Jades

Jade is one of the most coveted and appreciated gemstones with one of the oldest and culturally significant histories in the Human tale. The Chinese have been utilizing, appreciating and admiring Jade for 5,000 years or more. Early Meso-Americans such as the Maya and the Olmec, Maori of New Zealand and others especially throughout Asia also have a deep connection with this gem.

This fine, antique Jadeite carving makes use of the natural colour differences Jade can possess. Both Jadeite and Nephrite were and continue to be prized not only for their beauty and "aura", but also for their ability to take on a sharp edge without breaking.

This fine, antique Jadeite carving makes use of the natural colour differences Jade can possess. Both Jadeite and Nephrite were and continue to be prized not only for their beauty and “aura”, but also for their ability to take on a sharp edge without breaking.

Present day people continue to have an appreciation for Jade, and its popularity endures. Top quality Jade rivals, if not regularly surpasses, the price and demand  of top quality Diamonds, Rubies,and Emeralds at auction houses. But to the novice, with a budding interest in Jade, the topic can be a little confusing. I’ll try to give you the most reliable information I can, but the topic of Jade is huge and encompasses notions of beauty, function, philosophy and traditional medicine and custom. This is just a small introduction that maybe I’ll expand upon in the future.

Jadeite is found as "boulders" that need to be sliced or polished to revel the true colour and quality of the material. Jadeite quality is based on the intensity and consistency of colour, fineness of the grain, and transparency. Often certain "patterns" and colour combinations are desirable for their specific beauty and "Qi". Jade is often treated with bleaches, dyes and polymers to present a specific look. Often it is difficult to discern the extent of treatment without advanced testing. The rarest and best quality of Jadeite will be treated only with  a thin coating of wax to enhance the natural beauty.

Jadeite is found as “boulders” that need to be sliced or polished to revel the true colour and quality of the material. Jadeite quality is based on the intensity and consistency of colour, fineness of the grain, and transparency. Often certain “patterns” and colour combinations are desirable for their specific beauty and “Qi”. Jade is often treated with bleaches, dyes and polymers to present a specific look. Often it is difficult to discern the extent of treatment without advanced testing. The rarest and best quality of Jadeite will be treated only with a thin coating of wax to enhance the natural beauty.

The term “jade” is used for two similar but distinct gem species, officially known in the West as Nephrite and Jadeite. Both of these materials share similar histories, significance and many properties.
It wasn’t until the mid 19th century that Nephrite and Jadeite were recognized as two separate and distinct gemstones. Nephrite is a fairly abundant material and has been found across the world, most notably in China, across North America (particularly on Canada’s west coast), central Europe, Russia, South America and New Zealand. Jadeite is far rarer and has been discovered in only in a handful of locations, most notably in Burma (now Myanmar) and Central America.

While most black "jade" is Nephrite, Guatemala is becoming famous for its very uniform Black Jadeite.

While most black “jade” is Nephrite, Guatemala is becoming famous for its very uniform Black Jadeite.

Nephrite was the Jade that was (and is) revered by the Maori, and is the Jade that originally captivated the Chinese, before Jadeite (also known as Burmese Jade) was discovered in Burma (now Myanmar) about 250 years ago. Jadeite is also the Jade of ancient Meso-America. Of the two, Jadeite is rarer, and more commercially desirable.

The Maori people of New Zealand have a long history of using Nephrite Jade for carving a variety of beautiful and utilitarian objects, tools and jewellery pieces. The pieces are often "seamless" and highly symbolic.

The Maori people of New Zealand have a long history of using Nephrite Jade for carving a variety of beautiful and utilitarian objects, tools and jewellery pieces. The pieces are often “seamless” and highly symbolic.

The Chinese name for Jade in general is Yu (Jadeite now being known as Hard Jade and Nephrite being known as Soft Jade), and because Yu has such a deep significance in Chinese culture, the word “Yu” is also synonymous with “beautiful”, “treasured” and “precious”. Many things, including other gems that have no chemical relation to either Nephrite or Jadeite can be described as “Yu” as a result, which can be confusing without knowing the context in which Yu is presented. An Emerald, for instance, can be described as “Yu” not because it is chemically Jade, but because it is beautiful and precious. Many good, virtuous, beautiful and/or exceptional things can be described as “Yu” in Chinese. Yu is one of the oldest continually used Chinese characters in fact.
Both Nephrite and Jadeite naturally occur in a variety of colours, including white, grey, yellow, black, and brown. Jadeite can even be lavender, red or bluish.  but the colour most associated with top quality Jadeite is Imperial Jade–a vivid, emerald slightly blueish green. Most people think of green when they think of Jade and both Nephrite and Jadeite come in a variety of greens.  Based on appearance alone, Nephrite and Jadeite can be difficult to distinguish, but gemological testing can separate the two similar materials fairly easily.

This is a fine example of Imperial Jade. The colour is very vivid and translucent. Imperial Jade commands a high price and is very rare.

This is a fine example of Imperial Jade, and much of the very finest comes from Burma (now Myanmar). The colour is very vivid and translucent. Imperial Jade commands a high price and is very rare. But an a beautiful piece of genuine Jadeite need not be thousands of dollars (or more). An attractive piece of genuine Jadeite jewellery can be purchased for a few hundred dollars and provide a lifetime of beauty with proper care and respectful wear.

While its attractive colours were probably what initially appealed to our ancestors across the globe, especially in China, both Nephrite (and later Jadeite) were found to be exceptionally durable materials to create both decorative and functional objects from. Because of its relative hardness and durability, good quality Jade is able to take on a high polish as well as a sharp edge while being resistant to breakage. Ancient tools for both ceremonial and practical uses have been found, as well as many decorative objects like vessels, jewellery, carvings and more. Unlike other materials, Jade can be shaped into relatively thin and delicate forms without compromising durability so a great amount of detail can be captured in Jade carvings.

The "Hololith", a seamless "donut" made of solid stone in the form of a bangle, ring, pendant or earring,  is one of the oldest forms of adornment, and Jade is a popular medium for this form of jewellery. Traditionally worn on the left wrist, Jade Hololith Bangles like this Lavender Jade one are purported to stimulate acupuncture points on the arm and increase "Qi" or "Life Energy". Jade bangles are traditionally passed down in families, but if a daughter's wrist is significantly larger or smaller than the original owner, the bracelet cannot be worn. Bangles like this are measured in millimetres so that the smallest fit can be achieved. The hand and wrist must be heavily lubricated to put on or remove a proper fitting Jade bangle so once a Bangle is on, it rarely comes off.

The “Hololith”, a seamless “donut” made of solid stone in the form of a bangle, ring, pendant or earring, is one of the oldest forms of adornment, and Jade is a popular medium for this form of jewellery. Traditionally worn on the left wrist, Jade Hololith Bangles like this Lavender Jade one are purported to stimulate acupuncture points on the arm and increase “Qi” or “Life Energy”. Jade bangles are traditionally passed down in families, but if a daughter’s wrist is significantly larger or smaller than the original owner, the bracelet cannot be worn. Bangles like this are measured in millimetres so that the smallest fit can be achieved. The hand and wrist must be heavily lubricated to put on or remove a proper fitting Jade bangle so once a Bangle is on, it rarely comes off. Jade Bangles are pretty durable and can last a lifetime under the right circumstances, but over time, or with a single hard knock they can break. Unfortunately, Jade Hololiths cannot be permanently repaired, but Chinese custom has it that if a Jade Bangle breaks, it has protected the Wearer from a severe “blow”, possibly even saving their life.

It’s unclear how exactly it came about, but the fact that it did is indisputable. There is something beyond Jade’s physical appearance and workability that makes it so highly regarded in China and many other cultures. Jade tends to feel soothing and cool and there does seem to be a wonderful energy to it. Confucius likened the ideal human disposition to that of Jade’s characteristics, and those who have an interest in traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy believe that Jade has a similar “life energy” (or Qi, in Chinese) as the human spirit and that these two energies complement each other when they are in proximity to one another. Depending on the colouring, patterns and individuality of a piece of Jade jewellery, it is said to be of specific benefit to certain people for certain ailments, imbalances and/or desires. Ideally a piece of Jade jewellery is worn often and develops/has a very personalized relationship with its wearer.
Depending on the colour and pattern of the Jade, it is thought to be of benefit, heal or diminish certain ailments, and/or encourage the development of positive traits. The name Nephrite comes from the Greek word for “kidney” and Nephrite Jade was traditionally thought to be of benefit for the kidneys. Depending on the individual piece of Jade and the characteristics of the Wearer, it can be protective, promote spiritual growth, enhance endurance, impart wisdom and accelerate learning,  heal the heart and emotions, calm, cleanse the aura, and encourage dreams and visions.
All Jade is considered to be “lucky”, especially when given as a gift. While Nephrite jewellery (and other objects carved from it) is relatively easy to acquire, especially in areas where Nephrite is found, Jadeite jade should only be purchased from a reputable jeweller/jade seller as very convincing jade simulants abound, and many treatments that can significantly affect the durability and energy of the material often unbeknownst to an unknowledgeable seller. While an exceptional piece of Jadeite could fetch millions of dollars at auction, an attractive piece of genuine Jadeite jewellery could cost a few hundred dollars.
A nice Jadeite Bangle is a beautiful, simple and very elegant adornment–I love mine and wear it everyday with pride.

