by Barbara Bechtel
Throughout history, many religions and cultures have used jewelry as a means of imparting cultural and religious symbols and patterns into their work. However, you don't have to be a world traveler or an anthropologist to find inspiration for your own artisan made jewelry. The internet and your local library offer a wealth of research options to find meaningful and beautiful symbols to inspire your own work....
Here are just a few that have inspired me over the years....
Maasai women have long been known for their intricate beaded designs and body modification. Originally, the delicate beads and their colors came from traditional means such as bone, stone, and horn but lost favor when trading with Europe and they were able to gain access to larger quantities of their now favored opaque Czech glass.
Tradtional Japanese Netsuke and their counterparts, Ojime and Inro, were intricately carved adornments for the obi. Generally serving as a closure (much like a button) for a small pouch, this unique art form is still a popular craft and art form today. Traditionally, they depicted popular animals, deities, nature, and even professions or popular subjects of the day.
Here are some additional references to get you started:
PBS: Craft in America : Not only does this series research the rich history of American Craft; many episodes highlight artists working in traditional methods and symbology of their cultural heritage.
Signs and Symbols in Christian Art: This book is a wonderful reference for traditional symbols used throughout art history. Also a great reference if you enjoy western art history.
Religious-Symbols.net: Is a great basic site that overviews different religious symbols and their meaning. A great jumping point for your research.
If you have any wonderful references, I'd love to hear them below!