Sun God’s Eye

Some designs are the culmination of many different desires: to make something beautiful out of someone else’s beautiful work; to challenge myself technically; to make use of knowledge I’ve collected over the years; to commemorate a friend. Sun God’s Eye is that sort of jewelry.

I’m fascinated by lampwork beads. Glass can take so many different shapes, colors, textures, and effects. Amongst the many glass artists I admire on Etsy, I’m captivated by the work of Rebecca Jurgens at LandS Arts. She creates vivid animal portraits in her glass beads (as well as fine art paintings and intricate sterling “multi-media” pendants). In my hunt for interesting black cats to use as focal pieces for necklaces and bracelets, I discovered one of Rebecca’s cats:

Silver Grey Tabby pendant by Rebecca Jurgens

Silver Grey Tabby

When finances allowed — and before she stopped accepting custom commissions! — I asked her to make me an Egyptian Squib.

Egyptian Squib custom lampwork bead
Egyptian Squib custom handmade kitty cat lampwork bead pendant SRA “Reserved”

The original Etsy listing.

As soon as I saw it, I wanted to somehow make it the center of an Egyptian Eye of Ra. I spent a month honing my use of a technique called cubic right angle weave, which lends itself to the geometric flavor of Egyptian art. But the bead is large. Adding a hieroglyphic frame around it left me with a pendant that’s about 4″ square. Not everyday wear.

The Eye of Ra completed. The curved top component — the eyebrow — is a prototype. It’s mounted into the frame of the Eye in the final piece.

My success with the Eye of Ra convinced me that I was finally ready to tackle a long-standing goal: creating a piece of seed bead jewelry to enter in Bead & Button Magazine’s annual competition, Bead Dreams.

I’ve watched the Bead Dreams finalists and winners avidly for years, and wanted to create something competitive for about that long. The 2019 competition became my excuse for taking everything I know about ancient Egyptian art symbolism — and jewelry — and turning it into something wearable. My intention is to produce an Egyptian broad collar — what you probably think of when you hear the phrase “ancient Egyptian jewelry” — that combines the meanings of colors and shapes from Egyptian art, and the symbolism of Egyptian religion, with modern bead weaving techniques and design aesthetics. The idea is that an ancient Egyptian would recognize my design as a wesekh collar, freighted with religious meaning, but I could wear it with a dress and not looked like I robbed a museum.

My goal for Bead Dreams is humble: I’ll be delighted if I make it past the jury. The initial submission consists of up to 5 photographs, submitted over the web, no later than April 8, 2019.

Because the Eye of Ra, built around Rebecca’s lovely Egyptian Squib bead, is the centerpiece of my collar, I’ve named the project Sun God’s Eye. The Egyptian cat goddess, Bast or Bastet, is frequently portrayed as a black cat, and is referred to in Egyptian religion as the Eye of Ra herself:

Bastet, the Great One, the Lady of Bubastis, the Eye of Ra, who is in Behedet, who sits on the throne, who smites the enemies, who is protected by the gods. [From “Goddess on the Water: the Sacred Landscape of Bubastis” by Eva Lange-Athinodorou & Tobias Ullmann, in Egyptian Archaeology, vol 47:17-19 (January 2015) — the line is part of a hymn transcribed at the temple of Hathor at Edfu.]]

Being Happy

I don’t write much about my relationship with the Divine, not for public consumption at least, because it’s heretical in about 40 different ways (I suspect), I don’t want to horrify my friends and family,  I don’t want to get into arguments with people about religion. As the “No Solicitors” sign on my door says, don’t evangelize me and I won’t evangelize you.

But I think that what I’m about to write is useful in lots of different philosophic and religious world views. At any rate, I need to write it out to get it straight in my own head. As good a thing to do on a blog as anything else.

When I was an impressionable teenager, I read the book Illusions by Richard Bach. [Let’s also not waste time discussing the quality of his “revelations” or whether he walks what he talks. Doesn’t matter.] Here’s the passage that has always stayed with me:

26. And [the Messiah] said unto them, “If a man told God that he wanted most of all to help the suffering world, no matter the price to himself, and God answered and told him what he must do, should the man do as he is told?”

27. “Of course, Master!” cried the many. “It should be pleasure for him to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask it!”

