Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fire Mandala

"Fire Mandala" is my submission for this weeks Thursday Sweet Treat challenge, "The Warmth of the Fire Within".

The peyote ring forms that are the base of this pendant are a design element I've been using in many of my pieces in the last year or so; the sunburst worked in "hot"colors seemed appropriate for "The Fire Within".

But as is so typical for me, a simple ring seemed inadequate and I added the smaller center ring and realized I had created a mandala!

Here's some information on mandala's from the Mandala Project:

"The word "mandala" is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean "circle," a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself--a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.
Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.

The "circle with a center" pattern is the basic structure of creation that is reflected from the micro to the macro in the world as we know it. It is a pattern found in nature and is seen in biology, geology, chemistry, physics and astronomy. "

The additional "arms" somewhat give the appearance of a compass - perhaps it's really a guide to find that fire of creativity within myself!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring Beauties

I finally finished another page for my beaded herbarium; the flowers are spring beauties, one of the first wildflowers to bloom here on the Island and they're not blooming yet, as it's still quite cold. They push themselves up through the leaf litter and gently sway in the breeze, in various shades of pale pink, purple and white.

I printed the inspiration photo onto silk and then bead embroidered over it. This was my first attempt to duplicate birch bark in beads; I'm relatively pleased with the results.

Here's the inspiration photo:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Small and Dainty

Near Grand's tennis courts, a drift of early spring bulbs are in bloom - a variety of blues and purples, all small and dainty bits of beauty.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Getting My Hands Dirty - The Results

Last night was the final night of pottery class; we met at the kiln for a grand unveiling of all the varies work produced:
Here's that strange fungal thing I've been working on:

And a few of my other projects.

Nothing turned out exactly as I envisioned, but overall I'm pleased - it was a great learning experience and an opportunity to work with different materials.

With any luck we'll have another class next winter and maybe get to try out the wheel and learn some new techniques... and everyone wonders why I look forward to winter!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just a Little Sole - Part Three

Cork Sock-maker, a cutter of soles of cork for shoes.

The Dictionary of Trade Products, Manufacturing, and Technical Terms: With a Definition of the Moneys, Weights, and Measures of All Countries, Peter Lund Simmonds, G. Routledge, 1858

The coverings of cork soles are put on by women with sewing machines. A good hand, we were told, can make eight dozen pairs a day, and is paid eighteen cents a dozen. I suppose it requires at least a day to cut out and baste on the covering of that number; so the compensation is not as great as one might at first suppose. Some can baste five dozen a day, and could stitch from twelve to twenty dozen a day. Girls are paid 10 cents a dozen for basting, and 6 cents per dozen for stitching them on machines. A cork-sole manufacturer in the upper part of the city, pays for basting covers on, 10 cents a dozen. Some women baste five or six dozen a day. It requires care and a little skill. If not properly done, it is almost impossible to stitch them correctly. He pays 6 cents a dozen for stitching, and an operator can stitch from twelve to twenty dozen a day. He has often sold two hundred dozen in a year.

The Employments of Women: A Cyclopaedia of Woman's Work, Virginia Penny, Walker, Wise & Co., 1863

I prepare thick cork soles and heels, hooped or not, round the edge with leather or gutta percha coated with an adhesive surface, to attach to boots, shoes, or galoshes for wear during wet weather. Any of these descriptions of soles and heels I prefer to ornament by printing or stencilling various designs with adhesive cement upon the wearing face, and applying thereon either coloured flocks, powdered colours, metal powders, or leaf.

The Repertory of patent inventions [formerly The Repertory of arts, manufactures and agriculture]. Vol.1-enlarged ser., vol.40, 1854

A pair of men's cork soles offered on eBay.

