Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Fallen Sky Stone

The Navajo believed that turquoise was a piece of the sky that had fallen to the earth and called it Fallen Sky Stone. It was believed to be a great healing stone. I could use some healing powers this weekend.

The memorial for our friend was on Friday, and there were many tears shed by the people who loved him. From the friends, family and his children who he leaves behind. I wish he could have been there to see how much he was loved.

The weather at the moment looks as I feel. Cold, rainy and grey. Usually I enjoy the rain. It is that Pacific Northwest in me that needs the rain to refresh. It makes me want to sit by the fire and go deep into my own thoughts. I believe that is where I am this weekend. 

The Native American legend celebrates the relief felt when the rains came. Water was the symbol of life.  When the rain began the people would dance and rejoice with tears streaming down their faces. The rain and their tears would mix and seep into Mother Earth to become Sky Stone. A beautiful way to symbolize the cycle of life. There are just moments along the journey that are more difficult than others. And so I may walk in the rain today just to feel it on my face.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lanie's Heart

Nothing I like better than to make jewelry for a friend. Especially someone who appreciates handmade. 

This piece was made for a friend that enjoys hearts. But as she's grown up her style has changed a bit. She's wearing more leather, and more sophisticated things. So I decided that I'd have to up my game a bit if I was going to design a piece for her birthday this year.

I saw a vintage Czech glass button that I really liked and decided that if I cut the back off I could turn it into a cabochon focal necklace. The Bead Girl says she thinks this has a bit of a steampunk look to it. Perhaps. I just like its old world feel to it. I'm hoping that it looks great with her leather jacket and that she enjoys wearing it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem.

Posted on Instagram by another friend from work
This is not my normal type of post, but I feel compelled to write about suicide. A horrible event to all involved. There is no doubt that a person who decides to end their life is at a point where this seems like the only way out of the pain. But the people left behind in that wake of pain is deep. 

I have known several people in my life who have attempted suicide, and luckily they were unsuccessful. And today they live very happy lives. Suicide would have been a permanent solution to a temporary problem in their lives. One of these people is one of my closest friends. She is married to a wonderful man and has two teenage boys who would not be with us today if she had been successful all those years ago.

This winter there were several teen suicides locally where I live. Two were related to competitive grades at school. These two jumped in front of trains. A third was in the school where my oldest daughter attends and was due to bullying. It is so tragic to see young lives ended because they don't have the experience to know that today's pain is a moment in time and that if anything is for certain; life will continue to change. If only they had lived another day understand that.

Recently, a friend from work committed suicide. I was shocked. She was so full of curiosity for life; constantly pushing herself to explore and understand. But a car accident brought pain into her life, and ultimately she took her life. With a gun that should never had been sold to her. This is Kate pictured here a few months before she died.

Yesterday we found out that one of my husband's best friends has taken his life. In the last few years he had been through a rough divorce, but he made it through and it seemed as though he'd found peace with his ex-wife. He has three teenage sons he leaves behind who now have to figure out how to live life without their father. Somehow suicide later in life seems even more difficult to comprehend. My husband has known him since college. We've been with him before he met his wife, after he met his wife, during the births of his sons, after his marriage ended. He knew both how amazing life is and how painful it can be. And that if anything is for certain that tomorrow brings another day. Why he would choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem is hard to understand. The wake of pain he leaves to all that cared about him is deep. I always wonder if the person who commits suicide could just see how much they were loved if it would change their mind. And if that would encourage them to live another day.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Spring Thaw

Spring is in full swing at this point. My hubby's favorite flowers (iris) are just starting to bloom, and my favorite flowers (peonies) are up and will bloom shortly. 

I've been working on a pattern called Spring Thaw created by Christine of OneKissCreations that I seem to be slightly obsessed with at the moment. I've made three of these back to back for some reason. I sit down and bead it start to finish in an evening. 

