Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Prairie thunderstorms . . .

Yes, it's far too early for thunderstorms here but it won't be long before the winter thaw and the spring rain begins and answers the ranchers' and farmers' prayers. When this sweet little slab arrived yesterday, I was reminded visually that the rains are coming, as always. I'm just dying to dive into it! It was absolutely meant for me to have, no doubt about it.

I came across this slice of jasper and I was drawn in quickly. I immediately saw the beautiful landscape to the west of me and in it were the spectacular thunderstorms of the plains viewed from many, many miles away; the sort of scene not hindered by one thing in the way of the view. The sun shining through the veil of rain. The greens and golds of the cloudburst. The darkened tops of the faraway Sandhills. And a single tornado thread.

My goal this year is for my work to better reflect my background, the area I live and the way I feel about my surroundings. I happen to live in the most beautiful part of the country and, frankly, the best kept secret ever - the edge of the prairie, Nebraska. The vistas here are so lovely and peaceful and awe-inspiring that I'm surprised at myself that my work so far has not reflected that. And so it changes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Copper Captured Agate . . .

Different but the same. A gorgeously sweet little cylinder of agate captured in a copper cap with a copper swinging bale.

Completely handmade by me from raw materials here on my bench, I took sheet copper and cut a strip to fit around the top of the cylinder bead. After making sure it was a good, tight fit, I soldered the seam and cut a bit of copper for the cap and soldered that on, too. I 'eyeballed' the bead holes and drilled two holes on either side of the cap through which the silver wire would be threaded and torch balled with the lightly hammered strip on either side to make a sweet swingy bale. Like a basket handle.

I thoroughly enjoy hand fabricating these pieces and there is nothing more fun than forging a piece from beginning to end with nothing but fire and force. Honestly, what could be more satisfying?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

So it begins . . .

A package in today's mail - the lovely agates and jaspers I bought. You know, the ones that spoke to me of the prairie landscape. Maybe you can't see it yet but I can and I know how to coax the scenery out of each and every one of them.

The dotty Rainforest Jasper holds lilypads on cool green ponds and golden circles of crops, watered by rolling circular irrigation arms, viewed from miles above the earth. A strip of a gravel road between two neighboring towns.

In the yellow jasper pieces, a slender thread of a twister. Not a sight you want to see close to home but there it is. A weather fact of life. Sometimes when the weather turns particularly threatening and there are warnings of the possibility of a tornado, the air becomes electric and golden. At the perfect time, the thread appears, touches the earth and stirs up only clouds of dust if nothing is in the way.

Brilliant and verdant green - a cross-section of the fertile ground. An ant farm view of the prairie with roots growing deep below the tiny trees, the clear pale sky background. The moss agate will become the views of the green prairie trees in the distance with miles and miles of bromegrass undulating like a green ocean.

Oh I see plenty and it won't be long before these rough slabs becom visions of my surroundings. Beautiful. Just wait and see.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sunset striped agate . . .

From the edge of the prairie: a layered sunset, striped in deep gold, washing away to creamy yellow and translucency. Two simple agate pendants.

Agate is found in a range of colors but nothing is more lovely, in my mind than these with sunset colors, pale, flowing river banding and sweet glowing chalcedony.

Today I created two lovely agate pendants, the settings forged completely from scratch. These simple tube bezels are cut from sheet silver, rolled and forged into little tubes and soldered with a flat cap at the top where I have attached a loop. The cylindrical agate beads were fit into the bezel and riveted securely in place with sterling wire.

In 2011 I'm committed to taking my work in another direction; to get back to what I love doing most and that's setting beautiful stones in bezel settings. I'll use riveting techniques where I can because I love the movement that allows the stone it captures but I miss the warmth and depth of agates and jaspers reminiscent of the prairie landscapes that surround me. I love it here and I want my work to reflect the place I love - Nebraska prairie. Home.

Perfect in simplicity.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Finally . . .

January in Nebraska.

It's pretty hard to believe that here in eastern Nebraska, on the 9th of January, we finally get our first significant snowfall and not much more than six inches, at that. Even though I could do without the mess of snow boots and puddles of melting snow here and there inside the back door, I know we've been pretty lucky to not have much snow all season.

I know, too, that if I get too anxious for Spring I'm just wishing my life away so for now I'll hunker in and get going on new work and let myself be inspired by the snowscapes, shadows, colors and textures.

The cold days begin to lengthen.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Rim of the Prairie . . .

I spent part of yesterday afternoon rummaging around in a local antique mall keeping an eye open for bits and pieces of ephemera to use as new photo props for my online shop when I happened across this book - The Rim of the Prairie by Bess Streeter Aldrich. I wasn't familiar with the book or the author, whom I'd only heard of and knew nothing about. Still, the book spoke to me. But I left without it.

By Saturday morning I had that book weighing heavy on my mind and decided I had to have it and I drove back to the shop and found it, bought it, brought it home and did a little research. I found that Bess Aldrich Streeter was born, lived, died and was buried not far from where I sit right now - I in Davey, Nebraska and she in Elmwood about 15 miles to the east. Her books are reflective of Nebraska in the late 1800's and early 1900's, much like Willa Cather's writing, whose writing about Nebraska life and prairie life I love.

Why is this so important to me? Have you ever lived anywhere that just 'felt right'? Someplace where you have such a deep appreciation for the landscape, the earth and the sky that you never want to leave ev
en for a day? That's exactly where I am and I think this book will open some doors to the past that will connect me with my present.

My intention was to find some books and a few pieces that felt 'prairie-ish' so I could re-take photos and update my shop site. What I've come away with is so much more and may really give me an insight to what I'm hoping to achieve in terms of expressing who I am and who I want the world to see.

It just spoke to me from the rack on the wall.