Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reptile Shows - A New Experience

Have you ever been to a Reptile Show?  If you Google ‘reptile shows’ with your hometown’s name, you might be surprised how many are near you.  I’ve now been to my third one.  And each time I’ve seen and learned so much about both nature and people. 
The first one was in Tucson AZ and I had no idea what to expect...maybe snakes crawling and lizards leaping and weird people.  Once I actually took a deep breath, paid my admission and walked into the large hall, my fears got lost in my amazement of the variety of animals I saw.  
The chameleons were multi-colored and safely caged in habitats of branches and greenery. 
Chameleon
The poisonous Dart Frogs were brightly colored and hopping around the trickling water in their humid terrariums.   (These have toxic skins for their own protection).  Snakes of many patterns and varieties were in containers and carefully monitored. 

Young Green Tree Python


I fell in love with baby bearded dragons as they stacked on top of each other. 
Bearded Dragons
  It was obvious that people were fascinated with these reptiles that originally came from all over the world.  (Now many are captive-bred.)  And now I was one of those ‘weird’ people.
The second show was in Phoenix and there were so many Crested Geckos for sale that I wondered where they all came from.  There are trends in reptile fashions.  Some years there are more boas, some years more corn snakes, some years more skinks.  I had no idea there were so many varieties of lizards, frogs, turtles and snakes.  Nor did I realize that so many people throughout the world are fascinated by them.  Lots to learn!
Crocodile Gecko
This year, Peter and I went to the Phoenix Reptile Expo.  There were more turtles here than I had seen in the past- tiny black polka dotted turtles from Asia, star backed ones called Radiated Tortoises, Pancake Tortoises, and Matamata Turtles.   In general, turtles live in or near the water and have adapted to swim by holding their breath underwater. Tortoises live primarily in arid regions, built for storing their own water supply and walking on sandy ground. 

Pancake Tortoise

There were lots of bearded dragons, crested dragons, geckos, skinks, and chameleons.  Chameleons are fun to look at but not easy to care for. 
Many of the reptiles have been cross-bred to be what are called ‘designer’ reptiles.  The colors and patterns have been altered to be ‘fashionable’. It is often now difficult to find reptiles that have their original coloring and patterns.  But I found an originally colored Leopard Gecko and bought it!  He is very easy to care for and very healthy.   He now has a small aquarium sand and rocks with his hollow log in it. He sleeps during the day and ‘hunts’ at night.  He is a happy lizard! 
There were inanimate replicas of a variety of frogs and lizards for sale and lots of t-shirts and caps.  There were a couple of tables of reptile jewelry and lots of books and accessories. 
It was fascinating watching the people watch the animals, seeing friends meeting friends and vendors exchanging information with each other and customers.  These are animals that get a lot of negative press and are somewhat misunderstood just because they are not warm and fuzzy!  I’m learning so much about them and about how people form attitudes that may or may not be accurate! 



Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Make Handmade Tin Foil Ornaments

A friend called and wanted help organizing a holiday sale for about 10 artists (I’m included) and the group wanted to have a Christmas tree decorated with each artists’ handmade ornaments.  I thought, “Great, another project! But why not?” 
Several days later my ornaments are ready with directions so you can make some too!  It was such fun and did not take much time!  They could  also be insets in boxes, gift tags, book covers and more.  A great stress reliever too!
Materials:  cardboard, tin foil, 2” wide silver electrical tape, a blunt tool (could be a medium ball point pen), a punch, acrylic paint, paper towel, brush, water, latex gloves, silver thread

Materials Needed

1.        Select cardboard (from backs of notebooks, inserts from packing, lightweight cardboard boxes) or heavy cardstock will work.  Remember you have to be able to cut it but you don’t want it so flexible it bends too easily.  
2.       Select some shapes – circles, squares, triangles, rectangles.  Be careful with irregular shapes - they are hard to wrap. (Remember that your tape is 2” wide and if you do not want the edges of the tape to show, the shapes need to be a little less that 2” in one direction.  Or just incorporate the edge of the tape into your design)

