The Napjesdrager comes to life

(also on flickr)

Here it is, my Napjesdrager, in a long overdue (and just plain looong) post, from sketch to kiln-formed result! And quite picture-heavy, sorry about that.

Napjesdrager
I worked on this project for about a little more than 3 weeks in August, from sketch to finish although it had been sitting in my head at least since 2003! Ideas have their way with me, not wanting to leave and nagging me until I give in and (try to) realize them…

Back then I didn’t have a clue about lampworking yet. I dreamt of stained glass windows in the style of C. L Tiffany, E. Burne-Jones and M. Chagall, and wondered how awesome it would be to mix the colors on the glass sheets themselves (instead of having to use existing colored and patterned sheets).

I had a 40x40cm transparent Effetre glass sheet that would be my canvas for the Napjesdrager, a face/mask with leaves. I wanted to include murrine and all sorts of lampworked elements like curvy/wavy stringers, marbles and pebbles and later on also stars and buds. As if the murrine were pointilist dots and the stringers the stroke of a brush.

Napjesdrager
Most traditional Green Men have fierce looks with their eyes and mouth wide open but I wanted my spirit to be a serene and contented one. More like a Green Buddha. And at night I had the help from a little moth fluttering all over its face! The book on the right is the “Geïllustreerde Flora van Nederland”.

Napjesdrager
On a walk through the woods nearby (Ronse, where my studio’s at, has lots! What luxury we have there…hiking trails practically starting at our front door!) I gathered leaves from all the napjesdragers I could find, and pressed them.

Napjesdrager
Filled the leaves with water color…

Napjesdrager
And decided to color the alder leaf (on its chin) purple, the same color it had turned after pressing and drying it.

Napjesdrager
I had made a bunch of murrine beforehand and seperated them by color. Each leaf has its own color code, and so began the time consuming work of placing each little bullseye or star design on their leaves. I took care not to place them too close to one another, so they had a bit of space to flow into when they were fused and so they would keep their round(-ish) form.

Napjesdrager
Some lampworked wheels and buds were needed, and of course I managed to drop & break one just before I glued it on. D’oh! You don’t want to know how much I drop and break and lose in the studio (don’t speak me of jumpy silver findings and precious stones! They seem to have plotted against me.). The speckled stone floor (you can see it in some of the photos below) doesn’t help much either. So I swear a lot when I’m in there. That gives some relief. 😉

Napjesdrager
The glue I use is just child-safe craft glue. It burns away in the kiln quite neatly, although there can be some devitrification with the smallest murrine.

napjesdrager WiP
Almost done with the leaves… Only one left to go! The murrine are on the small side, from about 1mm to 6mm diameter. Commercial murrine come typically in fixed sizes, but in pulling my own, my designs benefit more from the organic effect of variable sizes.

napjesdrager WiP
Phew, all done! Finally I could start on its eyes, mouth and stems (from bent and wavy stringers like the one of the left), and glue on the stars and buds.

napjesdrager WiP
Now what would I do with the background? I had pulled these bent stringers in colors I used for the murrine for a groovy 70’s style vortexy thing, but discovered the leaves alone weren’t strong enough to mark the face/mask. I had been rather hasty in designing the panel and had overlooked that tiny detail…oops.

napjesdrager WiP
So I decided to trace its face with cut glass rods. It made him a bit more alien and vaguely Humpty-Dumpty, but hey, I liked it. :-p

I tried out a more wall-papery background, but feared it would draw too much attention away from the fine murrine, so finally I decided on just a few stringers.

napjesdrager WiP
And so it looked before heading off to the kiln… Fusing would change the design profoundly and I was curious to see how the lampworked elements would take it.

And then it came back…

F^$#%§!!!!!

Napjesdrager


 Oh NoooOOOOOOOoooooo my baby it had cracked!!!

Was it compatibility? The heating schedule? Yeah, luckily it was just that. The cracks had happened early in the fusing process, you can tell because the rims of the cracks are rounded and have melted a little. So the temperature had raised too quickly. I had modified the schedule I used for the tiny squares, lowering the heating t° rate a bit (180°C/h) and soaking it longer in the annealing state, but apparently I should have lowered the heating rate drastically at probably 40°C/h.

My mistake.

