Our Favorite Things

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, adipiscing elit. Huic mori optimum esse propter desperationem sapientiae, illi propter spem vivere. Invidiosum nomen est, infame, suspectum. Fatebuntur Stoici haec omnia dicta esse praeclare, neque eam causam Zenoni desciscendi fuisse. Si quicquam extra virtutem habeatur in bonis. Audio equidem philosophi vocem, Epicure, sed quid tibi dicendum sit oblitus es. Inde sermone vario sex illa a Dipylo stadia confecimus. Duo Reges: constructio interrete. Non enim iam stirpis bonum quaeret, sed animalis.

What is Love?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Fun Facts About Us!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, adipiscing elit. Huic mori optimum esse propter desperationem sapientiae, illi propter spem vivere. Invidiosum nomen est, infame, suspectum. Fatebuntur Stoici haec omnia dicta esse praeclare, neque eam causam Zenoni desciscendi fuisse. Si quicquam extra virtutem habeatur in bonis. Audio equidem philosophi vocem, Epicure, sed quid tibi dicendum sit oblitus es. Inde sermone vario sex illa a Dipylo stadia confecimus. Duo Reges: constructio interrete. Non enim iam stirpis bonum quaeret, sed animalis.

WordPress Resources at SiteGround

WordPress is an award-winning web software, used by millions of webmasters worldwide for building their website or blog. SiteGround is proud to host this particular WordPress installation and provide users with multiple resources to facilitate the management of their WP websites:

Expert WordPress Hosting

SiteGround provides superior WordPress hosting focused on speed, security and customer service. We take care of WordPress sites security with unique server-level customizations, WP auto-updates, and daily backups. We make them faster by regularly upgrading our hardware, offering free CDN with Railgun and developing our SuperCacher that speeds sites up to 100 times! And last but not least, we provide real WordPress help 24/7! Learn more about SiteGround WordPress hosting

WordPress tutorial and knowledgebase articles

WordPress is considered an easy to work with software. Yet, if you are a beginner you might need some help, or you might be looking for tweaks that do not come naturally even to more advanced users. SiteGround WordPress tutorial includes installation and theme change instructions, management of WordPress plugins, manual upgrade and backup creation, and more. If you are looking for a more rare setup or modification, you may visit SiteGround Knowledgebase.

Free WordPress themes

SiteGround experts not only develop various solutions for WordPress sites, but also create unique designs that you could download for free. SiteGround WordPress themes are easy to customize for the particular use of the webmaster.

Singing the Praises of High School Jewelry Arts Teachers

Recently, I was corresponding with a fellow metalsmith and heard the tale of how a high school jewelry arts teacher changed that individual’s life. This is a phenomenal coincidence to me as I owe an unending debt of gratitude to my high school art teach, Ms Helen Howell.

As an undiagnosed dyslexic, I suffered throughout my grade school and high school years. My grades and assessment scores in high school left little doubt that I was not college material. Yet, my first ever official art teacher saw something in my aptitude for color theory, my patience with challenging processes, my willingness to try again and again and again, that made her put that torch in my hand and I was hooked. But more than that she connected with me after I graduated and when she saw I was floundering she helped me get accepted to a state university, metals program.

Once accepted to university, based on the strength of my early portfolio, there came the challenges of paying for it and navigating the academic world, but she got me to the doorstep of my future and happily gave me a shove. And I bless her for that. Decades of jewelry making (and two masters degrees) later, I had my own classes of high school students to consider as I introduced them to metals and jewelry making.

Things had seriously changed since I had attended high school. Classrooms designed for 20 students had become overstuffed with up to 37 students. Budget cuts and misguided administrations gutted supplies, tools, and curriculum. But even with all of that not so positive change there were still young people excited by what they could do with a torch, some tools and some hard work. I can only hope for those of us in the field now, who were started on this path by a great high school jewelry arts teacher, that we have passed on the passion we found to help close this never ending circle.

–pic

 

Historical Roots of Modern Jewelry

For so many women, the gift of a pearl necklace commemorates their wedding or the birth of a child. Few jewelry owners today realize how deeply rooted the gift of jewelry is in the human psyche. For example, some of the oldest evidence of human culture is the 2003 discovery of 75,000 year old shell beads from the Blombos cave on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast.

