'The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars. Fire and lightning and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not.' -The Upanishads.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

nature ...

I have a big butterfly bush in my garden.  In the summertime, I love to sit out there and watch the monarchs balancing on the delicate purple flowers.  I am not the only one watching; birds line up on the fence opposite the bush and find the nectar satiated butterflies a sweet snack. "Nature, red in tooth and claw" right here in my own backyard.  The wings are left discarded on the ground beneath the bush, in perfect pairs. One of those wings is encased in Ice Resin, along with watch gears, sequins, and a fragment of an artemesia vulgaris root, in a bronze bezel at the heart of this necklace.

I hung an assortment of beads and amulets from the bezel: a tiny copper pinecone; a mother-of-pearl spirit bear fetish; a vintage carved bone bead on a copper chain; a honey-colored lampwork bead, a carved bone bead and a little copper charm with a spiral set in clear resin.  There's a pen knife that is functional and opens, a brass protective hand hanging from an old Nigerian raised-dot bead, and a faceted citrine. My intent was to call in air energy - inspired by the butterfly wing and the pen knife (a stand-in for an athame), but it's all about balance after all, and it felt too ungrounded to me, so I added a deer antler tip that I drilled and lightly polished to anchor the East/Air energy.  The photos really don't do the colors justice.  Maybe I'll reshoot it on a white background.  Maybe not.  It was pretty cold out there yesterday.

And another necklace of vintage bone, carnelian, lava, black garnet and copper.  Very earthy. Another shed deer antler tip.  I really am obsessed with them.  My husband made me drill them outside because he said the bedroom was smelling like a dentist's office.

And a very light, almost ethereal piece by contrast - white jade, citrine, mother-of-pearl and rhinestones, hanging from an Dutch East Indies copper coin.

One more - a piece that I made early on from a broken necklace that belonged to my grandmother. I frequently wear it but had never photographed it before.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Back in the groove ...

My freegan (please note: that's not friggin') brother-in-law has been out clamming lately and brought home a treasure which I immediately claimed as a jewelry picture taking prop:

It's part of a whale vertebra.  Great color and interesting texture, but after I was posing it and trying to find its best angle, I realized that my hands stunk to high heavens.  I'm hoping that the fishy smell will disippate a bit after it's been sitting out on the picnic table in the sun and fresh air.  I'm also hoping that the dogs won't decide that it's a very big treat for them and get sick on it.

So here are some pairs of earrings that got photographed far away from the stinky whale vertebra.

Notice please how minimalist these last two are.  Some people think I have no self control and don't know when to stop adding dangly things.

Sometimes when I'm doing an Ice Resin pour, I do not know when to stop.  I overfilled two of those lovely rectangular bronze bezels from Susan Lenart Kazmer and couldn't figure out how to get the excess off.  I have trouble keeping my grubby little hands off the resin while it's setting (three days?  You've got to be kidding me), so I hid them from myself and by the time I saw what had happened, they were already set up and hardened.  So since I can't sell them like they are, I made them into necklaces for me.  And since they're meant only for me, I blatantly ripped off a design by the amazing Dawn Wilson-Enoch.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

corn dogs and racing pigs


I just got home from four weeks in North Carolina and am still in adjustment mode.  "How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all???" (Firesign Theater, if you're old enough to remember them.)

This time of year, there are fairs and festivals on the Piedmont Plateau every weekend.  Succulent (just writing the word makes my mouth water) apple dumplings at the Bethabara AppleFest, corn dogs at the Dixie Classic Fair, pig races at both - PIG RACES - can you believe it?  Racing around a little track for Cheez Doodles and Oreos in the Fall - served up as barbeque in the Spring.  A fleeting season of glory.  What more can anyone hope for?  And wonderful music everywhere.  I'm such a sucker for Appalachian fiddlers.  Two notes into "Shady Grove" and my eyes are brimming with tears.