No. 13,286.—William Johnston, of Brooklyn, (E. D.) N. Y.— Improvement in Cork Sole Stuff.—Patent dated September 29, 1857.— This improvement is described by the inventor as follows : I construct the cork cloth of cotton muslin, silk, leather, or other suitable material, which material is stretched on a solid frame ; on the surface of the material is laid a priming of boiled oil, over which I sift a quantity of fine pulverized cork, and press it in with rollers before the oil is dry, and allow it to remain some time to dry. I then apply another coat of oil and sift another quantity of fine cork over it, which is pressed in as before, repeating this process until I obtain the substance required. The pulverized cork is made by grinding solid cork in a burr stone mill, or any other that will reduce it fine.
The claim is thus stated : I claim the making of cork cloth by the aforesaid process for inside soles and lining of boots, shoes, and other articles for which solid sheet cork has hitherto been applied, using for that purpose the aforesaid materials, or others substantially the same, to produce the same results.

Senate Documents, Otherwise Publ. as Public Documents and Executive Documents: 14th Congress, 1st Session-48th Congress, 2nd Session and Special Session, 1858

No. 34,437.—Henry L.yon, of Brooklyn, N. Y.—Improved Cork Sole for Boots and Shoes.—Patent dated February 18, 1862.—Cork being ground or cut into small pieces, is mixed with gum-elastic dissolved in oil of turpentine or otherwise; this composition is spread upon cloth having a facing of soft gum-elastic; the sole being cut from the cloth is placed inside the boot or shoe, to which it firmly adheres.
Claim.—The improved water-proof cork sole made from fine or granulated cork, as set forth in this specification.

Report of the Commissioner of Patents, United States Patent Office, 1864

The following is an interesting reference, does she mean soles made as above? Or is the “cork meal” loose inside a sewn insole? In either case, they were not what she expected.

“I went into one shop, a shoemaker's, to buy a pair of cork soles for my boots. The man did not seem at first to know what was wanted, but afterwards he brought forward some which he said were lined with – “Cork made into meal,"—pounded, I suppose he meant. They were the only things I could find, so I was obliged to buy them.”

Journal Kept During a Summer Tour for the Children of a Village School, Elizabeth Missing Sewell, Appleton, 1852

And here is a reference listing some prices:

As the Hydromagen is becoming more known, its sale is increasing to an almost incredible extent. Last year, in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, Leeds, Dublin, Paris, Antwerp, Hamburgh, and Berlin, our sales reached 1,732,450 pairs of cork soles. This year the number will far surpass that.
Ask the Faculty their opinion of their value as a preventive for coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma and consumption.
The Hydromagen is offered, by retail, at the following prices: Mens’ size, per pair, 35 cents; Ladies' size, per pair, 30 cents; Boys' and Misses' sizes, 25 cents.
NoticE.—From the retail prices, we make a very liberal allowance to jobbers and wholesalers, so that any storekeeper may make a fine profit on their sale, while they are an article that may be kept in any store, among any class of goods.

The Southern Business Directory and General Commercial Advertiser: Vol. I., John Paul Campbell, Walker & James, 1854

The above references tell us that more than one type of cork sole existed:

1.) Soles cut from solid cork, then covered with fabric. Eliza Leslie refers to “cork soles covered with flannel”, flannel during the period usually referring to wool flannel. Wool flannel would aid in keeping the feet warm and dry, which appears to be the main use of cork soles.

2.) William Johnston claims an improved method, cork cloth, for which “solid sheet cork has hitherto been applied”. The cork cloth consisting of ground cork pressed with boiled oil and applied to fabric, etc. Other makers follow similar procedures, using a variety of substances. This type appears to have been used only as insoles, as there are mentions of “gum elastic” and an “adhesive surface” to keep them in place inside the boot or shoe.
Based on the dates of the references, both types one and two were being produced within the same time period.

3.) Maybe a third type (but I’m not totally convinced) consisting of loose cork inside a fabric sole. While these might conform to the foot, it seems there’s much potential of sore feet if the loose cork moves about.

We also can tell that cork sole manufacture was a viable industry, with improvements in production and equipment actively being pursued. If an advertisement can be believed, at least one producer sold over a million pairs in a single year!

