Netsuke Mermaids

I made this several years ago from some mermaid netsuke I purchased in Hanalei, Kauai. It hangs in a window of my office and today I happened to look up when it was catching some cool sunlight.

Mermaid netsuke, round wooden beads, shells, gemstone chips on a hemp string
Mermaid netsuke, wooden beads, shells, gemstone chips on a hemp string

I made it one day on a whim when I was cleaning up. I had these netsuke that didn’t want to stand up on my desk (they aren’t really made to work as statues), and a set of chakra gemstones that didn’t want to stay strung together. I have seashells in, well, every room of my house now that I think about it. And out in the garden strewn about in flower beds. Huh. I live at least 20 minutes from the beach but it turns out I’ve surrounded myself with ocean artifacts right here “in the inland!” (I have a couple of bottles of sand too.) This is as good a time as any to mention that I think I might have been a mermaid in another life.

the wooden beads between them used to be blue - looks like they're fading with the sun
the wooden beads between them used to be blue – looks like they’re fading with the sun

I love a lot of things about this piece:

  • I made it in 20 minutes
  • with pieces of things that:
    • were cluttering my world (including a big paper clip to hang it from the curtain rod – so much cleaning happened)
    • but that also mean a lot to me (I remember where I got each piece, minus the paper clip)
  • and it’s functional.
  • It came together so simply, with a short series of fun logistical puzzles (what materials have holes in them that I can use? what cord will make it through these tiny natsuke holes? where do the knots go and which beads can slide?).
this mermaid carries her child on her back - love!
this mermaid carries her child on her back – love!

You can see the chakra gemstones in this shot (slightly out of focus) and I forgot until I saw this close-up…there’s a Hamsa at the bottom!! This symbol has particular significance to me after a trip to Spain several years ago when I was lucky enough to visit a museum in Cordoba that focuses on the story of Sephardic Jews in Spain. It’s called Casa de Sefarad and I highly recommend it if you find yourself in southern Spain. I felt a deep connection with the people in the stories I learned there and began to appreciate the history and symbolism of the Hamsa.

I had to get my scrapbook out to remember the name of the museum, and now I have to share a couple of pages. (Apologies for the lighting – it was hard to capture on a whim.)

Page from my Spain scrapbook for that day.
Page from my Spain scrapbook for that day

The picture in the bottom left is of the museum owner/creator, his translator, and the back of my head listening to them. It was an honor to hear his story.

OK – I’m officially out of control with the reminiscing and memorabilia. But just this one last thing.

scrapbook page focusing on mosaics
scrapbook page focusing on mosaics (+ amazing pasta restaurant, upper right corner)

I took approximately 1.6 zillion photos of the mosaic and tile work that decorated just about every surface in every historic building in Spain. Some of these were ceiling tiles and the zoom on my camera was pretty amazing, so I was able to print and cut these out as if they sat inches from my face.

For those that actually were in reach, I had to touch them from time to time. All placed by hand, by artisans, so many years ago. I’m certain their energy and dreams still hum within each tile.

Feeling the energy of history
Feeling the energy of history
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Thoughts? How are you making art and living life these days?

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