This article showcases my range of leather peacock feather jewelry and accessories, inspired by my friend Mahala back in 2010. These remain some of my favorite designs to create and expand upon, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to share this story.
As with all of the publications by Stampington & Company, Belle Armoire Jewelry is an exceptionally beautiful and well curated magazine. I’m honored to work with them again, and I look forward to future opportunities.
Butterfly imagery keeps cropping up in my work lately. Perhaps it’s because I’m an avid gardener and spring is finally here, or maybe there’s a deeper significance: butterflies symbolize transformation, change and growth. These are huge themes for my creative work this year! For some time now, I’ve felt the need for a change; at first it was a subtle whisper, but the feeling has grown progressively stronger. So much so, that I know that I absolutely must listen to my heart, even if the next steps seem scary.
Before I tell you where I’m going, I should probably tell you where I’ve been:
In 1996 I got my first computer and “discovered” the internet. Within a year, I’d created a Hometown AOL website for my business using a WYSIWG editor. Digital cameras were still fairly new (even the really good cameras were only like 4 megapixel!) so my photos were awful. In short, it was a primitive website with lousy photos, and the name was too long for anyone to find or remember. In my defense, most websites were like that back then.
My next site went up in 1998, with a shorter-but-easily-forgettable name. In those days, my handcrafted goods and my inventory of beading supplies were listed together on one site. When I’d meet online friends at bead shows or cons, they’d always say “Oh, you’re that Bead/Mask lady!”. So in 2003, I launched my new website and called it Beadmask. The name served as an umbrella for both product lines (craft supplies + handcrafted goods), and it was memorable and easy to spell.
Over time it became clear that those two different product lines had two very different audiences, who really needed two different sites. So in 2008 I launched a second website, Treefrog Beads, which is dedicated exclusively to bead and jewelry making supplies. This left the Beadmask website for my handmade goods, and the name still sort of fit, since it featured beaded jewelry and leather masks. This set up has worked well for the last many years, but change is in the air again.
My business has evolved and outgrown the name “Beadmask”. It just doesn’t fit anymore – the bead supplies have their own site, and masks aren’t such a primary focus anymore. I certainly intend to continue working in beads and leather, and mythology and nature are sure to remain central themes for my creations, but it’s time to branch out. In order to clear the way for new growth, I’ll also have to let a few things go. Many older designs will be retired this year, in order to clear space in the studio (and in my mind) for new work. I’m excited to explore new media, new product designs, and to really dig in to more elaborate work that challenges me and showcases my skill. I want to focus on creating truly unique pieces that you will love to wear!
Long story short: My business name will be changing soon! Please don’t be surprised when you see a new name in your social media feeds. It’ll still be me, just with a fresh new name, new ideas, and new designs for you to enjoy.
As much as I’d love to tell you that this will be a seamless transition, growth and change are not always graceful. I’ll forewarn you that there may be a few bumps along the way, as I stretch to find my wings. I hope you’ll stick with me – and perhaps even offer your feedback as to what kinds of new designs and products you’d like to see. Some of you have been with me for a very long time, and I really hope you’ll come along for this next phase of creative growth!
This custom moth necklace is winging her way to her owner today. While it’s simple on the surface, the piece holds special meaning and function for the wearer. These are my favorite projects – the ones that are personal, meaningful and even healing in their own way.
This piece was a pleasure to create, and the recipient was wonderful to work with. This has been true of all of the commissions that I’ve worked on this year – they’ve been great projects for lovely people. Thank you for that!
I’ve updated the site with a handful of new beaded semiprecious stone necklaces. Several feature labradorite, many have lunar themes (which I’ll be exploring throughout the year), and a couple give a nod to Bowie. From left to right, as seen in this photo, they are:
“Serious Moonlight” (sold) – a pair of simple yet beautiful gemstone layering necklaces. These are less intricate – and thus, more affordable – than a lot of my beadwork, and they were fun to make. I’ve already had requests for more like these, and will do my best to comply as time allows.
“Snow Moon” – Bone and amethyst necklace inspired by the February full moon
“Blackstar” – Labradorite and sterling silver with charcoal glass beads.
