Category Archives: jewelry making

Grounded by the Sea

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Grounded By The Sea

I was going to get away with it—again. This time, the destination for the diversion was the beach. Desperate to be pulled away, I ignored the question rising up inside of me. Instead of asking if I should go, I savored the rush as I walked to the fitting room with the $58.00 bathing suit, that I could not afford, but would make me look damn good. Eager to get it on, I placed the hanger on the hook and slipped off my clothes as I drank in the fabric’s tie-dyed design. It was just like a cup of sugary shaved ice that I craved as a girl. I imagined the person behind the counter of the wooden beach shack pouring three flavors at once. The bathing suit was blue raspberry, lime, and grape just before the colors blended together, before saturating every bit of the soft ice. Even though summer was almost over, I was going. Standing tall in the bikini, staring into the mirror, through it, I was already there. As I stepped out of my shoes, I imaged the bottoms of my feet burning on the sand as it radiated heat from the all day sun. Taking in the cold drinks, sea, and hotness, it was going to be heady. I need it! I insisted. Determined be filled up by the beach, I went straight the register and pulled out my credit card. With $73.00 available, I had just enough to get my fix.

That night, as I packed for the trip, I thought about how sexy I’d be, how much he’d want me, and how who he was didn’t spark a thing in me. Still surprised I’d agreed to go with this man, I tried to put it out of my mind as I found my good beach towel that matched my new bathing suit. I looked out the window to the porch as I made my way from my guest bedroom to my own. I couldn’t, he’d know, I thought as I walked toward the suitcase on my bed trying hard to control my craving for a clove. Pressing my tongue against the roof of my mouth, aware of my breath, I needed to brush my teeth. I watched in the mirror as I brushed hard enough to make my gums bleed. I filled my cheeks with mouthwash, forced it around, and enjoyed the alcohol’s effect as it burned me. I held it as long as I could before spitting it out. I was relieved—proud—that I didn’t smoke. I was just as pleased that I’d agreed to take that weekend off. With it all temporarily under control, I was ready to get some sleep. I reached for my night guard and bit down against it; the tightness around my molars reassured me. My dental appliance was nighttime protection against the stress that had ramped up during that summer of 2006. I was ready for a break. I hadn’t had a bona fide beach vacation in well over a decade. In the two days away, I’d not only forget about work, I’d get some respite from all of the cumbersome uncertainties, my problems, that continued to mount and, somehow, were not my fault.

The next morning, I was feeling fresh. Excited to get out the door and on to the beach, I shoved my suitcases into my spotless, still new, car and slammed the door. After checking myself in the mirror, I went for the music. Instead of the usuals: Ani Difranco, Antony and the Johnsons, or Johnny Cash, I popped in a CD that, for the summer, had become my pick. KT Tunstall’s Eye to the Telescope must have been an impulse buy, not my typical choice—in fact, I didn’t really like it. She tried too hard and left little space. It was, in one word, overproduced, yet I listened. I cranked up “Black Horse and Cherry Tree” as she sang “You’re not the one for me,” while I merged onto I-40 speeding towards his house. I didn’t want to think about being “hot or cold”, just HOT—on fire, please! I didn’t want to think too much about any of the lyrics or consider who I was or wanted to be, but I played the song a few times on my way from Chapel Hill to Raleigh before turning it down as I slowly pulled in front of his house.

I wanted him to be the opposite of who he’d been on our first date. Hoping for intimacy, normalcy, not him, I made my way up his driveway and held my breath as I made my wish. Through the glass door I could see him walking towards me with that haughty daft grin on his face. Something happened in my chest (an Aurora Borealis viewing cancelled due to dreary skies type heartbreak) when I realized that the first date version of him would, in fact, be joining me on this rare and precious event. As he opened the door and greeted me, I hoped he didn’t hear as I sighed and flashed a duplicitous smile. Not wasting any time, he brought his things out to the driveway. My heart was heavy as he lifted his bag and finished loading up the car. I looked away attempting to momentarily get lost in the blue sky with only a few clouds—a sure sign that I shouldn’t back out. We got in, buckled up, and I focused, not on him, but the beach: sun, sand, and sea. We drove two and a half hours, long enough for me to know, without a doubt, that we were not right for each other. Our first date had been unremarkable, but on paper we should work. I wanted us to? I just didn’t like him, Guy, I knew right away, but I was attracted to the tension. I was excited by his aloofness, the distance between us. When he asked about a second date, to the beach, I said, “OK.”