During the time I was gone though, I did not make one single solitary thing.  Not an earring.  I crawled around on the floor after an eight month old speed demon.  I crocheted her a serape in the softest, silkiest purple yarn.  I did some tie-dying with my two older grandchildren and I bought some lovely old keys at a country flea market that will be appearing in some future creations.  I was not what I would consider to be productive, but there were times when I succeeded in being fully present in the moment and for me, that alone was quite an achievement.

Friday, September 6, 2013

no worries ...

My husband never worries.  It's just not part of his vocabulary.  At night, he sleeps the "sleep of the just" and snores away while I'm awake trying to figure out how we'll manage to pay the property taxes next December and if I've trusted in the abundance of the Universe enough not to wind up in the street.  Maybe it can be chalked up to lack of imagination.  On his part, that is.  I certainly have enough to spare.

One of the things I worry about is whether or not something will break on my jewelry once it leaves my hands.  That worry has kept me from listing a necklace I blogged about a year or so ago.  The drop on it was a broken piece of Tibetan "beeswax" resin that I had made a little copper wire cage around.  Esthetically, I liked this very much, but I worried that if the buyer/wearer was fiddling around with it, it would loosen up and pop out.  I imagined that this was bound to happen and would certainly result in the loss of a return customer.

I'm very big on having a Plan B to get me through life.  Most of the time I also have a Plan C and a Plan D as well.  So Plan B for this necklace was replacing the beeswax with something else.  I happened to find a lovely, honey amber colored rutilated quartz drop that fit the bill quite well.

See if you agree.

with wire wrapped beeswax
rutilated quartz drop

plan B

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Lucky Turquoise Amulet Earrings

Roses For the Ancestors

Other societies all over the world, past and present, honor their ancestors, some to the point of burying them under the hearth, keeping their heads or their mummies around the house.  When my (now) 92 year old mother asked me some time ago what I planned on doing with her when she died, I told her I was going to have her stuffed with a lampshade on her head.  She didn't bat an eyelash.  "Nah", she said.  "You'll never remember to dust me."

Ancestors are not just limited to family members; they can include people whose lives have had a positive impact on us in some way or the spirits that occupy the lands where we live. One of the things shamans all over the world do is open communication channels with the ancestors. I keep a little space in my room for an ancestor altar where I might put a flower, a chocolate kiss, a beautiful seed pod or a pretty shell from the beach. I tell them that I remember them with deep gratitude and that they live in my heart.  I ask them to watch over and protect all those I love.

The earrings above are an expression of that gratitude.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

and so it goes ...

It seems that for me, earrings are the solution to staying creative while suffering from the summertime blues - short-term commitment plus gratification as immediate as it gets in jewelry making.

Another pendant with a finger-woven cord.  I wanted this one to look like that liminal area where the beach and the ocean meet.

The eastbound lanes of Ocean Parkway on Long Island were flooded during SuperStorm Sandy last year when the dunes were breached.  Now for part of its length, you can see the ocean.  Although I love driving on it, a parkway should never have been built on a fragile barrier beach and someday the Atlantic will reclaim it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

my one wild and precious life...

As I was looking over my last blog post to see if there was anything I absolutely had to change, I heard my Grandmother's voice whispering soft and papery in my mind's ear: "You would wish your life away if you could."  It made me think of this poem and I had the need to share:

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

You know, it's just that I want to see how everything turns out at the end, like flipping to the last pages of a novel.  Then I can relax and enjoy the ride, grasshopper that I am.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

august just goes on forever ...

I am not a patient person.  I'm always ready to move on to the next thing.  OK, we've had summer. Enough already - let's get some leaf action going here.   In my ongoing efforts to "Be Here Now", I've been experimenting with finger weaving cords for necklaces.  Rhythmic repetition with the goal of reaching some kind of meditative state.   The local craft store had some bamboo fiber that was cheap enough to toss if the results were really awful and I found a long-running, multi-episodic British mystery series on NetFlix (this is MY version of meditating.  There are many paths up the mountain, after all) and got my fingers busy.  I tea-dyed the cord and I really like the softness and the texture of it.

