Friday, August 31, 2007

High School and Sicily

This morning, my husband and I attended a long orientation at our son's new high school. My baby is about to enter 9th grade at the tender age of 13! A whole new era of puberty and independence and lots of homework and girlfriends is about to open for our family, and I must say that sometimes I find it hard not to hyperventilate!

At the orientation, I sat next to the sister of a dear friend of mine from Costa Rica. When we moved to Virginia from CR, it was great to have a contact, a warm human being, to whom I could turn with all my questions. It was even better that her son was in the same school and grade as mine.

As we sat and waited for the orientation to get underway, talk turned to what they were up to. Well, she said, they were planning a trip through Sicily. Have you ever been to Sicily, she asked? Hah! Have I ever been to Sicily: we lived there for four wonderful years! She and her family have a woefully short time there, but I've been on the computer for the past hour, sending suggestions of places, hotels, and food to her. I haven't immersed myself this deep in thinking about Sicily in a long time, and I must say it makes my heart ache a bit. We left pieces of our hearts in so many countries, with so many wonderful people we met there.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Forests of the Night

I made a beautiful necklace today featuring a variety of shapes and sizes of Tiger's Eye. I love the mysterious, elusive quality of the bands of gold and brown that shift and shimmer like the eye of a tiger caught by firelight. As is often the case when I work with this stone, the wonderful poem by William Blake plays through my mind like a refrain.

TIGER, tiger, burning bright In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

In a interesting coincidence, while I was working on the necklace, I was listening to a program on a local npr station on the emergence of uncontacted tribes. I say "coincidence" because here I was thinking about the forests of the night, which led me to think about my time in Costa Rica and, while I was thinking about that, the discussion of uncontacted tribes came up.

Whenever we used to drive around Costa Rica, my mind would drift off into the beautiful forested landscapes stretching as far as the eye could see, with no sign of human existence. How can that be, I would ask myself? How can there be all this beautiful land and no indigenous people to live on it? My mind began to dream up tribes that hadn't been contacted by man. Now I know that such people don't exist in Costa Rica, so I decided to invent them on canvas. I painted a series which I called "Lost Tribesmen". Imagining their existence, what resources from the world around them they would wear, made my time in Costa Rica much richer.

The whole issue of previously uncontacted tribes is much less romantic than my imagining such people into existence. To learn more about the plight of these people, check out these links:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Something a friend said the other day made me reflect on the idea of "home". This friend had just moved here from another country with her husband, found an apartment and was busy unpacking and trying to fit her past life into her new space. As new as she was, with boxes still unpacked, furniture still unbought, she said in an email that she and her husband got "home" about midnight one night. Even being in a new city, which she had previously only visited upon occasion, with no other family in the country, she called her new apartment "home".

I think a lot about the whole notion of home, and what it means to different people. What makes a place "home"? When do you feel "at home"? Is home truly where the heart is? I grew up in one place: Denver, Colorado. I didn't leave, other than for vacations, until I went away to college. Since graduating, I have lived in thirteen different homes. Those thirteen homes were in seven different countries. My son, who is now thirteen, lived in eight different homes, in five different countries, before he became a teenager.

Very often, in my peregrinations, I have felt very alien, out-of-place, whatever the opposite of "feeling at home" is. And then one day I realize that, when I wasn't paying attention, this strange new world -- whether it was Warsaw, Palermo, Rangoon, Havana, Lima, or San Jose -- had somehow become home. That transition from feeling like a stranger in a strange land to someone who belongs can come from showing a visiting friend or relative around and realizing you know what you're talking about and where you're going. It can come from finding a pediatrician, a dentist, a car mechanic, a new group of friends...from forging a support structure in an increasingly familiar environment.

Feeling at home, well, at home, is easier. I unpack boxes -- often knowing from the smell as I open them what country the contents are from -- uncovering all the treasures and memories from my previous "homes", then create a new home by combining all those treasures in new ways, on new walls, in different rooms, constructing a new life. I have become very adept at this process, particularly if I have seen photos of my new house in advance; I daydream a lot and figure out where a lot of our things belong, and then it is just a matter of unpacking them and putting them in "their place". I own no home but, in a very short time, can turn an empty, rented house into a place where my family has lived, perhaps, for generations.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pearls Pearls Pearls

I love pearls. Diamonds may be some girl's best friend, but not mine. Where diamonds are flashy, pearls are more subtle. Their beauty comes from their shape and their iridescence, which can reflect a world of hues. I love the plethora of pearl shapes and colors. I love how they feel in the fingers, whether they are smooth and perfect and round, or bumpy and organic, or long and lean. I love using them when designing necklaces.

