Beach Art

I spent the summer on different beaches: the Pacific coast of Northern California, the Maggia river in Switzerland and our home beaches of East Hampton.  Everywhere there is art on display.  Not by famous artists but by common people that pick up stuff from the beach and put it together to make a “work of art”.  It is playful.  It also is testament to the beauty of nature.  Often not much is needed to beautify the scene.  Other times the objects are small (a pebble), or common (litter), or unnoticed (drift wood) and the artist wants to draw attention to their unique beauty.   Here are some specimens I found.

Beach Dragon (Arcata CA)

Beach Dragon (Arcata CA)

Decorated Roots (East Hampton NY)

Decorated Roots (East Hampton NY)

Beach Wood and Iron (Maggia Tal)

Beach Wood and Iron (Maggia Tal)

Display (Maggia Tal)

Display (Maggia Tal)

Elephant Seal, Big Sur (CA)  Art?  Why not?

Elephant Seal, Big Sur (CA) Art? Why not?

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Mosaics in Arcata

This is my 2nd contribution in regard to our summer motorcycle trip which brought us up through the mountains from San Diego to Arcata (via Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Lassen Volcanic National Park).  Arcata is on the Pacific Ocean and home to Humboldt State Univ.   It is a college town.  We stayed with a good friend for 2 days.  Time to clean and rest up and to visit Laurel Skye’s “SkyeLab“!  Laurel is a mosaic artist.  She teaches across the country (and even in Italy), writes books on her art form, and uses her home as a studio or “lab”.  She also sells mosaic supplies.  She generously invites interested folks to visit and that is what we did!

on the porch

on the porch

Stool

Stool

Supplies

Supplies

Toilet bowl tiled with copper pennies

Toilet bowl tiled with copper pennies

Mosaic plates (some are used for light switch covers)

Mosaic plates (some are used for light switch covers)

The entire house is decorated with mosaics, the porch, the front door, the floors, the walls, chairs, tables, the garden, the kitchen, the bathtub and even the toilet bowl!  Here are some pictures, but be sure to visit her own website where you will see a mosaic decorated mandolin and a trumpet!  There are lots of ideas on how to use mosaics to decorate your own home.  Also, you should check out some of the other artists featured on mosaicartsource.com.

I am truly amazed at the many different styles and the expressive nature of some of the art work.

Rock Hound on a Motorcycle

On July 27th I flew to San Diego and rented a 1200 RT BMW motorcycle with 4 in line cylinders, a powerful bike with which I was going to cruise 2600 miles across California.  My friend Manu lives in San Diego with his Kawasaki Versys 650.  He picked me up at the airport and we went right to the beamer rental shop.   The next day we set out early, the first leg of a 12 day journey, all the way up to Arcata, CA, on as many scenic routes as possible and then back down along the coast.   We crashed overnight at the cheapest motels in town or at a friend’s house, but we had dinners every night at the best restaurant we could find on Yelp!

Snowflake Obsidian

Snowflake Obsidian

On our way south, in Carlotta, CA, we stopped at Chapman’s Gem and Mineral shop on route 101, also called the Redwood Highway.  This is paradise for rock hounds.  For a couple of dollars I bought snowflake obsidian, jasper, rhodonite and much more. Here are some samples.

Rhodonite

Rhodonite

We stopped in Fort Bragg, CA, and we took the trail to “Glass Beach”.  This was a dump site for local residents, until 1967.  Now, in stead of sand, the ground is composed of small shards of smooth glass, ground extensively by the sea waves.  I had read about the place.  But we found the pieces of glass to be too small to use for jewelry.

Glass Beach

Glass Beach

Rarely, one finds a piece that is larger than 2 cm.

We had passed places called ‘Topaz’, ‘Diamond Valley’ and ‘Emerald Bay’.  Each time I took note and looked for some explanation for the bejeweled name.  No success.  Not until we discovered ‘Jade Cove’ in Big Sur!  It lies protected

nephrite

Nephrite

Cliffs of Jade Cove

Cliffs of Jade Cove

within a National Forest. It is easy to get to from Highway 1.  The green cliffs are composed of nephrite (a type of jade) and also serpentine.   Nephrite is a soft stone (Mohs 6) which is easy to carve and when polished it is vitreous and has an oily luster.  It can be very elegant with white to green to grey hues.  It was  considered an imperial stone in chinese dynasties.  Here are some of my samples.  And a finished piece with banded agate, from Chapman’s Gem shop, see above.