Spring In Step(s)

It’s hard to believe I haven’t written since October 19th (!!) And that a full year ago today I was in England!

A year ago today, I was in England!

A year ago today, I was in England!

It’s been a busy and productive Winter including some (more) travel, creativity, health resolutions, and A LOT of ice and snow this season! I am sooo looking forward to Spring and warmer weather, and things are slowly starting to melt and warm up in South Central Ontario. Tomorrow is the First Day of Spring. At least of course, in theory :)
This Spring is going to be especially exciting, because as anticipated, my Sweetheart and I (finally) brought home our little dog a few weeks ago! We’d considered getting a Mini Bull Terrier pup, but like with many of the most exciting things in life, our plans changed and we instead adopted a ‘colourful’ Boston Terrier pup we’ve named Dorothy. We’ve been fans of Boston Terriers for many years and it was the breed we’d initially taken an interest in. They are known for being exceptionally happy, intelligent dogs that especially enjoy human interaction. And Dorothy fits this to a T, making her a perfect addition to our home. She’s kept us on our toes these past three weeks, and I’m sure she’ll be a recurring character in my posts.

Dear Reader, let me introduce to you my Dog, Dorothy! She's a very sweet, loving girl and she's already outgrown this sweater.

Dear Reader, let me introduce to you my Dog, Dorothy! She’s a very sweet, loving girl and she’s already outgrown this sweater.

Gemologically speaking, I’m down to my last two assignments (!!). I’m awaiting results on assignments 33 and 34 and am both excited and nervous at the prospect of taking my Final Exam after all assignments have been completed.
 It’s been an interesting process and one I’ve learned, can’t be rushed, so I won’t make the mistake of saying that I’m near completion (as I’ve been saying for over  a year now, with some truth), ha ha! But if all goes well, I’ll be writing soon as a Graduate Gemologist and not a Student! There will definitely be a celebratory something in good order when that day arises!
My interest in the metaphysical side of gemstones (this time, Jade) inspired some interesting conversations in November and December, and brought me to this very detailed and thoughtful book. “The Book of Stones: Who They Are and What They Teach” offers a unique perspective with lots of high quality photographs!
 I’d began to write a blog about my Jade research and discoveries in November and December, but ultimately decided at the time that the topic was too vast for the moment (and my power went out during an ice storm so I didn’t have the chance to fully collect my thoughts on the topic).
Interestingly, right in time for Spring and the revisitation of my thoughts around the last time I wanted to post, Sotheby’s will be auctioning the world’s finest set of Jadeite beads in early April 2014, so perhaps I’m in good company with my current fascination with Jade.

The Hutton-Mdivani Necklace adorned Chinese nobility before it came into the possession of its namesake. The Ruby and Diamond clasp, a stunning example of the Art Deco aesthetic, was designed by famed jeweller Cartier in the 1930s.

The Hutton-Mdivani Necklace adorned Chinese nobility before it came into the possession of its namesake. The Ruby and Diamond clasp, a stunning example of the Art Deco aesthetic, was designed by famed jeweller Cartier in the 1930s.

The Hutton-Mdivani Necklace is considered to be the finest example of Jade jewellery in the world, not only for its historical significance, but also for the quality and consistency of the Jade it is created from.
 A  wedding gift from her father, and first worn in public on the 21st birthday of heiress and socialite Barbara Hutton, the origins of the necklace are reputed to be from the Chinese Qing Dynasty, the last Imperial Dynasty of China. Even for someone not particularly interested in Jade, it is obvious to see, just from photos, that there is something special about this necklace…it glows! With this incredible inspiration, I think I will revisit my previous musings about Jade and work towards writing a Jade post to give this majestic necklace and the stone itself justice.
As for the conclusion of this auction (the Hutton-Mdivani Necklace is expected to fetch almost 13 million dollars, US), I’m hoping that the necklace returns to China, where Jade has been appreciated and revered for thousands of years, both for its beauty, and also for its “aura”. I’m looking forward to watching this one!

Amber

I’ve touched upon Amber in a few other of my Postings.

 

Like Pearls, Jet, and Ammolite (and others such as Coral, Bone, Shell and Ivory) Amber is an Organic Gemstone (‘gemstone’ being a bit of a misnomer). That means that unlike gems such as Ruby, Diamond, Garnet and most others, it was created from a once living thing.

For myself, Organic Gems are especially fascinating because of this, and Amber was the first gem that spawned my interest in Gemology as a child, even before Jurassic Park hit the theatres.

Ants (and tiny air bubbles) are popular Amber inclusions. Inclusions such as ants and other insects are highly desirable and relatively rare although they do find their way onto the common market.

Ants (and tiny air bubbles) are popular Amber inclusions. Inclusions such as ants and other insects are highly desirable and relatively rare although they do find their way onto the common market.

 

Amber is the hardened, fossilized tree sap of trees that grew 120 to 1 million years ago. The 1 million mark is important, as it ensures that the resin is durable enough to be considered Amber as opposed to Copal, which is immature Amber, and also finds its way to the market.

 

Although it can occur in rarer colours such as blue, most Amber is brown, yellow, white, orange or various shades of gold. It ranges greatly in transparency and can even be opaque. Of the many variations, red, transparent Amber tends to be the most valuable.

These tumbled, free form Amber nuggets show the range of popular Amber hues. I'm especially partial to the golden oranges.

These tumbled, free form Amber nuggets show the range of popular Amber hues. I’m especially partial to the golden oranges.

Although Amber’s sunny colours are very appealing, I’m most taken with Amber’s most famous characteristic–it’s organic inclusions. Not all Amber contains inclusions and not all included materials are Amber of course, but a lot of commercially available Amber contains leaves, pollen, moss, dust, soil, air bubbles and even insects and (very rarely) small reptiles who lived before being trapped for a small eternity and exposed by humans millions of years later. A piece of included Amber is a porthole to the past and no other natural material contains the same types of inclusions as Amber!

 

Amber’s oldest and richest history comes from Northern Europe, where 90% of top quality Amber hails from. While it occasionally washes ashore as the first people to discover Amber thousands of years ago noticed, probably while foraging for food, the vast majority of Amber is currently commercially mined along the shores of the Baltic Sea in relatively shallow pits.

This is a photo of the newly reconstructed Amber Room in Russia. The original Amber Room, first created from 1701-1711, was considered one of the greatest masterpieces in European history. It was looted and disassembled in World War 2 by the Germans. The whereabouts and exact history of what became of the original Amber Room remains a mystery, but its reconstruction was financed by the Germans in 2003.

This is a photo of the newly reconstructed Amber Room in Russia. The original Amber Room, first created from 1701-1711, was considered one of the greatest masterpieces in European history. It was looted and disassembled in World War 2 by the Germans. The whereabouts and exact history of what became of the original Amber Room remains a mystery, but its reconstruction was financed by the Germans in 2003.

Across the globe, the Dominican Republic is the second largest producer of Amber, although some maintain that this material is inferior to the Baltic Amber as the chemistry of the tree sap differs. The fossilization process of the differing saps however, is the same.

These types of inclusions are known as "spangles" and are created when cloudy Amber is heated in vegetable oil. This is a very old type of treatment and such spangles are desirable. Almost all "spangled" Amber originates from the Baltic.

These types of inclusions are known as “spangles” and are created when cloudy Amber is heated in vegetable oil. This is a very old type of treatment and such spangles are desirable. Almost all “spangled” Amber originates from the Baltic.

Ancient peoples along the coasts of the Baltic and most likely other ocean shores found and made use of Amber, however, the history of Amber in the Baltic is far more documented, and commercial production of Amber in the Dominican only began to come to fruition in the late 1940s. Dominican Amber tends to be paler, more translucent and more likely to contain larger more”exciting” inclusions such as insects than Baltic Amber, which may make it more desirable to some collectors.

