Gift #1161: Nemophilia

I’m so excited to share with you this month’s theme for Art Elements blog.  Drumroll please… it’s “The Forest”!  Those who have followed my blog for any length of time will know of my deep and abiding love for the forest.  It is my favorite place in all the world to be.  I’ve been blessed to live among the evergreen forests of the Rocky Mountains and the deciduous forests of Indiana.  They couldn’t be more different from each other, but both are beautiful.  Forests restore my soul in a way that no other type of environment can.  I love their peacefulness, the shelter of the tree branches overhead, the tiny creeping green things that fill the understory, and all the animals that make their home in this rich and fascinating ecosystem.  I’m definitely a nemophilist – a haunter or lover of the forest.  Most weekends will find me flitting under the shadow of trees,  hunting mushrooms, admiring wildflowers, and chasing sun rays.

The first project I’ll share with you pays homage to the forest with a series of quotes.

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Making these actually was an afterthought as late one night I was browsing facebook and saw a tutorial for doing mock watercolor backgrounds.  I thought it was worth a try and used an app on my ipad to create a series of quotes which I printed out on watercolor paper.  I used inks smeared on a plastic bag and spritzed with water to create the watercolor backgrounds.  After drying I stamped trees and leaves and framed them.  I was pleased with how fun and easy this technique was and really like the handlettered style as well.  I think I see a lot more of these in my future, but for now I’ll enjoy these prints on my windowsill.

Of course, I also wanted to make some hand-stamped cards.  I have so many forest-related stamps that for a while I was stumped on what to do because there were so many choices.  I eventually decided on woodland animals.

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I used a collection of stamps from Unity Stamp Company for this collection and patterned papers from Prima.  I hadn’t originally planned on this color scheme, but once I started the images seemed happiest with teal, green, and dark brown tones.  I think they look right at home in a forest surrounded by leaves and little wildflowers.  I especially enjoyed pairing the quotes with the animals.

I was both delighted and daunted by the theme and this was no where more apparent than when I approached my jewelry designs.   I wanted to create pieces that were not only inspired by the forest but invoked the same feelings of longing and piercing joy that I feel when I’m wrapped in the forest’s embrace – things that looked like they might have sprouted up from the roots of magical grove.   After each piece I wanted to create more and so I ended up with a collection of five necklaces and matching earrings.  And trust me, I really had to be firm with myself after five because my mind is still busily coming up with ideas for new designs.

In keeping with the forest animal theme, may I introduce the “Woodsy Association”?

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This necklace features a crew of woodland creatures – fox, hare, racoon, squirrel, and hedgehog.  The pendant is from Grubbi Ceramics and to complement it, I chose moss agate and wood beads, accented with shell and hematite spacers.  The necklace is finished off with wide leather lace.  And the earrings are also from Grubbi – these show off a duo of mischievous squirrels – an awful lot like the ones that frolic on my back deck.

Another pendant by Grubbi Ceramics inspired this nighttime view of the forest, which I call “Midnight in the Forest”.  In this monochromatic scene, a stag in a forest is illuminated by a moon while a raven flies overhead.

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I used a strand of fancy cut grey agate beads for this necklace.  I had bought them a couple of years ago at a bead show and was thrilled with how perfectly they worked with the pendant.  Tarnished silver spaces add a touch of understated glimmer, much light moonlight on a dark forested landscape.  The earrings are made with a pair of raven charms accented with grey stone agate and Czech beads.  I’d like to think Edgar Allen Poe would feel a certain kinship with this set.

From animals, I moved to musings on the benefits of the forest to the human spirit.  Throughout history mankind has recognized the importance of wild places for the health of civilization as well as the individual.  They are safe havens, away from the noise and distraction of technology where we can rest in quiet, reorient our priorities, and marvel at God’s creation.  One of the most eloquent spokesmen for the spiritual revitalization of wilderness was John Muir, who played an irreplaceable role in the establishment of the National Park System.  This necklace is an homage to the “Wilderness Prophet” as he was nicknamed.

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“Into the Forest” pairs earthy colors of citrine with warm brass branch and accent beads to set off a ceramic pendant with Muir’s famous quote “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”.  The earrings are long leafy designs with a bohemian flair.  Delicate citrine beads sit atop little verdigris brass leaves swaying on lengths of chain – much like leaves would dance from their branches in the forest.

In my preparation for this blog, I ran across this unique word – “Werifesteria” and it means “to wander longingly through the forest in search of mystery”.  It is a modern word, first recorded in 2014.  I think it’s wonderful that in this age when many forest/nature-related words are being lost from our vocabulary, a new word is emerging.  It eloquently describes how I feel in the forest – I especially like how it emphasizes the longing aspect of being out in nature.  I thought it was the perfect name for this next creation.

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This Grubbi ceramic pendant is handlettered with the quote from Nancy Newhall:  “The wilderness holds answers to questions we have not yet learned to ask”.  I paired the pendant with a polymer clay bird from Humblebeads and a ceramic twig bead that I made.  The quote and dark mauve bird suggested a brooding thoughtfulness to me, and I played off that by incorporating dark, moody tones of tourmaline into the chain.  I created an ombre effect from burgundy, to golden brown, green, and black.  Tourmaline is one of my favorite stones to work with – I love its multi hues and it’s darker take on natural colors.   The earrings are made from Grubbi floral charms accented with tourmaline and a delicate brass leaf dangling below.

My final set is called “Understory” and it may be my favorite.  I paired the enameled fern focal and beads a while ago for another design that never fully materialized.  Knowing it would be perfect for the theme, I revisited the fern and reworked the design to be a tribute to the fascinating understory of the forest.  Here in the magical world where ferns and mushrooms and moss dwell, there are always tiny wonders to behold.  I spend the majority of my walks in the forest with my eyes glued to what treasures I can find on the forest floor.  And more often than not, I’m on my hands and knees to capture its beauty with my camera.  This necklace is filled with the jewel tones of moss, rich browns of fertile soil, and the delicate flash of a butterfly wing – all of which awaits you when you enjoy the microcosm of the forest.