But that isn’t the end of the story. Yes, I’m an idiot for not checking the heating schedule any better, but overall for a first “big” fusing project it did go pretty well, and I now have a schedule I’m more confident in. It was an experiment, something I made just for me…and secretly I’m relieved it is imperfect now, so I don’t have to sell it and can just keep it with me in the studio. It amuses me how attached I am to my projects! I can’t part with them, although it wanes after a while, when new projects find their way in, but at first…I’m pretty possessive. LOL.

I’m looking if I can design a standard on which the bottom side can be mounted, and the top panels can be hung. Maybe a welded steel construction or so, if I can find someone who can do that.

Poor Napjesdrager…but also: that lopsided eye just gives it more character.  Not just serene, but a tough little bugger it is now! Being cracked and still smiling…

The Effetre sheet played nice (it is said to have compatibility issues and not really fit for kilnwork), all the different lampworked elements worked well and it gave me lots of techniques for future projects: maybe using just those curved and wavy stringers in an Art-Nouveau inspired panel, or a dazzling mosaic-like work with just the cut transparent rods, and of course, lots more projects with  murrine. It’s like pointilism but even better, because I get to design the dots themselves…From far off it’s just a colored form, but you can get closer and closer to discover the details.
On my to-do list for this year (my “good intentions”) is creating letter murrine, so I can add text to the forms as well. So far I’ve made an “A”. Well, it’s a start. :-p

Next post I’m showing you some of the fused details of the Napjesdrager, who I feel is the first in a series of masks and guardians.

earth & moon

 
This weekend I finished the moon spirit, a sister to the earthy one I created this summer. I’m pleased with with the way she turned out: a silver halo with starry sprinkles (7 of them, not unlike Rossetti’s Blessed Damozel…hehe). 
 
 

The TalentDevelop newsletter just had a piece on muses and creativity, and referred to a page on the history of daimons, genii and muses which fits right in here, with my little girls! 😉

More on Flickr, also some work in progress photos.

Winter tales

The dark days don’t ask for much, just a rocking chair, a hot beverage, a purring cat and a good book…

I was lucky to find a 2nd hand copy of The armless maiden, a book I’ve been searching for a long time! One of the authors signed it for its previous owner, who also scribbled across the margins here and there. I don’t mind at all -I love these little messages in 2nd hand books!

 When I was ten, I discovered a library book with messages in it; a previous reader had commented on the story and was reaching out to the next reader(s)… of course I didn’t dare to write in a library book (yeah, like I was such an angel, LOL), but I was extremely tempted to do so! Imagine a secret circle of kids communicating through scribbles in library books… I even suspected the librarian didn’t erase the notes because she silently approved of it! 😉

What would our own books be without those little notes? It makes them ours, doesn’t it? I am a fervent scribbler myself, though just in my own, deemed “work” books. And actually, the oldest piece of Dutch is one of those scribbles in a 10th century manuscript.

Also reading: The forest in folklore and mythology by Alexander Porteous and Warming the stone child, an audiobook by Clarissa Pinkola Estés on my I-pod. These are my winter tales…

a goddess pendant & designing spiritual jewelry


As you probably know by now, I love designing after certain themes or concepts. One that I hold dearly is the talisvrouw series that led me to explore a feminine spirituality in bead, necklace and pendant design.

My interest in pagan and folk religion taught me how meaningful jewelry can be and how popular and widespread talismans and amulets are, whatever religion or age. Jewelry that goes beyond aesthetics and fashion and becomes magical: it protects and gives strength to the wearer (if you believe in it, that is!).

Of course the believing is optional. Aesthetic appreciation wil do just fine! 😉 I just wanted to explore the concept of spiritual jewelry with things that were meaningful to me.

The elements I wanted to use were clear from the beginning:

A fine chain made from the tiniest gemstone beads and handmade silver beads from Thailand and Bali. I start out with a set of colors/stones and a certain fluid rhythm in which the links are arranged. Just a cluster of colors & shapes.

A chain is a symbol in itself, made up of individual links. It’s being part of a greater entity, of having roots that go way back, way deep. It reminds me of a dream my favorite author and storyteller C.P. Estés had, in which she stood on the shoulders of a very old woman -she apologized and wanted to get off her and told her it should be the other way around because she was strong, but the older woman replied that it was perfect the way it was, because she was standing on the shoulders of her ancestor, and that line went all the way back to the center of the earth. Or something like that. I forgot where I’ve read it, but love the image.

