Saturday, May 30, 2020


Here is another new one for MerMay. I call it, "Scrying". Scrying is an old divination practice by gazing into reflective surfaces like a crystal ball or a mirror. But a dish of water can be used. Even a vessel of wine! (There's a wonderful book called, "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" and they use scrying quite frequently to help defeat the French in the Napoleonic Wars.)⠀ ⠀
Water is often thought of as an intuitive element. It holds mystery and can be used for healing. It's a double-edged sword, of course. While it can heal, it can also drown. It can restore memory, but it can also make you forget. Symbolic of being life-sustaining, it can also mark the boundaries and passages of the Underworld. I think mermaids are kind of like this. They are so symbolic of dual natures. ⠀ ⠀
When I made this painting, I was thinking about the future and how uncertain it is. Of course, it's always uncertain. We never know what will happen next or how it can change in the blink of an eye. But there are patterns, like the lapping rhythm of the waves. There are cycles and seasons. And when we listen to the beating of our hearts, it's easy to believe in a greater force, a bigger picture of endurance and continuity. How can we connect to this? How do we look into the future and answer the question... what will happen next?
Curious about adopting, "Scrying" for you collection? Visit the Allegory Gallery website.

Friday, May 29, 2020


I didn’t get to make as many pieces as I would have liked this month, but I got more done than I would have if I didn’t. I might have to assign themes for myself to help keep the momentum up! Are there any challenge prompts for June? I know there’s Inktober in October. Mab Graves and Stephanie Law both do them too. I used to do this thing called Illustration Friday on my blog back in the day. ⠀ ⠀
Normally this time of year would be spent preparing for the Bead&Button Show in Milwaukee. We’d be burning the midnight oil something furious up until we left. (I’ve been known to even work in the car driving out and finishing up last minute details in the hotel room! LOL!) But with COVID-19, they’ve postponed the event until August. I don’t know if we’ll be going or not. Really... who has any plans these days? It seems like nothing is certain.⠀ ⠀
The other drawback to the postponement of the show is that we won’t be making the money we normally do. We also won’t be able to bring in new inventory like we do when we attend a big show. We’ll figure something out.⠀ ⠀
But I digress...⠀ ⠀
I was going through pictures of the ocean, as you do when you're making mermaid artwork, and some images popped up of kelp forests. I was instantly drawn to them. Even though it was underwater, the way the light filtered through the kelp leaves, there was this beautiful fiery glow. In some of the pictures, it looked like a dark chamber filled with columns of swirling fire. The wavering swathes of kelp resembled dancing flames. I thought about this warm color palette and how it contrasted against a shock of the electric blue of the water and I wanted to capture the feeling of an underwater blaze.
If you'd like to add, "Ablaze" to your collection, drop by the Allegory Gallery website.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Crescent Mermaid 2...

Here’s another creation for MerMay! I had these vintage wooden crescent moon shapes floating around the studio for a few years. I drilled out the holes and added rivets. I think the glint of metallic edges looks nice and gives a finished look to the holes. A couple of weeks ago, I got up the gumption to paint miniature paintings on them. I was really inspired by the lacquered Russian beads.⠀ ⠀
I blocked out a few different pieces, but I haven’t really had much time to play with them. The tiny size is a challenge for me. I paint rather thickly, which isn’t necessarily ideal when working small. ⠀ ⠀
This is one of the ones that I finished off. I forgot just how tricky these were to paint! I definitely need to get some finer brushes and maybe paint these in oils instead of acrylics. I have a few more in the works and in between projects I noodle away on them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Little River Dweller...

Here's another one for MerMay. In Celtic mythology, there's a creature called an Alp-luachra. It's also called a "Joint-eater" or "Just-halver". It's a fairy that lives near the water and silently (and invisibly) watches people eat their food. If a person should fall asleep near this creature and its watery home, it transforms into a newt and crawls down the victim's throat and eats half their food. They say that whoever is inhabited by one of these creatures will never get fat. New 2020 diet fad? LOL! Really, I think this was an old-timey cautionary tale about tapeworms and other parasites. ⠀ ⠀
I decided to do my own version based off an axolotl. I think they're so cute! So this Little River Dweller is a mermaid mashup. A little bit human, a little bit amphibian, and a little bit piggy.
If you're interested in acquiring "Little River Dweller", check out the Allegory Gallery online shop.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Sunset Memories...

It has been super busy around here. So I haven't really had time to work on anything "extra" for awhile. At least not in any great blocks of time. I have managed to carve out little bits here and there and this is the result. Here's another new piece for MerMay. Sometimes when I don't work on something in a solid block of time, I can keep noodling away, adding this or changing that. That's what happened here. I think it finally came together, but it took some finagling. ⠀
I don't know about you, but if there's a pretty sunset or sunrise, I like to share the moment with a kitty companion. I thought that this mermaid would appreciate some feline companionship. When we were little, our grandma used to fix catfish. They had a deep fryer station set up in the yard and we'd have a big fish fry. At first, we didn't want to have anything to do with it. We knew what fish were supposed to look like and we knew how cats were supposed be and in our minds, catfish looked like mermaids. Even after all this time, this critter makes appearances in all of the siblings' artwork.⠀
We loved the idea of mermaids. There was even a mermaid theme park. We desperately wanted to go, but never could get to Weeki Wachee Springs to see the shows. We've talked about it from time to time. But there were some articles about how it has seen better days and has sort of faded into the nostalgia of Old Florida roadside theme parks. Who knows? Maybe we'll all go one day. But more likely than not, it's a childhood desire fading like the light of a sunset.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Call to Wonder...

Here’s my latest MerMay creation! I grew up in Florida and while the beach was a short distance away, trips were infrequent. We were mostly concerned with the everyday tasks of survival. Beaches were a symbol of leisure and relaxation. Needless to say, we didn’t go often. When we did go, it was a free thing to do that we could take out of town relatives. Sometimes we’d get an invitation to go fishing, but it was always connected to something practical. Later, it was a place of rebellion and freedom. It’s where we’d go to skip school or attend a party. I can almost smell the bonfire and taste the cloying sweetness of strawberry wine coolers. It was the place you’d drive to in the middle of the night, after sitting at the Denny’s struggling to come up with something to do. I remember laughing and dancing in the surf under the moon. I remember trying to find our shoes on more than one occasion after ripping them off as fast as we could as we ran down to the water’s edge. It was a celebration. We built sand castles we knew wouldn’t last. And that was okay. We wrote messages in the sand that would get swallowed up. And that was okay. We danced badly on the beach. And that was okay, because it was a celebration.⠀ ⠀
In this painting, I wanted a call to celebrate and remind ourselves of the beauty and wonder of the world around us. Magic does exist, we just have to look for it.
If you're interested in purchasing "Call to Wonder", you can visit the Allegory Gallery website.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Other Waters...

Mermaids are one of those folkloric creatures that spring up pretty much in every coastal region. There's a fascination with the mysteries of the deep and mermaids are a bridge between our world and something completely alien. The water can be life sustaining, but it can also be cruel and kill. It's a coming to terms with something bigger than ourselves…something primal and elemental. This is one of the new MerMay paintings that I made.
I like the idea that there are as many types of mermaids as there are fish. There’s something appealing about liminal creatures that embody more than one world. I often times felt so conflicted growing up, belong neither here nor there. But when I started to love myself for who I was and stopped trying to be one way or another, there was something beautiful... something peaceful... something that was empowering.

If you're interested in purchasing, "Other Waters" you can do so by visiting the Allegory Gallery website.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Swooping Pearl Necklace...

When I first started making jewelry, I was obsessed with chokers. And while I can still appreciate them, my heart flutters for a long necklace. I don’t know. I think there’s just something about a swooping necklace that is romantic and elegant. Chokers are great and all, but when I wear them, I feel like they’re a collar. Long necklaces breathe and move. I also love the potential to layer longer necklaces and create a bold statement.
This is another mermaid inspired piece and features a lovely collection of pearls. Stacked “cornflake” pearls build on a rhythm of lustrous goodness. It’s long enough to slip over the head, no clasp required.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Celebration of Pearls Necklace...

When I was a little boy, my mom pulled me aside and dug around a red wicker box. From a jewelry box tucked inside, she produced a large pearl. It wasn’t what you’d think of immediately as a pearl. It was wonky and misshapen. But it was one of her most prized possessions. As she showed it to me, she told me stories of her life in the Philippines and about her mother. The stories she told were almost like fairytales, oftentimes strange and fantastical. Pearls could be magic. Pearls could heal the sick and make miracles. Pearls were wishes and good intentions passed from one generation to the next.
It’s probably no surprise that I love pearls. I work with them often. I think they epitomize the mermaid style. Sometimes after a project, I’ll have a few leftovers. I save these. Sometimes they add just the right touch. This rope necklace includes a rainbow of those “leftovers”. I interspersed some really amazing faceted pearls that you don’t really see very often nowadays and two Tahitian pearls.
It really is a celebration of pearls! It can be worn as a long necklace or wrapped around the wrist as a wrap bracelet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Ruler of the High Seas Necklace...

I’ve been making jewelry for almost 20 years and over the years, I’ve amassed quite the collection of interesting components. Sometimes something speaks to you and you know exactly what you want to make right away... but other times, it can take awhile before the right idea comes around. Luckily beads don’t go bad. (Though pearls do benefit from being worn.) I had this idea of making these chicken feet-esque talismans from the Biwa pearls, but never got around to it. The golden coral sticks were actually used to decorate the store for awhile. I made garlands and draped them over the mantle at the old store. But then it clicked.
A lot of times, when I paint mermaids I include some conveniently placed hair or well positioned jewelry to protect their modesty (and not get things taken down on social media). Apparently nipples are just too much and people lose their minds over them. So that’s where a statement necklace comes in handy... at least in paintings. (Actual coverage on an actual person might be a little breezy. LOL!)
Biwa pearls and golden coral sticks fan out in a dramatic bib, flanked by a freshwater pearls and stacks of “cornflake” pearls. A powerful silhouette imparts all the dramatic, regal vibes. All Hail the Ruler of the High Seas!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Treasure Necklace...

I’ve been having such a wonderful time dreaming up creations that I think mermaids would wear! I imagine floating markets where the merfolk can barter and trade for landlocked materials. In my mind, it’s a bustling place with many languages and interesting characters.
This dainty necklace is an asymmetrical design that still looks good even if it shifts a little. I think of it as a treasure necklace; I have little containers that I add to of things that I think look nice together. This necklace is made up of freshwater pearls in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. It also includes dreamy moonstone and glowing opals. It’s a softer palette for me: creams, blush, and dove gray. This would look great on its own or layered with other necklaces.
One of the most common misconceptions about pearls is that they start out as a grain of sand. But mollusks are filter feeders designed to expel any unwanted irritants like sand. Natural pearls usually are the result of parasites. I guess it doesn’t sound quite as romantic. LOL! It’s kind of like learning that some figs are pollinated by wasps that can’t escape and are broken down by an enzyme. Sometimes pearls develop by damage to the mantle of the mollusk. But most pearls nowadays come from small bits of mantle tissue implanted (without or without a small bead or armature) in the other part of the mollusk. A sac forms around the foreign object and layers of nacre secretion form around it.
On paper, it doesn’t sound massively appealing. Words like “sac” and “tissue” and “secretion” don’t do them any favors. But when you hold a pearl in your hand and see it for yourself, you can get lost in the rainbowy luster. Good pearls flash with color and brilliance. To me, this is a quiet alchemy. It symbolizes the transformation of something miraculous and otherworldly. I paired the pearls with a few opals. One of the secrets of opals is that they need water to form. Without water, the silica in sandstone couldn’t be filtered out to form the opal deposits. I think about these sort of things when I’m making jewelry, especially mermaid jewelry.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Beachcomber Necklace...

One of my favorite activities is combing the beach for treasure. I could spend hours looking for worn pieces of sea glass, interesting shells, and intriguing bits of flotsam and jetsam. (I even found a human jaw bone and vertebrae once, but that’s another story.)
When I think about mermaids, I imagine them to be the magpies of the seas, collecting all kinds of trinkets and baubles. This necklace is an ode to beachcombers who find beauty in small things. The focal of this piece is a tumbled, clear quartz rock crystal point. It is silky smooth and reminds me sea glass with its matte finish. The quartz focal pendant is flanked by droplets of organic-looking silver. Molten silver is dribbled into quenching water and the bubbly pebbles are then drilled to make beads. Next come tiny sterling silver cornerless cube spaces that have tumbled glass rings that move up and down over the columns of silver beads. It adds a nice kinetic element. The rest of the necklace is made up of an eclectic assortment of freshwater pearls, opalescent trade beads, snakeskin agate nuggets, and moonstone. The color palette is a dreamy one, inspired by pocketfuls of beach glass and iridescent shells.
Here’s a close-up of the necklace. I’m quite smitten with it. I love all the matte finishes and organic shapes. It gives the piece a gravity of story. These things have places and have tales to tell. This necklace is just another chapter in the very long life of these beads. Sometimes I daydream of what comes next. Who will give them a home and add their own chapter? What will happen when we’re all gone. What incredible journeys are ahead? Already they’ve been around the world and survived centuries of time. The stones were born of fire and wrestling land masses. Pieces and parts have been brought together and here they are. Will someone a hundred years from now look at this piece and somehow know that I dreamed of mermaids and underwater kingdoms when I made this necklace?

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Crescent Mermaid...

I’ve had these vintage wooden crescents for awhile now. I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d do with them, but decided to drill the points out and add metal eyelet rivets to the holes. I had an idea before about doing some drawings on them. But that never really turned into anything. I came across these pieces while I was cleaning and decided to make little paintings on them for MerMay.
I really love the hand-painted Russian, icon-style pendants and thought that I’d make my very own. Apparently I thought it’d be easier. Nope! Turns out painting tiny miniature portraits is hard! It was definitely a challenge for me to paint that small! I need smaller brushes and magnification! LOL! I think, eventually, I will give the piece a resin coating for extra protection.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Ocean Spirit Necklace...

There are all these wonderful stories of mermaids and other mer-creatures hiding their souls in objects like shells. I imagine that if you could swim to the deepest depths of the ocean, you would have the most amazing shell collection! ⠀ ⠀

I’ve had this strand of shell beads for awhile now. Each bead is composed of two shells that were glued together and then drilled. They’re incredibly light and extremely fragile, but super lovely. What appealed to me the most was the intense purple color. They almost look like they could be carved from amethyst. I paired these shell beads with faceted amethyst rondelles from Africa. The amethyst from Africa is generally much darker and has a deeper grape color, more so than its Brazilian counterpart. To pull everything together, I used a seashell clasp made by my family at Green Girl Studios and is crafted out of shibuichi, which is a delightful alloy of copper and silver. Depending on how shibuichi is finished, it can look cherry red, buttery peach, earthy brown, or steely gray. I love this finish because it reminds of ancient coins. This is a relatively simple design, but I love the intense color and bigger proportions. It rests deliciously on the collarbone.
Sometimes when I’m designing, I want to throw the entire bag of tricks at it. I can’t help it. When I first started designing, I would try my hardest to come up with new looks and incorporate unconventional materials. I delighted in “discovering” new jewelry materials and using them in unexpected ways, different from the applications they were intended for. I did this a lot when I was designing for books or magazines. I was even featured in a book called, “Unexpected Findings”. A lot of those designs were really over the top. More was more. I had a lot of ideas and wanted to prove it. But eventually I reached a point where I started to really appreciate simplicity. Instead of me being at the center of the story, how about letting the materials do the talking? ⠀ ⠀
I circled back on stringing, where my love of jewelry making began. Designs like this are simple, but I think that’s okay. I still make big, over the top pieces but I also make projects like this. I think they have a quiet strength. If you listen closely, they’ll reveal their stories.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Jiaoren Necklace...

Whenever I embark on a series, I go into research mode. I start investigating from different angles. As with the winter series, I started to look at mermaids from around the world. In Chinese folklore, there’s the “Jiaoren”. Not only were they lovely to look at, but they were skilled craftspeople. They also had a particular gift: when they cried, their tears turned into pearls. If someone showed them kindness, they’d repay it by filling a cup with tears.⠀
As a jewelry-maker, I couldn’t not make some MerMay jewelry. This necklace is inspired by the Jiaoren. I also really love pearls. This is long, Flapper-style necklace featured freshwater pearls, labradorite, garnets, and gilded brass. It can be worn as a swooping single strand or it can be doubled up for a layered look. Mermaids = OG neckmess trendsetters.
Here’s a detail shot of the pearl necklace. I really love the look of creamy pearls punctuated with sprinkles of gold and pops of red and gray. I think it has a very royal, opulent feel. ⠀

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The Warrior of the Deep...

It’s no surprise that the past month or so has been a struggle for me. It has been a challenge for a lot of people. The first week was the hardest and then it was a roller coaster of ups and downs. I was emotionally rung out and it was hard to muster any energy for much of anything... it took all I had to simply carry on.

But there’s something about darkness that reveals the light. Sometimes we don’t realize our strength until we’re forced to be strong. One of the prompts for MerMay is “Warrior”. At first I thought of a dark and imposing character. But the more I looked at the fish and other creatures that dwell in the darkest part of the ocean, they were surprisingly colorful and highly patterned. Many of them are bioluminescent. Sometimes in the darkness, you have to make your own light.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

The Rock Stacker...

I grew up in Florida and have fond memories of the beach. We used to get up super early and go fishing at Sebastian Inlet. When we got tired of fishing (which happened pretty quickly), my siblings and I would collect shells and look for sea glass. We’d stack rocks. Sometimes it was about balance and sometimes it was to see who could make the tallest pile. When I grew up, I discovered that these stacks had a name. They’re called “cairns” and they’re used to mark paths and help find your bearings when you’re lost. We’re living in such an uncertain time... who couldn’t use a little direction? They’re also used to commemorate a place and designate it as special. This is my first mermaid for MerMay! I’m hoping to make an entire collection of mer-creatures.