Fibre Artist Ann Harmer Puts Another Feather in the Mushroom Cap

Fibre Artist Ann Harmer Puts Another Feather in the Mushroom Cap

Lobster Mushroom

The more I learn about mushrooms the more I love them! Fortunately for Gary and I our trip to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia would lead us to the doorstep of fibre artist and mushroomist Ann Harmer and her world of the magnificent mushroom. Ann lives with her husband Rick and their two friendly pooches on a parcel of land near Katherine Lake where we had camped the night before. They moved from Burnaby about a decade ago after falling in love with the area. Rick says it was Katherine Lake that pulled them there. Outside their door is a rainforest which harbours all the right conditions for mushroom life. Before moving to this area, Ann had decided she wanted to learn all about mushrooms not realizing this endeavour would lead her into a creative realm using the humble fungi.

Ann Harmer Wearing One of Her Crocheted Scarves Coloured with Various Mushroom Dyes

Ann Harmer Wearing One of Her Crocheted Scarves Coloured with Various Mushroom Dyes

I was curious to find out if using the mushroom to make dyes was some sort of ancient art form. As Ann explained it only began when a woman in California was creating a dyepot out of flowers, and merely out of curiosity happened to throw in some little yellow mushrooms. It turns out she got a beautiful yellow dye and the rest is history. Now people all over the world forage for pigment mushrooms. They even get together once every two years for a pigment mushroom symposium to discuss all things fungi.

Range of Colours From Pigment Mushrooms

Range of Colours From Pigment Mushrooms

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Typical mushroom hunting season on the coast begins in July and goes into November. During that time Ann can be found out in the forest with her two dogs on the hunt for pigment mushrooms. Only a fraction of all mushroom species contain a pigment that is suitable for dyeing. I must say I was astounded at the colour palette; everything from earthy browns and greens to pinks, blues, and orange hues. Most of the mushrooms Ann hunts for are not edible but there is the lobster mushroom that she and Rick share. The lobster is a deep orange colour on the outside with a white fleshy inside. Ann peels the outside for her colour palette and Rick uses the tasty inside for his palate.

Beautiful Earthy Tones on Handspun Wool Art Yarn

Beautiful Earthy Tones on Handspun Wool Art Yarn

Mushroom Paper Bowls

Mushroom Paper Bowls

Some of Ann’s mushroom hunting involves locating a species that contains chitin. Chitin is the substance that helps to create the hard shell for arthropods such as insects, lobsters, and spiders. In the case of the mushroom, Ann can make a strong paper-like fibre which she turns into bowls, beads for jewellery and sculpture pieces such as hats and shoes (future project).

Turkey Tail Pendant and Mushroom Paper Beads

Turkey Tail Pendant and Mushroom Paper Beads

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The humble mushroom is an incredibly versatile species. It has been used in bioremediation as well as making a material that could replace plastic one day and not to mention they are wonderful to eat. And now as we have learned, it earns a noble place in the world of the visual arts. Before we left Ann and Rick that day we spent some time chatting over a cup of Earl Grey tea and some Candy Cap shortbread cookies that Ann had made. Candy Caps are a mushroom that taste and smell a bit like maple syrup. Even Gary couldn’t resist them!

To find out more about Ann Harmer please click here to get to her website.

Join us as Ann talks about the process of using mushrooms as dyes. We always love your comments and please help us spread the word about Ann on social media and through email. Thanks!

Candice Ball Follows Her Dream

Candice Ball Follows Her Dream

Paisley Brooch with Amber Beads

Recently, Gary and I watched a fascinating program about art created during the Middle Ages. One group that caught my attention was the Anglo Saxons and their method of casting jewellery using cuttlefish bone. I had seen this before but not on television. Our trip to the Yukon put us on the doorstep of Whitehorse artist Candice Ball who, among other things, uses this ancient casting method in her own jewellery craft.