 

Someone who is skilled at finishing and polishing Amber will take interesting patterns formed by the inclusions into account when fashioning the Amber into smooth, domed cabochons or beads. Amber is rarely but sometimes facetted. As Amber is comparatively soft amongst gemstones (2-3 on the Moh’s Scale–about the same as many harder plastics), it’s incapable of taking on an exceptional polish–the beauty of Amber lies in it’s warm colouring and inclusions and smooth cuts like cabochons and beads make the most of this.

While Amber isn't usually facetted, this necklace comprised of top quality transparent "red" Amber is. Red or "Cherry" Amber is highly valued and facetting it amplifies the rich reddish tones. Such facets would be cut by hand, adding to the skill involved and value of the beads.

While Amber isn’t usually facetted, this necklace comprised of top quality transparent “red” Amber is. Red or “Cherry” Amber is highly valued and facetting it amplifies the rich reddish tones. Such facets would be cut by hand, adding to the skill involved and value of the beads.

 

Aside from being colourful, lightweight and easily carved/formed, Amber is warm to the touch, and there’s something very pleasing about handling it and wearing it, so it’s no surprise that it is one of Humanity’s oldest materials for adornment–wearing it puts the Wearer in direct contact with the past and their own life energy radiates thru the material. Amber beads and artifacts have been found where their fashioning dates back more than 13,000 years. There is evidence that Amber was traded by the Vikings and other Northern European tribes across the continent and beyond and it was revered by many peoples and cultures. Amber was even found in King Tut’s famous tomb!

 

Its beauty aside, some ancient people believed that wearing Amber treated or calmed various ailments now known as Arthritis, Depression, Colic, and Kidney Problems. Many people still believe this today, and Teething Necklaces (to be worn by cranky babies, not chewed by them!) are a Folk Remedy that has regained tremendous popularity. It’s thought that Amber worn against the skin releases minute amounts of oil that can assist with many types of pain.

 

Amber was also burned as an incense–it gives off a sweet, pine fragrance and is undoubtedly the origin of the German name for Amber, Bernstein, which literally means “burn stone”.

 

While some of it’s other properties have a “magic” to them, the fact that Amber is static electric probably fascinated ancient people! Friction across hair, skin and furs charged the Amber and it would have been truly unusual for our Ancestors to see a piece of Amber “move” and “draw” small bits of fur or hair to it. While many modern Plastics and other modern materials are also capable of this, to the Ancients this was truly magical and prehaps indicative of Amber’s “life force”.

 

Although relatively inexpensive, there are many Amber simulants and treatments on the market, most notably Plastic and Synthetic Resins. Many Plastics and imitations are capable of taking on the same colours, finish and entrapments as Amber and it does take a skillful eye to separate good imitations–something best left to an expert if one is really in doubt. As natural Amber has a low melting point, it is relatively easy to join separate bits of Amber together. The result is known as Pressed Amber or Reconstructed Amber and its price is not as high as comparable natural Amber. Keep in mind that large examples of Amber containing large and or well preserved insects and reptiles are very rare and very expensive–these tend to be Collector’s Stones and don’t usually end up in the unspecialized market. With some practice, it can get easier to tell if a specimen was naturally trapped in Amber or if it was implanted.

This Bakelite necklace has a very similar look to natural "Butterscotch Amber", however, Bakelite (an early type of man-made plastic) has a wide appeal to many collectors and a big price tag to boot. This piece was recently for sale for about $500USD, about the same as a comparable vintage Butterscotch Amber necklace.

This Bakelite necklace has a very similar look to natural “Butterscotch Amber”, however, Bakelite (an early type of man-made plastic) has a wide appeal to many collectors and a big price tag to boot. This piece was recently for sale for about $500USD, about the same as a comparable vintage Butterscotch Amber necklace.

This type of cloudy, opaque or semi opaque Amber is known as "Butterscotch Amber". It's also highly desirable and is almost certainly Baltic Amber. This vintage piece is in excellent condition and features beautifully uniform and well-finished and matched pieces. It was recently seen for sale for about $500USD. Ironically, a similar necklace in Bakelite was priced in the same range.

This type of cloudy, opaque or semi opaque Amber is known as “Butterscotch Amber”. It’s also highly desirable and is almost certainly Baltic Amber. This vintage piece is in excellent condition and features beautifully uniform and well-finished and matched pieces. It was recently seen for sale for about $500USD. Ironically, a similar necklace in Bakelite was priced in the same range.

 

Bakelike was created as one of the first man-made plastics, appearing at the end of the last century. It had a variety of applications, but was also used for jewellery. It was lightweight, relatively durable and fun–a true innovation at the time!

While it was created in all shades of the rainbow for use in jewellery, much of it was yellow, brown and gold and made to be an Amber imitation. Bakelike is highly collectable and it’s a bit ironic to me that vintage Bakelite pieces very regularly fetch comparable or more money, and seemingly appeal to a wider market, than similar pieces made out of Amber. While I’ve seen many attractive jewellery pieces made out of or incorporating Bakelite, I’d rather have the ancient history and natural beauty associated with natural Amber close to my person.

 

Moon In Pisces

Fall is definitely in the air! The vibrant colours of Summer and Early Fall are beginning to subside into Yellows and Golds–colours associated with Spirituality and the Higher Self in many many cultures.

Buddhist Monks traditionally wear Yellow robes as Yellow is symbolic of Spirituality and the Higher Self. Yellows and Golds are associated with Spirituality in many traditions.

Buddhist Monks traditionally wear Yellow robes as Yellow is symbolic of Spirituality and the Higher Self. Yellows and Golds are associated with Spirituality in many traditions. The Harvest time is the time of year when these colours abound in Nature.

 

We’re nearing the end of the Growing Season and approaching this year’s Final Harvest, which was considered the end of the year by our ancestors. After the hard work of growing and tending crops, our ancestors took a minute to think about their harvest and themselves before having a bit of a rest and planning next season’s crops once again. Our ancestors believed that the weeks before the last harvest were especially contemplative, and that the “veil” between this world and the Spirit World was especially thin, allowing open communication. It is because of this belief that we celebrate Hallowe’en, the traditional New Years. And it’s because of Hallowe’en and its history that there tends to be an influx of general interest in the Occult, Fortune Telling and the Paranormal. There’s usually a bunch of Psychic Fairs and Exhibitions that come to town this time of year, and my Mum and I love to partake in them!

 

I had the most wonderful day on Saturday–I had the pleasure of attending a local Psychic Fair with my Mum and Auntie. If you’ve been following my previous Blogs, you know that I’m an avid reader of Tarot Cards, and I also enjoy having others read my cards for me. I read my own cards periodically, sometimes more frequently than other times, and I have my preferred Tarot Decks, which you can read all about in Me And My Tarot.

This is a sample Natal Astrology Chart. The glyphs symbolize the different planets in our solar system and the Astrological Sign they were in at the moment and place of birth.

This is a sample Natal Astrology Chart. The glyphs symbolize the different planets in our solar system and the Astrological Sign they were in at the moment and place of birth.

 

I usually have my cards read once a year or so professionally, and I really enjoy sharing this experience with my Mum and chatting about our individual readings over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

 

While there were numerous appealing professional Tarot Readers at this particular Psychic Fair, the three of us decided to opt for something different this year and consult an Astrologist, who also incorporated some Palmistry and Clairvoyance into the Reading.

 

All three of us were exceptionally pleased with our individual readings, and felt that our Reader was able to gain a strong and accurate sense of our personalities, challenges and attributes. I have to say that this particular Reader knew things that no one else would know–she gave an accurate account (with dates) of my “struggles” over the past two years in being uprooted from my home, described my husband perfectly, and just “knew” many of the joys and challenges that I’ve recently faced–it was pretty amazing and quite touching.

 

I’ve found general Astrology to be a mixed bag when taken at its face value–reading the Sun Sign Horoscopes. I’m a Taurus, and for fun, I’ve read various generic Horoscopes for Taurus since I was a pre teen for amusement. I’ve read books on how to draw an Astrological Chart that I’ve been pleased with (“The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need” by Joanna Martine Woolfolk is a great example), but it was nice to have the “human touch” and individualized insight.

"The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need" by Joanna Martine Woolfolk is an easy way to draw your own Natal Chart. It's interesting and informative and a wonderful part of my library.

“The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need” by Joanna Martine Woolfolk is an easy way to draw your own Natal Chart. It’s interesting and informative and a wonderful part of my library.

 

It probably goes without saying that there is far more to Astrology than one’s general “newspaper” Sun Sign.

As “mystic” Psychiatrist, and Astrology affectionado Carl Jung stated, “We are born in a given moment, in a given place, and like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and season in which we are born.”