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The beads were not labeled, which is a pity because I’d love to find more.  They are faceted and several of them are mottled with white veining.  The enameled fern is from Gardanne Beads and I love the dark speckles on the frond – just like you’d find in the forest!  The earrings are made with buffed warm brass butterflies dangling from matching beads and trailing waxed linen cords behind them.

I hope you have enjoyed exploring the mysteries and miracles of the forest with me.  And perhaps you’re inspired now to answer the call of the forest and find an adventure of your own!

This is part of a blog hop so please visit these other lovely blogs for more forest inspiration!

Guests

Alysen

Divya

Evie & Beth

Hope

Louise

Michelle

Sarah

Tammy

AE Team

Caroline

Cathy

Claire

Laney

Lesley

Niky

Sue

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1160: Woodland Wildflowers

Way back in January I claimed a word for the year: wonder.  I had gotten to a point last year where the cares of life were taking over and wanted to reclaim some sacred space in my heart and life for wonder.  For the tiny miracles that go unnoticed till you look for them, for the plenteous sources of beauty that we rush by, for the quiet whisperings of heaven that rustle in the leaves of earth… for these my heart ached.

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Not only is this a way to fill my life with beauty even when circumstances are difficult, but it is also one of my primary practices for worshiping God.  I use wonder and delight as vehicles to thankfulness to God for providing such a myriad of treasures for us to enjoy, and this in turn focuses into a deeper appreciation of His character and love.  One of the reasons I felt so isolated and divorced from life towards the end of last year was because this lifeline was broken as I reeled in the circumstances of life and couldn’t find firm footing in worship.

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In our sermon at church last Sunday, our pastor talked about how our doxology fuels the way we walk through life and subsequently informs what we work and live for.  He defined doxology as “your opinion of the splendor and glory of God.”  And as our view of His splendor gets bigger, it creates more space to view His goodness and grace in our lives and in the world.

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This is what I was after more of this year… this is what I was craving.  Now many people enhance their wonder by “going big” – seeing panoramic landscapes, open skies, big adventures that take one for a whirlwind and leave you dizzy.  However, I am drawn to finding wonder and the splendor of God in the small.  It’s in the tiny details, the ones you just walk right over, the small treasures that sprout out of the dirt and you have to get on your knees to see – these are where my heart finds peace and where I can connect with my God and Savior.  And so it’s no surprise to find that one of the easiest transports to wonder are wildflowers.

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This spring I was able to visit my beloved Spring Mill State Park and enjoy many hours hiking in the newly sprouted forests soaking up the greeness of rebirth.  I rejuvenate and rest in the forests and find comfort there.  It is a place of constancy as trees that have been sentinels for hundreds of years stretch their branches to the sky and dig their roots deep into the earth.  And at the same time it is transient – wildflowers bloom and are gone, only to be replaced by others as the season lengthens; butterflies and insects flit through and then disappear; leaves throw off green robes for scarlet and orange hues that fade into brown and wither; winter snow piles up then melts into rivers.

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It’s that interface between constancy and change where you find life.  The woods were full of sparkling wildflowers, like jewels hidden in seas of green leaves and it was a delight to find them out and marvel at them.  My favorites are trillium and I have to remind myself that it’s not necessary to take photos of every single one …. wait, or is it?  The most exciting moment of the weekend walks was when my mom and I trekked to a place last year that was filled with yellow woodland poppies and we wanted to see if they were blooming again.  We did find a few, but this time they were interspersed with vast swaths of delicate blue blooms that covered the ground as far back into the forest as we could see.  It was utterly entrancing to see how the same place could look so different from last year – and it was so beautiful.

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I returned from the forests with my heart overflowing.  I hope your hearts are filled with wonder and joy this weekend.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1159: Art Journey #3 – Meet the Bees

For our third installment of Art Journey, Art Bead Scene blog brought us the fabulous work of Jessie Fritsch.   She employs encaustic painting in her art – this is a technique where the artist paints with hot melted wax, mixing in pigments and layering them to create an image.  Here’s a short video of Jessie and her process of using wax in her artwork.

Jessie loves to feature bees and blossoms in her art, which is perfectly apropos since she employees beeswax for her lovely images.  Here’s a collection of her images that we were given to inspire our jewelry creations for this journey.

I really love Jessie’s style and had a great time studying her pieces and gleaning inspiration from bees and blossoms.  As part of this journey, we learned some cool facts about our bee friends too.  I was blown away by this:  10 flowers yield one drop of nectar; 10 drops of nectar are needed to make one drop of honey.  And it takes 10 drops of honey to make one drop of beeswax.  So 1000 flowers are needed for that tiny drop of beeswax!!!

A single bee will only produce 1/12 a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.  While I considered honey to be pretty commonplace before, after understanding how hard bees work for just a tiny amount of honey, I now view it as a treasure!!  I was excited to honor the hard work of bees in my creations and the vital role they play in pollinating our plants.  I had an extra-special way to begin the challenge too because I was the winner of our last Art Journey and received these wonderful gifts to use for this journey!!

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One of the blog organizers, Erin Prins-Heinz created this lovely clay pansy focal bead with gilded gold edges and also included two hand-wired bees!  Aren’t they wonderful?  And she also gifted me a selection of cards featuring Jessie’s artwork.  I couldn’t wait to get started!  And now I can’t wait to share what I made with you.

First up is “Growing Things”.  I had gotten a pendant from Grubbi Ceramics a while back with this quote:  “How lovely the silence of growing things”.  It reminded me of sitting in a garden surrounded by the peaceful growth of green things and flowers.

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For this necklace (and actually all the necklaces in this set) I went with a monochromatic color scheme.  I used coral semi-precious stones, glass beads of coral swirled with cream, and Czech glass flowers in coral and cream.  I finished off the necklace with brown leather lace.