3.       Cut the cardboard using your selected shapes.  It is efficient to make several at one time.
4.       Take the foil and cut it slightly larger than your cardboard shapes.  It needs to cover both sides of the shape.  I like to crinkle and then flatten the foil to give more thickness.  Cover the shape – both sides.  Fold the foil over the edges as you wrap.  Cut the silver tape and put it on top of the foil –both sides.  Option: Put the tape on the cardboard and omit the crinkled foil.  BUT- I really like the depth I get from all the layers especially when I get to the paint part.  Also be careful where you place the tape because the edges will show so be sure it is straight for creating a border or be sure you can work it into your design.
5.       Lightly draw your design on the tape.  Keep it simple to start.  When you have it like you want it, press your tool (something not as sharp as a pencil – I use a tool with a little ball on the end or a ball point pen) into the tape and go over the design to make highs and lows prominent.  Because I have the crinkled foil under the smooth tape, there will be a few lumps and wrinkles.  I like to incorporate them into the design to get an old handmade look.  
6.       Put a different design on the back or leave it plain.
7.       Use acrylic paint or alcohol dyes.  Experiment.   Any color will enhance the relief.  I used a blue acrylic paint with a little grey in it.  I also used a moss green and did one in rose.  Just play a little and see what you like.  Put the paint on and let it sit a couple of minutes.  You don’t want it to dry because you want to wipe off the high places leaving the recesses with color.  A soft cloth or paper towel works great.  If your design is too shallow, you may take all the paint off.  Start again with a lighter hand. 
8.       Let the paint dry and then make a small hole with a needle, punch, nail, etc.
9.       Put your silver thread through the hole.  Tie a knot. 

10.   Hang that gorgeous ornament!  Happy Holidays!
 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In This Season of Thanksgiving

    
 I Share My Gratitude and thankfulness for:
                A loving family – All my life I have been loved and have loved
My Two Brothers and Me
Peter, who loves me, accepts me and allows me space to be me.

High standards and high expectations
Knowing if I did not meet those standards, I would still be loved.
Learning that ‘good enough’ sometimes is ‘good enough’
              
  The understanding that I am responsible for my own happiness.
              
  Amazing friends who are fun, loving, compassionate and expect the same from me.
                The ability to explore my creativity. 
                My home in a lovely city and diverse state in America
                Ravens that swoop through the pine trees 
                Lakes and mountains, deserts and oceans, sunrises and sunsets and all the in between
                Good health
                Laughter
                Music
                And so much more!
                Thank you for being part of my world!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Artist’s Holiday Season

I’m new to Prescott and the artist’s world here.  I’m new to craft shows, art shows and holiday shows.  Every venue is an adventure……
Prescott’s 5th Annual Victorian Holiday Sale, my first event, had a good track record and I was excited.  Peter made 4 pegboard panels (2’ x 4’), hinged 2 panels together and I covered them with glittery black fabric.  The jewelry looks really good on them and I control the amount of space they require by angling them. 

My stack of cards and books, my hatpins, and my tall cone tree covered with my silk flowers were ready.  The tall cone tree is made of wire with lots of spaces where I can hang things. I was going for height instead of width in my display, a good thing because upon arrival to set up, there was very little room.  This was a new location for the sale and the room was smaller than expected.  Before the evening was over, everyone had a space …or two.  My tall cone tree was on a table across the room from me; I shared a 6’ table with another artist (who made wood boxes).  Payment for items was taken at the door so it was ok that my things were scattered. 

The Viking Chain I made during the event.

I stayed with the jewelry; demo’d the Viking chain technique and considered the event one for meeting and educating people about chain making.  A 10+- boy came by with his mother who said, “Watch her!  I want you to learn to make that!”  So he and I talked and I gave him some tips.  I’m hoping he gets excited about it.