Candice Demonstrating Cuttlefish Casting

Candice Demonstrating Cuttlefish Casting

Cuttlefish Cast

Cuttlefish Cast

One characteristic that I appreciate in artists is that they deeply love what they do. There is something about the act of being creative that seems to give them a heightened state of bliss. Candice is a jewellery designer and metal artist with a penchant for the unusual. She is joyously unrestrained and it showed in her fervour to share with us what she does and how she does it. Candice came close to landing a career that, for her, was just meant to pay the bills, but luckily her gut was telling her not to go there and she listened. After a long talk with herself she came to the conclusion that a creative life was what she wanted. I admire her for her fortitude in taking the road less traveled.

Piéce de Résistance Ring

Piéce de Résistance Ring

Surprise Garnet Cabachon Inside Piéce de Résistance

Surprise Garnet Cabachon Inside Piéce de Résistance

Candice loves working with all kinds of different metals as well as complimentary, or perhaps uncomplimentary materials. She says she is not afraid to try anything and confidently works toward being the trend setter, not the trend follower. Her intuition is her guide which she shows unfettered devotion towards. The ideas show up anytime and anywhere like an unexpected visit from a best friend. She says she doesn’t know how it happens, it just does. My guess is that Candice is completely tuned in to her surroundings which abundantly supply her with all she needs to feed her creative process.

Out of Woodwork Bracelet

Out of Woodwork Bracelet

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Candice is constantly researching techniques and materials to bring a uniqueness to her work that stands above the crowd. Lately she has been investigating ancient casting techniques using cuttlefish (see demo video below) as well as more modern methods known as Delft casting which uses sand to create the mold. She also explores the use of metals such as titanium in her work. Candice definitely has a hunger for knowledge and putting what she learns into practice, and because of this her work is quite varied. After we left Candice we went to Arts Underground Gallery to collect some footage of her art that was being shown there. We talked all about Candice’s jewellery but had no idea she also does mixed media wall pieces until we arrived at the gallery; each one having a personality all its own.

MIxed Media Wall Hanging

MIxed Media Wall Hanging

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As crazy as you may or may not think this sounds, I believe that art handmade by people like Candice holds within it a certain kind of raw spiritual energy that comes from the earth and the person who made it. When we buy art, in this case wearable art, we get to coalesce with a part of that energy. It gives us strength and a connection that you will never get from something manufactured by a machine. Just talking to Candice strengthened my resolve on this point. To see more of Candice’s work please go to her website at Dilcet Designs.

Please join us as Candice shares more about her passion for art and then watch the ancient technique of cuttlefish casting in the demo below. We love comments and ask that you share this post on social media and spread the word about Candice. Thank you!

For Leslie Chapman All That Glitters is Gold

For Leslie Chapman All That Glitters is Gold

Scarab Pendant

Welcome to the Town of the City of Dawson. For those thinking that I am confused, at one time Dawson City was home to 40,000 people and was indeed a city. Then, after a three year period the population plummeted to town status and is now home to about 1300 residents. Why the sudden rise and fall of people in such a short period of time? In one word…GOLD! Dawson City has long been synonymous with The Klondike Gold Rush, attracting many gold seekers between 1896 and 1899 with a small percentage who found riches. There are still active mines operating to this day, and one of those present day owner/operators is gold miner, goldsmith and jewellery artist Leslie Chapman of Fortymile Gold Workshop/Studio and art gallery.

Leslie at her Fortymile Gold Workshop and Gallery

Leslie at her Fortymile Gold Workshop and Gallery

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Forged Ring - Diamond

Forged Ring – Diamond

Leslie and her husband Bill have been operating Fortymile Gold Placers for over 30 years now and living on the Fortymile River for about 40 where they also raised their children. Initially they focused strictly on the gold mining, but with the prices dropping in the 1990s and the operation being seasonal due to the need for water, it made sense to supplement their income using the fruits of their labours by giving a value-added component to their mined gold. Leslie has always been involved creatively in one way or another, and so she set out to teach herself goldsmithing; reading books and putting to practical use what she learned. She found that she had an affinity for making jewellery, and has now been at it for 15 years, creating exquisite, all hand-made wearable art. Leslie’s style is evocative of ancient Egyptian and Mayan civilizations, with Northern themes such as the caribou and northern lights also inherent in her work. Leslie notes that her work is also inspired by the requests for commissioned pieces, giving her new ideas and challenges that she enjoys working through with her clients.

