Tag Archives: judith altruda

Living on the Edge/Torre Del Greco

Christ the Redeemer statue at the marina entrance, Torre Del Greco. Photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

Torre del Greco, a comune of Naples, sits in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius. Up until the early twentieth century, it was a resort for wealthy Italians and tourists seeking to climb Mt Vesuvius. Today it is a gritty, blue-collar town, not concerned with packaging itself for outsiders, which is quite refreshing. We went there to meet an online friend from the sea glass world, Rebecca Di Donna. She and her husband, Paolo, invited us to their apartment for a late lunch after we finished seeing Pompeii. Dennis and I got back on the Circumvesuviana and rode a few stops down the line, toward Naples. We got off the train at Torre and started walking toward the Marina, somehow managing to get lost even with directions.

 

 

Being “lost” is a good way to find your way around!

As we walked through the town I thought about its close neighbor, Herculaneum. Once a city of wealth and prestige, it was completly destroyed when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A. D.  Torre del Greco was lucky that day-spared by the gods, so to speak. Natural disasters are kind of personal to me. I was living in Washington state when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, and remember the uprooted forest trees stacked like pick up sticks and mountains of volcanic ash along the interstate. Thirty years later I still live in Washington state, on a beautiful peninsula that happens to be in a tsunami zone. With proof that an earthquake and tsunami wiped away much of the area in the 1700’s, we live with the knowledge that its “not if, but when”. Still, we go about our daily lives and try not to obsess about the future too much (at least I don’t). Is that how it is to live here? I wondered, as we walked by signs of past volcanic eruptions.

Lava flows following the line of the building and street from an eruption in 1862. photo by Rebecca Di Donna

Times change, of course, but the basics of everyday life; eating, drinking, working, praying go on. Like their ancestors, the modern inhabitants live their lives within the shadow of an active volcano.

Food For The Soul

The fertile (volcanic) soil produces the most flavorful produce and wines, which we were about to experience firsthand at the lunch that awaited us- but we were still lost.

The olive market, photo by Rebecca Di Donna

Fresh artichokes!

Roasting carciofo (artichokes) street vendor, photo by Rebecca Di Dona

The Coral Museum

There is a coral museum in Torre that I really wanted to visit, but it was closed the day that we were in town. The most beautiful coral comes from the nearby Mediterranean sea, and an industry sprang up here in the 1700’s producing cameos and jewelry from the vibrant red and orange branches.  Coral has been used for adornment and worn as a protective amulet for centuries. On a personal note, I have always loved coral ever since I was a teenager and a package arrived from Italy containing a box of Altruda family jewelry.

The cameo’s and broach belonged to my great aunts. There were seven coral amulets, worn by my grandfather and his siblings when they were children.

The residents of Torre del Greco are called corallini, in reference to the cameo and coral jewerly industries located here.

 

Commemorative postal stamp, literal translation “processing of the coral, Torre del Greco”

Maybe next time?

As we walked toward the Marina (the long way, I’m sure), I had to stop to photograph the details we passed along the way. I was hoping we would find Rebecca’s apartment before too long, as we had already walked miles on the hard paving stones of Pompeii. We were ready for a glass of wine and a snack!

The influence of Egypt was popular centuries ago in Pompeii, and today, in Torre del Greco.

Doorknockers are one of my favorite things to photograph!

One of many neighborhood shrines.

The influence of religion and ritual are very much alive here. Street processions, singers, submerged statues in the marina for protection- yes, protection would be very much on the minds of people at any time in history who lived here.

The End is Near

Marina view at Torre del Greco

At last, we found their apartment address and rang the bell. No one answered. Two boys from across the street watched us and then came over. They confirmed that our friends lived here, and then they rang as if that would produce better results, but no dice. Not sure what to do next, we walked over to a nearby bench facing the harbor, and sat down. Very soon a man on a Vespa rode up and asked if we were Judith and Dennis. It was Rebecca’s husband, Paolo. They had been looking for us!

Pranzo Fatto a Mano

Near the entrance to the apartment

View of the harbor with the statue of Jesu, as seen from their living room. Not pictured: Mt Vesuvius-it was too cloudy.

