Thursday, June 11, 2009

Catching up with my muse -- Part 1

It's a long story, so if you want to just cut to the *technique* chase, scroll down below the picture for that stuff. But the journey has something to say about something or other, so I think I'll put it in, just because I can.

Three or four weeks ago, when I was doing all the wrapped loops, I also found Sharilyn Miller on FB, and was reminded of a component that I learned from one of her designs, a leaf shape based on a coil. I thought it would be fun to try embellishing that shape with seed beads to create a leaf element that I could use in a larger piece. I started making a few of the leaves with 22g copper, adding a wrapped loop in place of the simple loop that I would use in a heavier wire gauge, and they were okay.

Then, as I was thinking about what I would do with them, a non-jewelry project came up that demanded all my time from Sunday through Thursday. So the ideas percolated in my mind, but I couldn't make any jewelry time and they grew and morphed and got strange. When I got back to the leaves, I quicky realized that they were too soft and fragile for any bracelet application, although, seriously, they would look awesome as a charm bracelet. I thought some more about a charm style necklace, but wasn't too excited about that. Then I remembered a couple articles I had seen lately using a tree of life motif, and decided that I wanted to make one and the leaves would be wonderful.

Now, bear in mind that the last time I worked with the sort of technique I was planning was probably about 30 years ago when I made a really cool semi-macrame wall hanging of a tree, using coiling rather than knots for the bulk of the piece. It hung in our entrance for years, and it is still around somewhere, just not on display.

Not only that, but regardless of my personal beliefs, I am always fascinated by the things various cultures consider auspicious and amuletic. A tree of life should contain one or more references to 18, and since I had been reading Norse Code, a novel by Greg van Eekhout with a lot of references to Norse mythology, the 9 roots and branches of the World Tree also was playing in my mind. So I decided I needed 36 leaves. Working slowly (for reasons I really don't understand, these components should just fly off your pliers, really) I got the leaves done, but by that time I was more than a week late to post this for Year of Jewelry. Started the frame, and it just sat for a day. Looked at the frame and realized that it would hold 18 leaves at the most, and that might be a stretch. Added the branch/root wires, and it sat for another day, looking at me mournfully. At this point I was 2 weeks behind, and beginning to hate even the components. Finally I buckled down and began adding the leaves and twisting the branches and all that and I REALLY hated it. They stuck out every which way and were just ugly. So it sat some more, and at this point I'm almost 3 weeks behind. Finally I bit the bullet, braided the branches, braided the trunk, and it was looking less vile. I spread out the root wires and began fastening them, and darned if it didn't start looking kinda sorta okay. In fact, the trunk and roots looked downright cool. What do you know!

So here it is, my tree of life with coiled beaded leaves, 18 leaves, 18 roots, L'chaim.

Technical Detail:
Hardware store copper and seed beads. The frame is 18g copper wire, measuring 2 inches per side or 3 1/4 inches tall, including bail. Yes, this is a large pendant. The tree armature is woven and braided from 9 strands of 24g copper wire, doubled and attached at the branch end via a larkshead knot, forming 18 working strands for the macrame/braiding/coiling/whatever technique. Each pair of strands holds 2 of the leaves. The pairs of strands are braided together into 3 main branches, which are then braided to form the trunk. The roots are then separated out, fanned, and coiled onto the base of the pendant.

The leaves are coiled from 22g copper wire, with #11 seed beads added to the outside coil. I first saw this leaf (unembellished) used by Sharilyn Miller in a tutorial that was in one of the first issues of Belle Armoire magazine (on a much heavier scale) and have loved it from first sight. I used 6 different varieties of seed beads, some round, some delicas, some hex, with different finishes. Instead of the plain loop you would use in a heavy gauge wire, they are topped with wrapped loops.

The bail is a 5 coil herringbone in 28g copper over the 18g core shaped over a 7.5mm mandrel.

I'm still ambivalent about this. People who have seen it think it's cool, and I love the way the roots came out. But it still is not quite right. I'd love your comments and recommendations -- any reasonable suggestion will be considered :-)

So what will I do about that?? I'll tell you in the next post, coming very soon. Meanwhile, do take a look over at the Year of Jewelry to see all the wonderful work there.

1 comment:

Shay Stone said...

LOL! Listening to you in your creation process of this piece sounds like you are inside my head. Too funny!