I now own another weird, random thing I’ve always wanted, for some reason: sea urchin light

sea urchin light

What I’m obsessed with this month: Victorian mourning hair jewelry

This is something I discovered a few years ago and have been hunting for a piece to own ever since. Mourning hair jewelry was made from the hair of a deceased loved one; the idea’s been around for centuries but it was most popular during the Victorian era. Christ, those Victorians were a morbid bunch–although the argument can also be made that it’s healthier to deal with death directly, rather than sweep it under the carpet the way we try to nowadays. Anyway, they say it’s because Queen Victoria went off the deep end when Prince Albert died, that she never stopped mourning (based on how many children they produced in the time they were married, they must have REALLY been in love, know what I’m saying, all that “Close your eyes and think of England” stuff aside) and she was such a strong influence on western culture that everyone kind of  followed her over the cliff.

There are two different styles of mourning jewelry: one where necklaces, bracelets, and watch fobs are woven from the hair; and one where the hair is encased in a brooch or necklace pendant. The latter is my favored style, it can be as simple as just a lock of hair curled inside, sometimes with a portrait of the loved one. But jewelers sometimes got really elaborate with it and made intricately woven/braided patterns or curls or even actual tiny pictures with the hair (weeping willows, pansies, tombstones).

There are a couple of local antique stores with a pretty good stash of mourning jewelry, one in Lafayette and one in Breaux Bridge, but (based on my research) I’ve found it all overpriced for the condition it’s in. And when did antique dealers become so opposed to haggling? Used to be you could make them a counter-offer and if it wasn’t insulting they’d likely take it, because that item could sit gathering dust for another decade before anyone else expressed interest in it. Nowadays you offer $85 for something priced at $100, and they act like you offered to trade them a dead skunk for it.

So I took to Etsy, and last night I found the perfect, and I mean it’s EXACTLY what I’m looking for AND it’s in excellent condition, piece:

mourning hair

Those three curls are a style that was called “Prince of Wales”. The gold threads symbolized true love and the seed pearls the tears of the person who wore the piece. It’s reversible: the pin you see sticking out of the right side lifts up, the center swivels, and you put the pin back to lock it in place. The other side is currently empty, I’m guessing it held a photo that was removed by the last family member who owned the piece before the estate sale. The gold is probably only 9 or 10 k; gold wasn’t really the point of these pieces and they usually had a low content. There are initials and the date 1869 scratched into the back.

The seller was offering this at a price that is more than fair, I’ve seen less elaborate pieces in worse shape go for $100 more than what she’s selling this for. Even better, she offered layaway in the listing, so I don’t have to pay the whole price at once. We worked out a deal, I’m going to pay her $100 a week (I get paid every Friday) until it’s paid for, then she’ll ship it.

The next thing I’m going to hunt down is a lachrymatory, which was a glass vial that mourners (almost always women) used to catch their tears; when it was full they sprinkled them on the grave of the loved one. It dates back to the Romans, but again, it was the Victorians who really made it into an art form. One day I’d love to have a cabinet of curiosities, where I can have all my weird stuff in one place–although that locket is going in my jewelry box, because you better believe I’m going to wear it.

Louisiana opal

I’ve been splurging on myself a bit since I got the raise at work, but I figure I’m allowed after more than a year of being unemployed. (I like to say I was self-employed, because I was selling the occasional print or vintage camera through my Etsy shop, but who am I kidding, that wasn’t enough to live on.)

louisiana opal

This is a Louisiana opal pendant that I bought last night from an Etsy seller who lives up in Leesville. I found out about Louisiana opals a couple of years ago and have been wanting one ever since. Wire wrapping is how most of them are set; I chose this one because I like the unusual shape of the cabochon, the fact that the wires don’t cover much of the surface area of the stone, and the bottom twists that remind me of a letter S.

Louisiana opals occur when the opal matrix forms inside of quartz sandstone. They are considerably harder and less brittle than fire opals or black opals, and so can be cut in large cabochons and set without a protective backing. They are less gaudy than other kinds of opals, appearing to be merely a piece of polished beige-grey sandstone–until you turn them, and green, blue, purple, teal, gold, and aqua flashes out at you. There was only ever one commercial mine for them, the Hidden Fire Opal Mine in Vernon Parish. It was operated on land owned by Boise Cascade, which shut it down after just four years because they figured the timber was worth more than the opals.