We were brought upstairs to the top floor apartment of a six-hundred-year-old building. Rebecca and Paolo, whom I had never met in person before, seemed like old friends. As with other people I have met from the sea glass world, we already had a lot in common. Soon we sat at their table and had the beautiful food prepared by Chef Paolo for our lunch.

Fried peppers and tomatoes, cooked in locally produced olive oil.

Fresh mozzarella di bufalo, olives, bread, and wine, all from the local area. What more does anyone need?

Bread baked that day at their local bakery.

They fill their glass jugs at the local cellar with wine from a vineyard near Mt. Vesuvius.

As we sampled the delicious food, conversation flowed like the hearty Vesuvian wine. Paolo, who is from Capri, is a professionally trained Chef. He had lived in the States for a number of years, and was working at a restaurant in Santa Barbara when he and Rebecca met. They hit it off, married, and moved back to Italy about five years ago. Our visit included a show and tell of sorts. I showed some of my sea glass and ancient coin jewelry. Rebecca, an artist, showed us some of her mixed-media pieces hanging on the walls of their home. Her creativity overflows in everything she touches, be it painting, photography or lifestyle. Many of her photos of everyday life are included in this post. Thank you Rebecca!

Privacy screen glass, once used in bathroom doors and windows, turned into sea glass and found on the beach by Rebecca, photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

I drooled over her Italian sea glass and pottery collected on Capri and all over the Mediterranian. Of course, we had to do some trading!

 

Grazie Mille Rebecca and Paolo-ci vediamo lánno prossimo!

Before it got too dark, Dennis and I started back for the train station. This time we had better directions and made it there in about ten minutes. We got on the train for Sorrento, tired, content and happy. We could not stop talking about our visit, rehashing Paolo and Rebeccas’s incredible hospitality.  I will definitely return to Torre del Greco on a future visit to see the coral museum. Hopefully next time the sun will be shining so I can actually see Vesuvius!

Next Post/Amalfi Coast

Vesuvius as seen from their apartment-photo by Rebecca Di Donna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Ruins/Pompeii

After a rainy night in Sorrento, we woke early the next morning and walked to the train station. Although the streets were dry, I threw my umbrella in my backpack-just in case. We arrived in plenty of time to buy our tickets for the trip to Pompeii and have a cappuccino at the station.

O Sole Mio! (note the tambourine  for tips to the left.)

As we waited for the train to depart, an accordion busker stepped aboard. He placed a portable karaoke machine down by the door and began playing Italian greatest hits. He did not get a good reception from the commuters (too early for accordion music?) and left the train just before it departed with not many euros in his tip jar. I thought about the young boy from the day before ( see my previous post) and the life cycles of a Sorrento street busker. O Sole Mio, Volare, That’s Amore…The man may age, but the songs remain the same.

Pompeii Scavi

The train stops at Pompei Scavi. Right near the station is a place to buy tickets to the ruins, from there it’s a short walk to the site.

What is Pompeii?

Pompeii was once a  thriving city in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius. It had theaters, public forums, bathhouses, brothels, food producers, laundries and more. The population, estimated to be about 15,000, included all socioeconomic levels, from landowners to slaves. Despite the huge differences in lifestyle and social class, all inhabitants were equally defenseless on an October day in 79 A.D. when Vesuvius suddenly erupted. Rich or poor, there was no escaping the torrent of hot ash and pumice that rained from the sky, smothering all life equally.  After that, the city slept for over one thousand years under the ashes.

 

Plaster cast made of a child’s body at the moment of death.

The House of the Golden Bracelet

This golden bracelet (weighing 0.6 kg) was found on the body of a woman inside their richly decorated villa.

We walked down a path that led to the Antiquarium, a combination visitors center and  small museum (rebuilt in 1947 after being bombed in WW2.)  While most of the treasures recovered from Pompeii are housed in the Museo di Archeologico in Naples,  there are some exquisite pieces displayed here, including glassware, furniture, paintings, jewelry, and coins. In sobering juxtaposition to the luxury of these items are the casts of a family who perished during the eruption. Archaeologists dubbed their home the House of the Golden Bracelet, because of the precious piece of jewelry found during excavation.

