Hello, and welcome to this weeks blogpost from Caprlicious Jewellery. The week has been busy at the day job, with the annual August changeover of all the junior doctors in the hospital and I have had very little time to indulge myself with beads and baubles. However, I did have time over the weekend to play with polymer clay and I decided to make beads to put into a concept for a necklace I had in mind, which is unusual for me. I usually make random items, using one technique or another that catches my fancy, and hold on to the beads as part of my stash, until inspiration strikes.
Leafing through the wonderful African imagery in Africa Adorned by Angela Fisher, a tribal piece - a large Nepalese pendant, on a necklace of faux amber, coral chunks, turquoise and lapis lazuli came to mind.
Amber is a natural polymer made of resin from pine trees - it is prehistoric, and contains the remains of little insects who literally met a sticky end trapped in the resin, millions of years ago. Authentic amber is very, very expensive, and is sometimes called the 'Gold of the North', and there are many websites devoted to ways and means to distinguish between real and fake amber. Experts at the British Natural History Museum recently discovered that a bee preserved in amber, believed to be one of the oldest known examples of this particular species was in fact a fake, and probably no more than 150 years old. To add to this confusion, there exists beeswax amber, butterscotch amber, and copal - none of these are considered 'real' amber, but they are sold as such.
There are many ways of making counterfeit amber, with glass, resin and polymer clay being used most commonly. I found websites that talked about what real African amber should look like, while I researched what I should aim for, to try and make my beads as authentic looking as possible.
African amber beads are copal amber - which is actually real pine resin, but very, very recently formed - as in 'only' 150 years ago! Real copal beads are in different colours, with variations in colour within the same bead. They are semi transparent, with both shiny and matt areas, and are distressed and stained with age.
Amber doesn't come from the Sahara of course, due to a paucity of ancient pine forests there. Amber traded to Africa was found on the shores of the Baltic Sea in northern Europe and shipped across, bundled with Venetian glass beads and sent across the Mediterranean to Tunis or Tripoli by European traders who used them as currency. The beads sometimes broke with age, and were repaired using wire.
Armed with this research, I embarked on making the beads that went into 'Urban Tribal' with polymer clay and alcohol inks. After all, isn't it better to have faux amber, labelled as such and made by me with a bit of honest toil, than buying 'amber' and then finding out that it isn't the real thing?
The term Urban Tribe was coined by Ethan Watters, an American journalist - describing a group of individuals, usually young professionals living in large cities, sharing common interests (that were in general different from the interests of mainstream culture) that form communities to provide the emotional support of an extended family.
I do so like that idea - with the semi breakdown of the extended family, especially for people like me, who live so far from their putative home, it is nice to think there is a 'tribe' of people out there, all rooting for me.
Song of the Desert Traveller
This necklace is inspired by Tuareg jewellery. The Tuaregs are a nomadic tribe in Mali, Libya, Senegal and Niger. They are semi matriarchal, and their artisans make the most beautiful silver jewellery. Young girls are given little necklaces of black beads called Tchatchat necklaces, usually glass, with multiple silver pendants and cylindrical silver spacer beads called Ismana beads. A hawk eye pendant set in silver, and some silver cylindrical beads from India were used in a necklace made with blue goldstone 'Sitara' beads to resemble a Tchatchat necklace.
Hawk eye is a blue/grey version of Tiger eye, which of course, is golden yellow. There is a chatoyance deep within this beautiful stone, which is visible on movement in the light. This pendant is set in an ornate sterling silver crown, and the Sitara beads, which are a deep navy blue, with flecks of copper show it off beautifully.
The Three Ghostessess
During one of my sessions spent browsing the internet, I came across this poem - it was so cute, I decided I simply had to share it with you - I hope you like it. I wrote it on a Halloween cartoon of ghosts for maximum effect - enjoy!
That's it for this week folks, catch you later, same time, same place, enjoy the week in the meantime
I was at work in the day job all last weekend - and this time the Gods weren't smiling on me - it was literally the weekend from hell! I was in and out of the hospital, picking up pieces that had been dropped by others, soothing ruffled feathers - and whatever could go wrong..... did.
So I came home each day and pulled out my beads and clay and soothed myself calm - it was so nice to be able to do that - and I think the people around me benifited from that! A three day weekend can be so tedious, when everything is unravelling around you.
