bit of yellow sari silk with a black warp got threaded through the bottom holes.  I cut the silk to a 45-degree point and raveled out the weft, leaving just a peek of the original color up next to the bead. Next came Kim's wonderful headpin with a long long steel wire embedded, just right for stacking on two more beads and coiling closed, to jump to the bottom of the wooden miracle bead.  The tops got finished off with a pair of painted eye beads from India, with splashes of blue that echo the spatters on Kim's lampwork.  And then all except the silk got waxed and dirtied up to add to the look of something old and well traveled.

Just listed in my Etsy shop.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Mantua Maker, Elizabeth Keckley

Elizabeth Keckley was born the daughter of an enslaved woman and her master. She was nevertheless blessed with great talent and determination; she ultimately purchased her own freedom and that of her son with money she earned as a fine seamstress. That alone would be a remarkable story, but Ms. Keckley saw her son to college and herself to Washington DC, where she became a “mantua maker,” most in demand by the ladies of highly placed politicians, including, most significantly, Mary Todd Lincoln.

She was a smart business woman and thrifty manager, and she organized a mission to aid the “Contraband,” the great mass of runaway slaves who sought refuge in Washington, on the frontier of abolition. She sacrificed much of her own income to fund their relief and education.

Ms. Keckley became a White House intimate and a confidante of the troubled Mary Todd Lincoln, exclusively designing and sewing her lavish gowns and personally dressing the First Lady for festive occasions, as well as for extended mourning. Her life story is that of a heroine in tragic days of great figures and greater events, and she should stand, not in domestic shadow, but shining in the light of recognition for her phenomenal achievements.

To learn more of her life, and perhaps also change your opinion of Mrs. Lincoln, read Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini.

Imagine, this grand gown, worn by Mary Todd Lincoln,
made by Ms. Keckley, was sewn by hand, one stitch at a time; ruffles
and trim were not supplied ready made, as today.
Madame Keckley was the undisputed mistress of the "mantua" -- a fitted
gown worn over pantalettes, corset, hoops and petticoats.

In tribute, a bracelet in the Victorian manner, of steel links, antique buttons, painted and foiled Milagros, and a salvaged, well-worn costume cameo set in a vintage bezel. On the back of the rosy heart, you’ll see a small collage of Elizabeth’s face and a scrap of antique Civil War-era poetry, encased in resin to give it some wearability. The subdued reds and dark patinas give this bracelet the look of mourning jewelry, lest you forget the monumental losses of that time. (Take a lesson, and some responsibility, you politicos, of the terrible human consequences of polarity when harmony is most needed! The days of Lincoln were marked by party squabbles no less rancorous, and personally slanderous, than today's.)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Oh That Old Thing -- Relistings

I just listed these pieces, here.  The first is a steel necklace with an ammonite fossil, imprinted key, antique glass vial, and beads of "pineapple glass."  They are almost opalescent, with faintest yellow tint.  And then the ring, a wrapped and woven steel tower capturing a natural quartz crystal, and last, a contemporary copy of the ancient Ethiopian shaman's shield, hanging from a collarette of fat ovoid black wooden beads and carved bone.  And then this,

another vintage compass necklace on a handmade brass chain of rhyolite and yellow turquoise beads.  I used brass (nonmagnetic) because the compass still works (it's a souvenir of the Adirondacks, with a leaping bass), pointing to magnetic north.  The beads were chosen for their murky green freshwater-lake-ish colors. The small beads meant over 80 links with hours of work. I had to anneal the brass wire to make it workable, and then more hours spent in hand polishing and waxing the links and the compass itself.  Many layers of Renwax will protect the old paper label with the bass and stamped logo.  I am going to keep this one for a while at least; I have a great love for compasses -- it's always good to keep your bearings and to know just where you're going. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

More Calavera Shiny Stuff

But I think I need a better camera. This pic. had the stuffing tweaked out of it with Photoscape, so it does have an odd feeling to it, kinda grainy. But here it is anyway, an asymmetrical pair of earrings for Dias, of antique rosary parts, salvaged rhinestones, and vintage findings, post style, for a change. The little steel crucifix came from an antique French rosary, with rusted parts, and it is quite thin, which makes it even more charming.  Just listed in my Etsy shop, here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bling for Dia de los Muertos en El Norte

In Mexico, November 1 and 2 are the days for remembering beloved ones who have died, the first day for Angelitos, lost infants, and the second day for adults, Muertos. I love the idea that we don't really have to say a final goodbye; that our love for others will live as long as we do, and that we, in turn, will be remembered by those who love us.