Palm Leaf Earrings

Palm Leaf Earrings

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Aurora Bangle

Aurora Bangle

It is worthwhile to note that their mining operation returns to them what they call green gold; a reference to the fact that no chemicals are used during the extraction process and the gravel bars are fully restored to their natural state. Fortymile Gold has won several environmental awards and an example of their placer mining technique can be viewed at this linked video. Leslie has complete chain of custody of the gold used for her jewellery, and can therefore guarantee the content and quality of the gold as well as the ethical practices for workers and the environmental safeguards that they adhere to. There is extensive information on Leslie’s website (click here) about the mining process and quality of the gold.

Shamans caribou amulet necklace

Shamans caribou amulet necklace

Sapphire Wave Earrings

Sapphire Wave Earrings

Leslie loves that the process she undertakes to produce her jewellery is reminiscent of ancient goldsmith practices; no mass produced manufacturing or “perfect” identical pieces. Each of her pieces is hand-made and therefore one of a kind, with its own nuances and unique attributes. The gold recovered from her mine is essentially ready to use, with no further refining required. It is a high purity gold alloy made up of 87% gold, 12.9% silver and 0.1% other minerals which makes for the perfect formula; easy to work with and yielding brilliant 20K yellow gold. With the gold in this form she just has to melt down the gold particles into a bar and then start working with it whether in wire, sheet or nugget form.

Rune ring

Rune ring

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People have always been fascinated with gold, and aside from its physical properties such as being highly malleable, not rusting or corroding, and of course displaying the lustrous glitter that is so visually appealing, it also seems to hold a power and mystique to it. Leslie can attest that there is some property of gold that resonates with human beings and is part of the reason why it is valued and considered precious in so many societies. As you can see from Leslie’s jewellery, the beauty and appeal is enriched when the raw gold is shaped to reflect something that creates a personal connection; it could be a wedding ring, a symbol of spirit or power, or a facsimile of a cherished memory or pastime. Leslie says part of the satisfaction of being a goldsmith is making something that will last, a keepsake that will be cherished and passed down through generations.

We now join Leslie at her Fortymile Gold Workshop studio and gallery. We welcome Comments below and please Share on social media.

Life is Art for James Kirby

Life is Art for James Kirby

Family

In our search for artists to interview we have used various means to track them down ranging from emailing art organizations asking for assistance, emailing the artists directly, and even just riding into town and asking at the library, town office or people on the street who they might know. It gets a little tricky though when an artist is more reclusive; not usually engaging or paying attention to the ongoing banter of the various media sources. It was with a bit of luck then that Whitehorse artist James Carman Kirby of Wulvzwerx Arts decided, for whatever reason, to open one of those emails and answer our call to artists.

James at work

James at work

Driving up to James’ home and studio, the exterior looked like any other framed structure except that once inside the building the uniqueness of his abode reflected that of the man himself. Originally staying in a small, vintage travel trailer and having his workshop and studio beside it, he decided to join the two; building and framing the house around the trailer and encasing it as part of the interior decor. The effect is both quaint and symbolic; the travel trailer serving not only as both functionally decorative and as a conversation piece, but also retains memories of a time and place in his journey through life. Therein lies the first clue, revealing a man who is not one to adopt mainstream thinking and who walks to the beat of his own drum.

TshTsh Pectoral

TshTsh Pectoral

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James believes that everything about life is art; that the many facets of life such as raising children, building a home, the means by which we sustain ourselves, and how we engage humans and other life forms is all part of our creative being. He notes that if we treat life as art then it will become that much more satisfying and we will eventually create something very special. James’ art is a reflection of his life’s journeys, and as his life evolved into different stages for various reasons, so did the artwork that manifested from his hands. James chooses to live his life through individualism rather than conformity, and realizes the power of free thinking as his creative path.

