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.


Handmade Jewelry said...

I love your blog.
You have such great photographs and inspiring words.
I am looking forward to reading more of your articles.
Keep it up.

anne rush said...

Barbara, sooooo enjoyed this article. i'm a trained metalsmith but have spent my career in designing fashion jewelry for large brands. so much i can learn from your experience. i will certainly keep reading! Anne Rush