Monday, October 31, 2011

Playing In Mom's Old Jewelry Box

Don't get me started looking at old jewelry.

I had asked my mom to salvage some old paper jewelry boxes for me, which caused her to pull out her entire jewelry collection (whoops).  Her jewelry is a veritable treasure trove: hidden away, barely looked at, dusty and in need of shining, resembling a simple pile of junk, but filled with plenty of gems.

Whenever the collection surfaces, I can spend forever pouring over it, opening up each box and zippered pouch, pulling out bracelets, single earrings, rings that I try to fit on my fingers.  Maybe because I love jewelry so much myself--I love making it and buying it and of course wearing it--I find such a strong connection to these old pieces, and especially to the people who wore them.

Many of these items belonged to my grandmother.  Though I only knew her for a short time, I've always appreciated her sense of style and elegance.  My mom tells about where she had gotten different items, or what occasions she had worn them for.  The collection also includes a lot of my mom's old jewelry.  Though her taste is a bit more subdued than my own, I am excited to pull out pieces I remember her wearing in my childhood (which are unmistakeably out of the 80s and 90s), and especially pieces from her own youth in the 60s and 70s.

One piece I found that was just too cool to let disappear again into the shadowy abyss of the closet was a lucite watch with a gold bangle band.  My mom laughed when I pulled it out.  "You like that mod watch?" she asked incredulously.  "Of course!" I said.  "It's so cool!"  She laughed some more so I asked why she thought it was weird that I liked it.  She said, "Because it's old! It's from the 60s or 70s!"  My response: "Exactly!"

Sadly, most of my mother's clothes and accessories from that time (which would be vintage gems now) have been discarded over the years.  But I'm excited to have found the watch, and will wear this "old, mod" thing with pride!

What vintage treasures have you found in your own home?  What contemporary items do you think one day our daughters will be excited to discover?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Object Project: Quoth the Raven

Submitted by Elise Banks of Black Ant Beads

When I first was an undergraduate at a local community college, I took a lot of classes online. This was partly because I did not like to drive and partly because I loved being my own teacher. One of the first classes I took online was American Literature 1. I was lucky enough to have taken the class in the fall semester because we started out reading Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow and then moved on to Edgar Allen Poe right about Halloween.

I am not sure what it is about Poe that I love, but something just clicked for me. The melancholy stories that make you want to cry. The tales of the horrors that lay within our own hearts. Oh! I just love it!

As a part of the class, the teacher assigned us a response assignment. This assignment was totally open for all kinds of interpretation. Students could do a power point presentation, write a song or short story, or, in my case, design a piece of jewelry. Whatever the student did they had to do it as a response to what they had read. As I read Edgar Allen Poe’s fantastic poem The Raven I began to feel the darkness of the story. The pain of remembrance, the glitter of hope that sparkled for a moment and was then dashed away by the raven. I had to do a necklace.

I started by selecting beads. Black seed beads were first because they were so obviously needed. The plain darkness set the stage for the other elements of the poem. I then mixed in some labradorite chips and some dark crystals. These added the element of sparkling hope that was dark even as it was light. A Hope clouded by the knowledge that it was a useless hope. Then I added the black chains as though they were the very chains around the young man’s heart that bound him as he longed for his dead love. To finish the piece off I created a pendant in the image of that evil prophet come to bring ill tidings – the raven. I also added a couple of charms that say ‘Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”’

If you have never read The Raven--and I never did prior to receiving this story!--you can check out the full text here:

Happy almost Halloween!

Monday, October 17, 2011

What a Medieval Handbook Taught Me About Sex

I happened across another fascinating find in my endless sorting of art transparencies at work this week: pages from the Tacuinum Sanitatis.  The Tacu-what? you may ask... Well, I had no clue either, but after a couple of days steeped in images of medieval illuminated manuscripts, this one caught my eye (obviously).

