Hey there, Sparklefans!
There are some exciting new things happening in the studio these days! I'm relaunching this little blog, for starters, in hopes of sharing some of what I've learned through and about my work, and giving you a closer look at what goes into the pieces I create.
Stay tuned for information about stones and crystals, symbolism, color healing, chakra work, vegan food, cocktail recipes and maybe an occasional beadwork lesson.
For right now though, I want to talk about Love.
You see, it's February.
And I'm realizing more and more that as much as I love a cozy Christmas, and as much as my inner goth-kid loves Halloween, my actual, absolute favorite holiday is Valentine's Day.
Lame, right? Hear me out.
Valentine's gets a bad rap for being a “Hallmark Holiday” - Manufactured, tacky and exclusionary. And I can see how it's earned that. BUT.
The way I see it, everything, every day, is exactly what we make of it, and Valentine's is no exception. I like to take full advantage of a whole day just to focus on and really celebrate Love in all its forms. Even self-love. Heck...ESPECIALLY self-love.
The Captain is a giant gushy romantic, and that's awesome, but my love affair with Valentine's Day goes back to before he came along. Single me would spend the day stockpiling and prepping my favorite treats (Good chocolate, red wine or champagne, take out thai food, a luxe bath bomb, deep conditioner or face mask), tidying up The Cottage, wearing something comfy & pretty, and watching a romantic movie. (I never get tired of Breakfast at Tiffany's or Four Weddings and a Funeral)
History and past heartbreaks aside, why not flip the script?
Single? Instead of raging against love and reveling in Anti-Valentine's rage (Who's against love, I mean really?), why not treat yourself to your favorite self-care ritual, or meditate on being a loving presence in the world. Do something sweet for yourself, a loved one, or a total stranger.
Coupled? Skip the stress and the crowds, and celebrate each other in small ways. Every year, the Captain and I cook a romantic meal together and open a bottle of something lovely. If we do gifts, they're small, frugal, and either deeply meaningful or completely ridiculous. (Although he insists on sending me flowers....which I can't say I mind completely.)
There's no reason you can't assign a deeper meaning to the day, and skip all the foil hearts and expensive, high-pressure expectations!
My personal celebration seems to take up more and more of February every year.... the cottage gets decked out only slightly less than it does for Christmas, and both the work I do and my view of the world becomes laser-focused on creating and perpetuating loving energy, for myself, for those around me, and for the world as a whole.
On that note, this month I've been up to my neck in Rose Quartz – the ultimate love stone!
(Shown here alongside a rhodochrosite cabochon and a tiny rectangular piece of pink peruvian opal... we'll talk about those another time)
Rose Quartz is a stone of Universal Love, and love in all its forms. It can help to dispel negativity, promote gentleness and tolerance, and bring loving energy into any space. It is calming, protective and reassuring, which makes it an excellent stone for children, or anyone with a tendency to be anxious or emotionally erratic.
Rose Quartz is an excellent stone to help promote self-love, self-forgiveness and self-worth. Is the voice in your head being mean to you again? Help tune it out with rose quartz earrings, and listen to something kinder and more loving.
It is an excellent stone to give to someone you love (including yourself!), or to help bring love and loving energy into your life.
(Waiter, I'll have a plate of love, with a side of love, and a little extra love sauce, please!)
Lately, I've been working with it in meditation, either physically or figuratively.... I just sat in a guided meditation last week, in which we were each given a gift... mine was a beautiful rose quartz egg, which I realized later that I already owned! That piece sits on the shelf above my workbench now, to remind me that love (specifically self-love) is the egg from which everything else hatches in its time.
I'm also finding that aside from the obvious heart chakra work for which it is obviously well-suited, it's also helpful for bringing loving energy into every other energy point. Want to speak more lovingly to yourself and others? Rest a tumbled stone on your throat chakra and meditate on creating gentleness in your voice.
It's a wonderful stone-friend to have around, and just happens to also be remarkably affordable...I picked up the huge chunk I keep on my coffee table for about $20 at the Renaissance Faire, and tumbled pocket stones can be easily found online or in metaphysical shops for just a few dollars.
Before I go, I have one more treat for you... we discovered this simple cocktail last year around Valentine's Day, and have fallen absolutely in love with it! Champagne, flowers and berries.... it has romance written all over it, and can easily be made for one or two... or more!
(Adapted from www.justputzing.com)
For each cocktail, add to a shaker with ice:
½ oz Gin (we like Hendricks)
¼ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
¼ oz Chambord
¼ oz Peach Schnapps
Shake and strain into the appropriate number of champagne flutes, top up each glass with Prosecco and garnish with two or three fresh raspberries.
