Gift #1132: Diary of a Shawl

My first memories of existence were of excited whispers about what a beautiful shawl I would grow up to be.  My knitter would caress me when I was just skeins of yarn and tell me about how I was destined for a very special project.  I learned that I was the first in this year’s Shawl Society – hosted by the talented Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade.  My knitter was thrilled that the theme of the Shawl Society this year was The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett.  The pattern I would be knitted from was inspired by Maytham Manor, the home where the authoress lived.  As she restored the unkept gardens and planted flowers in the fallow beds, the seeds of her beloved novel were taking root in her heart.  My knitter went to great pains to find me – the perfect yarn – which would evoke feelings of roses climbing over the garden walls.

I was elated when she told me that I would be one of the projects she was taking with her to Colorado.  Though we hadn’t been together very long, I was pleased that she would be sharing her favorite places with me.  One of the first outings she took me on was to the Alpine Gardens in Vail.  While my knitter was at a conference in Keystone, Colorado we spent a lovely sun-spilled afternoon in this nearby town.  I believe she told me this was the highest garden in the world – and I believed it!  This lovely garden of evergreens, aspens, and rock outcroppings, and tiny rivers was an utter delight.  Here I am posing among some bellflowers, with the novel of course.  My knitter softly read some of the book to me while we sat together listening to the wind whisper through the aspens.  We dreamed together of the thrill of finding a forgotten garden and bringing it to life.

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After the conference, my knitter packed everything up and we went to Denver, picked up her mom, and commenced two glorious weeks of visiting all the sites and pleasures of her home town.  She announced her plan to bring me with her to all the gardens that she loved – and of course, that included the Denver Botanic Gardens!  She had told me so much about this wonderful place that I could hardly stand staying in my knitting bag when we entered its gates.

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As I saw the beautiful gardens, I was thrilled that these beautiful flowers and plantings would be part of my story.  We visited every single garden on this 40-acre spot of heaven.  She showed me all the things she loved in each garden and I began to understand what powerful things gardens are.  Whether or not they’re enclosed with stone, they are sanctuaries of the soul and a rich treasure house of beauty.  Flowers and plants are carefully chosen to create an atmosphere of peace, reflection, mystery, and enchantment.

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Here I am at the Scripture Garden – a quiet place carpeted with wooly thyme, large apricot trees, and benches positioned in the cool shade.  Icons, like the lamb I’m next to, are set in the ground, and plaques with Bible verses proclaiming God’s glory in creation stand at the entrance of this garden.  I understand that God Himself is an enthusiastic gardener.

My next stop in Denver was in the mountains.  My knitter wanted me to see the beautiful Rocky Mountains too.  Though not cultivated gardens, the mountains were full of wildflowers and trees and quiet spaces that made me think that perhaps wild lands were gardens in their own right.  She brought me to a high outcropping of granite boulders at Three Sisters Park.  She told me this park is  renown for its amazing rock outcroppings and we nestled in at the top of one for a long knitting session.  We listened to the cawing of crows, smelled the scent of old pine trees, and felt the strength of the mountains.

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I understood why my knitter loves this place so.  Before we left to continue our hike, she took my picture so we could remember this special time together.  This is me (note I have more grey on my edge now) on top of the boulder we sat against.  My knitter thought my color complemented that of the pink granite with lichen growing on it.  And since she’s so fond of these rocks, I had to pose nicely and agree that we were a perfect match.  She’s thinking about how to get these boulders back home to Indiana – I can see it in her eyes.

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Next we visited a new mountain park called Flying J Ranch.  I admired the rolling mountain meadows and shady forest groves of columbines with my knitter.  During a rest, my knitter worked more on my grey border.  You can see the arches taking shape – these are reminiscent of the decorative walls at Maytham Manor.  (My knitter says if I’m good, she’ll consider taking me to England to see the original home that inspired my design).  But for now I’m more than content to wander about the mountains.

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By the way, look at the lovely fallen tree I’m resting on.  My knitter was practically rabid in her obsession for fallen logs and pieces of bark.  She apparently loves the twisted remains of these mountain trees.  In fact more than a few times I had to wonder if she loved these branches or yarn more… hmmm…..