Walking up the steps and through the front door of the faded yellow beach house, it was clear that this former retreat had become an abiding home. It was neat, small, but spacious enough and like the paintings of ocean scenes arranged just so, I was open and ready to walk through. Able to exhale in my getaway, I enjoyed the tour. There was a nice sleeper sofa in the sea foam blue living room and a color coordinated guest bedroom in back. The vintage nautical themed master stood command facing the beach and had its own bathroom that I never got to see. The guest bathroom was between the two bedrooms like the fresh stack of capri blue towels on the toiletry shelf, separating the sand dollars from the starfish. Off from the living room was a galley style kitchen and stools facing it and the focal point—the bar. There was a dining area that shared the living room’s space with a sliding glass door that served as window for looking out back at the neighbors’ small yards. Staring out the window I wondered, Who are these people living year round at the beach? They can never get their fill, I assumed looking at Wade, the homeowner and old friend of Guy. From the few minutes I’d known this seaside dweller, Wade went from safe enough to downright kind showing us around his raised house. Between Wade’s hospitality and his place with the inviting beach theme, it was plenty to feel right at home except someone was missing. I didn’t get to meet her, Jen, because she was away drying out.

Jen’s problem had been mentioned on the drive down, but I wanted to know more. I had questions—all of them. As we stopped at the kitchen, Wade gave us an update. “We talk when we can,” he explained addressing Guy then me like I knew her and the story. “She sounds like she’s doing OK,” Wade said looking down, leaning over the counter and smoothing out a kitchen towel on the bar. “Hope this time’s her last,” he whispered almost looking up at us, slowly shifting his weight before staring into space. “Wish I knew how long she’ll have to be there,” he added, making eye contact, trying to smile, wanting it to all go away. And that was it. There was nothing about why she was drinking so much or why she’d relapsed. Just that the beach was not the right place for her, well, them. “There’s too much temptation with a 24 hour party scene,” Wade admitted. He mentioned them possibly moving and that he might have to sell his old boat. “Wanna see?” he asked hoping we’d agree. With a reassuring smile, I looked at Wade to see which door we’d go out. We followed him down the back stairs, under the house to the renovated boat. I recognized his joy mixed with grief as he pulled back the custom cover to show us his treasure. I’d felt the same unwrapping the tissue paper that covered my new clothes after bringing them home from my favorite boutiques. In his eyes, I saw his connection to it all: the restoration and care. The things that mattered to him were clear. In that moment and for those two days, we were surrogates for Jen. It was obvious how much he missed her, but not her drinking. Missing her because of her drinking seemed especially hard on him.

We grabbed fountain sodas and a bite to eat before the three of us went out on Wade’s boat. It was nice being on the water until the salt air came at me so fast that I could hardly breathe. “I’m gonna give her all I’ve got,” I thought I heard Wade say as he pressed on the throttle. Was he referring to Jen or the boat? I wondered stumbling back. As I tried to find my footing, I looked up at the two men. What am I doing here? It wasn’t right and it wasn’t because of them. I tried to put the uneasiness out of my mind. Looking out at the ocean, focusing on the deep while keeping it light, I didn’t say much and I couldn’t wait to get back.

Later that evening as we got our fill of beer and fried food on the patio of a fish camp by the sea, I felt empty. I turned from Wade and Guy. I wanted to excuse myself but I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to be alone or, if Jen were around, I’d like to spend time with her; she’d understand. Looking out at couples talking, walking hand in hand along the beach, I noticed them looking down at their feet. I watched as the pairs of footprint shaped pools disappeared and it made me want something real. I would settle for a meaningful passing connection, a brief, but open conversation, just a hit of something solid. I needed someone, something to ground me.

After we left the beach and went back to the house, I ignored the tugging in my heart and deleted the scene of a true relationship in my head. I was becoming a master at it: distracting myself with whatever was nearby, and right there was Guy. Maybe it was just me. Maybe he wasn’t so bad. Even if who he was didn’t excite me, I could try to bridge the physical gap. If we kissed HARD maybe that would pierce the tension and I would get my steamy interlude on the sand. I wanted to be satiated for a bit.

As I changed into my bikini and grabbed my matching towel, I saw myself in the mirror, well, my body, not me. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right, and, as long as I didn’t look into my eyes, the consequences were as far from my mind as the work emails and unpaid bills. And I did look damn good! I was going to be a sexy make out star. And I was. It was, as he admitted, the hottest make out session he’d ever had. Our moonlit montage by the sea was somewhere barely above PG-13. It was just kissing, petting, no clothes came off, but it was sizzling. Evening became a late night and we were the only ones left on the beach. The stars were taken over by clouds as he grabbed my towel and shook it off. The fire followed us back to the faded beach house where the tension was resolved, the pressure released. Burned out, I tried to rest, but the emptiness was still there, resonating. Weightless, detached from my body, it was desolation. Nothingness. I had deserted myself by the sea. I was stranded with no night guard to protect me. Abandoned and dark, I was the dismal nighttime beach drifting off to sleep.