Coming soon – Part Four: Modern resources to recreate mid-19th century cork soles.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Boys are Back in Town

On Mackinac, the horse is an integral part of life, as cars were banned in 1895 and that ban continues today. During the height of the season there can be upwards of 800 commercial horses and also quite a number that are privately owned. Just like the majority of Island employees, most of the horses get the winter off and they spend the winter in the Upper Peninsula. They start to come back shortly after the boats start to run; the horses come over on the ferry just like the rest of us.

They don't much care for the trip and tend to be pretty skittish as they're assembled on the dock. After a winter spent primarily out to pasture, they're shaggy, dirty and smelly.

The team on the right is a reminder of what they have to look forward to - back to work!

And these are draft teams, not riding horses, they're big!

Off they go, to be cleaned up, assigned to a driver and another season on Mackinac!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Signs of Spring

I spotted my first crocus today, down near the boardwalk; it was backed by a brick wall, which must have held the heat and allowed it to bloom a bit early.

A less typical harbinger of Spring: businesses are beginning to replace the signs they removed last fall to protect them from the harsh winter weather.
One of my favorite's opened last night, Seabiscuit. It was packed with people, lots of hugs and greetings to people we've not seen for months. After six months of only three choices of restaurants, it's great to have something new!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Just a Little Sole - Part Two

So why use cork for soles? Here are a few reasons:

Cork Soles for Shoes and Boots.
Cork, being a non-conductor of heat, is an excellent preservative of warmth in the feet when laid along the inside of shoes or boots, and it is so light that no inconvenience is felt from using shoes soled with it.
Common things of every-day life, by Martin Doyle, 1857

Shoes and Boots.—With reference to the plan of wearing cork soles, which we omitted to speak about, we have lately seen a new plan of inserting the cork sole, which certainly to our mind obviates many of the objections to the old plan. The leakage through the stitching of the upper-leather is prevented by a course of double stitching, which renders the upper-leather more secure than before, whilst guarding against the possibility of wet getting to the foot. The lightness and effectual resistance to wet would seem to recommend this plan far before the heavy leather soles, for those who have much walking in all weathers; but cork is liable to break easily at the edge in wear. Pegged shoes are now common and have much in their favour; they admit of trimming at any time. The author has adopted them for years, and prefers them to the sole-welted, stuffed, and stitched. This plan is American.
Hints for pedestrians, by Medicus. New (3rd) ed. By G.C. Watson, 1862

and a very wordy advertisement:


Principal Warehouse, 102 Wood Street, Cheapside, London, England.
American Establishments, 38 Ann Street and also 102
Nassau Street, New York, United States.
The Hydromagen is a valuable discovery for protecting the feet from damp or cold, and therefore a preventive of many lung diseases, without any doctoring whatever, The Hydromegen is in the form of a sole, and worn inside the boot or shoe. Its medicated character is a powerful antidote to disease.

For gentlemen, it will be found agreeable, warm and healthy, to wear in the coldest or rainiest weather, as the foot cannot become wet if the Hydromagen is inserted. Ladies may wear the lightest soled boot or shoes in the most inclement weather with impunity; while consumption, so prevalent among the young of our country, may be thwarted by their general adoption. They entirely supercede overshoes, as the latter cause the feet to perspire in a very unhealthy manner ; and, besides, are not dangerous wear to pedestrians in icy weather, like India rubbers. While the latter cause the feet to appear extremely large, the Hydromagen, being a mere thin slice of cork prepared, peculiarly placed inside, does not increase the size of the boot, or cause the foot to appear untidy. To children they are extremely valuable, as they may engage in exercise with comfort and healthy effects. Their expense is so slight as to scarce need mention ; besides, those who patronize them will find their yearly doctor's bills much diminished thereby.