On our last full day in Denver I went with my knitter to her favorite mountain park – Lair o’ the Bear.  Now I’d heard a lot about this park and knew it was incredibly dear to her heart.  She whispered to me about how her family came here when they lived nearby and how she knew the trails by heart.  We went to her favorite mountain on earth – the one that lives by the Bear River.  We spent a long time with this mountain – it is an old friend of hers.  She showed me the way little plants grow up out of the rocks of the mountain, how spider webs glint in the sunlight, how lichen decorates the rocks, and I learned to love this mountain too.  My last photo was of me with the mountain.  I was delighted to find a section of granite where the grey hard rock was suddenly interrupted by a pink section of granite.  It looked just like me and I was pleased that I looked like the mountain my knitter loved.

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After returning home to Indiana, my knitter and I spent lots of quality hours together.  I was honored to have gone with her back to her homeland.  I am now part of that place – she has knit the mountains and the air and the flowers into my rows.  The pattern of the mountains has left its mark on me too.  I’m pleased that when my knitter wraps up in me, she will remember the places and things that she loves most and perhaps she will smell the mountain air when she holds me close.  I will always treasure the memories we made together in the gardens and mountains.

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This is me all grown up and finished in the verdant green garden of her backyard.  I told her Indiana is beautiful too.  Now that I’m finished, perhaps we can make more memories together in her current home too.  Though I can’t wait to go back to Colorado again.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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Gift #1131: Lessons among Ruins

I had no idea that my last blog post was way back in May!  Time just seems to fly.  I spent most of June in my beloved home of Colorado.  I went out for a week for a conference for work and then stayed an additional two weeks dreaming in the mountains, wandering by streams, marveling over gardens, and exploring museums.  And eating my favorite foods… can’t forget that.  My mom and I made good use of every single moment and visited old favorites as well as searched out new places to experience.  As usual, I come back with my heart full of all we were blessed to do and grateful that we could spend time again at home.  It feels each time I go that I have never left and in many ways, my heart doesn’t.  Pine forests, columbines, prairie dogs, and aspen trees still enchant me and the roots of the mountains grow deep in my heart.  I usually use a song to summarize each Colorado trip and I knew right away when I visited a mountain park what would inspire my choice.image

One of our favorite places to hike is Mount Falcon.  And I do believe it is the most beautiful park that we frequent.  There are breathtaking views, meadows filled with wildflowers and grasses, forests scented with pine, rocky outcroppings, and moss-covered tree stumps.  This park has it all… and it has castle ruins.  The ruins are a special place to me and awake all sorts of thoughts within me as I gaze at the falling walls of stone and admire butterflies flitting about where rooms once stood.  It has a feeling of sacredness to it – a man and his family lived and loved there till tragedy struck.  It’s a place of buried dreams yes, but also a place where ashes turned to beauty.  Though the house burned, and all that’s left is rocks and walls, the man who lived here laid foundations of the park system that preserves large portions of the mountains for the public to enjoy.  Seeing the remains of his home always makes me consider what will last when we’re gone and what is worth spending our lives on.  It’s haunting and unsettling to see wildflowers and grasses growing where a kitchen was and realizing that so much of what we work for will fall to decay and ruin.  But we can also leave legacies that last for generations and that can impact more people that we can possibly imagine.

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This place reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes, a fascinating book of the Bible written by King Solomon.  It is a discourse on life from a man who had the world at his disposal and found out what is worth keeping in light of eternity.  Many songs by one of my favorite musicians, Sting, echo these same thoughts.  Haunting lyrics of decayed cities and ancient longings stir my heart and I’ve loved this song ever since I first heard it as part of an IMAX film while living in Denver.