The next morning, it was rough facing the day—especially the guys. I had a headache and snuck into to the kitchen for black coffee to help me fain any feeling other than despair. After a few cups of joe and a day’s worth of Adderall, I was able to join the world, including Wade and Guy. I got ready and packed my bags before the three of us went out for an early lunch at a seaside dive.

The place was empty and I could feel Wade anticipating the same as we talked about leaving. I wanted to give the men some time alone and I needed a moment by myself so I walked out to the cloud covered beach. It felt right, with it just me. The bottoms of my feet did not burn against the sand. My shoes stayed on. The bathing suit, that barely got wet, was packed away with dirty clothes. I did not bring my towel. There was nothing to place in the soft sand. I did not sit, look out at the ocean, and lie back with my eyes closed seeing only red. It was all grey. Sober. A slight chill came over my skin from the breeze and sticky air. I kneeled and looked down hoping to find something to hold and take home with me. I noticed a tiny grey and white shell, already with a hole in the top. Even though I hadn’t done creative work in a while, with the shell in hand, I wanted to make something again. I would transform the shell while keeping her the same. Tiny and easy, I could see the piece resting beautifully in silhouette. Understated, natural, nothing showy, I envisioned. Just simple and honest. In that moment of clarity, it’s all I wanted to be.

Memoir Necklace, Chapter 1

 

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It all begins with heart, where I feel you and she feels me. My heart knows the story. It is the keeper of my memoir.

Mine is a bleeding heart. Sanguine, it becomes like the surface of the moon. I find it covered with craters from the blows and dusted with rock formed from that which, only yesterday, flowed from deep inside of me. With no air to breathe, I return.

To recall the love that stitches together my life, giving hope, examples, and art. Buttons mending the wounds. Watching her sew, I’m there, lost in reverie.

Running my hand along the seams, I reach the basin left by lemon drops on my soul. I tell my friend how she makes me feel. Did she get it? I don’t know. That precious, scorched space, once safe, did fill leaving only a trace.

High above the mountaintops, I breathe in days and hours spent in meditation and prayer after my heart was finally forced open and soothed with love. Prepare me, God. Give me strength and courage to live and be free. Let love sustain me when the air is thin. It has. It will.

Smooth. I feel the tiny space I held open for love, now, fused with goodness and light. Stronger than before, it was well worth the wait. I am saturated. My heart is lush. Tender. Ripe.

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Each sterling silver and 14K gold bead used in this necklace is handmade and designed just for this piece. The entire necklace is covered in a patina that ranges from heavy to light. The metal beads are wrapped in with 1.5 mm to 3mm labradorite beads. Some of the handmade beads are tiny like the one, here, on top of my finger.

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Human Heart Bead-front

This sterling silver bead is slightly left of the center of the necklace. It is the focal point and the largest of all the beads included in this necklace. The human heart bead turns over to reveal the backside which was designed to look like the surface of the moon.

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Human Heart Bead-back/surface of the moon side

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Buttons and Stitches Beads

These small oval and short bar beads are made of sterling silver and 14K gold. They are included throughout the necklace.

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Lemon Drops on my Soul Bead-front

This bead is sterling silver fused with 14K gold. A droplet was cut into the sterling silver bead and 14K gold was fused at the opening. On the front of the bead, the droplet form remains. The 14K gold can be seen on the back of the bead.

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Lemon Drops on my Soul Bead-back

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Prayer Meditation Bead-front

This one is less obvious than the others. It is sterling silver with 14K gold fused to the top. I see a person in prayer covered in a prayer shawl or a blanket. Her arms are wrapped around her.

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Prayer Meditation Bead-back

The back side of the Prayer Meditation Bead is sterling silver. The raised mountain appears shiny and contrasts with the dark patina.

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Fused Heart Bead-front

This bead was made using the same method I employed with the Lemon Drops on my Soul Bead. Instead of a droplet shape, a heart was cut from the sterling silver bead. With the Fused Heart Bead, the 14K gold can be seen on the front and the back of the bead.

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Fused Heart Bead-back

Thank you for taking the time to read about this necklace. It is special to me.

