Sunday, August 21, 2016

Huichol Beadwork inspired Beaded Box

        Today I am sharing with you a project that was inspired by the beautiful art done by the Huichol (pronounced ‘wee- chol’) Indians, from the rugged and remote villages of the Sierra de Nayarit Mountains northeast of Puerto Vallarta. Huichol art work encompasses beautiful intricate yarn paintings, bead work, embroidery, and carved art.

       Huichol art is more than just pretty objects, and displays deep symbolisms of the Huichol religious faiths, which is centered on their “holy trinity” of the deer, corn, and peyote. Prayer bowls, beaded animals, masks, and ceremonial objects use sacred symbols that represent the artist’s religious beliefs and culture. Their art is inspired by and a reflection of their intensely personal religious culture, and of visions that allow them to communicate with their gods. They consider their creativity a gift from the gods and their ancestors, to be given back as offerings. A form of prayer. Every item is heavily symbolic, personal, and esoteric, with beautifully rendered symbols.

       The Huichols’ art is made not from the standpoint of decoration, but is a profound expression of deep spiritual beliefs. This makes traditional Huichol art, whether it be meticulous beadwork, yarn paintings, wooden masks, or striking embroidered and woven personal adornments, beautiful not only from its aesthetic perspective but from the psychological as well.

      On my travels to Mexico, I was lucky to have experienced all these different Huichol art forms if only in a touristic capacity. I was deeply influenced by the story and beauty of these vibrant captivating pieces of work. Every piece has its own distinct voice, tells a pure story; and I honestly believe when an artist sets out making a piece, they include whether they intend to or not, an unique message, a response to the world around them, and an expression of some intensely personal emotion.

        An inspired desire to creatively explore the artistic Huichol beadwork art on my own ability has been brewing in me for the past couple of years and finally I took the plunge.
       The Huichols make each piece by first spreading a thin layer of a beeswax mixture over a wooden form or hollowed gourd, and then meticulously pushing small size 15 seed beads (approx. 1.4mm by 0.9mm) or size 11 glass seed beads (approx. 2mm by 1.3mm) into the beeswax using a needle to create complex patterns and symbols. Intricately detailed pieces involve the use of the smaller size 15 beads. I chose a small simple unfinished box (4x4x1.5 inches) and a clay turtle (3x1.25 inches). The choice of the turtle was in respect to the significance of animals to the Huichols.

        I used plain white craft glue and chose size 15 seed beads (there were many moments when I questioned my sanity in making that choice) which are much smaller than the size 11 beads used commonly. Intricate designs are painstakingly created by the Huichol artisans, and every bead is always perfectly in place (not so much in my pieces).

                 Note: Turtles are esteemed as assistants of the rain goddesses, turtles are believed to be responsible for replenishing the water of underground springs and the purity water sources

             I used plain white craft glue and chose size 15 seed beads (there were many moments when I questioned my sanity in making that choice) which are much smaller than the size 11 beads used commonly. Intricate designs are painstakingly created by the Huichol artisans, and every bead is always perfectly in place (not so much in my pieces).

           This project is not by any means easy or simple, I struggled with it at almost every stage; with the design of the patterns and symbols, the best way to handle these tiny 1.4 mm size beads, aligning the beads in a tight overlapping manner, with color choices, the slow and time consuming progress. But nevertheless, I am proud I gave this art form a serious and dedicated try. I learnt so much along the way, the depth of this art form, an appreciation and respect for the indigenous art form roots of our world, to trust myself, to starting over after mistakes (and believe me, I re-did many parts several times over). The box and the turtle are inspired from this art form and I chose random patterns and colors that I liked, I did not take liberties and use the traditional cultural and religious symbols of Huichol art

                As always whenever I explore an art form similar to this, I am reminded of the fact that as the indigenous way of life of tribes all over the world is changing with the times; they struggle to find employment, stay in their homes, and maintain their culture and family structure. These unique treasure art forms all over the world rich in tradition and mysticism have to be carried forward. Every legacy is worth preserving, the stories remembering.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stained Glass Mosaic Table

        I hope my readers have noticed that The Sandalwood Box blog has been silent for a very long time. I took a hard fall off of the blogging wagon and have been struggling to get back on it. I have been trying my hand at making jewelry as you all know and that gives me a lot of joy but honestly I miss trying new inspired projects and sharing them with you via the blog. So finally I decided I was going to get back on the creative blogging wagon, and either jump, crawl, or drag my way up but get on it nevertheless and tackle this artistic block head-on instead of waiting for it to pass.

         As a creative person, I usually find that I have no shortage of good ideas, but rather that motivation eludes in the face of doubt. Uninteresting projects and a feeling of desperation leads to trying random things in a stressed hurried manner. After several botched attempts at making simple mosaic planters, I decided to slow things down and go back to my early beginnings of working with stained glass. Instead of attempting quick projects, I chose a fairly advanced project to focus on.

          In my first year setting up home in US, one of the first things I decided to do was learn stained glass work. I signed up for evening classes at the local community center and invested in all the equipment required for this art form. And back in our one bedroom apartment, I set up a workspace in this tiny slanted roof storage room in the balcony. There I used to sit at the small table cutting, grinding, soldering and putting beautiful stained glass pictures together. They were exquisite in my mind; and the sense of achievement at this rather complex art form, I was very proud of my work. I was awestruck by the light shining through pieces of colored stained glass. It is fascinating to see light dancing off glass, moving in a sparkling rhythm, like a fire burning in magnificent colors. I made quite a few that year, including night lights, candle holders, and window art. I gave away several of them as gifts and somehow ended up keeping only one piece for myself. 

        This new project took me back to those creative roots; working with beautiful stained glass. A mosaic project: to redeem me from the failed planters and as a practice step towards a complete stained glass project (which I will undertake soon) considering that the last time I made one was 17-18 years ago.

A Stained Glass Mosaic!

      I have had a small end table sitting by my couch that my son and I had worked on a few years ago; scraping and carving a design using just screwdrivers and nails. I enjoy projects in which I can involve my loved ones, and this one turned out all the more precious for that reason. Anyway, a year or so ago, an accidental spill of nail polish remover ruined the finish on the table (who knew that nail polish remover could do that?!!). This mosaic project was ideal for that small table. 

So here goes; my latest project: a stained glass mosaic end table

Don’t the white striations on the blue glass remind you of grains of sand beneath clear blue waters…giving a sense of peaceful timeless beauty.

This following link is not particularly relevant to this mosaic project but I like this article about reigniting your creative spark: