Sunday, April 12, 2009

Finding My Voice - The Memory Bead

So this week's homework assignment in Sylvie Landsdowne's Finding Your Voice workshop is to make a memory bead. We are only supposed to attempt this bead once but I felt so much pressure, I broke the rules and made four. I think my workshop members will forgive me when they find out why...

Two thoughts came to mind when I learned of the assignment. I've always wanted to make / own a bead made with the cremains of my beloved rottweiler, Maggie May. And I suddenly recalled a trip to Williamsburg, VA as a child where I purchased a worry stone. I loved having that thing in my pocket so much, I darn near rubbed a hole in it in less than a week!

I've always been a child who loved to collect rocks, acorns, cool sticks, etc. on my hikes. I guess I love having a bit of nature in my pocket. So I had a "shape" direction to go in.

And as for Maggie May - Maggie had been in Rottie Rescue for over a year when I got her. I actually had passed her over for another dog. When that girl died very suddenly and strangely, I ended up with Maggie. It took me months to commit to Maggie - I was still missing the first one. But in very short order, I realized Maggie was committed to me.

One winter night, I had been arranging some furniture in an office / laundry room adjacent to my bedroom. I finished and turned in. Some hours later, I slowly became aware of Maggie jumping on and off my bed - something she never did. I kept drifting back into a heavy sleep and then Mags would be tugging at my covers, then jumping on the bed.

Normally, if she needed to go out, she would go over the the blinds at the laundry room door and gently touch them. I'm a light sleeper so that would be enough to wake me and I would let her out. But on this night, she was sweeping those blinds like they were a cello. I was aware but I couldn't move.

Finally, Maggie tugged on my arm and I awoke as I was falling out of bed. Thinking she was ill, I ran to the door to open it, realizing on the way that I was overcome with nausea. As I raced inside to the bathroom, I smelled the gas! My house was full of it.

Later, as I thought about how close to death I had come and blowing up my house, I told Maggie that as long as I had so much as a shopping cart, she would always have a home. She was and is my hero. There is a good story I wrote on the Creekhiker blog as well as a bit about her ashes.

I know other beadmakers have used cremains in their beads and I've thought about having a bead made for me. But some part of me didn't want any part of Maggie going on a trip. I knew eventually, I would do it....just not this soon. This homework really made me stretch.

But I couldn't bring myself to use those ashes on something I might mess up on. So... there were four beads in this homework project.

The first, I was so worried about it breaking, I didn't melt the punty mark in well enough.
Round one: didn't melt the punty too light.

The second one, I tried to make a free-form loop but it shattered and I just made a feeble attempt at fixing it and threw it in the kiln. And I cried. It was a horrible torch day where nothing had worked and this just finished it! I literally considered selling my glass!
Round two - the loop broke, I panicked...

So I showed them to friends, artists of other mediums who give me invaluable insight. And then I went for a long hike and I realized aside from the size of the thumb grove, my biggest issue was the punty.

I fired up the torch again and puntied with clear and on the bottom of the piece. When I finished this one, I knew my idea would work and I was ready for Maggie's cremains to become part of the piece.
Round three, showing the thumb groove.

At first, I was so nervous as I poured a tablespoon of her ashes into one of my frit sifters over a shallow metal bowl. But in just seconds I was over it and actually stirred the ash to sift it better, carefully placing the chunkier bits back in Maggie's urn.

I melted some cranberry rod and dipped it in the cremains, heated and twisted and pulled a rather lumpy stringer.

The final piece was made with pastel rhubarb - my favorite for floral bases because it shifts color in the light. I'm a moody chicky - why shouldn't my memory stone be moody too???

I added leaf cane, then Maggie cane, then little flowers; got it all super hot to make my thumb hole, melted off the punty and tossed it in the kiln.

I had Maggie stringer left over and that was returned to her urn.
My final piece - the pink part contains Maggie's cremains.

I love this piece because the bits of cremains look like mica and sparkle in the sun. Just like my heroine did!


glassbead, isinglass design said...

I LOVE this- the story, the piece you made, everything. Now I want to make worry-stones. This one is just beautiful!

Islandgirl said...

Very touching story.. My son had a little black cat called Maggie May that disappeared last week He left a second floor door open but there was a canary flying in and out of the house I guess she flew out after it!

She's never been outside before thought and seems to be gone....