Alison Brooks, an anthropology professor at George Washington University, is quoted in the Associated Press citing the beads as “an unequivocal argument that people are employing symbols to signify who they are.” Lead researcher for the discovery of the beads, Christopher Henshilwood (University of Bergen, Norway) has said “Beads are a serious matter in traditional societies, providing identification by gender, age, social class, and ethnic group.” These beads in particular indicate evidence for the early origin of modern human behavior and the ability to use language since it would have been essential for “sharing and transmitting the symbolic meaning of the beads…within and beyond the group.” Although, no specific date has been assigned to the first use of jewelry to proclaim a wearer’s wealth or social status, archeologists have established with the Blombos Cave discoveries that this modern activity began at the very earliest stages of human development.

Recognition of intrinsic and symbolic meaning in beautiful materials and natural minerals has led to their constant use from the earliest civilizations to the present time. Humanity has universally turned to jewelry to fulfill its profound desire for self-adornment in service to the expression of identity. Primitive civilizations, separated by vast barriers of time and geography, have consistently fashioned gold into finely crafted jewelry items for the expression of tribal identity.

Consequently, Jewelry has become one of humanities oldest and most contentious art forms. In ancient human society whether a jewel was chosen for its magical powers as a protective amulet, for its natural beauty, or for its indication of social status, it probably always had the quality of being available as currency in a pinch. Few forms of Art have had such a diverse and complex set of uses or such a long history.

The ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Egypt, and the Greek isles have all left jewelry of sufficient quality and quantity to attest to the successful mastery of advanced techniques in jewelry manufacturing. From 3000 to 2000 B.C.E. the technically demanding processes of filigree, granulation, repossé, and enameling were employed in jewelry making.

The earliest introduction of metalsmithing in Northern Europe has been traced to around 2000 B.C.E. with a few splendid items, which would be contemporary with the construction of Stonehenge, still surviving today. Toward the year 1000 B.C.E. there is evidence of wide-spread disruption in the arts throughout the ancient world. Although the threads of direct connection have been broken, there is evidence of continued development and trade of jewelry in the Mediterranean, Western Asia, and Central Europe.

Skimming past 22 centuries of human creativity and virtually ignoring China, India, Japan, Africa, and the Americas, we find ourselves picking up the threads of jewelry history in Medieval Europe. In the Middle Ages of European history (1200-1500 A.D.) anyone privileged to work with precious metals was know as a goldsmith. The term, which comes form the Latin word “Auriflex” (auri=gold, flex=to work) referred to craftspeople who were engaged in the creation of a wide range of precious objects. Large civic and religious items such as altars, gilded gates, jeweled manuscript covers, platters and chalices were at one end of the spectrum with smaller personal ornaments such as rings, chains, snuff boxes, and garment clasps at the other.

The June 1995 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine quoted the curator of the Renwick Gallery, Michael Monroe as saying, “In the early Renaissance, at the top of the hierarchy of artist was the goldsmith.”

During this period there was little separation between fine artists and craftspeople. The growth of the trade guilds in the late Renaissance led to the delegation of specific tasks, which eventually created a separation between the fine artists and the artisan/craftsman. This hierarchal delineation between art and craft continues to plague true artisans in the jewelry medium to this very day.

It was, however, the gem-cutters of seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe who would attain historical prominence by completely transforming the appearance of jewelry for centuries to come. They discovered how the imported gemstones from India and Burma could be elaborately cut with facets. Previously, color in jewelry had been incorporated through the use of enameling, painted miniatures and cabochon gemstones. Faceted gemstones created a dazzling effect as light reflected off the many surfaces, giving jewelry the gemstone centered look that is still dominant in commercial jewelry today.

Throughout the centuries particular styles of jewelry and techniques of making jewelry have increased and diminished in popularity based on the availability of materials, the cost of labor, and the fashion of the time. Amazingly, granulation, which was the height of fashion in the Mediterranean in 700 B.C.E., again became popular in Europe during the 1850s A.D. mostly due to archeological discoveries. This trend continues today with the cable bracelets by designer David Yurman being similar to the bracelets worn by Roman noblewomen back in 100 B.C.E. Discovering the archeological and anthropological roots of jewelry design creates a connection to our collective ancient past and provides both the maker and the wearer with a greater admiration for the jewelry they have chosen.

This article first appeared in the July/August 1995 issue of “Jeweler’s Quarterly” magazine. I am happy to update the information presented and bring this article home to my own website. — Nanz Aalund

Les Bijoux de Tarot: The Jewels of the Tarot

“A symbol really lives only when it is the best and highest expression for something divined but not yet known to the observer. It then compels their unconscious participation and has a life-giving and life-enhancing effect.” – Carl Jung.

In the extraordinary richness and complexity of symbol systems such as the Tarot and Alchemy, we are allowed to see the historical fullness of human creativity. The fascination of these symbol systems is that they resonate with fundamental aspects of our own nature. A symbol system is nothing less than a symbolic map of reality. All great symbol systems attempt to reflect paradoxical truths about the ultimate reality in terms far removed from mundane language. They communicate through metaphor. Alchemy and the Tarot are the symbol systems whose metaphors resonate most succinctly for me.

One of the paradoxical truths that symbol systems address is dualism. Dualism, in philosophy is the theory that in any domain of reality there are two independent underlying principles. Example: dark/light, male/female, thing/nothing, life/death, fear/desire. Alchemy in particular addresses dualism with the allegory of ascendance from a base metal to a noble metal through applications of tests which bring into harmony the dualistic aspects of existence. Being a metalsmith for over 30 years I find the allegory inherent in Alchemy to have profound personal resonance.

I first became aware of alchemical texts when researching the coloration of gold for my undergraduate thesis in Metals at the University of Northern Illinois. In subsequent studies I discovered that Alchemy possessed a rich history. In medieval Europe, Alchemy was a path to spiritual enlightenment through the direct experience of unity in opposite principles rather than blind faith. A powerful medieval church demanded blind faith from the citizenry therefore; alchemy was shrouded in pseudo-science to protect the practitioners from persecution. Equally, alchemical symbols where deliberately cryptic to test the resolve and motivation of the seeker. Alchemy as a practice had itself become dualistic by the late sixteenth century with two distinct views; one was as a natural philosophy which sought to understand God through the great revelations of nature. The second view was more pragmatic, emphasizing Alchemy’s commercial utility.

Several recent scholastic articles have sighted alchemical texts as the historical forerunners to the modern sciences of Chemistry, Metallurgy, and Pharmaceuticals and I have noted these in the bibliography. I have found through my research and through practicing the fine craft of metalsmithing that this duality in the historical nature of alchemy may again be unified. The practical application of information and insight into the revelations of nature become one practice. I have also come to see my fine arts education in the allegory presented by Alchemy. The deliberately cryptic language used in artistic critique has continually tested my resolve and motivation leading me to deeper understandings of my choices in materials, techniques and methodologies. Critique is the application of tests meant to strip away what is base while retaining “prima materia”. Where the practice of Alchemy has provided for me the platform for my investigation it is the history and imagery of the Tarot that has provided the richest soil for creativity.

One way of looking at the Tarot is that it is an attempt to represent the factors which make up human personalities. This attempt pre-dates efforts by modern psychology by more than 500 years and was recognized by Carl Jung in his writings on the collective unconscious and Archetypical imagery. The vitality of a symbol depends on the conscious attitude with which it is received. In themselves the images are meaningless; they acquire “highly potent powers” with meaning only when we grant it to them, by opening our minds to their influence. As this paradox demonstrates, the symbol functions as a psychic mirror in which we perceive our human energies reflected, and, by recognizing their significance, take personal ownership. Once begun, this “projective / reflective” internal dialogue will proceed on a labyrinthine progress which Jung called “individuation”. The Major Arcana of the Tarot is a symbolic map of that labyrinthine progress in the human psyche. Again here is another paradox; for each individual is traveling their own unique path through life yet, the universality is that all paths share one map. The power the Tarot cards hold as archetypal symbols is found in what Jung referred to as “synchronicity” – the occurrence of a meaningful yet acausally related event which might take place during a reading.

The Tarot cards are in effect two decks in one: the 22 card Major Arcana, which have been credited to Arab and Egyptian origin, and the minor arcana, which is the precursor to our modern deck of playing cards, are thought to have origins in India. The Hindu god Vishnu is traditionally shown with four arms holding the disc (pentacle) power of preservation or karma yoga, the lotus (cup) power of love or bhakti yoga, the club (wand) power of wisdom or gnana yoga, and the conch (sword) power of inner realization or raja yoga. Thus the four suits are allegories of the soul’s journey along four parallel paths toward spiritual enlightenment. While I have primarily focused on the imagery in the major arcana for inspiration in my work, the information provided by the minor arcana is also inescapably present.