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Here are the matching earrings:  Czech glass flowers with delicate chain and tiny brass flowers.  I’m looking forward to wearing this springtime floral set during the rest of May.

From here I transition to bees:  I had a bee skep clay pendant from my favorite bead artist, Humblebeads.  It came in a bead pack – I love these because Heather packages up a bunch of her lovely beads in a theme and sells them for a discount.  I’d been waiting for a good project for this pendant and now I introduce “Bee Skep”.

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When I was at a bead and mineral show in April I was on the lookout for some yellow stones to use with the bees.  I found a lovely strand of citrine which I used in this necklace by wiring the citrine chips between hexagon rings.  It made for a delicate lightweight necklace that will be perfect for summer.

I had a bunch of hexagon rings leftover and had an idea of wiring them together to make a beehive pendant.  After some fiddling, this is what I came up with.  I call this one “Honeycomb”

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After wiring together the rings to make the pendant I wired on a couple of bee charms from Vintaj.  I added a Humblebeads disc bead, quote bead from Grubbi ceramics, and a glass bead to the pendant and finished it off with some brass chain.  The quote says “You are capable of amazing things”.  I like the quote with this necklace because it reminds me of all the amazing things that little honeybees do every day.

Now for earrings.  I knew as soon as I opened my prize package that the little wired bees would be perfect for earrings.  “Buzzing” earrings feature the little bees dangling from hexagon rings and a drop of citrine, looking like honey.

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My last piece I’ll share with you today is called “Pollen”.  It’s actually the first one I made and I think it’s my favorite.  This necklace features the gorgeous clay pansy from the prize gift.

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I had a collection of vintage glass beads that I purchased from a local bead store years ago before they went out of business.  They are among my favorite beads in my stash and I’d been waiting for something to make them sing.  This was a perfect match.  The beads are strung on wire with some small Czech glass honey beads mixed in.  I put a floral toggle clasp on the back to balance the design.  I’m so happy with how this piece came out!

I hope you’ve enjoyed a look at some fresh spring-inspired designs.  It’s been a delight to watch the flowers emerge the past few weeks and to enjoy the buzzing of bees as they visit the blooms collecting pollen to make their precious nectar.  As a side note, the photos of the jewelry were taken on pages of the book The Lost Words.  This is a fabulous book that highlights beautiful words from nature that are being lost from our vocabulary as we spend less and less time in the natural world.  Filled with stunning illustrations and whimsical poems, this book is a magical feast for the senses and imagination and I highly recommend it!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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Gift #1158: Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone!  Here in my neck of the woods we’ve had a picture-perfect day.  After two days of cold temps and rain and wind, today dawned mild and beautifully sunny.  Bright blue sky and flowers have kept company all day and birdsong has filled the air.  It’s been joyous to watch the world come back to life as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ today and rejoice in hope of the new life He provides.

As per usual, on Easter I share a song which is meaningful to the day.  This is a song we learned at our church about a year or two ago.  I’ve loved it since first hearing it and it’s the song we closed out our worship service with this morning.  I actually was already planning to use this song, but hearing it today made it extra special.

“Jesus Christ My Living Hope” 

How great the chasm that lay between us
How high the mountain I could not climb
In desperation, I turned to heaven
And spoke Your name into the night
Then through the darkness, Your loving-kindness
Tore through the shadows of my soul
The work is finished, the end is written
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus, Yours is the victory!
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Jesus Christ, my living hope

This song is dear to my heart because it depicts Jesus as a roaring lion.  Everyone has a unique way they view Jesus, but for me He has always been a lion.  The terrible and tender lion whose paws hold my life and his warm breath gives me life.  My image of God was born of young years through the reading of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The great lion Aslan from these books deeply impacted my life and still to this day, has formed the clearest image of how I view and relate to God.  In the words of Lewis:  “Of course He isn’t safe!  But He’s good.  He’s the King!”

So today we celebrate the Roaring Lion who has conquered sin and death, rendered the grave powerless, and called us to Himself.  His resurrection offers us the security of knowing we also will rise in His name and His sacrifice assures us that His love is everlasting.

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Happy Easter blessings to you,
Sarah
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Gift #1157: Afternoon with American Painters

A few weekends ago my mom and I took a weekend trip to Cincinnati.  We visit there a couple of times each year whenever we feel the need to get away for a bit.  It’s an easy drive there and there’s no shortage of wonderful things to see and explore.  The impetus for this trip was a couple of exhibits at the Taft Museum of Art.  I was looking through my pictures this evening and decided to take you along on a tour of “Winslow Homer to Georgia O’Keeffe:  American Paintings from the Phillips Collection.”  The exhibit features 54 paintings from 1870-1965 on loan from the Phillips collection, which opened to the public in 1921 as the nation’s first museum of modern art.  I expected the exhibit to be arranged chronologically, but was pleasantly surprised to see that it was organized thematically, and did a fabulous job connecting the past to the present and highlighting the exchange of art form between America and Europe.

So let’s get started!  The first theme was Romanticism and Realism. In this section, artists whose work closely mirrored those of the European masters was featured.  An example is “Lake Albano” by George Inness.

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Inness belongs to the Hudson Valley School of painters, and this is my favorite group of artists in American painting.  I love landscapes and the way these artists used light and the grandeur of the landscape to paint America as a beautiful unspoilt paradise.  While similar to European art that features people in picturesque settings, you can see that the dramatic background highlights the wild, unexplored land of America.  Another nod Inness gives to his European training is the presence of classic ruins at the top of the bluff in the upper right.

From there we move into Impressionism.  French Impressionism in the 1880s transformed American artists – encouraging them to paint outdoors without preplanned sketches and explore new ways of applying paint to capture the light and shimmering effect that is so characteristic of this period.