My latest necklace took as its inspiration a beautiful leopardskin shell. Shells and pearls certainly have an affinity, and I wanted to bring that out by using pearls which echo the iridescent hues of the shell. The two main colors of the shell are highlighted by lovely, top-drilled teardrop pearls in champagne and bronze. The shell's iridescence captures pink and green hues, which are also echoed in the pearls. Tiny seed beads with a golden glow, together with small champagne and bronze pearls, and lovely Czech crystal and glass beads, whose facetted surface twinkles and catches the eye with every movement, separate and emphasize the larger teardrop pearls. To finish off this necklace, I have added a 14-karat goldfilled chain, and a hand-formed and hammered 14-karat gold-filled clasp, which allows the wearer to adjust the necklace to match the neckline of a variety of outfits.

This necklace has been sold since I wrote this blog entry.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Caribbean Captured

The last time I went to my local Afghan bead merchant, I was mesmerized by some aqua chalcedony beads that had been clearly facetted by hand. Each was unique in size and shape, but each held me spellbound with the color. When I held them in my hands, I felt as if I were holding opalized drops of warm sea water.

I lived for a time in Cuba, and a longer time in Costa Rica. In both countries, the Caribbean sea was a source of great pleasure for me and my family. The beach beckoned us frequently and, whenever we could, we would pack the car and head to the shore, the Buena Vista Social Club and other Cuban cds accompanying us the whole way. Knowing that, at the end of a long drive, lay a palm-fringed beach of white sand and crystalline waters, made our hearts soar along with the music.

When I saw these aqua chalcedony beads, I was immediately transported back in my mind to the wonderful hours I spent floating in those warm waters, with nothing more pressing to do than to contemplate the colors of sand, sea, and sky. I have taken these droplets of pleasure and combined them with the earthy and smoky hues of glistening bronze pearls and facetted smoky quartz beads. Interspersed among them are Czech glass beads that look as though sediment formed around aqua water, encapsulating that color for eternity. It is finished off with a handmade s-hook clasp and chain, both 14-karat gold-filled.

The necklace is now available in my etsy shop.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Foible-full computers

I made a gorgeous necklace today, weaving together the aqua of some beautifully facetted chalcedony with some bronze pearls and lovely smoky quartz. It has been ruminating in my mind now for over a month, lying on my worktable in its incipient stage, and I finally devoted enough time to complete the design. I love it. I took lots of photos of this wonderful design with my faithful digital camera, then sat down to upload them to my usual computer. No go. No idea why not. So I went to another computer. Sat down, downloaded them just fine, then realized that the photo editing program is on the first computer and there is no way I can now transfer them.....or is there? I refuse to surrender to my computer!

*trots off to see if she can email them to herself*

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pearls and Perils

I did return from vacation as planned, but was felled by a terrible summer cold that wiped me out for a couple of weeks. Happily, the wonderful memories of my vacation remained with me to cheer me up as I recovered. Additionally, I bought a number of strands of gorgeous pearls of various sizes, shapes, and hues, which I fondled and played with and daydreamed about even when I didn't have the strength to produce any finished products.

One recent afternoon, I was idling picking through some loose beads I had in my inventory, and the light caught a beautiful bronzite oval. The golden inclusions and rich brown hues brought to my mind the colors of a lioness. Before I knew it, my mind had created an entire necklace starring that bronzite oval and some wonderful golden teardrop pearls. I knew what I wanted it to look like, and it was just a matter of fiddling a bit with the more peripheral stones which, although not the stars themselves, play a very important supporting role.

I loved the bronze colors of a variety of facetted Czech crystal beads I happened to have, which catch the light with every movement like the glint of a lioness' eyes. Additionally, their deep hues highlight the lighter gold of the pearls, and echo the chocolate brown of the bronzite. With the addition of two beautiful smoky quartz facetted rounds, the necklace was nearly complete.

As I like to provide options for friends and customers who wear my jewelry, I wanted to make this necklace adjustable. I bought a length of 14-karat goldfilled chain, with delicate, hammered links, and made a 14-karat goldfilled s-hook clasp to finish off the necklace. Additional images of this lovely necklace are in my etsy shop.