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Today over at Love My Art Jewelry there is an artisan jewelry blog hop where designers make something in honor of the late (but always ahead of his time) David Bowie. I chose my inspiration based on the fantastic Jim Henson movie Labyrinth, in which Bowie stars as the Goblin King, reining over this huge crazy ass maze. The maze of illusion that Jennifer Connelly’s character, Sarah, must navigate in order to bring herself and her baby brother home safely, and ultimately pass through childhood into a more young adult version of herself and her own power in her world. Throw in a few goblins, some deep, dark mystery and some fantastic outfits and hair. Bowie, the ever original artist who created and recreated himself was never short on style and this movie was no exception.

I started with a necklace and as I went, a pair of earrings morphed into existence as well. (Follows the magic of the movie theme, I suppose.)

The main feature of the necklace is Opalite glass which represents the magical crystal balls of illusion Bowie’s character, Jareth, used to tempt Sarah in the movie plot.

I knew I just had to pay homage to that fantastic mullet of his… that hair just slays me. Full of awesome. So, hair it is. (Not mine, from a horse.)

The earrings feature sterling silver ear wires with patina… wisdom comes with age. lol. And some handmade polymer ‘faux yak bone’ beads which represent the instinctual nature within all of us. Blood red cherry Czech beads below open brass flowers, crystals that reflect light, and of course, that wild hair again.

The necklace wrap itself is made of banana silk… no, not an homage to Jareth’s revealing lycra pants, but instead, Sarah’s dress. Her extravagant beaded, white dress whispers of innocence, fairy-tales and the opportunity to enter into mature feminine power. And lastly, the red flowering blossoms symbolize the shift from childhood into womanhood. This is eluded to in the movie in many ways, although not tackled directly. This quote from an article over at Natural Shaman by Cat Stone sums up the underlying message.

“Women do not learn magic, women are magic.  It is nature, it is our birthright, and we should be forever thankful for the opportunities our menstrual cycles bring us.  Women are Natural Shamans, they just need to understand and use the power they hold within.”

This inner power, something that Jareth deceptively assists Sarah in discovering as she navigates the differences between the illusion of power and the power of illusion. By the end of the movie, Sarah chooses to marry her own intellect with her intuition (symbolized on the necklace by the red scarab holding power in the third eye) as she steps into a larger version of herself. In true Bowie style, his character then changes form into a beautiful white barn owl and watches Sarah from a distance, invited back into her world only upon her choosing. I love the significance of Barn Owl as it has been known for bringing what is in shadow out into the light. Tapping silently into hidden wisdom under the feminine influence of the moon.

And since I just completed a recent drawing of a Barn Owl under a blood moon, I will add that here too. I really had no link between this post and that drawing, but it does seem to fit perfectly doesn’t it?

 

To see more submissions go visit Love My Art Jewelry by clicking on this link.

 

“Mom, I want us to have a craft day before the end of Spring Break. I want to make an arm cuff.” Music to this mother’s ears. Especially coming from my 15 year old son. The 8 year old enthusiastically agrees. Awesome. This is tired arm band that the teenager ‘permanently borrowed without asking’ from his brother… annnnnnd it’s a total wreck.

Tribal arm bands and Warrior-like cuffs have been in the back of my head for a while now. Still not manifest due to me TRYING my damn best NOT to start another project until the other 27 in progress are complete. (Artist. Wink.) And this one feels big. Like it has a series built into it and a lot of side themes that could come from it.. so I’ve been hesitant to begin to explore it. REALLY, because it deserves my full attention. But… when the kids are feeling creative, one must strike while the iron is hot. So, we decided to stop hanging around in our underpants and drive up to a local rock and fossil shop to hunt for some ancient dead stuff that we could use on our cuffs.