 

In order to have the most accurate Astrological Reading, the exact time and birthplace is needed. Most of us know our birthplace as it’s written on our Birth Certificate, but time of birth can be a little iffy for some people, including my Mother, who’s own Mother (now deceased)  couldn’t remember at what time my Mum was birthed. I was born at an easy to remember 12:01am so my chart (and Reading) was able to be a lot more specific than my Mother’s.

Based on the time of birth and location of birth, the Sun, Moon and various Planets are alined in different positions, which purportedly have an influence on the individual. Certain Gems, Colours, Locations, Plants and Symbols are also associated with various planets and positions. Jet, one of my most favourite gemstones, happens to correspond with my birth time :)

 

The placement of the Moon during an individual’s date of birth is supposed to influence and reflect inward personality, and my Moon being in Pisces didn’t offer me any surprises–it was pretty right on. Those with a Moon in Pisces are supposed to be highly creative, sensitive, lovers of humanity and the arts. Their disposition is one that is drawn to metaphysics, the super-natural and all sorts of spirituality. Often those with a Moon in Pisces have a humble gentleness to them. Famous people with a Moon in Pisces include: Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Che Guevara and Martin Luther King, Jr.

My moon is in Pisces. Pisces is a sign strongly associated with duality, the water and the mind.

My moon is in Pisces. Pisces is a sign strongly associated with duality, the water and the mind.

 

The Ascendant, or Rising Sign, is the Astrological Sign that is rising on the Eastern Horizon at the time of birth. Mine happens to be on the cusp, or border, between Capricorn and Aquarius. The Ascending Sign is supposed to influence how the individual would like to be seen, and how they tend to deal with people publicly. Despite the rather conflicting nature of my two Rising Signs (most people only have one), I certainly see that duality within myself.

If I’m feeling stressed, or uncomfortable, or with something special to prove to my audience, the Capricorn side takes over and I tend to project a reserved, competent, hard-working and no-nonsense persona.

If I’m comfortable, and feeling my best self, the Aquarius side takes over and I focus on making others laugh with my quirky sense of humour. I like to “show off” my flair for the arts with my unique fashion sensibilities and love of colourful language and conversation.

 

Of course, the alignment of my other planetary positions comes into play as well, and it was definitely interesting!

 

All around, I’m apparently in for a productive, successful and busy next few months, once the remaining dust from my recent upheaval finally settles. I’m feeling very good about the direction many aspects of my personal and professional life are headed and I hope that what was predicted is truly “in the stars” for me.

I was eager to hear about my Mum and Auntie’s Readings as well and we did enjoy a beautiful meal and glass of wine post Fair at one of my favourite restaurants. Such a nice way to bond with both myself and my family–I found the experience more enriching with my family’s feedback.

 

 

Am I a firm, die hard believer in Astrology?

No. But I believe there’s more to be gained from being open than being decidedly closed to these types of things. I find it to be entertaining, insightful and helpful if taken with a grain of salt, openness (and sense of humour).

 

For myself anyways, it helps to remind me that there’s something bigger than myself; a Universe full of mystery and possibility. It gives a link to our collective ancestors who looked to the sky (something larger) for answers and assistance. It reminds me that life is both trivial and serious–if you take anything too seriously, you’re missing the point and a whole realm of possibility. doublemoon

 

 

Pucci–Otha People’s Work that I LOVE.

I confess that I have two very different yet complimentary design sensibilities–I absolutely adore black, structured and fitted clothing and accessories, but I equally love bold, bright colours, especially translated into unique and eye-catching prints. It may come as a surprise that this Goth At Heart’s favourite fashion designer is Emilio Pucci, known for his bright, organic, psychedelic patterns and often seemingly unconventional colour schemes. He’s been a big influence to me and my husband, Oli Goldsmith who also is a lover of Textile, Pattern and Unusual Colour Palettes.

This Pucci print is featured on a men's silk tie. I love the colours and how the pattern gently plays with the eye.

This Pucci print is featured on a men’s silk tie. I love the colours and how the pattern gently plays with the eye.

Though synonymous with the 1960s, Pucci’s designs remain popular with celebrities and the jet-set as they are elegant, up-beat, confident and care-free and tend to flatter a variety of body types. Many of the designs are truly classic and very versatile–think Little Black Dress with amplified personality. Frankly, about the only place a typical Pucci dress wouldn’t be appropriate for is a funeral!

 

The story of Emilio Pucci is very interesting and a little ironic. Born into prominent Florentine aristocracy in 1914, young Emilio was an accomplished athlete and an especially avid skier, winning a scholarship for his aptitude. He studied Agriculture, and Political and Social Sciences and served as a Pilot in World War 2 before deciding to pursue a career in Fashion Design. Due to his family connections with Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini, Pucci was captured by the Nazis and was tortured by them to obtain political information.

A vintage Pucci outfit. Pucci was known for his interest in developing new materials that would be comfortable and body conscious.

A vintage Pucci outfit. Pucci was known for his interest in developing new materials that would be comfortable and body conscious.

 

Especially interested in the properties of fabric and dye from both Scientific and Aesthetic perspectives, Pucci was particularly interested in designing Ski Wear and his designs began to receive world wide acclaim when one of his designs that was made for a personal friend was photographed on the ski slopes by Harper’s Bazaar in 1947. The Pucci brand soon developed swimsuits, scarves and dresses in particular, all maintaining a sensitivity to the fabric used. Style icons such as Jackie Kennedy, Sophia Loren, and most notably Marilyn Monroe, who was buried in a Pucci dress, helped to propel the brand. Pucci designed revolutionary Air Crew Uniforms for Braniff Airlines in the mid 1960s, and even designed clothing for Barbie!

Pucci’s inspiration was taken from daily life, presumably the sunset over water, raindrops on wood, the sun peeking thru branches, romantic architecture and plant life. There’s also something musical about his compositions as well that is absolutely captivating. He purportedly took many photos and drew his palettes from these, often assisting the fabric printers in executing these palettes to his liking. It is evident that he was truly passionate about his designs! A true Colour Genius, Pucci apparently could create beautiful, complicated colour palettes and compositions for 100 scarves in an hour!

Pucci is known for his wrap-around dresses, which are especially sensuous on curvier women.

Pucci is known for his wrap-around dresses, which are especially sensuous on curvier women.

 

When Pucci passed away in 1992, his daughter took the reigns of the brand and the Pucci brand has continued to gain fans and acclaim. There are gorgeous Pucci shoes, purses, men’s ties, house wares, jewellery and even rain boots.

 

Aside from being delighted by the slightly eccentric, playful, gently bold patterns typical of Pucci designs, I’m a huge fan of the materiality of them–the fabric is beautiful! While synthetic materials such as rayon are sometimes used, the majority of the designs focus on stretchy silk jerseys and wools–they are meant to breathe, move with the body and be comfortable to wear while flattering the form and delighting the eye. The organic patterns of the fabric tends to enhance the female form–Pucci dresses are especially stunning on curvier women. These are truly feel-good clothes! And that to me is the most important thing about Fashion Design and design in general.

Jennifer Lopez wearing a Pucci dress.

Jennifer Lopez wearing a Pucci dress.

 

Easy Caprese

Labour Day has come and gone once again. After a Summer that wasn’t that hot (pun intended), there’s definitely an Autumn feel to the past few days. PIVOT squirrel-closeup-detail

 

I’ve been focusing a lot on my painting, which had taken a place on the back-burner these past months. I should be in the Studio working on jewellery and I should be focusing more on my last few gemmology assignments, but painting fever has hit and I have to comply if I’m at all able to. Maybe it has something to do with all of the tomatoes that we’ve been eating from the garden? Today’s tomato dish was a lite and fresh tasting Caprese Salad, but I think making more tomato sauce will be in order.

 

If you don’t already know, Caprese Salad is about the easiest thing to make, and is an especially convenient way to use up a few garden tomatoes–the flavour of garden grown tomatoes is really enhanced this way.

 

Take about 1/2tsp of Sea Salt and throw it into a large bowl. Remove the leaves from about 5 generous sprigs of Basil and roll the leaves up in your hand lightly to make a cigar shape. Cut the leaves into the bowl along with your salt and smoosh the cut leaves into the salt a few times to release the fragrant, tasty oil from the Basil. Add about  1/4 of Olive Oil to the mix. The oil tastes better if it’s allowed to infuse for a day or so, but if you’re in a hurry, you can finish (and get to eating) your salad in just a few minutes. Although you can buy Buffalo Mozzerella in a large ball and cut it into medallions, I tend to buy mini Cow’s Milk Boccacini in a tub (very similar to unripened Mozzerella, less expensive and easier to find) from the deli fridge and cut up the pieces into more bite-sized pieces (with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife) and add to the bowl with the olive mixture and stir. Add about 5-6 large RomaTomatoes chopped into bite-sized pieces and voila. Traditionally, larger Tomatoes and Fresh Buffalo Mozzerella are sliced into medallions and drizzled with the oil and basil mixture, or the basil leaves are left whole and served on top of the slices. But I find my way a little more flavourful and easier to  store and serve. Traditionally, it’s served as a Starter or Antipasto, but sometimes I eat it as a meal with bread.

