Gift #1119: We’re All Ears Challenge

Since it has been several months since I participated in an “We’re All Ears” challenge, I’ll briefly explain.  This is a jewelry challenge organized by the Earrings Everyday blog.  Erin Prais-Hintz provides us with a monthly theme that we use as a spring-board to make some earrings.   Although I don’t play along each month, I still really enjoy reading the prompts each month and seeing what the artists come up with.  This month however, I knew I wanted to make some earrings for the challenge because it our theme was chandeliers!  Now there has never been a chandelier made that I didn’t admire.  My parents tell me that when I was little they would take me to home department stores and stroll me up and down the light fixture aisles.  Apparently burnished metals, crystals, and light had a hypnotic effect upon my personality.  The attraction continues to this day – in fact it’s gotten stronger.

Hudson Lighting company was one of our resources for the challenge and on their website you can take a quiz to find out what “lighting personality” you are.  According to this website I am “Bold and Glamorous”.

Hudson Valley quiz results

This made me skeptical.  These are words that no one who knows me would associate with my personality.   However, the description did fit my stylistic preferences (although when it comes to lighting, I’ll like every style).  It says “Strong geometric figures and shimmering details command attention.  From the perennial allure of Art Deco through the innovations of the sixties… this style taps into a rich lineage of form and idea”  Here are a couple of chandeliers they predicted I would enjoy.

Yep!!  Love them all!!!  Now the trick with designing chandelier earrings is to scale them down to something petite and small enough to feel comfortable wearing.  This first pair features some pressed metal stampings that I repurposed.  I bought these a long time ago – I think they were part of some massively huge earrings that I planned to take apart for other projects.  These were originally a bright gold, but I grunged them down painting them black and then I gave them a light dusting of rose gold Vintaj patina.  Though hard to photograph, they look old with just a bit of industrial shimmer.  A tiny rhinestone in the center and a little dangling pearl finish off this simple design.

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The next set of earrings I’d actually made a while ago but they fit in nicely with the theme and they’re one of my favorite pairs that I’ve made.  They started with a hoop that I dressed up with a long loop of chain and some pearls.  Tiny birds fit perfectly within the hoops.  I love the way these swish and sway when I wear them.

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My last pair of earrings was made with antique silver chandelier loops.  I added garnet and pearl drops dressed up with silver spacers.

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This was a great challenge and it was fun to play around with a style that I don’t often gravitate towards.  Usually I make jewelry with nature themes and more color.  These are heavy on metallic materials and geometric forms.  Now I’m headed off to admire some more photos of chandeliers.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1118: Lincoln’s Quilts

Last weekend my mom and I went to our state museum for the afternoon.  Our main object was the poison exhibit (our second visit and completely fascinating), but there was a smaller exhibit on Lincoln’s quilts that would be ending in February and we wanted to make sure we had a chance to see them.  These are a collection of quilts that were connected in some way with Abraham Lincoln’s life.  Some were made by women he knew, others incorporated memorabilia of his life, but all were unique and special.  I’ve pulled some pictures of a few of my favorites to share with you.  This first one was made by a close friend of the Lincoln family.  In fact, according to family history,  Lincoln first met Mary Todd (whom he would later wed) in this woman’s home.

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The quilt is still unfinished.  You can see that the border is left unfinished along the left and bottom.  I think it’s rather sad that no one ever completed the quilt on her behalf.    However the design is still quite graphic.  The hexagon pattern gained in popularity at this time.  Women would cut the shapes from paper and wrap the fabric around these paper pieces to create elaborate designs.  In December I had gone to a quilt exhibit in Cincinnati that featured these types of quilts and they were so complex and ornate!  The fabrics used in this quilt are believed to have been acquired through swaps of leftovers with friends.

Cultural history from the time period was woven into the quilts and signage of the exhibit.  As today, politicians campaigned hard and concocted imaginative ways to win the votes of the people.  It was typical for candidates to print thousands of campaign ribbons on pieces of silk that were handed out at rallies and speeches.  Many of these souvenirs were given new life and function in quilts.  In the example below, Margaret Frentz dyed campaign ribbons from all the candidates in the 1860 election and fashioned them into the focal point of the quilt.