Shiny pretty things - to appeal to the magpie in every woman
I took delivery of a bunch of crystals from someone who was closing down a bead shop - so while I sat watching the telly with Mike, I put together some pretty chandelier earrings - I felt the need to dive straight into the crystals - I usually hoard pretty things for some crazy reason, but it would be madness to hoard half a kilogram of mixed crystals. I poured them through my fingers, sorting them into little piles and picking the ones I wanted to use - like a wide eyed AliBaba in the cave of treasures - and these are the chandeliers I made with this multicolour medley of crystal beads.
Love's Sweet Scent
This piece evolved out of my disastrous weekend - I mixed myself some pretty buttery yellow clay to make flowers from - had just about had enough of various shades of pink - someone recently said that yellow is a difficult colour to create with, and apparently, some people wont wear yellow as it causes their skin to look sallow. I thought, maybe it could be used as an accent - to brighten up a piece of jewellery - a little bit of it can't hurt - and it is so pretty after all. A floral theme seemed to evolve - I made peony type flowers - which will go into a brooches, I think, and a bunch of jasmine flowers and buds - these are the little plump jasmine that have the most delicious scent - ladies in India might wear just the one in their hair and you can smell it from a mile off, if you have a halfway decent sense of smell. They are usually a creamy white, but I claimed artistic licence and made them in the yellow of the winter flowering jasmine found in more temperate climes - they are still pretty recognisable though..... I think!
My mother has a bush in her garden which yields loads of flowers - enough to use as offerings during her prayers, and for the ladies of the house to wear in their hair should the mood take them. I remember my dad bringing home little packets of jasmine garlands, all ready for pinning into mum's hair - and she always shared them with her daughters - I wonder if it was a secret message between them!
Anyway, mindful of the edict that too much yellow would not be appreciated, I wove my jasmine into a little corsage, and teamed it with turquoise coins, pearly beads and dark blue sunstone in a statement collar - I love making those. I am sure, come winter, when the only flowers we can find easily are in the supermarket, they will gladden the heart.
These jasmine are evocative of my childhood, and the bush growing outside my bedroom window, and I called it Love's Sweet Scent. The jasmine has been set low enough so it won't jab the wearer in the neck - I just love this necklace.
I also made some silver components in my kiln - more flowers!- I need to decide just what to do with them, so will just post a little sneak peek into what is to come. The polymer clay peony has very thin petals, to try and resemble the flower as closely as possible - it may be too fragile on a piece of jewellery that may be knocked about during regular wear, and will have to go into a brooch, though I originally inteded to use it on the wrist in a wide bracelet - like a prom corsage.
Jhumkas - Indian style in Wire and Crystal
I made some beadcaps using wire and crystal - when my friend Suj saw one of them, she said - Oh you can make Jhumkas out of them - Jhumkas are bell shaped danglers, and almost every Indian woman has a pair of these. They used to be simple, in gold and pearls, but have now become so fanciful, they are almost unrecognisable. I made mine in copper wire with some of my crystal bead stash in a colour combination of green and gold - very dressy. As these are all lightweight beads, the resultant piece is pretty and ornamental, yet light and easy to wear.
My little piece of Caprilicious silver this week is a tiny fine silver bud, about an inch long, made in the kiln, antiqued and polished, with a tiny red Cubic Zirconium emdedded into it. It comes with it's own chain, and is perfect for someone who likes her jewellery a bit smaller - as you all know, a lot of my stuff is 'in your face' and cannot be overlooked when worn - maybe because I was once innately shy, (although I have grown out of it now) but there was another side to me that was a bit 'song and dance', and didn't know quite how to reflect that, so preferred my apparel to do it for me. I could not buy chain store stuff if someone paid me.
Most of my designs are made with me in mind - if you don't want it, I should be happy to wear it myself - so, the corollary to this is, if you like the stuff I make, we must be kindred souls - Soul Sisters, even!
That's all for my week this time around - see you same time, same place next week
I'm Neena Shilvock, and I'm crazily addicted to jewellery. I've been designing and making quirky and interesting statement necklaces for the last five years and my passion hasn't cooled off one little bit - in fact it has got worse, such that I'm even dreaming jewellery.
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I would love to hear from you - please leave a comment on the blog or send an email to jewellerybycaprilicious(at)gmail.com
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