Some people also like a drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar with their Caprese Salad–I find that it over powers the flavours. There are no rules!

Triumphant Return! Otha People’s Art (that I Love) 9, and my own Work…

I’m incredibly thankful to be back, and I’d wanted to write sooner. Dear Bloggy got lost in cyberspace and I really didn’t think that it would be able to be recovered. That said, I’m thrilled to be here again!

 

It’s been a busy, eventful and very enjoyable Summer! Here’s a little rundown of what I’ve been up to since my last Post, waaaay back at the beginning of June:

 

squirrelgood

This amazing embroidery was done by Andrea Van Der Kooij. It’s one of my most favourite art pieces in my collection :)

I moved and unpacked and was terribly excited to see and display my collections again in a permanent home. As you know, the vast majority of my things were in long-term storage, so unpacking and sorting thru them was a little bit like a gigantic birthday party and a trip down Memory Lane.

 

This is my new Living Room, which showcases a few of my favourite things, including some art that I've previously shared in this Blog! The large painting at the rigt of the bookshelf is by Canadian Artist Jennifer Febbraro and it dictated our other colour choices in the room. To the left of the bookshelf are works by Richard Cutshell of 3SpiritStudio, Canadian Fabric Artist Magda Trzaski, and the Ellen Clapsdale Valentine.Carolyn Meili made the green "Alien" beside the couch and the painting hanging over the couch is by my Husband and Sweetie Canadian Artist and Director Oli Goldsmith. My Grandma made the very trendy Bear Head pillow on the couch when I was a baby. Admittedly, I was kind of scared of it as a child, but I've found it to be charming since early adulthood and a true treasure!

This is my new Living Room, which showcases a few of my favourite things, including some art that I’ve previously shared in this Blog! The large painting at the right of the bookshelf is by Canadian Artist Jennifer Febbraro and it dictated our other colour choices in the room. To the left of the bookshelf are works by Richard Cutshall of 3SpiritStudio, Canadian Fabric Artist Magda Trzaski, and the Ellen Clapsdale Valentine from my Valentine’s Day post.Carolyn Meili made the green “Alien” beside the couch and the painting hanging over the couch is by my Husband and Sweetie Canadian Artist and Director Oli Goldsmith. My Grandma made the very trendy Bear Head pillow on the couch when I was a baby. Admittedly, I was kind of scared of it as a child, but I’ve found it to be charming since early adulthood and a true treasure! You can see that we also collect editions from acclaimed Pop Surrealist, Mark Ryden.

 

 

Check out Jennifer’s website here: Jennifer Febbraro.  Richard Cutshall and Jennifer Cutshall’s Etsy store: 3SpiritStudio . Andrea Van Der Kooij’s website: Andrea And Magda Trzaski’s BLOG here: Magda. Oli Goldsmith isn’t selling art at this moment…

 

My new Studio space is up and running and I’ve made some really great work over the past few weeks, with more work and photos on their way…Remember my post about Spring Sphene? I’m very pleased with the resulting pair of earrings that I feel really show off those gorgeous stones! Another piece I’m proud to have finished features a gorgeous Welo Opal…I didn’t have this stone at the time, but I do discuss my love of Opals and a lot of their attributes in my previous post, “Oh Paul”.

I'm really pleased with this TIER Occasional Cocktail Ring, which features an amazing 2.4ct 10 x 10 x 7mm hand cut Welo Opal. It's for sale at my Etsy Store...

I’m really pleased with this TIER Occasional Cocktail Ring, which features an amazing 2.4ct 10 x 10 x 7mm hand cut Welo Opal. It’s for sale at my Etsy Store…

These lovely long earrings, which I've named "Athena" feature Black Onyx accents as well as two 7 x 9mm Titanite Sphene gems. They're available for sale at my Etsy Store...

These lovely long earrings, which I’ve named “Athena” feature Black Onyx accents as well as two 7 x 9mm Titanite Sphene gems. They’re available for sale at my Etsy Store…

 

I only have a few more assignments to complete for my Gemstone Identification course at GIA Distance Education. I’ve really been enjoying my new office and am getting prepared for my Final 20 Stone Exam! Admittedly, it’s a little nerve-wracking, but I know attempting it and passing it will be a huge confidence booster and a wonderful asset to my jewellery design work and industry career.

 

I’m very excited to be part of a group exhibit at Gallery Black Lagoon in beautiful Austin, TX. The show officially opened on August 23 and will be running for the next few weeks. The show is called “Pondered States”. Check out the Gallery Black Lagoon Blog and Website here:Gallery Black Lagoon

Of course I’ve also finished a few paintings. They’re available for sale on my Etsy Store.

"Fledermaus" is one of my newest works. It's namesake, "Fledermaus" or bat in German is small, but in the right-hand corner :)

“Fledermaus” is one of my newest works. It’s namesake, “Fledermaus” or bat in German is small, but in the right-hand corner :)

"Slow Growth" is one of my latest completions!

“Slow Growth” is one of my latest completions!

 

And…Drumroll…

My Sweetheart and I have decided to get a puppy: a female Miniature Bull Terrier! We’ve been in contact with the Breeder for the past few months and will be choosing our puppy from an up-coming litter at the end of November. I’m sure that I’ll have a lot to say about her when she arrives and will be writing about all of our adventures and misadventures often. Very exciting times! I’m looking forward to updating you and continuing with my regular posts :)

These Mini Bull Terrier pups aren't the one that we will be getting--we don't know what she'll look like as she won't be born until November! But we're excited to meet her whenever she arrives....

These Mini Bull Terrier pups aren’t the one that we will be getting–we don’t know what she’ll look like as she won’t be born until November! But we’re excited to meet her whenever she arrives….

The Fertile Imagination of J.J. Grandville (Otha People’s Art That I LOVE 7)

 One of my personal favourites, although not yet in my collection, is The Sweetpea, depicted as a beautiful lady on her knees in a garden, chugging copious amounts of water directly from a watering can while her other flower friends are begging for a drink. Gardeners know that Sweetpea flowers are wonderfully fragrant and pretty, but also that they can be quite finicky to grow as they prefer a combination of both full sun and very cool moist soil. In other words, they are a labour of love. Grandville's rendition of the Personified Sweetpea would have been both shocking and humorous for its time--no well-bred and cultivated Lady should (or would) EVER sit in such an un-lady like position in the dirt and gorge herself on anything, especially in public. One of the hallmarks of a Lady was certainly restraint! Although the Sweetpea personified is lovely, her Nature makes her unsuitable for human life, despite being domesticated. The illustration has some deeper meaning though, and it's likely that it was intentional. Grandville was a critic of his time, and depicting the Sweetpea in such a position can be viewed as a critique of the Upper and middle classes-they are frail flowers that need specific conditions to flourish at the sake of the poor. There's also something definitely sexual about an insatiable woman, giving into her instincts and taking as much as she wants. Bawdy houses, prostitution, "loose morals", extra-marital affairs and other "scandalous" sex abounded behind closed doors especially in urban centres such as Paris and London. Grandville would have been aware of this and his depiction subtly but obviously tells "polite" women that this is going on before their eyes--although it's shielded, people are fulfilling their natural urges and instincts just like the Sweetpea. The contrast of a soft and delicate Flower Lady and a rigid metal watering can also is a strong metaphor for a concept or ideology being "shoved down one's throat". There's something violent and desperate about the image--the woman's hands are on the can and she is feeding herself but is another force actually in control? It depends on how it is viewed as both interpretations would be reasonable. The point is, it questions....


One of my personal favourites, although not yet in my collection, is The Sweetpea, depicted as a beautiful lady on her knees in a garden, chugging copious amounts of water directly from a watering can while her other flower friends are begging for a drink.
Gardeners know that Sweetpea flowers are wonderfully fragrant and pretty, but also that they can be quite finicky to grow as they prefer a combination of both full sun and very cool moist soil. In other words, they are a labour of love. Grandville’s rendition of the Personified Sweetpea would have been both shocking and humorous for its time–no well-bred and cultivated Lady should (or would) EVER sit in such an un-lady like position in the dirt and gorge herself on anything, especially in public. One of the hallmarks of a Lady was certainly restraint! Although the Sweetpea personified is lovely, her Nature makes her unsuitable for human life, despite being domesticated.
The illustration has some deeper meaning though, and it’s likely that it was intentional. Grandville was a critic of his time, and depicting the Sweetpea in such a position can be viewed as a critique of the Upper and middle classes-they are frail flowers that need specific conditions to flourish at the sake of the poor. There’s also something definitely sexual about an insatiable woman, giving into her instincts and taking as much as she wants. Bawdy houses, prostitution, “loose morals”, extra-marital affairs and other “scandalous” sex abounded behind closed doors especially in urban centres such as Paris and London. Grandville would have been aware of this and his depiction subtly but obviously tells “polite” women that this is going on before their eyes–although it’s shielded, people are fulfilling their natural urges and instincts just like the Sweetpea. The contrast of a soft and delicate Flower Lady and a rigid metal watering can also is a strong metaphor for a concept or ideology being “shoved down one’s throat”. There’s something violent and desperate about the image–the woman’s hands are on the can and she is feeding herself but is another force actually in control? It depends on how it is viewed as both interpretations would be reasonable. The point is, it questions….

Almost a year ago, when I began this Blog, I briefly mentioned French artist J.J. Grandville in my premier post.

 

I confess that I had a slight case of cold feet when I first began blogging, and didn’t really give him his due applause in my brief mention of him. I most definitely feel that J.J. deserves his own devoted segment of Otha People’s Art (that I  LOVE). In fact, Grandville is probably worthy of my most epic Post yet….

 

While his work is becoming more familiar to a newer and broader audience, the whimsical, unique, highly detailed and humorous work of J.J. Grandville remains relatively unknown to the general population, although many of the artists whose work was directly influenced by his are household names.

 

Born in post revolutionary France in 1803, J.J. Grandville was born Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard to a family of artists and actors. The name “Grandville” was the family’s stage name. Grandville must have shown a strong natural aptitude for drawing as his father is credited for developing young Jean’s talent and no formal education in drawing or painting is formally cited, although some sources do say that he he was able to formally hone his artistic skill. Whatever the case, it’s evident that Grandville held not only great technical prowess, but also keen observation skills, a healthy sense of humour, and enormous creativity and insight.

 

As a young man of 21, Grandville relocated to Paris and began working as a Caricaturist, quickly gaining a name for himself with his poignant depictions of city politics, most notably via anthropomorphic pen and ink drawings of prolific Parisians. Many of his “portraits” are single frame “cartoons” with a single line of caption underneath, a convention that appears to have been the norm for newspapers at the time. It seems that Grandville used these restrictions to his advantage by likening both the appearance and personality traits of his subjects to those of well-known animals with archetypal traits. In doing so, he was able to say so much more about his targets than words or caricature alone, especially as these jokes were appealing to a broader range of society. For example, Grandville might compose an image of a portly uniformed police officer and add the jowly head of a collared bulldog sneering at a petty criminal, a thin ragged man with the head of a nervous, yet crafty fox. It’s not exactly cutting edge by today’s standard, but was for it’s time. Grandville pioneered this style and it continues to be massively appealing and highly effective today.

 

In 1835, when Louis-Phillipe, ironically dubbed “the citizen king” ascended the French throne, he quickly reinstated the censoring of caricature. It is highly likely that  Grandville’s work contributed to this as some of his work does depict Louis-Phillipe in numerous, rather compromising positions. It is at this time that Grandville turned primarily to the illustration of books, and the resulting images are some of his best loved work.

 

In my collection, I have a few hand-tinted prints taken from Les Fleurs Animees, which was first published in 1847. Unfortunately, it was the last major project Grandville was able to complete. He died at the age of 43, presumably from complications due to a throat infection.

Les Fleurs Animees (The Flowers Personified) written by Alphonse Karr et el is a compilation of short stories featuring one or two “personified flowers”–that is, flowers that have been magically transformed into human ladies based on the Victorian Language of Flowers, a popular and artistic form of communication based on folklore and/or specific attributes of certain botanicals. This rather sweet and poetic method of communication, also called Floriography (which has a pseudo scientific ring to it and likely had ambitions of such) was viewed as a way to almost transcend the spoken word, especially at a time where words were carefully chosen and emotions were often restrained. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why some of the flowers were chosen to represent certain aspects or traits, but The Language of Flowers was hugely popular for a time. There are purportedly over 600 meanings for a variety of common and exotic plants–it’s pretty well-known that a red rose says “I Love You”, but the Language of Flowers could be much more complicated, and also have it’s obvious fallibilities as I’m sure you can imagine.

 

Charmed by her beauty, yet kept at bay by her prickly nature, Grandville depicts the personified Thistle pricking a Donkey suitor. The Ass, following his own nature, finds the Thistle so appealing (to eat or "consume"...), at least at first, but she cannot help but hurt him. Like in many of the Fleur illustrations, there's a strong sexual innuendo here, and although it's ultimately upsetting for her, the female is in a position of power. This power is both her strength and downfall....Nonetheless, she's tenacious. In contrast to some of the other Fleurs, the Thistle is Wild--she's a pesky weed that must be controlled so that other Domesticated Flowers can flourish. But what is wrong with thriving by taking advantage of one's true Nature.... I love how expressive this piece is--there's a wonderful sense of movement here and so much detail.

Charmed by her beauty, yet kept at bay by her prickly nature, Grandville depicts the personified Thistle pricking a Donkey suitor. The Ass, following his own nature, finds the Thistle so appealing (to eat or “consume”…), at least at first, but she cannot help but hurt him. Like in many of the Fleur illustrations, there’s a strong sexual innuendo here, and although it’s ultimately upsetting for her, the female is in a position of power. This power is both her strength and downfall….Nonetheless, she’s tenacious. In contrast to some of the other Fleurs, the Thistle is Wild–she’s a pesky weed that must be controlled so that other Domesticated Flowers can flourish. But what is wrong with thriving by taking advantage of one’s true Nature….
I love how expressive this piece is–there’s a wonderful sense of movement here and so much detail.

Victorians had an interest in both the Scientific and the Sentimental, and much of this interest culminated in the work of Sigmund Freud, who was amongst the first to attempt to give rationale for the range of Human Emotion–the emotion that early Victorians were trying to understand, control and categorize.

Les Fleurs Animees can be seen as an early light-hearted attempt to rationalize human emotion in a removed, morale and entertaining way. Written especially for women, something that was quite ground-breaking at the time, Les Fleurs Animees offered ladies a chance to examine themselves in a removed way. Many of the stories have a “moral tone” so proper young ladies could find comfort in accepting their short-comings and their positions in life by the end of each story–much of the book favours Fate over Free-will. Although some of the stories are whimsical, and Grandville’s illustrations are playfully satirical, the book also attempts to “educate” and interest women in The Natural World, Horticulture and Botany. It’s an interesting combination when viewed by today’s eyes, especially given that at this point in European history, women were not considered Legal Persons and there was still great debate regarding how much a woman should be allowed to know and whether she should be granted (or could even benefit from) formal education.

The heart of these stories are Absurdist–they speak about the Human Condition. About Reality vs Perception. Conformity vs Ipseity. Convention vs Ingenuity. Nature vs Nurture. At the roots of this book are the seeds of what would later blossom into many branches of Isms: concepts such as Surrealism, Existentialism, Feminism and Modernism. This book (and much of Grandville’s style and sensibilities) paves the way for so much of contemporary thought. It would still be decades before Franz Kafka penned his celebrated story “The Metamorphosis”, where a salesman awakes one day o find himself transformed, without explanation, into a giant insect….

I personally find the language used in Les Fleurs to be a little tedious, especially as I must read the English Translation–I’m sure many of the subtleties are lost in translation, as many of the characteristics associated with the flowers are taken from the French plant names. But, as I said, the stories are an interesting snapshot of history.

However, it is Grandville’s illustrations that truly make the book interesting. They can be funny, a little naive, elegant and very telling of the time as well as Grandville’s personal sensibilities.

These illustrations from 1865, by Sir John Tenniel have become synonymous with Alice in Wonderland. The very celebrated author, Lewis Carroll includes a chance encounter with a garden of rather nasty anthropomorphic flowers in the tale. Both Sir John tenniel and Lewis Carroll were separately influenced by Grandville's work and Les Fleurs Animees. Aside from Micky Mouse, Lewis Carole's White Rabbit is one of the most widely recognized and most beloved anthropomorphic characters in Pop Culture. Like J.J. Grandville was, Sir John was also a editorial cartoonist, in fact one of the most famous in Western history. He was knighted by Queen Victoria towards the end of his life for his services. Unlike Grandville's more controversial depictions of Paris and its notables, Tenniel tended to depict the Queen and her Empire in a more flattering light.