Nephrite

Nephrite

There is more to come about other adventures on this trip, although they have little to do with lapidary or jewelry.  Stay tuned!

Before I set out on this trip, my 17 year old gave me a penguin stuffed animal – a talisman to keep me safe.  Penguino, as we called him, became a pro at riding the motorcycle…

 

Banded Agate in Silver

Banded Agate in Silver

Penguino

Penguino

WHAT ABOUT COPPER JEWELRY?

Many summers ago I met an interesting looking lady at an art fair. She wore lots of jewelry, I mean a ring on every finger. The thing was, it was all copper jewelry! She bought, guess what, copper rings from me (see picture).

Set of 3 copper bands with Sterling silver nuggets ($30).

Set of 3 copper bands with Sterling silver nuggets.

I asked her whether she ever got green stained fingers and she said “never”! She reminded me of all the healing powers of copper, the supposed anti-inflammatory action for arthritis and much more. Yes, I know, the internet is full of copper talk on subjects like “Copper Energy”.
But is any of this true? And why do some people apparently get green fingers and others do not?

This post reports on some answers.

To my amazement I found that metallic copper (and other metals like nickel and even gold and platinum) are not inert when placed on the skin, as when wearing a ring. Copper corrodes and the result is a film of copper salts such as copper acetate, basic cupric acetate and copper carbonate, also called verdigris (from Vert de Grece) salts. These are what we know as patina on weathered copper pipes and roofs, or statues like Lady Liberty in New York Harbor. This process is accelerated mostly by water, oxygen and salt (NaCl) of which there is plenty in sea water.

So what about a copper ring on your finger? The skin of the hand is covered with acidic secretions from 2 sources: sweat from eccrine sweat glands (clammy hands), and sebum which comes from sebaceous glands and is an oily substance that keeps the skin impermeable and acts as a physical barrier for germs that might otherwise penetrate through the skin. While the pH (a measure of acidity) is neutral inside the body, at around pH 7, the pH on the skin is 4-6, or quite acidic. This kills germs, but also contributes to corrosion of metals! Many normally produced substances are weak acids and are found in sweat and in sebum: amino acids, lactate, pyruvate, butyrate, and acidic lipids such as fatty acids.

In a lab experiment, metallic copper was exposed to sweat for 24 hours: the concentration of copper salts in the sweat increased by 100 fold!

In another experiment researchers measured the loss of copper from bracelets worn by volunteers. The bracelets lost 0.1 to 0.8% of their weight over one month due to copper corrosion. It was interesting that there was variation among the volunteers suggesting that some people corrode copper much faster than others! Finally, a study from Scandinavia looked at people referred to as “rusters”, who were known to corrode copper at a fast rate. These would be people with very green looking fingers after wearing a copper ring! They wanted to find out what was the difference between the sweat of these people and normal controls. It wasn’t the amout of salt (NaCl) or the acidity, but rather the copious amounts of watery sweat they produced…that means they had more water on the skin surface! Sweaty palms I guess.

While the copper from your jewelry can be dissolved on the skin as described above, there is also evidence that it can be absorbed through the skin and enter the body.

Whether copper has beneficial (anti-inflammatory) effects in humans with arthritis is still debated. There is only one study that has shown such effects in rats.

Note that copper can be toxic for cells. The oxidation process apparently results in toxic molecules called free radicals. It is these free radicals that are thought to explain the contraceptive effect of the common copper IUD by killing sperm and inhibiting implantation! Who would have thought?

With all the copper that we are exposed to, as through copper pipes with hot water in them, copper cooking pots, copper coins, and copper in most metal alloys, including those used for dental fillings, I do not think you need to be worried about the small amounts that may come from a copper ring. If you are a “ruster” but insist on wearing copper, you can still treat the copper jewelry with Copper Shield, or a similar acrylic product.  I have also used  clear Lacquer spray #2105 from Nikolas, although it smells terrible when you apply it!  Any of these create a thin film that will insulate the copper from exposure to water, salt and oxygen and thus prevents corrosion, tarnish or verdigris.