Even better, the caption reads:
Coitus. Nature: It is the union of two for the purpose of introducing the sperm. Optimum: That which lasts until the sperm has been completely emitted. Usefulness: It preserves the species. Dangers: It is harmful to those with cold and dry breathing. Neutralization of the Dangers: With sperm-producing foods.
Seriously, slightly risque nature aside, this was just too precious not to share. You can prevent the dangers of sex with sperm-producing foods? Good to know.

Of course, after my discovery I immediately looked up the Tacuinum Sanitatis, which turns out to be a handbook on health and well being. Included among this entry are others on various fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers, and foods, and information about when they are good, what they are good for, and whom they are good for.  Warm water, for instance, apparently has a cold and humid nature and is particularly good for cold temperaments, old people, and in cold regions. Roses are good for inflamed brains, but can cause headaches in certain people.

Even seasons are represented.  Here's an appropriate entry:

Autumn. Nature: Moderately cold in the second degree. Optimum: Its central period. Usefulness: when one proceeds gradually toward opposites, as for example, toward warmth and dampness. Dangers: It is harmful to moderate temperatures and to those predisposed toward consumption. Neutralization of the Dangers: By the application of moist elements, and with baths. Effects: Increases melancholy humors. It is suitable to warm and damp temperaments, to the young and adolescent, in warm and damp regions, or in temperate areas.

I don't know much about health and medicine, but as silly as some of these descriptions sound, I wonder how much of it is accurate, or close to it.  These statements must be at least partly based in effects that people experienced, even if the causes were attributed wrong.

What is fascinating to me is that even if completely inaccurate and quaint, there is a universality to this way of thinking, as a way to understand our bodies and nature.  Don't we still have sorts of guides like this today?  That tell us to eat a certain food or the benefits of certain activities.  If anything, we've probably taken simple everyday things and broken them down even more and made them more scientific.  Makes me wonder if 500 years from now someone will unearth a copy of the South Beach Diet and wonder, what the hell were those people thinking?

Anyone else find this stuff interesting?  Any other health advice of today that you think people will look back at and laugh?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Object Project: The Queen's Jewels

Submitted by Jo of Seese the Day

Necklace courtesy of VintageTreasures4U
I was scanning items once and saw a vintage necklace just like one my mother had when I was growing up.  It wasn't her style at all, since she was a conservative woman.  This was a necklace fit for a queen and it has earrings and a bracelet to match.  I have gotten rid of many of her jewlery items since she died but somehow I couldn't bear to part with this set.

I had memories of it, my mother let me play dress up with it and my favorite game was playing queen. I was convinced at age 3 or 4 that I was not really a member of my family because I didn't look like them at all.  Everyone had dark hair and eyes (actually Daddy had blue eyes and a red beard if he let it grow).  So in my young mind I was practicing for the day I was rightfully restored to my royal family. I think this fantasy was fertilized by the coronation of Queen Eliz. II on my 3 or 4th birthday.  My sweet mother never dashed my dreams. She let me revel in the royal fantasy and generously let me play with her precious jewlery.  I wish I knew where she got a piece so out of her style, a special occsion piece? A gift?

When I saw the similar item at a vintage site I convoed the shop owner telling my story.  She was sweet and reponded with a kind response.  (Now I think why would she want to know, if I had one I wouldn't be buying hers,) but that was not her attitude at all. Next I created a treasury just around this piece of hers.

When something is an important part of our past it carries the energy of the times that were important.  If there were a fire and I lost it I would be fine.  I have the memories and that is what is important. However I hung the set from my french bulletin board and glance at it occassionally and smile.  I have been known to walk over and put the set on while i sit in my craft room and work.  I look at them like they are the crown jewels.

Now at 64, I realize I am not a princess in waiting but I have discovered the real jewels my family has given me. Imagination, and self-worth, the purple necklace reminds me of that truth and I love that little red-haired girl who was allowed to dream.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Circle of (Bead) Life

Some of my newly acquired bead stash
 I love heirlooms, hand-me-downs, and other sorts of already-used goods. I love their stories, and the fact that they belonged to someone else before me. And I love especially when I can make things out of them!