So Louisiana opals are quite rare and most existing ones are today in the hands of private gem collectors. But because they aren’t as colorful as other kinds of opals they’re seen as not as desirable and thus are pretty affordable. This is a 24-carat opal (!!), but even set it was under $200. Because they’re so large, set opals are usually sold as necklace pendants or pins, rather than rings. I might eventually also get an unset stone and see what a local jeweler can do with it, but that will probably be expensive so for now I’m content with this one piece.

I just really love these opals. In addition to being a literal piece of the state that is both my ancestral home and the place I’ve chosen to live, I appreciate the subtlety of the stone. I like regular opals, too–I wear an opal ring that my (biological) father gave to my mother almost every day, but they show their colors without prompting. There’s something special about the hidden fire of a Louisiana opal.

I sold 2 more photos from my Etsy shop, because I am a perfessional photo-taking person.

This photo of a mausoleum in New Orleans’ Greenwood Cemetery (note the ubiquitous Mardi Gras beads):


And this photo of a doorway and elephant ears in the Marigny neighborhood of NOLA:


Both to a woman in Austin, Texas. I need to get some more photos listed, I haven’t been replacing sold listings with new ones and I’ve fallen below 20.

I also got a boatload of mail yesterday, so whatever demands my mail carrier had in exchange for the mail I assume he was holding hostage, I must have unwittingly met them. Among other goodies, I got a 30-year-old postcard from Belarus that came in an envelope with old Soviet stamps; some Loteria cards (a new obsession of mine, I recently bought Loteria embroidery transfers from Sublime Stitching); and the oilskin patches for my SX-70, which I wasted no time applying.

sx 70 top

sx-70 bottom

sx 70 open

Apologies for the crappy cell phone photos, I wore out the batteries in my digital over the weekend. I really, really wish that sonar autofocus unit was removable, because I don’t plan to use it even if it still works, and it messes up the classic shape of the camera when it’s folded. Oh well, first world problems.

Editing photos from the trip is still going slower than molasses in winter, but here’s one I took on Highway 61 outside of Natchez:

Highway 61, Adams County, Mississippi

I am not normally a fan of the whole Instacrap filter thing, but the lighting was so dull and flat—filtered through heavily overcast skies—that a lot of the photos need *something* to make them pop a little.

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My Etsy shop. I also sell vintage cameras.

My Neighbor Totoro cross stitch #1

Totoro in hydrangeas cross stitch (with flash)

This is the first cross stitch I’ve completed in a while. I got bogged down with those Celtic crosses; I wanted to do the entire book of designs (I think there were 8 in all), but as I was about to finish the 2nd to last one I got a serious case of the eff thises and didn’t want to pick up any needlecrafts for the next several months. Which is my normal routine, I go in spurts where I’m obsessed with it and do it every waking minute, then I can’t stand the sight of an embroidery hoop for the rest of the year.

This is a small design, actually one of 2 My Neighbor Totoro designs that I bought as a digital file from an Etsy seller for a few dollars, back when I was still working on the crosses. I usually like to ease back into things with a small project. I was just going to hoop it, but it’s small enough that maybe I can use it for a clothing or a tote bag patch or something.

20 new listings in my Etsy shop

I have 20 new photos listed in my shop, and you can get free shipping now until the end of October if you use the coupon code NEW2013. (That’s only for prints, not vintage cameras.)

church door

I was in New Orleans yesterday (more on that later), and when I came back and checked Etsy I found that I’d had photos featured in 3 different treasuries. This photo was in 2 of them, and about 2 dozen people have favorited it so far. That’s great, but I wish someone would buy it.

I’m pretty frustrated with the whole feedback system of Etsy, although I understand why they have it. But people don’t like to buy from you if you don’t have a lot of feedback, and you can’t get feedback until you make sales, so it’s a catch-22. And I’ve made some sales, but only 1 person has bothered to leave feedback! If feedback is so important to how well your shop does, Etsy should make it mandatory. Like you’re not able to make more purchases until you’ve left feedback for the previous one or something.

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I fell down an Etsy rabbit hole of non-denominational prayer/meditation beads and this is the result

I couldn’t find any that I really liked, so I just made my own.

ocean meditation beads flash

I’ve got to stop photographing things on a semi-reflective surface.