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A stone’s throw from Jerusalem
I walked a lonely mile in the moonlight
And though a million stars were shining
My heart was lost on a distant planet
That whirls around the April moon
Whirling in an arc of sadness
I’m lost without you. I’m lost without you
Though all my kingdoms turn to sand
And fall into the sea
I’m mad about you. I’m mad about you
And from the dark secluded valleys
I heard the ancient songs of sadness
But every step I thought of you
Every footstep only you
And every star a grain of sand
The leavings of a dried up ocean
Tell me, how much longer? How much longer?
They say a city in the desert lies
The vanity of an ancient king
But the city lies in broken pieces
Where the wind howls and the vultures sing
These are the works of man
This is the sum of our ambition
It would make a prison of my life
If you became another’s wife
With every prison blown to dust
My enemies walk free
I’m mad about you. I’m mad about you
And I have never in my life
Felt more alone than I do now
Although I claim dominions over all I see
It means nothing to me
There are no victories
In all our histories, without love
A stone’s throw from Jerusalem
I walked a lonely mile in the moonlight
And though a million stars were shining
My heart was lost on a distant planet
That whirls around the April moon
Whirling in an arc of sadness
I’m lost without you. I’m lost without you
And though you hold the keys to ruin
Of everything I see
With every prison blown to dust,
My enemies walk free
Though all my kingdoms turn to sand
And fall into the sea
I’m mad about you. I’m mad about you
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The song, and being among the ruins at Mount Falcon, are a reminder to me of what we take into eternity.  That’s where the focus of our lives should be to make them count.  Though we gain the world or lose everything, we are never lost when God’s love enfolds us.  He can create something beautiful from the ruins of our lives and can cause us to leave a legacy of love and grace that will echo on this earth long after our footsteps cease.
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Blessings to you,
Sarah
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Gift #1130: May Art Bead Scene Challenge

And here we are at the ending of another month.  Though it was late, Spring was rather fleeting ( a week or two) and we suddenly found ourselves in summer this month.  May was filled with a flurry of flower petals and has now faded to a soothing green.  This month’s painting for our Art Bead challenge was “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli, 1478.

This is my favorite of Botticelli’s paintings.  I first was introduced to it via an art series called “Every Picture Tells a Story.”  The host, Waldemar Januszczak, uses well-known paintings to illuminate the culture, history, and meanings behind these magnificent works of art.  In the episode about “Birth of Venus”, he brings us to this painting to describe the style and some of the mythology that plays into Venus and Primavera.  I instantly fell in love with this painting.  From that show I learned that Botticelli trained as a goldsmith and would incorporate gold leafing into his artwork.  His name, Boticelli, was a nickname which means “little barrel”.  He was the youngest of several children and apparently never in good health.  His older robust brother was nicknamed “Botticello” – or large barrel because of his physique and Boticelli was so named because he was the scrawny little brother.  (It’s details like this that make watching the series a delight), especially when it focuses on medieval art.  Ever since I saw Sleeping Beauty as a little girl, it kindled a love of medieval art, especially of forest art, that continues strong to this day.  This painting is filled with features that make me ecstatic – starting with that magnificent dark forest in the background.  Oh how I love the way those trees arch and frame the scene!  The pop of color with the fruit in the tree canopy and the flowers upon the dark forest floor are vibrant and entrancing.  The dark background makes the characters in the foreground luminescent.  Medieval artists were exquisitely able to manipulate light in their works in ways that take my breath away. The fabrics are incredible and the detail throughout the painting is extraordinary.  It has served as source of inspiration and beauty for centuries.

This painting encapsulates all the beauty and mystery and enchantment that exemplifies medieval art.  Rich and opulent, it fills all the senses as you’re drawn into the scene.  These were the key words that I focused on as I planned my jewelry for this month.  I wanted to capture Boticelli’s love for gold in my necklace.  One of the jewelry techniques I’ve dabbled in during my own journey of metalsmithing is electroplating.  I have several pieces I’ve created using found organic materials and I used one of them as the focal point in this necklace.  It’s a seed pod with a delicate floral shape that’s been plated with copper and patinated with liver of sulfur for a rich, illuminated feel.  If I remember correctly, the seed pod was foraged from one of my forest walks, so it was a perfect fit with the painting.  The rest of the necklace formed by happy happenstance.

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I had the electroplated seed pod out on the table, and while I was waiting for inspiration to hit, I received a bead kit from Humblebeads with a bead soup, linen cord, and a button charm to make a wrap bracelet.  The two ended up together on my table and then it hit…. use the bead soup to make a long necklace instead of a bracelet.  I supplemented the beads in the kit with many of my own so I’d have enough to make a long enough necklace to wrap around my neck twice.  I don’t have many long necklaces like this and since it was a popular style in the medieval/renaissance period, it would match stylistically with the painting.  The bead soup was various colors of green and purple and I added in more beads in those colors, some darker ones to give it depth, some floral Humblebeads disc beads, some metallic beads for luster, and some additional leaf beads to add to the forest imagery.  I wanted it to look like something from the forest floor of the painting.  The button is a faux tin piece from Humblebeads featuring a tiny owl.  This was the perfect touch – it fit the color scheme and it’s a subtle nod again to Sleeping Beauty’s forest (the owl is one of my favorite characters)

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The necklace is designed so that when wrapped around, the owl button will be in the center of the higher strand and the electroplated seed pod will hang from the lower strand.  I had so much fun creating the bead soup and knotting the linen on this project.  I’ve not made bead soup before but it came out splendidly.  And I love the supple drape of the linen.  I’ll be making more necklaces on linen for sure.  Plus, the linen is a subtle purple shade which complements the beads beautifully.