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“Washington Arch, Spring” by Child Hassam (1893) was the most stellar painting from this set.  The lighting and colors on this was just stellar… and of course I loved the prominent trees and the dancing leaves.   Another beautiful piece was “My Summer Studio” by John Henry Twachtman (1900)

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Although it’s apparently of a summer scene, it looks more autumnal to me.  This artist was a resident of Cincinnati but he spent the summers in Massachusetts.  You can see the artist’s prominent brushwork to simulate foliage and bushes, and the vibrant colors are brilliantly set off with the dark pools of water.

An offshoot of Romantic and Impressionist culture (in both art and literature) was a departure in viewing nature as a safe, beautiful place. Instead these artists emphasized the powerful, unpredictable, and destructive aspects of nature.  In the Forces of Nature section, there was a dynamic painting called “Storm Voices” by Paul Doughterty (1912).

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This was one of my favorite pieces in the collection.  This desolate scene pulsed with energy and you felt as if you’d get wet if you stood too close.  You could almost feel the wild wind whipping your hair and clothes and smell the salt spray as the waves broke across the boulders.  I thought if I stared at it long enough I’d get pulled into this world.  It reminded me of “The Old Man and the Sea.”

From there we entered a section on “Nature and Abstraction”.  Following World War I, American culture struggled to define its modern identity in the aftermath of great crisis, the emergence of modern technology, and the explosion of urban cities.  The artists featured in this section sought to simply nature to basic forms to express inner truths and define an art form separate from European counterparts.

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“Large Dark Leaves on White” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1925) is an excellent example of this departure from classic realistic landscapes to focus on simple natural forms and color.  Contrast of light and shadow provide the dynamics instead of subject matter.  This was one of two O’Keeffe’s on display.  In utter honesty, I must say I don’t really favor this style – I enjoy the classic landscapes.  But she does expertly handle color.  There’s a large painting of Jimson weed at my local art museum  – although the flowers are white, you can see how she blended myriad grays, purples, and greens to create depth to the white.

Other artists saw increased urbanization as a source of endless inspiration.  During this period, America experienced a shift from primarily agrarian to urban.  Likewise, artists of the period showed a similar break in their subject matter and style compared to their European counterparts.  Instead of grandiose scenes of languid beauty, American artists reveled in the commonplace – the dirty streets, noisy transportation, and hordes of people.

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“Six O’Clock, Winter” by John Sloan depicts the crowded chaos of a railway station at commuting time.  It’s somehow comforting to know that evening rush hour is not a recent phenomenon.  The rustling crowd made me feel claustrophobic, but I was drawn to the use of light in this painting and how he captured the smoky twilight of an inner city.

From here, we moved into “The City” section.  Modern, burgeoning cities became a hallmark of American life and a symbol of national identity.  As skyscrapers and bridges decorated the skylines, they advertised the advance technology and engineering of the nation and provided a rich subject matter for new artists.  This section was the greatest surprise of the exhibit.  I absolutely loved every painting featured.  I went back several times to view them and I was utterly fascinated by the mid-century feel and way the artists played with lines and shapes to capture the energy of modern cities.

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This was the only section where I photographed every single painting.  It’s hard to have a favorite, but if hard-pressed, I would pick “Power” by Edward Bruce (1933).  I spent longer with this painting than anything else in the exhibit.  The Brooklyn skyline is soft in purple/grays as if just emerging from the fog into the light of dawn.  The bridge anchors the edges of the city and grounds the scene.  And above, shafts of golden sunlight give the city an almost spiritual feel, as if this might be the artist’s concept of heaven.  It’s a peaceful scene  – like the city is suspended in time – but the boats underneath the bridge let you know that energy soon will be throbbing through the city.

Concurrent with the sudden growth in cities and urban cities were the throngs of immigrants making America their new home.  Along with thousands of European immigrants, African-Americans moved to from the rural south to the north looking for jobs in factories during the early decades of the twentieth century.  These migrations reshaped America’s racial and ethnic culture and provided a fertile field for artists seeking to capture the human spirit and presence in this changing world.

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“Across the Strip” by John Kane (1929) depicts an immigrant district in Pittsburgh.  It was a rundown area with crumbling brick facades, broken windows, and smoky pollution choked in by tall skyscrapers and factories.  Families lived in crowded conditions and worked long hours at the factories, often in unsafe conditions.  Although incredibly diverse in terms of their background and countries of origin, these immigrants were united in their desire to find jobs, better housing, and better opportunities than were available in the homes they left behind.  They forged the backbone of America’s cities and gave depth and strength to the nation’s identity.  This section on Memory and Identity was a poignant reminder of the tension between our past and our hopes for the future.

As America was enriched by the new cultures, traditions, and people who came to call America home, so also was American art transformed by new art forms that immigrating artist’s brought with them.  One of these new forms featured in the exhibit was Cubism.  With origins in Europe, American artists enthusiastically embraced this new way of depicting the world and it formed the foundation of American modern art.

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It’s kind of at this point that I start to fall off the “artistic bandwagon”.  I have not cultivated much of an appreciation for art that doesn’t really look like anything.  I find it hard to relate to and it’s disorienting actually.  But this piece, “Rue Brea” by John D. Graham (1928) was whimsical and still retained enough grounds in reality for me to like it.  It is strongly influenced by cubism, with basic geometric shapes and blocks of color standing in for a street of buildings.  Actually parts of the painting are textured with various materials mixed into the paint to give the illusion of stucco or brick.  Also common in cubism, is a mix of what I call “finished painting” with “raw sketching” that kind of looks like the artist forgot to fill in parts of the scene.  This kind of reminded me of an amusement park – like something from Disneyland.