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She dyed the campaign ribbons fushia and arranged them into an American flag.  The star field is made entirely of Lincoln ribbons dyed blue.  The background is a colorful riot of bright triangles.  She completed this quilt in 1876 in honor of the nation’s centennial.

The next was my favorite quilt as it was designed and made by Mary Todd’s dressmaker, the reknown Elizabeth Keckley.  Mrs. Keckley was born a slave in Virginia.  Her prowess with the needle gave her many commissions from wealthy women and she saved enough to buy her and her son’s freedom.  She was introduced to Mary Todd through one of her clients.  The women formed a strong friendship, made all the more close by the death of their children.  Elizabeth lost her son in action during the Civil War and Mary lost her son Willie to typhoid.

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This was the first time I’ve ever seen anything by her hand before, though I’ve known about her and her life for a while.  I was thrilled to see this incredible work of art.  The pictures don’t do it justice.  The fabrics are of silks and velvets, leftovers from the dresses she created for her clients, including some from Mary Todd.  Again, the hexagon pattern is featured prominently.  She also decorated the quilt with exquisite embroidery and stumpwork.

Here’s a close-up of the center panel, which features a stumpwork eagle in silver threads on a black velvet background proclaiming liberty.

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Just look at that incredible floral embroidery along the borders.  And it was encrusted with beads too.  It was breathtaking in its complexity and beauty.

One of the aspects that the exhibit emphasized was the ways in which the Civil War told its story through textiles.  Cotton shortages made fabric scarce and the need was great – for bandages, uniforms, tents, and bedding.  A surge of patriotic fervor swept the nation as flags and banners were proudly displayed.  A few quilts that were made for Civil War hospitals and for men coming home were featured.  In the aftermath of the war and the assassination of Lincoln, women found new ways of expressing personal and national bereavement.

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This log cabin quilt was fashioned from the black wool that wrapped the Indiana capitol where Lincoln lay in state on April 30, 1865.  It was a way to both use the fabric for a utilitarian need and also to commemorate and honor the fallen leader of our nation.

To mark the nation’s loss, thousands and thousands of mourning ribbons were created and shared with the nation.  These were collected and preserved and often worked into quilts.  I’d never seen anything like these before.  The exhibit had several in mint condition and they brought tears to my eyes.  On display was this elaborate crazy quilt which incorporated several of Lincoln’s mourning ribbons.

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Here are some closeups of the quilt.

In the center of the photo on the right, is one of the mourning ribbons, and another is on the top of the left photo.  You could have spent all day looking at this piece of art.  There was so much creative embellishment on each of the pieces.  This was my favorite part:

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Tiny embroidered snowdrops with a spider in a metallic web.  It was lovely.

By this time, quilts were not only useful household items, but they also charted the history of their owners and the nation.  Women weaved the stories of their families with the scraps of worn clothes and mementos.  They recorded the events of the nation as well – both jubilation and mourning, wartime and peace.  Quilts moved from being strictly utilitarian objects to ornate creations of beauty and imagination.  They are scrapbooks of fabric that collected the hopes and dreams of a nation and surrounded their families with warmth and beauty.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1117: January Art Bead Scene

As much as I feel January has stretched on forever, I’m now suddenly surprised to be staring down the end of it and that reminds me it’s time for the Art Bead Scene blog.  I eagerly waited  for the reveal of what art would inspire our jewelry making this month.

And it took my breath away.  I knew the artist immediately and was giddy with joy to have some art from “The Four” to revel in.  I’ve loved them and their work ever since reading Mr. Mac and Me a couple of years ago from the library.  For Christmas last year, my parents gifted me a copy of my own along with a couple other books on Charles Rennie MacKintosh.  While at the Glasgow School of Art, Charles and his friend Herbert MacNair met two sisters, Margaret and Frances.   They were experts in a variety of mediums – painting, mixed media, textiles, and metalwork.  But their distinctive use of the female form in watercolored, dreamy settings are among the most unique and expressive pieces.  Bonded initially by their love of art, Charles, Herbert, Margaret, and Frances became “The Four”.  Love of art deepened into love for each other and Charles married Margaret while Herbert married Frances.  These four artists established the Art Nouveau movement in Glasgow and influenced the direction of art ever after.  “The Four” touched every aspect of art – interior design, furniture, murals, paintings, architecture.  They designed incredible buildings throughout Glasgow – responsible for every detail and they were magnificent.  What was truly special about these artists was their level of collaboration.  They worked so closely with each other, learning and sharing with each other, that they created an artistic voice that still echoes today.

