Sunday, December 30, 2012

Road Signs

I’ve gathered a cryptic collection of glyphs and runes as I run.

On most mornings I jog along the Greenville Greenway. There are signs painted on the pavement. Sometimes it is just paint on the pavement that I imagine as signs. I guess they may be notations for the crews that maintain the pathway. But as strange as some of them are they’ve become familiar markers for me.

I have figured out their relationship to the timing of my run (roughly). Yet these are randomly situated along my route; they represent no specific distance; and they are visual mysteries that I reinterpret for my own amusement (there are mile markers but what fun is that?).

Start at the frog…almost to the ran-over rat…today I think I’ll run past pink infinity and up to the white donut before turning around and heading home.

 This symbol marks the Greenway

To some degree I often feel that in my career the creative work I do, the jewelry I make, and my teaching, are bench-marked (jeweler’s joke) the same way ~ with events that aren’t uniformly spaced, represent no quantifiable distance, and are frequently in need of reinterpretation. Life is like that too. The thing to remember? Enjoy the run.

 Okay I know it's the number 8, but "pink infinity,"
what can I say? Such a sweet destination.

No? Not a ran-over rat?  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Perfect Notebook

I am charmed by artists’ notebooks. And, just to be clear, I don’t mean that subculture stepchild of the scrapbooking movement the “artist journal*” in which the pages are planned as finished product and, I’m sorry to say, tend to all look alike to me (Google images for “artist journal” and you’ll see).

No, I mean the genuine article in which a creative mind is storing ideas, solving problems, thinking in word and image. I am intrigued by the way artists think, which is revealed in their notebooks.

 Leonardo was a pretty impressive thinker on paper

I frequently use scraps of paper and loose leaves and then tape or glue them in. It appeals to my assemblage aesthetic. Lately I’ve been stuffing a small Moleskine notebook:

See? Loose leaves

True confession, I’m always searching for the perfect notebook, always on the lookout for the one that will work best. Whenever I visit an art supply or bookstore I’m drawn (ha!) to the sketchbook section to see if there might be that perfect one. As if, should I find it, my drawings, notes, and ideas would all be perfect too.

But there never is because, when it comes right down to it, the one that works perfectly is just the one you use. 

*By the way “art journal,” like the word “scrapbooking,” is now a verb, I’m with Calvin and Hobbes on this one (mostly Hobbes):

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Creative Sparks

In Three Parts:

1.   From my early morning run ~ the sun seen through an oak tree along the Greenville Greenway. The oak is a symbol of strength and courage with a tendency to attract big sparks.

2.   The symbol of the sun is a circle with a dot in the center and seems to have been used in in every cultural sphere on earth. It’s also the symbol for gold and in esoteric astrology the same symbol represents the creative spark of the divine.

3.   This is Thor, god of big sparks and loud noise (aka lightening and thunder). As it happens he also represents (surprise!) the oak tree. Note the hammer shaped like a goldsmith’s, the sun coming from his head, and the dragon ~ presumably spitting divine creative sparks. I wonder if that staff is made of oak?

 From an Icelandic manuscript ca. 1760

So today it kind of went like this:  oak + sun + symbol + gold + god = Creative Sparks. From my bench to yours.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff


Why Christmas Takes 10 Years to Arrive for a Five Year Old.

The Ouroborus, a sometimes symbol of cyclical time
by Theodoros Pelecanos in 1478

I have this theory about time and aging. It goes like this… time goes by faster when you are older because its speed is perceived in proportion to the number of years you’ve lived. It’s a relativity thing.

So, when you’re a kid about age five, a year is one fifth of your life, but when you’re 50 it’s just, well, 1/50th and hence shorter in relation to how old you are. So it goes by much faster at 50 (much, much faster, take my word for it).

I postulate that this is the reason Christmas, or a birthday, or summer vacation takes so long to come around each year for that five year old. Think about it. That’s one friggin’ fifth of the kid’s life. Christmas would have to roll around every ten years or so to feel the same at the age of fifty. 

Ten years.

Now, think about having to wait a half of a decade after that for summer vacation*. 

No wonder children constantly ask “are we there yet?”