They really do feel lovely around the wrist, and so I'm trying to decide if I will 'love it, or list it' (for those of you who enjoy the HGTV show!). While I decide, I think I'll put it on and head out to the garden and snap pictures of the flowers. If you follow me on instagram you'll find them over there.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hathor :: Goddess of Motherhood

After my post yesterday you all are likely wondering how I could possibly have more to say on the topic of turquoise? There is more, lots more. But I'll try to keep it short today and show you a turquoise cuff edged in leather. I think it has a sort of old world basket weave feel.

Since yesterday was Mother's Day, I decided to highlight Hathor the Egyptian goddess of motherhood including feminine love and the principles of joy. She seems to have covered a lot of topics (like most moms) as she was also the goddess of music, dance and foreign lands. I don't know about you, but my daughter's room seems to classify as a foreign land most days with an abundance of ancient artifacts under the bed, severe 'off roading' to get to her closet and a look of 'lost in translation' when I ask her to pick up. Just call me Hathor, goddess of teenage girls.

So what's Hathor got to do with Turquoise? Well, funny you should ask. She also appears to be the patron goddess of miners. Yep, that's right. She really had a full plate this one. And so she also picked up names like "Lady of Turquoise" and "Mistriss of Turquoise." This goddess was a real multi-tasker, but then I suppose motherhood includes a lot of juggling, some feminine love and occasionally principles of joy ... most days.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Ancient Stones :: Turquoise

One of my favorite stones of all time has to be turquoise. The veining in it is like a heartbeat frozen in time. I love the idea that this stone has been held in the hands of so many people and cultures through the ages. Mined, carved and adorned. It is a rock of rugged beauty.

It is rare to find stones naturally colored blue, and likely even more rare in ancient times without 'man-made,' synthetic stones. From across the globe people have treasured its blue color thought to represent the heavens to the ancient Persian, fertility, good luck and protection against evil to the Egyptians. 

In the Americas it had great healing powers and brought prosperity. Which is why the Aztecs offered it to the Gods and the Anasazi (known as the "Ancient Ones" and the ancestors of the modern Pueblo) used the stone to treat the sick. They believed it could prevent accidental injury, prevent blindness or ease stomach pains. The shaman would grind the stone and have the person ingest it to heal the stomach. Truly, turquoise has such a storied history.  

Persia (Iran) is known for the purity of its turquoise. Some describe a bright blue turquoise as "Persian blue" based on the prized high quality of stone. 

I actually prefer the American version of this stone. Full of inclusions, deposits and other minerals like iron which can infuse a green hue to the stone, or copper which gives it a blue color. Deposits from its host stone show up like a spiderweb of brown or black that stone cutters refer to as its matrix. Green turquoise and heavy matrix are less valuable, but I love to see the patterns in the stone. Today, the American Southwest produces some of the world's best turquoise, with Arizona and Nevada supporting more than 120 active mines. People who know turquoise can often tell which specific mine the stone came from, such as the Sleeping Beauty Mine which is known for its light blue turquoise without matrix. It is some of the most sought after (and most expensive) turquoise in the world.

My design is influence by the Mayan calendar which is comprised of two interlocking calendars working simultaneously: the Haab (civil) and the Tzolkin (sacred). The calendars work like a continuous churn of gears in a machine, and represent life as one eternal cycle. While the Mayans did predict centuries into the future, they did not see an end. That's the funny thing with the western interpretation that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world. That would have been a foreign concept to them. The turquoise in my design is actually a flaw as the Mayan did not allow anyone to wear it and reserved it as an offering to the gods. I just liked how the copper focal brought out the veining in the turquoise. C'est la vie. Sometimes the flaws in life are more interesting.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bahamian Flowers

Elder Flower
The Bahamas was in full bloom when we were there last week. Lots of flowering bushes, trees and vines like the colorful leaves of Bougainvillea. 

I think what surprised me most was that I was expecting the Bahamas to be more year-round tropical temperatures. But apparently temps do vary quite a bit and even dip into the 40s (or so our cab driver told us), but we had beautiful 70 degree weather all week.