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This is a trio of books I have about CR MacKintosh – Taking Tea with MacKintosh, Architectural Sketches and Flower Drawings of C.R. MacKintosh, and Mr. Mac and Me

I’m utterly enamored of the Art Nouveau movement and these artists are some of the finest in capturing its spirit.  The artwork for this month is beautifully symmetrical and delicate.  As typical of Art Nouveau, the geometric lines are of utmost importance – here gentle, natural curves balance perfectly against the hard, almost trellis-like background.  The use of color is expertly done as pale purples and creams darken upwards to deep violets and mossy greens.  The whole effect is one of quiet joy and anticipation of spring and a delight in the forms of nature.  The sisters always loved to put flowers in the hair of their women figures and its an endearing touch.  This work of art is appropriately entitled “Spring” and was fashioned by Frances MacDonald in the early 1900s.

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Frances MacDonald MacNair

 

For my piece, I wanted to focus on the range of purple hues and I wanted a mix of nature themes accented with some brass stampings that hearkened to Art Nouveau imagery.  For the focal point, I decided to go with a piece that I made last fall during the Inspired by Nature Art Retreat, hosted by Heather Powers.  One of the classes was learning to create polymer clay pieces from brass stampings and I made a whole passel of pendants and charms.  This one features climbing vines and dragonflies – both popular themes in Art Nouveau.  I strung it with links of my prized tourmaline and some amethyst rounds.  I love the depth of colors in tourmaline and am mesmerized by how it combines my favorite combinations of purples and greens.  Brass links and leaves break up some of the color to add a bit of refinement.  I gave them a light brushing with rose gold patina.  Initially I was setting the pendant onto a larger jump ring that I would connect to the body of the necklace, but it was laying awkwardly and didn’t have that visual punch I wanted.  I found a piece of filigree in my bead chest and bent it around to make a setting for the pendant that was much more fitting.

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I like how the piece mimics “Spring” with its linear lines up the necklace accented with fluid swirls and curves in the pendant and toggle.

Here’s a close up of the pendant and toggle to see some of the detail better.

My earrings are similarly styled.  I made little matching charms with ivy leaves on a background of dark blue-violet.  These are hung from Vintaj metal pieces – appropriately called “Art Nouveau Connectors”.  I added amethyst rounds to the top and attached them to delicate ear clasps that have a tiny Art Nouveau fan motif on the front.

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One of my dreams is to visit Glasgow and see some of what remains of “The Four’s” work.  Many of the buildings that Charles Rennie MacKintosh and “The Four” designed have burned down and we’ve lost a treasure trove of beauty which is only remembered in photographs.  But there are a few that are left and it would be an utter joy to see their work in person.  I’ve poured over pictures of their art on the internet and in my small collection of books about them.  My love for these two couples and my appreciation of the Art Nouveau style blossomed with the reading of one book.  They were strangers to me before I picked up that book from the library and by the time I reached the end of those pages, I had learned to love them dearly for their art, their devotion to each other, and their determination to create beauty in the midst of a harsh world.  My heart and life is all the richer because of their story.  Thank you Mr. Mac and the rest of “The Four” for your legacy.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1116: January Thoughts

Hello everyone!  It hasn’t been a stellar start to the new year in terms of blogging.  I had visions of suddenly being more energetic, having brilliant things to say, and blogging every day.  Instead I’ve been sick, stressed, utterly exhausted, and my laptop died.  I’m still waiting for it’s replacement to ship.  Blogging on my ipad is difficult and I haven’t had the energy to deal with it.  And then, what would I say?  My thoughts are scattered and not very coherent.  I hope I’ll be filled with meaningful experiences and encouragement to share throughout the year, but in the meantime I can give you a brief snapshot into my thoughts this week.

I usually have a hard time with winter – about the third week in January I’m going stir-crazy and am desperate for green things and sunshine.   Last year I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly I sailed through winter – barely a discontented thought.  “Maybe I’m over these winter doldrums” I told myself.  Ha!  January 6th, it slammed into me like a ton of bricks – I’m done with winter. I can’t stand it anymore and I need green things growing out of the ground.  Now!!!  Thoughts sounding like passages from Lord of the Rings are filling my head:  ” The shadow darkens and spreads throughout the land;  the sun cannot pierce it;  all shall disappear into the darkness; the sun shall fail and all will come to naught”.  Yeah, it’s bad and I must take action.