From there the exhibit moved into abstract expressionism.  I thought about sharing a painting from this section, but frankly, they were all massive ink spatters on canvas and it kind of felt like a downer after seeing such magnificent artwork.  Perhaps at one point I’ll have a better appreciation of modern art movements, but for now I enjoy the work of the masters who relied on real places, forms, nature, and cultural tensions to inform their work.  I appreciated this exhibit for both the realistic nature of American painting as well as the optimistic hope that our dreams and experiences could always be better.  And this is still the heart and vision of the great artists of today as well as our heritage from those who forged the path.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1156: Art Journey #2

“Once upon a time…”  – are there any words that are more exciting?  Just hearing that phrase makes me tingle with excitement knowing that a story full of adventure, trials, travels, magic spells, and happy endings is sure to come.  (Along with fencing, fighting,  true love, and revenge – as we’re told in Princess Bride).  Well, I was delighted that our theme for Art Bead Scene was the fairy tale illustrations of Virginia Frances Sterrett.  This was a new artist to me.  Virginia was born in 1900 in Chicago.  She showed a proclivity towards drawing even as a young girl and won her first commission at age 19 for illustrating Old French Fairy Tales.  She created 8 watercolors, 16 pen and ink drawings, and the covered illustration.  She only completed two other commissions for book illustrations before her untimely death from tuberculosis at age 30.  Her work is delicate yet full of bold color, with a wistful feel to it.  Here are the three images that guided our Art Journey with this fabulous artist.

Blondine and the Tortoise
From Old French Fairy Tales (1919-1920) illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett

Blondine Threw Her Arms Around Him
From Old French Fairy Tales (1919-1920) illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett

Proserpina and the Sea Nymphs
From Tanglewood Tales (1921) illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett

One of the blog’s editors provided us with the complete text of the fairytales, which can be read here, if you are interested.  Basically, Blondine (our heroine) loses her friends in a tragic manner and meets a tortoise in the woods who tells her that she can find out the fate of her friends if she climbs on the tortoise’s back and remains there without asking a question for 6 months as they travel to the castle of a fairy queen.  There Blondine’s character is tested and she breaks a spell over the forest and is reunited with her friends and enjoys a happy ending.  This reminded me of one of my favorite fairytales, The Three Ravens.  (It also goes by The Seven Swans or The Princess who Spun Nettles ).  In this story several brothers are transformed into birds (ravens or swans depending on the telling) by an evil witch.  Their sister is helped by a fox who tells her she must remain silent for the time it takes her to spin yarn and make sweaters for each of her brothers.  In both stories the heroine loses people close to her and must trust in the goodness and guidance of an animal they meet in the forest.  They must remain quiet and not question their companion and their commitment to finding and freeing their loved ones is tested.  But in both stories, the heroine breaks the curse, wins a handsome prince, and is restored to her family and friends.  The essence of these stories inspired my first two sets of jewelry.

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Here is “Forest Fox”.  I just loved this wood bead with painted fox by Summer Wind.  Doesn’t he cut a handsome profile?  I’ve been admiring him and wanting to create a necklace for quite a while, and this was the time.  I knotted the pendant on brown leather cording and paired it with mottled orange stone beads, wood rounds, and cream spacers.  This also gave me practice with making knotted necklaces and adjustable knot closures.  I added on an acorn and leaf charm to enhance the woodland feel.  And here are the matching earrings.

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Next is the companion set “Forest Raven”.

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The pendant is also by SummerWind.  For this piece I paired the pendant with crackle glazes black and white beads and smaller blue/grey beads that matched the raven’s eye and head feathers.  This is strung on black leather cord, also with adjustable knot closure.  I wire wrapped some grey Czech glass leaves to the pendant.   And earrings:

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Inspiration for the third set of jewelry came when I was pulling out some stones I bought last time I was in Texas from a bead store.  They had great prices on stone pendants and matching earring charms and I bought several sets.  One in particular was a very unusual stone and it looked just like the forest floor of “Blondine and Tortoise”.

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“Forest Floor” was created by wire wrapping the stone and adding a floral lentil bead created by Humblebeads for the focal point.  I strung the necklace with green kyanite stone chips, green agate beads, and aqua Czech glass flowers.  I’m really exited by this piece as it captures the colors and textures of the forest floor and the Art Nouveau style of the illustration.

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Isn’t that stone amazing?  It looks like cherry blossom tree – only in green.  I wish I remembered the name of this unique stone.  At this point I was quite satisfied with my explorations into the fairytales of Virginia Sterrett.  I had created two sets that reminded me of the story and one that was a more literal interpretation of the forest illustration.

But then I started to feel guilty for neglecting the other scenes we had for inspiration…. and I had this ceramic seashell set that was just perfect.  I had in mind what I wanted to make with the seashells with some beads I thought matched just right.  For about two days the seashells and I fought with each other as they steadfastly refused to work with any beads or layout I gave them.  Finally I stopped and listened to the beads and we all got along much better.

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I’d like to call this one “The Selfish Shells” because they absolutely refused to share the limelight with any other beads.  But really, can you blame them?  They are perfect just on their own and were made by the talented Terri of Artisticaos.  Don’t they look just like real shells?  They were wire-wrapped in a stack and strung onto doubled brown leather cording.  I threaded on some brass spacers and created knotted loops to add a bit of interest to the body of the necklace, but it’s pretty simple to not detract from the shells.  And so that was my journey to the ocean world of Proserpina and the sea nymphs.

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings through the forest and sea on this art journey inspired by the illustrations of Virginia Sterrett.  Art Journey #3 is already underway and I’ve got some ideas percolating.  See you soon!

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1155: Luna Moth

I’m writing this blog on Saturday night wearing warm fuzzy pajamas while watching the snow fall …. at the end of March.  I’m trying not to be bitter about this, but at this point I’m nearly frantic for spring.  Since it’s definitely not warming up outside, I’m daydreaming of the warm, mellow days of spring that slowly melt into the sultry nights of summer.   As the last rays of sunset are engulfed by twilight, the stars begin to twinkle, nocturnal insects start their serenade, and fireflies dance to the music.  In the light of a pale full moon, a delicate winged luna moth flutters out of the forest and lands, feathery antennae sampling the air while the wind gently ruffles the luminescent wings.

