I made the backdrop of polymer clay, an earthy swirled disk with bright teal "petals".
Below are photos of the entire hats, decorated with my hybrid handmade/vintage touches.
This coral colored translucent floral button really belonged on this hat that I made with coral pink and grey yarns. But, it also clearly needed a silvery grey backdrop. I made this one with polymer clay. I loved the way it came out so much that it has led me to create more polymer clay embellishments for my bejeweled hats.
For this hat, made with camel and teal yarns, I began with a vintage button from my friend Audrey's talented seamstress mother's collection.
I made the backdrop of polymer clay, an earthy swirled disk with bright teal "petals".
Below are photos of the entire hats, decorated with my hybrid handmade/vintage touches.
Here's a felted hat with a big floppy brim. I hand knit this with bulky wool yarn and then felted it. It is super warm but also fun! Decorated with a handmade pottery button. It's available now in my Etsy shop.
I've also made some lighter weight hand knit brimmed hats that can be worn as light fall or winter hats but also as sun hats because they are not too hot. These hats, also available in my Etsy shop, are shown in photos below.
Felting is like magic -- it turns hand knit wool into a dense, luxurious fabric that is warmer and more water-resistant than the original knitted item. Once I figured out how to do this, I couldn't stop making these hats! I have already sold several at craft fairs and on consignment at Firefly Moon (Arlington, MA). Each of these hats is knitted from 100% wool yarn. It is felted using hot water, detergent and agitation then hand shaped and allowed to dry. Then the fun begins! The hats are hand-decorated with buttons, beads, gemstones and in some cases hatbands that were hand knitted by me using soft, colorful yarns that are left unfelted. (Felting requires natural fibers and, in addition, blurs patterns because of the compression that occurs during the process.) Some of the hats shown here are available for sale in my Etsy shop. If they are sold by the time you look for them, or you'd like something slightly different, contact me for a custom design..I've already made a few and the customers are very happy with them! The one shown in the above photo is available in the Etsy shop (click the photo) and is decorated with a copper Native American style button (not shown here but visible in the listing). The one below, in a gorgeous blue/grey and cinnamon color combination just sold for Valentine's Day, but I have matching yarn and can make a similar one to order.
This one, decorated with a designer button in green, yellows and black, as well as hand knotted green Swarovski pearls, is now available at Firefly Moon on Mass Ave in Arlington Heights. Also available there now is an elegant black hat with a classic black and white, pearly embellishment (similar to the one shown in the "four hats" photo below, though all those have been sold).
Chairful Where You Sit is a public art installation and fundraiser in my town, Arlington, MA, about to have its third annual show. The curator is Adria Arch. Artists decorate old chairs, and sometimes other furniture such as small tables, using materials that are weather resistant. The chairs are displayed outside, available for purchase, and the money raised benefits public art projects in our community. I have loved this show from its first year, when all chairs were displayed on the Minuteman bike trail. Commuting to work, I came upon the exhibit on its opening day. I immediately bought one of the chairs, a Victorian pressback chair gone steam punk by artist Joy Steinberg. I love everything about it, especially the faux riveted metal seat and the corset ties across the oak back (shown in two photos, front and back). So glad I got there early because "Jules Verne" was reportedly, and justifiably, very popular! The next year, I bought two chairs. One was also made by Joy, and is very different from the first. It is a chair with the back long gone (I use it as a small table in front of a couch) featuring her own cartoons including one of a dog with the caption "A Rescue is a Lifelong Valentine". My friends understand how that rescue dog theme resonated with me.
I'm not a trained artist and, also, not much of a painter in the artistic sense, unlike a few of my friends and my dad. But, one of the best aspects of the Chairful project, I think, is that participants are free to express themselves with whatever media and techniques work for their chairs. I love to work with colors and textures and I have always loved working with wood. Our house is filled with various eclectic yard sale finds that I've refinished and, sometimes, painted in bright colors, recaned, etc. (One of my all-time favorite DIY books is The Furniture Doctor, by George Grotz, a classic that, I think, is no longer in print.) So, I decided that, for Chairful, 2014, it was about time I donated a chair rather than just shopping for one.