The first defense was put in place a few weeks ago.  I got an email newsletter from a favorite online designer that she was hosting a sock knit-a-long where we get 6 patterns, one released every other month, and the focus is on all the wonderful things I love.  Here’s the description that greeted my winter-weary eyes:

A bit of earth. A little patch of garden. A place where you can take root and
feel a blossoming kinship with little growing things. Bulbs and seeds, ladybirds
and dandelion clocks, sprouting mushrooms and fallen leaves, the secret
world of the very small and very beautiful. The first season of The Handmade
Sock Society delves into the rich life of the earth beneath our feet.

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Now, I’m not usually taken in by advertising, but this completely had me in its thrall as I read those magical words and took in those sketched weeds.  These thoughts raced through my brain ” Brilliant!  If I buy these patterns, spring will come.”   And here I am, fully convinced that as soon as that first pattern hits my email in February,  I will find the perfect yarn in my stash (something soft mossy green with hints of violet pansies and sunshine), I’ll cast-on, and then a choir of angels will announce that spring has arrived.  As soon as I put those magical stitches on my needles, grass will sprout, flowers bud, ladybugs buzz around me, and moss will carpet the ground.   I have the slightest nagging doubt that I may be expecting a bit too much out of the sock pattern. If I listen to the suspicions, it will also tell me that I don’t really know how to knit socks and I find knitting small objects in the round to be frustrating.   I’m not paying attention to those thoughts.  Something has to get spring here and if these socks offer that promise, I’m taking it.

I’m not taking any chances though – I need something more concrete than my knitting to assure me winter will not last forever.  And that came in the mailbox this week.

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The IMA (Indianapolis Museum of Art) publication arrived and there on the bottom edge were two words I’ve hoped and dreamed of for months : Colorful Orchids.  I clutched the  magazine to my heart and literally started crying.  I wasn’t even for sure they’d have orchids this year because I couldn’t find anything on their website, but they’re coming!!!  You’ll remember that it was last year at their exhibit that I learned to truly love these flowers.  I’ve spent a good part of this year reading about them and looking forward to greeting them again.  They’ll be here Feb. 17th!!!  In just about a month they will be here in all their beautiful, magnificent floral glory.  And their coming is a sure sign that spring is on the way.  Once that exhibit gets installed, it’s all a countdown for spring.  Knowing they’re on the way gave me such hope.  Winter can do it’s worst, but spring is coming.  This is a metaphor for my personal life as well.  It can feel dark and depressing, but the sun is coming and new life is a promise.  To this I will cling.

 

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1115: A new year

“And now we welcome the new year, 2018, full of things that have never been”, so said Rainer Maria Rilke.  I’ve always loved that quote.  There is something exciting and hopeful about standing on the edge of a new year, peeking through the doorway, and wondering what experiences will meet you on this new journey.  I  toyed off and on with the idea of writing a new year post, because the truth is that I don’t have many warm, fuzzy thoughts about starting a new year.  The end of 2017 was rough and alot of those same situations are still cause for concern and prayer right now, I’m starting back to work in a changed environment where many people I’ve learned to love are now gone, and I’m beleaguered by a sinus infection yet again.  (I have celebrated the last several new years with a sinus infection, literally counting down the hours till the Dr. office will open and I can plead for an appointment).   I’m exhausted, my family is exhausted, and I  think we all just want time to stop for a while so we can catch our breath and bearings again.  But of course, time doesn’t stop and we go on to face an uncertain future just like we do every day.  But though the path is uncertain to us, it is not to God, and He promises to be right there with us holding our hands the whole way.  In my devotions I’ve just finished the narrative about Joseph, who was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery in a foreign land, punished as a criminal, and then rose to second in command of all of Egypt and saved the lands from famine.  The more I’ve read his life, the more I come to appreciate it… and the one phrase that describes it over and over.  At every phase of his life, the narrator explains “but the LORD was with Joseph”.  In every setback, in every failure, in every success, in every celebration; the LORD was with Joseph.  He probably didn’t feel like God was with him, probably cried out in despair at being forgotten, but the truth was God was preparing Joseph for a future he couldn’t even dream of.  And for thousands of years now, the life of Joseph has been upheld as an example of what faith looks like.  I’m praying that as I enter the new year, that I will remember the LORD is with me, just as He was with Joseph.  I’ve spent far too long listening to what my heart and feelings have to say about my circumstances and not enough of preaching God’s truth to my heart.

