“Sea and Selkies” was the theme for June’s Art Elements blog challenge. Selkies form an intrinsic part of the culture and mythology of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. My introduction to selkies was from the movie “Secrets of Roan Inish”. An Irish man tells a young girl the story of her ancestors – of a man who was fishing with seals off the coast and sees a young woman emerge from the skin of a seal on a rocky outcropping. The man takes the skin and the selkie woman becomes his bride. Held captive to whoever holds her skin, she finds love with the man and raises a family with him, but is ever wistful and near the seas. One day, her oldest asks why there’s a seal skin hidden in the roof rafters and the woman takes back her seal form, returning to the sea. However, she keeps watch over her family and plays with them in the ocean. The generations pass with her guarding her descendants but never being part of them.
It is an entrancing and bittersweet tale that captures the ethos of a being never fully at home in water or on land. Part of her heart is always divided between the two. I think the mythology of the selkie is a beautiful picture of the tension that we feel living on earth but longing for something more. The human experience is full of the realization that we are immortal spirits bound to the circles of earth; prisoner to mortality, but knowing there is eternity to inhabit. My favorite author, C.S. Lewis, described it thus “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”. Like selkies we embody the transitory nature of existence, searching for our true selves and our true home.
Because I didn’t have any seal-related supplies, I chose to focus this month’s creations on the environment that selkies inhabit and the kinds of things I thought she would love. I used a collection of seashell collage images from Stampington to create a trio of romantic sea-inspired cards.
The stamped panels were colored with alcohol inks to give a dark, underwater-feel to the images. The cards were finished off with items I thought a selkie might surround herself with – seaweed, handwritten love letters sent out to sea in old bottles, bits of twine, and scraps of cloth.
For my jewelry creations I wanted to explore the tension between earth and water, salt and soil – that liminal space hanging between two worlds that a selkie would inhabit. I established this connection between the two worlds by using materials from land and water in my designs.
My first necklace is constructed with agate teardrops and twisted silver links that form a chain holding a cluster of pearls, shell pieces, and polished glass.
Matching earrings blend metal, shell, and pearl components into an foaming cascade from silver ear-wires.
The starting point for my second necklace was this amorphous oval linker, which was part of a chain I purchased some years back. Its form reminded me of tidepools and I decided to use it as a pendant in this piece. At a bead show this past spring, I found ocean jasper and loved the stone so much that I purchased several strands in different shapes. I used oval cuts of brown mottled ocean jasper in this necklace to emphasize the shape of the pendant and to bring some warmth to the design. I also included a small quote bead that says “not all who wander are lost” -I thought it was an appropriate description of a selkie as she roams between land and sea. The necklace is finished off with leather cording.
Another pair of earrings are made from hammered antique brass frames from which delicate starfish charms are dangled. When I bought the charms on clearance, they were a gaudy shiny silver. I painted them with gesso and used Perfect Pearls to give them a softer, earthier feel.
My last necklace is one of my favorites. The piece of coral that forms the pendant was also shiny silver. I gave it the ame treatment as the starfish charms, using perfect pearls to transform the pendant into a neutral tone with soft whispers of sea colors. The chain is created with links of abalone shells and etched brass ovals. As another nod to the selkies, I added a small brass tag that says “thrive” to the pendant. The selkie had to make a choice to build a life, whether on sea or land. This is a reminder to choose to thrive in whatever circumstances I might find.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey with me through selkie mythology and the pieces I was inspired to create. Please follow links below to see amazing art from the other participants.
Blessings to you,