My friend and teacher, Honey Jeanne Laber, has taught me how to use a flame (acetylene torch) and ‘color’ copper to get red, brown and even blue tones.  You want to do this on a finished product.   You can no longer buff the metal or shine it in any way or you will lose the tarnish effect.  To preserve this finish use bees wax!  You have to heat it up, for example in a hot water bath.  Then you can use a rag, dip it in the wax and apply generously.  Then you have to rub with your rag.  It takes quite a bit of rubbing.  The final result is a shiny finish with a protected varnish and color. A ring treated in this way does NOT tarnish your fingers!

I would love to hear your thoughts on copper jewelry.

Sources:

M A I D S T O N E J E W E L R Y
David Posnett
2 Maidstone Park Road
East Hampton, NY 11937

631 379 2200
studio@maidstonejewelry.com
www.maidstonejewelry.com

Gold Ring, Diamonds and a Tatoo of a Cherry Blossom

In the summer of last year I met a young couple at an art fair in Montauk.  Anthony was an actor and Laura, an oncology nurse.  They lingered at my booth, then left… and then he returned alone.

Laura's tatoo

Laura’s tatoo

Anthony wanted to set up a meeting to discuss a custom ring and he wanted to surprise his wife!  My kind of man.

She had a full body tattoo of a Japanese cherry blossom tree. He wanted a gold ring representing a cherry blossom.  We met in the city at a coffee shop on the west side.  There were drawings first.

Drawings

Drawings

Then I set to work on a wax model.

wax model in the making

wax model in the making

A 5 karat black diamond in the rough was placed in the center and 5 trillion (triangular) diamonds were placed between the petals of the ‘flower’.

wax model with diamonds

wax model with diamonds

Anthony was involved at every step.  There were more meetings at the coffee shop.  About a half dozen meetings.

The model was approved and a gold ring was cast.

ring cast in gold

ring cast in gold

Then the stone setter went to work.  My Russian friend Oleg did this part.  His work is excellent.  Finally, the “finish”, a polished exterior and a roughed up organic interior representing the cherry blossom.  See the image of “The final product”.

Then came the suspense.  He would surprise her on a special occasion.  Would she like it?  I was nervous….  A week later the report: she was happy! And so were we!

The job took 4 months.  Great customers!  A fun experience.  This is how we do custom work.

The final product

The final product

Memory Lane

A trip down memory lane is mostly a personal thing.  But this one seemed worth sharing.

Bregaglia Valley

Bregaglia Valley

The excuse for the trip was a high school class reunion in Zurich (Switzerland), 45 years after graduation!  But the first leg of the journey was to Soglio, a mountain village in a steep, somewhat claustrophobic valley called Bergell (in German), Bregaglia (in Italian) or Bargaja  (in the local tongue).  It derives from the Latin ‘Prae-galia’ , literally the land ‘before the Gallic provinces’.  It does not take long to understand that this valley served as a passage from Italy to Austria (via the Engadin) or to Germany/France, called Galia in Roman times, via the Julier pass road.  This road was built by Caesar’s armies!  Given the strategic importance of the Bergell, it’s inhabitants charged tolls to those wanting passage.  Generally these ancient border patrol people were heavily armed to control the valley and impose their tolls.

The valley has a mystic scenery and is known for producing some famous artists like the sculptor Alberto Giacometti from Stampa and the painter Giovanni Segantini, who lived in Maloja for a while, where I spent summers as a boy. We stayed in Soglio, a small village perched on the flank of the valley, in the Hotel Palazzo Salis, built 1629, that once housed the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (ca. 1919).  He lived for a while in room 15.  I stayed in room 16 with a view of the garden in the back.  The hotel also exhibits the arms used by the Von Salis family, the local rulers, who inhabited the building for centuries, including wicked looking swords and spears, ‘Hellebarden’ or halberds, and ‘Morgensterne’ or morning starsIMG_2799I took pictures of swords with beautiful inlay work: brass (I think) embedded in the steel blades, see the title picture!  They were displayed just outside my room as if I might need them to defend myself!