During excavation at the House of the Golden Bracelet archaeologists found the bodies of a family killed by a staircase that collapsed as they tried to leave their home. Casts were made of the child, man, and baby seated on its mother’s lap in the final moments of their life.

Villa Dei Misteries

After looking at the displays in the gallery, we headed out with the small printed maps received with our paid admission to explore, forgoing the guided tour that was heavily suggested. Pompeii is vast, and there is a lot to see-too much for one day. I wanted to start at the one place that was highest on my personal list-the Villa of the Mysteries.

My friend Dennis had no real tourist agenda and was happy to accompany me to the Villa. Located on the outskirts of the city, we walked along a road where chariots once rolled.  We passed by the Stabian baths, a brothel, the House of the Faun, the House of the Tragic Poet and more, saving these to explore on the way back. Along the way, I did pause to shoot a few jewelry photographs in the of the cemetery of Porto Ercolano, the crumbling tombs, and monuments providing the perfect context for the ancient coin rings.

Larrisa ring, ancient Greek coin, silver, with coral.

Dionysus ring-ancient Greek bronze coin depicting grape cluster, gold, silver, ruby.

 

Along the road that once led from Naples to Rome.

Villa of the Mysteries

There were few tourists around as we neared the entrance to the Villa. The air was fresh with the smell of flowers and the sweet singing of birds. The season of spring infused life and vitality to the sleeping city, a reminder that everything is part of a cycle.

Villa Dei Misteries, frieze depicitng Dioyisian rite.

The walls inside contain one of the largest and most beautiful of all ancient paintings, depicting the stages of an initiation into the mystery religion of Dionysus (The God of Wine). Archaeologists have not been able to come to a complete agreement or understanding about the full meaning of the scenes. Little is known from written sources as the initiates, mostly women were sworn to secrecy. In 186 B.C., the Roman senate banned the mysteries linked to Dionysus-Bacchus, alleging that they encouraged depravity. (Hmm…sounds like a witch hunt to me.)

 

The colors are unbelievably vivid, the photos  I took with the dim available light give an idea of how bright the pigments have remained, even after about two thousand years. Elsewhere in the villa are beautiful examples of the ornamental style painting popular in the time, including a lot of Egypt-influenced imagery. These were beyond the capabilities of my camera to capture, so I am showing just one details here, for the color.

ornamental wall detail

I could not resist placing my jewelry on the beautiful mosaic floor and taking a few photographs.

Ancient Greek coin pendant, with gold, silver and sea glass.

Copper cuff with Roman coin depicting the god Sol (sun).

Ancient Greek nymph coin, with silver, gold, diamonds.

The Walk Back

There were only a few other visitors at the Villa when we got there around 10:00. I felt that nothing else I would see this day could possibly top this experience, and was glad to have been among the first there that morning. We met a lot of people heading to the Villa as we walked back down the road. We stopped to explore to see the previously mentioned sights we passed earlier, ending up at the civic forum.

Pausing at a funerary monument, on the way back to the center.

 

We had a lunch of pizza in the busy cafe, which was now bustling with tourists from all over the world. I really needed the food to get re-grounded after that visit. It was also a good thing we brought umbrellas as the sky began to pour.

The moody lighting and lack of tourists (taking shelter inside) provided more opportunities to shoot jewelry in what would usually be the crowded civic forum.

 

Ancient Greek silver coin, with silver and gold.

Sea glass ring in the civic forum.

Demeter, ancient Roman coin, gold, and silver.

In Closing, a few more shots

In the large theater

Before the rain

By later afternoon, seeing as much as we could absorb for the day, we walked back toward the exit. I will definitely return to see what I missed another time. I will also see Herculaneum on another visit-and Paestum. We still had another adventure in store that day, getting back on the train and heading to Torre Del Greco, to visit a friend, which will be the topic of the next post. Ciao!

Final view of Pompeii dotted with red poppies and wildflowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life is a Banquet~Sorrento

Sorrento, the land of Limoncello

From Naples, we took the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento, squeezing onto the standing-room-only train, suitcases at our feet.  The ride from Naples to Sorrento took an hour. I was glad we were there before the hot summer season approached!

 

The Circumvesuviana, Naples.