Don't forget to check out our Etsy shop for the newest collection of rose quartz pieces and other Valentine treats!
So, remember back in March, when I showed you the contents of the Box of Awesome that Cece Cormier, The Beading Yogini, sent me? I've been waiting ever since to show you what happened with those beads!
I *literally* cranked out a couple of sparkly bits the day it all arrived... Cece's own handmade lampwork was too much to resist! I put the glass together with findings and bead caps from the soup, and one of the gorgeous focals she sent....a lovely terra-cotta feather by Birgitta Lejonklou. (AngelWhisperer on Etsy). I'm definitely going to be adding more of her ceramic pieces to my work!
These two beauties are not only remaining in my personal collection, they've been worn almost daily since I made them!
I felt like I really needed to create at least one smashing statement necklace, and I wanted to step away from my usual vocabulary and play with some of the textiles my partner had included in my package...
Believe it or not, everything in that necklace except for the little blue sea star beads came out of my soup!
But wait.... there's MORE.
With some of the bits and bobs and oddments, I put together a few pair of earrings. The dragonfly wings captivated me, and I think that I'll be restocking them when I finally run out!
There are still some amazing pieces left for me to play with (two huge chinese lock pendants...perfect for my other life as a tribal belly dancer!).... this really was the the gift that kept on giving.
Thanks again Cece!
You should definitely pop over to The Beading Yogini and have a look at what Cece did with the soup I sent her...I'm blown away!
Want to see more? You can find a complete list of participants here: http://www.prettythingsblog.com/2014/05/welcome-to-8th-bead-soup-blog-party.html
Has it REALLY been since January that we've visited? My bad... it's been a madhouse around here. The single biggest show of my career to date is creeping up on me, and I've been in nose-down production mode since the beginning of the year. So much to do!
In the interest of keeping myself from going cross-eyed, and in hope of stirring up the creative pot, I took a little break and signed up for the Bead Soup Blog Hop....a bead swap with a built-in challenge. I heard about it for the first time ON sign-up day, and had to make a quick decision! My word for the year is "Embrace", so in that spirit, I embraced the synchronicity of the whole thing, and went for it!
My soup arrived over the weekend, and I haven't been able to keep my hands out of it!
All I can say about it is: Above and Beyond! I couldn't believe the treasures that kept coming out of that box, one after the other....
Lots of silver bits & bobs, including a collection of tiny Hamsa hands, eye charms, hearts and a world-tree....
And the focals. OH the focals! Not to mention mixes of blue , turquoise and purple accent beads, with a healthy dash of my swap partner's own lampwork!
My super-generous partner in all of this madness is the talented Cece of The Beading Yogini, who does incredibly gorgeous micro-macrame work. You should definitely pop over and have a look at her lovely pieces!
Reveal Day for finished pieces from this swap is May 3...the suspense is killing me!
I'm not really competitive, by nature. Being "better" than someone else isn't what drives me....what DOES drive me is trying to be better, braver or bolder than I was yesterday.
Back in January, I was reminded of a beaded doll competition that I've known about for many years, but never thought I could actually enter and stand a chance... this year, I decided it was time.
Emergence began as a quick sketch, a loose concept and a simple shape. I was excited about the possibilities, but could I actually finish the doll, the writing assignment, the stand and the finished photographs in time to meet the contest deadline? Would the finished piece meet all the criteria and make it to the semi-finals...or would all my effort be for nothing? I had a long road ahead of me, and I was more than a little nervous.
After stitching, stuffing and painting the soft-sculpture base, I was ready to start on the meticulously covering every inch of the doll with seed beads. There is no glue involved in most of the piece. Rather, beads are stitched directly to the fabric base. (The only place glue is used is under the polymer clay face, so that it is secure while the bezel that actually holds it in place is constructed.)
The beadwork itself took countless hours over the next several months. The layers of beaded fringe that make up her hair took an additional 12 hours to complete.
The contest's rules also require the submission of a 2,000-word story - fiction or non - about the doll and her connection to the theme of "Transformations". Taking on an ambitious beadwork project is one thing...but writing about it? That was a challenge - not because I didn't have the concept, but because I'm not in the habit of writing about my process and sharing what goes on in my head while I'm working. Because really....no one wants to see that. But, if I was going to do this, I was going to go all the way...