Fire Ant Ring

Fire Ant Ring

As varied as his life has been, James’ art has taken him from painting, to stained glass, to now sculpture and jewellery. He also moved back to the Yukon from Vancouver Island to open a book store, and spent eight years as the largest bookseller of esoteric cult books in Canada. This last venture was at a time when James wanted to create a new culture for Whitehorse and shake things up a bit. He wanted to give people a chance to step out of their comfort zone and learn about other cultural, spiritual and philosophical teachings.

Feral Anima

Feral Anima

Although he is open to all ideas and is just starting to work on his own designs, his jewellery and sculpture creations primarily follow a particular niche. His jewellery focuses on talismans and amulets but his knowledge of western esoteric cultures and world religions goes into all of his artwork. James’ inner creation cannot help but extend to his artwork, where his curiosity for the foundations of his work impels him to research, source and manufacture his own materials as well as wanting to know what the process is; how things were made, why they were made and what sorts of materials were used. Whether quarrying the stone he is about to carve or learning the history of stained glass and how it was made, James’ foray into any creative endeavour always means being involved in all aspects of it. This can be no more true than in his jewellery making, where he ethically sources his own gemstones, does all his own castings, makes his own metal sheet and cuts his own wire. James notes that it is very much alchemy for him, having to know the process and then being able to apply it with skill.

Check out our interview with James below and feel free to share on social media and leave a comment:

Arlene Ness Explores Art Through Culture

Arlene Ness Explores Art Through Culture

Our destination for today was the Gitanmaax Reserve in Hazelton, B.C. where we were meeting with Gitxsan First Nations multi-medium artist Arlene Ness. Driving into this scenic area we were struck by the imposing mountains and lush forests with their breathtaking, resplendent autumn colours! It was easy to avert my eyes occasionally to glance up at them, if only for a second. Suddenly, flashing lights in our rear view mirror suggested we were now getting a police escort by the friendly RCMP of this quaint village; we didn’t even know they were aware of our arrival! As I snapped out of it I realized that I had missed a school sign during one of those brief sight-seeing moments, and the police officer’s intention was not one of fanfare. Luckily he gave me a warning and sent us on our way. Without further delay, but well within the posted speed limit, we were once again on our way to Arlene’s place to get to know this diversified and prolific fine artist.

Arlene in front of her Grizzly stained glass

Arlene in front of her Grizzly stained glass

Arlene says that she has been creating art in various mediums ever since she was a child. From following her mother’s and sisters’ examples, to loving high school art classes, to seeking expertise and education from renowned teachers, to undeniably her own drive and initiative, Arlene has never shied away from pursuing art forms that intrigued her. Life inspires Arlene, and depending on what peaks her interest be it her mood, the seasons, her family or nature, she may indulge her creativity in carving masks, stained glass, jewellery, paintings and drawings. She has even undertaken the enormous task of carving totem poles under the tutelage of master carver Earl Muldon. How does one person manage to spread her creative energy around to all of these disciplines and excel at them, on top of raising four children and teaching First Nations fine art at the community college? From what I observed of Arlene she has this zen-like calm about her and knows how to set boundaries and balance her life so all aspects work in harmony. With her art, she doesn’t try to force her creativity in any one direction, but rather she takes guidance from her environment, embraces how she feels and lets it come to her. She is the proverbial water flowing around the rocks.

