Monday, February 25, 2013

Collier Hanami - Cherry Blossom Viewing Necklace
  This month has flown by for me. I have been pondering February’s Art BeadScene Challenge which is to create something inspired by a certain artist’s work using art beads.The artist for February is a woodblock print by the artist 吉田 (Yoshida Toushi). The title of the specific piece chosen by ABS is “Hie Jinja”, created by Yoshida-san in 1941. This particularshrine 日枝神is quite famous and treasured by the people of Japan.
Although I’ve never visited this particular shrine, it was in a nearby shrine in 1989 where I first heard the word, お母さん(mother), spoken in context. I will never forget a certain moment during my first trip to Japan after studying Japanese for two summers. I can remember each detail of my flash of comprehension, an “aha” moment for me, when I heard a frantic, desperate child running through the crowds calling “okaasan!” over and over. In this instant the many lessons on humble and honorific language came together for me. She had lost her mom, but thankfully before anyone needed to rescue her, she was found.
It was also an emotional moment, I wanted to help the little girl, but of course I was still very unskilled in my stage of using the language. I felt just about as helpless as that lost child. At the same moment I was hit by a determination that still today spurs my drive to continue to learn more Japanese.はい!がんばります!

pear tree blossoms from my neighbor's yard
This time of year Japan is celebrating or getting ready to celebrate the tradition of 花見(hanamiflower viewing. 
Friends and family take time away from the cares and routines of everyday life to gather together to chat, eat, drink and generally enjoy one another’s company while sitting under the cherry trees in full blossom.

This must have been the time of year depicted in Yoshida-san’s image.Strolling, feeding pigeons, admiring the blossoms on the branches all around; it seems like a magical moment.
raw clay, an example of my technique of using mostly transluscent canes over metal leaf
When I finally had time to make my dreams of meeting the ABS challenge into reality, I began by using a new resource.I made several leaves using the “Floating Leaves” tutorial by Sandra McCaw in my new book on claying,Polymer ClayMaster Class .I mixed clay colors in the palette found inYoshida-san’simage to use in the leaves.
After making the patterns for Sandra-stye leaves, I chose a blossom-shaped shell bead I’ve had in my stash for years. I sanded the reverse side of the the bead and drew the scene of a mom and child feeding pigeons. 
After spraying the image with a mat fixative, I decided to sacrifice a special bead made by my sister, Nancy Buchanan,for this project.Her bead is made of Fimo, and is a faint pink color with a design that reminds me of a semi-precious opal or mother of pearl.She had sanded it to a brilliant shine.I placed my painted blossom on her oval bead for my focal piece.
Sandra's floating leaf pattern under my blossoms and pigeon canework
After this, I fell back upon my favorite technique, millefiori, making 3D images with colors of clay.I also use oil paints for the fine lines in my canes.Here is a variety of canes pushed together in my new favorite tool, my simple slicer.  
my favorite new tool, simple slicer
My husband drove to Lee Ann Armstrong’s home last Christmas Eve to buy one for my present, and I have enjoyed using it so very much! This tool helps my slices be uniform and paper thin. Oh, I love using my nearly translucent canes on metal leaf for a painterly effect that is pleasing to me. It simply fills me with joy to make canes like this.  
almond blossom cane
almond blossom canes in various sizes after reduction
   I intentionally used many of the same blended colors of clay chosen for my Sandra McCaw patterns in my blossoms and pigeon canes so that they would blend well together in my next step.

I decided to make Sandra’s leaves my own by adding my special pigeons and blossoms on one side of the leaves and by giving them my wavy shapes.I cure my pieces on glass bowls and such to give them a shine and a wave.
Finally, I put the entire assembly together using sparkly glass and metal beads in harmonious colors. I make my own findings from silver plated wire.I added a touch of ribbon to the neck for a soft, comfortable closure.My jewelry designs must be comfortable to wear above all else.

My intention to learn and teach Japanese language and culture all these years has affected how I do many things.  I like to think of my designs as a haiku, capturing a moment in time, ephemeral, and full of natural elements.  
  I also like to see the negative space and strive to incorporate this into my designs. Here's a bit of trivia for you... I try to avoid using four of anything in a row without a break of some kind.  This is because the Japanese word for death and the number four sound the same.   
my mess of a work table
I’ve become OCD over this idea while beading.  You can look and look and never find four of any sort of beads in a row in my pieces.  じょうだんじゃないよ。

a precious gift from a young Japanese lady
One final comment, my last name, the one I took from my husband, Palumbo, is synonymous with the word “dove”.  I had been quite proud of that meaning during my first few years of marriage.  Oh, and the idea that doves are a symbol of peace was icing on the cake for me.  Another lesson I learned on my first trip to Japan is that doves are just pigeons 鳩(hato).  I do love the sound that pigeons make, but the idea that Palumbo in Japanese simply translated to “pigeon” was quite a humbling thought for me. 





  1. What a lovely piece, Jill! It's visually complex and compelling! I particularly like how you connected the elements. Of course, it's all the more meaningful with the telling of your connection to Japanese culture. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hello Jill,

    I love the whole story of your February Masterpiece! Your anecdote of the little lost girl, the cherry blossoms, the techniques you've used... It's such a magic necklace and one can feel that your whole being went into it and that there is a story behind it. Love it; it's magic!

    I can't wait to see your March project!


  3. I don't know how I've missed seeing your blog before now. Into the RSS feed it goes! Such a lovely piece you've created here, Jill. And I'm laughing about your last name, though. My previous married name (and that of my children) translates to "turkey". Yeah, that's a great one to have.

  4. I agree that this is a magical piece of jewelry with an amazing story surrounding it's creation. Can't really say that there is even a focal bead here...they are all one of a kind joys.

  5. What a great piece of Art! Full of sentiment.
    Friendly greetings from Finland <3

  6. Oh, this is so nice and very informative too, Jill. Very interesting.

  7. Loved the post, but your polymer work is exquisite. I had no idea it was polymer when I saw it. I thought it was some kind of painting on abalone! Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. This is such a beautiful piece!! Very inspiring!

  9. coucou Jill, je decouvre votre magnifique travail, cette colection est sublime, a plus

  10. Oh, my, the piece is exquisite - and your story... I can't have enough of it!

  11. Hello my friends,
    I'm so thrilled to find your comments here. Thank you so much for the kind thoughts and encouraging words!