Sunday, June 24, 2012

HIstorical Meaning

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....

 The 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.

You need not look any further than your own personal religious beliefs to find beautiful symbols. To expand on this idea, consult historical and religious texts or references to find variations of symbols through out history. In addition to the traditional symbols, look for other symbolic references in the stories of different religions, in example the rainbow in Christianity or the Hamsa in many different religions.

Indigenous cultures and tribes throughout the world often used symbols in their writings, weavings and jewelry. Research into different groups can not only inform your work but also enlighten you about art history!


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!

5 comments:

Marian Hertzog said...

Interesting post. Thanks. It is nice to have some meaning to what we create.

Artisan Beads Plus said...

Thanks for all of the information and inspiration, Barbara :o) I remember researching the history of beads a couple of years back and found that research very interesting. I think I'll check out religious-symbols.net and see where it takes me.
MaryAnn

Cathy said...

Thanks for sharing this great post. It’s very enlightening.
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mairedodd said...

great references, barbara and a wonderful topic - symbols do infuse work with a power that connects us to times and people before us... our emotional experiences are so universal -
i have beer's 'encyclopedia of tibetan symbols and motifs', but i also love learning about animal totems, runes, etc..

Stacie said...

I have a big symbol book that I often refer to...and I am a huge lover of pictographs and petroglyphs too...great post!

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