The 2nd event I attended was also an annual event that was held at an artist’s lovely home.  We had our first big snow the night before and I was sure it would be cancelled! 
My street on the morning of the event!
 But no, the event was across town and there was almost no snow there.  The garage and driveway were protected so we forged ahead in the cold.  Set everything up and hoped.  I got to meet a lot of artists but not a lot of buyers. 
The weather was cold and clear all day!
Both of these events, even with their great track records, were not money makers for me (or for most of the other vendors).  I think a combination of poor parking, poor weather, and poor economy made for less than hoped for revenue and attendance.
My table with the cone tree in the center.
Next on my agenda is a show at a country club where I will share a table with another artist.  There is a lunch the attendees pay for and the art show is before and after.  I’ll be interested to see how that type of venue does.
 Just when I thought I was done, a friend called and wants to do a Holiday Show in December, put our handmade decorations on a tree and sell our wares.  Apparently this is the time of year to participate in as many events as possible!  Today I’m looking into an indoor location!  And yesterday I figured out some handmade ornaments to make.  Very neat ones with aluminum foil – but that’s another post.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wood Ducks – Spellbinding Eye Candy!

It is getting cooler in Prescott and ducks are flying in from the Arctic area (too cold with no food there!)   So Peter and I went birding to see how many ducks and what kinds were arriving.  Today we saw Mallards, Shovelers, Canvasbacks, Ring - Necked Ducks, Lesser Scaups, American Wigeons, Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads and one Green - winged Teal. 
Then I spotted the eye candy!  Three Wood Ducks swimming in a man-made waterfall area at the entrance to a housing development – a place one would not expect to find them since they like secluded areas like wooded swamps.  The one male and two females caused us to stop the car, get our binoculars and just stand there looking!

 The colors on the females were blended so that the blues slid into the greens and browns and then the blue green on their heads caught the sunlight.  It was such a rich color that I just wanted to touch. There was a delicate white pattern around their eyes and an elegant shape to their heads.

The male coloring is dramatic, outlined, and strong in hue and saturation. They are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather.  What female could resist that?
When I looked closely at how all the patterns on these ducks’ feathers were joined and intermingled together, I realized I should expand the texture on my jewelry.  Start watching for this on new pieces!
Nature’s eye candy always inspires me!







Friday, November 11, 2011

Talking with Pictures

It seems that man has always wanted to express himself with drawings.  Early man often used stones to peck on rocks as well as paint to leave his messages.  He recorded ceremonies, hunts, dreams, maps, animals and daily life.  Just to clarify the terms: ‘pictograph’ is anything depicted on a stone surface – carved, pecked or painted. ‘Petroglyph’ is the technical word for anything carved or pecked. 
I’ve always been fascinated by pictographs.  And I take photographs of the images whenever I am fortunate to find them. Hopi, Pueblo, Paiute Navajo and Anasazi have left drawings on rocks all over the Southwest.   It is great to live in this area of pictorial wealth! 
I just came across William Michael Stokes and William Lee Stokes book “Messages on Stone – Selections of Native Western Rock Art “.  The images are divided into types – Apparel and Adornment, Birds, The Corn Maidens, Design, etc.  Great little book for kids and adults! It is pretty easy to find a real pictograph, match it in type and figure out what the original person was trying to communicate. 
One reason we have so many available to us is because of desert varnish.  Desert Varnish is a natural protective coating that covers most exposed surfaces.  Minerals (usually iron and manganese) build up and create a thin layer that becomes darker and harder with age.  When the artist pecked out his design on rock, he exposed the rock below the varnish and the contrast of light and dark enhanced his message.  The new varnish would never be as dark as the old.  The varnished surface is almost indestructible.  Unfortunately, modern man often leaves graffiti in his wake destroying the original works.
I think the preservation of the pictographs is important to our culture and to our history.  They are a strong link to our past. 

Ceremonial site in Tanzania

When we were in Tanzania, our guide took us to an ancient ceremonial site where I took photosgraphs of the pictographs and of a rock that was used as a drum.  Notice how the rock drum is covered with designs that were pecked in its surface as it called the people to meet.    Australia is on my list to see the pictographs there.