Hummingbird Dreams

Hummingbird Dreams

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The beauty of Arlene’s fine art transcends all cultural boundaries. Her style reflects the traditional Northwest Coast Native Art form lines which she maintains strict adherence to when working on art forms of the crests and symbols of other clans. When working on her own family’s crest and symbols she allows herself more freedom to include her own contemporary designs and interpretations. She is of the Giskaast clan; the traditions, stories and ancestral knowledge being very important to her, and it is her desire to pass down that knowledge to future generations. Her art work is an expression of herself, her culture and of the love she has for her natural surroundings and all its inhabitants. Seeing one of Arlene’s beautifully carved masks, for instance, invokes curiosity about the meaning behind it, and one does not have to be of Gitxsan ancestry to appreciate the story it tells or marvel at the craftsmanship. Though the oral history of each clan (adaawx) that is shared with succeeding generations is of primary cultural importance to the clan itself, the art that Arlene creates is the physical heirloom of her ancestry but is there for all of us to appreciate and enjoy.

Learn more about Arlene and her art as Corinne chats with her. Feel free to comment below and share on social media.

The story of Copperhaired Woman in "The Return" above can be found on Arlene's website

“The Return”


The story of Copperhaired Woman in “The Return” can be found on Arlene’s website

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Morgan Saddington – Ancient Artistry Stands the Test of Time

Morgan Saddington – Ancient Artistry Stands the Test of Time

Often when we think of technology we think of it occuring largely in the 20th and 21st centuries. Technology is merely an advancement of something based on scientific principles. So imagine a technological advance made 1600 years ago that is still in use today. Chainmaille was a technological advance commonly credited to the Celts. Today what comes to mind is the Middle Ages or Medieval Period with the knights, princesses, valour, honour, jousts and of course chainmaille armour. Although we no longer use armour in our society, at least not in the sense of fighting battles, chainmaille is still in use today for things like cut-resistant gloves for butchers and woodworkers, shark resistant wet suits and, in the case of our blog, as a statement of fashion in the form of jewellery.

arts-quest-morgan-saddington-portrait1

arts-quest-morgan-Saddington- Sooke-knit

Morgan Saddington lives in the Cowichan Valley region of Vancouver Island and like many people she wanted to explore her innate creativity. Her first passion was photography but due to her lifestyle circumstances at the time it wasn’t going to be a fitting choice. She started out buying beads and components to assemble jewellery and later became interested in silversmithing which gave her the ability to hand-make every piece for her designs from start to finish. When Morgan kindly agreed to an interview I was anxious to hear why it was chainmaille that was the primary component of her jewellery designs. My own imagination “swept me off my feet” as I began thinking about The Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Guinevere! As it turns out, chainmaille was simply happenstance for Morgan and part of her art education. Alas, my fantasy was dashed! But seriously, Morgan found her niche and has been creating gorgeous jewellery ever since.

arts-quest-morgan-saddington-Japanese-Bracelet-Square- Bead

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Morgan primarily uses traditional chainmaille patterns with signature clasps and pendants that give her designs a unique perspective for the modern jewellery era. Her pieces are an elegant combination of ancient history blended with avant-garde. The clasp and pendant designs remind me of miniature shields that could have been fashioned after that which may have been used in a joust or to protect the face of a knight. The sterling silver used to make the chainmaille is all hand cut and then linked together by hand, one by one, to form a pattern. Morgan loves the contrast that chainmaille lends to her jewellery. It has strength and yet it has flow and movement that is wonderfully appealing. Her pendants are inspired by nature and embrace a simplicity that I just love. They are hand cut copper pieces. The surface is scratched, a layer of gesso is applied, then she uses coloured pencil, a spray fixative and finally comes a layer of micro crystalline wax. This can be repeated for up to 8 layers depending on the effect Morgan is looking for.

arts-quest-morgan-saddington-textured-oval-kinky-O- earrings

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As you probably have guessed by now, this is not a creative outlet for the hurried. Morgan loves the meditative feeling that creating her one of a kind artistic adornments give her in the making of each piece. Please join us as Morgan talks more about her jewellery in her video interview. Don’t forget, we love comments and share all you want with social media!