Now before you start to wonder why I’m so obsessed with moths this year (because of the other two posts I’ve done so far) let me explain that I’ve had no control over the themes set by the blogs I follow.  However, I’m not complaining at all about another month to explore moths in my art.  I thought perhaps I had exhausted my moth muse during Jan and Feb, but when the March theme for Art Elements blog was announced as luna moths, I decided I’d love to spend more time with the enchanting creatures.

This first piece does double duty for another challenge.  But it fit perfectly since it features a luna moth illustration on faux tin.  The illustration and tin pieces were made by Humblebeads.

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I call this one “Luminosity”.  The design is simple to keep the focus on the beautiful illustration.  I just added a large stone agate bead that reminded me of a full moon, and a few pale aqua glass beads.  And here are the matching earrings.

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Luna moths are the most ethereal of night creatures.  The very moon itself seems to be infused into their wings.  They are among the larger of North American moths and are found throughout the eastern continental United States and up into Canada as well.  Adults emerge in May/June and can produce 1-3 generations during their breeding season, depending on the climate.  The female lays 200-400 eggs at a time on the underside of host plant leaves and eggs hatch in about two weeks. They exist 6-7 weeks as larvae and then as 9 months as pupae.  When they emerge from their cocoons as the beautiful pale green moths, they only live for one week more, to mate and lay eggs.  Adult luna moths don’t even have mouths to eat because they don’t live that long.

This  second piece of jewelry is a tribute to the life cycle of the luna moth, called “Emergence”.

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I wove a wreath of antiqued wire to look like a nest of branches found in a forest.  From the wreath dangles a luna moth cocoon made of polymer clay by Humblebeads along with brass and glass charms.

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The earrings are made of polymer clay beads designed to look like luna moth wings (these are also made by Humblebeads), Czech glass beads and brass moth charms.

My third jewelry piece inspired by luna moths is called “Midnight Flight”.  It features a polymer clay pendant by Humblebeads, pale aqua Czech beads and leaves, ceramic rounds, and gold spacers.

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I wanted to also explore using luna moths in paper crafting.  However, I was surprised to discover that while I own many butterfly stamps, I don’t have a luna moth.  Nor could I find any images or stickers of luna moths in my stash or at local craft stores.  (Apparently the rest of the world is not as crazy about moths as I am).  I tried every way I could think of to find something premade, but in the end, I was cornered into drawing moths by hand… and I don’t draw.  I practiced studies of moths and one of those was this piece that I decided to watercolor (another technique I have no experience with).

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I did the moth first to see how it went and my original plan was to cut it out and use it in a different project.  But then I decided to add in a moon and a background and ended up keeping it intact.  I did the watercoloring with pencils and added in highlights with a white gel pen.  Considering my lack of experience with these mediums, I’m rather delighted that the piece came out recognizable as a luna moth.

Inspired by my reasonable success with free-handed drawing, I returned back to my first intent – which was to create a small canvas of a luna moth in flight.

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For this I drew and cut out the moth three times – once on white cardstock and twice on vellum.  I drew in the details and colored all three with chalks and white  gel pen.  I painted the canvas with black paint, let dry, and painted in the moon.  I printed out the quote and colored the edges of each word with Distress crayons.  I gave the canvas a wash with silver pearlescent glimmer sprays and splattered it with watered-down white acrylic paint to give it more dimension.  Then I adhered the quote and moth.  I wanted it to feel whimsical and ethereal – almost like you had walked outside and surprised a fairy by the light of the moon.

And really, what could be more magical than spying a luna moth in flight on a warm summer’s night?

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Please visit the brilliantly talented artists who participated in this challenge!

 

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1154: Orchid Fever

My mood can best be summed up with the following quote:  “Now is the winter of our discontent.’  About the second week in February I start to lose it – I’ve had enough of winter and I can feel my sanity starting to fray and shred around the edges.  As Feb progresses, it just gets worse (February is one of the hardest months for me).  Come March 1st, I demand fair skies, sunny weather, warmer temperatures, and I literally expect green growing things to magically emerge from the ground as I watch.  Every year I’m sorely disappointed because there’s a great lack of green in the outdoors.  Sigh.  And so the deterioration of “winter madness” continues.  Fortunately, the art museum comes to my rescue when I think I can’t take one more minute of winter.  In February they host an orchid show, which is utterly dazzling and enchanting and makes one almost completely forget there’s winter going on.  These jeweled beauties are so refreshing in their bright color, green foliage, and exotic shapes!

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It’s only been a few years since I started adoring orchids.  I shall explain our budding relationship as follows:  most of my adult life was spent disliking orchids as upstart, showy things with no sense of propriety.  I grudgingly start attending the orchid shows in winter because of desperation to see something green and blooming.  I slowly come to admire a few of them that look like natural wildflowers.  Then Bam!  two winters ago, it happened and I was shocked to find I really liked them just for who they were.  I asked for books on orchids for my birthday and spent several months that year reading everything I could get my hands on about the bewitching orchids.  I became obsessed and started dreaming of having one of my own to love (or a whole greenhouse full).  Last spring I moved locations at work to a new building where I sat close to the windows – as a moving present I decided to purchase an orchid.  I bought a lovely white phalaenopsis (moth orchid) and proceeded to nurture and watch over it with all the dedication of a new parent.  I took pictures of her frequently and emailed/texted them to trusted family members who wouldn’t think I’d developed a mental instability about orchids.  I’ve worried over her (and believe me, orchids can give you plenty to worry about) and tried to make her as happy as I could (our communication is limited because unfortunately orchids are nonverbal). And I tell her “I love you” every day.  I think she knows this because she’s bloomed out fully twice and even today, with her current set of blooms fading, I saw that she’s already got buds going.