When we first arrived in Auburn we realized that brain fuel was a must for this journey. I walked into one of my favorite bakeries in the historic district, the one that sells the biggest fattest chocolate chip cookies, baked fresh. The walls had a posh new covering and there were triple the number of tables and fancy black chairs since the last time I’d come. I stared semi-lucidly at the waitress coming towards us from around the back side of the polished bar, drying her hands on her dirty white apron that hung starkly against the black of her tight pants. No cookies. After 88 years, Tsuda’s bakery and deli on the corner had grown up into a sophisticated cubicle for the tired businessman with an advanced palette and a need for sipping wine.. pinky up. I was crushed and impressed with the transformation all at once. Change happens. No matter. Stepping back outside, the boys and I stood in the doorway and flashed our sonic sweet seeking radar in all directions until ‘crappy ice cream shop to the left in that dark little alley’ popped into my head. We grabbed a couple of cones and went around the corner to park our fannies in the most delightful little space and got sticky. It’s a perfect spot for people watching.

One summer I sat there at one of the tables making jewelry for several hours when the boys were in camp. Out of nowhere a woman with an extra, extra, extra long hose (think ‘fire department length’) came over and started watering and fluffing all of the foliage. She had like, one tooth. Or something. No offense to anybody reading this that only has one tooth. I’m just sayin’, it was unexpected. Her hair was crappy too. But man, she was vigilant about those plants. I listened to her tell me how she used what little money she had to buy hanging baskets for the light post and fill them with flowers. I have no idea who she was or how she was connected to the city landscaping. She wandered off down the block still talking and watering plants, even crossed the street. (Her hose was THAT long.) I am slightly honored and completely amused to have peeked into the oddity of the back story behind this space that I often feel myself drawn to.

Once bellies were full we ventured up the street to Back Country, Jewelry, Rocks & Minerals. That’s the whole point. No, adventure and inspiration was the point. This was just the catalyst. Oh man, this is hands down one of my favorite places to peruse. I’d known that the owner had just come back from the large Tuscon Gem Show and I’d been meaning to get up here and check out what he brought back in his magic sack. Funny, my favorite thing there every time is really searching through the 5 rocks for a buck, bin. I’ve found some pretty nice Jasper, Strawberry Quartz, Rutliated Quartz, Amethyst and Agate amongst other unidentified shiny rocks I call ‘Confusionite’. Hunting through there for things that can be used as cabochons in a setting delivers decent results too. I will sit for the longest time holding up stones and imagining what I can twist around them. Drool. Can’t beat the price.

The kids had so much fun rifling through bins and picking out this and that which could hang off of the arm band, be placed on the center of the cuff, etc. Here’s some pics of their finds. Ollie grabbed a bunch of colored agate and an orthoceras fossil. Eli grabbed one of those too as well as some chain he is itching to break up into dangly things and a couple of stones that are shaped like spiked teeth that he’ll hang from the cuff as well.

I found an assortment of stones that would be great for placing in clay or in partial metal settings. Grabbed a trio of Orthoceras myself.

Two of my favorite finds are this slab of Chrysoprase which I (gave a try) hand polished (will write a separate post about that adventure) and this half broken piece of Variscite. I love, love, love the unfinished aspect of these two and can hardly wait to do something with them.

You’ve got to see the texture on this wall too…. sigh.

Okay.. okay… I will stop writing this lengthy story and go get out the leather and feathers and get moving on some ideas while I wait for the children to arrive home. Between coloring Easter eggs and making cuffs we’ll have a busy weekend… Blessed Spring to you!

 

The idea behind the design for the Evolution earrings and pendant is that you are a shining light that is continually expanding outward as you learn and grow. You can’t help but to transform and change based on the world around you. This continual expansion is represented by the spiral shape and the seed of you, your point of origin in this physical life is represented by the object in the center of the tightest part of the spiral. To see the gallery of photos skip to the bottom of the post here.