Anyway, they’re ocean meditation beads. From the inside, the 3 main sections are freshwater pearls, imperial blue jasper, and abalone. The jasper was chosen mainly on the basis of color, but I figure it’s all symbolism anyway so it works. The tiny white spacer beads are mother-of-pearl, and the slightly larger blue spacer beads are also abalone. The 4 large spacer “beads” are actually a bunch of little seed pearls strung together to form a ball.

The large charm is a pewter labyrinth disc, which isn’t necessarily ocean-related but is a good all-purpose contemplative symbol. The smaller charm is a silver sea shell that’s also a locket, for storing a wish/prayer or a very small object. Next to the charms are some more spacer beads and freshwater pearls in a lighter color, just to kind of “taper” the ends.

I experimented with alternating the beads, but it looked tidier doing them in 3 different sections separated by the large spacer beads. There’s 9 in each section, because 3 is a mystical number, 9 is 3 3s, and there are 3 sections. It just seemed right.

Here’s a photo without the flash:

ocean meditation beads no flash

In somewhat related news, I just finished reading a book about New Orleans Voodoo, and apparently carrying a $2 bill around in your wallet is a Voodoo thing, it’s supposed to attract more money. (Voodoo traditionally being a religion of poor people, a lot of it has to do with money or finding work or just avoiding bad luck.) Anyway, it’s funny because Granny carried a $2 bill around with her for decades. She said it was so she always had $2 in case of emergency, but since $2 hasn’t been much use in any kind of emergency since Kennedy was assassinated, Mom and I figured it was some kind of good luck charm. Mom gave it to me when Granny died, and now it’s in my wallet. (The date on the bill is 1976! I was less than 2 when it was printed!)

recent additions to my rosary collection

Damn you, Etsy!

gaudalupe rosary

I absolutely love this rosary; growing up in a part of the country with a strong Mexican influence, I’ve always loved Virgen de Guadalupe iconography and Dia de los Muertos imagery. The seller customized it for me with white stone skull beads instead of blue. And the beads look red in this photo, but in actuality they’re a lovely dark pink.

Shop: Artista Muerta. She does a lot of different kinds of jewelry, not all of it religious, and I want ALL of it.

irish penal rosary

This is an Irish penal rosary (Irish name: An Paidrín Beag). The original design dates to the time of the Irish penal laws (harshest under the Stuarts and Cromwell), when England tried force Ireland to accept the Anglican Church. Any form of Catholic worship–like praying the rosary–was against the law. (Protestant dissenters such as Presbyterians also ran afoul of the laws.) The single decade was easy to hide in a sleeve, and the prayer kept track of them by moving the ring from finger to finger. (A full rosary is 5 decades, each decade is 10 Hail Marys.) Often they didn’t use a crucifix on the end but a subtler symbol of Jesus, like a carpenter’s nail or a fish.

I love the unusual square beads, the mottled blue-green coloring, and the primitive crucifix. I like crucifixes that are neither too elaborate, nor too graphic–those enormous ones where you can see Jesus’ eyes rolling in pain and the drops of blood on his forehead freak me out. My favorite crucifix is the one on my Job’s Tears rosary, where Jesus is hanging from a dogwood tree instead of a cross.

Shop: One Days Grace. They make a variety of religious jewelry, not all of it Catholic or Christian.

rosary ring

This is a rosary ring, which was also popular during penal times for the same reason, and was even easier to hide. You moved the ring around your finger as you prayed and moved your thumb from one knob to the other. You had to keep track of the decades yourself, though.

I don’t know how old this is but it’s got a lovely patina.

Shop: Inspirational Supply. They mostly sell rosary parts, for people who like to make their own. This could be used as a necklace, it’s got a loop at the top, but I prefer it as a ring, which is its original intention.

These are my marimo, Fred and Carrie.

I love that things like terrariums (terraria?) are undergoing a revival. I did an Etsy treasury list; the trouble with treasury lists is that I wind up wanting to buy everything on them. Although actually I build my own, so the only one I felt like I reeeally needed was this marimo one, which is technically an aquarium, because marimo are a form of algae and live in water.