“Owl & Moonstone” – A carved leather owl on the wing, with Welo opal and moonstone.
“Eclipse” – Labradorite, hematite and freshwater pearls, set in dusky blue seed beads.
Oh – and I’m trying something new with this update, and including tidbits about symbolism and folklore. Over the years I’ve come to realize that many people wear jewelry as symbols or reminders of ideas that are special to them (mothers’ rings, for example) so I’ve included some of that info. Believe it if you need it, if you don’t just pass it on.
There are a few stragglers that still need finishing touches and/or better photos, so they’ll be added as time allows. I’ve needed to rebuild my jewelry selection for months now, and this feels like a good start!
When I learned about the stand off over the proposed pipeline near the Standing Rock reservation, my heart went out to all of the good people fighting for clean water. I fantasized about going out there to help – and really tried to find a way to do so – but at the end of the day, that’s not really a viable option for me. Not only would that put a financial strain on my family, but even if I could figure out a way to get there, I’m not in good health. They need able bodied workers and warriors who can pull their own weight, anything less is a drain on much needed resources.
When I finally realized and accepted that fact, I tried to think of something positive that I could contribute. I’d already donated what little money I could spare, so I decided to donate my time and creativity instead. I remembered that I had these beautiful kyanite beads that I’d been hoarding for several years, and that I bought them because they reminded me of sparkling water droplets. I spent an evening wrapping these stones with sterling silver wire, and praying for the people of Standing Rock – and for all beings who need clean water to live. I strung the pendants on some sterling chains that I’d been hoarding (yes, I’m a bit of a hoarder – this is the nature of beadworkers) and hoped that a few people might be willing to buy them for a good cause.
I listed the necklaces here on my website and then shared their story on social media… and I was completely blown away by the response! The pendants sold out within 3 hours, and I received several requests to make more. I made a second batch over the weekend, and those sold out in less than half an hour after being listed. That’s a sign of how much people want to be able to help. All told, we raised $400 to help support the folks at Standing Rock! In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge sum of money … but I’d like to believe that what we did together was about more than money. I mean, yes – money is important too. The people out there on the front lines need food, water, shelter and all that good stuff, and the funds that we raised will help them to keep doing their good work. But we also raised our prayers; I sincerely hope that every time you wear your necklaces, it reminds you that water is sacred and to live in a way that reflects that. I hope that these pieces will be beautiful and special enough to prompt questions, so that you get the chance to tell people why you wear them. In this way, our prayers and hope can ripple out and help to raise more awareness about what’s happening out there in North Dakota, and at similar waterways around the globe.
Well I fully intended to be a curmudgeon this holiday season, but I guess it’s just not in my nature. I spent a good bit of time in my studio this weekend, thinking about which ideas I’d like to build on in 2016, and what I’m ready to let go of. In the interest of clearing out space – in my studio and in my mind – I’ve marked down many items throughout my store. Check out my SALE section for a wide selection of items marked down by 25% or more, through the end of 2015.
These discounts can be combined with my existing winter specials, enabling you to get 35% (or more) off my usual prices! Info and coupon codes for those offers are copied below:
* All US domestic orders of $40+ are eligible for free first class shipping.
On my website, you’ll automatically see the free shipping option when your cart reaches $40
On Etsy, you’ll need to enter the coupon code “shippingfree” at checkout
* All orders of $75+ are eligible for a 10% discount.
To receive this discount, use the coupon code “happyholidays” at checkout. That coupon code is the same for my website as it is for Etsy. Please note that this offer applies to ready made items only, not custom work.
Here’s a preview of my newest “Pollinator Prayer” necklace, loosely inspired by the Monarch butterfly. This piece incorporates sculpted leather, Baltic amber, antique Victorian era “nailhead” and French jet beads, as well as quartz crystal, glass flowers and seed beads.
It seems appropriate to share during Dias de los Muertos, since Mexican folklore tells us that the monarchs are the souls of our ancestors, returning to earth for a brief visit. This is also the time when these beautiful endangered creatures are making their long (3000 mile!) journey back to Mexico <3
This piece seemed to fly off my needle last night. Not at all what I intended for this cab, but it seemed to have its own ideas as to what it should be!
