Winter is for Undeath

I’ve been negligent.  The world has been shifting and I did not tell you.

A very (very) few of you may know that I worked in theatre a long time ago in the baby years of my artistic career.  I designed costumes, I sewed costumes, I worked in prop departments and had a promising career laying out before me.  As happens to many poor folks with big dreams, I hit a small bump in my road and those dreams for the future were de-railed by the immediate need to eat and pay rent.  I lived in my car, I framed pictures, I worked for a few more years with a theatre troupe that was a bad fit for my aesthetic…

then I gave up.

And then this winter…

NERVE Productions Dracula
NERVE Productions Dracula

I found my people, and they are RAW.

Space

Working with a brilliant troupe of performers and creatives led by the razor sharp Kathe Koja to create a production like nothing you’ve seen before.  Immersive, mind rattling theatre that assaults every sense.  Theatre stripped to its bones and left bleeding before you. Scenes marked by shadows. Smells of the earth, and sex and fear.   And the costumes…

Rick Leider's Drac Portrait
Dracula meets Jonathan Harker
Photo by Rick Leider http://dreampool.com/

This production is already run its course.  But there is more to come, and soon.  We are thinking now of Heironymous  Bosch, of labyrinthian spaces and the green light of old monitors.

I promise to keep you better informed.

 

Sugar Skulls and All Things Frida

Detroit is all a-flutter about the new Diego River and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibit at the DIA.  Word is out that the exhibit is extraordinary, and everyone is getting inspired to explore the works of these two important artists and the culture that inspired them.  I call is Frida Fever, and it is everywhere.

Diego and Frida

I’m not immune to the buzz.  This season I’ve introduced several new motifs to the line, including new sugar skulls designed specifically for Divine Iguana as well as adaptations of the popular Mexican fortune telling cards, the Loteria.

 

La Luna and La Sirena from the Loteria Series

Most of these pieces are already sold, but there is a beautiful selection at Frida, the fabulous boutique inspired by Frida Kahlo located in Downtown Detroit, and I’m making more as quickly as my little fingers will allow.

Full Sugar Skull Bib with cinnabar roses
La Rosa Loteria small bib necklace
Loteria and Sugar Skull charms

 

 

 

 

Old Things Part 1: Heirlooms

I, like everyone else I know beyond a certain age, have a small box of things that belonged to my mother.  These things have no real monetary value.   They may not have had any real sentimental value to my mother, but I keep them.  I used to open the box every so often to touch them, but as I  get older I find that I open it less and less often.

At some point every present moment fades away into memory.  Some of the present is significant to enough people to become part of the collective memory that we call history.  Memories and history, without artifacts to prove their occurrence, fade into legends or myths or into nothing at all.  The days we spent at the beach, but never wrote about in our diaries… When we are gone no-one will even realize they were events that could have been remembered.  They will be gone, too.

My mother, like most of the mother’s of the people I know, was not a part of history.  She will not appear in text books.  Her life will not be studied by generations of students.  Unlike most mothers she also has no formal burying place, no memorial plaque, no tombstone.  I don’t believe that anyone wrote an obituary.  Maybe we did, but my memory is fading already.  She might never have existed at all, except that I have a small box of things that belonged to her.  This box is my own museum.  These are the artifacts that prove her existence.

The world we live in now is more temporary than the world my mother knew.  The photos we take of our beach vacations and the diary we keep of those sunny days are all stored in digital media, prone to failure and quickly lost to advances in technology.    Family albums carefully preserved on betamax tapes.  Birthday greetings recorded on reel-to-reel tapes.  The thoughtful blog I maintained for all of a year on MySpace.  Hundreds of letters sent through e-mail accounts attached to past jobs, obsolete services, defunct websites.

In my mother in law’s basement there are hundreds of boxes of things.  Papers, VHS tapes, books, tools, stuffed animals… These things may have no real monetary value.  They may have no real sentimental value to my mother in law, but she keeps them.  She fears to throw any of them away, as if  each object is an artifact that proves she not only exists NOW, but has existed all along.

The upstart watch and bicycle company where I live advertises their products as “Heirloom Quality”.

Heirloom Quality for Eternal Life

So buying that $750 quartz movement watch assembled in a struggling urban center gets you not only an overinflated sense of social accountability but something for your own children to place in the box that they keep in the back of their closet when you are gone.  With an overpriced wrist watch, a collectible ornament from the Franklin Mint,  a bracelet encrusted with the birthstones of your grandchildren you can extend your existence past your death.

Heirloom Quality Artifact from the Franklin Mint

 

 

Thank you Columbus!

Divine Iguana Show Booth
New Display for a New Year

Just got home from the Ohio Designer Craftsmen Studio Clearance Sale.  I make the trip to Columbus every January, and its always nice to see some of my long standing customers.  This year was the first time I brought a jewelry heavy booth, and I have to thank my Columbus fans for the warm reception for this new work.  You guys are awesome!