28. “No matter what those tortures, no matter how difficult the task?”

29. “Honor to be hanged, glory to be nailed to a tree and burned, if so be that God has asked,” said they.

30. “And what would you do,” the Master said unto the multitude, “if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.’ What would you do then?”

31. And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillsides, across the valleys where they stood.

Can you answer that question? There are a lot of days when I can’t.

A few weeks ago I discovered this video by George Harrison:

The video is painful in places — in case the 70s leisure suit and the giant rubber duck didn’t give it away — although if you can hang on to the first chorus he makes a silly face that’s worth seeing.

The chorus is the key part. Once the Beatles broke up, George was free to write music that reflected the spirituality that he’d been discovering. Many of his songs can be applied just as well to Krishna (his ishta devata, his personal deity within the Hindu pantheon) as to any human relationship, and this is one of them.

All I’ve got to do is to love You

All I’ve got to be is to be happy.

That “happy” is not a request for happiness to be bestowed upon him, and it’s certainly not any superficial kind of happy. It echos Mr. Bach, who was echoing (from a far far distance, admittedly) the ancient philosophers. What is a good life? How am I to be happy in this imperfect world of pain and loss and lack? How am I to be happy within the constraints of whatever ethical system I have been born into, or chosen for myself?

What if all the religious promises of happiness — in this world or the next — are not promises, but instructions? Or even, maybe, commands?

Yeesh. God’s not going to give me happiness, in fact God is going to expect me to use whatever I’ve been given to get through all the drama, tragedy, etc of worldly life and still be able to say that life is good.

I don’t think the Divine wants martyrs. [One more thing religious persecutors throughout history have gotten wrong. Don’t tell the Inquisition.] I think we’re here to increase the amount of Love in the universe. Our talents and our flaws and our passions are indivisible — maybe our journey to “happiness in this world” is the gift of our souls back to the Divine, when this life ends.

Do you know what happiness is  to you? I’m still trying to figure it out.

Bezels bezels bezels

I am embarrassed to admit it, but Christmas Present A is still waiting to be mounted and sent. It’s finally recovered from its months of high tension on the loom. But I did so much loomwork right before Christmas that I’ve burned out on it a bit. It won’t last. There are stories that need pictures.

In the meantime, I have been playing with my favorite treasure hoard — vintage Swarovski heliotrope (undrilled) stones. So I took a few pictures this morning. The camera can’t do them justice. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them when I have enough of them done. I don’t even know what “enough” is at this point. They’re just awfully pretty and relatively quick gratification compared to weaving a 9×12″ beaded tapestry.


The trove, as of this morning. The three squares in the upper left corner are a 23mm 4675, an 18mm 4650, and (sort of down and between them) an 18mm 4470 which has rounded corners.  Here’s a closeup:

Clockwise from upper left: 23mm 4675, 18mm 4650, cushion cut 18mm 4470 with rounded corners.

In the upper right, two triangles: an 18mm 4727 and an 18mm 4723, with rounded tips.

On the left, 18mm 4727 triangle with sharp corners. Right: 18mm 4723 “cushion cut” triangle which has rounder corners.

The lower half of the picture includes a 12mm 4866 stone (called a “rocket” because it looks a bit like the Apollo command capsule — if that’s before your time, please Google, the cold rain here in Austin has me feeling quite old and arthritic enough already); two vintage 14mm rivolis (1122); a 20x15mm 4140 oval; and 4 vintage 10mm 5100 beads.

Corners are notoriously tricky for peyote bezels, because peyote stitch gives a very close fitting frame for the stone, and corners require precise, fiddly decreases. I used Bead&Button’s Stones with Corners (Beading Basics) for these pieces. It’s brilliant. When you’re weaving a bezel for a circular or oval stone, you start with a row or three of peyote with cylinder beads, and then switch to 15/0s to capture the stone snugly. That’s how I’d always started out for stones with corners, as well.  Lesley Weiss’ genius idea was to include 15/0s in the initial rows, at the corners — you can decrease in smaller “steps,” which gives a much more elegant finish.

I also found Artbeads’ Handy Tip How to Make an Open Back Peyote Bezel helpful for round stones; as well as Laura McCabe’s book Creating Crystal Jewelry with Swarovski, which covers several different stone shapes (available for the Kindle, as well as in paperback format).