Monday, September 24, 2012

Cactus Inspiration

So do you know how to find your way if you are ever lost in the desert?

The Fishhook Barrel Cactus is often called the "Compass Barrel " because some of the larger plants lean toward the southwest.  One theory about why this happens is: the afternoon sun is so intense it slows the growth on the exposed side, causing the plant to grow unevenly. Older barrels can lean so far they uproot themselves and fall over especially after heavy rains when the soil is loose.
Fish Hook Barrel Cacti typically bloom in late summer (July - September) and produce a cup shaped bloom. Flower color is usually some shade of orange, but is occasionally yellow or red. The blooms emerge on the top portion of the cactus, and form a crown around the top. These flowers can be quite large (around 3 inches in diameter).  Cactus bees pollinate the flowers. The fruit remains on the cactus until it is removed by animals and may remain on the plant for more than a year. Birds, squirrels, deer and javalina are the main consumers of the fruit. 

The Fish Hook barrel cactus is one of the last cacti to flower during our summer time. When we see these bright flowers blooming, we know that summer is coming to an end.

I have a Fishhook barrel cactus just outside of my studio door.  It’s been blooming since late August and inspired me to make this necklace.

 Fine silver linked necklace with orange, yellow and crystal cubic zirconia stones.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mescal and why is the worm there?

Last Friday night while having drinks and dinner with some neighbors, the topic of the worm in mezcal  came up.  Why is it there?
Mezcal or mescal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant – a form of agave native to Mexico.  The maguey plant grows in many places in Mexico although mescal now is made mainly in Oaxaca.  Mescal is not as popular as tequila (which is made from the blue agave plant) because it has a rougher taste.
The maguey was one of the most sacred plants in pre-Hispanic Mexico, and had a privileged position in religious rituals, mythology and the economy. Cooking of the “piña” or heart of the maguey and fermenting its juice was practiced. The origin of this drink has a myth. It is said that a lightning bolt struck an agave plant, cooking and opening it, releasing its juice. For this reason, the liquid is called the “elixir of the gods.” 
So why the worm?  Certain mezcals, usually from the state of Oaxaca, are sold con gusano, a practice that began as a marketing gimmick in the 1940s. The worm is actually the larval form of the moth Hypopta agavis that lives on the agave plant and was put there as proof of alcohol content.
 As for why it's "cool" to eat the worm, well, it used to be considered an aphrodisiac that blessed warriors with strength and virility.
No, I didn’t eat the worm!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Native American Symbolism - the diamond

Perhaps two of the earliest design elements to be utilized by Navajo weavers are the diamond and the triangle. These elements were incorporated into old wearing blankets and continue in the modern day Navajo rugs. Again, we cannot be too sure of some of the meanings, but many Navajo grandmothers will tell you that the diamond is a symbol of the Dinétah or Navajo homeland with its four sacred corners that are marked by the four sacred mountains.
The Navajo are an indigenous people from the American Southwest. They call themselves "Dine'", which means 'people' in the Navajo language. The first Navajos settled in the Southwest in the early 16th Century. Today, the Navajo Nation stretches across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, covering over 27,000 square miles.
Navajo people tell us they learned to weave from Spider Woman and that the first loom was of sky and earth cords, with weaving tools of sunlight, lightning, white shell, and crystal. Anthropologists speculate Navajos learned to weave from Pueblo people by 1650. There is little doubt Pueblo weaving was already influenced by the Spanish by the time they shared their weaving skills with Navajo people. Spanish influence includes the substitution of wool for cotton, the introduction of indigo (blue) dye, and simple stripe patterning.
I chose the diamond pattern for my logo to represent my "weaving" of the culture of the Southwest into my art.