23 September 2011

Bob's Dreamcatcher

 Dreamcatchers have long been associated with native culture.  Traditionally Ojibwe (Chippewa), they now span into nearly every tribe...each one putting their own twist to the beautiful craft.

This was done for a friend of mine down on the island.  He wanted a unique piece for his wife's birthday.  All I was given was that it was to be big, she liked purple, and sea shells.

The branches are from the shrubbery right outside my front door, so the hoop creation was the easy part.  The shells are mostly collected right off the beaches in Hatteras Island, with exception of the cowery and little snail like shells from a cannibalized, and very tacky, necklace.  The beads are all glass in shades of purple and green (being his favorite color).  And the feathers are pheasant, guinea hen, and wild turkey.  As for the size, it's a bit over a foot at the widest spot.

Wedding Bells

I was asked recently to participate in the bridal party of a dear friend's wedding.  We have been friends for a long while.  I don't know exactly how long, but it's been a long number of years.  We've been there through good times, bad times, and all of the other times in between.  So to me, the exact number gets lost in all the other important stuff.
As her wedding gift, I offered to make her the necklace for her special day.  She had always been into the Renaissance style; her dress and veil was even as close as she could get!

Being her wedding colors were green and purple (green for the groomsmen and purple for the bridesmaids), I chose amethyst for the main stone.  Some of them are chevrons, some balls, and some little chips.  The two little glass leaves are just a splash of green to bring the colors together, as well as a few silver accents through the piece.  The rest of the necklace is freshwater pearl; which is one of her favorite "stones".

While it's not traditional Renaissance style, I tried to create something to make her feel like a Queen!

17 April 2011

Feathered Sunshine

Finches in general have a beautiful song.  We would always have several of them when I lived up in Pennsylvania every year.  Where as they're small birds, their bright yellow colors always made them easy to spot in the crowd of sparrows and chickadees.  They also have a very distinct flight pattern, so even if you can't catch the yellow across the sky, you can follow the wave like pattern...flap flap flap drop flap flap flap drop flap flap flap drop.  I'm not sure why that always amused me as a child, but I thought it was the funniest way to fly.
This goldfinch is perched on a branch of dogwood.  I haven't seen any since I've moved to the island, but I'm hoping that one of these days, I'll spot one amongst the birds that visit the museum gardens.

Writing Spider

As I believe I had stated before, I'm not fond of spiders.  I personally have a strong dislike for the 8 legged creatures, even if I understand where they fit in the ecosystem.  However, we have very large visitors to our porch every year that I've become quite accustomed to.  We have several writing spiders grace us with their presences every year.  And while they are on the large size of spiders, I've gotten to kind of like them.  I still don't like them that close to me, or would be willing to hold one...but I've stopped trying to swat it with a broom.  They make huge webs, with a thick zig-zag pattern down the center.  Every now and then, we catch them bouncing up and down like they're using their web as a trampoline.  I'm not sure whether they're trying to attract bugs, test the strength of their work, or just having a bit of fun.

06 April 2011

A Lovely Amur Leopard

Way back when I started this painting, I had in mind to gift it to a woman that is doing some work for me.  However...it kept looking horribly disfigured.  I'd see what was wrong, try and fix it, but to no avail.  It would just look screwy in some other way.  Only after I sighed and said "fine, it'll stay here, I just want to get it done" did everything magically work out.

Big cat medicine is temperamental...it does exactly what it wants when it wants.  I guess this is just yet another example!

It's a Little Bear

I was doing little clay sculptures one night (when they're done I'll post them as well) and any time I went to do a bear...it started to look like something else instead.  And while that can happen with paint...I have more play room than with a chunk of clay that wants to be a badger or a frog.

More Double Earrings! This Time in Pheasant

There's not much to write on here about the new feather earrings.  I have a small collection of pheasant feather and guinea hen to do crafts with, and while all of these are in pheasant...the others are soon to come.