And to my fellow artists:

The Ohio Designer Craftsmen put on some of my favorite shows of the season.  If you’re looking to add some new shows into your schedule (this is specifically aimed at you, my Michigan friends) then you should consider applying to Shaker Heights, Winterfair, or at least the Studio Clearance Sale.  You won’t be disappointed!

Divine Iguana Live in the D

I was on the news!

Divine Iguana On the Air
Divine Iguana Set up for the local news
and no…I didn’t get caught doing something naughty.

The Divine Iguana spent a while in our studio with Channel 4, Live in the D’s Michelle Oliver discussing the fine art of making beautiful things from the ‘stuff’ people throw away.

Inside the studio of the Divine Iguana
In Studio peak at the Divine Iguana at work!

And then  we did a little LIVE followup where I successfully did not pee myself on camera.  We can all thank my friends and coaches at Shadowbox Live for teaching me not to curl up like a pillbug under the lights :)

Rena Live on Channel 4 News
Rena Live on Channel 4 News

Many thanks to Rhonda Walker for letting me highlight the new “Best Friends” earrings that were designed to raise funds for local animal rescue.  We’ve only raised about $50 so far, but the numbers will only rise with time!

Did you catch the story?  Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Introducing Best Friend Earrings

Mr. Bob The wonder bagle
Mr. Bob The wonder bagle

Those of you who know me are aware that the only thing I love more than my pets is…nothing.  There is absolutely nothing that I care about more than my animals.

After adopting Mr. Bob I became painfully aware of how may animals need our help.  I can’t adopt them all, so I devised these earrings as a way of providing support to those organizations who do the hard work of rescuing animals.  Every dollar helps.

BTW If you’d like to see an endless stream of cute dog pics, follow Mr. Bob on instagram @SeniorBasset

BEST FRIENDS EARRINGS

Antique illustrations of popular (and some obscure) dog breeds (with some original Divine Iguana illustrations for those breeds that have changed A LOT over the last 100 years).  Decoupaged onto the backs of vintage poker chip and game piece earrings and hung with assorted colors of ceramic beads to make simply adorable earrings.

$2 from the sale of each pair of Best Friends Earrings goes to support animal rescue. 

What Breeds are available?

As of today there are 55 different dog images available in the series, with more coming all the time.  And yes, there will soon be cats as well :)  All the current breeds are shown below.  Don’t see your pet?  Send me a message and I’ll add your critter to the wish list.

Where can I get these?

In the Detroit area you can find the Best Friends Earrings at Poesy Gallery on Rochester Rd in Royal Oak, The Peacock Room in the Park Shelton in Downtown, and in the Divine Iguana Boutique inside the Rust Belt Market (open Saturday and Sundays only).

Cincinnati fans can find these at Indigenous in O’Bryonville.

Can’t get to any of these locations?  Order a pair through Etsy.

Spring Crafting at the Library

What better way to welcome the spring than with a fun new crafting workshop?

20 fun ladies and I spent a pleasant afternoon this past week testing out my newest workshop…CHARM BRACELETS!

bracelet workshop
Some of my new friends adding the finishing touches to their bracelets

As you might know, part of the joy in a Divine Iguana workshop is the freedom to explore materials and possibilities .  Each student’s project is completely unique.  Every member of the workshop can create his or her very own masterpiece,.  These ladies, some of whom had never worked with jewelry before, made some stunning pieces.  I didn’t get to photograph all of them, but here are some of my favorites.

Student Projects

Interested in hosting a Divine Iguana workshop at your home, office or public library?

You can learn more about my available workshops and request more information here!

Happy Crafting!

 

 

A Return to Wanton Creativity

Alice in Wonderland Bib Necklace
Alice in Wonderland Bib Necklace

Before you ask…

No.  I am NOT caught up on all the things.

Wholesale ordering on website ready? Nope.

Digital Images site fully stocked?  Nope.

Laundry folded and put away?  Bwah-Ha-Ha!!!! No!

But there comes a time in an artist’s life when she must set aside trivial things like laundry and tax returns and focus on the truly important things in her life.  Her cat, and making stuff.  Really Cool Stuff.  Over the top, eye-catching, jaw dropping, THIS IS WHY I WANTED TO BE AN ARTIST stuff.  That day was Tuesday.

What makes these pieces so special?

In an average day I make around 30 pieces, more if its an earrings kind of day.  But this week I spent each day on only ONE gorgeous signature necklace.  All of the individual components were worked up in advance (images tweaked and printed, game pieces decoupaged, resin cast, sanded and drilled, Watch movements cleaned, wire wrapped and resin cast…) so all I need to focus on was glorious creation and creativity.

