Friday, October 15, 2010

The Story of the Aegis

       I moved into my first store on 7th St between First Ave. and Ave A in 1984. It was a tiny storefront which was about 350 sq. feet with a raised loft area for sleeping. In no time, I had that store organized like an urban ship with a tiny showroom in the front, a workroom in the middle and a kitchen/bathroom area in the back of the shop. I slept upstairs in a loft area in which I could not stand. How can I describe this first experience of conducting business and living “on the street”. On numerous occasions, I remember the fear and vulnerability I felt upon stepping out of the bathtub and someone shaking the gates to my store, yelling, “Barbara are you in there?” Yes, but NO!
In 1984 East 7th street was a beautiful out-of-the way Ukranian neighborhood which transformed itself into a hotbed of activity in the late hours. My store, Clear Metals, was located between a funeral home and a church. There was so much local color here that gentrification was not initially welcomed. It wasn’t long before I realized I was, unknowingly, a part of that gentrification.
      When I moved into my store, the sounds of the night were disruptive and disturbing. I would hear the mumblings and rumblings of the passersby who seemed as if there were standing inside my space. It was disconcerting and a little terrifying when I began to find playing cards strewn in my entryway every morning. Upon closer inspection, I noticed they had been scribbled upon in black marker with sayings like “Out Eurotrash” and “Go Back”. Eh-oh. I was officially freaked.
      One day my friend Ilythe came to visit and I showed her the cards. She looked at them and seemed to understand. She said, “Wait, I’m going to Israel tomorrow and I will bring you back something that will make whoever is doing this, STOP.”
     Several weeks went by and the cards continued to appear. Ilythe visted again, fresh from her Israel trip and gave me a small package which was wrapped in brown paper and twine. She said, “This will protect you. Hang it where they can see it”.
     This was my first experience with the Hand of Protection. The one she gave me was about 6 inches in Blue Glass, a blob of glass with the imprint of a hand. The hand had an eye in its palm and the entire piece was weighty and about 7 inches in length with a hole in the top for hanging. I hung in near the doorway and the playing cards never appeared in my entryway again. I’ve carried that Hand of Protection with me since 1984 and displayed it in every studio, home and store I have inhabited. I feel it has enveloped me in what I call the “white light of protection.”
      In the tradition of a Mezuzah, the Hand of Fatima and any other talisman you can think of, I have called my creation the Aegis (pronounced eye--guss). It took me over a year to perfect this version of the hand and it is covered in symbology I have developed as my own personal hieroglyphs. I have carved these “glphs” into jewelry and art over the years and developed their meanings into something that is personal and initially derived from other cultures. A list of the symbols and their meanings is here.

      I have always felt that I needed all the protection I could get. It’s scarey out there. I wish you the white light of protection in your life.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

24k Gold

Last week I had the privilege to be a student and take a class at the Jewelry Arts Institute in NYC. The class I took was in gold alloying and granulation with Jeanette Caines, a charismatic and talented goldsmith.  click here for samples of Jeanette's work

When I think of alloying gold, I think of metallurgy, mystery, sacred arts, and alchemy. It all seems so magical when I melt the gold: I feel a sense of history that links me to all those goldsmiths and jewelers who came before me, especially the ones who mined gold and melted it to pour and hammer into thin sheets. I keep imagining ancient Egyptians crouched next to a stone, pounding the gold with hammers made from granite or agate.

It was a little bit of a shock when I went to buy the 24k gold in the Diamond District of NYC and looking down into the little plastic bag of gold, all I could say was: W-O-W. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”, Michael Toback said to me as I gazed upon the high-karat yellow. “ It is….But really, is that IT?” I wondered aloud as I examined the minute parcel before me. $1300 doesn’t buy you much gold these days that is for sure!