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So that’s where I’ve come from in a matter of a few years:  complete indifference to orchids to now hovering around them as obsessed as if I were a pollinator of them myself.  Given my current mindset, I was giddy about the orchid exhibit and couldn’t wait for it to come.  Here’s the stats on what I experienced.

  • 4 visits over 3 weekends
  • 1 special tour
  • 1 lecture
  • 434 pictures
  • 3 talks with the head orchid gardener
  • 8 orchids added to my collection
  • 1 bag of sphagnum moss gifted to me
  • countless hours of joy in the company of orchids

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One of the interesting things I’ve learned about orchids is that they can be found in every single color except black.  They are one of the very few plants that can naturally produce a true blue bloom.  One of the exhibit rooms in the greenhouse had a lovely display of orchids grouped by color.  I’ve tried to mimic that in the collage pictures of this post.  The orchids range from dark purple to true pink, to a yellow/pink mix of hues pictured above.  The bottom right is a lycaste orchid, which I first saw last year and I love it because such a delicate pink.

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Then they merge into all yellow orchids.  Just like liquid sunshine.  The upper right ladyslippers were some of my favorites in this show.  They had long twisted petals of a pinkish hue that drooped down from the main flower like a mustache.   I photographed them an embarrassing number of times.

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Some of the most fascinating orchids are those with green blooms.  My opinion was only further reinforced by seeing so many green ladyslippers.  These are my very favorite orchids, and yes, it is because almost all of these are forest/woodland flowers.  The ones on the top left are a variety called “Bulldog” because they have been bred for extra broad petals.  The ones on the top right make my heart all a flutter because I have a weakness for the striped varieties.  This one with the white and green was especially striking.  The ladyslipper on the bottom left also is white and green but with a bit of bronze burnishing on her petals which make her quite the belle of the show.

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And finally, the orchids fade into white – a soothing and striking color.  The bottom left is a ladyslipper about to open.  The orchids in bottom center were among the tiny Japanese orchids on display – each bloom was about the size of my fingernail.  And the bottom right was perhaps the greatest surprise of the show.  This is Darwin’s orchid, from Africa.  It was in a display in the African galleries and the plantings were all of African decent.  The Darwin orchid is famed for the story that it was sent to Charles Darwin (who also was obsessed with orchids) and he proposed that only a moth with an exceptionally long proboscis could be its pollinator.  If you look closely at the photograph, you’ll see a long green stem-like structure underneath the bloom.  Nectar collects at the base of that spur.  Darwin died long before any such moth was discovered but 21 years after his death, the elusive moth was discovered  – the Madagascar sphinx moth – with a proboscis of 12-13″!  This is just one of the spellbinding stories that fill the history and biology of orchids.  My favorite book on orchids is Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen and it is full of entertaining and riveting stories of adventure, lust, lunacy, crime, and the strangest ice cream made from orchid roots…..

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1153: Art Elements February Challenge

After the excitement of having the moon for January’s theme, the Art Elements blog is back for another inspiring challenge – this time it’s birds of prey.  I was excited by this topic from the outset and spent some time daydreaming about all the directions this could go in.  Eventually I decided to focus on owls because I love them and have a generous collection of owls from which to create.  Owls are fascinating creatures – I have a documentary on them from BBC Nature that focuses on how they are perfectly designed for nighttime flight.  I love watching owls – one of my earliest memories of owls was at a nature rescue facility we visited on a school field trip and one owl just stared at me for quite some time and tilted its head, in the characteristic manner of owls – as if he was assessing how likely I’d be to procure him treats.  Owls capture our imagination when they soar majestically in flight and are wise sentinels when perched in the trees.

A few years ago I read The Owl who Liked Sitting on Cesar by Martin Windrow, who kept an owl as a pet and I quickly fell in love with the intrepid and inquisitive Mumble.  Other famous owls in my literary journey include “Owl” from the brilliant Arnold Lobel’s Owl at Home.  That was a formative book in my childhood years.  And I can’t forget Professor Newton, the educated owl that inhabits the world of Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, by Susan Wittig Albert.

One of the reasons that owls are popular in art and culture is that they are so amenable to a variety of styles.  For example, they are magical and mystical:

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Or they can be girly and cutesy:

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Or scary and spooky:

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Or natural and woodsy:

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So many choices…. I decided to go woodsy for my jewelry pieces.

First up is “Winter Owl”.  The inspiration for this piece was the beautiful ceramic pendant I received in a recent order from Grubbi ceramics.  She has the most lovely delicate ceramic pieces and I resonate with her emphasis on nature. (I’m slightly ashamed to tell you how many owl pendants I have from her, but it’s at least 3).  This beauty is paired with grey/peach agate stones and silver spacers threaded on cream cord.  The back of the necklace is finished with grey leather lace.  It has quite the frosty appearance!

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And here is “Tree Owl”.  This necklace features rustic ceramic beads by Artisticaos. I was introduced to her work from the Art Bead Scene blog and have become an avid “collector” of her beads.  I picked up a couple owl bead sets last fall and knew for sure I needed to use them for this challenge.

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Tree Owl is a perfectly hand-formed owl in a fetching shade of yellow.  She came with this magnificent tree ring which makes the most natural-looking setting for the little owl.  She is knotted to the tree ring with waxed linen with tiny metallic matte brass beads.  The body of the necklace is comprised of river jasper stone knotted on brown waxed linen.  This is one of my favorite stones to work with because of the rich natural hues in brown, yellow, and green and I am fond of the autumn ambience it elicits. You can almost feel the leaves rustling and falling gently to the ground… then you look up and spy a golden owl hiding in the autumnal foliage.

My third and final piece is called “Woodsy Owl”.  This one makes use of my other owl bead set from Artisticaos.  She is more at home in the winter forest given her brown and while plumage and she makes her home high in the snowy birch trees.  From there she can survey her domain and take note of any stirrings in the forest.  She also keeps a keen eye on signs of coming spring.