Rock Drum in Tanzania

My greeting cards depict Southwest Images on my etsy site www.etsy.com/shop/lindabrittdesign.  You might be interested in seeing them.  I also incorporate pictograph images on my jewelry. 


 





Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Unkindness of Ravens

Often when I sit at my workspace I look out the window and see several big black ravens (each about 24-25” long) swooping between the tall pine trees.  I feel like I’m in the middle of a sci-fi movie by Stephen King or Alfred Hitchcock! Sometimes the Ravens huddle in trees or on the ground.  Other times they will be alone or with their mate.  Today there were 15 of them (an unkindness of Ravens) foraging at the corner where our street intersects another. 
 
Evenings bring the ‘raven patrol’ where they fly and land in their favorite trees.  Quite a site! 

Once in a while, one will come to the feeder and grab a peanut!
They communicate with each other using an amazing variety of calls that range from a low gurgling croak to harsh grating sounds and shrill alarm calls that can be heard a mile away. 
The Common Raven has a very thick bill, shaggy throat and a wedge-shaped tail.  This member of the crow family is incredibly aerobatic, tumbling and rolling, in mid air.  Many scientific studies have shown the Raven to be one of the most intelligent birds and it is said it can be trained to talk.  A famous study was done at Oxford University in 2002 that showed Ravens to be tool makers! 
One of Aesop’s fables tells of a thirsty crow that dropped pebbles into a pitcher, raising the water level until it was high enough for him to drink and quench his thirst.
Of course, various cultures have bestowed the Raven with different qualities.  In our western literature they symbolize darkness, depression and death.  Yes, I love Edgar Allan Poe’s poem of ‘The Raven’ but it is depressing!  In medieval times, they meant virility. And in the American Indian culture the Raven is a ‘trickster’ and the creator of man.  The Raven placed the Sun in the sky.  Black is a color representing magical power and the Raven is the guardian of ceremonial magic and healing circles. 

This site is full of interesting facts and lore of the Raven and you might be interested in learning more.  I was!  http://www.druidry.org/obod/lore/animal/raven.html
I’m deciding how to depict an ‘unkindness of Ravens’ on a piece of jewelry.  Sketches, I’m doing lots of sketching to get it right!







Friday, November 4, 2011

Exploring Tuzigoot!

Arizona has many beautiful parks and this one is found near Camp Verde AZ.  It is one of 380 parks in the National Park System.  Tuzigoot is an Apache word for crooked water.  This prehistoric community was built between 1125 and 1400 and sits on the summit of a long ridge 120 feet above the Verde Valley. 
In some places the original buildings were 2 stories high and there were 77 ground floor rooms.  There were about 50 people settling here in the 1100’s and that apparently doubled in the 1200’s.  The Southern Sinagua people lived by farming corn, beans, squash and cotton using canal irrigation.  We don’t really know why the people left their homes – perhaps overpopulation, disease, conflicts or weather pattern changes.    What we do know is that they were fine artisans and made stone tools – knives, axes, and hammers.   Their pottery was generally undecorated and often coated with a red or black color that was highly polished.  They made bone awls and needles, woven cotton garments and ornaments of turquoise, shell and argillite (a local red stone). 
 
Of course I was interested in the jewelry so I took some pictures to share with you.  Women wore shell beads, turquoise and textile armbands.  Shell bangles were worn on upper and lower arms as well as ankles.   Turquoise beads appear to have been reserved to wear on wrists while combinations of shells and stones were worn as necklaces.   One necklace, found in a gravesite, was 12 feet long with 3295 beads.    
www.nps.gov/tuzi  for more information on Tuzigoot National Monument!




