“The Interpreter of Maladies” – Inspired by Reading Book group blog hop

Interpreter of Maladies

Inspired by Reading Book Group. 

April’s selection: “The Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri

I was happy to have a chance to revisit these stories, as I had originally read the book 10 or more years ago. What I was instantly reminded of was their intensity. They are haunting, evocative, heartfelt and at times so very heavy. I was not able to complete the book this go through; both due to time constraints and the need to read something of a different mood. 

It was “When Mr. Pirzada came to dine” that inspired my piece this month. 

“Before eating Mr. Prizada always did a curious thing. He took out a plain silver watch without a band, which he kept in his breast pocket…Unlike the watch on his wrist, the pocket watch, he had explained to me, was set to the local time on Dacca, eleven hours ahead. For the duration of the meal the watch rested on his folded paper napkin on the coffee table. He never seemed to consult it…When I saw it that night, as he wound it and arranged it on the coffee table, an uneasiness possessed me; life, I realized, was being lived in Dacca first… 

The watch and the ritual was so symbolic, even more than a symbol – a direct link to his family so far away. There was love and longing in that ritual. There was hope and lonliness, worry, and despair present as well. I wanted to honor that ritual and create a talisman. 

Ganesh collage

Its not lost on me that Mr Prizada in the story is not Hindu – and I have chosen a Hindu god to go into the talisman. At story’s end he sends the family in the US, a Muslim New Year card – thus giving the reader confirmation as to his religion. But Ganesha is the “Remover of Obstacle” and there were so many obstacles, tangible and intangible, that stood between Mr. Prizada and his family, his future, his homeland. 

Ganesha watch

The piece is created inside an old pocket watch, lined with colorful sari fabric. I sculpted a Ganesh from polymer, and hand painted many layers, many details. There are crystals inlaid into the headdress as well. I am not sure what will happen to this piece – I can see it worn long with a tunic and leggings, but I can also see it as a hand held talisman. 

Ganesha watch 2

Dont let time be an obstacle. Make time for the people and pursuits that are important to you. 


Thanks for stopping by, I look forward to your comments, and seeing other’s book group offerings. 

Participants links can be found at Andrew’s blog. 


Inspired by Reading book group – Irish inspiration

 Irish Country Doctor

After a long hiatus, I am thrilled to be back on track with the “Inspired by Reading” book group! 

For the month of March – we read “An Irish Country Doctor” by Patrick Taylor. It was a good read, quick, easy, and entertaining. It reminded me in some ways of a Maeve Binchy novel – in that there was a cast of characters, richly developed by the author, that I grew to like, and care about. The story line, at times poignant, at times humorous, was driven by the characters… their growth, foibles, and interactions. I could see reading other books in the “series” – I think they are loosely related based on said characters, and can each be read as a stand alone novel. 

As to inspiration – I was immediately making associations from this small town in Northern Ireland, set in the early 1960’s (?) to another fictional small town… Brigadoon. ( I KNOW Brigadoon was set in Scotland, but once I thought it I couldnt un-think it…) 

Brigadoon poster Brigadoon album

My mind seized on the idea of two. Two realities. Two visions, two versions… (In case you arent familiar with Brigadoon, the musical tells the tale of a magical Scottish village that appears into our world for one day every 100 years. Two NYC gents stumble on the town, THAT DAY. Coincidence? Hmm. Boy meets girl, falls in love, leaves, town disappears. Boy mopes in NYC, returns to find town gone… yet it reappears! True love works magic.  He joins his love in magical town, leaving our world behind.) 

So where do we stand? Irish images, but a 2 sided focal. OK! 

Irish details

To create the pendant I started with 2 copper discs, cutting in circular windows. I cut a matching circle of 1/4″ Faux Bone for the center core. The copper is stamped, patina added, tumbled, etc. The images, sealed, are glued on. The piece is assembled with balled wire/soft rivets. 

Making the bail was more challenging. The shape and wire wrap were easy enough (Thanks to Kerry Bogert for causing me to rethink colored wire.) Drilling through the FB – I went a bit crooked and the 2 holes weren’e aligned. So what would have been a piece of copper tubing through one hole – became 2 microbolts and washers, with a spot of glue for security! It DOES spin now as I planned. 

  • The thatched cottage is from an antique postcard, the blackbird is from a vintage Irish stamp. 
  • The stamped text reads “Beatha agus Failte” or “Life and Health” a traditional Irish phrase. 
  • The gems are jade, goldstone, dragon’s blood jasper

Cottage view 

Blackbird view

Thanks for taking this meandering journey with me! I know the Muse often leads us on a winding path, and I find it ironic that I was reading this bookwhile on a cruise ship in the Caribbean! No green in sight… 

Please join us – the links and images of other participants can be found at Andrew’s blog! 