When my friend and I were planning this trip, we reserved four days in Sorrento. Both of us had been to Italy before, but never in the South. There is so much to see and do in this area! Of course, four days is not nearly enough. Our wishlists included: hiring a cute driver to take us sightseeing along the Amalfi coast, taking a boat to Capri, going to  Pompeii and Herculaneum, perhaps hiking Mt Vesuvius, seeing the ruins at Paestum, and, oh yes, I hoped to meet in person an online friend and sea glass collector, Rebecca Di Donna, who lives in Torre Del Greco.

When I was a kid, my grandmother often used the cautionary expression  “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”  This adage relates not only to food but to everything, really-especially time.  While I have always slanted toward  Auntie’s Mame’s “Life is a banquet” outlook, sometimes less really is more. My advice to those planning a trip; don’t overfill your dance card. Slow down and savor the details, leave room for the unexpected.

Sorrento

 

Torna a Surriento

When the train reached Sorrento, a young boy with an accordion came aboard and started playing Italian folk songs. There was a plastic cup for tips attached to his battered accordion. I made sure to leave some euros in it as we departed. I would discover on subsequent train rides that Sorrento was a regular haunt of accordion playing buskers, (but more on that later.)

Home Sweet Home

As arranged, In the town square we met Max, who was sent by our air b&b host to guide us through the maze of streets to our destination. After Naples, this resort town felt a bit like Disneyland, filled with tourist shops and higher priced restaurants.  As we followed Max, I eyed the goods displayed in front of stores-leather purses, ceramics, lemon-based gifts, resort fashions, jewelry and more. We turned at a gelato stand and went back from the street to our air B&B. Casa Torino was located above a florist shop in the heart of old Sorrento. It was airy and comfortably equipped, with a full-size kitchen, fold out couch on the lower level and an upper sleeping loft. We had a view down to the street below and could watch the interplay of tourists until a heavy rain started to pour, bringing an abrupt end to the activity below us.

The view from our apartment, rain emptied streets.

Max offered the services of a private driver for an Amalfi coast tour, and to put us on the passenger list for a small boat to Capri if we were interested. We decided to make reservations for both at the end of the week when hopefully the weather would be better. We settled into our new place and then decided to go out and explore in the rain.

We ventured out with those umbrellas bought in Vasto. The late afternoon streets were empty,  many outside displays were covered with tarps. Hungry, we shopped for cibo e vino at the local deli and fruit stands, and yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach!

Life really is a banquet!

 

We returned to our cozy apartment with wine, fresh baked pane, salami and cheese. Tomorrow we would spend the day exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii-rain or shine.

Next Post: Pompeii

 

Two Nights in Napoli

After Vasto, we hopped on a bus and rode across the country from the Adriatic coast to the Bay of Naples. It was a rainy, three-hour ride. I was glad we’d cancelled the car rental and could relax and take in the scenery with no concerns. It was a nice way to transition from the peace of Vasto to the chaos of Naples.

In this post, I will share my experience in Napoli, and highlight a visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.  So if you love ancient art, gritty cities, and pizza-stay with me!

This Is The City

Naples has a reputation for crime, especially pickpockets. I tried not to let the warnings I read on travel blogs make me feel uneasy or paranoid. Well-meaning friends also primed me about various scams perpetrated on tourists, especially in train and bus stations. The day before I left  an acquaintance who had lived in Italy for a few years urged me to buy a money belt, “at least for Rome and Naples.” I chose to forgo the security belts and go with what I was planning to wear-my new Rebecca Minkoff crossbody bag. I feel that once you give into the fear of what might happen, its a slippery slope from there. The anxiety vibes you send out might actually attract the very thing you are afraid of.

Room with a View

We felt a tad uneasy when our freelance taxi driver, (who had assured us he knew the address to our accommodations when we engaged him) stopped to ask directions various times from street vendors in L’Antica part of town. Our uneasiness grew when he suddenly stopped the car, saying “sei arrivato”  in a no-nonsense tone of voice. He got our bags out of the trunk and gestured toward an alley, telling us the place was only a few blocks away, then hurried off.