The fine craftsmanship and art devoted to these festive days takes as its theme Catrina, or the calaca, and you will see wonderfully detailed dioramas with the calacas doing much as they did in life, just as they were portrayed in the work of Posada, the calavera. They provoke an ironic giggle, but what choice do you have, except to keep loving, stay on top of the dirt as long as possible, and bow humbly before mortality. South of the border, they have made something very beautiful of that. 

En el Norte, we are just beginning to catch on. Here's my effort, inspired by the holiday and the beautiful way the folk art of Mexico combines such things as rust and rhinestones.

I got a batch of wonderful little handmade terra cotta calacas here, from Susie Carranza, on Etsy. She remarked how interesting it was when I used the first ones, just plain, raw, because, you see, they are meant to be decorated.  And so this one has been painted, using dry-brushed titanium white and several washes of mixed colors, including some interference blue, and iridescent powders.

Then the assembly gathered speed: using a maple sugar tin collaged with an illustration from a Serbian language novena, La Calaca got settled into a resin puddle with some old rhinestones. But first, I had to figure out a way to suspend the pendant from the necklace. For that, a milagro corazon was drilled for suspension and riveting.  It was surprising how tough that milagro metal was.  It did not drill easily -- what sort of metal do they use?  It acts like some sort of brass.

From that point, the lovely little enameled cross with a rose finally got pulled out of the stash, at last coming back to life. The contrast between the fine enamel and maple sugar tin is piquant, I think. And also resurrected, sparkling like new after an ultrasonic bath in detergent and water, the pink and white aurora borealis rhinestone bracelet, chipped in places from mucho partying. It had been fastened with a foldover clasp, which I removed, and a safety chain, which I also removed, but which left nice little connections for some chain and rosary fragments. Then I stitched on luscious paloma-gray velvet ribbon to tie in a bow at the back of the neck. Now the assembly is ready to make someone very sparkly and beautiful.  Just listed here, at my Etsy shop.  Arriba!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Another Giveaway in the Works, Stay Tuned!

It may appear at any time.

And the winners of Givin' It Away I were:  Kelly, Janet and Kimberly.  Enjoy, my dears!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Givin' It Away

I just recalled an unsuccessful consignment, and seeing the things that have been away for a year, realize I have moved on somewhat.  They're all vintage found object assemblage, handmade, and I'm movin' on, and need space, so, first to ask for each or all, gets them.  Comment and claim!

Number One:  A little choker on dark leather made from cancelled stamps, reclaimed dirty pearls and binding wire, with rather intricate work, even if I say so, myself.  Quite Edwardian or Victorian, and a little spooky, but very girly, too.  The wire work is a technique called lashing, and I did it before I needed reading glasses.  Won't be doing that again on that scale, oh no!

Number Two.  A tintype infant with double chins peeks through a keyhole; an old pressed brass escutcheon with a few crumbs of paint clinging, a Chinese crumb glass bead, pottery button, vintage glass drop, and old key.  The strap is leather, embossed with fleur de lis.  All components salvaged and recycled.

Number Three.  Earrings cobbled from civil war-era text, old stained cotton tassels, cookie box tin, and antique buttons, with handmade niobium wires.  Grungy, but girly, and good with anything from denim to a lacy white something.  They're about 3 inches long, and very light.

Just leave a comment and they're yours if you're ahead of the others.  This is like giving a party and hoping someone will show up.  What if nobody wants them?  Somebody give them a home, please!

Obsolete Money

I just got a nice stash of coins in the mail from a friend, all traveler's pocket change left marooned by the Euro:

One schilling, Republic of Osterrieich (Austria), 1973.
Ten pfennig, 2 each, 1950 and 1971, Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland).
5 Deutschmark, 1975
One Deutschmark, 3 each, 1973, 1985, 1989
One Franc, France, 2 each, 1964 and 1977
Two Franc, France, 2 each, 1979 and 1980
2P, Eire, 1971
20P, Eire, 1986
5p, Eire, 3 each, 1992
10P, Eire, 1993
100 Lire, Italy, 2 each 1978
100 Lire, Italy, 1, 1994 (much in size than the one above)
200 Lire, Italy, Exposizione Mondiale di Filatelia Tematica, no date

