Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Focus Makes The Difference

Apple by Amy Clark Moore

Recently I had the pleasure of perusing "Papers", a fabulous shop in the Nob Hill neighborhood in Albuquerque. The walls are covered with glorious papers from Japan of the highest quality to use in paper art. If you like color and pattern (what beader doesn't?), you might start drooling and clutching your purse, as I did. I restrained myself and left with only a couple of samples to somehow incorporate into my beadwork. I decided to apply a technique I learned last March, but hadn't yet tried.

Last year at Beadfest Santa Fe, I was lucky to be able take a class with Amy Clark Moore on bead embroidery. Amy is known for intricate “pictures” made with size 15 seedbeads using circular backstitch. Apple, above, captivated me the first time I saw it in one of the bead magazines. For years, I wondered how it was possible to create such a realistic “picture” using this technique. Last year, in the class, Amy divulged her secrets to me.

One of the concerns with this technique is that any photo or artwork used for the beading must not be protected by copyright. In other words, I can’t just find a cool pic in a magazine or on the internet and bead-it-up, if I don’t have the artist’s permission. Amy beads-up her own photos of her daughters, and they are AMAZING. Definitely not for a beginner, like me. That’s when it hit me that the Japanese paper would be perfect. I don’t need anyone’s permission, and I predict that the color and patterns will make a great “template” to bead-up. Here’s my first work in progress, which I began last night.

Where Is The Focus?

If you’ll notice in Apple, the origin of the circular work is where the stem exits the apple. It is not the actual measured center of the work. Amy chose to start the work at that spot in order to emphasize the apple and bring the focus there. Last night I had to decide where to start my work, or stated differently, where do I want to put the focus?

Now, beading is a metaphor for life. Isn’t it? OK, maybe that’s a bit overstated. But, for me, it’s all connected. When I work through a beading “issue or problem”, there is usually a process that I can apply to my life in general. This concept of “choosing the focus”, stayed with me today. I thought about some situations I am facing that are causing me some pain. I thought about “choosing the focus” and where do I want to put my attention. A short, but powerful, story of wisdom came to me, the Cherokee Fable called Two Wolves.

Two Wolves

An old man explained to his grandson, "There are 2 wolves fighting inside me. One is angry, arrogant, vengeful, full of self-pity and fear. The other is happy, compassionate, kind, generous and peace-loving." The boy asked, "Grandfather, which one will win?" The grandfather replied, "The one that I feed."

Whatever life hands us, and whatever we must walk through, we choose the wolf we feed. We choose the focus.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Temple Grandin Has Her Squeeze Machine...I've Got Peyote Stitch!

Temple Grandin


I recently saw the HBO movie Temple Grandin, which tells the powerful story of this woman's life in overcoming autism. Temple Grandin is known for being the first person to explain to the world what it is like to live with autism in her book Thinking in Pictures. Although she did not speak until age 3 1/2, she has a Ph.D. in Animal Sciences, is a college professor, and has a resume depicting a life of achievement. Dr. Grandin's way of "thinking in pictures" has helped her design humane and effective animal husbandry machinery. In her own words, "Life is cruel, but we don't have to be." Dr. Grandin has dedicated her life to the humane treatment of cows within the cattle industry. Of equal importance to her, is educating the world about autism. There is so much to say about Dr. Grandin, and she has so much to offer in her own words. This 30 min NPR interview is a peek into the mind of this fascinating woman.

When Temple was a young adult she saw cows being squeezed in a machine to calm them. She invented her own "squeeze machine" to apply deep pressure to her own body. As with the cows, it also had a calming effect on her, like a mother's hug for for a child. Temple's autism made human physical contact intolerable and scary. She suffered from severe anxiety. Her "different" sensory experience of life with people often agitated her. In the movie, she describes the effect of the squeeze machine as "something is repaired".

Something is Repaired

I know what she means. I often feel a swirling energy that can leave me restless and agitated. I don't always know from where it comes. Peyote Stitch has a calming and restorative effect on me. In this type of stitchwork, beads are joined in such a way that after the initial "set up" there is a perfectly sized space for each new bead to be added to the work. It is added between a "sandwich"of 2 other beads. When a bead is added it "clicks" into place and stands at perfect attention next to its adjacent beads that were stitched into place in the previous row. In the earring shown above, the green beads are peyote stitch. I don't know how long Dr. Grandin needs to be squeezed. But give me 30 minutes of peyote stitch, and I am in a much better place. I think I've gone as long as 12 hours doing peyote stitch without getting out of my chair. No kidding. I did need a massage after that!

More on Autism and Peyote Stitch

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ammonites - Ancient Sea Treasures

I am drawn to fossils. As a jewelry artist, I can think of nothing better than creating a wearable showcase for these ancient treasures. The ammonite has obvious visual appeal because of its spiral and its chambers. This special spiral, known as the logarithmic spiral, allowed the creature to grow from only one end (asymmetrically) and yet maintain its shape as it grows. The chambers allowed the predatory creature to control its buoyancy in order to hunt for food and hide from predatory birds. This ancient mollusk also possessed other fascinating characteristics that you can read about on The Cephalopod Page. Ammonites are believed to have become extinct during the K-T Asteroid extinction (the one that killed the dinosaurs)
65 million years ago.

Now that's vintage jewelry!

Remembering Gordon

Gordon deLima Hamilton (1964-1993). A lively and spirited soul passed on this day 17 years ago. A year before he was diagnosed with cancer, Gordon shared some premonitions with me that he would not be on this earth long. One came in the form of a poem that he discovered while studying for his teaching degree. He tape recorded himself reading it and sent me the tape, while I was traveling in Brazil.

This is a picture of Gordon on his 27th birthday. And here is the poem he left me:

REMEMBER by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve;
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Today is a Gift - A Necklace of Gratitude

I created this vessel to celebrate the beauty and gift of life. It can hold a personal prayer of thanks that can be worn as a necklace.

I used to work as a physician. This year I am beading full time to continue my own personal healing. I find that creating beauty is a very healing experience.

I am grateful for the love and joy in my life. I am grateful that I can use painful experiences for growth.