Actually, I ended up with two good candidate chairs. One, a really cool retro vinyl upholstered wood folding chair with simple lines, I acquired through the generosity of Arlington sculptor Bill Turville. Bill offered to donate several interesting used chairs for Chairful projects, and my friend Amy and I came away from a visit to his studio with three such treasures. My folding chair, a southwestern creation called "Moab", will not be at Chairful, 2014, in part because I became quite attached to it myself (Bill said he didn't mind that at all!). Maybe I will donate it next year, but I'm not ready. More on that project later.
First, about the chair that I hope will sell at Chairful, 2014: At a yardsale up the street from Amy's house I found a sturdy, simple maple dining chair. It looked very ordinary until I looked closely…the back had veneer of the gorgeously featured wood "birds eye maple"! It was blanketed in a grimy layer of aged varnish. Thanks to my lessons from The Furniture Doctor, I was readily able to refinish the birds eye maple, and to protect it with several coats of a clear polyacrylic varnish. Unfortunately, I didn't take a "before" photo, so the photo below shows the chair after I refinished the birds eye, but before any painting or upholstery.
During an exchange with Amy about our chairs, it occurred to me that the name and design of my chair could be based on a pun -- the maple and the frozen vegetables! (We're hoping that, given the charitable purpose of this project, there will be no "cease and desist" letter from Birds Eye Frozen Foods.) So, that's what I did. I found a wonderful corn on the cob fabric, and other upholstery materials, at Fabric Corner in Arlington. The paint is semi-gloss exterior (house) paint, Benjamin Moore from CityPaint in Arlington, where I was able to sort through a seemingly infinite number of green and brown shades to find the colors that matched the corn fabric, and complemented the wonderful color and grains of the wood.
Another little touch, in addition to my buying the materials locally, further connects my chair to Arlington. I made a little tag that links our chair to the Robbins Farm Garden, especially, to the Veggie School. The front of the tag is shown above. It turns out that Birds Eye frozen foods began in MA! So, I put that little story, written by my Garden colleague Dick Harmer for the Veggie School, on the back of the tag:
"Partners in Science - Peas' first big contribution to science came in the mid-1800's, in the work of Gregor Mendel, now known as the father of heredity science and modern genetics…….
Peas' second big contribution to the advance of science came 70 years later, in the late 1920's. This time the advance happened right here in Massachusetts. Clarence Birdseye, an inventor in his early 30's, developed a technique for quick freezing foods in a factory-based mass production process. Peas lent themselves very well to this process. For the first time ever, fresh-tasting, sweet green peas became available to average-income households year-round, not just in the Spring….."
"Birds Eye" was a fun project, and I hope that somebody will buy it to support public art in Arlington and that they will love it. Or, if not, it will always have a home with us or with one of our friends.
Recently, I have been trying to learn about Zuni fetishes. I have begun a collection (a bear and two turtles/tortoises) of Zuni fetishes, small animal carvings that have spiritual meanings for the Zuni people. I have also bought them as gifts for friends with whom I thought their message would resonate. Fetishes are handcarved, often of gemstones, and can be quite detailed and beautiful. Also beautiful, I think, is that they are created by members of artisan families, with carving skills passed down through generations. Sometimes, the family members collaborate with one another to create a fetish carving.
My Zuni fetishes (l to r): Turtle of Kingman turquoise by Roselia Lunasee and Loubert Soseeah (husband and wife team); Bear of alabaster by Priscilla Lasiloo (who sometimes carves in collaboration with her husband Stewart Quandelacy); Turtle/tortoise of Picasso marble by Randy Lucio
Since I love jewelry, learning about the fetishes soon made me interested in fetish necklaces. According to what I've read, the Zuni made these fetish necklaces for wearing, and for sale to tourists and other collectors. Unlike the fetish statues, the tiny fetish beads do not have spiritual significance. Still, I think they are fascinating! And, the fetish necklaces, too, are handcarved by families of artists, including some of the same families who create the fetish statues.
In searching for a Zuni multi-strand necklace, I came across a single-strand necklace in a great vintage jewelry shop, Twentieth Century Ltd, in Boston. The shop does not specialize in Native American jewelry, though it has a small case of very interesting pieces. Even though I had been looking for a multi-strand necklace, I was struck by the beauty of the fetish carvings, though I didn't like the close stacking of the animals. I am more accustomed to what seems to be the more typical Zuni practice of spacing them with heishi beads of shell or turquoise. (The shop owner, Paul, suggested that the owner of this necklace might even have requested it as a special order from the Native American artist.) The heishi used in these fine necklaces are often handmade, too, by the Santo Domingo tribe. Hand-rolling heishi is a very precise art, similar to the fetish carving. Despite my not liking the way the fetishes were stacked, and the long length of the necklace, I saw great potential in these gorgeous fetish beads. So, I made an offer to the shop owner and was happy that he accepted it. I decided that, despite its value as an original Native American piece, I would take the necklace apart and create the kind of necklace I wanted from the fetishes. However, I would do my best to preserve the spirit of the traditional Zuni jewelry artistry in the new jewelry.