Elegant Jewelry Inspired by Nature, Handmade by Ayelet Stewart

Elegant Jewelry Inspired by Nature, Handmade by Ayelet Stewart

Ayelet Stewart is a goldsmith and the owner of AYDesigns. We first spotted her fine craftmanship at King’s Point Pottery in Newfoundland. Prince Edward Island was to be our last new province to visit on our way back west and luckily for us this is where we found Ayelet. We contacted her for an interview and she kindly accepted. Connected to her house, Ayelet has a wonderful little gallery which is bright and uncluttered. Each piece of jewelry is displayed as if it is the only one in the room, so I could easily admire each piece as I wandered through her gallery.

Ayelet Stewart

Etched Designs

Enameled Pendants

Silver Bracelet

Over the years Ayelet has had some important influences in her life that have helped to shape her own style. She did her Master’s degree in Japan and has had the priviledge of learning ancient techniques and cultural designs. As well, having the Atlantic ocean, with all it’s magic and mystery, a few steps away from her backdoor has captured her imagination and she has been able to encapsulate it’s beauty within her designs. These two influences have enabled her to fuse an exquisite union between the Japanese designs and her love of nature. Primarily, she does this by using silver as her base material along with gemstone accents and then applying techniques such as etching and enamelling with powdered glass.

Jewelry is very personal for most people. For me, I wear my wedding rings and usually no other pieces. I have a box that contains jewelry that used to be my grandmother’s and now is a collection of my memories about her. It is also the home to other special pieces like the handmade bracelet Gary bought me many years ago. I love the simple beauty of Ayelet’s jewelry and I could see myself owning a piece one day. She brings out the best in the materials she uses to make her creative ideas come alive.

Etched Silver and Enameled Earrings

Please take a closer look at some of Ayelet’s handcrafted jewelry by clicking the images below.

Be sure to watch Ayelet Stewart’s interview below. Comments are always appreciated. Thanks.

Bodacious Beads for the Body and Soul by Andrea Symons

Bodacious Beads for the Body and Soul by Andrea Symons

The heartbeat of the human spirit is creativity. Many of us tend to think we aren’t creative but it is an element that is woven into the very matrix that makes us human in the first place. Sometimes it takes several attempts when exploring our own creativity before we find what “does it” for us.

Andrea Symons in her studio in Pemberton, B.C.

Andrea Symons is the first artist that we interviewed as we resumed our trek across Canada and she found her creative addiction in lamp work. Simply put, lamp work is a technique used to manipulate molten glass with a torch into beads and vessels. Every chance she gets, Andrea has been working on her art for the last eight years and there is no doubt she loves what she does. She lives in Pemberton, B.C., where even the most passive creative person would succumb to the beauty that is beholden here.

Andrea exudes a vibrancy that is expressed in her beads and she is quite willing to go down any road to explore new and exciting challenges. The day we met Andrea she was wearing a bead around her neck in the shape of the female torso. I never knew glass could look so sexy! Later when we were in her studio she shared with us the story of her friend who looked at her female torso beads and said “she’s not doing anything”. So after some discussion and some laughter, Andrea set out to put her female torsos to work and now you can find some of them wrapped around a pole. These are very popular with women who use poles as part of their exercise regime. Imagine that!

Bead Inspired from the Coastal Peoples Influence

On a more serious bead note, Andrea has wandered into the world of the Coastal First Nation peoples motifs and has given her own interpretation and style to a glorious series of beads. Her relationship with the people she knows and nature sets her inspiration on fire and it burns right into her beads.

Be sure to watch our interview with Andrea and a little demonstration on lamp work. As well, we welcome you to leave a comment for Andrea.

Behold Rocks Bejewelled

Behold Rocks Bejewelled

The day we were to head to Campbell River to meet Darlene Ngo and Barb Akelaitis was marginal at best. Our earth mother decided to serve up a little snow that day and although Arty was wearing his winter boots we just weren’t sure what his reaction to the slushy stuff was going to be. We set out anyway on the island highway along the east coastal side of Vancouver Island hoping to catch a glimpse of some picturesque vistas, but it wasn’t to be as a blanket of grey hung all around. We did run into the best gas price this side of Alberta at $1.14/l and were happy to squeeze in every last drop that Arty would take.

