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.)