Shell necklace



265 bead blanks of argillite (often called Pipestone) were found in another area.   Making all these beads for ornamentation was very labor intensive and as important to the Sinaguan’s as it is to us today.   
Shell bracelets, beads and turquoise


Argillite or Pipestone bead blanks
 
Hair picks, bracelet, shell beads, tools


shell and turquoise necklace

Scale Model

Explanation of site

Remaining Foundations

Ready to grind corn


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reptile Shows - A New Experience

Have you ever been to a Reptile Show?  If you Google ‘reptile shows’ with your hometown’s name, you might be surprised how many are near you.  I’ve now been to my third one.  And each time I’ve seen and learned so much about both nature and people. 
The first one was in Tucson AZ and I had no idea what to expect...maybe snakes crawling and lizards leaping and weird people.  Once I actually took a deep breath, paid my admission and walked into the large hall, my fears got lost in my amazement of the variety of animals I saw.  
The chameleons were multi-colored and safely caged in habitats of branches and greenery. 
Chameleon
The poisonous Dart Frogs were brightly colored and hopping around the trickling water in their humid terrariums.   (These have toxic skins for their own protection).  Snakes of many patterns and varieties were in containers and carefully monitored. 

Young Green Tree Python


I fell in love with baby bearded dragons as they stacked on top of each other. 
Bearded Dragons
  It was obvious that people were fascinated with these reptiles that originally came from all over the world.  (Now many are captive-bred.)  And now I was one of those ‘weird’ people.
The second show was in Phoenix and there were so many Crested Geckos for sale that I wondered where they all came from.  There are trends in reptile fashions.  Some years there are more boas, some years more corn snakes, some years more skinks.  I had no idea there were so many varieties of lizards, frogs, turtles and snakes.  Nor did I realize that so many people throughout the world are fascinated by them.  Lots to learn!
Crocodile Gecko
This year, Peter and I went to the Phoenix Reptile Expo.  There were more turtles here than I had seen in the past- tiny black polka dotted turtles from Asia, star backed ones called Radiated Tortoises, Pancake Tortoises, and Matamata Turtles.   In general, turtles live in or near the water and have adapted to swim by holding their breath underwater. Tortoises live primarily in arid regions, built for storing their own water supply and walking on sandy ground. 

Pancake Tortoise

There were lots of bearded dragons, crested dragons, geckos, skinks, and chameleons.  Chameleons are fun to look at but not easy to care for. 
Many of the reptiles have been cross-bred to be what are called ‘designer’ reptiles.  The colors and patterns have been altered to be ‘fashionable’. It is often now difficult to find reptiles that have their original coloring and patterns.  But I found an originally colored Leopard Gecko and bought it!  He is very easy to care for and very healthy.   He now has a small aquarium sand and rocks with his hollow log in it. He sleeps during the day and ‘hunts’ at night.  He is a happy lizard! 
There were inanimate replicas of a variety of frogs and lizards for sale and lots of t-shirts and caps.  There were a couple of tables of reptile jewelry and lots of books and accessories. 
It was fascinating watching the people watch the animals, seeing friends meeting friends and vendors exchanging information with each other and customers.  These are animals that get a lot of negative press and are somewhat misunderstood just because they are not warm and fuzzy!  I’m learning so much about them and about how people form attitudes that may or may not be accurate! 



Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Make Handmade Tin Foil Ornaments

A friend called and wanted help organizing a holiday sale for about 10 artists (I’m included) and the group wanted to have a Christmas tree decorated with each artists’ handmade ornaments.  I thought, “Great, another project! But why not?” 
Several days later my ornaments are ready with directions so you can make some too!  It was such fun and did not take much time!  They could  also be insets in boxes, gift tags, book covers and more.  A great stress reliever too!
Materials:  cardboard, tin foil, 2” wide silver electrical tape, a blunt tool (could be a medium ball point pen), a punch, acrylic paint, paper towel, brush, water, latex gloves, silver thread

Materials Needed

1.        Select cardboard (from backs of notebooks, inserts from packing, lightweight cardboard boxes) or heavy cardstock will work.  Remember you have to be able to cut it but you don’t want it so flexible it bends too easily.  
2.       Select some shapes – circles, squares, triangles, rectangles.  Be careful with irregular shapes - they are hard to wrap. (Remember that your tape is 2” wide and if you do not want the edges of the tape to show, the shapes need to be a little less that 2” in one direction.  Or just incorporate the edge of the tape into your design)