E-Volution Earrings.. the making of…

I begin with fine silver wire, cut to the size I determined would be best suited to most faces and hairstyles as a finished product. I pull the wire through the flame of my torch and liquify one end into a sphere. After cooling the wire I flatten the ball end (you’ll find out why later) and gently begin to curl the wire into a spiral shape. The other end of the wire gets hammered flat before shaping it into a smaller spiral in preparation for the supporting ear wire. The flattened ball gets drilled through and a teeny antique bronze saucer is placed there nestling a shimmering Czech bead that captures and reflects light, just like you. A very small fine silver wire is balled (by torch) and placed through the layers of saucer, bead and wire and then torched on the opposite side, creating a secure barbell style connection. The timing and temperature of this second torching is very important so as not to overheat and crack the glass bead on the other side. The flame has to get very close in order to make the wire ball up securely. I have bitten my lip and held my breath more than once during this process. To finish off the design I break out some more fine silver wire. I torch, shape and hammer the ear wires, careful to round and smooth the ends so your dainty ears don’t get all scuffed up and bleed. Scabs are not such a nice look with the shiny silver. Once the design is completed it gets a bath in sulfur to oxidize and antique the surface of the silver. Everything looks better with a little history. Then, it’s time to go into the tumbler for a couple of hours to get burnished. Finally, I bring the earrings back to my work bench and do final touch up with adding back in oxidation if too much was removed as well as using a couple of polishing and cleaning procedures (fun.. I get to use power tools) to give it a final shine before packaging. I always hold the piece and send it love before I place it in your box. Tada!! Earrings!!

 

E-Volution Pendant… the making of..

Copper wire makes a warm and inviting metal for this spiraling pendant. I begin by drawing my wire through my torch flame and creating a molten ball at one end. Once cooled, the ball gets flattened and I begin to shape the wire into a free form spiral. The opposite end gets hammered flat and curled into a smaller spiral before brazing it securely against the main frame of the pendant. Now for the super fun part. I turn fine silver wire into a hot sphere (blob) on my fire brick and then begin the process of hammering it flat. There are several successive torchings in this process as hammering work hardens the metal and it has to be softened again in between every few blows of the hammer. When it is the just right size I stamp the edges with some little tools I created from nails (see this post to read about how I made some cool tools http://www.gaiacopia.com/2013/blog/make-your-own-texture-tools/) and then form the flat pancake into a little bowl to hold a small Golden Rutilated Quartz stone. The stone is captured here using the technique described in the earring monologue above.. careful torching and lip biting. A small orb of fine silver is added to the outside ring of the spiral to represent the poignant moments, milestones and challenges you encounter on your journey. Additional hammering, texturing and squinting at the spiral happens for some time until it is just right. It gets oxidized, spends some time burnishing in the tumbler and then gets polished up before being strung onto some high quality leather necklace cord (17″ length including clasp). Fine silver wire is hammered and textured and securely wrapped on either side of the spiral, holding it in the center of the necklace. The cord ends and clasp are all hand forged out of copper wire. All metal is polished, cleaned and then sealed by hand with museum quality micro-crystalline wax. Each piece gets held, admired and sent love once more before being put into it’s box on it’s way to you!

Last night I was working on putting together some new earrings and I realized I needed some jump rings but I didn’t have the size I needed. Aha, I’ll just whip some up! Not ever having done that in bulk before it felt like a stimulating and fun little adventure. Surely, it would be satisfyingly quick job. Not.

I did wind my copper around this lovely set of steel mandrels here. These babies are cheap and great for SO many things around the studio. (Harbor Freight carries them for under $20 bucks if I remember correctly.)

I found it tough to keep my copper coil very tight and uniform on my first couple of tries. Note to self, soften wire by annealing before winding it! I sat, staring in frustration at my ugly coils and decided I should get distracted by looking at some people on youtube that have this coil winding skill naturally. Oh, the tools I saw them use! After looking up some really fancy and expensive tools and yelling out “wow!!!” a lot, I called out randomly for  help in re-creating something like “that!!!” (points at fancy picture of drill vice thingy on screen). Luckily there was a strong, strapping male in my kitchen nearby with a handy set of extra hands AND the parts I need for such a creation. But.. the parts are at his work.. which does not help me while I’m filled with drive to complete the cutting of these dumb coiled wires NOW. Not later.

 

I grabbed a v-shaped plastic thingy for shaping polymer clay and set it in my vice. The ‘V’ holds any sized coil I need perfectly.

But.. I need downward pressure to compress the coil AND some sort of a plate to press it against that I can ALSO saw through. So I grabbed my ring polishing tool and plucked the wooded wedge out of the back end of it, sawed a line down the center and stuck it in my vice as my ‘plate’ to push against.