Earlier in December, my mom and I had the opportunity to go to Cincinnati for a weekend and enjoy some Christmasing.  For the first time ever, we were able to attend Christ’s Church (our beloved little neighborhood church) at the beginning of the Advent season.  The minister who delivered the sermon ended with these words.  It was applicable as we entered the Christmas season and I find it even more appropriate as we stand on the threshold of a new year.

And so we wait at the gates of hope, throwing open all the doors, and welcoming the transformation that comes from ‘God with us’ “

As we throw open the doors to 2018, may we not lose sight of the truth that God is with us.

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P.S.  I was in Texas over Christmas, but the snow at home stayed around to greet me on my return.  I’m having a white New Year!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1114: Merry Christmas

During Christmas, my church has been extending our fall season of studying Psalms.  I wanted to share the psalm that was preached on Christmas Eve because it is perfect for what we celebrate today.

1 Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
2 The Lord has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
3 He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
9 let them sing before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness

Psalm 98

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I hope this Christmas is a joyful, peaceful, hopeful season for you and that you will know God’s presence as we close 2017 and enter a new year.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

and the peoples with equity.

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Gift #1113: December Art Bead Scene Challenge

Because I’ll be on the road for the second half of December, I remembered to plan ahead and carve some time at the front end of the month to make jewelry for December’s Art Bead Scene challenge.  Full of rich colors and themes of the season, I knew I didn’t want to miss interpreting this piece of artwork into wearable form.

Still life artists suffer a deplorable lack of creativity when naming their art.  This piece is entitled “Still Life with Tulips and Fruit Bowl”  Sigh…  It conveys the subject, but nothing of the spirit.  This still life was painted by Susan Valadon in 1924, proof that the still life genre still inspires and is relevant generations beyond its inception.  I’ve always been fascinated by still life because the form is so deceptively simple.  At first glance, it’s an appealing collection of items. But if you keep looking, you find so much more.  This art form speaks in symbolism and the more you look, the more you see.  Most still life paintings have very dark backgrounds and use expert use of shading and color to vibrantly draw attention to a few objects in the foreground, as this example does.  Note how the flowers and the bowl of fruit seem to leap out at you. The illusion is heightened by the objects sharing a similar color palette.  Fruits and flowers are among the most common motifs in still life and both have special meaning within the genre.  Flowers are beautiful but ephemeral and speak to the viewer of the fleeting beauty to be found in life.  Fruits (during the golden age of still life) were luxury items along with fine fabrics (which you’ll often find in still life paintings too).   In addition to being expensive commodities, fruits also took on a more spiritual aspect in paintings.  Renaissance artists frequently depict the Christ child holding various fruits and were meant to symbolize the eternal life Christ offers.  As a fruit in the garden of Eden made men mortal, Christ’s birth and sacrifice restores the promise of eternal paradise.  Although absent in this painting, many still life works have skulking animals in the background, animals typically associated with decay and death.  Still life is a fascinating look at the conflicting views of life and how to reconcile them.  Life is full of beautiful things, but they are fleeting, and death and decay always are lurking.  Ghosts on the edge of the focal, these reminders of mortality shadow our consciousness and our existence.  Those who chase down happiness and luxury find at the end that they are the ones chased down by mortality.  Still life urges one to appreciate the beauty to be found in the world, but not to set one’s hope and expectation on it.  Turns out, this was a deeply personal theme for me to ponder on this Christmas season as I made my jewelry inspired by the painting.

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My necklace is a still life in its own way – a collection of items that I love that speak to me of the places where I find beauty – the forests.  I returned to a favorite necklace design that features another magnificent polymer clay bird from Humblebeads.  I have a passion for Gardanne enameled leaves – and this oak leaf in shades of mottled green, red, and brown is a favorite of mine.  Birds and leaves are among my favorite things on earth.  I also added in a little pine cone.  Czech glass beads and rhinestone spacers remind me of the shiny pebbles I like to pick up on my hikes.  My pockets are always full of feathers, pressed leaves, acorns, rocks, pieces of bark…

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The earrings are made with some lovely charms by Humblebeads – full of dynamic patterns in red and green.  I paired them with elements from the necklace – czech glass, smaller rhinestone spacers, and copper pinecones.