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I fashioned the owl and ceramic beads into a pendant which hangs from a beaded strand made of wood chips, shell slices, and matte brass spacers.  I loved the way these beads looked like winter tree bark.  Nestled halfway up is a floral bead on one side (to remind one of the coming spring) and on the other side is a dark brown leaf and a little ceramic quote bead with a wise reminder.  I think that the forest owls would be full of wisdom to slow down, savor, observe, and appreciate the tiny miracles that surround us.  This necklace is a reminder to not lose sight of the little things that fill a life and make it meaningful.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1152: Of Moths and Moons Part 2

After a long hiatus, the Art Bead Scene blog is back with their monthly challenges!  Except now they’re not monthly challenges, but six week challenges so that we have more time to create – these are now called art journeys.  And we have multiple images that create a theme for each “Art Journey” instead of just one.  So lots of positive, exciting changes in the works here.  And I maybe went a little overboard with this first challenge of the year.  You’ll see why because this is the first photo we had as our inspiration.

Is that not one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen?  It is a lovely sketch by Heather Powers and I’m fortunate enough to have a copy of this print and I could spend hours gazing at it.  Moths are an ethereal creature – they are nocturnal but always drawn to light.  Of course, there are many diurnal species of moth – my own favorite moth happens to be the hummingbird moth who usually comes to visit my blooming annuals late in summer.  But there’s something about those translucent-winged, feathery-antenna insects flying towards the moon, wrapped in its light, that captures our imagination.

My journey with the moths began innocently enough.  I was making a pair of earrings for another challenge and had made a component for a matching necklace – it was a hammered copper ring with peach beads.  Nearby I had out a moth pendant from a recent order from Artisticaos.  The moth jumped at the copper ring and insisted loudly that it have a place in the necklace I was working on.  I tried to incorporate said moth into the design I already had in mind and what resulted was a multi-day fight with the moth and necklace until I finally gave up and let the moth have her way.  What resulted is “Flickers of Pale Wings”

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The moth is hand painted on a ceramic pendant and clear glazed.  She rests beneath the copper ring that started the design.  In the end I discarded the other elements I was originally planning on using and instead used some ceramic beads that came as a set with the moth and a czech glass bead.  These were knotted onto faux leather cord and I used adjustable knots to finish off the necklace.

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Here are the earrings that started this set – they aren’t moth-themed, but I am pleased with them nonetheless.  The leaves are polymer clay beads from Humblebeads and also feature enameled bead caps by Gardanne Beads.

Feeling excited by the moth theme, I quickly mocked up another two designs.  “Shedding Light” features another moth pendant by Artisticaos.

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Her painted moths are so delicate.  For this necklace I again wanted to keep it simple so the focus would be on the stunning ceramics.  I cut a piece of embossed brass to top off the pendant and added the two matching ceramic beads to a large jump ring.  The necklace is finished off with knotted leather lace.

Now late last fall, Heather Powers of Humblebeads had designed some faux tin pieces with a vintage death’s-head hawk moth illustration.  It’s a breathtaking navy blue and yellow moth against a delicate pen inked botanical background.  I’d been thinking about a necklace design for it and this was a perfect opportunity to use it.

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This is “Nightwing”.  These moths are fascinating and I read a bit about them while working on this challenge.  There are three species – Acheron styx gets its name from the river that borders Hades.  A. lachesis is named for the fate who measures the thread of life and A. atropos for the fate who cuts the thread of life.  Apparently these moths were not viewed favorably by those who named them.  But I think the most interesting (and perhaps endearing) characteristic of these moths is that they squeak.  And it also has a taste for honey, as the moths are known to raid the hives of bees and drink their fill.  They aren’t disturbed because they produce an odor similar to bees and are essentially overlooked by the bees when they come to call.

I cut etched copper into geometric shapes to fill out the faux tin pendant.  Then I strung dark blue gemstone chips with silver spacers to highlight the colors in the moth and finished off the necklace with black leather lace.  The earrings are made with polymer disc beads by Heather – these feature a delicate moth wing pattern.  They’re finished off with a simple loop of leather lace and decorated with twisted jump rings and metallic bead spacers.

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At this point I figured I was done, but turns out I had not plumbed the depths of moth-obsession yet.  To my delight, I received my other order from Heather in time to use.  Heather had created some faux tin pieces of her lovely moth illustration.  I ordered them the second she posted them on her website.  It’s hard for me to have favorites of her work but I think these are some of the most beautiful pieces she’s made.  I just had to make some jewelry with them for this challenge.

For this necklace, I pulled out the hues of the complex blue/purple tones in the moth’s wings by using fluorite rough-cut rondelles.  I used thin black leather lace for the rest of the necklace and wrapped the ends with brass wire.  I had a lovely leafy toggle clasp that matched the foliage on the pendant perfectly.  I call this necklace “Luminosity”

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I love the way the gemstones seem to hold their own light and it seems a fitting material to use in homage to the light-loving moths.  The earring charms were cut in a shield shape.  I added a few fluorite gemstones connected with a length of fine chain to these and topped them off with a tiny rondelle.

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My last jewelry set is named “Alight” and the star is the fabulous and iconic luna moth.  I wanted to create something that felt like moonlight.  I strung the pendant with two  lengths of fine chain through an agate stone which reminded me of the moon.  It’s mottled in subtle shades of gray, lavender, and creamy yellow.   I added in some pale aqua agate beads to chain for the length of the necklace.

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The earrings pull in the same elements from the necklace and I just love the illustration on these charms.  The moths glow in the moonlight and shimmer with stardust, just like a perfect fairytale.

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If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you.  This is a rather longer post than usual but I can almost absolutely promise you I will not create five necklaces and four earrings for any future challenge.   I was energized and inspired by using Heather’s lovely illustration and by exploring the world of moths – two wings suspended by the moon.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

 

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