Sssssssooo…. how’s about them snakes?

Steve and I found a snake today in our backyard.  He was rather predicatably hiding under my sandbox (meant for castings but not used much since I found out how hard it was to make anything that looked half way decent). We had to move his happy place over a few feet in order to mow the lawn.  Steve went to find a stick and when he came back, neither of us could locate our new-found friend.  We can only hope he slithered to a better (read: underground) space before Steve got after the yard with the lawnmower.  He didn’t look much like this one, but I couldnt’ resist:

silver snake ring emerald

Seeing the small brown grass-snake reminded me of a post I had wanted to write a few weeks ago.  About snakes.  I tend to obsess a little bit about trends (although you could never tell that by looking at me), and I think I am seeing one toward snakes… which makes me happy.  Why?  Well maybe I’m strange (or worked too many years at the zoo), but I think they are beautiful.  Plus, it *is* the Chinese year of the Snake.  And I was born in the year of the snake… maybe that has something to do with my fascination. 

At any rate, it’s very fitting that they should be featured in jewelry and decorative goods.  Back in the turn of the century, the Art Nouveau movement captured them to great effect in staircase railings, necklaces, rings, tiaras, chandeliers, light fixtures, etc.  But what I find so interesting is just how far back our fascination with snakes has gone.  Of course there were the regal cobras featured in the headdresses of the pharoahs of Egypt, but the trend for snakes of all backgrounds and species existed even throughout the early and middle ages, from the heydays of the Greeks and Romans on through the dark ages.  Found in tombs and sacred sites all over Britain and the north countries were fairly large numbers of arm circlets, neck torques, and finger rings making reference to that particular reptile.  

In fact, much like my friend in the yard, snakes really never went away. They just slithered somewhere and hid out for a bit, until another civilization picked up on their simple, graphic beauty. 

These simple snake rings from Etsy are lovely. 

snake crossover ring etsy

The Celts were known well for the cladaugh design of the heart and hands, but did you know about the much more ancient symbol of the orobouros?  This ring design was found in many tombs across the pictish areas of what is now Norway, Finland, Scotland and Ireland.  The rings are being reinterpreted by modern jewelry artists in the same spirit.  Just look at this design; graphic and simple and kind of creepy.  But beautiful.

snake ring silver

Wow.

Let’s brooch the subject

…because it’s winter again, and those wise sages who design sweaters have yet again chosen to deny you and I the opportunity to button or zip our cardigans.  Why why why?  Is there some desperate shortage of buttons somewhere?  Are they being shipped off to help with a war effort that we’re not being told about?  I for one would like to see the airship that’s being forged from mother of pearl, plastic, and balsa wood laminates.  Either that, or the sweater factories are in cahoots with drug manufacturers.  The correlation; if one catches more colds and flus wearing their garments open to the wild winter winds, one is more likely to purchase drugs to cure their ills.  So nefarious, it’s almost believable.

ANYWAY, I digress.  As a person who enjoys meeting these crucial fashion emergencies with grace and aplomb, I go for a large brooch to hold my garments together, thereby gaining the opportunity to express my joy of jewelry while thumbing my nose at Phizer and their ilk.  I made these back in the late 90’s – yes, they are huge and in your face, like the decade itself; bold and overflowing with un-secured optimism.

ThTall broachlapis web broach

This one is aptly called “spider web in the morning” but it’s a bit too brightly plated for any self-respecting arachnid to want.  That was not a good decision.  I should always go with burnished metal…the bright stuff never did suit my style.

And then, there’s this wonderful designer called Alexis Bittar, who was hanging around the streets of Soho selling his wares the whole time I was living in NY and going to jewelry school at FIT.  So how did I ever miss seeing his awesome stuff and how did I not get in on the groundfloor of what has become a handmade, high fashion jewelry empire to rival those of mid-century French fame?  Beats me.  Now I can look at his website and drool over pieces like this one.  It’s not really indicative of his style in that it doesn’t utilize any resin, but the bold, straightforward look is very “Bittar.”

starburst pin

So the next time you see a sweater that you like, even if it’s missing buttons, don’t fear.  Just get one of these babies and you’ll be warm this winter, and hopefully free of cold and flu.  Ew.

smoky qrtz flower pinmop flower pin

Smoky quartz and coral flower on stickpin:  Mother of pearl and carnelian on stick pin.

Designed by Chris Unruh, 2005.

And then there was also Jewelry…

three rings one mold

As so often occurs in the life of many a poor soul, one often suffers the vicissitudes of personal climate change. I don’t know why I felt compelled to share this, but probably because I’m looking to create waves in my own life in 2013 (the good kind, not the destructive tsunami type) that I’m looking back on where I’ve been. As mentioned in a recent Advocate article, I do in fact have a varied (and some might say shady) past including such avocations as jewelry designer, fund raiser, cookie baker,executive assistant, toilet cleaner, and international spy. Guess which one is not true. Shouldn’t be too hard. Then again, if you just exchange the word ‘fund’ for ‘heck,’ then you’d also have a correct answer.

At any rate, I was just reading a post from one of my jewelry loving, rant-obsessed compatriots living in New York who really had a great way with words (not to mention gemstones), http://www.delivermediamonds.com, and it reminded me that once upon a time – oh about 15 years ago – I too made some pretty kick-ass jewelry! I was super proud of these rings, because they got some exposure in a cool store down in Soho. They were carved from a piece of heavy green wax and cast by a small family casting firm on 30th street. I don’t think I kept any, which is a shame, but I do still have the rubber mold…. so am thinking this might be a clue as to where the new year might take me!