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For the earrings, I wanted to create something equally lush and opulent.  I had two antique copper leaves that I paired with dark green/blue Humblebeads disc beads and jazzed them up with bead caps, copper spacers, and faceted green gemstones.  To add additional romance to them, I draped tiny chain behind the leaves and dangled tiny beads from my bead soup mix.  The result is perfectly medieval.

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I’m so pleased with this set and how well it captures the emotions and colors that remind me of “Primavera”.  And I have enough of the bead soup left to make a matching wrap bracelet!  I hope you enjoyed the jewelry and design process for May.  Have a wonderful, creative week.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1129: Wildflowers

There are few things in this world more enchanting to me than woodland wildflowers.  Ok, maybe pumpkins and moss…. it’s a toss-up with those three.  But wildflowers are right up on the top of the list, especially right now when the first breaths of spring blow our way.  It was a long, long winter that was really stubborn and did not want to leave.  I’m not sure what made winter so at home this year, but it took some convincing that he’d be late for his visit with the southern hemisphere if he didn’t leave.  Finally by mid-April he seemed content enough to wander off and let the other seasons have a visit.  Spring was impatient about having to wait so long to be ushered in and consequently was rushed in her attempts to paint the landscape.  After a few weeks, we already have Summer hovering at the door wondering if he can come earlier than expected for his stay.  Sigh!  What is it with these mercurial seasons?!

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One of my family’s favorite places to be is Spring Mill State Park (so much so that I’m afraid we’ve neglected the other state parks).  We have gotten into a routine of visiting 3 times a year – winter, spring, and fall.  It’s beautiful year round and each season brings its charms to the forest.  In past years we’ve gone for our spring visit in early May and most of the wildflowers are already gone.  This year our schedule allowed for a visit towards the middle-end of April.  I thought we’d have an early spring like the last few years and we’d be peak for wildflower season.

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Do to the slight confusion on the part of the seasons on their visiting schedule, Spring was late and by the time our trip drew near there was really no sign that Spring would be showing up this year and I was disappointed that we would still not see many wildflowers this year.  None of the trees had leaves at this point (in fact most just got them last week) but I was still happy to be visiting one of my favorite places and would enjoy the peaceful quiet of the forest regardless.

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However, once we started hiking,  we were amazed at the profundity of the hardy little wildflowers.  There they were – peeking out of the barely thawed ground and forging a spring out of nothing.  My heart dearly loves these precious flowers that create color and beauty out of a drab landscape.  They speak so eloquently of the secrets of life and God’s love and care.  In a world that could have been dreary and colorless, God choose instead to infuse it with seasons that would produce beauty, life, and rest in their turn and amaze us always with His creative love.

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We saw so many beautiful flowers – the redbuds were in bloom around the lake, which was stunning.  In addition we say bellwort, dutchman’s breeches (I love that name!), spring beauty, anemone, yellow wood poppies trout lilies, jack in the pulpit, and my favorites… trillium!  The forest was bursting with trillium and I made it my special mission to photograph every one I could get within range of my lens.  This made for very long hikes, let me tell you, but it was well worth it and I enjoyed saying hello to each one and telling them how beautiful they were.