Queen Charlotte Agate

Epidote in Quartz

It was dark by the time we landed at Barb’s house and Darlene hadn’t quite arrived so in the mean time we chatted with Barb and her husband Anthony. Barb and Darlene have been working together, along with Keenan, Darlene’s son, for several years and formed a business called Rocks Bejewelled after they each gained their own fervent interest in rock hounding and lapidary work. I love it when people are so passionate about their creativity whatever it may be. It means when you make a personal connection with someone’s art form you can be sure their life energy, love and care went into making it and it really becomes long lasting and meaningful for the person who takes it home.

Red Jasper Cabachon

Shortly after we arrived, Darlene came in and we got down to our interview. This was the first interview that was planned on the part of the artist before our arrival. Barb had systematically laid out a story for us starting with some examples of the local geology and then leading through the step by step process after the rock has been plucked from its resting place on the beach or river bed and turned into a beautiful adornment that can accentuate someone’s neck or ears. They introduced us to some glorious examples of what nature has created and how, through their desire to learn, they gave themselves the skills to transform a plain unsuspecting rock into brilliant and awe inspiring jewellery. Barb even went so far as to incorporate some of her favorite stones into the tiled work around her kitchen counters. We could easily see Barb and Darlene’s appreciation for the rocks and the enthusiasm for sharing their knowledge with others. It was a fascinating journey they took us on and Gary and I thank them for taking the time.

Dumortierite

Please be sure to watch their instructional “Journey of a Rock” video interview and we welcome any comments you may have.

Ruthie & Doug Shewan – Jewellery and Gemstones

Ruthie & Doug Shewan – Jewellery and Gemstones

As children we are always fascinated with the wonder of our surroundings. Any eye-catching object that we can get at is not safe from our exploring appendages. I know for myself that in addition to the buckets of snakes I would catch and release (sometimes in the house!) when I was a little kid, I would also walk the beaches and river banks finding rocks and even pieces of wood that had unique shapes and colours. Why not? As kids our responsibilities and obligations are relatively few, so we had the time to let our imaginations soar. It is our preeminent time of discovery and creativity. So what happens after that? Education, work, family; as beneficial as they can be, can temporarily dry up the creative juices we enjoyed as children. It seems that the only phase in our life that could afford us the same freedom to explore those options once again is in retirement, where we get to go back to being a kid again with no rigid commitments of school, working or raising a family.

Doug and Ruthie Shewan’s retirement plans have enabled them to do just that. Discovering stones and beads with beauty and historical fascination is a passion of theirs that takes them to Quartzsite, Arizona for four months out of the year to not only savour the southern climes, but also to seek out new finds for their collections of beads and precious stones. These acquisitions will lead to the design and making of magnificent necklaces, bracelets and pendants that we have given a glimpse of in our interview and photographs with them.

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Doug and Ruthie tell of the compelling history of beads that were once touched by people in the 14th century and beyond to pre-Buddhist times over 2500 years ago. The brief clip below shows two such rare beads that Ruthie and Doug had acquired.

The first one is a Venetian Millefiori bead with a very unique, hexagonal shape to it. Not knowing much about it at first, they had it authenticated by a lady that lives high up in the Sierras in a gold mining camp with her husband; both of them very knowledgeable. They knew beads like this were made but had never seen one before. Upon further research it was discovered that this particular bead had only been made in the one colour. The Venetians were leaders in Lampwork, which is the process under which this bead was produced. This extraordinary bead was framed by two smaller rectangular Millefiori’s, Russian blue faceted beads and 16th century cobalt Dutch Dogan beads, which are gorgeous when the light hits them!

The second bead is an ancient Tibetan dZi bead that pre-dates buddhism and is carved from Agate stone, then etched through a chemical process with heat. This bead has “eyes” on it in a three and two pattern around it. The older ones are becoming quite prized and expensive to collect. This bead is featured with red coral and copper to accent it, a nice way to display a collectible item such as this.