Category Archives: Works in progress

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.

WeaveWith Week 3: Maybe I should have made a bracelet

My week has been filled with much activity and very little progress. [There was a technology problem developing which gets a chunk of blame but the other half is/was me fiddling with the pattern. See below.]

I have set up my own palette for Bead Creator Pro that avoids the issues I had with too many shiny beads. Since then it’s gotten a lot closer to plug-and-play, at least (and it’s an important qualification) if I’m designing large patterns. Say 8×8″ on up.

When you’re creating a smaller pattern — one that will fit on a Lani, let’s say — you don’t have enough beads to cram in all the details. BCP can’t tell the difference between an important detail and a distracting detail, so it crams them all in there.

Squib as rendered by BCPIt is literally true that there are that many different colors going on in Squib’s fur, but the software can’t account for the fact that the human eye perceives her as a mostly black cat. (Happens all the time when you use the flash on your camera – your picture has more detail than you can see. Makes telescopes work, too. Not so good for portraits.)

Hence my restart before, where I revised the pattern to get a better balance between detail and perception. Worked great until I got to the whiskers.

Monday: whiskers. First three colors I tried completely vanished into the background. Next couple of colors contrasted nicely, but I couldn’t tell the difference between facial-detail-I’d-left-on-in-first-revision and whisker. After much testing, much unweaving and much frustration, I used the hex version of DB507. It’s an odd color for me — pink with 24kt gold iris — but it’s not overwhelmingly pink, and the differences due to the slight changes in color and cut work nicely. That gets me to Monday night.

I spent the rest of the week – ugh – weaving and unweaving to try to get Squib’s face right. I have been steadily reducing the amount of detail and darkening the bead colors, but I finally decided last night that I needed to go back and mostly-manually redraw Squib’s face the way I did below her chin.

Here’s the last revision before I decided to completely redraw her face – that appalling orange color is how BCP displays DB507 — no clue why.

Sphinx v5[Revision 1 worked great for the body but wasn’t strict enough for the face.] I’m still working on that today.

The tech problem: my monitor was dying, and I didn’t know it until it was totally dead. Until Thursday, it was pushing everything it displayed to the red end of the spectrum, so what I was seeing in the software and what the software thought it was showing were much much different than usual (which is saying a lot). Thursday night the monitor gave it up and David let me use one of his (computer artists have lots of monitors), so it wasn’t truly until Friday that I was able to work on the design and get consistent results.

I think I’ve figured out how to revamp the facial detail. Once that’s done it will only take a day or two to finish the portrait, and then I can get back to the Christmas present I’m working on, and “Hope” (the cardinal).

Word for the week: argh!