We rolled our suitcases along the bumpy pavement, feeling very conspicuous as we looked for address numbers on the graffiti-sprayed walls of a dark alley. Vespa scooters wove around us as we walked and the heavy air was filled with the sound and smell of traffic. Children shouted up to laundry-strewn balconies and were answered by adults who peered down at us from above. It did not seem possible to me that we were ever going to find the address, and for a moment I silently wished we had kept it simple and stayed in a centrally located hotel. But we had wanted something “more authentic” and were getting exactly that.

We eventually found it and rang a bell on the outside of an iron security gate. My enthusiasm returned as Marco, our host, promptly answered. Siamo arrivati!  The small apartment where we would spend the next two nights was windowless and sparsely decorated on the lower level but had all the necessities. Upstairs was a sleeping loft with two beds separated by a folding screen and french doors that opened onto a balcony.  Marco gave us some tips on exploring Naples, (warning us not to go back the way we came at night).

First Things First

We headed out onto the Corso Umberto, the main thoroughfare which our small alley opened onto. To celebrate our arrival in Naples, we stopped at a nearby bar for an Aperol Spritz.

Later for dinner, we decided to try Michelle’s, the most famous pizzeria in Naples, which was a short walk from our alley. It’s a tiny place, nothing fancy. Just pizza. Many of the customers order takeaway and sit out on the street curb eating their pizza out of the box. The entire street was swarming with customers, waiting to get close to the entrance. This went on for hours. We decided to try the restaurant across the road and were not disappointed. The pizza had fresh yellow tomatoes and basil leaves with mozzarella di bufala and a great crust. While in Italy we had pizza in every city we passed through, but the memory of this one stays with me the longest.

The National Archaeological Museum

The next day, we visited the Museo di Archaeologico. An incredible museum offering four floors of sculpture, painting, mosaics and other objects from Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the Farnese collection of antiquities. On the day we visited,  a contingent of Star Wars cosplayers were there for a Star Wars memorabilia exhibit on the lower floor, near the Egyptian collection. I wondered what Joesph Campbell would say to that!

Artemeis of Ephesus is a copy made in the Imperial period. She is made from alabaster and bronze. Her hands would have held a ribbon.

Detail of her richly ornamented dress, alabaster.

Mosaics

The collection includes all the exceptional finds from the Vesuvian cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Later in the week, when we visited Pompeii I had a greater appreciation, after seeing these treasures, for the way of life that had suddenly ended when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

Memento Mori, representing life and death as the leveler of human fortunes.

More

 

Detail The Farnese Gems, collected during the Renaissance. Many were made from glass.

Ancient glass vessels

Artist pigments and mixing bowls.

From the Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Room), displaying erotica collected from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Villa Farnese. The Secret Room has been opened or closed to the public depending upon the political climate and morals of the time.

Where Did the Time go?

View from the Museo di Archaeologico.

I did not attempt to photograph much of what I saw, preferring to hold the impressions in my mind, but hope what I have shared here is of interest and inspiring. After the museum visit, we walked around the streets, grounding ourselves by taking in some sights of everyday life.

The dogs of street buskers.

Door knockers are one of my favorite things to “collect” with a camera.

Gambrinus desserts and more!

We took the advice of Ornella and had a caffè and dessert at Gambrinus. It was the perfect way to refresh and get a second wind for more sightseeing.

Next Post: Sorrento

Thanks for staying with me for this many words and images- see you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Things in Life are (nearly) Free

“Will brake for sea glass” photo by Eric Fitzpatrick

Recently I was headed down the coast with my sister to a sea glass festival on the central California coast. Along the way, we stayed a couple nights in Ft. Bragg, to visit world-renowned Glass Beach. This post will include highlights of that journey down Highway 101 through the beaches and redwoods of Oregon and Northern California.

We began in Astoria, Oregon with a thermos of coffee and about a year’s worth of conversation stored up between the two of us.  Our last road trip, the previous March, had been to place our dad’s ashes inside a niche at Forest Lawn.  We had a lot of catching up to do.

 

Netarts, Oregon

Whatever Happened To? 

We hadn’t driven very far from Astoria when we took a side trip to find Lex’s Cool Stuff  in Netarts. We had not seen Lexi since we were living in Sunset Beach, California, way back in the seventies. Back then she made candle holders and other crafts from shards of broken automotive glass and surely must have been at the forefront of upcycled art. Our brother told us that Lexi had moved to Oregon and opened a shop. We found her tiny place on a road that overlooked the sea. Unfortunately, it was closed that day.