I recently acquired a collection of beads, findings, and other random bric-a-brac from a friend's mother, who had inherited it from her aunt. Her aunt was a crafty lady who throughout her life made her own jewelry, including stringing her own pearl necklaces (this is a level of sophistication I have not yet reached).

When my friend's mom acquired this stash, she was very generous in passing it along to me, though it was fitting. After all, I started my first jewelry business "Beads & More" with her daughter when we were about 8 or 9. And when my friend's interest in jewelry dwindled, her mom took me in as a surrogate crafting protégé. She taught me to knit about 5 years ago, and I've been a knitting fiend ever since (though in recent months it's taken a back seat to Bric & Brac). In addition to knitting for myself, she's recruited me to donate scarves to a thyroid cancer foundation, Light of Life, which she's involved in.

Brass and Turquoise Baubles Earrings
Metal, Glass, and Pearl Baubles Earrings

So now she's passed the beads along to me. I've already started creating with them, combining with my existing stash, with other beads acquired from myriad different places.  Some of the resulting jewelry I'll use for my own purposes (see my new Etsy additions above), and other pieces will be donated back to the Light of Life Foundation. I hope they (as well as all my pieces) go back into the cycle of changing hands, doing good, and making people happy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Object Project: Virgin and Child Key Chain

Submitted by Kelsey Fox Bennett of Inner Art Creations

As I rummaged around my drawers there were many trinkets and keepsakes that caught my eye... the matching earrings and ring I bought in Paris, the necklace given to me by my first boyfriend, and the handful of lonely earrings that I love so much I keep them even though they are missing their partner.  Yet there was one thing that had a story I really wanted to share and that was this Virgin Mary & Baby Jesus key chain. What makes this an interesting keepsake is that I'm not a religious person and yet this specific key chain is connected to and represents many of the things I value and hold dear to my heart.

I received this key chain from an Africanizing Arch Bishop I met in Ghana. I was in Ghana with my African singing and dance professor and friend, Nii Armah. There was a small group of us and we stayed for two months with Nii Armah's family in La, a suburb of Accra. Nii Armah seemed to know everyone and anyone he didn't know he would soon make friends with. It was no different when we traveled to Northern Ghana and went to dine with this Africanizing Arch Bishop.

When I say Africanizing, I mean that although he is an Arch Bishop and stands firmly by the holy trinity, he also supports and values traditional Ghanaian culture and finds it is merely another form of worshiping God. We spent the evening with him as he sat at the head of the table and spoke with us about his beliefs. Following dinner we were taken to his courtyard where we proceeded to watch and partake in traditional singing and dancing late into the night. To say the least it was a magical evening.

There are many things I will never forget from that trip and one of them is that night and the realization that we are all the same, with varying viewpoints and approaches, but ultimately, living, breathing, and celebrating the gifts we are given, whether they be by God or the Universe, they are bountiful and we should celebrate any way we know how.

Thanks so much to Kelsey for her beautiful object contribution. Do you have a story hiding in a drawer somewhere? Submit it here!

Monday, October 3, 2011

What treasures do you have buried in your closet?

Photo courtesy of Creekside Diner
While there are many things that are important to our existence--cell phones, computers, shoes, toothbrushes, etc.--very few objects are elevated beyond their utilitarian functions.  When they are, it often has little to do with the object itself, but with what it represents.  This is why objects can become so meaningful, and are such a great way to remember a significant time in our life, our family, or history.

But when do you stop to think about these important objects?  How often do you dust off the trinkets on your bookcase or the forgotten treasure buried in the back of your closet, or even find a discarded piece of furniture by the side of the road and think about its story, what it has seen, who has owned it and loved it?

Thinking about these stories helps us appreciate what we have, or even what we are getting rid of.  In these objects we can discover the beauty of everyday life, relive old memories, or pass on histories that may otherwise go untold or be forgotten.

I want to share these stories here on Bric & Brac.  So go searching on your shelves, in drawers, and under your bed for hidden treasures, and contribute your object and story to the Object Project.  What objects are important to you?  What interesting, strange and beautiful things can you dig up?  Share them!