Soglio is remarkable for its age-old mountain homes and beautiful views of the steep mountains on the opposite side of the valley.  This includes Piz Badile, a very steep peak with a north-east face thought to be among the most difficult climbs in the Alps.  In case you want some thrills, check this filmed ascent of the Cassin route!

Piz Badile

Piz Badile

After Soglio there followed visits with old Swiss friends from 50 years ago!  And reunions of long-lost family.   There was a new generation of children I had never met!

A visit to the Chagall exposition at the “Zurcher Kunsthaus”, with my childhood friend and current author, Daniel Suter, was well worthwhile.  It features a review of his life’s work.  It is a temporary exhibit, open until May 12, 2013.  And, finally, we met at the Hotel Storchen in Zurich for the ‘Klassenzusammenkunft’ which means ‘class reunion’.  Even the Latin teacher was present!  Sheepishly I raised my wine glass to toast him and uttered the first latin words that came to mind: in vino veritas est.

Diamond Bee Pendant

Diamond Bee Pendant (Tiffany)

Over dinners with friends and family I grew to admire several pieces of jewelry. They are featured here.  Zurich is a place where there are always plenty of nice things!

Aquamarine Gold Ring

Aquamarine Gold Ring (Gabriele Krack)

For example this stunning 20.67ct aquamarine, set in an 18K gold ring crafted by Gabriele Krack.  Or a Bee Pendant, made of diamonds set in platinum (Tiffany).

BACK IN DOHA (QATAR)

In 2009 I wrote about a visit to Doha.  The Museum of Islamic Art had just opened.  It’s a jewel of a museum and they feature a lot of antique jewelry. I am back in Doha for my 6th annual visit.  Some things have changed. The license plates on cars now display Western numerals rather than Arabic numbers.  The finished skyscrapers now outnumber the cranes in some parts of the city, but the building boom is still ongoing.  This is still a place of unbelievable contrasts.

Hodge podge of styles: (from L>R) local traditional, modern (Sheraton pyramid) and base of an ugly tower with a metal laced exterior which we call the ‘corndog’ building because it looks like a corndog!

Hodge podge of styles: (from L>R) local traditional, modern (Sheraton pyramid) and base of an ugly tower with a metal laced exterior (see below; Burj tower), which I call the ‘corndog’ building because it looks like a corndog!

First there is the architecture.  I think this is a city with some of the most unsightly and strangest skyscrapers I have ever seen.  But, also, with one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Museum of Islamic Art designed by IM Pei.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

It is truly mesmerizing.  The Museum was meant to look like a veiled woman who’s ‘eyes’ are keeping watch over the city.

Perhaps the most striking contrast is in the wealth distribution.  Qatar is considered one of the richest countries on the globe. Qatar has a resident population of 1.7 Mio according to the 2010 census.  However only 1/5 are Qatari nationals.  The rest are ‘guest workers’, a euphemistic term.  They get a resident permit when they enter the country, being invited by their sponsor, the business that employs them.  Most have a single exit visa.  Their sponsor (or employer) dictates when they exit the country and often they confiscate the employees passport.  If fired, you are simply brought to the airport by your employer, end of story.  Some guest workers are luckier and have multiple exit visas usually valid for one year.  Some guest workers (but not all) also get a Health card, which gives them access to government subsidized health care.  They may also acquire a liquor license but they have to be non-Muslim, a resident of Doha and earn over QR 4,000 per month.  Most recently, those with liquor licenses can now also purchase pork products!

Guest workers or expats come in different types.   Top echelon expats are technical advisors, engineers, consultants, scientists and doctors.  They are well paid.  Their employer covers the rent and the school tuition for their kids.  These people can make money here and save money, but they can never become citizens or start their own business.  So most of them ultimately plan to move back home. More commonly expats do all the menial jobs.  They come from all the countries around the Indian ocean.  I try to speak to them.  They are maids, hotel employees, cooks, cab drivers or personal drivers, and droves of construction workers.  Their salaries are meager compared with western nations.  My driver from Nepal makes 1,000 rial per month (US$ 275), that is 30 rial per day (US$ 7/day).  Construction workers may make even less (700 rial/month), and a housemaid, depending on her employer, (700-2000 rial/month).  Never the less, these salaries are a step up from what they could earn at home if they found a job.  They are often able to send some money home and even support their families.  One house keeper put her daughter through school, at home in the Philippines, with $250/semester while making about $400/month here in Qatar.