It was a wonderful few days of melting the gold with copper and silver to get 22k sheet. Pulling the wire through a draw plate, to get it thinner and thinner, taking hours, was not so fun. Cutting and melting the wire into granules was a little more fun, but the real challenge came when the gold was to be fused. The temperature to fuse and granulate is so near melting, well, what can I say, it’s a challenge.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Memento Mori

Last Friday I made a brief trip into NYC to meet with Maria and Jeanette of the Jewelry Arts Institute about my Wax Carving Class on April 19th and 26th. What a fabulous school with wonderful natural light. It is clean and organized, with an abundance of tools and positive energy. I'm looking forward to this class tremendously and am hoping some of you reading this may join me for the class.

As a highlight to my trip I had my first visit to the Rubin Museum on 17th St. in the heart of Chelsea. This museum is a small gem of sensual experience. After having a lovely lunch of salad and somosas in the café, I headed into the current exhibit, "Remember That You Will Die". In contrast to our burgeoning and blossoming spring this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I always seem to remember this and never forget it. The last two years of my personal world has been consumed with many beautiful souls that left this planet and are living, I hope, in another eternal realm of existence. Without loss there would not be rebirth, this is the extreme and the beautiful. And so goes this exhibit. Although the Rubin Museum specializes in art from the Himalayas and surrounding regions, the "Remember" exhibit features art and art objects from both Christian European and Tibetan Buddhist artistic traditions. "These provocative works of art are meant to startle viewers out of apathy, urge them to contemplate their mortality, and inspire them to use their short time on earth to secure a desirable place in the afterlife."

I urge you to visit this exhibit. If you see it, you will have a key into my imagination where I see skull imagery as a positive and real human experience. Those readers who know me, know that I have been obsessed with death and rebirth imagery for years (and so has mankind). The pieces, which caught my attention most, were a silver Skull Pocket Watch (Europe, 1701-1900) and the "Memento Mori of General Wallenstein" (Bohemia, 1750-1850) pictured. This show is dramatic, thrilling and scary in a good way. You will leave inspired and full of reflection.

As you experience the joy and energy of rebirth this spring, take a moment to contemplate the end, which is also the beginning. And know that without the Cosmic Joker there would be no Tinkerbelle.

                             Peace & Love, BK        

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wax Carving Class at Jewelry Arts

I am pleased to announce a 2-day workshop that I will be teaching at the Jewelry Arts Institute in NYC on two consecutive mondays, April 19th and April 26th, from 11am to 6pm.  This is an incredible jewelry school in the Columbus Circle area of NYC and I am looking forward to it tremendously.  This class is quite affordable for 12 hours of instruction at $280.  You may sign up on their website.

Over the years, many of you have asked about my teaching and have been unable to attend my workshops in my studio in upstate NY.  Now is the opportunity to sign up for this class.  

Previous metalsmithing experience is preferred but if you have ever worked with your hands on any level (sewing, home repairs or even cooking) and possess a fair amount of patience, you are an ideal candidate to learn this process.  Wax is a more fluid and less-resistant creative process than metal. The tools used in wax carving are small dental tools (yes, the kind your dentist uses!), a flex shaft (a motorized hand dremel tool) and either an alcohol lamp or wax pen for melting the wax.   It reminds me of the girl scout project of carving soap into small sculptures.  However, in wax-carving the waxes are cast by the "lost wax" process and become silver or gold objects. This is a great way to learn about jewelry making and is a great way to make multiples of any piece of jewelry.

The class will cover these topics:
1.) "The Design" - How to plan the design from drawing to completion, perhaps incorporating fabrication in metal
2.)  Learning about the types of waxes.
3.) "Taking Away" wax and "Adding" wax in a design
4.) Setting stones and setting mounts

*This is a wax carving class and does not include casting.

I hope to see your there!  Please contact me with any questions.  and by the way, HAPPY SPRING!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter White

As these days of winter seem to blend altogether and I look out the window into a crystal wonderland, I venture to find my own muse within. The crystal palace made by the falling snowflakes confines me to my own imagination. No two snowflakes alike, that is the wonderful force of a powerful creative energy. While we await the combustion of spring, we formulate, we simmer and finally we emerge.

This is the view out my front window. I watch the wildlife forage and snowflakes fall. I dig myself out. Again. And finally, I dig myself, creating as if digging out of a 6 foot snowdrift. See what emerges.