 The earwires are still surgical steel, but plated in gold or silver.  I've never been fond of gold personally, but they seem to look very nice on some of the stone combinations
 One of these days, I shall make several of each design, but for now I'm just trying out different color combinations.

While they are somewhat easy to do, and it's fun to have conversations on Skype while I'm working, they still can take a bit of time.  The most delicate part is making sure the feathers are facing the correct direction before they're set.

29 March 2011

Carving Coyote

I'm more known for my 2-D artwork, especially with the painted feathers over the past few years.  Branden has been working in sculpture for as long as I've been drawing and painting.  But, me being the competitive artist that I am, wanted to try my hand at carving and sculpting.  It took me a bit to learn the tools...mostly because I am horribly stubborn and want to learn on my own rather than having someone looming over my shoulder.
This was my second attempt at carving; I think I spent two to three days working on it.  You'd never know by the simple, stylized design.  Even though soapstone is relatively soft as far as stone goes, it's still a temperamental medium to work with.  I didn't want coyote out of it when I started.  The original piece was twice as large, and I had big ideas...and then it cracked.  And what I was left with on one half of the remaining sections, looked to me like a coyote howling.  So I took away what was impeding the look of a howling coyote, and now I have this little guy.  Sometimes, it's more fun when you can still make something out of misfortune or mistake.

19 March 2011

One Of The Signs That Spring Is Coming

For the past few nights, I have gone out for a moonlit walk, to find a tiny green tree frog sitting on the porch chair.  Being the porch is screened in, I don't want the little thing to somehow get trapped without food, so I pick him up and put him right outside the door.  It's an ordeal that takes a few minutes usually.  The little frog is about the size of a quarter, and likes to cuddle down in my palm to warm himself a little before hopping to the plants.

It's one of the many signs that spring is finally breaking through the cold.  The turtles and the frogs have come out after burying themselves for the winter.  I'd normally say that you can see the plants going into bloom, but around here, our flowers bloom throughout the year and a good portion stay green leaved if they're not flowering.

Ride the Wild Horses

I've noticed there has been a large number of individuals that are claiming horse totems.  So I figured I'd give doing a horse painting a second try...and this time...not spray it with clear coat.

It turned out much better this time, I'm sure part of it has to do with the fact I used a slightly bigger feather.  But only part of it.  This was also trying out a different set of paints.  They mix a bit smoother, and there's a wider range of colors pre-mixed.  But they're also less heavy, so it took a little bit to get used to.  I'll still have to work with them a few more times...but so far so good.

Quahog Totems

Walking along the beach in Frisco, you'll come across tons of these little purple and white shells, polished smooth by the sand and salt water.  The natives of the area used to collect these, just as many tourists do today; noticing the rare, deep purple color.  Using everything that they found, the natives used this shell as a type of wampum.  It is still used today by natives, being shaped into feathers, animal fetish carvings, and beads.
I wanted to try something a bit different with my paintings and the quahog.  I've noticed that a lot of the new age/pagan/native shops always have little stones with laser cut totems on them; simple little silhouettes that you can keep with you anywhere you go.

It took me a little bit here and there, trying to find a good way to portray some of the animals.  The striking contrast of the purple and white also presented a small problem at times.  All and all, there's about 60 as of today; from feathers to bear paws and frogs to sharks.

Double Feather Earrings

Fluorite and Unikite
As I'm getting ready for the Powwow, that is slowly creeping up on me, my mother send me a box full of little turkey feathers.  While they're not big enough to paint on, they're pretty enough to do some simple feather earrings.
Amethyst and Shell

 I've used surgical steel ear wire.  Half of the reason is convenience on my part and the other half is to help them be cost effective.
Rhodonite and Moonstone
I hope to do many, many more before the event.  They're quite a bit of fun to create, and they take considerable less concentration than my paintings!
Rose Quartz and Shell
 While most of these are meant to be sold as just the earrings, I may decide to make a matching necklace for the ones at the bottom; made out of turquoise and coral stones.
Turquoise and Coral

03 March 2011

He's Such A Happy Copperhead

I've always loved snakes.  I think they are beautiful and amazing creatures, whether they are venomous or big enough to swallow a five year old.  We have our share of poisonous snakes here on the island, mostly water moccasins and copperheads. I've seen them both, but not very often, and each time, they just wanted to go about their business.  None of them wanted to "run me down" and attack, they said hello and went about their merry way.  Then again, I didn't really startle them by screaming and jumping around either....

I think I've only gained some fear over the years from everyone else freaking out about them and how dangerous they are.  I recall there was a time up in North Park in western Pennsylvania, I was having a picnic with a few friends.  There was a tiny garter snake that I picked up and held.  He was so small he curled up in my palm.  He sat there calmly until one of the guys, trying to be macho, went to poke it.  The snake pulled away from him abruptly and wouldn't calm down again.  So back into the grass he went.

Then I noticed what looked like a tiny head moving in zig-zags across the water.  My first thought was perhaps it was a turtle.  As it came closer, I realized that it had trailing zig-zags behind it....snake!  It swam right towards us, and sat partially out of the water.  None of us moved for a minute, it was a fairly large one, maybe about 5 feet long.  I wasn't familiar with the pattern, and couldn't see it's eyes, so I didn't want to agitate it.  I decided to take a few steps towards it, slowly.  It continued to look at me, staying still.  I got about a foot and a half away from it, and it came a little closer to close the distance by another half foot...slowly.  I never felt threatened by it, I just wanted to say hello.  I guess the guys wouldn't be outdone by a girl, so one decided to jump off the table from which they were standing towards the snake.  (I should note this was the same guy that poked at the baby garter).  The snake raised its head for a second and then shot off in the opposite direction.  It's been a long time, and I'm still not completely sure what kind of snake it was.  It could have been a northern water snake, but I remember it looking more like a copperhead.  I only found out what a copperhead looked like much later, but that experience changed the way I thought of poisonous snakes.

There are Ocelots in Texas

Even though I should know better (and there's somewhere in my head that said "duh") for some reason I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that we have ocelots in the states.  I'm not sure why this confused me so much, or where exactly I thought ocelots did live, but I had no clue they were in Texas.
They're beautiful cats!  I found a few lovely reference photos while browsing about the creatures and decided to take advantage of them and do a painting.  I wasn't seeing very well that day, so I had to go back and touch up a lot of things, but all and and all I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

24 February 2011

Branden's Rune Companion

 As promised, here is the book companion that goes along with the deer antler runes I made for Branden.  All of the information was hand written on cardstock.  The cover is plastic from old advertisements at Food Lion covered in a thick black fabric. 
The binding was the hardest thing to figure out.  I had the pages all written by the time his birthday came around, but no clue on how to bind it together.  I had a wonderful journal that I had bought from either Borders or Barnes&Noble that showed the stitching on the spine. I had really loved the way it looked and decided that's how I wanted to bind Branden's book...just to figure out how.  It took a slow-paced video on YouTube by an older gentleman that only spoke Italian to help me figure it out.  It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but I was able to use what he showed me and make up the rest as I went.  It's much easier than keeping all the page sets handy when he wants to do a casting!

It just took a quick drilling of holes into the plastic, poking holes through the folded paper with a thick needle, and a long strand of sinewette.   The actual binding didn't take that long, and was quite easy once I got a few passes down.  And it was a much cleaner process than worrying about binding glue!

The symbols on the front are done by hand as well, they're just the circle of runes and the symbol he uses as his signature.  I wouldn't mind doing another book like this.  I think next time, I'll just print off the pages rather than write all of them by hand.

Amber and Turquoise

At the 12th Annual Journey Home Powwow of 2010, we started incorporating demonstrations of native crafts.  Not only did I do demonstrations of how to do my feather painting, but how to do some simple sand painting.  Most of the participants were young children, which is wonderful...usually.  This was the first time I had done a demonstration in that kind of atmosphere, and I admit I was a bit unprepared.