Johnny, Laurie, and the bees

My work

 

People often ask my why I work with these tiny beads. I’ll tell them that it’s meditative, often really quiet. With the work, I find lots of free association, deepest desires, memories, and prayer. I thought it would be neat to write something to help folks understand what it’s like for me. So, here you go:

I work and find what’s there, what comes to me. Each bead held, wrapped is a prayer I send up:

peace

gratitude

bees

the crying child in the distance

my dad

being with grief

my sweet, witty husband

his daughters

their needs

the tree outside my window

the countless pink blossoms

being here

being present

being at peace

BREATHE

those whom I have loved

those I have hurt

those who have hurt me

release and

BREATHE

I am sorry

I love you

forgive me

thank you

forgive

forgive

forgive

BREATHE

I belong here

doing this

now

I am worthy

I know now

years looking outside

finding it within

this is my intention

to create to be alive, fully awake

and help her, the one who will wear this, to also know

to find new life

to claim her worth

to heal her pain

and know she is loved

loved

loved

BREATHE

Johnny Cash and why he wore black

For all the prisoners who have long paid for their crimes

still there because she’s a victim of the times

these times

BREATHE

we are all worthy

set us free

help us set ourselves free

help us find our keys

KEY

Laurie

how kind she was to me

our backyard

green grass

swinging in the hammock between the big trees

peace

gratitude

bees

Dear God, I give you all of these.

Atlanta MADE

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Getting into galleries that feel right, good for my artwork is the cherry on top of life for me. So, I was–and continue to be–OVER THE MOON happy to be selected as a partner with Atlanta MADE. Michelle Larrabee-Martin and Greg Martin have put together an amazing collection of art and products made in the Atlanta metro area and I’m a part of it all! Thank you, Michelle and Greg! I’m so grateful for this opportunity!

Abundance and Uncertainty, Gratitude and Surrender

Abundant joy on my wedding day

Abundant joy on my wedding day

Thank you for this life. Thank you for this man. Please come, be with me. I need you to guide me.

My life is full. After years of turning down the volume on life, it’s, now, stuck on 11. There is abundance.

There is Love everywhere: waking up each day, enjoying everyone around me, and working harder than I’ve ever worked before. Love flows through me as I am full. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The South is more lush, now. The honeysuckle and magnolia fill my lungs as I run along the Chattahoochee on warm, sticky mornings. I see the fog reaching out of the water, toward the sky. I pray, again. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

My art, my jewelry, is better than it has ever been as I can more fully focus. No sound, just the quiet and those things that need to come up. I sit with each tiny bead. I focus on one at a time. I work. I am present, open. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As I say thank you, I still feel the uncertainty, acutely. I tried to deny, ignore, fight, control, and just shut this all down. In the beginning, it was simply too much for me. God wanted to get my attention. I needed to hear. And I do. Still, some days, I have to pray a little harder for help letting go. Sometimes I get on my knees and beg. I visualize being in a horse drawn carriage and handing over the reins. God, here, you take this for me, please.

I don’t know where we are going. It sure is amazing–just beautiful! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Please, you keep leading the way.

On Connecting, Creating

Dana Shropshire

I make jewelry as a way of connecting with the little girl in me, my grandmothers, my soul. It’s about taking care and being present with the sacred spaces — the spheres of healing, grace, and renewal.

My purpose in my work is to connect with the details, the nuances. To make that which might be overlooked into the sole focus. It’s about shifting the view, transforming perspective, seeing things in a new way. I take sparkly costume jewelry elements and add in sterling silver or gold to create diminutive, unexpected pieces. At first glance it’s a delicate necklace then, seen closer, it’s a chain of tiny, individually wrapped beads requiring hours of meticulous work.

Although I create for my own fulfillment, I enjoy sharing my pieces with others, to give them a chance to connect with my work. It’s personal and quiet.

That's my index finger holding one of my beads.  Tiny. Really, really tiny.

That’s my index finger holding one of my beads.
Tiny. Really, really tiny.

Joie de Vivre!

Joie de vivre!

Almost anachronistic, these blue beads shine with a fiery golden sparkle and seem a bit nostalgic for those heady days of yesteryear. Maybe I’ll indulge that sentiment by wrapping some 14k gold pieces in with these beads to to keep them company. Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Or, wrap, as it were.)

Consarn it!

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Consarn it! Dagnabbit! Why can’t I get these stamps to come out right?!?

Sometimes, I forget that, part of, the beauty of my work is that it’s small — really, really small. Teeny tiny takes time. I thought I would share an example of what I’m working with and trying to accomplish. These almost microscopic stamps that I put on my pieces don’t stamp themselves. In fact, yours truly stamps them one by one.

Well, yesterday, I got myself all worked up and frustrated, trying to get the stamps to come out right. I was having an especially hard time, so I decided to take a few photos, instead. The photo, above, is my stamp. Notice that my company name is backwards. Go ahead, click on it. The photo on the bottom shows a successful stamp on a piece of silver. Look closely, it’s right there. Working on this helps me become more patient. At least, sometimes it does. Other times, I just get my panties in a wad. I’ll be back at it today.  I put my patient panties on this morning. Wish me luck!

success