Original Native American fetish necklace from the vintage jewelry shop. Between the fetishes are tiny mother of pearl beads. The original sterling silver cone findings were used by me to make the single strand necklace, shown further below.
I believe these fetishes to be Zuni in origin, based on the detailed style of the carving and the fine gemstone and shell materials, including spiny oyster, turquoise, mother-of-pearl (pink, white and yellow), pipestone, jade and other gemstones. Other Native American artists, particularly of the Navajo tribe, also carve fetishes so it is possible that these are, instead, Navajo. Regardless, the fetishes are beautiful and colorful and of high quality artisanship. I had seen enough to know that there is no comparison between fetishes of this quality and the less detailed, mass-produced animal beads that you find in fake fetish necklaces flooding the market, many produced overseas.
The original necklace had 87 fetishes (though 4 were broken; these are fragile and you often find broken fetishes in the vintage necklaces), a very large number. This gave me enough to make not only the three-strand necklace I had planned, but also a pretty jewelry set that I could offer for sale. Both are shown in the following photos.
Triple-strand fetish necklace, made by me, as described in the text.
Single-strand fetish necklace and matching earrings, made by me as described in the text. Features original sterling silver cone findings. Close-up shows the detail of the fetishes and the olive shell heishi beads. For sale in my Etsy shop (click either photo for link)
While these new necklaces are not authentic handmade Zuni products, I have tried to create them in the style and spirit of Zuni fetish necklaces, reflecting my admiration for this traditional art form. This includes spacing between the fetishes of olive shell and, in the single-strand, turquoise heishi, and finishing with silver cone findings. However, instead of the original hook and eye clasp, I attached a sterling silver, Italian made lobster clasp to make each necklace more secure. In addition, I hand-knotted the necklaces in silk, knotting each fetish to try to protect it from loss, should the necklace stringing ever break. Also, it should be noted that the shell and turquoise heishi was not part of the original vintage necklace and was purchased, new, by me. I could not find handmade Native American heishi so, instead, purchased the smallest possible (2 to 3 mm diameter) natural olive shell heishi made in the Philippines. I'm sure it's not nearly as fine as the handmade Santo Domingo heishi but I think it looks quite nice. Someday, if I find Native American heishi and can afford it, I might restring it. However, I am not sure that this heishi is even available to the public since the Native American artists use it in their own original, often quite valuable jewelry.
The animals represented in these necklaces include bears, birds, foxes, frogs, and fish. They have black inlaid eyes. For the set offered for sale, I used two of the smallest black bears to make dainty earrings. I have seen earrings of this style, with a row of shell heishi, sold by Native American artists, though the hammered sterling silver serpentine motif is my own little customization. The Snake, while not represented among these carved fetishes, is also a traditional Zuni fetish animal.
The single-strand necklace is finished with the original sterling silver cone findings that came with my vintage Native American necklace. For the triple strand necklace, these cones were too small. So, I ordered larger hammered fine silver cones, hand-made by the Karen Hill Tribe of Thailand. For more information and potential purchase of the single-strand necklace and matching earrings, click on either photo to reach my Etsy shop.
Recommended reading about Native American fetishes and fetish necklaces:
1. Whittle, Kay "Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest" (2nd edition, 2006; Schiffer, Atglen, PA)
2. McManis, Kent "Zuni Fetishes and Carvings" (2nd edition, 2010; Rio Nuevo Publishers, Tuscon, AZ)
In my research, I visited the Indian Craft Shop at the U.S. Department of the Interior (Washington, DC). I saw two gorgeous single-strand Zuni fetish necklaces, one of all turquoise and the other with just birds. And, I bought the above books, along with some very pretty handcrafted orange/red spiny oyster and silver earrings by Artie Yellowhorse designs, a Navajo family jewelry business. If you're ever in D.C., I highly recommend a visit to this beautiful shop. You have to go through security to enter the U.S. Department of the Interior building, but it's well worth the delay.