 

 

Lex’s Cool Stuff, Netarts, Oregon

Having many miles to travel, we moved on down the highway, vowing to return at a later date. Our drive took us through the towns of Newport, Lincoln City, and Gold Beach with scenic points of interest in between such as Devils Punchbowl, Devil’s Lake and Boiler Bay. Just before spring break, the towns were quiet, the highway uncrowded, perfect timing.

Pt Orford, Oregon

We stopped for the night close to the Oregon/California border, in Pt. Orford. This is a magical little place, with an amazing restaurant and art gallery nestled on the bluff above the small commercial harbor. We took a sunset stroll before checking into our room and then heading to Redfish for dinner. We knew this would be a special dining experience and were so glad to make it there before the final seating of the night!

Daybreak, Pt.Orford harbor

We slept with the sound of crashing surf coming through the open window and woke to a colorful sky at daybreak. We started the day with a walk on the beach as the sun cleared the hills.

 

Beachcombing

Beach at Pt. Orford

Another Roadside Attraction

We had barely said goodbye to Pt Orford and crossed the California border on Highway 101 when we had to stop again-for dinosaurs.

To my sister’s great disappointment, this roadside attraction was closed. We will have to visit the lifesize T Rex and brontosaurus another time, I guess.

We continued south on Highway 101 which offered sublime views as it hugged the cliffside high above the sea before plunging into misty stands of ancient redwood groves. Sprinkled between tiny towns, art galleries and quirky roadside attractions offered everything from redwood burls and bigfoot carvings to monumental metal sculptures and more.

The art of Val Polyanin, it was closed the day we drove by but had a telephone number on a mailbox at the side of the road. Maybe next time?

The Redwood Highway

Trees of Mystery, Klamath, CA. Monumental Paul Bunyon and Babe statues oversee the entrance to gift shop and End of the Trail Native American museum.

We stopped here to stretch our legs and for my sister to buy a redwood seed at the gift shop. The museum is really worth touring, especially if you admire Native American basketry. We drove along the Redwood  Highway, the twisting road flanked by massive trees, dark and moody. It is indeed a “Place of Wonder”.

Ancient Redwood Grove

We stopped to picnic in the LadyBird Johnson Grove.

In  Humbolt county, as we drive through the towns of Fortuna, Scotia, and Garberville, there were ample opportunities to stock up on redwood in many forms for those seeking a souvenir.

Humboldt County

Or maybe something larger?

Bigfoot Country

At the end of a long day’s drive, we emerged onto Highway 1 and reached Fort Bragg at sunset.

Without Further Ado; Glass Beach

Glass Beach, CA

We timed our trip to coincide with the tide, knowing we would have two low tide mornings to explore the beaches. We woke early the next day and drove to the Glass Beach approach. We left our car there and proceeded down to the trail along the bluff. For those who don’t know, what makes Ft. Bragg a major destination for sea glassers is the fact that it had four city dumps located right there on the beach from about 1895 to about 1969.

Our mission was to shoot some of my sea glass jewelry on location at the beach. I did see a few people on the beach picking up glass, but it is highly discouraged by the city of Ft. Bragg, which seek to protect this amazing treasure for all to enjoy. I recommend a visit to the International Sea Glass Museum, operated by Captain Cass. It will give a better understanding of what makes Ft Bragg’s beaches so unique and has well-organized sea glass collections from all over the world on display. As an extra bonus, Captian Cass will mark the best beaches to hunt for glass on the maps for sale in the gift shop.

Sea glass rings by Judith Altruda, at Glass Beach.

Climbing down to the beach, feeling the crunch of sea glass underfoot and seeing the ground shimmer as the sun comes out, is an out-of-this-world experience.

Abalone

Ravens at Glass Beach

Sea glass and Fiesta ware pottery shard

Sea Glass cove

Sunlight intensifies the carpet of glass!

Farewell, Glass Beach

After two days it was time to move on to Cayucos for the SeaGlass Festival, which will be the topic of a future post. And speaking of the future… those attractions that were closed when we passed by? Perhaps just as well, as it gives us another reason to return.

 

Sister Shadows

Tucson or Bust!

Last week I happily left the rain and darkness of the PNW for the dry sunshine of Arizona. It was a sacrifice, but “somebody has to do it” as the saying goes…Destination: Tucson Gemshow!

 Raw Aquamarine, ready to be cut into gemstones-this piece was priced at $4,000.

Raw Aquamarine, ready to be cut into gemstones-this piece was priced at $4,000.

During the later part of January to the middle of Feb, the city of Tucson plays host to gem, mineral and fossil displays that are unparrelled. Huge tents spring up in motel parking lots, or entire floors of hotels are turned into storefronts, rented by vendors traveling from countries all over the world to vend their wares. I talked with ( and bought from) Brazilians, French, Ethiopian,Chinese, Peruvian,and Finnish gem dealers as well as locals from Colorado who mine and cut their own turquoise. I saw buyers from Vienna to Los Angeles (and points in between) buying everything from rocks, to beads and pearls, to finished jewelry.

 Acres of gemstone beads in a rainbow of colors.

Acres of gemstone beads in a rainbow of colors.

 Crystal balls abound-many from Brazil.

Crystal balls abound-many from Brazil.

 Towering crystal sentries

Towering crystal sentries

 Dinosaur and fossil displays are king at the 22nd Street show   

Dinosaur and fossil displays are king at the 22nd Street show  

 A fistful of fire agate

A fistful of fire agate

I’m back home now, the torrential rains of an “atmospheric river” are bringing inches of rain as I write. But I have a sack full of brilliant opals, rare turquoise and Peruvian opal to keep me focused, and memories of clear blue skies and dry desert air to get me through the rest of this winter. If you get a chance to go-DO IT.

 Taking a break in the barrio of old Tucson   

Taking a break in the barrio of old Tucson  

Trippen

labrynth garnet earrings detail Chartres Labyrinth earrings, photo by Marcy Merrill

It seems somehow appropriate to start this  post with an image of recently completed earrings. They represent the sum of my explorations into etching and using Japanese patina on shibuichi alloy-and the image of the Labyrinth, which is etched on the metal surface, is highly symbolic of my own creative quest.

Long used in spiritual rituals world wide, labyrinths can be walked or danced, representing an initiation-a transformative, mysterious and universal awakening into a “universe larger than our inspirations, richer and more complex than all our dreams-it is the call of the larger cycle, the dance of the larger life.”-Helen Curry

labyrinth eaaling st marys

The long anticipated journey to Ireland and England begins this week! I am beyond excited at the thought of exploring Dublin, taking a week long workshop in Celtic Chasing with Brian Clarke, and meeting my sea glass friend Jane  in Newcastle, England. The timing for hunting sea glass couldn’t be better, as it coincides with a Super full moon on August 9th (this wasn’t intentionally planned by me-or was it?!)

I will be taking an assortment of sea glass jewelry with the plan to shoot it on the beaches in England where the glass was found. To see some stunning photography of these beaches, check out the link of photographer Ray Etchells.

Here are some shots of recent work  taken by my dear friend Marcy Merrill in her North Cove Washington studio:

sea candy collection 2 Sea Candy rings in rare shades of Victorian era sea glass with reticulated silver, 22kt gold and small diamonds.

sea candy blue 2sa

bee coin ring ancient Greek coin with honey bee, circa 350 B.C.

labrinyth earring turqs

Labyrinth shield earrings-etched shibuichi with 22kt gold rivets and turquoise.

And…here are two shots from Spring and Summer2014 as featured by Kucoon Designs, Los Angeles:

!cid_C9027FF2-5E8C-4DC6-B7A0-1B4686DD048E@socal_rrCrusader Cuffs-etched copper with sea glass and moonstones, photo by Daniel Jung

kucoon burning man

If you would like to see photos of my adventures, check out my facebook page for updates when on the road-unless that is, I decide to unplug until my return!

Good Morning October!