We had arrived just as so many trees were blooming, one of which is the national flower called the Elder Flower. It looks like clusters of yellow trumpets. The flower has a number of medicinal uses ranging from digestion to high blood pressure or even catnip. I was surprised to learn that honey produced from these flowers can actually be poisonous to humans, and there must be quite a lot of it since the bees were very attracted to it. Perhaps think twice about buying Bahamian Honey!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Working with Leather

I see a lot of tassel necklaces and I've been wanting to design with that in mind. So when I came across a brown leather tassel at a near by bead shop I heard it calling to me.

But I have been trying to use up my stash since I appear to have enough beads already to open my own shop. Shhhhh ... please don't tell my husband I said that. He'll put another ban on my bead shopping!

Ok, so brown. I wanted the beads to be the supporting cast, not over power the tassel as the focal. So I grabbed cream colored carnelian. Yes, those are carnelian. It isn't what you normally think of with its deep orange color, but if you look at the natural stone you'll see that indeed there are parts of it that are a cream color. 

Next I went hunting for brass beads in my stash. I guess I don't have a lot of those, but I did manage to find a set of Asian bar beads. I included small brass beads from India, which were the last of my stash on those. A bit of leather for the back strap and there you have it. A long tassel necklace that will look great with sandals and a flowing top. Who else is ready for summer?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Caribbean Blue :: Larimar

This year the hubby was determined to plan several escapes from the winter given how brutal winter was last year. And while it was much more mild this year, it has been nice to get some sun early in the season. 

The second trip he planned was the Bahamas, and while I've been here before a few times, they were quick single day excursions from a ship. It is much different to stay locally just off the beach. Our place has its own pool and a quick walk up to shops, restaurants and local beaches. It is the perfect place to simply relax. 

One thing that always strikes me about the Caribbean is the color of the water. It is just so blue. And when I recently saw this stone I just could not resist as it looks like the color of the water and seems to have the pattern of surf in it. The stone is called Larimar. 

A bit of quick research revealed that it is a stone found only in the Caribbean, specifically the Dominican Republic. It was named after the daughter of the man who rediscovered it in 1974, Miguel Mendez. He combined his daughter's name (Larissa) with the Spanish word for sea (mar) to create the name. The Dominican Republic's Ministry of Mining show records that in 1916 Father Miguel Domingo Fuetes Loren asked for permission to mine for a certain blue rock he had discovered, but he was denied. Years later Miguel Mendez, a Peace Corps volunteer, rediscovered the stone walking along a local beach.

The stone is formed from a crystallization of blue pectolite when it is pushed into the 'tubes' or 'chimneys' of a volcano by the hot gases. Today there are networks of mines left behind from crews who have had to excavate deeper and deeper into the old volcanoes.

It really is a striking stone, and I didn't want to over complicate the setting. So I decided to stay with the blue theme and used a thick blue leather cord and set the focal with silver. I kept it short as a simple choker with a magnetic closure in back. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bead Lessons :: Zig Zag Stitch

This necklace came together in pieces, and it all began with a beading lesson from my friend Christine. Each time we get together we try to share a technique with the other so that we're both learning something new. I do so love these little lessons.

I had seen a stitch over on her blog that I just had to try where she'd used a new variation on zig zag stitch using peanut beads. It creates amazing depth to this beaded chain (click on the link to see the beautiful piece she created). I picked out some metallic colors and got to work. I really just wanted to bead this new stitch to feel the rhythm of the pattern in my hands. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, and tucked it away. 

Once I was back home it sat on the bead table for some time, like so many other stalled projects. But then I pulled out a focal bead that Christine had gifted me from that last trip to Fishkill in the shape of a scarab. I added a semicircle of braided leather to complete the necklace and it all came together. I love the symbolism of the scarab as amulet in Egyptian history. It is said to bring protection to the wearer. I turned the bead into a simple cab to attach to the leather, connected the beaded back strap, and voila. Another Christine-inspired design! 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bead Shopping

One of my favorite things to do is to meet up with my BBF Christine and go bead shopping. We've done this many times at this point and we're just in a rhythm. 