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It felt like being in a fairy forest.  It was such a joy to roam the paths of wooded trees, basking in the dappled sunlight, and rejoicing in the new growth that filled the leaf-strewn ground.  These little plants emerged from the dark earth, each with their own story to tell, and announcing that spring is here again.  Welcome Spring and welcome to all the flowers that grace our gardens and forest with beauty.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1128: April Art Bead Scene Challenge

I hope you’ve all been having a good April.  Spring finally has come to my neck of the woods.  We’re in my favorite phase of spring – in which the trees flower.  The magnolia trees are at their peak and the crabapples should be opening up any time soon.  Tiny leaves are starting to peak up from the soil and bare branches.  The earth is starting to fill with color again.  And speaking of color, here’s our inspiration for April over at the Art Bead Scene

This is called “Disks of Newton” by Frantisek Kupka, 1912.  Kupka was an Czech abstract painter, and like most of his genre, spent his career enraging the critics and transforming the way we think of art.  I’ll be honest, most of the time I fall into the critic’s camp with respect to abstract art.  It’s much easier to appreciate the skill and beauty of a realistic landscape than odd blobs of paint on canvas.  However, this artist did communicate a clear tribute to Newton in his work, and since I also admire Newton, it brought us to a common place.  Although the colors are too primary and bright for my taste, I did get mesmerized by all those concentric rings of color and how they stayed distinct yet somehow bled into each other.  I was also charmed by how the center of the painting looked like an apple – nice touch Kupka.

I had many different ideas my mind played with and discarded for this challenge.  I thought about making rings of colored beads and interlocking them, as a literal interpretation, then I thought about creating something ombre, or even going crazy and trying a Victorian steampunk design with a bright punch of color – layered hammered metal rings with an art bead in the center.  I might return to such ideas when I have more energy, but they were just more experimental than I could complete right now.  There are two types of artists – process oriented and product oriented.  Process artists create just for the joy of making something; it doesn’t have to be pretty or useful at the end, it’s just the experience of playing that makes art meaningful.  Product artists create with a defined goal in mind and value their artistic output more than the process.  I’m the latter and when I create, I want to maximize the chances I’ll end up with something I’ll like and wear.  So I decided to redirect my imaginings to what I love – and right now that’s nature in her spring glory.  The way Kupka wielded color in his painting reminded me of light shifting through a forest coming alive with the promise of spring.  And so my jewelry reflects that lovely scene.

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“Woodland Walk” pulls together my favorite color palette right now and is full of things I love.  A few months ago, I discovered a ceramic artist, Grubbi Beads, who makes exquisite pendants and beads.   I placed an order and one of the sets I purchased was this lovely deer pendant with some matching ceramic beads.  You may not be able to tell from this picture, but the deer is on her way to a spring festival in the heart of the woods, and is appropriately costumed in a lovely headdress of pink flowers.  No doubt she will enjoy many hours of music and dancing and have her fill of cake.  She forms the focal point of the necklace along with coordinating ceramic beads and polymer clay floral bead by Humblebeads.  Copper ferns frame her path into the woods, and overhead the trees cascade into delicate pink flowers and new green leaves.

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“Spring in the Woods” earrings pull together elements from the necklace, with a profusion of pink blossoms.  I used more Czech glass leaves and tiny pink rounds, paired with polymer clay beads from Humblebeads and floral etched glass beads.  I decided to add some extra flair and made the earwires myself.

I’m very pleased with the set and the way it captures the jubilant promise of spring.  I think it’s perfectly suited to any forest fairy eager to celebrate the rebirth of life and love in the woods.  And now I must wander the paths of wildflowers.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1127: Of Flowers and Feet

Earlier this year I posted about how difficult winter was for me and my plan to spur spring into action by knitting socks… floral inspired socks, no less.  I figured if I could make spring fall from my knitting needles, then the weather would get excited and want to make it spring outside.  Since we’re several weeks beyond the vernal equinox I figured it was time to give you an update on how my plan was going.

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Short story:  not good.  I completed the Winter Rose socks with time to spare right before spring was due to arrive.  Unfortunately, winter did not seem to take the hint.  We’ve still had cold weather and snow and I’m starting to worry that the plants will get confused and think they’re in Narnia and not bother to flower and green up at all.  However, my beloved hellebores understood my need and have been a great source of joy.  My favorite flowers brave the snow and cold, steadfastly unfurling green leaves and tender buds into the world, forging a new spring right under the nose of Mr. Winter.  And they are lovely.  I’m so delighted that the first pair of socks in the Sock Society paid tribute to these magnificent flowers.

Now it is April and we have a new sock pattern and a new opportunity to entice spring to come.  The second sock pattern is inspired by another favorite of mine – magnolia blossoms.  I’d not seen anything like the pink showers of magnolia blossoms until I moved to Indiana.  That first spring, and every spring since, I’ve been enchanted and delighted by these beautiful trees that unfurl their magic in early spring.  The pattern came out April 1st but because of some other deadlines I wasn’t able to start knitting on the socks until yesterday.  But turns out the timing was perfect – because look what started to emerge yesterday….

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So with blossoms on the trees and socks on my needles and feet, I eagerly wait to greet spring.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1126: Happy Easter 2018

Happy Easter everyone and welcome to April.  It’s snowing right now…. I won’t spend time discoursing about how that seems antithetical to Easter, that’s just how it goes.  But one of the wonderful aspects of Easter is that it is not tied to circumstances.  Easter gives us a reason to rejoice and hope even in the most difficult of situations.  The first Easter Sunday could hardly have been birthed in darker times, and yet out of the death of the Son of God,  came the rescue of the world.

Each Easter I share a song to commemorate the day.  This year’s song is one that our choir sang for church this weekend.  It is called “All Hail King Jesus” and you can see the song performed on youtube here.

There was a moment when the lights went out
When death had claimed its victory
The King of love had given up His life
The darkest day in history

There on a cross they made for sinners
For every curse His blood atoned
One final breath and it was finished
But not the end we could have known

For the earth began to shake, and the veil was torn
What sacrifice was made, as the heavens roared

All hail, King Jesus
All hail the Lord of heaven and earth
All hail, King Jesus
All hail the Savior of the world

There was a moment when the sky lit up
A flash of light breaking through
When all was lost He crossed eternity
The King of life was on the move

For in a dark, cold tomb, where our Lord was laid
One miraculous breath, and we’re forever changed

All hail, King Jesus
All hail the Lord of heaven and earth
All hail, King Jesus
All hail the Savior of the world

Let every knee, come bow before the King of kings
Let every tongue, confess that He is Lord
Lift up your shout, let us join with all of heaven
Singing holy
Singing holy
Crying out holy
Singing holy

All hail, King Jesus
All hail the Lord of heaven and earth
And all hail, King Jesus
All hail the Savior of the world

Happy Easter!  He is risen!!

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1125: A New Creation

On the eve of Easter my thoughts are drawn to what this day means, to what God has done for us.  The reality of an empty tomb defies all logic.  Millennia and millennia of human experience showed us that nothing was as powerful as the grave, nothing as final, nothing as greedy.  The legacy of the first man, Adam, left a long line of sorrow, death, and despair at the cost of sin.  And then suddenly one quiet morning, everything changed.  The Son of God, and the Second Adam, exited the tomb where He was hastily laid just a few days before.  In one victorious instant, the greatest enemy was defeated and the grave made powerless.  Christ had overcome death and reversed the fate of the world.  His resurrection is called the “first fruits” and it is His promise that as He rose, He will raise all those who look to Him.  Death lost its power that day because God gave us life.  Though we still face a physical death, we have confidence that through that death we enter a life more real, more glorious than anything we could comprehend.  Death is not a destination, it is now only a door that opens into the splendor of God’s presence.

Jesus is called “the Second Adam” in the book of Romans and it’s one of my favorite names for God.  The discourse in Romans 5 is among my most loved Scriptures as it contrasts the consequences of Adam’s disobedience resulting in death to Christ’s obedience that brings us life.  And that’s as far as I’d taken the analogy until this week.  But in His role as a second Adam, Christ is not only reversing the curse of sin, He has completed a second creation. The whole of the Old Testament is preparing the world for Christ’s work to establish a new covenant of grace, a new creation that will be eternally redeemed.  But the New Testament echoes the creation account in ways I’d never thought about until recently.

Genesis begins with the statement:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   The gospel of John begins his account of Christ’s ministry in the same way:  “In the beginning was the Word… .and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  At the beginning of time, God creates the universe and man.  In the fullness of time, at the dawn of a new creation, God clothes Himself in flesh and enters His creation to redeem it.  The first creation centers on a garden, the garden of Eden, where paradise is tragically lost.  Christ is buried and resurrected in a garden as well, but in this garden paradise is regained.

