Thursday, September 15, 2016

Art Jewelry Elements Autumn Challenge: Trees

I love how life has those serindipitous moments that touch our hearts. Caroline Dewison's post for this Art Jewelry Elements Autumn Tree-Themed Challenge arrived in my blog feed just when I needed it. 

The Inspiration

My favorite images from Caroline's post are framed in this collage:

Trees and forests have always fascinated and comforted me, but they have lately become a great source of passion for me. 

When I retired from teaching and moved to the Oregon coast, I believed that I would be living in a paradise by the sea. Those gorgeous hills of old-growth forests in a state famous for being green. We built our house so that our bedroom windows framed a beautiful, forested hill. One morning we awoke to the sound of beeping and crashing, a sound that has become far too common here . . . the sound of industrial timber turning a diverse ecosystem into another clearcut wasteland. It is impossible to travel along coastal Oregon and not be assaulted by vast swaths of clearcuts, yet another example of  resource extraction for corporate profit. Seeing our diverse old-growth forests disappear at such an alarming rate breaks my heart. For example, the Homesteader Forest. Pictures tell the story.

The photos below show our community watershed. This is right behind my neighborhood. 

This devastation has activated me to advocate for healthy forests by joining a coalition of citizen and non-profit groups that seek to educate Oregonians and push for legislative action to reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act that allows this kind of destruction. A short but powerful video shows this issue clearly: Oregon Forest Voices: Timber's Cover-Up

The Jewelry

Some of you are no doubt saying, "Enough already! Show us the jewelry."  Here is THAT story. 

Caroline Dewison of randomly selected two winners to receive one of her lovely tree beads made from buff stoneware clay and decorated with underglazes and a china painted tree motif. How lucky I was to have won one of these beauties!  (Connection: my great aunt painted beautiful china).

Exciting day when the package arrived from the UK!

The best part of a challenge such as this is anticipating what other designers will create with the exact same component. I spent much time gazing at this beautiful bead and imagining the possibilities for a context in which to highlight it. The more I pondered, the more clear it became that ALL the focus needed to be on this lovely component. The shape and weight of it shouted NECKLACE PENDANT with few competing adornments. I obliged. 

Using brass wire, I created a spiral and strung an antiqued brass bead, a cap, and Caroline's pendant, and then I created a loop with a chunky wire wrap. Luckily, it was a sunny, warm day, allowing me to set up my oxidizing station on my deck. 

The weight of the pendant called for an equally weighty stringing medium, so I chose soft, black deerskin leather accented with old padre trade beads and antiqued brass large-hole beads. I always like to make necklace length adjustable, so I deferred to my usual method - threading both ends of the leather through a trade bead (tight squeeze through that hole) and pulling the brass-beaded ends to shorten it. 

Even though jewelry sets seldom sell as such for me, I couldn't resist a pair of earrings to go with this necklace. Wanting to stick with the oval shape in neutral colors, I wire wrapped an agate briolette and brass bead with dark, annealed steel wire to capture the black color of the pendant trees and trim. I embossed the brass hoops with a tree branch & leaf pattern, domed them, and oxidized them. To be honest, I put the hoops in the oxidizing solution and completely forgot about them for about an hour, which resulted in a very rustic, yet fitting, patina. They feel like they might have been lost for years in an old-growth Oregon forest. Finally, I used brass connectors in a complimentary oval shape, adorned with antiqued brass beads. The antiqued brass earwires are handmade. 

So here is the finished set, which I plan to donate as a door-prize/raffle item for an upcoming event to support responsible forestry practices. 

THANK YOU to Art Jewelry Elements for hosting these challenges and to Caroline Dewison for her giveaway of this lovely bead. Check out the links below for Caroline's shop and for the reveal of other talented designers' creations honoring the theme of trees.