I like how this set captured the color palette and created a dimensional still life of images that are important to me.  This Christmas finds my family in some difficult times and it’s been hard to feel any of the seasonal spirit as we’re going through this.  Studying the still life and making this jewelry helped refocus my heart on the message of this genre of art offers.  The circumstances of life blow back and forth between luxury and adversity, from plenty and poverty, and from health to decline.  We can’t count on always having the “happy” bits of life and they are a poor foundation for when trouble comes.  Do you notice that the assemblages of still life are always on something?  They’re never suspended in mid-air. There’s a foundation for all those objects – usually a table, a bench, the floor.  The objects themselves aren’t what we base our life on.  They help decorate the scene but everything rests on the table, even the unsavory bits.  Just in our lives too, the circumstances (good or bad) aren’t the foundation of our lives.  They help tell the story, but everything rests on the foundation of God’s promises.  God promises us His presence, His peace, His victory in every circumstance of life.  And at Christmas as we remember the fulfillment of His promise to come to us, may we also find joy in the coming promise that we will be with Him.  Though the beauties of this world may be fleeting, the beauty and joy of His presence never fades.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1112: Art Bead Scene Blog Hop

Last year I participated for the first time in the Art Bead Scene hosted ornament blog hop.  I’ve been an admirer of the ornament hop for some time, and finally decided it was time to jump in.  I ended up making a whole passel of ornaments as gifts for Christmas last year, and I decided it would become a yearly tradition.  I like to make homemade gifts, but have struggled with what sorts of things I can make easily but would still be enjoyed by a variety of recipients.  Turns out ornaments are just the thing!

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As I did last year, I wanted to focus on a technique I’d learned this year as I made my ornaments.  I didn’t have to think hard about this b/c in October I attended my very first Humblebeads “Inspired by Nature” retreat.  I loved every moment of it and knew I wanted to use one of the classes as my inspiration for the ornaments.  One of the classes we took was on her famously popular “faux tin” technique and I decided to try it for my ornaments this year.  The hard part was deciding on my images because there are so many to choose from!  I settled on two – one of a nativity manger scene and one of a winter bird nest.

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This was the first time I’ve done this technique from start to finish on my own, and I identified several areas of improvement for next time.  But it was exciting to create something from this new technique! For each piece, I created a stable/house shape and also cut out copper backing pieces.  These were textured and patinated and layered with the faux metal images.  I used screw rivets to secure the two pieces together.  I tried several options for the “roof” of the design and finally settled on tiny wired greenery – I liked how it gave the ornaments a wintry, outdoor feel and brought some color into the ornaments.  A hand-formed wire hanger finishes them off.

I’m really excited by this technique and have lots of ideas in my imagination to try.  I had some extra room and also created a pendant from the bird nest design, and I hope to convert that into a necklace before too long.  It’s been a wonderful adventure to learn new techniques and design processes as I put together these ornaments.

Blessings to all,

Sarah

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Gift #1111: November Art Bead Challenge

There’s something rather satisfying about seeing all those ones in a row.  It’s a fine repeatable number.  I guess it would have been even cooler if I managed to post it on Nov. 11th.  Then it would have been Gift #1111 on 11/11.  Well, this blog post has us staring into the face of December.  The days go so fast.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and a beautiful November.  Our fall lingered here well into November because we had a warm October and I for one was delighted to have the leaf color stay longer.  It’s still hard to see it come to an end and the  leaves flutter down from the trees.  Once the leaves are fallen and it’s just bare tree limbs, I’m ready to move into mid-March.   If there aren’t leaves, my heart just isn’t in it.  And speaking of leaves, this month’s artwork from Art Bead Scene was a feast of autumn foliage.