These illustrations from 1865, by Sir John Tenniel have become synonymous with Alice in Wonderland. The very celebrated author, Lewis Carroll includes a chance encounter with a garden of rather nasty anthropomorphic flowers in the tale. Both Sir John Tenniel and Lewis Carroll were separately influenced by Grandville’s work and Les Fleurs Animees. Aside from Micky Mouse, Lewis Carole’s White Rabbit is one of the most widely recognized and most beloved anthropomorphic characters in Pop Culture. Like J.J. Grandville was, Sir John was also a editorial cartoonist, in fact one of the most famous in Western history. He was knighted by Queen Victoria towards the end of his life for his services. Unlike Grandville’s more controversial depictions of Paris and its notables, Tenniel tended to depict the Queen and her Empire in a more flattering light.

whiterabbit tennielvictoria

 

Grandville can be considered the True Father of Surrealism and his influence is vast. His work greatly shaped the work of British illustrator Sir John Tenniel, well known for his contributions to the “Punch” publication and what many of us envision when we think of Alice in Wonderland as he composed the first and probably most successful depictions of Alice and her Adventures. Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice was also undoubtedly influenced by Grandville’s work. Carroll even has Alice encountering a garden full of rather nasty anthropomorphic flowers on her journey….

Written at the pinnacle of the Surrealist movement, Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” is still considered to be a animation and artistic masterpiece. The full length feature film contains snippets of nature, fantasy and abstract art set to classical music. The film was considered groundbreaking at the time and was dubbed “a new form of entertainment”. Fantasia enjoyed a popular renaissance with the Hippie movement of the late 1960’s and 70’s and still remains popular today.

Many artists worked on the film and Disney gave a lot of creative licence to the animators working on the film, something both unusual and generous for Walt Disney and his studio at the time.

The Surrealist movement, which came out of Dadaism “aimed to revolutionize human experience, in its personal, cultural, social, and political aspects. They wanted to free

From Les Autres Mondes, these anthropomorphic mushrooms obviously influenced Fantasia. Many of the ideas explored by Grandville's work surged in popularity and influence many decades after Grandville's death.

From Les Autres Mondes, printed in 1844, these anthropomorphic mushrooms obviously influenced Fantasia. Many of the ideas explored by Grandville’s work surged in popularity and influence many decades after Grandville’s death.

fantasiamushroomspeople from false rationality, and restrictive customs and structures”. The movement sprang from the early 1920’s and continued into the late 1950’s and 60’s. The most celebrated f the Surrealists, Salvador Dali, was a late comer on the scene. He became one of the first artists to become a household name.

The development of concept and style is hugely interesting, and it’s not something which evolves in a straight line, or something that is easily categorized. Of course it’s always easier to note and theorize on retrospectively. So much of Grandville’s work was created for and enjoyed by a diverse class and it reached a much wider audience than traditional forms of artistic expression at the time. I am truly in love and so inspired by it, as well as so much of the work that came about because of Grandville’s insight. It is so incredible that one man’s short life could have  so much impact on a world that seems so removed from Post Revolutionary France. It goes to show that we’re far more alike than different.

As we embark on the Summer and all that she holds in store, it’s a wonderful time to contemplate growth, tenacity and beauty both in ourselves and in the world. Like plants, the fertile seeds of one person’s imagination can yield such enormous bounty….

 

It's clear that Grandville's early illustrations struck a "chord" with Dali and other Surrealists. This influence is not only appearent in the subject matter but in the composition as well.

It’s clear that Grandville’s early illustrations struck a “chord” with Dali and other Surrealists. This influence is not only appearent in the subject matter but in the composition as well.

grandville2instrumentsmed grandvillescissordancers

 

 

 

 

Journeys

It’s funny how one seemingly insignificant event or experience can change the course of one’s personal history….We all have those moments, from meeting a special someone, to discovering a hidden talent, to stumbling across a piece of information at exactly the right time.

 

 

In the span between my previous post and now, I attended a beautiful wedding, solidified my moving day plans, became a licensed driver (my late start on this was the result of many years of living in Toronto and ample public transit!) and I celebrated a birthday (number 34 to be specific)! I’ve been thinking a lot about journeys and what has shaped my life up until now.

My birthday was a wonderful sunny day spent in Toronto, and the high-lights of it include a pleasant dinner at my favourite Toronto restaurant, Le Select Bistro,  as well as a visit to the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, which is a small yet very interesting and inspirational museum devoted to Ceramics.

This Butter Box in the shape of a turtle is one of my favourite pieces in The Gardiner Museum's collection. It's Austrian and dates from the early to mid 1700's.

This Butter Box in the shape of a turtle is one of my favourite pieces in The Gardiner Museum’s collection. It’s Austrian and dates from the early to mid 1700’s.

Birthdays are a celebration of the Self and it’s a no-brainer that many people take a few moments to contemplate themselves, their interests and their accomplishments on their special day.

Spending the better part of a day enthusiastically checking out ceramics with my Sweetie may seem either super dull or super exciting depending on your own interests. It’s pretty exciting for me as you probably can tell by my previous posts about Bjorn Wiinblad, Doris Bank and other less known ceramic artists. I like the symbolism and tactility of ceramic work: enduring yet fragile objects of both utility and beauty are created out of the earth, sculpted and sometimes painted by the artist. It’s a beautiful metaphor for the creation of one’s own life. But probably if you’re still reading this and have been a regular follower of my blog, you can at least relate a little. As you likely are as well, I’m a tremendous art, history and geography buff, and while I believe I was naturally inclined to have an interest in these subjects as most children are, I can pin-point where my lasting and devoted interest in these topics sprang from….

This Columbian vessel dating from 100BC to 200CE is a prime example of blending art and function. It's amazing to think that someone sculpted this so long ago and that it has endured for so long! This wonderful piece is part of The Gardiner Museum's permanent collection.

This Columbian vessel dating from 100BC to 200CE is a prime example of blending art and function. It’s amazing to think that someone sculpted this so long ago and that it has endured for so long! This wonderful piece is part of The Gardiner Museum’s permanent collection.

 

 

I forget exactly how or why I first picked up a copy of Gary Jenning’s epic tale of the fictional journey of Marco Polo, aptly titled, “The Journeyer”,  but I was about 15 or 16. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down until all 800 pages were devoured.

 

The story relays what is known about the famous journey of Marco Polo, the son of a Venetian merchant, who sets out in 1271 to explore the Eastern lands, and adds some historically probable “meat” to the bones of the tale in order to make it interesting and readable. This is historical fiction at it’s best and it took Jennings many years of research and travel to weave this splendid story.

 

Written from the perspective of a young middle class European man, the story is steamy, brutal, racist, intriguing, humorous, and more than a little ignorant in some places, but it is fitting to what someone of Marco’s time and background may have thought about all of the “exotic” encounters and customs that were prevalent at the time outside of medieval Italy. It is likely that he experienced or was aware of many of them through his journey.

These Meissen Pug Dogs from Germany and dating from 1745 are so expressive! Anyone who has known a Pug can relate to that charming expression, which is still a hallmark of the breed today.

These Meissen Pug Dogs from Germany and dating from 1745 are so expressive! Anyone who has known a Pug can relate to that charming expression, which is still a hallmark of the breed today. The are also a part of the Gardiner Museum’s permanent collection.

Credited with bringing that seemingly quintessentially Italian dish, pasta, to Europe, this story exposes Marco and the reader to all sorts of architecture, customs, foods, medicine, science, beliefs, inventions and practices that were part of the rich, highly advanced and diverse cultures of the medieval Middle East and Asia, many of which in turn shaped Europe after Marco Polo returned to Venice as an old man.

 

It is said that Marco Polo was exposed to so much during his time away from Venice, that whenever he attempted to share his tales he was increasingly labelled a liar, to which an old and frail Polo finally retorted, “I have have not told the HALF of what I saw and did!” Certainly this is a very bold and intriguing statement, and Jennings states that this famous quote was the inspiration for the writing and many years of research that went in to the creation of the story.

 

The story itself is solidly written, well-composed, and a fairly easy read. The language Jennings uses paints some truly vivid and detailed pictures and it is a joy to read.

Another example of art combined with function, this pretty Chinese piece dates from around 1573. Up until the early 1700's, when Germany discovered some special clay, China had the most advanced clay and clay forming techniques. Fine Chinese porcelain was mysterious and highly regarded by Europeans. Like today, it would have made a special meal feel all the more extraordinary.