The first day was hectic and stressful, so even while I enjoyed it, I had a tendency to want to throttle some small person into submission.  Branden was teaching how to carve soapstone across the way, and he was stressed out just as much as I was.  So after the first night, we met up with two friends who were also demonstrating and vending at the Powwow to relax.  We all kind of vented whatever we needed to and then just commenced working on our own crafts for the next day.

One of the ladies handed me a drop of amber, and said that she would carry it around with her when ever she was under such stress, and hopefully it would help me.  Being as the amber is also my name sake, I was super excited.  Amber is one of the few "stones" that are classified as coming from organic matter, same idea as jet.  It has a deep, warm feeling to it, almost like solidified sunshine on a warm autumn afternoon.  While I've heard people say it's for healing, I find it more to be a stone that is likely to balance things out the way the need to be rather than for healing per say, it's more like a pleasant side-effect.

So, I had the gorgeous piece of amber with a bead hole drilled through the center, and not a clue what to do with it.  I carried it around for a while before I got an image in my head of what I wanted to do with it.  I wanted to do a three strand necklace with turquoise and little amber chips!  Well...easier said than done.  All and all, this took about 6 months to make, if not a little bit longer.  The turquoise chips I found at one of the outlet stores in Nags Head, I purchased a few of them because they were 50% off at the time.  It was a good thing to, because they no longer carry them there.  I couldn't find amber chips for a decent price until I went online.  Fire Mountain Gems was having a sale on a few of their amber strands, so I grabbed a few of the grade and shade I wanted, along with a strand of coconut heishi.

It was well worth the wait though, it's one of my favorite pieces so far.  At least as far as jewelry is concerned.

Memories of Life Long Friends

It can be funny sometimes, the circumstances in which we meet those people that seem destined to be our life-long friends.  The story behind this necklace, always serves as that kind of reminder to me.  I met a woman, I think it was about 2 1/2 years ago now, who was quite distressed.  Her native tribe was lost to her, her dreams were overwhelming, her health was swiftly spiraling downward.  I spent quite a long while talking with the woman, and we exchanged addresses.  I thought that maybe, I could make something to help.  I am no trained medicine woman, I just have a strong intuition that doesn't let me rest.  I made a pouch of sorts, shipped it off, gave her some herbal, meditation, and diet advice, and prayed for the best.

I heard back from her several  months later via a box in the mail.  There were a few little thank you gifts, but the most important thing was a long letter and the photos enclosed.  Her health was improving, she was more active and in considerable less pain.  The best news was that she was coming the next spring to visit.  I made her another pouch, but the best part of the whole experience was being able to see her walk around more freely.  The photos were of her walking around in her yard, or working on it.  And there were honest smiles there!  To be able to see her face to face again with that kind of renewed energy was the best kind of gift anyone can receive.

Before we parted ways on the last evening of her stay, she gave me a bulky letter, and asked me not to open it until she left.  Inside were three shells and a handful of stone chip beads, along with a letter to explain.  She was able to walk on the beach again, and she choose three of the shells that spoke to her our of her collection she was able to pick to give to me.  As for the stones, she always wore an anklet made of those chips, and when she got out of the car the first day she got to the island, the band broke and all the stones fell neatly on the ground.  She felt that their use was done, and that it was time for them to go to me so I could do whatever it was I wanted or needed to do with them.  I have a huge tackle box full of beads from either my mother (who has been kind enough to send me down packages when she see's some sale going on in Pennsylvania) and from when Fire Mountain Gems has some really good sales, so I had a wide heishi to use as the top accents.

We still keep in contact, though, life tends to take its sharp turns to make it difficult at times.  I painted a little yellow warbler on a feather for her recently for Christmas/Yule/Solstice.  She's still doing good, and has a little grandbaby to occupy her time.  The beautiful and amazing thing here isn't that her health improved, or that I was given thank you gifts.  But rather that on what seems like a chance meeting, we have both gained a friendship that has meant so much for each one of us.  I wear the necklace often, it reminds me of her, and how close we can be even though we're several states apart.  It reminds me of how a single meeting can change one's life so drastically and in such a positive way.