These projects started with my friend Marilyn, who had some vintage black jewelry that had been her mother's. We decided the faceted beads were probably a gemstone called Jet, and Marilyn researched Jet and black crystal vintage jewelry online. I restrung her mother's necklaces and repaired the earrings. At the same time, I visited my local bead shop, Things We Love, and found some fun vintage clasps and crystal beads. I made Marilyn a new, but "vintage-inspired", black crystal set as a gift. And, I started to find inspiration for pieces with a vintage look everywhere. These two amber colored necklaces were made using these huge, bold vintage clip-on earrings that I found in a vintage jewelry shop in New Orleans. I made the necklace strands to perfectly match the "pendants" that I've clipped onto the strands without modification. Both are for sale in my Etsy shop -- click any photo to reach the Vintage Inspired section of my shop. And, if you like bold clip-on earrings (these are huge!) you can even remove the "pendants" and wear the earrings, while wearing the necklace strands alone. That is, if you buy both pieces. Other photos here show vintage crystal necklace and earrings sets, similar to the black one I made for Marilyn, and one with Swarovski pearls. A very unusual vintage black, gold and rhinestone clasp, around which I designed an elegant two-strand necklace, appears in another photo. Most of these pieces, as well as others, are for sale on my Etsy site. (The pearl and crystal set is on consignment at Firefly Moon, Arlington Heights. If it is no longer available, contact me because I believe I can buy the materials to make a similar custom set.)
Our *Necklapouch (TM) bags are compact, worn like a necklace. They're not only earthy, whimsical, and unique pieces of jewelry, but they also stylishly keep your cellphone, cash and other small items readily accessible.
Each Necklapouch is a one-of-a-kind creation by two collaborating artists.
The pouches are designed and hand-hooked by Bedford, MA fiber artist Phyllis Poor (bowerbirdstudios.com). Phyllis combines mixed fibers in her meticulously hand-hooked designs, creating rich, varied textures and an organic look.
When the pouch is complete, a necklace strap is designed and hand-knotted by me, Bonprise Designs jewelry artist Sue Doctrow. Inspired by the colors, patterns and textures of Phyllis's hand-hooked creation, I combine hand-selected materials such as gemstones, Swarovski crystals and pearls, and Czech glass to create a necklace strap that perfectly complements the hooked pouch.
The strap is removable and can be worn alone as a necklace. This will also enable other straps to be interchanged to vary the look of the bag. Once you buy your Necklapouch, you can order additional custom necklaces to mix and match!
Some of these *Necklapouches are available for sale in our online Etsy shop. Click the photos to reach the listings and browse around our Necklapouch Creations shop to look at other designs. The fourth (jeweltone) Necklapouch is available at the gift shop in the New England Quilt Museum (Lowell, MA).
Our logo was designed for us by Arlington graphic artist Lisa Berasi.
*Necklapouch is a trademark. All rights reserved by the artists.
Lately, I've been researching pearls, and have learned that Tahitian pearls, saltwater pearls raised in the black-lipped mussel in French Polynesia, are the only naturally colored black pearls. "Black pearls" are those with a very dark color, including with rich overtones of green, blue, browns or other hues. All freshwater black pearls, and most saltwater including Akoya Japanese cultured pearls, are naturally light and must be dyed or otherwise treated, for example with silver nitrate, to get these rich dark hues. They can be very pretty, and I myself like to use them in my designs (you can see the gorgeous dark green "Peacock" pearl necklace in a recent post here), but they are not natural black pearls. Only Tahitian pearls are naturally black, and they are relatively rare so they tend to be more expensive than other types of pearls. They also have a very thick nacre, and are quite heavy compared to other pearls.
I was able to buy a limited number of Tahitian pearls at a gem show recently. One necklace and pair of earrings already sold in my Etsy shop. Three pairs of earrings are still available. After this, it's the end of my Tahitian pearl stock! I will be searching for more, though. They seem difficult to come by.
Hand-knotted Tahitian baroque pearl necklace, sold online. The variations in texture and gorgeous range of luminescent colors are really clear in this photo. I hand-knotted these with black silk into a necklace about 17 1/2 inches, finished to the buyer's specifications with a handcrafted sterling silver hook and eye clasp. Click photo for more information, even though the necklace is no longer available.
