27 October 2013
24 October 2013
“oh rowan tree, oh rowan tree, thou’ll aye be dear to me."
As mentioned in my previous post, I have long held a fascination with the mythical-mystical Rowan tree. How funny then that I find myself living side by side with this fellow native European on a land that is not quite our own.
Indigenous in varying sub-species throughout the cool, temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the true Rowan (aka. sorbus aucuparia) goes by many names including mountain ash, quickbeam, bird-berry and witchwood. The folk-name of Rowan itself comes from the Old Norse ‘reynir’, meaning ‘to redden’.
With its symbolic bright red berries each with a tiny five-pointed star, the hardy and versatile Rowan tree held a long tradition of sacred-magickal connection among ancient peoples across Northern Europe.
Rooted (no pun intended) in Norse mythology with the rescuing of Thor from a river torrent by the goddess Sif in the guise of a rowan, the tree became inexorably linked to its supposed protection against lightening and unfavourable forces. From this the practice of hanging rowan branches over the doors to house and barn for such protection can easily be understood. By extension a miniaturised version was made by taking two small rowan twigs and binding them with red thread into an equal-armed, solar cross and carried about one’s person, most often then being sewn into clothing.
Further mythology surrounding the rowan appears in ancient Greece where the eating of rowan berries was reserved only for those times when giving respect and honour to one’s ancestors (Halloween feast, anyone?).
Curiously, both in ancient Greek myth and Ojibwa legend the rowan’s feather-like edged leaves and bright red berries are referenced as being linked to the blood of birds, and one wonders whether this has anything to do with the interaction of early peoples and their migratory journeys. Certainly the rowan-berries favouritism among many bird species was long exploited by human hunters.
For the esoteric practitioner Rowan can be harnessed in a plethora of ways from sacred firewood and incenses, wand and stave-making, to a variety of edibles and beverages all to the purposes of inviting benevolent familiars, spirit guides and elemental creatures to one’s aid. In particular for the poet (and indeed I would imagine all wordsmiths), Rowan was believed to enhance creativity and set the creative process flowing.
Even putting aside all this rich mythology and folklore, the Rowan has been proven to have had very practical uses that can still be explored today.
Its dense wood is used for carving and turning, for tool handles and walking sticks, sled shafts and rake spikes. The fruit was once a traditional source of tannins for mordanting vegetable dyes, including that of the Rowan bark itself that was used to dye wool brown or red.
Long considered a wild food staple for both human and livestock when a wider variety of indigenous fruits were commonly eaten, Rowan bark can be used in a number of herbal folk remedies including a tincture to treat fevers. High in vitimin C, the berries can be preserved as jam or jelly, and are useful for treating sore throats and tonsillitis. Meanwhile modern homeopaths use extracts of Rowan to treat eye irritations, neuralgia, gout and spasms of pain in the uterus, bladder and heart.
// further reading
The Master Book of Herbalism, by Paul Beyerl
A Compendium of Herbal Magick, by Paul Beyerl
A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, by Ellen E. Hopman
The Complete Pagan Herbal, by Anna Franklin
18 October 2013
Green on green toned drawstring pilates mat bag, handmade using an assortment of leftover home-furnishing fabrics including velvet, cord and brushed cotton suedette. Referring to and with inspiration from patterns and instructions for similar yoga mat bags from Amy Butler and BurdaStyle, I loosely followed and adapted them to create a much needed carry and storage bag for my chunky pilates mat. Happy now...
15 October 2013
// edit // Prints from a curated selection of these are now available to purchase in a variety of sizes and formats via my Society6 store. It is my hope that these images will add a little touch of nature into people's homes, offices and other living spaces, and in doing so invoke some inspiring energy to your days. Please take a moment to check the print shop out and, as always, thank you for your ongoing support - it is truly appreciated. xo, B
12 October 2013
With interests in costume design and improvising with reclaimed materials, my browsing eye caught the attention of Kate MacKay and Di Jennings book, Alchemy Arts: recycling is chic earlier this summer, appearing at quick glance the perfect combination of these two things.
Bringing it home I discovered a fascinating little wearable art book that was not so much about step-by-step instruction (though many projects are included) as it was about sparking ideas when approaching your own costumery projects. Collaborating with a dozen designers from across the globe the authors combine tales of mythical creatures and ancient customs with tips for creating ethical statement fashion.
// antique bride & madam butterfly
Definitely aimed at the more experienced craft-seamstress, Alchemy Arts: recycling is chic contains some 40+ clothing and accessory projects that have been divided into seven categories grouped by source material.
Admittedly among them are many projects that in their entirety I would most likely never create other than for those rare high-days and holidays (such as the gorgeous Madam Butterfly costume shown here), there were also many smaller projects that I would reference in constructing more everyday and functional items (such as repurposed hand-warmers or record bag). All the same, what I did like about the more fanciful costumes though were the techniques used in their construction which could be transferred to my own assembled creations.
// the illustrated dress of raven mary
Even more interesting were the entertaining stories that accompanied each project, both from a historical point of view that told the fascinating social history behind the chosen garments and also the artists own explanations of why they were drawn to work with discarded and second-hand things. With these tales my own enthusiasm is also fuelled...
Overall, though I initially borrowed (and repeatedly re-borrowed) the book through my local library system this summer, I will definitely be looking to add Alchemy Arts: recycling is chic permanently to my personal collection of craft reference materials as I explore creating my own assemblage and wearable pieces.
What are some of your favourite wearable art and costumery reference books? I'd love to hear your recommendations.
kindly note, this post contains affiliate links that when clicked on will result in my receiving a small return if you choose to purchase // this does not alter your experience but does help to support this blog, for which I am very grateful // see my policies + disclaimers for more info, thank you
09 October 2013
It's been a long, long road travelled for me, but I think I'm going to finally call this one complete.
Although I experimented with some minor details and embellishments even they felt 'too much' and almost frivolous alongside these strong characters. I like that there is still more to see if you look closely, like the whispers of other spirits. I like also that these characters are loose and undefined, allowing the viewer to interpret their shapes as they feel them to speak. I love their mercurial qualities! I have been researching these characters as I see them and there is so much overlapping medicine in this that to garnish it with more details would dilute the strength of it.
All that remains for me to do is to neaten the edges and then it will be ready to hang in my space here. When I look at it I feel complete and whole, and that is a good sign.
And here it is in its' entirety...
...to view the full journey of my painting's progress with commentary, you can search the blog using the tag #visualquest, or browse the gallery of images only over on Ipernity.
06 October 2013
03 October 2013
Inspired by the luminous pink, copper-spotted suede sunglasses case I made earlier this summer, I used the same basic process as before to make a simple little slip-cover to protect my new Samsung Galaxy tablet.
This time however, I used the freezer-paper technique to create a guide for actually punching holes into the suede that would allow the bright inner felt to be seen through. The nice little aesthetic bonus of this is the lovely texture it creates as you run your fingers over it. And in case you're confused when reading the instructions, I punched the holes into the suede first before gluing it to the felt piece.