3.       Cut the cardboard using your selected shapes.  It is efficient to make several at one time.
4.       Take the foil and cut it slightly larger than your cardboard shapes.  It needs to cover both sides of the shape.  I like to crinkle and then flatten the foil to give more thickness.  Cover the shape – both sides.  Fold the foil over the edges as you wrap.  Cut the silver tape and put it on top of the foil –both sides.  Option: Put the tape on the cardboard and omit the crinkled foil.  BUT- I really like the depth I get from all the layers especially when I get to the paint part.  Also be careful where you place the tape because the edges will show so be sure it is straight for creating a border or be sure you can work it into your design.
5.       Lightly draw your design on the tape.  Keep it simple to start.  When you have it like you want it, press your tool (something not as sharp as a pencil – I use a tool with a little ball on the end or a ball point pen) into the tape and go over the design to make highs and lows prominent.  Because I have the crinkled foil under the smooth tape, there will be a few lumps and wrinkles.  I like to incorporate them into the design to get an old handmade look.  
6.       Put a different design on the back or leave it plain.
7.       Use acrylic paint or alcohol dyes.  Experiment.   Any color will enhance the relief.  I used a blue acrylic paint with a little grey in it.  I also used a moss green and did one in rose.  Just play a little and see what you like.  Put the paint on and let it sit a couple of minutes.  You don’t want it to dry because you want to wipe off the high places leaving the recesses with color.  A soft cloth or paper towel works great.  If your design is too shallow, you may take all the paint off.  Start again with a lighter hand. 
8.       Let the paint dry and then make a small hole with a needle, punch, nail, etc.
9.       Put your silver thread through the hole.  Tie a knot. 

10.   Hang that gorgeous ornament!  Happy Holidays!
 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In This Season of Thanksgiving

    
 I Share My Gratitude and thankfulness for:
                A loving family – All my life I have been loved and have loved
My Two Brothers and Me
Peter, who loves me, accepts me and allows me space to be me.

High standards and high expectations
Knowing if I did not meet those standards, I would still be loved.
Learning that ‘good enough’ sometimes is ‘good enough’
              
  The understanding that I am responsible for my own happiness.
              
  Amazing friends who are fun, loving, compassionate and expect the same from me.
                The ability to explore my creativity. 
                My home in a lovely city and diverse state in America
                Ravens that swoop through the pine trees 
                Lakes and mountains, deserts and oceans, sunrises and sunsets and all the in between
                Good health
                Laughter
                Music
                And so much more!
                Thank you for being part of my world!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Artist’s Holiday Season

I’m new to Prescott and the artist’s world here.  I’m new to craft shows, art shows and holiday shows.  Every venue is an adventure……
Prescott’s 5th Annual Victorian Holiday Sale, my first event, had a good track record and I was excited.  Peter made 4 pegboard panels (2’ x 4’), hinged 2 panels together and I covered them with glittery black fabric.  The jewelry looks really good on them and I control the amount of space they require by angling them. 

My stack of cards and books, my hatpins, and my tall cone tree covered with my silk flowers were ready.  The tall cone tree is made of wire with lots of spaces where I can hang things. I was going for height instead of width in my display, a good thing because upon arrival to set up, there was very little room.  This was a new location for the sale and the room was smaller than expected.  Before the evening was over, everyone had a space …or two.  My tall cone tree was on a table across the room from me; I shared a 6’ table with another artist (who made wood boxes).  Payment for items was taken at the door so it was ok that my things were scattered. 

The Viking Chain I made during the event.

I stayed with the jewelry; demo’d the Viking chain technique and considered the event one for meeting and educating people about chain making.  A 10+- boy came by with his mother who said, “Watch her!  I want you to learn to make that!”  So he and I talked and I gave him some tips.  I’m hoping he gets excited about it.