The next morning, I read on the Farmer’s Almanac site that the March full moon was traditionally known as the “Full Worm Moon” and it heralds the end of winter and the onset of spring. It’s been a hard winter, so I’m celebrating the idea of spring and change
As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.
Made with : Bali carved bone triple moon, titanium quartz points, shimmering blue kyanite, rutilated quartz and vintage Swarovski.
Arthchain Day 1 – I was nominated to post an item of artwork a day for 5 days (and to nominate others…).
These are some of the oldest masks that I can find photos of (though they were made a few years into my mask making journey) and they’re quite different from what I’m doing now. They used a lot more of the intricate featherwork, and though none of these really show it, but I used to incorporate a lot of detailed beadwork and gemstones too. They were made while my family and I were doing the pow wow circuit, and each one told a story about the people and places we encountered along the way. These would have been mid 90’s – just as I was transitioning from wallhanging/art masks, to wearable art masks.
My mother is Mexican and Spanish, and I grew up in Los Angeles, a city that is steeped in Latino culture. My abuella came from Mexico to America in a covered wagon in 1918, and my daughter and I had the good fortune to hear this story from her directly. Despite all that, my own upbringing was pretty American. My family still continues our tradition of making turkey tamales on Thanksgiving, which we’ve done since I was a little girl. I love Sandra Cisneros because her writing captures the feeling of my family in such a poetic and sentimental way, and I can speak Spanglish at a toddler level. That’s about as Mexican as I get.
Similarly, my father was Native American (Cheyenne-Arapaho) and ??. He identified with his Native roots, and drew most of his spiritual and ethical principles from that. You know, the idea that “we are all connected” and we should walk in balance and with respect for mother earth. I don’t mean to cheapen those ideals with buzzwords and catch phrases — I’m just trying to convey the concept quickly. My dad’s art and ideals were deeply influenced by his Indian heritage. He passed that along to me to some degree, by taking me to pow wows and teaching me what he believed in; but I didn’t grow up on a reservation or anything. I grew up roller skating along the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice 😉
These cultures are certainly a part of me, they reflect my family and my history. They have colored my perspective, and helped to shape my thinking; but I didn’t really live them the way a first generation Indian or Mexican person would. As such I view them as my heritage, rather than my culture — if that distinction makes any sense.
There are aspects of each that resonate with me. Little fragments that I like to keep alive in my own way, however diluted. For example, my dad’s people had a great reverence for life. When they hunted, they took only what was needed, and made an offering to the spirit of the animal to express gratitude for the nourishment and sustenance it provided. Their respect for that animal’s life motivated them to use every part of the body. In keeping with this, I smudge every hide that I use in my leatherwork with sage, and silly as it may sound, I thank that cow for the sustenance (income) it provides. I do my best to use every scrap, so that nothing is wasted.
My mom’s ancestors have a beautiful way of viewing death. Every year in Mexico (and much of California 😉 the people celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It is not as morbid as it might sound. Rather than mourning the death of loved ones who have passed, this holiday (which actually spans two days) is intended to celebrate, honor and remember those who have passed. I’ve always appreciated this holiday, for that sentiment and also for the beautiful artwork that it inspires.
This year, it is especially important to me, as I’ve lost several friends and family recently. Most notably, my father. Even though we knew it was coming, it still hit me pretty hard. We did not have a perfect relationship — in fact, we butted heads a lot — but I always loved and respected him. I’ve been doing DotD inspired stuff for some time, but even more so over the past year. Silly as it may sound, it has helped me to work through my grief for my dad and to focus on the positive. It reminds me to honor what he taught me, and to value the aspects of him that live on in me and in my daughter.
I am going to go out and grab some marigolds and candles today, so that I can create a special altar in his memory. I’ll add pictures of him and sage that he picked, along with photos and mementos of my grandparents and my friend Mahala, who died of cancer last fall. I’ll spare you the full roster (suffice to say that it is long) but know that it reflects much love for many wonderful people who have added to my life. Meanwhile, I’ve created this virtual altar over on Etsy. My online ofrenda: