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Honour Your Inner Magpie

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Ritual Jeweling
elf hill
Well, this is for kristenj and marykaykare, who requested that I tell about this.

I'm not sure when it started. Possibly it was when my friend LauraLee moved away. A bunch of us wanted to have a going-away festive gathering where we wished her good wishes, and we wanted to give her a token of our esteem. Since I had been teaching her a little bit about wireworking jewelry-making, a necklace seemed to be the right thing. We had a necklace-making ritual, and it was very very good.

Since then, I have done almost half a dozen more, and it seems to be happening more frequently. The usual set-up is that someone tells me of an event for which they would like to commission a necklace of this sort. Some people ask for one for themselves, other people do it as gifts for friends on various occasions: retirement, birthdays, beginning chemotherapy, and so on - a wide variety, indeed.

Usually we plan an event where the people who are doing the well-wishing come together and help put the necklace together. For some of them, people have each brought a bead or charm (and I always bring extras in case someone forgot or didn't get the word in time); for others, I bring all materials and they select from what I have laid out. In the upcoming one, the form of the necklace is carefully designed in advance, and people participating will hand pieces to me in the order they go onto the necklace. (This one is a very special design, and wants that.)

There seem to be two main styles of necklace developing: the charm necklace and the link necklace. The latter is built link by link, each link bearing a bead or charm, usually one brought by the participants. The former is made by measuring out a length of (usually) sterling silver chain to fit the recipient, attaching a clasp, and then attaching the items people give me in some pleasing pattern, usually balanced by color and length and weight. There have been more charm necklaces than link necklaces, but tomorrow's will be a link necklace. I'm really excited about it, too. After the ritual, I will see if I can put up a description of it.

One thing that has developed is a sense of pacing that grows out of making the necklace. At first, people talked about the symbolism of their bead or charm, and when they were done talking, they handed it to me to work with. Lately we have realized that it makes sense to give me the piece at the outset of their remarks, because their talking and my working often take just the same amount of time, and it feels good to do it that way. (Besides, then I'm not working for an hour after the ritual breaks up into snacks and chat.)

I'm learning a lot about design and balance, and it's particularly interesting doing this work as someone who rarely takes commissions. I usually tell people that I will do what I call "first refusal" rather than commissions: if I take on the task, they get first dibs on the piece, but if they don't want it, they are not obligated to buy it. If they don't take it, I can go ahead and sell it as I normally would. I wouldn't do that with a ritual piece, though, obviously -- it has a specific recipient and carries specific meaning. (And OK, I have done one or two commission pieces, like jenett's wedding jewelry present. And I don't mind if people ask, as long as they're cool if I say no.) Anyhow, the ritual jeweling is a different thing altogether, is how it feels to me: it's those things, that person, those friends, and that specific time, all connected together in a wish and a memory and a circle of affection.

Sometimes when I do it I make my labor a present; other times I accept a token payment of between fifty and two hundred dollars. It varies with what the organizers want and what their situation is and how my exchequery is doing just then, but generally I do whatever it takes to make sure the right thing can happen. If that means making a present of a lot of my work, sometimes that's the right thing to do. I've been totally satisfied, so far, and people seem to really love the necklaces and the event around creating them. I am always happy to see them being worn. They're tangible things representing good feelings from a lot of people that came together around the wearer, and I like that. I like helping there be more of that in the world.

So that's what ritual jeweling is, when I do it.

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This is beautiful. A ritual in the fullest sense of the word. A love the story-telling part of it especially.

Yes. That part is something I especially love too, because I am moving into the wordless stories part of art, these days, and I love making room for other people's words, other people's stories. I used to tell so many, you see, and this new way of things is very satisfying.

Not that I won't tell a story or two in words myself, some day. But still.

i *really* like that idea, those must be pretty special pieces for the wearer with all that energy and good thought going into them, thanks for sharing about it :)

Thank you! It sounds wonderful. But probably the only way I'd ever get to participate would be to schedule one around a con we're both at. Hmmm. Walks away thinking.


I am reminded that I wished to ask you advice about ways of setting a stone into something . . .

Ooh. E-mail me, or ask here, but be advised that probably I know relatively little about the setting of stones. However, there are a whole bunch of people here who do know a lot, so... ask away!

Should I make a topic for it?

Also, I have some ... not beads, exactly. Um, they seem to be Egyptian-style lapis-lookalike stone plaques. I think I spoke of them once. I think they want you. We must confer, I hope. Yes? One is broken, but they are still cool, and rather want to stay together, I think. They are rectangular with sort of carved loops on top. Oh, bother; I should just photograph them and get my act together about putting pictures up.

Setting is probably the wrong word, really. I'm not sure what the right word is.

It's a sphere, which is the difficulty -- it's a moderately large sphere. (Much larger than the sort that gets put in claw pendants.)

It wants to be in something that I can wear or keep on me easily. (As it is it lives in my coat pocket so it's wherever I am when I go out.) I am just plumb out of ideas for how to put it into something that will hold it (as spheres are kinda slippery) and what to do with it if I did.

(Ritual jewelry reminded me because it belongs to Someone.)

I do a lot of stone wrapping, with some odd shapes and I like to experiment with wire. If you like, I'd be happy to look at it and either set it or try to give advice on how to do it yourself. Spheres are tricky, but just talking about it has created some images of the final product in my head :)

And you are exactly the person I was hoping would respond!

lilairen, meet lexiphanic, who (among many other talents) packs and ships the pieces I sell; lexiphanic, this is lilairen, who is the person I said ought to get those lapis-lookalike (or maybe even lapis - did we think they looked plausible?) pieces I got in that big bin o' fun a while back.

There you go; talk amongst yourselves and have fun.

Advice would probably be best, as we are not, I see from your userinfo, in nearest proximity.

Hrm, here's an idea. *scurries around for equipment*

This is the stone, photographed next to a quarter so's to give the sense of size:

I would probably recommend making some kind of cage, of at least 6 wires (3, doubled) of a fairly heavy gauge (20 would probably work).

I would take 3 wires, fold them in half and create a loop at the bend, secured by twisting the wires together or wrapping them together. Then open the loose ends into a star, shape them around the sphere and secure the ends on the other side by wrapping them together and creating sprials or small loops or something to keep them from sliding back through the wrap.

The loop at the top will give you a place for ribbon, chain, etc if you want to carry it with you, and if you put loops at the bottom you can embellish it with dangles. Spirals at the bottom will secure the wires and be decorative without adding other components.

Here is one that I did in similar fashion, though a different shape:

Hopefully that makes somes sense :)

Yes, that does make sense. Thank you tremendously.

Do you have recommendations for tools for shaping the wire? I have fingers and needle-nose pliers that I know where are.

For wire that heavy, you will need to use the pliers. I suggest a round-nose for making any loops, and the needle-nose are good for wrapping. You may need both at once, as the wire will probably be too stiff for your fingers as soon as you start to bend it.

When Emily Hackbarth did beadwork at about.com she posted this pattern on how to wrap marbles (slippery glass spheres) with beads to put them in a bracelet.

That's awfully cool. Thanks for the link.

And yes, we must confer about such things. They do sound lovely.

I love love love that lotus icon. Am tempted to send you the one I tried to embroider.

I am madly in love with the sacred lotus.

If I could wave a magic wand and have the house of my dreams, it would have a central hall with skylights and stained glass, and down the middle of it a pool full of N. caerulea.

And possibly koi.

One thing about you working the bead or whatever into the piece while the giver is talking about it... You are also weaving their words into it at the same time. Adds to the ritual and the energy that way...

Indeed so. It just feels like a good way to do it. I love words and hands working at the same time, all surrounded by intent and will and love.

I am hoping the one necklace you made for me will be good luck. I bought a blue suit that matches the beads and I am going to be interviewing in it next week. All this ritual talk made me think of it.

I am hoping so, too! Extra good wishes sent to you.

I am, needless to say, very pleased with the wedding set. Especially given where interrelationships have gone since then. It makes me feel happy and shiny and pleased when I wear a part of it, and all sorts of warm fuzzies.

Lovely how life works out sometimes, no?

It is!

And by the way, let's make some time for you to come over and hang out with me up in the workshop, because I want to make you a thing or two. Just 'cause. Y'know? And we can hang out and talk. This is good.

Of course! My May 1 is completely and thoroughly booked, and today is fairly booked (in that I've got a lot of stuff that should get done today) , but other times are less so.

that is wonderful. wonderful. it is really like something out of a novel.

also makes me treasure Trees II even more.


I've been thinking more about how much I like ritual jeweling, and about the little frisson of anticipation I get about it, and at the moment I think it is because I used to do a lot of performance poetry, and this is somewhat reminiscent of that, in an odd way. There's more giving to it, in a lot of ways, but still. You know what I mean, maybe yes?

yes. you're onstage in a way, but people are contributing, and at the end there is something for everyone to take away, tangible or no. you must feel pretty high at the end of the process!

Oh, and one of the occasions I most admired was when a woman had the wonderful guts to ask for one for herself and to put a ritual together. It was for her birthday, when she reached the age at which her mother died. She needed to mark it, as she was faring forward into the unknown, into a place where she had no data. Quite a ritual: amazing, wonderful, very moving, and so very perfect. I learned a lot from her asking for that ritual, and every single person there felt deeply honored to have been asked to help with it. It was so cool. (And so is she.)

Re: about occasions

that is brilliant. let's make a note for 18 years from now, okay?

Re: about occasions

OK, you're on.
*makes note*

Re: about occasions

to be sort of exact, somewhere between 8.1.2021 and the end of the year. (see also: http://www.sharyn.org/mom.html)

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