Inspired by Reading: “My Mother she killed me, my father….”

I am always “Inspired by Reading”. But this month the selection was so… diverse, enchanting, haunting, original, epic in scope… 

This month’s book was “My Mother she killed me, my father he ate me” forty new fairy tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer. Its an amazing selection of contemporary authors with a magical foreword by Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked”. I will confess – I have not read them all. The book, to me, was like a box of chocolates. If I read them all at one time, I will over due it, and not appreciate the flavors and nuances. I think I have read 9 or so. And so many ideas sprang from those 9… 

Book group!

(Pictured here with “Hopeless, Maine” a graphic novel by Tom and Nimue Brown. A delightful dark, beautiful read.) 


The story I chose was “The Swan Brothers” by Shelley Jackson. The original tale from the Brothers Grimm is a familar one. Evil stepmother curses brothers to spend eternity as swans by day, men at night. Their only sister has to spin nettles to yearn and weave capes/sew shirts for them within 6 years to break curse. And she must not speak. Falls in love and marries prince, bears children. Accused and vilified by truly evil MiL, condemned to burn for murdering her children.  She completes all but one sleeve and transforms her brothers and saves herself in the nick of time.  This is already a potent tale for someone who works with archetypal images and icons full of symbolic meaning. Its a tale of transformation on many levels; not only the brothers, but the raw materials, the traditional woman’s work of spinning and weaving, a domestic alchemy, if you will. Its what artists do – transform raw materials into works of meaning, symbolism, beauty and power. 

This tale combined the transformative powers of the magic with the actual work of an artist – as the sister is a performance artist toiling away on said shirts for years in a storefront gallery! I loved the dark irony of that… The story is woven together with different threads of memory, dream, imagined events, and current happenings. It shuttles back and forth, weaving a mysterious whole from the disparate parts. What is truth? What is imagined? 

The themes are sacrifice, pain, and transformation. The artist/sister weaves nettles into shirts to replace feathers, and dreams all the while of flight. She climbs a glass mountain to retrieve her children, opening the lock with a finger bone. My sketchbook contains these words: spin/weave, yarn, nettles, feathers, wings, arms, bones, keys, locks… This is the feather shed by a swan wing, it is the wing of the last brother, its the wings denied the self sacrificing sister. The story has such a contrast, an interplay between opposing materials that I wanted to include the bones to ground the piece, to temper the prettiness of the feather. I intended to incorporate the resin wings, and found they were not suited to the polymer focal. 

Feathers and bones

Feathers and Bones – polymer feather cabochon, brass, polymer, acrylic paint, glass vial, bones, chain, sterling wire, & gems ( blue tiger eye, amethyst, sapphire jade, calcedony, crystal)

from the story: “…you find, pressed between two pages, a feather. It is white, it is black with an iridescent sheen, it is pigeon-grey…” page 85

Feather and Bones

Then the second necklace sprang to mind almost fully envisioned…  

Silver hands necklace

The Armless Maiden – antique clock key, vial of silver leaf, silver charm, porcelain doll hand, copper, cap, vintage minature pocketknife, vintage chain, garnets, silk. 

from the book – “Occassionally a woman with silver hands brings pears.” page 88. This single line – introducing the “Armless Maiden” as a friend to the protaganist, spoke volumes. The folktales tell of her life, hands cut off by her own father. Differing versions blame the devil, lust… Silver hands feature in the folk tales, and also bring to mind the Irish god Nuada, King of the Tuatha de Danaan.  This necklace is for her, a talisman of loss and transformation, blood and bone. 


But I still wanted to reference the wings and the swans that are integral to the story in all its incarnations. This piece will utilize the resin wings, and showcase  the swans in a more traditional fairy tale context. 

Swan's wings WIP

The Swan’s wings (in progress) – antique postcard, antiqued bronze setting. resin, antique book text, wire...

 This was a very fertile challenge for me – as I am drawn to fairy tale imagery and symbolism in my work. I can see other pieces arising from otehr tales as I savor the delights included in this book. Stay tuned… 

I look forward to hearing your feedback – whether you are familiar with Shelley Jackson‘s tale or the Brothers Grimm original.  The other artist bloggers participating this month will be listed and linked from Andrew’s blog. Please take a peak at the tales they have unraveled… I dont think they will disappoint! 