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This beautiful Impressionistic masterpiece is called “The Bouchardon Mill” by Armand Guillaumin was painted in 1906.  He was born in Paris and took up painting, become close friends with Camille Pissarro and Paul Cezanne.  I learned from the posting that he also became close friends with Vincent Van Gogh’s brother, Theo (who was an art dealer) and sold many of Guillaumin’s paintings.  I love the moody, wistful feeling of the painting.  It looks so peaceful and quiet.  You can almost feel the mist rising from the river and the chill in the air.  I love the way he expertly combines pops of autumn color with dark, moody swathes of trees and landscaped hills.

Right away I knew what focal point I wanted to use in crafting the set of jewelry inspired by this painting.  There’s a polymer clay and mixed media artist I’ve admired for many years now – Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati.  Long ago when I first saw her work, she had beautiful leaf pendants that exactly matched the colors in this pendant.  Last month, I actually got to meet Erin for the first time at a bead retreat and I was gifted one of the pendants.  I visited her store and found some other matching ones and ordered those as well.  “Simply Maple” is the star of the necklace.

And you can certainly see why!  She’s pressed maple leaves into a clay-filled bezel, painted them, and given the whole thing a delicate metallic shimmer.  I have to admit to feeling a bit nervous about doing justice to her work.  I chose a mix of Czech beads in the hues of the painting to create a rich, beaded strand to set off the pendant.  And to give the pendant more weight, I added a large skeleton leaf behind it.  The glass beads are hues of the dark burgundy/brown that is present in the painting.  However, some of the crystal beads I chose had an AB finish on them, so in the light the beads appear brown with flashes of blue, which matches quite nicely.  I also added in some maple glass leaves, also in burgundy.  And tiny brass spacers throughout give a wink of light to the piece.  I wanted it to flash and dazzle and catch the light in unique ways to mirror the play of autumn light in a forest.

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I brought in some of the thematic elements to the earrings as well – tinier skeleton leaves with maple glass beads layered in front, brass spacers, and some leftover glass beads.  The star of these earrings though are my wonderful Humblebeads disc beads.  I love Heather’s disc beads so much and it’s always the debate of “do I use these or continue to admire them on the bead board”.  They feature burgundy feathers (that could look like leaves) on a dark brown background and they are breathtaking.  They matched perfectly with the glass beads and give a whimsical air to the earrings, as well as the faint whisper that a bird might be nearby in those autumn forests.   A feather and a leaf drift downwards in an autumn breeze and for a moment you can’t tell which is which in the last lingering rays of sunset.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1110: Thanksgiving Praise

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful day.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I’ve been anticipating it for weeks!   I had thought about doing a week-long series of blogs for Thanksgiving, as I’ve done in past years, but that did not happen.  However, I’ve had a psalm on my heart for the past week that I’d like to share.  During this autumn, my church has been in a series called “Fall into the Psalms” and we’ve been enjoying studying several psalms so far.  Now, one of the troubles of being in the Psalms, if you can call it such, is that once you start in one you get easily sidetracked into reading many others.  So during our sermon last week on Psalm 11, I got distracted by a phrase I remembered being in a nearby psalm, and then I found myself over in Psalm 46.  During this week, that psalm has been nestled in a corner of my heart whispering it’s truth when I’ve most needed it.  It’s also been mentioned several other times by completely different sources, and when I thought about what I wanted to blog about for Thanksgiving, this psalm was the first choice.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

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On first glance, it doesn’t seem an obvious choice for a Thanksgiving reflection.  But I find it an immensely comforting psalm.  We often find ourselves in situations that we can’t give thanks for; but we can always be thankful for God’s character and love for us, which is unchanging.   This Thanksgiving finds me worried and apprehensive over situations coming up in the near future that I don’t know how to anticipate or plan for.  They’re things I can’t control and that makes me fearful.  I’ve had dread and nerves and worry sitting like a hard rock in my gut for a while now and there’s no telling just yet how these stories in my life are going to play out.  That’s why I found this psalm so refreshing and restorative to my heart.  The author of this song also speaks of unsure times, events of cataclysm and calamity that would seem to result in ruin.  But he says “we will not fear”  even if the worst should happen.  Because God is ever present.  Notice how often the author draws the reader back to that theme: that God is with us.  He is our refuge, a place of shelter.  He is our fortress, a place of strength.  He is our help, our security, our Savior.  He holds our hand through all seasons of life, through the murky unknown, through times of feast and famine.  And because He holds us, we can always give thanks.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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