We'll walk into the large room filled with tables, and tables of beads, rocks, fibers and all things that look like Christmas morning to a beader. 

She'll walk one way, I'll walk the other. Then periodically meet up and compare purchases. It is a perfect rhythm for me. 

Christine is an organized shopper. She likes to case the joint ... making a full circle through all the tables first before making a purchase. She needs to get an inventory of what's there and then decide what to buy based on what she's budgeted for our splurge. She is so disciplined! Yes, yes, I hear you. I could learn a few tricks from her.

But, I have a completely different way to shop. I actually don't shop all that often. My husband does most of the shopping for the household (lucky me). And when we do happen to go shopping together (a rare occasion) I am usually zooming through aisles, picking out things and rarely looking at prices. He on the other hand, will methodically go through the aisles, read each label, comparison shop, check off from a list. And he'll take a look at what I've put into the basket and quietly put things back ... O.M.G. it drives me bananas! It just takes all the fun out of it for me.

My bead shopping isn't much different. I love to stumble across a pendant that I instantly start to design around in my head. But the best part of bead shopping is that my husband NEVER comes with me. Yes, the best part. I can shop in peace. This pendant here is one of those pieces, but the lovely part of it is that Christine seems to know me well. She surprised me with this one (along with a few others) the last time we were at the Bead Expo in Fishkill, NY. Instantly I saw this looking Egyptian and I wanted it to have that Cleopatra-breastplate look to it. I love this pendant, loved creating with it, and love shopping with my BBF.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hiking Florida :: Rocks for Brains

Windley Key Quarry
Brain Coral (close up on right)
One of the places we hiked in Florida was called Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State ParkThe stone formed during the Pleistocene age (about 100,000 years ago) and consists of scleractinian coral, or brain coral. Windley was one of the tallest reefs, and when the sea level dropped it exposed the reef, killing the coral which is the foundation for Islamorada, one of the many island groupings of the Keys. 

The Beadgirl is partial to coral. She has been creating these sweet coral reef pieces with polymer that include clusters of brain coral along with kelp, starfish and sponges. The detail she includes is so amazing. 

For Mother's Day last year she handed me this hand painted ocean box and inside was my own coral (shown here). So when we discovered this park the Beadgirl was anxious to check it out. We ran around snapping pictures of all the coral patterns in the rock. Windley is one of several quarries where Keystone, or fossilized coral limestone, was cut and extracted for use in building the railway that connected Miami to Key West.

The railway was built in the early 1900s to connect the chain of Key islands; that up to the turn of the century were only accessible by boat. Henry Flagler, who was one of the founders of Standard Oil, was looking to profit from increased trade out of Key West which was the closest deep water port to the Panama Canal. It took him 13 years to build the 128 miles of track down to Key West. Flagler used the stone as land fill in places to secure the rails.  

Today Windley Key is a park with only the quarry walls and rusty machinery left standing. The quarry walls show the many layers of coral along with all the visible inclusions of shells in the stone. When you pick up the rock it is lighter than you might think given the air pockets in the stone formed around the coral. You can actually find the stone everywhere on the island. I picked up one to bring home for Christine, my rock hound friend. It has amazing grooves left from the coral.

We drove the full length of the Keys while we were there. The railway is no longer operational, and in many places the railway bridges are simply crumbling into the Atlantic. The drive itself was a bit surreal. On one side is the Atlantic; the other the Gulf. The road is nearly at sea level and gives you the feeling of driving through the ocean. Odd, but peaceful.

The Atlantic (from the car window) along Key West highway

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hiking Florida :: Digesting Alligators

Alligator digesting a turtle
We did a lot of hiking while we were down in Florida. Flat hiking that is, as Florida isn't known for its hills. One of the places we explored was the Everglades. The landscape is gorgeous and varied from one area to the next.

Everglades River of Grass
We hiked through marsh lands that looked like a savannah, tree hammocks, dense mangroves to wide open ponds choked with lilies that are home to birds, turtles and alligators. The trails were easy to hike as there was a network of wooden bridges that made it easy to navigate through the marsh.