As it turns out, Emergence was an important piece of work for me on several levels - but I'll let her story tell you the rest:
Swimming Toward the Sun
A mermaid: most comfortable in the deepest corners of the sea. Alone in a darkness of her own creation, she has lured countless unwitting sailors to their deaths in her desire for companionship, again and again feeling the loss of them as they lie silently in her arms. Always seeking the shadows, singing her ancient song of desire and despair, weeping silent salt tears that are lost and carried away on slow tides to the farthest shores of the ocean. How she got down here, she cannot remember…it happened so slowly, so subtly that she didn’t notice until it was far too late.
Her loneliness has driven her, at last, to seek something more, something brighter. She has begun, at last, to rise from the heavy depths to new heights. It is slow going. She must stop frequently to become accustomed to the changes in pressure, and let her lungs and heart expand as she travels through new waters. The scenery here is foreign to her, and with every thrust of her sinuous, jeweled tail, her world grows brighter and more boundless. Without knowing it, she is swimming for the sun. Swimming to the surface, to breathe salt air and explore a new life, a new world.
This journey is not without its dangers. She loses her breath when she rises too quickly, and frequently finds herself in territory so alien, so foreign to her experience that she hesitates, and nearly turns back, yearning for the safety of her favorite sea-floor cave. Her desire to grow is more urgent though, more pressing…and deep in her heart she knows that her truest desire – to love and be loved- can only be fulfilled in brighter waters, where the only shadows are of ships as they pass, distant and fleeting.
Her opulent tail tells the story of her transformation – from the dark places of the sea floor, she has travelled, through changing pressure and changing seascapes, through the places where currents meet and clash in silent warfare without rippling the surface, and finally to the warmer, lighter surface waters. Her spiral markings are new to her… symbols of growth and change and cycles. There are no barriers to impede her now, she can come and go between the surface and the cold depths as she chooses. She chooses to go to the dark places less and less now, but she will always carry their mark on her shimmering scales. Rather, she now spends her days basking on wave-smoothed rocks, just out of sight of the shore, and dancing in the water with playful seals and friendly dolphins.
Legendary tales of mermaids abound in cultures throughout the world. She is an ancient archetype… emotions given feminine form. Both alluring and deadly, playful and sinister, the mermaid appears as seductress, salvation, hunter and prey. An object of desire, and inspiration, humanity is at once fascinated and repelled by her, just as we are enthralled and terrified by our own emotions.
Who among us hasn’t felt the fear of the depths – of losing ourselves in the tides of our emotions, or drowning someone else with the weight of our pain? Swimming in despair, not knowing if we would ever see the light dancing on the surface again? Emergence is a study of that journey, a talisman against depression, and a gentle reminder that the sun is still there, even when the shadows seem darkest. Her story is the story of everyone that has surfaced from our own darkness, fought against drowning in the shadowed parts of our emotional depths.
Water has long been a powerful symbol of human emotion. We are drawn to it, and cannot survive without it, yet we instinctively fear what we may find in its shadows. Many of its secrets are hidden from our eyes, and try as we will to understand it, even our most advanced technology can only scratch the surface.
Water, like emotion, fills us and becomes us, affecting our bodies in measurable ways, spilling over our edges and into everything we touch. Depression is the dark side of water…the shadowy deep where Emergence begins her journey. The weight of the world presses in, paralyzes us, and it seems as though nothing within us can ever break free. Emergence is a tribute to that silent struggle, and a promise that it is possible to rise from those depths.
Emergence is constructed of bead embroidery over a soft-sculpture base. Her pose was inspired by her upward journey, as well as by countless images of goddesses and women of power reaching upward, drawing energy from a source outside of themselves. The base fabric 100% cotton, coated with sparkling gold glitter on one side. The glittered side of the fabric was turned to the inside surface of the doll, a subtlety, to be sure, but symbolic of a deeper truth… we all hold internal treasures that none will ever see, save the hand that created us. After being painstakingly stitched and stuffed, she was given a coat of acrylic paint to set a backdrop for the heavy bead embroidery that was then applied.
I felt it important, for her and I to be authentic in her journey, to start where she started. I began the beadwork towards the bottom of her tail, near the flukes, and worked upward. From time to time, I floated upward, and worked higher on the tail, sketching in transitions and giving myself a break from the pressure of the depths. Still, the work was executed in line with the themes of the doll: emerging from darkness, transformation, upward progress and travelling “into the light”.
I felt that she should have delicate, meditative features, to reflect her new-found sense of peace. Her beautiful face was created by polymer clay artist Kristen Barrick. Her facial tattoos, peaceful closed eyes and serene, pleased smile are all handpainted.