Tahitian Sunshine features baroque Tahitian pearls with bronzy brown overtones, with handformed hammered embellishments and leverback earwires in 14 kt gold-filled. These have been sold.
Tahitian Swirl features baroque Tahitian pearls with green and bronzy brown overtones and a rounder look than the others. The handformed textured and oxidized fine silver disks were made by me, using PMC3 (silver clay). These are for sale in my online shop (click the photo to link).
Tahitian Baroque pearl earrings feature Tahitian pearls in the classic "baroque" shape, with green and brown overtones. They have hand-hammered sterling silver embellishments. These are now for sale in my online shop (click photo for link).
Thank-you to Anita Muise from Anita's Beads for inspiring me to learn how to handknot my necklaces. As many of you know, this is a classic method of stringing pearls. The knots between every pearl makes it secure, because, if the strand should break, only one pearl will fall off. But, more important, it gives the necklace a beautiful, flowing drape. It's very labor intensive, but, I think well worth the effort. Generally, the thread that is used is silk but, also, there are some very strong synthetic silks available in a wide array of colors. The key is to ensure that the knot is placed snugly against the bead. This takes practice and concentration but, again, results in a beautiful piece of jewelry. Here are some examples of knotted necklaces I've made lately. Many are listed in my online shop (click photos to find the listings).
This necklace is called "Peacock Pearls", not because these rich green pearls are what is commonly known as a peacock pearl but, instead, because they actually do look like the color of peacock feathers! This necklace with matching earrings is for sale in my online shop (click the photo). And, here's a little secret..this is the first knotted pearl necklace I ever made. It took me over 4 hours. I'm getting somewhat more efficient at it. Knotted in black silk, with one of my hand-formed, hammered hook and eye clasps.
The "Caramel" necklace features these incredibly gorgeous freshwater "pebble" pearls from an Arlington treasure-trove of a shop called Things We Love. The pearls are deliciously bronzy brown, irridescent with golden, green and pinks. They're handknotted in black silk, along with tiny gold Swarovski pearls, an exquisite grade of crystal "pearl". The necklace also closes with a hand-formed hammered hook and eye clasp (not shown), this time 14 kt gold-filled. This is for sale in my Etsy shop. Click the photo to reach the listing.
"Porcelana", for sale online with matching earrings, features nuggets of lovely, pastel porcelain jasper from Anita's Beads (Wakefield, NH) combined with rich deep grey Swarovski crystal pearls. It closes with a handcrafted sterling silver hook and eye clasp (not shown). Click the photo to reach the link.
"Lights of Dawn" features lavendar freshwater pearls with a golden lustre, combined with sparkly yellow faceted beads of the gemstone citrine. All hand-knotted with grey silk. Exquisitely elegant, also featuring a handcrafted sterling silver clasp and matching earrings and available in my online shop (click the photo for more information).
This necklace is called "Thundercloud" and is an elegant combination of soft grey freshwater pearls with a peacock finish of blue, violet and pink highlights, matched with the gorgeous gemstone labradorite. The labradorite is grey with flashes of blue in chunky, organic shapes. It's hand-knotted in blue-grey silk with a handcrafted sterling silver clasp. This gorgeous necklace is now for sale at Firefly Moon, Arlington. "Over the Rainbow", a more rainbow hued necklace featuring pearls and similar labradorite chunks, but with a handmade fine silver organic chunky pendant, is for sale in my Etsy shop...click the photo to reach the listing.
Anita's Beads in Wakefield, NH has the most unusual treasures! My most recent purchase is several strands of exquisite, chunky/nugget-ty beads of naturally gorgeous jaspers. Olive green spotted "green breccialated jasper", with peachy and gold highlights; Black, white and grey "crazy lace jasper", and incredibly rich deep green and dark red "dragon's blood jasper". I've combined these with complementary glass, crystal or gemstones in distinctive necklace and earrings sets. All necklaces close with my handcrafted fine silver toggle clasps, organically textured and finished like the jaspers. All earrings feature sterling silver hand-wirework. From top: "Tortoise Shell" earrings, "Sand and Fog" necklace, "Lifeblood" necklace and "Tortoise Shell" necklace. Click the photos to see listings for "Sand and Fog" and "Lifeblood" in my online shop. The "Tortoise Shell" necklace shown has already sold, but a similar set using this design, but with 14 kt gold filled earrings, is available in my online shop (click the photo).