-I choose the gems mostly for their color and form, not particularly for their symbolic properties. I’m not so sure what to think of that, although I am crazy about certain stones and less crazy about others. Some of my favorites you can find here. The Balinese and Hill Tribe Thai beads are handmade and especially the Thai beads are incredibly detailed for their very small size (1mm diameter!). They just seemed perfect for this project.

The neolithic spiral designs were my inspiration for the glass beads that would become amulets (I also use the spiral in my logo). The spiral stands for evolution, the way it expands from the center but if you travel the other way around it could mean a journey to the self, getting to the point (literally), unraveling the truth -whatever that may be. A psychological healing process can be described as peeling layers of an onion -you seem to be confronted with the same *shit* over and over, but each time you get a little closer to the core of the issue. And it does get a bit easier each time, a little less layer to peel off.
The spiral is also a Great Goddess symbol of the neolithic (check out the tombstone at Newgrange, Ireland) and finally, it’s a great design to translate on a lampworked glass bead.

The first necklace was still beaded instead of linked. Then with the Dryads (right) I made the chains a lot longer and attached the spiral bead pendant to it so you could wear it long or double. I loved the beads but wasn’t entirely happy with the pendants, so the idea of creating a seperate pendant with integrated goldsmithing and lampworking techniques grew on me, and that’s how the goddess pendant came to life.
A black-and-white reproduction of Minoan pottery showing the descent of the goddess became my model, and this summer the pendant became fact. I wanted to create a human figure, even as stylized as she is with a flower as her face and a curved, organic bead as her body because these “little people”, dolls, saints, house gods, teddy bears are rich in symbolism as well.
They are the little helpers we can trust with our deepest secrets and fears and they tend to talk to us in dreams.

She’s the first, but you can bet there are more to follow…

work in progress & results:

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ancient Crete and the goddess

Crete left us with a unique vision of life as a celebration of being alive and an image of death at the same, so that life and death are experienced as one sacred whole. It is as though life were lived on the intake of a breath of wonder an delight, where, as in childhood and moments of epiphany, nature and the divine ground of being are one. Can it be a coincidence that for thousands of years the people of Crete lived in harmony with the rhythms of nature experienced as a great goddess and also lived in peace? The myth of the goddess reached its culmination here before its gradual decline in the Bronze Age cultures of the Near East and then its nearly total extinction in the Iron Age. For Crete was the direct inheritor of the Neolithic vision, which had persisted relatively undisturbed upon the earth for many millennia, and with the ending of Minoan and Mycenaean civilization a unique insight is lost into how human consciousness might have continued to evolve. Within the island it seems clear that human nature was not war-like. In other parts of the world, on the other hand, attack and defence were becoming the norm. Nomadic tribes, who worshipped tribal gods of storm, wind, thunder and volcanic fire, fought their way into other peoples’ lands with no feeling for the subtle harmonies of agricultural life and the religious rituals they destroyed. Now the god and his divine representative on earth, the warrior-kind, begin to take the centre of the stage. It is no wonder that, many centuries later, Classical Greece looked back to Crete as to a lost Golden Age and found there the inspiration of its goddesses and gods.”

Chapter 3: Crete: the goddess of Life, Death and Regeneration

Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The myth of the goddess. Evolution of an image, Viking: Londen, 1991

amazon
librarything
annebaring.com

jewelry with a cause: Natuurpunt

I’ve decided which organization (for starters) will receive a donation with the selling of the T(h)ree Sisters necklaces: it’s Natuurpunt! (this site is all Dutch, sorry about that! they don’t seem to have an international page…)

This Belgian organization focuses among others on the preservation and development of our natural (local, Flemish) landscape.
And anyone who knows Belgium and our dense population, industrial and urban development knows we’re in dire need of green patches!

And I myself could do with more trees. Lots more trees. If I were a rich girl I’d buy a bunch of bare lands myself and let nature reclaim it, much like the back garden of CP Estes (The Faithful Gardener)… But in the meantime I can do this: I will donate 10% of each tree sister/dryad necklace sold on Dawanda.

I’ll donate it through this site: ikwilhelpen.be