Her gleaming shell brassiere is built around a pair of vintage Czechoslovakian glass beads.
The beads that cover her tail and body, and make up her flowing hair are a kaleidescope of Czech and Japanese seed beads, fire-polished glass, and pearls, of course. Her hair is constructed of straight and branched (or coral) fringes, and bears the same shading as her tail...from the deepest purples and blacks at the nape of her neck, to softer seafoam greens and bright aquas around her face. As a final touch, she wears a small crown of five pure white cultured pearls, which reflects the clarity of her intuition and the renewal of her spirit.
Does the story have an end? Sort of.
I completed the work in time to submit Emergence for judging.
Sadly, due to an insufficient number of qualifying semi-finalists, the competition was cancelled.
I can be proud of the work I did, knowing that Emergence was, in fact, one of the pieces that *did* qualify. I was awarded a Judges' Award, making "Emergence" an award-winning work of art.
We have spent quite a lot of time together, this siren and I, but it is time for her to move on to a new home.
Emergence is now available for purchase in the AutumnSky Adornments Etsy Shop. I hope that wherever the tides take her, she will be cherished for years to come as the unique work of art that she is.
I am a crazy quilt.
More on that later...
I spent last weekend in the forest just outside of Wrightwood, CA at the 2nd annual Henna Intensive and Retreat. It is exactly what it claims to be... intense. Three days of classes, workshops and conversations, with each day culminating in an all night henna free-for-all.
I drove up to camp Thursday evening, settled into my cabin with a few of the amazing ladies I met last year, as well as a few new faces. Eventually, we wandered up to main camp for an evening of getting to know each other over sangria and nibbles...we sat in the dark and talked about our lives, our homes, how we came to henna and how we came to be here. We caught up with old friends, and quickly made new ones. Professionals that have been in the business for years, professionals just starting out, hobbyists and enthusiastic beginners...all of us with our own styles, influences and leanings, there to expand our experience with this fascinating, versatile medium.
Over the next three days, we took classes on composition, technique, cultural traditions, marketing, unique styles of body art from different parts of the globe, art theory, and new materials. The absolute volume of information is still overwhelming... I've been home for two days, and haven't yet begun to process everything I learned. In between classes we continued our conversations, shared tips, offered insight and got to know each other better.
Each night, after dinner and whatever treat had been planned for us - a campfire one night, complete with s'mores and drummers, and a gorgeous bellydance showcase the next - we drifted back to the all-night henna cabin... kicked off our shoes and shared our gifts with each other. We experimented with what we had absorbed in the days classes, stretched our comfort zones and drank wine out of paper cups. I got to the cabin late Friday night, and only did one piece - a floral shoulder for Tiffany, a Southern California muralist who just happens to be the stellar talent behind the murals at Riverside's famed Mission Inn. She was meant to be my last henna of the weekend at last year's retreat, but time got away from us and she had to leave before we had time...so this year, she was my opener.
Saturday, after our classes and before the evening's entertainment, I exchanged hands with my dear friend Chele - I did hers, and she did mine. Chele is the talent behind Henna Moon in Bellingham, WA, and has a distinctive moroccan-fusion style all her own.....she's also one of my favorite henna-sisters.
Sunday morning, my first class was on jagua, an emerging body art medium with roots in the tribal peoples of the Amazon rainforest...heady stuff! Catana Padilla of Henna Kauai has been working with it for some years now, and had so much insight to share on the subject! After the slideshow and lecture, we each got a fine-tipped jacquard bottle of the gel to play with...and play we did! Jagua is really easy to work with and is a much simpler process than henna in some ways. It produces a beautiful (and safe!) blue-black stain that can last up to two weeks.
One of the last classes I took was also the one I took the most from as an artist - Debi Varvi (also known as the Henna Crone) taught a class all about creating design and pattern from objects found in nature. I worked with a fragment of cactus skeleton, and had a major "A-HA!" moment when I picked up a cone and saw more than what was in my hand...
Sunday, after our last class it was time to hit the road, and wind my way back to the world... leaving is never easy, especially when there are so many talented hands and open hearts to say goodbye to!
Back to the quilt. I realized, after a shower and a good night's sleep, that over this incredible weekend, my skin had become a mad patchwork of art. (And I think the same is safe to say of all of us that were there...we never stopped drawing on each other!) No rhyme or reason, just snippets of design and intention her and there on my body. Eight patches of artwork, from seven different hands - wrapping me in love and beauty even after the stains fade.
I don't know about anyone else...but I can't wait to do it again next year!
Living la vie Boheme, on an endless quest to adorn the world.