Another example of art combined with function, this pretty Chinese piece dates from around 1573. Up until the early 1700’s, when Germany discovered some special clay with unusual properties, China had the most advanced clay and clay forming techniques beginning in the Han Dynasty 206BCE-220CE . Fine Chinese porcelain was mysterious and highly regarded by Europeans. Like today, it would have made a special meal feel all the more extraordinary. This cup is part of the Gardiner Museum’s permanent collection.

 

 

I will admit here that there are many people out there who would discredit this book as it does contain some pretty graphic depictions of sexuality, and not all of them are necessary to the story. Yes, there are sex scenes that have been added purely for the sake that sex sells. Frankly, I was a little embarrassed by this as a teenager, but reading these scenes didn’t corrupt me into an amoral pervert. Let’s face it. People like sex. People have sex. That enjoyment is the reason we are all here and able to enjoy the multitude of other things that being here allows! Sex is a component of this book just as it is a component to life.

 

I have to say that growing up in a fairly conservative, rural and predominantly Christian-rooted Canadian small town in the 1990’s (before the Internet was a house-hold fixture!), this book made me begin to ponder and appreciate so much of what was around me and made me want to seek out more. In short, I began to see my life in a new light. Some of the facts outlined were so strange and interesting to my young mind that I felt compelled to do further research, a habit that I am still enthusiastic about today.

Reading this book was an amazing eye-opener and I have to credit it for sparking within me a real interest in history, art, food, religious and spiritual studies, chemistry, math, design, geography and the development of language. My love and interest in ceramics was also a direct development of this book!

 

This book set me on the journey of life-long learning be it self-directed or formal–it was a gateway to so much of who I am and what I enjoy doing today, almost 20 years after I first read it. It opened me up to the range of humanity and made me think about how far we’ve come and what we still collectively have to realize. I really owe a lot to reading his book and find it pretty incredible how something so trivial can have such a lasting and rewarding impact. These connections make pondering my own journey all the more enjoyable.

And fittingly, despite all of what Marco undoubtedly saw and experienced on his journey, the only known surviving object from his epic adventure is a modest Chinese porcelain incense burner, which is now housed in the Louvre in Paris….It seems to echo my sentiments so well.

Yes that's me with a glass of bubbling getting a little misty-eyed before watching my friends make their wedding vows and anticipating this new chapter of their journey together. I did indeed decide to adopt the gorgeous Spessartite Garnet and Onyx ring that I had made btw :)

Yes that’s me with a glass of bubbling getting a little misty-eyed before watching my friends make their wedding vows and anticipating this new chapter of their journey together. I did indeed decide to adopt the gorgeous Spessartite Garnet and Onyx ring that I had made btw :)

Spring Sphene

 

 

Spring has begrudgingly made its way to my little corner of the world!

 

Central Ontario, where I’m currently living, has experienced a prolonged winter. In fact, it’s sleeting outside right now and it’s pretty darn cold for his time of year.

 

Yet despite this unusual and unsavoury weather, the trees are now in full leaf, and the hills are glowing with that fresh and vibrant, almost electric Spring Green. It’s lovely, but typically short lived as warmer days and fuller sun will soon deepen the colours and make way for summer.

 

There have been some days as of this past week that would have been great to do a little bit of work in my sunroom studio!

But some big changes are on the horizon for me: I’ll be moving in the next few weeks to my new home and studio!

The vast majority of my equipment as well as collections have been packed up and ready to go to my new location. All of my things that have been in storage for so so long will finally see the light of day again and be a part of my life. It’s very exciting! My life is definitely turning over a new leaf and so many of my plans are starting to blossom!

 

Even though I haven’t been working in my studio, I’ve still been coming up with some great jewellery concepts as well as buying a few gemstones. My latest acquisitions include this beautiful pair of electric green Titanite Sphene stones, for which I have a fabulous pair of earrings planned. This particular pair is beautifully matched and are reminiscent of those first few days of spring, when the world suddenly becomes green.

This gorgeous pair of Titanite Sphene are the most amazing green! With a combined weight of 3.71cts, they are perfect for a pair of earrings that I recently envisioned! These earrings are going o be one of the first jewellery projects that I'll complete in my new studio and home, followed by many of the other fantastic design ideas I've been mulling about since November!

This gorgeous pair of Titanite Sphene are the most amazing green! With a combined weight of 3.71cts, they are perfect for a pair of earrings that I recently envisioned! These earrings are going o be one of the first jewellery projects that I’ll complete in my new studio and home, followed by many of the other fantastic design ideas I’ve been mulling about since November!

 

Titanite Sphene is an interesting gemstone. It’s pretty much considered a collector’s stone as it is relatively soft at 5.5 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale, with a cleavage plane. This makes it challenging to fashion and unsuitable for a lot of jewellery purposes–an unfortunate impact could break the stone if it were set into a ring or bracelet and it an easily become scratched. It occurs commercially in a small range of colours ranging from yellow, golden brown, bright green to a brownish red and fashioned stones often show two colours. Black and white crystals are also found in nature but tend not to be used for jewellery purposes.

You can see the amazing dispersion in this high quality facetted Titanite Sphene! I don't have it in my possession, but I'd love to!

You can see the amazing dispersion in this high quality facetted Titanite Sphene! I don’t have it in my possession, but I’d love to!

While some of the purer greens are absolutely breathtaking in their intensity, the most appealing feature of Titanite Sphene is it’s amazing dispersion. That is the ability to separate white light into spectral colours. In essence, when a good quality, well-cut Titanite Sphene is moved in the light, it produces flashes of rainbow colours. Interestingly, Titanite Sphene has a higher dispersion than that king of gemstones, much loved for it’s high dispersion, the Diamond.

 

I first came across Titanite Sphene at one of my earlier jewellery related jobs working for a large jewellery manufacturer where I would prepare auction listings for loose stones. The name of these stones, Sphene, seemed at first to be the most memorable thing about them–to me it sounded like a strange medieval pond creature! These facetted stones were relatively small and seemed at first to be a rather uninspiring golden red. However, a quick inspection of these stones under light revealed their true beauty and immense personality!

Although the colouring of this pair of Titanite Sphene may be unexciting to some, the wonderful dispersion and playful nature of this pair makes it very appealing in my little opinion. The first Titanite Sphene I encountered had a similar body colour.

Although the colouring of this pair of Titanite Sphene may be unexciting to some, the wonderful dispersion and playful nature of this pair makes it very appealing in my little opinion. The first Titanite Sphene I encountered had a similar body colour.

The name of Sphene was officially changed to the more auspicious sounding Titanite (for the high titanium content of the stones) in 1982, but the term Sphene is still a bit clingy and still very much in use three decades later, especially within the jewellery and gem industries. Admittedly, I like the name of Sphene, not only as it is what I came to know the stone as (probably due to the older age of Gemologists that I worked with paired with the fact that it is pretty unmistakable and much less of a mouthful to speak than Titanite!).sphene4

The memorable name of Sphene sounds like some sort of medieval aquatic life, but the name is derived from the Greek word for "wedge" which relates to the typical habit Sphene forms in nature.

The memorable name of Sphene sounds like some sort of medieval aquatic life, but the name is derived from the Greek word for “wedge” which relates to the typical habit Sphene forms in nature.

 

Whatever you choose to call it, Titanite Sphene is said to resonate with the Solar Plexus Chakra, the Heart Chakra, the Third Eye Chakra and the Crown Chakra. It’s supposed to be a great stone for boosting creativity, intuitive thought and prosperity–growth on all levels. It’s even said that Titanite Sphene crystals simulate plant growth and health. Fostering a balance between inward and outward energies, this gem is governed by Sagittarius, and enhances many traits typically associated with this astrological sign: a pursuit of and interest in knowledge and ideas, optimism, sociability, playful grace, and action and adventure. Ruled by Jupiter, there’s a strong element of luck associated with both Sagittarians  and Titanite Sphene.

 

When I’m designing jewellery, I will get a clear mental image of the finished piece before setting down to sketching or problem solving. I had such a strong image of a pair of long geometrical earrings recently with an almost florescent green pair of stones showcased in the design. I was of course thrilled to stumble upon this pair of electric green Sphene and knew that they would be perfect for my design–they’re the exact stones I envisioned!

This is a pretty amazing Titanite Sphene specimen, but in many cases, it takes the skill of a good cutter to bring out the beauty of Titanite Sphene.

This is a pretty amazing Titanite Sphene specimen, but in many cases, it takes the skill of a good cutter to bring out the beauty of Titanite Sphene.

 

I’m so looking forward to making these earrings as soon as I get settled in to my new space. I’ll post photos as soon as they’re created in silver!

I’m also excited about ordering my new gemological microscope this month! If  I’m not totally consumed with moving, you can be sure I’ll have a bit to say about that, as well as another instalment of my adventures in England!

 

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