A Prayer for Ausangate

a look at the prong-diddy from the back

It's a necklace for grounding, with a black garnet (from a previous post) a jade cicada, a little faceted citrine, and a beautiful stone that a friend picked up on Mt. Ausangate in the Peruvian Andes.  Ausangate is one of the apus, the high glacial mountains that the ancient Peruvians believed were the homes of gods.  The glaciers on the high peaks are melting and within a couple of generations, there will be no more sacred glacial water for the people to bless their crops with.

Then I figured I'd better have some lower price point items in the shop, so I made a few pairs of earrings.  The top pair has lapis lazuli beads with Turkish evil eye beads, lucky horseshoes, bone mala beads and little deer antler tips that my brilliant and beautiful friend Janet brought me back from her summer travels (you remember Janet).

The second pair have quartz crystal points, lampwork, recycled African glass beads, blue kyanite, and lovely little silver medals of the BVM.  I've never been a Catholic (in this life anyway), but I've always loved the Blessed Mother as one of the few representatives of the Divine Feminine that we have in the Western world.  I used to stop off at a church that I passed on my way to school to light candles to Her on test days, so She and I go back a long long way.  These particular medals are from Corsica (also courtesy of the aforementioned brilliant and beautiful Janet), so that makes them extra special.  I have a couple more goodies that she found for me that I'm saving for a special piece.

I also submitted another article proposal to Belle Armoire Jewelry with pictures of the charm bracelets that I made to keep for myself.

Do other people make jewelry for themselves (primarily)?  I only sell the pieces that I can bear to part with.  Which kind of segues into the current bloggers discussions begun by Sparrow Salvage and continued on Fanciful Devices :  how do you price your work so that you get a fair return on your time, unique materials and creativity, but still manage to keep customers?

This is such an important discussion to have and I'm grateful to Sparrow and Fanci for being brave and honest enough to address it. I think that as women, we are accustomed to undervaluing ourselves, and by extrapolation, our efforts.  You don't see Keith Lo Bue worrying about whether or not he's pricing his work reasonably enough, I'll bet.  After September 1, when the Belle Armoire Jewelry Fall issue comes out and I become incredibly famous and sought after, I will be raising my prices.  Fair warning.  So if you managed to read this far and want to buy something dirt cheap, I'll also give you 10% off if you pay before September 1.  Just use the coupon code AMULET2013.

So act quickly before I wake up and realize my own value.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

doldrums ...

The creative side of my brain has left on its summer holiday and, as usual, has forgotten to take the rest of me with it.  So here I am, looking for inspiration once more, cleaning my cramped work space in the hope that the need to put a few different pieces together will eventually overcome the summer doldrums.

But since I have no new pieces to share with you, I would like to share that one of my favorite books, Native Funk and Flash, is back in print after many many years,

My original copy from 1974 is stained and worn but I still get inspired by the work of the San Francisco artists who light up its pages.  If you want some real hippie, boho, tribal, gypsy vibe - check it out.

Peace, man.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Saturday, June 29, 2013

back sides ...

Kim from Numinosity Beads, who makes fabulous glass beads, headpins and other artifacts for jewelry makers -    (www.etsy.com/shop/NuminosityBeads)
requested a look at the back of a wire wrapped element in the previous post, so here are a few examples.  I'm no expert at doing this, but I'm willing to make dumb mistakes and redo a piece until I get it to my satisfaction.  That means basically that I want it to look interesting and fairly neat and I want everyone to think that I meant it to come out exactly that way.  Fortunately, I do get better the more experience I get.   Using precious silver wire, I never would have attempted this kind of thing, but with cheap steel wire - I am utterly fearless.

