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Archive for the ‘Jewelry’ Category

*comes in and looks at empty blog.  Winces realizing the last time I posted.  Waves a little bit awkwardly and taps on the microphone a few times*

Testing, one two three.  Check check.

Hello out there in the great interwebs.  It’s been quite a time.  Though I’ve been busy as a beaver pack in a log cabin museum, I have neglected this forum.  I figured I’d toss a post up on just what I’ve been doing.  Particularly, the obsession I’ve been working on for the last 14 months.

Precious Metal Clay.

Imagine a soft clay, somewhere between terra cotta and sculpey.  Easily to make impressions, a bit difficult and messy to sculpt, but quite workable and enjoyable.   Then imagine you put the clay piece in a kiln, cooked it at upwards of 1500 degrees, and what was left behind was not fired ceramics, but fired bronze, copper, and fine silver.

Don’t imagine, that’s exactly what I’ve been bloody doing.

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When I say I work in clay, but my pieces are .999 fine silver, I mean exactly that. A Japanese corporation was trying to reclaim silver particles from old x-rays.  What they developed was expensive, unique, and just a bit odd.   So they marketed it for crazy artists.   For my geeky friends who actually read the Charlaine Harris books, that is the exact same back-story as the creation of True Blood, except with artists instead of vampires.

This stuff is a miracle.  It contains little particles of metal in an ‘organic binder’ which is a fancy way of saying non-toxic clay.   The clay holds the particles in place while the fire of the kiln burns away the clay, fuses the particles, and leaves you with a solid piece of jewelry or statuary. It’s a bit of modern alchemy in my book, and as long as you fire right, what’s left behind is 90 % as strong as if you had melted the bronze and poured it directly into a cast.  With out having to have the facilities to deal with molten metal.

That’s part of the attraction of course.  I live in the French Quarter in New Orleans, where space is a premium and I have a very nice, but very small, apartment, just a touch more than a studio with a full kitchen and bath.  Just enough room for a little jewelry kiln, and a material that I can work with my fingers like a kid and silly putty.

Of course, I’m still learning.  I’ve had many failures, and many pieces that broke in the fire or after.  Pieces I thought that were successful but broke with wear, or in shipping.  That’s part of the process with any skill, and since even the broken pieces are metal, all the clay binder removed in the fires, I just save it all as scrap for other projects later on.  While I work on my skills of blacksmithing, soldering, and braising.

 Every commission I take forces me to learn more.  Every new project I come up with has new challenges.  I started making simple stamped necklaces like this.

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And now have a small army of costumed minions.

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I get to indulge my spiritual side with totems and amulets.

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Or my geeky side with Kodama and Eyes of Agamatto.

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My only limits are my imagination, the skill of my fingers, and having the money for my clay packs.

Questions?

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Damn, it’s been a busy week.  I had a convention this weekend, made and put up some new jewelry, even did two days of heavy editing before submitting to a publisher briefly open to unrequested manuscripts.   Finally, it’s Wednesday, a day when I don’t have to do a damn thing. A rest before I go back to my day job on Bourbon Street Thursday.  Maybe I’ll take a nice long bubble bath.

 

… Shite, I’m forgetting about the blog again aren’t I?

 

All right!  First blog, then bubbles.   Wouldn’t want things to slither on by me, so today I’m going to just play for scale.  Today I’m going to talk about a creature both fearsome, and sacred.   Let’s look at the naga.

 

From Indian mythology, naga are often depicted as female, but the male versions definitely exist.  At essence, they are snake people, cobra people most traditionally.  Shapeshifters who can be human formed, snake formed, or anything in between.  I mean anything.  Giant snakes, little snakes, lots of snakes.  Snakes with just human heads, humans with snake bottom halves done mermaid style.  In some of the more Eastern varieties (Naga will show up in Cambodia and the Philippines and many other places where Hinduism is spread) they take the form of a great serpent with multiple heads, hydra style.  Pretty much you name it, this lot can do it, and unlike a lot of more western creatures, the variants are not seen as separate monsters or species, just the naga trying on new forms.