Grabbed a steel mandrel for pushing into my coil with and hey, that kind of worked. Until my coil went springing out of there and freshly sawed jump rings with it, onto the floor where I assumed the proper ‘metalsmith position’ with tail in the air and face in the carpet. Muttered a few choice words and tried again.. and again.. and again. Modification and learning all along the way.

Finally, I decided to put the coil directly into the vice and saw it like that and it worked muchhhhhhh better that way. Still not super ideal but certainly a bit faster with the sawing. Today hubs is rigging up a small wooden box with ripped off acrylic ice scraper mounted to the front (oh.. pics to come later.. that’s gonna be so good) so I can saw with it mounted in the vice. And a cool hand crank drill for me to twist wire into coils with. I cannot tell you how super excited I am about that!!

After (finally) collecting as many pieces of jump rings off my floor possible, I threaded them onto pipe cleaners and stuck them in my tumbler for a while. I should mention that I did the patina process to darken them when they were a solid coil. In retrospect I will do the patina process just before tumbling so that the patina extends onto the split area (which won’t be seen anyway.. but hey, I’m a stickler for details). I tumbled with water only since I didn’t want the patina to be removed. Some came off but not in all areas. I love the softness to the look.

All in all I spent far longer on this than I intended but I learned A LOT. I have an even bigger appreciation for handmade items than I already did. Because a jump ring is a detail that is easily over looked. It’s just a small circle. It holds important things together. But it isn’t the ‘main event’.. however, without it a necklace just wouldn’t be the same.. nobody’s main event really looked good all lumpy and fallen down into to their bra. This was a big lesson for me as quality is becoming more important in my work. I used to spend a few bucks on jump rings but now I’m looking at either making them myself or purchasing them from somebody who does, even at quadruple the price because when it comes down to it… the small imperfections, the time and energy it takes to make these detailed components REALLY makes a big difference in the presentation of the piece as a whole. It just doesn’t look like the stuff that comes from mass produced sweatshops. There’s life in these small circles.

I’ll update or do another post when we get the handmade jigs all up and running and I give this jump ring thing a second try.

I don’t often get requests for clip-on earrings. However, when I do.. I find that a little alteration is necessary. I try on the clips myself to see how they feel and I just don’t like them. They pinch and are painful. I think, gosh, how awful that my customers would have to wear my pretty earrings and feel discomfort like this. So, I got out my leather punch and scissors and made some custom clip-ons with suede lining the inside. I wore them for a while on a test pair and boy, oh boy.. they are more comfortable than regular earrings to me. I don’t wear earrings all that often but I have to say that the clip-ons with suede are something I could wear for hours and hours and still feel really good.

In this photo I show the before and after in progress on a pair of Lily earrings.

In order to read this post you’ll need to play this song to set the tone…

Yes, I’ve been in a cave for a long time. I’m a rather quiet, shy creature who likes to sit with her thoughts, write and take long quiet walks. When my good friend Griffin asked me if I’d entertain the idea of presenting my spiritual approach to jewelry making at a Women’s Motivational Meetup I was sure it was a good idea for my growth. I was SURE. As the time grew closer to “do” that thang I suddenly went into freak out mode. Anxiety, tummy aches…oh man, my body was in full on..cannot eat, crazed woman seeking ground shelter experience. Dark closet would do. Getting creatively desperate, I began seeking guidance from a friend or two which helped me see that I was “shoulding” myself into a place that feels many steps beyond where I actually wanted to be in my life. Now, that doesn’t mean back out and not do this thing, so…more desperate reaching out had to occur. I called Griffin and the next day she dropped everything to come over to my house for lunch and walk me through my insanity.

The lovely Griffin. This is THE BEST capturing of her essence. I love this photo of her.

Holy. Holy, holy moly. Griffin asked what she could do for me, what did I need, all kinds of thoughtful questions and answers were flying around the room. Every request was met. Which sounded like…Please be my opening act because I don’t know what the hell to say. Can we do it in interview style? Maybe include the audience a bit and make it interactive? Yes, yes, yes. We co-created a new format for me that felt much, much gentler on my system. I felt so supported by her that the fear left me. My body sloooowly began to get normalized.