And here's an "Air" piece I just finished as a counterpoint to the "Earth" necklace I posted last time:

A Prayer for the East - Air amulet necklace

Thursday, June 27, 2013

grounding ...

I picked up a few goodies a couple of weeks ago at a local gem and mineral society show. I remembered to bring my reading glasses - the prescription pair, not the drug store ones - which is always a good thing. Fewer regrets. My budget was very limited, but there were a few things I felt compelled to pounce on and worry about paying for later: some little drilled quartz crystal points (I use 'em all the time); some very pretty faceted turquoise that I haven't used yet; some yellow opal rondelles that I just love ( I had used up the last of my stash and had despaired of finding more); some gorgeous blue kyanite; faceted amethyst beads; and (be still my heart) some raw black garnet crystals (dodecahedrons, in fact). I could swear they called me from across the room. One second I was looking at some leather cord and the next I was in front of this tall young dreadlocked hippie guy with these amazing beads in my hand.

That's the black garnet on the top

Turns out, black garnet, also known as Andradite or Melanite is a pretty intense stone. This is what I read on the Internet: "Metaphysical Properties: Black Andradite Garnet is a powerful grounding stone, which can also be used to ... evoke the mysteries of the Earth. It can help one attune to elemental forces and engage their aid. "


Grounding is one of the first practices you learn when doing magical and shamanic work. Putting your roots down deep deep into Mother Earth; looking for balance and tapping into that primordial energy.  Some people really need help to stay grounded, so the black garnet, if nothing else, is a reminder.

That's a black garnet all the way on the left...

A Prayer for the North, Earth Amulet Necklace

This piece is really all about Earth energy.  Stone, bone, clay, copper.  Very grounding.

And here's another necklace using some beautiful hand-dyed silk sari fabric I just got from Flea's Fibers on Etsy -
I'm in love with the colors in this piece - they remind me of that beautiful color that old newspapers become.

I've avoided taking a shower and getting dressed long enough.  It's overcast here on the South Shore of Long Island - perfect for getting more photos taken.  I've gotten a little too grounded to this computer chair.

Monday, June 24, 2013

transformation & remembrance ...

I don't think of myself as a packrat, but I have a few things that I've held onto through a number of moves and a house fire, things that have gone from being "new" to being "vintage" and from being "old" to being "antique".  The beaded butterfly on black silk is close to a hundred years old now, so I guess it's entering the realm of "antique".  It belonged to my late father-in-law's mother, Ida Zipkin, known to my husband and me as "Bubbe".  There are four beaded butterflies on a strip of black silk that must have been attached to a dress.  When I was younger, I thought it must have been part of a flapper's dress, but now I wonder if it might have been worn for mourning.  You know, with the butterfly being a symbol of the soul and transformation and all. 

Bubbe came to the US from Odessa as a teenager in the first quarter of the 20th century.  Whether that dress was part of her belongings or she acquired it here, I just don't know.  Maybe she just had that piece of silk trim and never actually wore it on a dress.  There's no one left of her generation - or of my father-in-law's for that matter - to ask.  His family had been in the dress business and when I started making my own clothes in the late sixties, he gave me this remnant because he knew I would appreciate and treasure it.  And so I have.

I used one butterfly on an Altoid box shrine to celebrate my becoming a crone, but it was also to celebrate Bubbe, who had died a few years before in Miami Beach at the age of 94.

I wanted to use another of the butterflies to make an amulet pouch.  It's sewn to a piece of backing fabric so there is minimal stress on the very fragile silk, but I think that it's too delicate to consider seliing.  And maybe too personal as well.

The weight of the hanging elements is all on the copper cross piece and the backing fabric.  I padded it lightly and enclosed a wrapped crystal point from my ancestor altar.  There's also a little pocket on the back to hold something tiny.  
I like the contrast of the lime green beads and embroidery thread with the black silk and beads. Death and rebirth.  It feels right.