 

Why such versatility?  Because in most texts the naga are semi-divine beings.  They are often considered immortal.  True immortal too, not Greek god immortal where you can still one with a sword.  They are outside of the Wheel, and have connections to the many gods and often step into the role of priests or intermediaries between humans and the divine. Besides their immortality, they can heal wounds and poisons, predict the future, and kill with venom or just a powerful glare. In some tales they are just a step less powerful than the devata and right on par with the apsara.

 

The exception comes with Garuda, the big eagle-god of the son.  Big surprise, eagles and snakes don’t get along.  In Garuda oriented texts, the naga get all the negative attributes of snakes.  Venomous, untrustworthy, preying on the week and helpless.  They are still useful and powerful, with naga able to do everything from control the whether to bring fertility to lands and women.  But damn it, don’t you side with those lousy snakes or eagle will claw your eyes out!

 

As usual, I’m highly biased.   Both sides probably have lots of ass holes to choose from, and the occasional good ones.  That is true for Every damn critter on my blog.  The proportion of good ones to ass-hats is one of my qualifiers for if I like a beastie.

 

Traditionally naga are often represented with a jewel or pearl for their bindi or third eye.  This is a symbol of their power, and yes there are a few stories of people hunting them for the pearl.  It’s a great tool for divination and may be their source of immortality.  Of course, you’ve got to overcome a literal den of vipers, will probably piss off a few gods, and there is always the karmic backlash on the next turn of the wheel.  But hey, if you really manage immortality, you don’t have to worry about that last one do you?

 

Like many creatures, there are similar beings in most cultures.  There is a particularly nasty legend in China of a snake with a woman’s head, and it is both an old story and a modern urban legend, which yells immortal to me.  There are snake people of the Amazon, and of course a host of medieval demons associated with snakes that have that half-and-half look of the naga.  Not to mention Greek variants like the lamia.

 

Most of those stories lean a lot more to the nightmare version than anything define.   Often it depends on how a particular culture views snakes, some seeing them as deadly and dangerous, some seeing them as a source of wisdom. The (insert name) of South America are just like any other tribe, keep out of their way and respect the customs and you should be fine.   Screw up and it’s fangs for the memories.

 

I’m also seeing a shift over time as cultures blend.  A Chinese concept seems to be filtering West to India, in which new naga are made by snakes getting curious and turning themselves human.  This shows up with a lot of animal types in Asia, including kitsune and tanuki in Japan.  I’m not sure how much traditional roots the concept has, but it’s actually a fun idea to play with.  The original naga were obviously just their own species, but big surprise, not many mythologies out there on exactly how they go about breeding. If they leave their clutches out in the wild like a lot of snakes, maybe it takes the wee little buggers some time to grow intelligent and ‘curious’ enough to sprout legs.

 

Of course, the young, curious sorts are bound to cause trouble.  Young curious sorts always do.

 

Writing Prompts

No… I won’t suggest naga breeding programs.   I will however suggest a story where a snake and eagle are in marriage counseling.

 

So want an Indiana Jones story where his current girl is actually a naga, but we’ll never get the rights.

 

Am I the only one who wants a pair of naga skin boots?  Hey, they’re immortal, they’ll heal won’t they?

 

 

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Okay, so last post I announced my new jewelry store, Dual Seed Studios http://www.etsy.com/shop/DualSeedStudios/about/  and you all should check it out.  I’ll probably have to do a post on just what “Dual Seed” means to me and why I chose it, no it’s not as dirty as you might think.  But this isn’t time for that, this is a time for myth and folklore and things that go bump in the night.  Or things that go bump in the bedroom.  In honor of my own obsessive endeavors, let’s look at two different sources of inspiration.  The muses and the leanan-sidhe.

Muses are so popular that I didn’t want to do a full post just on them, because much of it you might already know.  Nine women, born of Zeus, who represent all the arts and sciences of the ancient world.   Traditionally, they inspire artists and creators within their fields.

