Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Cauldron of Orange and Black

What is it about these two colors that makes us think “Halloween”? - pumpkins with flaming eyes and scary smiles, black cats with arched backs and spiky fur, autumn leaves rustling between our feet, the pale full moon with inky clouds scudding across it. Although my search of the interwebs produced numerous theories about orange symbolizing life energy and the harvest versus black representing death, the following information (from seemed plausible:

”Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, Britain, Scotland, Wales and northern France, celebrated their New Year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.”  

For a few years now, I've celebrated the change of seasons from summer to autumn by making a special piece of jewelry at Halloween-- one year I collaborated with other artists on a project, last year I did a spooky little sculpture that keeps evil spirits (or at least horrible artistic mistakes) from my workbench.  

“Something Wicked This Way Comes” – polymer clay and wire

"All Hallows Eve" – October 2009

This year since I was invited to do a guest post for LMAJ, I decided to do a necklace with colors that reflect seasonal tones but that would be more wearable with the addition of other colors as well. I decided to incorporate an interesting find from a local antiques mall in my design-- a large snake of old mother of pearl 1” diameter buttons, all in different pearlescent colors. I could see them as the base for a large focal so I used a mold I made from a found object obtained from an Etsy seller from Lithuania, The original metal piece had a fabulous patina which went with my palette so I mixed up some gray-tinted ivory polymer clay, unmolded it and cut out the voids, cured the clay and then applied heat set oils (Genesis), acrylic paint, gilders wax and colored pencil. The centerpiece was a jet beaded Victorian button I found at another antiques store. I added some gorgeous agate drops with quartz rounds and Czech glass rice beads.  


Original metal object from Alchemyshop

Focal in polymer clay with beaded Victorian button center

Needing a kick of color, my stash produced some faux amber lucite beads that were a gift from my sis last Christmas, which added the pumpkin color to the neutral palette.  

I raided an unfinished necklace for some Tibetan dzi agate beads in blacks and oranges and added some andalusite rounds from Lima Beads.

Following the tribal theme from the MOP buttons, I found some bone beads bought at a neighborhood yard sale and included them. Since I had strung the heavy buttons on a length of annealed steel, I needed to cover the ends so I made a couple of polymer spacers and used the same technique as on the focal to blend them into the overall palette. No clasp was needed since the necklace was long enough to slip over my head. Now it just needed a name!

“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

Polymer clay, mother of pearl buttons, agate, Czech, dzi and bone beads, andalusite

As for earrings, I remade a couple of antiqued polymer impressions I made a while ago, adding internal connections of annealed steel and some links from a Michaels find with sterling silver handmade wires.

“Pumpkinhead” earrings – polymer clay

From me, Christine Damm of Stories They Tell, everyone have a safe and fun Halloween! Hang in there all of you out there in the Hurricane Sandy disaster area – help is on the way! Our thoughts and prayers go out to you all.


Artisan Beads Plus said...

Absolutely, Fabulous! What a talent you have :o) Thanks for the history too!!!

Julie Holmes said...

Beautiful work! I am continually amazed at what can be done with polymer make it look otherworldly! Happy Halloween!

Alice said...

Fabulous! I love the necklaces, and your wicked little guy is so cool! Thanks for sharing!

Barbara said...

Your work is always so inspiring Christine! Thank you for joining us!

Kelli said...

Wow!! Love the earthiness of the pieces!!

Cindy said...

Christine, I've been anticipating what your creation would be this year as I've enjoyed your special Halloween/seasonal pieces from years past. You sure gathered some real finds create your necklace - I like how you found a button here and another piece there....and that you used vintage/antique finds to create this year's piece. The focal you made really has such an aged look to it - the way you achieve those layers is always so magical to me. And the button in the center is the perfect accent! I happen to love these colors together and I know I'd go out of my way to find clothes to wear with this beautiful necklace! And the Pumpkinhead earrings are really great - love the entire design!

Stacie said...

love what you created here!

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