Construction workers or... 'guest workers'

Construction workers or… ‘guest workers’

My driver has lodging provided by his company: 14 men in 7 bunk beds in one room.  Three are from Nepal and the rest are from Sri Lanka and India.  Three are Hindu, the rest are Muslim.  Life is not cheap in Doha and their salary is just sufficient for some food.  He and his co-workers from Nepal are eager to return to their home country even if that means less money and possibly no work at all.  It is interesting to draw this comparison: my driver makes 30 rial per day and my hotel room costs 1,100 rial per night!  Is this human exploitation?  It sounds like a medieval society. But am I not taking part in this?  I come as a teacher and I share my knowledge in the hope that it will better the human condition, but ultimately I also come here because I am paid!

By contrast, the new found oil and gas wealth of Qatar, deemed the richest country in the world for 2012, has also been used to do some amazing things.  Related to my line of work, the Qatar Foundation invited several western universities to establish a campus in Doha.  This started in the 1990s and now there are at least 7 campuses in Doha representing an unrivaled center for education in the Arab world.  They include the campuses of Northwestern University (communications, journalism, liberal arts), Carnegie Mellon (business administration, computer science), Virginia Commenwealth Univ. (design, arts, fashion), Georgetown Univ. (foreign service, politics), Texas A&M (engineering), Weill Cornell Medical College (medicine)  and University College of London (museum curation, archeology).  The vision and origin of the Qatar Foundation comes from the Emir himself and particulary his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.  It’s mission is to further education, science and research, and community development.

So much for contrasts.  Back to jewelry.

Chinese fisherman

Chinese fisherman

I took a long walk just yesterday from the hotel to the museum along the Corniche.   I met a few fishermen.  One man from China had caught 10 fish.  The gulf is actually rich in fish and Doha has a very old history of fishing trade.

Palm tree on the Corniche, Museum in the distant background

Palm tree on the Corniche, Museum in the distant background

From afar you can see the Museum of Islamic Art built on a man made peninsula.  From close up the contrast of old fishing boats (dhow harbor) and the modern art museum are striking!  There is an extensive review of shipping and ship construction in the gulf at catnaps.org – where there is plenty on  Islamic design and traditional boats.

Boats in Dhow harbor, museum in the background

Boats in Dhow harbor, museum in the background

Highly recommended reading!

The entrance to the museum is a long drive way lined with palm trees, with water flowing down a central trough made of black marble. It is a stunning approach.

Here are some pictures I took at the museum.  These are items that belonged to royalty of course.

Necklace make of red spinel, pearls and diamonds set in gold bezels.

Necklace make of red spinel, pearls and diamonds set in gold bezels.

A bazuband to be worn on the front of a princess, made of large diamonds set in gold with a spinel drop in front.

A bazuband to be worn on the front of a princess, made of large diamonds set in gold with a spinel drop in front.

The original owner of much of the jewelry in the museum was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal. He is depicted here on a cameo in sardonyx stone on a bloodstone mount (ca. 1630).

The original owner of much of the jewelry in the museum was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal. He is depicted here on a cameo in sardonyx stone on a bloodstone mount (ca. 1630).

On my way home, evening views of Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises in the background.

Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises

Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises

And as I approached the north end of the Corniche I walked right past the ‘corndog’ building again, past a black glass building that reflects the neighboring ‘monster’ buildings, and past the Qatar World Trade Center…    Not sure what to think of this city.

Corndog building

Corndog building (lights up at night) also goes by other less flattering names, but is really named Burj tower.

Reflections of neighboring buildings in black glass

Reflections of neighboring buildings in black glass

Qatar World Trade Center

Qatar World Trade Center with crown!