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It’s been awhile since my last blog post..September has come and gone and with it, the summer season. When you live in a beach town there are definite signs of the season ending beyond the obvious (shorter days, cooler temps)  My neighbors for example- most are summer people, who spend the blissful season here in vintage cottages and deluxe RVs. For about a week or so in August a flurry of activity goes on: cleaning rain gutters, pressure washing porches, scrubbing moss off the roof with bleach, mowing lawns and killing gorse…. All this while I am lying on a beach towel in the back yard reading Yes I Can by Sammy Davis Jr.  I am soaking up sunshine for my internal solar battery. This is an essential part of winterizing for those who live here year round. We wait to clean out gutters, maybe the patio never gets pressure washed, but we are tanned!

We know IT (IT meaning the rainy season) is coming and we face it with a strange sense of surrender and relief. Yes there will be rain and more rain (more on that later) but there will also be peace, solitude, a beach with no footprints….the drama of storms (more on that later) the coziness of evenings spent feeding a fire….

For me, the days are especially great now that the kids have started back to school. Raleigh is a 7th grader, and Sophia is a freshman in high school this year. Both are running on the cross country team and both play in the school band. We spent a lot of time together over the summer and I treasure it. But I am also treasuring these long days alone at home, back in the studio, returning to projects that have been in my mind for too long. Keeping a balance is never easy, but right now there seems to be a good balance between surface level living (keeping food in the house, chopping firewood, picking up the kids from practice everyday) and below surface level~the deepest place of creative dreams and manifesting them.

We’ve already had a walloping three days of rain and wind blow through here. Nearby Astoria, Oregon reported ten inches of rain for September and 75 MPH wind gusts were clocked here over the weekend. Let the games begin!

What follows are some photos taken today in honor of October. It felt great to get out on the beach in between rain and hail showers…

046        025 salmon fishermen

023    020 new cuff I just finished

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Fifteen minutes later a hail storm. Seen from inside my studio….light is from a fishing boat

053  after the squall…sunshine feels extra good!

Hope your fall season is a time of positive transition~I will keep you posted!

places and traces

tokemao

For over thirty years I have lived in this place called Tokeland in Washington state. It has been the longest lasting relationship in my life, not counting my family-none of whom live remotely close to here (but they do enjoy visiting in the summer.)

I came up here from Southern California when I was in my early twenties and found a way of life in a small rural community that continues to evolve. Sometimes I am in love with this place. Other times it is a test of endurance. Fourteen years ago I became a mother. My children, Sophia and Raleigh have enriched my life beyond compare (more about them in a future post.)

Somehow I am managing to raise my two children and still serve the needs of my muse (she is sort of a bitch if I don’t!)

I do love a challenge.

Here are a few pictures of places that inspire the jewelry I make…

IMG_5387    king tide, November 2012.

IMG_6357    IMG_6364

 

The highest tides of the year are called King Tides-we get them in roughly Fall and Spring. This was an 11.5 ft tide as seen from the beach where I live on Willapa Bay.

About three hours by car to the north, on the Olympic Peninsula,are rocky beaches that play host to all kinds of sea creatures. I love the shapes, colors, movement and life on display in salt water pools.As a child I was fascinated by tide pools-still am.

IMG_4899                              ane3

tide pool, Ruby Beach, WA                                                            sea anemone ring

 JUNE 2012015

Salt water rings on a kelp bed-photo by Marcy Merrill, my very special photographer friend who lives in the neighborhood.But more about Marcy in a future post!

Salt Water Jewelry

A beautiful, clear sky this morning in Tokeland. Days like this are too rare for studio work.or computer time…but before I head off for the beach, I would like to share a few very recent pieces of new work with you.

 

IMG_6345                     IMG_6362

All of these are made with sea glass found in the UK. The shapes of the glass are used ” as found”.That means, no reshaping of the sea glass has been done. That makes finding a piece that is suitable for jewelry and has a unique shape a real score!

I love heart shapes.In this pendant, a tiny pale green heart is surrounded with textural silver layers and a rich pink sapphire dangle.

The burgundy red sea glass in the ring is set in 18KT gold, with a small diamond sparkling off to one side.The shape of the sea glass is suggestive of a heart (maybe it’s the color) or a shield- is there a metaphor there?

IMG_6375   Salt Water earrings: I could see  Aceta, the Nereid of the Shore in ancient Greek mythology taking these earrings off and leaving them on a rock to go for a swim….especially on a day like today.

May your day be full of wonder!