When “the day” came upon me I didn’t even have a stitch of stress. Hello? Where did the control freak go? The list maker? The i” dotter and  “t” crosser? The woman who matches her underpants to her outfit and organizes her shirts by color and type…okay, she’s still here. Thank God, I thought I’d totally lost myself for a second there. I got ready about an hour ahead of time. Yes, only an hour ahead. Grabbed a couple of suitcases and just started putting “stuff” in for the clay project. Originally, I was just going to bring clay and toothpicks to challenge them but at the last moment I decided on some molds. Seriously, using molds is waaay satisfying when doing something new for the first time. Instant gratification and all that. I think that idea resonated fairly well with the ladies there. When I finally went to get into the car…I realized…HOLY SHIT! I’m not nervous. AT ALL. Not at all. Kept looking for it to come but it was gone. All I found in it’s place was the idea that I was supported. Here…my son shot me just before leaving for my first “holy crap I’m talking out loud in front of people I don’t know” experience. I was actually feeling bad ass…for no damn good reason. Trying on my best bad ass face. And still shy, but calm.

When I arrived I saw Griffin’s smiling face, hung out for a bit and did some set up. After everybody was settled down Griffin read her opening poem about Leadership and Guidance. It was a beautiful reflective piece that spoke about surrounding yourself with empowering people that can lift you up and support you. Sigh…what a great lead in.

When I got up there and started speaking all I remember is feeling calm but a bit unsure. I think Griffin said something about me being a little nervous, you know to break the ice. Something like, “If Emily passes out on the floor let’s all clap for her and tell her she’s doing a great job”. I might be paraphrasing liberally. I continued on letting them know I was checking for fangs and claws but they actually checked out okay.

Now, let me tell you the super good stuff. These ladies were a hoot!!! After the first few minutes I just felt totally at home. I set up a table with supplies, explained briefly what I do and told them to come over, get what they want to play with and go to town. I had snatched my son’s portable CD player and put some Jack Johnson on to give the room a mellow ambiance. I’m ALL about ambiance. I brought the perfect amount of EVERYTHING. Nothing was missing. There was no point where it felt like I had failed. Even when there was no rolling pin some of the ladies just grabbed their water bottles and started rolling. Now this kind of “in the moment” thinking…I LOVE. That, that right there is what it’s all about. Not being perfect. Improvising and just going with it. Oh man, that just seriously made my day. I really can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed myself. When it was over and the last table was put away Griffin turned to me and asked how I felt about my presentation. “I rocked it.” Damn, felt that way.

This experience for me is an opening into the feminine relationships that I can just feel blossoming for me this coming birth year. And this meeting came right on time. Just two days before my “birth” day. Gotta love that synchronicity.

Here’s two of my favorite supportive women. And myself.

Griffin the Great and Me.

Wendy the Wonderful and Me. (We kinda needed a third person to shoot all three of us..so, you get a three for one gallery).

Greatness and Wonderfulness together. This one is THE BEST! Awwww…love it.

I got so wrapped up in the class that I forgot to photograph the process but here are a couple of projects.

Griffin used a combination of molds and freehand texture with an old toothbrush and a toothpick. Awesome texture and color palettes.

I love how Griffin used the tools to create depressions in this completely organic and textured piece. Funky and cool. Nice on leather and paired with a black V-neck shirt… Griffin, can you see it? Hubba hubba.

Wendy made a gorgeous green (my absolute favorite color ever) pendant and a special rams horn.

This piece is particularly meaningful because it represents the horn of the ram that she and Griffin had that had recently passed away. I had the honor of meeting Zyphr and he was one beautiful fellow. Rest in peace Zyphr. Making jewelry that symbolizes something about a lost loved one is incredibly healing work and something I will be posting on soon in regards to losing our own pup this last summer.

Thank you to Griffin for supporting me and for running this fabulous group. Thank you to all of the wonderful women who showed up and brought their creative spirit. I had such a blast with all of you.

Oh, and I’m absolutely coming back to teach artistic, eyes open meditation next time there is a need for a speaker. I’ll be attending this group regularly as it is an open minded, open hearted, humorous group of women.

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