And glorious it was!

The Reveal

The Mermaid’s Tail:

The Mermaid’s Tail necklace is *almost* finished…just another hour or two of beadwork before she goes on display at the Rust Belt this Saturday.

Mermaid's Tail Necklace
Mermaid’s Tail Necklace

The final version has an additional row of beaded chain and two quarter sized vintage watch movements.  I’ll have pictures of the final version up on Instagram soon, and if you’re in the area you can stop by the Rust  Belt  Market  on the corner of 9 mile and Woodward…

Up close and personal with the mermaid's tail
Up close and personal with the mermaid’s tail

The Wonderment Necklace:

I’ve been working with Tenniel’s iIllustrations for Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass for a while now, mostly on my Poker Chip Gypsy Junk style layering necklaces.  These aren’t simple pieces in any way, but compared to this lady they may as well be just a trinket on a chain.

Wonderment Necklace
Wonderment Necklace

Layers of salvaged chain, glass beads, vintage buttons and decoupaged antique game pieces arranged to make one unified wonderland of a necklace.  This may be the most colorful piece I have EVER made.  The Divine Iguana loves color.  The Divine Iguana approves.

Up Close and Personal with AliceAlice will be with me at the market this weekend as well, but probably won’t hit  Etsy for a day or two.  If you’re local stop by and see her in person at the Rust Belt.

The Tangled Pearls Necklace:

My favorite piece is the one that started the whole delightful mess.  The Tangled Pearls necklace is perhaps my favorite piece to date.  And it only took ten hours to construct!  That’s sarcasm…this thing consumed an entire day and most of the night.  It was totally worth it…

Tangled pearls Steampunk Necklace
Tangled Pearls Necklace

She’s available on Etsy RIGHT NOW, and she’ll also be with me at the Divine Iguana shop inside the Rust Belt Market this weekend.  I’m pretty excited to share her with the world.  She’s made entirely of salvaged chain embellished with repurposed glass and faux pearl beads and a myriad of hand-wrapped antique mother-of-pearl buttons.   And did I mention this beauty is reversible?!

Steampunk Bridal Couture Necklace
Up close and personal with the Tangled Pearls Necklace

 

Lost knowledge, collotypes, and Grandma Tootsie’s cinnamon rolls

A blog about losing knowledge. I wrote this post years ago for my old blogspot account and, ironically enough, almost lost it when I transferred to the new format. I found an archived copy of it, and thought I’d share it with my new readers. The topic still intrigues me, and the article reminds me that I ought to try and catch up with John. I hope he’s still working in the same medium he was back when I wrote this article.
 

There used to be people who could tell what sort of trees were overhead by the sound the wind made as it blew through their leaves. There are very few of these people, if any, remaining in the world today and most of us will never realize that such knowledge ever existed.

 

On February 5, 2010 the last speaker of the Bo language, a woman named Boa Sr, died. Although her language had been extensively studied, it will never again be truly understood with all its nuance and subtle beauty. Boa Sr was the last keeper of this knowledge. She was a bridge between the past and the present and her death seals us permanently into a new era. There is no going back. Only forward.

The loss of knowledge is constant, slow and steady. Think of your grandmother’s sewing machine, covered in dust, its manual long lost. She did not need the instructions, you never needed to learn and now that she has gone the machine will sit idly until someday NO-ONE will know how to use it.

My Great-Grandmother used to make cinnamon rolls from a recipe she held in her head. It was her grandmother’s recipe. She never taught any of the children how to make them, never wrote down the recipe and now it is lost forever. I know it stared with a “a small handful of flour and enough butter to make it moist”. We will never get to cinnamon rolls from there.

I will never make these.  Nor will you.

This process goes faster and faster as technology progresses. How long until no-one remembers how to program punch cards? or program games for the Atari?

Today I met someone who knows how to print Collotype. Real collotype, with gelatin and a host of toxic, photosensitive chemicals. The process was replaced in commercial printing with the advent of offset lithography and has become almost completely obsolete in the digital era. Young artists do not need to master such a complicated, time consuming and hazardous technique to get the results they want. Even Wikipedia’s page on the collotype is woefully vague. This knowledge is fading. John is one of the last keepers of this gateway into our past, and he is not an old man.  He is a man with strong roots into our own past, into the how of things.  A true printmaker.  A dying breed.

After some searching I found a shop in Florence, Italy that still prints fine art editions in with traditional Collotype technique.  Alinari Printworks is one of the last gateways into this dying art form.  This is a commercial printhouse, specializing in museum reproductions.  They do not seem to be creating NEW pieces in the medium. The medium has stagnated.  The end is nigh.  But, boy are the prints beautiful!  No digital print has yet come close to achieving the glorious color and lush surface of a collotype.