The Southern Business Directory and General Commercial Advertiser: Vol. I., By John Paul Campbell, Published by Press of Walker & James, 1854

Now, my favorite giver of advice, Miss Eliza Leslie (she has an opinion on everything isn't afraid to tell you so), disagrees with the opinions given above:

"When you go out to tea, even in a summer evening, carry a shawl on your arm to throw over your shoulders before coming out into the night-air. This will preclude the necessity of borrowing one of your friend, should the weather have changed and grown cooler. Also, to prevent any risk from damp pavements, take with you a pair of over-shoes, (India-rubber, of course,) or else a pair of inside-soles, such as you can conveniently slip into your pocket. We have found no inside-soles equal to those of lamb-skin with the wool "left on the upper-side; the under-side of the skin being coated with India-rubber varnish to render them water-proof. These soles are both warm and dry, and are far pleasanter than cork soles covered with flannel, and more lasting. But if you are obliged to borrow things to wear home, see that they are sent back next morning, if not the same evening, and in good order—the shawl well-dried from the damp, and folded smoothly, and the over-shoes cleaned nicely."

The Behaviour Book: A Manual for Ladies, By Eliza Leslie, Published by W.P. Hazard, 1853

So, what do these selected references tell us?

1.) Insoles were definitely worn inside boots and shoes by both men and women. Cork being quite common, but at least one reference to treated lamb-skin. Good news for those of us who could use a bit more arch support than is supplied by reproduction shoes - but it doesn't make Dr Scholl's correct!

2.) Cork soles were considered healthy, helping to keep the feet warm and dry.

3.) A bit of vanity/fashion - they could be worn without being visible or causing the foot to appear larger.

I did find reference to a couple of additional uses, as an aid to those with one leg longer than the other to equalize the gait and to add height - vanity again!

Part three: Manufacturing: who and how were cork soles produced?

Coming soon!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Just a Little Sole

It started with a pair of slippers my husband agreed to crochet for me, the pattern being similar to the following:

This was not the first pattern we had encountered calling for a cork sole, but no pattern gave any instruction for forming the sole or exactly how to attach such a sole. A bit of correspondence with others experienced in needlework yielded no answers; obviously some research was in order!

First I found this, from Profitable Plants: A Description of the Principal Articles of Vegetable Origin Used for Food, Clothing, Tanning, Dyeing, Building, Medicine, Perfumery, Etc, by Thomas Croxen Archer, published by G. Routledge and Sons, 1865

Cork, (called commercially Corkwood).—The outer bark of the Cork Oak (Quercus Suber, Nat. Ord. Corylacea).
This very useful substance is formed by the tree between the outermost and innermost layers of its bark; it consists of a peculiar cellular mass, the individual cells of which are distended with a curious grumous secretion, which hardens and dries, and forms the substance of the Cork. When the Cork Oak is nine or ten years old, the outer bark splits and the second layer grows, and increases very much in bulk by the constant secretion of the corky matter: this would fall off naturally in nine or ten years, but is usually removed when six or seven years old. The removal is effected by cutting a slit through the bark from the top of the trunk to the bottom, and a transverse one at each end; the cork will then easily peel off; it is afterwards removed, in large curled-up pieces, to properly prepared pits ; here the sheets are piled up one upon another, and heavy weights are placed to flatten them down; water is then let into the pit, and the cork left to soak for a time, it is then taken out and dried, and retains its flatness. Its use in making corks for bottles is very generally known; it is also used for a variety of economic purposes, amongst which cork soles for shoes, making life-buoys, etc. The imports amount to 2520 tons, an enormous quantity of so light a material.
Just a Little Sole Part 2: So why cork soles?
Coming soon!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bonds of Love

This pair of bracelets were my submission for the Thursday Sweet Treat challenge, "Love Stikes".

They are loom woven, and include an Edwardian technique I've not tried before - the center braided portion is done while the piece is still on the loom, by lifting and braiding the warp threads. It's actually much easier than it looks, the toughest part is lining it all up again, so as to complete the final solid portion.

I completed the loom work quite some time ago, but just couldn't decide how to finish the ends and add a clasp. I ended up adding three clasps, well , what can I say, the Edwardians thought if a little trim was good, a lot was even better!

So what do these have to do with love?

Starting and ending together (with any luck!),

running in parallel and twining round each other;

stuck tight in the meantime,

such are the bonds of love....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

On a Clear Day...

The sky and water are both a variety of brilliant shades of blue - beautiful!

All the ice still piled up - not so much.

This was taken at the observation deck at Arch Rock, looking north. It was so bright and clear this afternoon, just delightful for walking and I for the first time in months, didn't wear my heavy parka. Maybe, just maybe, Spring will finally arrive....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Found Art

This past year, I've noticed that a number of people visiting the Island have been inspired to create temporary art from found objects or objects from nature:

This piece features a metal hub washed ashore many years ago, with scavenged bits a metal inserted.

This is an ambitious structure near British Landing, it's nearly ten feet long - "Arch Rock West"? I can't wait to bike out and see if it survived the winter.

These two are more modest in scale, but still compelling:

I have to wonder if these artists were inspired by Andy Goldsworthy, an environmental sculptor who uses the natural world to create an art form. He explores and experiments with various natural material such as leaves, grasses, stones, wood, sand, clay, ice, and snow. The seasons and weather determine the materials and the subject matter of his projects. With no preconceived ideas about what he will create, Goldsworthy relies on what nature will give him. Goldsworthy "feels" the energy from nature and transcends that energy into an art form.

Because of this fleeting quality of nature, Goldsworthy uses photographs to document his work. "Each work grows, stays, decays- integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its height, marking the moment when the work is most alive. There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image. Process and decay are implicit."-Andy Goldsworthy.

I first became aware of his work when I watched the DVD "Rivers and Tides" - I highly recommend it!

I've been mulling over some ideas for creating my own work and look forward to discovering new pieces created by other visitors this season.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Variations on a Theme

I'm frequently asked why I started beading and who taught me.
As to why - I have been collecting vintage clothing since my early twenties and I started attempting ( emphasis on attempt, those first efforts were truly pitiful) to create reproduction clothing in 1994 and I wanted appropriate accessories to complete my outfits.
As to who - it was the venerable firm of Trail & Error, especially heavy on the error!

Here's my very first beading project:

The pattern is from a republication of the Priscilla Bead Work Book, originally published in 1912. It's described as "A sunflower centre surrounded by morning-glories, nasturtiums, sweet peas and opal ground combine to make this very handsome bag." The pattern was intended to be knit although it is suggested that it could be adapted to canvas work. With over 30 colors of beads, it was not the ideal beginner project!

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to find and purchase a bag obviously made from the same pattern.

Over the years, I've seen about half a dozen bags made from the same pattern, all just a bit different from each other and even more interestingly, not ONE of them followed the pattern exactly; everyone changed things, some more, some less so. Was this due to personal choice? Or was it a case of "this is what I have to work with"? For me, it was just not knowing any better; I made some really poor choices in bead selection, but I ended up with a usable bag, so it wasn't a total waste. I learned so much and I may someday replicate this bag again, just to see the differences some experience can make.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dragonfly Waltz

This is my submission for this week's Thursday Sweet Treat challenge "The Joy Of Dance"

This piece allowed me to combine many of my interests, including the observation of nature, an avocation shared by the Victorian and Edwardian ladies whose daily life I love to study and strive to recreate, and beads, of course.

Hair ornaments "en tremblant" or tremblers were extremely popular from the 1850's through the Edwardian period, especially when dancing, as they would gently flutter and catch the light as milady moved.

Picture the scene: An elegant lady, in full evening dress with up swept hair, held in the arms of a dashing gentleman; they waltz round the ballroom and moving with them, an equally elegant dragonfly in perfect time with the music.

Well, a girl can always dream....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting My Hands Dirty - Part 2

We finally produced enough items in pottery class to fill the kiln and do a firing. I was pleased to find that my odd little fungal inspired piece survived in one piece, none of us were sure it would survive, especially as all the pieces had to be transported to the kiln via snowmobile on rapidly deteriorating snow.

Last night, I glazed it:

The kiln will, with luck, transform the colors from pallid pastels to vibrant orange and red, to mimic the fungal forms that sprout in the woods each fall.

I had a bit of extra time and was basically doodling with clay, here's the result:

A pile of worms, a crazy bird nest....

I'm just not sure!