Me? Oh yeah, I’m already there. Merry Christmas Y'all!

40 years in a Flash. 

The Artist, Summertime in New Mexico at 17

The Artist, Summertime in New Mexico at 57

*I also figured out that for summers to last as long as when I was, say, 12 they’d now have to be about 15 months long.  Imagine a 15-month long summer. Wouldn’t that be something? It would seem to stretch out in front of you forever, right? Just like they did at 12 years old. I’m working on that.

P.S. If your going to suggest that I’ve got too much time on my hands since I’m hanging around figuring this stuff out ~ it didn’t take too long. Like I said, time goes much faster in your 50s.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012



“Throughout much of the world, red represents events and emotions at the core of the human condition: danger and courage, revolution and war, violence and sin, desire and passion, even life itself…It is one thing, however, to assign meaning to a color, quite another to create the color itself.” ~ from “A Perfect Red” by Amy Greenfield.

This is a bug biography, of sorts. But it's also a fascinating history of the "first" color. It’s the story of cochineal (co-chuh’-neel), the source of most red dye up until the late 19th century. It’s still used extensively today to color textiles and a number of products including foodstuffs. That bright red slurpee you sucked down? Think bug juice colored sugar water.

--> From the Trousset encyclopedia, Paris, 1886 - 1891.

My favorite shirt in middle school was a bright, fire engine red, button down short sleeve. I wonder if it was cochineal colored? Somewhere I have a school photo of me wearing it when I was a pudgy and bespectacled nerdy 13-year-old.  I am vain enough to withhold that image from worldwide distribution (even if the only difference is that I'm no longer 13)

But there are other reds around the house…

Yes, I do, I use a shaving brush

Growing up as a somewhat Southerner in S.E. Texas
I feel incompletely dressed without a pocket knife

 This is a cool little wind-up self charging flashlight. And since red is the most
 difficult color to see when it's dark, this works for me on many levels

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mother Nature was a Smith!

Mother Nature was a Smith!

“The Personification of Nature making birds, animals, and People.”

This illumination, Ca. 1405, from Romance of the Rose, which is an allegorical poem of the Middle Ages, shows the character Nature creating both humans and animals on her “anvil of life.” Mother Nature is hammering the animals of the world into existence.

Though it was God, of course, that distinguished humans from animals by giving people a soul. Still, what exquisite craftsmanship she displayed, creating all the fauna of the world, you and me included.

Keep calm and hammer on.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chopstick Hammer Heritage

The Chopstick Hammer has a heritage.  #MacGyver

(Apologies to Blythe for teaching Neoma this trick)

Recently one of my students told me that she was taking a class in archery. Her comment brought to mind my own short-lived flirtation with the art of archery when I was in the Scouts.

And then, as often happens with cognitive associations, a nano-second later I remembered many years before, at around the age of 9 or so, making a miniature* bow and arrow ~ from a bobby pin, thread, matchstick, and sewing needle.** 

For those who don't know, this is a bobby pin

Do kids still do that ~ make their own toys, invent new games, and entertain themselves with the products of their imaginations? You know, doing that thing called “play.”  There is pleasure in the process of playing with materials until you get something interesting. Taking unrelated objects and recombining them into something new is one of the reasons I became an artist and studio jeweler.***

It taught me:

1. Mechanical Skills
2. How to rethink the meaning of objects and,
3. How to make associations and configurations previously unimagined. 

PLUS, it was fun. 

Bobby pin and matchstick = bow & arrow. Don't forget to play. 

* Minium was a pigment, either orange lead or red sulphide of mercury, and “a person who worked with minium was a miniator, and the things that he was to miniate were called miniatura. So miniatures were originally the paragraph signs and versals, and capitals, and headings, and so on…and finally because they were only incidental, and therefore usually rather small, the word miniature came to mean ‘diminutive.’” ~ From The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting by Daniel V. Thompson

**NB: Even in 1962, Using this to shoot at people or pets = seriously not cool. We used it for target practice or hunting houseflies only.

***Assuming you survive the possibilities. It’s a wonder and a miracle I, my younger brother, and our friends, didn’t kill ourselves, especially when considering homemade gunpowder, firecracker bombs, and exploding marbles.