The third aspect of my research has been to investigate the cross cultural and the millennium long associations of traditional jewelry materials as principle components of symbolism and metaphor. The symbolism of body adornment arose very early in human evolution as evidenced by the recent discoveries of 75,000 year old shell beads from the Blombos cave on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast. Alison Brooks, an anthropology professor at George Washington University is quoted in the Associated Press sighting the beads as “an unequivocal argument that people are employing symbols to signify who they are.” Lead researcher for the discovery of the beads, Christopher Henshilwood (University of Bergen, Norway) has said “Beads are a serious matter in traditional societies, providing identification by gender, age, social class, and ethnic group.” These beads in particular indicate evidence for the early origin of modern human behavior and the ability to use language since it would have been essential for “sharing and transmitting the symbolic meaning of the beads…within and beyond the group.”

The prevailing prejudice for most of the 20th century has insisted that symbols in body ornamentation are simply manifestations of the culture generating them at best and mere vanity at worst, but this one-sided view is both misguided and outdated. I submit that it is through the genome of our species that we inherit the archetypal predisposition of our most primitive ancestors, and it is on these basic, universal, and persistently active themes that individual cultures work out their set of variations and transmit them from one generation to the next. This transmission is conducted through myth, art and religion, with body adornment being the fundamental core, incorporating all three. Hence the worldwide occurrence of rites of passage and the body adornment which accompanies them becomes the means through which the past is reincarnated in the present and handed to the future.  This paradigm offers a basis of understanding when confronted with cultures separated by expanses of time and geography, all ascribing the same symbolic meanings to precious metals and gemstones.

Cross-culturally metals have been given the associated symbolism of the elements; water = silver, fire = gold, air = tin, earth = lead. Then also planetary symbolism; Sun – gold, Moon – silver, Mercury – mercury, Venus – copper, Mars – iron, Jupiter – tin, Saturn – lead, which led to astrological symbolism. The same holds true for gemstones and to list the many associations in this paper would be cumbersome and detract from my thesis. I will offer the findings of my research pertaining to the gemstones with symbolic association to the Tarot since I have utilized some of these stones in the pieces to convey their metaphors.

#0 the Fool – Agate; #1 the Magician (shaman) – quartz crystal or in Native American tradition a tourmaline; #2 the High Priestess – pearl;

#3 the Empress – emerald for the Earth and sapphire for the astrological sign of Tarsus which rules this card and is ruled by Venus; #4 the Emperor – ruby; #5 the Hierophant – topaz; #6 the Lovers – diamonds; #7 the Chariot – twined crystals; #8 Strength – sapphire; #9 the Hermit – blue tourmaline; #10 the Spiral (Wheel of Fortune) sardonyx; #11 Justice – carnelian; #12 the Hanged Man – Beryl; #13 Death – amber; #14 Temperance – amethyst; #15 the Devil – lodestone, square black stone; #16 the Tower – obsidian, lava; #17 the Star – Aquamarine, a stone exhibiting chatoyancy in a star pattern; # 18 the Moon – moonstone; #19 the Sun – tiger’s-eye; #20 Judgement – fossil; #21 the World – opal.

I have attempted to materialize my understanding of these symbol systems through the tradition of jewelry making as ornament and personal identifier. The word ornament originates from ‘ornare; to out fit, equip or adorn, as in military or temple equipment’. Ornament is the fundamental conveyance of beauty and functionality in that it points beyond itself to a greater reality. Ornament functions on an intimate level as it inserts itself between the private or personal and the public or communal space. My work for this collection was directly informed by the space between the opposite principals identified by dualism. The ornament operates as a metaphoric device to prepare the body and to communicate. It draws the attention of the viewer to itself and then redirects that attention toward the greater context in which the ornament performs. The Modernist movement in fine art insisted that “art” have transcendent meaning independent of its context. As ornament, jewelry is radically contingent on and consummates its purpose through context, and ritual, gaining meaning through the “performance” of wear.

My attempts to materialize my understanding of these symbol systems has manifested as a series of two finger rings. The symbolic association of the ring is with the circle as it represents continuity, eternity, reincarnation, the spheres of the sun and moon and thereby the universe. Rings are also symbolic of binding and knots which is why they are still an accepted symbol of marriage today. The form the two-fingered rings took revealed an infinity symbol in several instances. The first investigations of the two fingered ring form were inspired by concepts of jewelry as a defensive weapon, hip – hop fashion and principals from Palmistry. Palmistry is another source of understanding for dualistic paradoxes and their universality in human existence. The human hand is a supreme evolutionary achievement which has made civilization possible. All forms of tool usage, material manipulation, social interactions, business transactions, weights, measures and calculations are all based on the human hand and its ten fingers. With 90 per cent of every human population being right-handed, it follows that the left / right dualistic symbolism associated with this is universal. The symbolic associations of each finger are the most relevant to my work. The first finger has been equated with wisdom, intellectual knowledge and anger. The second finger has, as Pliny sighted in his Natural History, been the digit to express anger and sexual frustration. Since the Egyptian era the third finger has been believed to have a vein that led straight to the heart and thus that finger signifies harmony, community and marital commitment. The pinky finger is symbolic of childhood and imagination. The opposable thumb which separated early hominids from apes is the signifier of the human will.