The first words of God that are recorded in the Bible are when Adam and Eve have sinned and God comes to meet with them.  “Where are you?” “What have you done?” And the question haunts us through the centuries of devastation and heartache.  Our Creator God looking for us, piercing us with questions that force us to meet the reality we find ourselves in.  We are lost, we are hurt, and we want to go home.  It’s a question we can hardly answer – we ourselves don’t know where we are or how to get back to what our hearts long for.  But God knows where to find us, and He comes after us with a burning passion that takes Him to the cross to pay for all the debt of sin that we never could.  His pursuit ends in a tomb.  And then that Sunday morning, we hear a risen Christ’s first words in the garden spoken to Mary…. “Who do you seek?”  “Why are you crying?”   On the eve of a new creation, God poses yet another question to humanity.  He has found us and now we have found Him.  As we see the risen glorified Savior, we know He is what we’ve been searching for.  He is our Home.  Mary answers Christ with but a single word – His name.  It is a story of a creation lost and regained in that moment.  A reunion of God with His creation.

The book of Revelation looks ahead to the day when Christ will establish His reign over a renewed and glorified creation.  What he started in the Garden of the Resurrection was a new creation of hearts transformed.  What we look forward to is the day when all the effects of sin will be wiped away from the earth and from our bodies and we will dwell with Him in perfect relationship again.   The words spoken from the throne of God in Revelation 5 echo back to the question at the tomb.  “Weep no more, for the Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed.”   Mary’s tears evaporated in the light of knowing the One she loved was alive and with her.   As a new creation dawns, our tears will disappear like dew in the light of the sunrise.  Our Savior has triumphed over sin and death, and He comes to be with us forever.  Rejoice in the hope and glory of His Easter promise.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1124: Art Bead Scene March Challenge

As we near the end of March (who can believe it?!) it’s time to show you what the inspiration for this month was and what I created with it.  This month’s painting was warm and vibrant and full of the promise of high summer.  It was a relief to work with subject matter full of color in a month when there’s the desiccated palette of window outside my windows.  It definitely feels like it should be spring by now and wildflowers should be blooming, but our weather hasn’t gotten the message and I think winter has made itself comfortable.  So this painting was a joy to muse on while planning how to design jewelry.

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The painter is Marianne North.  I was introduced to her last year courtesy of a book I was reading that discussed Victorian botanical art.  Her life was a dream of high adventure.  Marianne was born in 1830 to a wealthy family.  Upon her mother’s death in 1855, Marianne took up floral painting and accompanied her father on his travels, touring Europe and Egypt.  After her father’s death, Marianne continued to travel, embarking on trips that would last multiple years at a time.  She traveled throughout Asia, India, Australia, New Zealand, and then headed across the western hemisphere to travel throughout South America, and even spent time in California.  During her lifetime she painted over 1000 scenes of botanic interest, forming an important record of floral species of interest.  She exhibited frequently at Kew Gardens.  Sir Joseph Hooker, the director of Kew, was a family friend.  Her legacy and contributions to science are honored by a permanent gallery at Kew, which rotates her collection of paintings.  According to Kew, her gallery is the only permanent solo exhibit of a female artist in Britain.

Marianne North

She was a traveler, a scientist, an artist, and an adventuress.  Truly a remarkable woman.  We are very fortunate that her work was esteemed and preserved so that we can enjoy the observations of her keen mind and the artistic renderings of her brush.  This painting features a vibrant red lily from southern India, which she painted in 1878.  I love the lush, tropical feel of this scene.  Not only does she accurately depict the flora, but she draws you in an a special way so that you feel the heat and steamy atmosphere, the buzzing of the dancing dragonflies, and the heady perfume of tropical plants.  It utterly transports you to a world of romance, adventure, and discovery.

I wanted to capture some of that feeling in what I created.  The 1800s was an amazing time of discovery in the natural sciences and I’m obsessed with the Victorian age of botany.  To pay homage to an incredible woman and a unique period in history was an exciting challenge for me.  Reds and deep pinks are not normally colors I work with and what I have in the way of beads is few.  But as I pulled out my collection of Humblebeads, I found a set of tropical foliage beads that I had bought last year (probably in the depths of winter-induced depression) and I thought they would be perfect for the color palette.  I also wanted to adventurous with the design and do something different from my normal layouts.

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After playing around with the focal bead, I decided to use it horizontally.  I had purchased a set of brightly colored agate beads at a show on a whim and have used a few of them in various projects.  I decided to create the body of the necklace by linking these beads all the way around to saturate the necklace with color.  To give some visual punch, I draped chain along the focal bead and added a dragonfly and lily pad charms.  I added a light patina of greens to the lilly pad to bring some color to the charms.  I’m giddily pleased with how this came out.  And it feels just like the painting to me, which was something I really wanted to capture.  Just look at the cane work on that focal bead!  The detail in the leaves and the tiny pink flowers is just amazing.