The 2nd event I attended was also an annual event that was held at an artist’s lovely home.  We had our first big snow the night before and I was sure it would be cancelled! 
My street on the morning of the event!
 But no, the event was across town and there was almost no snow there.  The garage and driveway were protected so we forged ahead in the cold.  Set everything up and hoped.  I got to meet a lot of artists but not a lot of buyers. 
The weather was cold and clear all day!
Both of these events, even with their great track records, were not money makers for me (or for most of the other vendors).  I think a combination of poor parking, poor weather, and poor economy made for less than hoped for revenue and attendance.
My table with the cone tree in the center.
Next on my agenda is a show at a country club where I will share a table with another artist.  There is a lunch the attendees pay for and the art show is before and after.  I’ll be interested to see how that type of venue does.
 Just when I thought I was done, a friend called and wants to do a Holiday Show in December, put our handmade decorations on a tree and sell our wares.  Apparently this is the time of year to participate in as many events as possible!  Today I’m looking into an indoor location!  And yesterday I figured out some handmade ornaments to make.  Very neat ones with aluminum foil – but that’s another post.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wood Ducks – Spellbinding Eye Candy!

It is getting cooler in Prescott and ducks are flying in from the Arctic area (too cold with no food there!)   So Peter and I went birding to see how many ducks and what kinds were arriving.  Today we saw Mallards, Shovelers, Canvasbacks, Ring - Necked Ducks, Lesser Scaups, American Wigeons, Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads and one Green - winged Teal. 
Then I spotted the eye candy!  Three Wood Ducks swimming in a man-made waterfall area at the entrance to a housing development – a place one would not expect to find them since they like secluded areas like wooded swamps.  The one male and two females caused us to stop the car, get our binoculars and just stand there looking!

 The colors on the females were blended so that the blues slid into the greens and browns and then the blue green on their heads caught the sunlight.  It was such a rich color that I just wanted to touch. There was a delicate white pattern around their eyes and an elegant shape to their heads.

The male coloring is dramatic, outlined, and strong in hue and saturation. They are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather.  What female could resist that?
When I looked closely at how all the patterns on these ducks’ feathers were joined and intermingled together, I realized I should expand the texture on my jewelry.  Start watching for this on new pieces!
Nature’s eye candy always inspires me!







Friday, November 11, 2011

Talking with Pictures

It seems that man has always wanted to express himself with drawings.  Early man often used stones to peck on rocks as well as paint to leave his messages.  He recorded ceremonies, hunts, dreams, maps, animals and daily life.  Just to clarify the terms: ‘pictograph’ is anything depicted on a stone surface – carved, pecked or painted. ‘Petroglyph’ is the technical word for anything carved or pecked. 
I’ve always been fascinated by pictographs.  And I take photographs of the images whenever I am fortunate to find them. Hopi, Pueblo, Paiute Navajo and Anasazi have left drawings on rocks all over the Southwest.   It is great to live in this area of pictorial wealth! 
I just came across William Michael Stokes and William Lee Stokes book “Messages on Stone – Selections of Native Western Rock Art “.  The images are divided into types – Apparel and Adornment, Birds, The Corn Maidens, Design, etc.  Great little book for kids and adults! It is pretty easy to find a real pictograph, match it in type and figure out what the original person was trying to communicate. 
One reason we have so many available to us is because of desert varnish.  Desert Varnish is a natural protective coating that covers most exposed surfaces.  Minerals (usually iron and manganese) build up and create a thin layer that becomes darker and harder with age.  When the artist pecked out his design on rock, he exposed the rock below the varnish and the contrast of light and dark enhanced his message.  The new varnish would never be as dark as the old.  The varnished surface is almost indestructible.  Unfortunately, modern man often leaves graffiti in his wake destroying the original works.
I think the preservation of the pictographs is important to our culture and to our history.  They are a strong link to our past. 

Ceremonial site in Tanzania

When we were in Tanzania, our guide took us to an ancient ceremonial site where I took photosgraphs of the pictographs and of a rock that was used as a drum.  Notice how the rock drum is covered with designs that were pecked in its surface as it called the people to meet.    Australia is on my list to see the pictographs there.