As my research led me to the property of symbols this project grew so that each ring, it’s placement on the hand and the gemstones used in its creation, refers and responds to multiple aspects of imagery in the Tarot and Alchemy. These rings function in relation to the Tarot and Alchemy much in the same way as a rosary functions in relationship to Catholicism. The metaphoric device is an ornament to be worn as a constant reminder of the principle of inner awareness and transformation that the individual is attempting.

Equally, the metaphoric device is deliberately cryptic to be evident only to the wearer or other practitioners of that symbol system.

Like the symbol systems that informed them the rings themselves are meaningless, they acquire “highly potent powers” with meaning only when we grant it to them, by opening our minds to their influence.

 

Bibliography:

 

Ariadne’s Clue: A Guide to the Symbols of Humankind, Author: Anthony Stevens, Published 1999, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey

The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire, Author: Pamela H. Smith, Published 1994, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey

The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Edited by H. Read, M. Fordham and G. Adler, Published 1978, Routledge, London

The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, Author: George Fredrick Kunz, Reprint 1977, Dover Press, New York

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, Published 1988, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul Minnesota

The Lover’s Tarot, Author: Jane Lyle, Published 1992, St. Martin’s Press, Card Illustrations by Oliver Burston based on the Rider-Waite imagery

A Natural History of Love, Author: Diane Ackerman, Published 1994,

Random House, New York

Merchants & Marvels: Commerce, science and Art in Early Modern Europe, Edited by Pamela H. Smith and Paula Findlen, Published 2002

Routledge, New York & London

Metalsmith: Jewelry, Design, Metals Arts Magazine, Society of North American Goldsmith, Editor; Suzanne Ramljak, Multiple articles from 2000 – 2004 issues

The Secret Language of Symbols, Author: David Fontana, Published 1994, Chronicle Books, San-Francisco

The Tarot, Author: Mouni Sadhu, Published 1973, Wilshire Book Company, North Hollywood, California

Singing the Praise of Art Teachers

Recently, I was corresponding with a fellow metalsmith and heard the tale of how a high school jewelry arts teacher changed that individual’s life. This is a phenomenal coincidence to me as I owe an unending debt of gratitude to my high school art teach, Ms Helen Howell.

As an undiagnosed dyslexic, I suffered throughout my grade school and high school years. My grades and assessment scores in high school left little doubt that I was not college material. Yet, my first ever official art teacher saw something in my aptitude for color theory, my patience with challenging processes, my willingness to try again and again and again, that made her put that torch in my hand and I was hooked. But more than that she connected with me after I graduated and when she saw I was floundering she helped me get accepted to a state university, metals program.

Once accepted to university, based on the strength of my early portfolio, there came the challenges of paying for it and navigating the academic world, but she got me to the doorstep of my future and happily gave me a shove. And I bless her for that. Decades of jewelry making (and two masters degrees) later, I had my own classes of high school students to consider as I introduced them to metals and jewelry making.

Things had seriously changed since I had attended high school. Classrooms designed for 20 students had become overstuffed with up to 37 students. Budget cuts and misguided administrations gutted supplies, tools, and curriculum. But even with all of that not so positive change there were still young people excited by what they could do with a torch, some tools and some hard work. I can only hope for those of us in the field now, who were started on this path by a great high school jewelry arts teacher, that we have passed on the passion we found to help close this never-ending circle.

Smart Fabrication From Start to Finish

Big News!!!

I have been very busy working with the company Craftsy. I have video taped a series of lessons for them. I covered non-traditional stone setting, rivets, and ideation in the lessons.

here is a link www.craftsy.com/ext/NanzAalund_10164_H to get a sneak peak and 50% off of the class!

The great crew at Craftsy have done a fabulous job and it is really wonderful with multiple views of all the techniques.

Sign up, post pictures, ask questions!