These'll get added to my stash of coins to use in things.  I consider them too heavy for earrings, but bracelets and necklaces with a tribal theme, or an ornamental purse, yes.   The coins seems to have a national personality:  the German coinage features oak leaves and eagles, the Austrian, edelweiss, the Italian, human profiles as the tradition of Roman coinage lives on; and of them all, the most beautiful are the Irish coins with lovely animals, a horse, a salmon, a bull.  And their names are interesting, too:  mark, franc, lire, krone, pence, pound, and pfennig.  It must have been difficult, and disturbing, for people to give up their native coinage, so close to national identity, for the Euro, and to relearn the association to marketplace values.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


This day marks so much loss; it is not only the anniversary of the fall of the Towers, but also of Katrina's aftermath, and for me, personally, it is the day my dear brother, Perry, died, in 2005.  He had nobly lived and worked for his wife and children, even with advanced multiple sclerosis, up until the last week of his life, when he died of lung cancer.  He served aboard an air craft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin, where he must have contacted one or all of the toxins and carcinogens known to be aboard that ship. And so he was a late war casualty of Viet Nam, of our nation's way of waging war.  His death left me bereft in a way I cannot describe; he was the last sharer of our childhood, of lightening bug hunts, of scanning the skies for flying saucers, of matinees in a sticky floored movie house he called "The Greasy G," scared spitless by The Monster from the Black Lagoon and satiated with Necco Wafers. I wish I could go back and get a redo of life with him. I would be kinder and I would know that every day spent together is rare and precious beyond value -- even when he was doing his best to drive me completely nuts. Being a sister is a job I wish I had done much better!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cat and Mouse

A bit of fun here -- a pair of late midcentury earrings, one cat, one mouse, flutter beneath a shard of beach pottery, and between them, remains of rosary chain and a tropical nut in a wrinkled husk. It wears so well, quite gracefully, that you don't notice the animals until you look more closely, and then you have to smile.  The whole assembly works for formal reasons, more than for strictly followed associations -- I didn't add a swiss cheese charm, for instance.  So it's a bit unpredictable, which is another reason it's fun.  Just listed here, in my Etsy shop.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mardi Gras Dark Chocolate Goose

A chocolate mold in the shape of a goose.  I used a gun finishing compound designed for old muzzle loaders that gives a plum brown color to oxidize, 'cause I was really thinking about chocolate. Then I made two chain fragments with old wooden rosary beads, with a hazelnut I found in the woods -- a lucky hazelnut because it escaped the squirrels.  And some wonderful swirly glass beads that look like chocolate and buttercream, and more of my beautiful antique gold lame soutache braid.  And the piece de resistance, an old feve (king cake charm).  It all seems to be about mardi gras, that last bit of indulgence before Lent.

My love for Nola will never die.

I collaged in a bit of text from a French
language grammar on the back.

A close up of the feve, which is an old custom -- 
they are baked into a "king cake" as a charm for
a lucky person.  In most places, the king cake
is a custom for just after Christmas, the feast of the
three kings, but in dear, sweet Nola, the king
cake comes before Lent.

Just as with the Watch Cat, this one is very comfortable, light weight, and quite girly, for all the somber, oxidized, antiquey color.  It's French Quarter-ish, to my mind.  Who dat?

Listed in my Etsy shop here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Watch Cat Antique Chocolate Mold Assemblage Necklace

I had a watch cat once, when I lived in an upstairs apartment.  She would go to the door and growl when she heard people in the hallway.  Really.  She had been rescued from a dumpster, and I think she was going to defend her good home.

Here's a necklace made with an antique chocolate mold which I oxidized, and then foiled the eyes for a little drama and fun. It is half chain, half tied-on antique lame soutache braid. All the beads have been salvaged, some from an old rosary, some are seeds, some wood, some glass, and one tiger eye, linked into a chain assembly and then linked to the soutache.  A salvaged spring ring clasp is just next to the bird charm, in the front, so you don't have to untie the beautiful textile part. I added a perching bird charm and some bells, not loud ones; they make the softest little sound.

I collaged the inside of the mold with a scrap of from an old children's reader, to add a bit of weight and interest.

I think it wears well and it's very comfortable,
light-weight, and dainty.