… Or do they.  First of all, since I’m focusing on things that people might not have heard about the muses, originally there were only three of them, and they had nothing at all to do with Zeus.  Some said they were born of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth.  Others made them out to be more like water nymphs, born from springs and occasionally man made fountains.  We’ve already talked about nymphs and their semi-divine nature, and the connection between muses and fountains stays in the background long after the three become nine.

Also, originally they were sources of inspiration, but they didn’t have specific areas or arts to personify.  They sort of leaked inspiration like a leaky faucet, giving it to whoever they were closest too.  This included lovers of course, but in some darker tales it didn’t necessarily need to be willing lovers.  That’s right, some people took inspiration from muses, along with anything else they wanted, and do we really expect a ditzy hyper-nymph to be able to put up much of a fight?  Maybe the pantheon of muses expanded when more generations of Muses were born, and maybe they started hanging out with Zeus and Apollo and such for a bit of protection.  Not that you could trust those two infamous womanizers around anyone with a bit of curves. Even calling Zeus ‘daddy’ is likely just to turn the nasty horndog on more.

Then, in another part of the world but maybe just as old a concept, there is the leanan sidhe (no, that was not an awkward segue, shut up!)  One of the Irish (sometimes Scottish) fey, she is a beautiful and powerful creature who grants inspiration to her lovers.  Willing lovers only this time, anyone who tried to force himself on a leanan sighe is going to lose more than his balls.

Even when the leanan sighe has a new beau, the artist  in question is doomed to suffer.  The leanan sidhe is absolutely the worst of girlfriends.  She demands all your love and attention even as she insists you work on your art.  And even when you are a dutiful lover, she quite often drives you into complete madness.  The candle that burns brightest slips a bloody cog, to mix a metaphor.  Literally, almost all of the lovers, read victims, of the leanan sidhe live brilliant, and short, lives.  Usually ending with them gibbering in madness, overwhelmed either by faerie glamour or forced inspiration.  Uncontrolled ideas bubbling up through the brain pan can be just as dangerous as supernatural sex, probably more so.

Later mythologies have the leanan sidhe as kind of a vampire who feeds on her lovers’ life forces. She probably gets more of a boost from their love.  She doesn’t need to drain her little pets, but I bet she gets a giggle out of the self destructive path the little mad bastards cut through their lives.  There are always more desperate artists to fill her bed.

Now I talk about the leanan-sidhe as a singular figure, and to be honest the older myths have it as a type of fey, with lots of the ‘barrow lovers’ as the name loosely translates too, running about and causing brilliant but short lives.  More recently, in popular media especially, she is becoming a singular figure, and I’m kind of waiting to see if that happens more and more with the other old fey.  I’m wondering if the human story will condense several old myths together, much like they’ve done with various pantheons, until we have the Redcap, the Dionne Sidhe (singular), instead of a bunch of the buggers running around.

It’s also fascinating the connection between sex, inspiration, and water.   Those three things get combined far more than just these two examples.  The apsara of India are supernatural dancers who seduce and inspire gods and men alike, often causing at least trouble in their marriage beds.  They follow music wherever it is, and are connected with waters and clouds.  Saraswati, godess of knowledge and arts, gets linked to flowing water and pure water sources as well.  Of course the Roman goddesses of fountains are poor knock off copies of the muses (like everything else in Rome), but how many seers, male and female, scry through water for their inspirations throughout history?

On a personal note, though the original three muses were mostly focused on poetry and song, I always liked the idea of nine muses who covered art, history, and science.  There is a huge gap in modern times between art and science that really just doesn’t need to exist.  Both require inspiration, dedication, and a bit of bloody luck.  Why not search for that luck in the form of a beautiful nymph?  Men have found inspiration in far worse things.

Okay, insert obligatory joke of muses being all ‘wet’ here, goodnight folks.

 

Writing Prompts

Two thousand years in the future, what ‘arts and sciences’ exist and what muses have provenance?

Women’s lib, a muse goes into business for herself.  Maybe using an artist as a tool and ghost writer.

Modern psychological drugs versus leanan sidhe madness magic, who wins?  Certainly not the poor bipolar artist stuck in between.

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