Close up of grasslands with White Ibis
One of the most interesting things we saw was an alligator up close, on land. We chatted with the park ranger who explained that this guy had been lying there (perfectly still) for 5 days digesting a turtle he ate. She explained that if you looked at his stomach you could see the circle from the turtle's shell and the gap just before his hind legs showed how stretched his stomach was from the turtle. 

The area is considered a tropical wetland, and it serves as a drainage basin for southern Florida. One term I loved (identified by writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas) was "River of Grass." Which is just so true. When you look out over the grassy savannah you realize that it is not solid ground, but a large waterway filled with dense grass. During the wet season this slow-moving river grows to 60 miles wide and 100+ miles long. 

Marjory was a journalist, feminist and environmentalist. When she was younger she spoke out on women's suffrage and civil rights. In to her 70s, she took a central role in protecting the everglades and earned the nickname the Grande Dame of the Everglades. She lived to be 108 and and collected all kinds of awards including a Presidential Medal of Freedom. I would have loved to spend a bit of time with her listening to the tales of her life.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Punxsutawney [Might] Have Predicted An Early Spring

The last few winters have been down right brutal. One snow storm after another, and just when you think it won't snow again .... another storm hits in early April. 

I don't know if our little rodent friend Punxsutawney Phil was right, but I'm sure enjoying the warmer weather and early spring flowers. My crocus are in, and the snow drops are about to bloom. I love both of these not only because they are pretty, but it is the promise of putting those snow shovels away for another year.

My recent trip down to Florida kick-started my drought in beading. And with the flowers showing up in the yard, I was feeling like pulling out the beads even when I returned home to Connecticut. So I ordered a few things on Etsy including some vintage Czech glass buttons with dragonflies. I cut the shank off the back to make a perfect cabochon to bead around. I love the vintage mint green in the one. I think I'm going to put these on a simple chain so I don't over complicate the pattern. Thanks Phil for getting me going again, and fingers crossed we've seen the last of this winter!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunshine in Winter

Yellow Crowned Night Heron
When you live in New England February can feel like the longest month of the year. We decided to take a break and head down to the Florida Keys, and I tell you the morning we left we just couldn't get out of town fast enough.

My husband had booked a flight for 10am, but of course the airline re-booked us without notice to an earlier flight. That meant getting up and out the door with two teenagers by 5am. Anyone with teenagers knows just how difficult a task that is. The temperature was 3 degrees (fahrenheit, or -16 celsius) with a wind chill that pushed it to roughly 15 below. That meant having to lug heavy winter coats with us to Florida. Seriously? 

It was all well worth it. It rained the first 2 days, and I couldn't have cared less. I was in flip flops and capris and loving every minute. I can't say that I did much else but soak in the sun, walk a bit along the coast and do a little bird watching. It was perfect to just be.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Simple Boho

I like the simplicity of this boho bracelet. A piece for wearing every day with a favorite pair of jeans.

But sometimes the simple ones are the hardest. I struggled with this one at first as the beads were so uncooperative. They kept sliding back to the closure, and as much as I like the little buckle closure it just wasn't what I was going for. Then I realized that I could use a spacer to 'crimp' the beads and contain them to a focal area. Oh and that did it! I sent this piece on its way with my sister for one of her close friends back home. I hope she enjoys it.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Stone Cabochon Series :: #7

This cabochon set is the one where I hit the wall and was completely stumped as to why I just wasn't happy with the first version. 

Sometimes I will be beading along and just not feeling it. The beads don't look right, the color seems off or the way the final piece hangs is just off. That was the case with this one.

The original design I used a copper silk fabric. And while it looked lovely lying on the bead table, the second you put it on it was twisting this way and that. The balance and weight of the stones was just off vs. the delicate silk fabric. 

So I put the piece down to rethink it. And it just sat there for months on the bead table staring at me. I would pick it up and match it to another fabric. Nothing seemed to be working. And so I moved on to other projects as I circle around this one picking it up, and promptly putting it back down again. 