Rock Drum in Tanzania

My greeting cards depict Southwest Images on my etsy site www.etsy.com/shop/lindabrittdesign.  You might be interested in seeing them.  I also incorporate pictograph images on my jewelry. 


 





Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Unkindness of Ravens

Often when I sit at my workspace I look out the window and see several big black ravens (each about 24-25” long) swooping between the tall pine trees.  I feel like I’m in the middle of a sci-fi movie by Stephen King or Alfred Hitchcock! Sometimes the Ravens huddle in trees or on the ground.  Other times they will be alone or with their mate.  Today there were 15 of them (an unkindness of Ravens) foraging at the corner where our street intersects another. 
 
Evenings bring the ‘raven patrol’ where they fly and land in their favorite trees.  Quite a site! 

Once in a while, one will come to the feeder and grab a peanut!
They communicate with each other using an amazing variety of calls that range from a low gurgling croak to harsh grating sounds and shrill alarm calls that can be heard a mile away. 
The Common Raven has a very thick bill, shaggy throat and a wedge-shaped tail.  This member of the crow family is incredibly aerobatic, tumbling and rolling, in mid air.  Many scientific studies have shown the Raven to be one of the most intelligent birds and it is said it can be trained to talk.  A famous study was done at Oxford University in 2002 that showed Ravens to be tool makers! 
One of Aesop’s fables tells of a thirsty crow that dropped pebbles into a pitcher, raising the water level until it was high enough for him to drink and quench his thirst.
Of course, various cultures have bestowed the Raven with different qualities.  In our western literature they symbolize darkness, depression and death.  Yes, I love Edgar Allan Poe’s poem of ‘The Raven’ but it is depressing!  In medieval times, they meant virility. And in the American Indian culture the Raven is a ‘trickster’ and the creator of man.  The Raven placed the Sun in the sky.  Black is a color representing magical power and the Raven is the guardian of ceremonial magic and healing circles. 

This site is full of interesting facts and lore of the Raven and you might be interested in learning more.  I was!  http://www.druidry.org/obod/lore/animal/raven.html
I’m deciding how to depict an ‘unkindness of Ravens’ on a piece of jewelry.  Sketches, I’m doing lots of sketching to get it right!







Friday, November 4, 2011

Exploring Tuzigoot!

Arizona has many beautiful parks and this one is found near Camp Verde AZ.  It is one of 380 parks in the National Park System.  Tuzigoot is an Apache word for crooked water.  This prehistoric community was built between 1125 and 1400 and sits on the summit of a long ridge 120 feet above the Verde Valley. 
In some places the original buildings were 2 stories high and there were 77 ground floor rooms.  There were about 50 people settling here in the 1100’s and that apparently doubled in the 1200’s.  The Southern Sinagua people lived by farming corn, beans, squash and cotton using canal irrigation.  We don’t really know why the people left their homes – perhaps overpopulation, disease, conflicts or weather pattern changes.    What we do know is that they were fine artisans and made stone tools – knives, axes, and hammers.   Their pottery was generally undecorated and often coated with a red or black color that was highly polished.  They made bone awls and needles, woven cotton garments and ornaments of turquoise, shell and argillite (a local red stone). 
 
Of course I was interested in the jewelry so I took some pictures to share with you.  Women wore shell beads, turquoise and textile armbands.  Shell bangles were worn on upper and lower arms as well as ankles.   Turquoise beads appear to have been reserved to wear on wrists while combinations of shells and stones were worn as necklaces.   One necklace, found in a gravesite, was 12 feet long with 3295 beads.    
www.nps.gov/tuzi  for more information on Tuzigoot National Monument!




Shell necklace



265 bead blanks of argillite (often called Pipestone) were found in another area.   Making all these beads for ornamentation was very labor intensive and as important to the Sinaguan’s as it is to us today.   
Shell bracelets, beads and turquoise


Argillite or Pipestone bead blanks
 
Hair picks, bracelet, shell beads, tools


shell and turquoise necklace

Scale Model

Explanation of site

Remaining Foundations

Ready to grind corn