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For the earrings I used disc beads that coordinated with the long bead.  I dressed these up with some bead caps whose shape mirrors that of the water lily.  For the bead caps on top, I curled the edges up to give more of a blossom effect.  Additional patinated lilly pads dangle from the earrings.

I love this set so much and it was exciting to work in a more vibrant color palette than I usually do.  Now all that we need is warmer weather and a profusion of floral blooms.  Perhaps while waiting for summer to arrive, I shall content myself with a trip to the greenhouse and dream of the exotic visions that Marianne North enjoyed and painted.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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Gift #1123: We’re All Ears March Challenge

It’s time for the reveal of the “We’re All Ears” March Challenge.  This month, our inspiration was monochromatic black and white.  We were encouraged to pull together different patterns and textures with pops of color to pay tribute to a classic combination.  A couple of thoughts went through my head when read about our prompt for the month:  1)  I love black and white patterns  and 2) I have very few black beads.   I hardly ever, ever use black, especially in jewelry, so this would be a challenge.  Nonetheless, I was excited to explore something different than I usually make and something I secretly really like.

Now when I think about black and white, I immediately fixate on Alice in Wonderland.  From the black and white tiled floors, to the zany patterns splashed with color, Alice’s adventures in Wonderland are a visual feast for the eye and I am entranced by everything Alice, from the original Tenniel illustrations (black and white, coincidence??) to the recent Disney reimaginings.   So I decided that my earrings for this month would be loosely and indirectly based on an Alice theme as well.

I surprised myself by making 4 pairs of earrings (I thought it would be stretching to get 2 pairs done).  Turns out that once I started, creative juices started flowing and they just kept coming.  In fact, I still have some other ideas, but I needed to get the post written and linked.

First up:  Tugley Wood

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These earrings are actually fresh off the bead board as of this evening.  While digging in my beads for something else, I came across these large black and white wooden beads.  “Perfect!” I squealed and then picked up some additional beads and ran back down to make these earrings.  Such was the strength of inspiration that I still don’t even recall what I went up to find initially.  I guess if it’s important it will come back to me.  But I digress, these earrings came together quite quickly with the floral bead accented with shell slivers, silver spacers, and delicate silver feathers.  Perhaps from the Jubub bird? Watch out!  Tugley Wood can be a beautiful place, full of twisting trees branches, flowers, and mushrooms, but it can also be dangerous!  Especially if you’ve shrunk in size!

Next up is a trip to Marmoreal, home to the White Queen.

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This pair of earrings is named for the ethereal dwelling of the gentle White Queen.  Her home is filled with lightness and lots of white, with the occasional flash of black for contrast.  These lucite flowers dangling from silver heart earwires seem to capture the essence of White Queen and her castle gardens.

My third pair is called “Tea on the Lawn”

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I’m not sure why, but that phrase stuck in my head as I looked at the earrings and so that’s what they want to be called.  These were fun earrings to design – I wanted to include some warm accents to these shell leaves.  I layered them with coconut spacers and striated black agate beads.  Then I wrapped them with brown waxed linen with tiny green agate spacers tied onto the ends.  The fiber dangles give some motion and interest to the earrings.  They feel as if they’d be at home on the ears of someone attending a tea party – they are part black and white elegance and part whimsy.  Perfect for Alice.

A trip to Wonderland would not be complete without the age-old activity of painting flowers.  These earrings are dubbed “Painting the Roses Red”.

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This is the first pair I made and the only pair where I incorporated a heavy saturation of color.  Deep burgundy lucite flowers are wrapped with brass filigree, which I grunged down with acrylic paints.  Teardrop black crystals with a metallic finish glitter underneath the roses and a tiny black Swarovski crystal finishes the design.  These delight the little Goth streak that hides deep in my heart.  Although they work perfectly for an elegant Alice-in-Wonderland inspired design, I have to confess that their first wearing was last night to Les Miserables.  Turns out, they also tie in beautifully to one of my favorite songs “Red and Black”!  (Insert happy dance)

Well, I hope you have enjoyed your trip through Wonderland and the creative romp through this month’s earring inspiration.  Don’t forget the curious bottle tagged “Drink Me” on the way back through the looking glass.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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