And then it hit me. Why wasn't I using chain? Of course that was what the problem was. I really like how these two stones came together. They are clearly not the same. One is a jadite looking agate (at least I assume it is an agate). The other has almost a Feldspar look to it with all the flecks. I have absolutely no idea what either stone is, but my friend Christine would tell me that when in doubt it probably is an agate!

The other change I made which might not be as obvious is that I pulled off the lower level of beads around the bezel. I realized once I switched out the neck strap that it was too 'bead heavy' for the cabochon. It just didn't need that extra layer. I find myself trying to simplify my beading these days. Not sure why, but just want a 'less is more' look.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stone Cabochon Series :: #6

I have a few more of the double stone cabochons to post that I was creating last Fall. The others are here: #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5

This one is a pair of pink shaded stones that Melinda Orr gifted to me. They are not the same stone, but look beautiful together. 

Clearly I took the pictures of the Bead Girl this last Fall when the temperatures were still well in the high 80s. With all the snow we've had lately it seems so long ago! 

With this grey weather it is nearly impossible to get a decent photo of any of my work. So I am happily going back through all the projects from the Fall that I didn't get a chance to post yet. There are actually quite a few!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's a Snow Globe World

It is that time of year when we dream of warm weather while staring out the window at a snow globe world.

It's snowing through much of the Eastern US including my little corner of New England. 

As pretty as the world looks covered in a blanket of white, I dread what comes next. Shoveling out.

I'm not sure exactly why but I've been quiet lately. I haven't been blogging, but I've tried to make it over to people's blogs. I think I'm in a reflective mood this year. Looking back to assess and forward to adjust. But sometimes life just happens, and all you can do is try to find the calm in the storm. I have been looking for that dead spot.

I know I haven't posted many new projects lately. That is because there isn't much jewelry making going on at my house except for this set I made for a friend who loves beach glass. She apparently is obsessed with it, and particularly multi-colored. I don't do blaring colors very well and decided to go with a classic soft green with pearl accent. I found some patterned leather that gives it a bit of flare. I hope she enjoys the set.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dinner with a View

Karlovy Vary at dusk
Rooftop Seating at Karel IV
I have but a few pictures left to share from our trip this past summer. This set is one of my favorites. It was one of our last nights of the trip and we spent it having dinner at Karel IV, a restaurant with a view over the town of Karlovy Vary

This amazing little place was nestled in the rooftops just a few steps from our hotel. It had absolutely stunning views of the old architecture surrounding us.

I caught a picture of an older couple sitting off to our right who were seemingly within arms reach of the onion dome and its shingled roof next door. The closeness of the buildings was something that was just so different for me. You could tell that the layout of this town was old. Built well before you needed all that space for cars in a town center.

Local Band at Karel IV
While the food was amazing, and the views spectacular, my favorite part was the music. A local band was playing that was clearly well known .... well, to the locals. We arrived just as the sun was setting and the restaurant was nearly empty. We enjoyed a drink, listened to the band and watched the sun set. Before long we noticed the place was full and hopping with locals and travelers.

Playing classic Russian songs
Early in their set we heard the riff on the electric keyboard and looked at each other. It sounded familiar, but couldn't quite place it. A few more bars and we were humming along. Yes, it was absolutely familiar. Then when the main melody started we both said at the same time "Oh! I think this is Santana." Oh yes it was. Black Magic Woman sung with a heavy (and I mean heavy) Czech accent. It was awesomeness.

They played for hours with a mix of classic old rock to traditional Eastern European songs to ones I can only assume were classic Russian. The table next to us were clearly a group of Russian ladies who knew all the songs and were singing along quite freely. They were very intent on getting a picture with the violinist who was in the middle of one of these Russian songs. The ladies kept pulling at him to get closer. Poor guy. He was trying to sing, play the violin and appease these ladies. Bending closer, and closer ... as they tugged at him to bend down into the picture. He didn't miss a beat! 

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