Inspired by… A Rumor of Gems

This month’s “Inspired by Reading…” book group selection was “A Rumor of Gems” by Ellen Steiber

A Rumor of Gems

I had a feeling I would like this book. Gemstones appearing, magic and mystery, myth and legend come to life. These are motifs that have fueled my work and inspired me since I was a child, with renewed interest in Art School, studying on England, doing my own research… I expected the inspiration for a piece to come easily, and actually it did not… 

The book is quite engaging, filled with rich characters that have depth, revealing their secrets over time. The locale is both here and now, a city you can imagine readily, and a fantasy landscape of the imagination. I was  drawn into the story, and thoroughly enjoyed it…  

When I finished the book – I had little time remaining with which to design and create a piece. Where to start? I was drawn to the moonstone as it’s one of my favorite stones and I have a lovely cabochon waiting for a setting. But that was to easy for me, too clear cut and evident.  I try to truly challenge myself when I am doing a blog hop, an event like this. It becomes my time to experiment, to play, and to be free of the constraints of shows, schedules, inventory. To make a piece for myself – whether it is a success or not… 

The scene I found to be the most evocative was Alasdair in the Womb of the Mothers. I was thrilled to read the names of so many goddesses, with respect and reverence. They were represented as many faces of the archetypal Maiden/Mother/Crone goddess. I work with the feminine divine frequently in my artwork, surely my inspiration would come from this scene? I have a stellar piece of lapis – as Alasdair gave his personal lapis life stone to the Cat Goddess. But my Muse was silent. 

So I went back to the beginning: 

“Alasdair left the apartment at midnight, well into Hekate’s hours. She was present tonight. He had felt her from the moment the sun sank beneath the horizon, had seen her in the waning crescent of the moon, had heard her owls calling from the hills… And it made sense that she’s be comfortable here. The city was , after all, a crossroads of sorts, and she is a goddess of crossroads.” (page 25)

This was the first goddess reference in the book, and it was exciting to me… It set the tone of myth and magic come alive, of scholarly fact interwoven into the fiction of the tale. This – Hekate – was my inspiration. 

 Hekate and Cerebus

Hekate & Cerberus, Apulian red-figure krater
C4th B.C.


Hekate is the goddess of the night, the moon, the Underworld, and magic. She is the dark moon, and with Artemis (Maiden) and Selene (Mother) makes up the Triple Goddess. (She is partnered with Persephone and Demeter in the same way). This three fold nature continues in Hekate’s associations with crossroads where 3 roads meet, and with seeing the past, present, and future. Crossroads are liminal areas, areas of transition; Hekate governs life, birth and death. She welcomes souls to the Underworld, yet carries a torch to light the way to the future. One of her symbols is a key – to unlock inner mysteries. 

The key and her role as the goddess of the Dark moon, the crone, the wise woman… was where my inspiration lay. I chose to use a large black labradorite stone – as a stone was essential based on the book – and this stone evoked the dark moon. 

black labradorite 

Hekate pendant

I sculpted a polymer pendant – three cornered for Hekate’s crossroads. The stone is set with a wire staple and then an additional polymer bezel.  It bears the marks of stars for her mother – the Titan Asteria (Star). and is crowned with 2 crescents to represent the other aspects of the Triple Goddess. A key dangles from the bottom of the pendant. The polymer is hand painted, and finished with Gilders paste for a subtle sheen. 

I plan to finish this with a necklace of gems. Moonstone, labradorite, hematite, pearls, garnet perhaps – but there was no time… 

pendant with key

gems ideas

William Blake's Hekate

“The Night of Enitharmon’ Joy” (aka The triple Hekate) by William Blake. 1795. Pen and ink, watercolor on paper. 

This is one of the iconic Art History images I always associate with the goddess Hekate. 


Thank you for reading my ramblings! I am sorry I did not get the piece done – I am very happy with the results – this one is for me although I may make another similar version. Please check in on my colleagues and freinds who are also participating! It should be a very inspired and inspiring selection this month after such a good read! 

Mary K. McGraw http://mkaymac.blogspot.com/
Mary Harding http://maryhardingjewelrybeadblog.blogspot.com/
Jenny Davies Reazor http://www.jdaviesreazor.com/blog/
Judy Campbell http://www.macmillanmarie.blogspot.com/
Jeanne Billeci Steck
Andrew Thornton, Laurel Ross, Terri Greenawalt http://andrew-thornton.blogspot.com/ 

Participants will also be listed here. 




A-muse-ing Grace Gallery ( The Art of Thalia Took)