PICT0464, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Her prices are really reasonable, most of them are around $25. This came with everything but the shell and the flat white rock, which I added (my friend Rachel sent me a big bag of beach flotsam to use in my terrariums). It comes in a kit, so you can arrange everything however you like it. The opening is under 1″ wide, so I did it the same way I arrange my light bulb terrariums: put in the bottom layer, put in the water, drop everything in, and poke it around with a chopstick until you’re satisfied.

PICT0465, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

In other news, I guess there’s some big football game today, whatever. The Super Bowl to me is just an excuse to make many delicious snacks. This year’s menu is chili-lime buttered cashews, a crawfish mold, pepperoni pizza dip, honey mustard-pretzel chicken wings, and Creole cream cheese ice cream cupcakes with a Biscoff spread center (it’s like peanut butter but it tastes like graham crackers) and caramel Magic Shell. I taste-tested one of those last night and they are FABULOUS.

i’ll take ICEPOCALYPSE 2012 over another non-winter like last year

So, I had made plans to go to New Roads this weekend. (Sadface: I found out last weekend that the delightful–and reliable!–New Roads-St. Francisville ferry stopped operating last year, when they opened a stupid boring bridge over the Mississippi instead.) But upon checking the handy weather app on my Tablet (Advertising! SEND ME SOME BUXXX, B&N!), I saw the forecasted high was 85. I would tromp around in 85 degrees in summer and be grateful for it, but the first week of November? Eff that noise. Plus I woke up annoyed after a dream in which I cooked dinner and a bunch of people showed up annanounced and there wasn’t enough food and then they complained about there not being enough food. I literally woke up muttering “Get the fuck out of my kitchen, assholes!” Too much dairy before bedtime.

ANYWAY. So instead I went shopping in Lafayette. LOL, bitchezzz be shoppin’. Only instead of shoes and chocolate, I bought dip pen nibs and English tea and scented candles. You know, basic everyday staples. Most of that was procured at World Market, where I was dispatched by mater to fetch gingersnaps and lemon curd. I love that store to a probably unhealthy degree and limit my visits to a bimonthly trip, where I keep my head down and try not to look around too much, lest I buy half the store.

The dip pen and nib set was actually bought at Michaels (boycott Hobby Lobby, they are a bunch of god-bothering nutballs who don’t want to give health insurance to their female employees). I was looking at calligraphy ink when I saw they had the Manuscript round hand set #1 for just $9.99, which seemed like a decent price. A couple of the nibs are too wide for anything but calligraphy; which I took a class in in high school and remember being both good at and fond of–my favorite script was half uncial, a late antiquity/early medieval lowercase script used predominantly by Irish manuscript copyists (the Book of Kells was written in uncial). It was one of those ones where the s looked like an f, although there was a modern s introduced later. But some of the nibs are narrow enough for letter-writing, and the pen itself, although just cheap wood, is light and shaped nicely and pleasant to hold.

I was actually at Michael’s in the first place to get supplies for a new cross stitch project. I’ve finished with the primary stitching in the hurricane tracking map (aka the project that is taking half of my life to finish), but there’s a LOT of backstitching–it’s a MAP, after all–and I’ve never been crazy about backstitching and I need a break. When I put together my absinthe treasury list on Etsy (I’ve since done 4 more treasury lists, SOMEBODY STOP ME), one of the things I included was a cross stitch pattern for a 1900-ish absinthe advertisement, which I then decided to buy. I mean I know you can convert anything to a pattern for free with programs you can download also for free, but it was $5 so eff it. She emailed it to me in a PDF pattern less than an hour after I sent the payment through PayPal. It’s big but fairly simple, and there’s no backstitching.

The first bit though, UGH. I always start in the middle and work my way outward, and just coincidentally the middle of this pattern was where a lot of elements converged. So of a 10 x10 block of stitches, there were a bunch of colors that employed maybe 2 or 3 (sometimes just 1!) stitch. So I would unwind a skein, wrap it around a bobbin, cut off a length, thread my needle, make a couple of stitches (which takes about 3 seconds), run it under some other stitches to anchor it, cut my thread… and repeat again about 80 times. It took me the entire length of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Swedish version, no duh) to do that first square. (I watched it for winter porn. I think I might watch the Fincher version again too, for Daniel Craig porn. He spends most of it wearing glasses and bundled into a series of manly but comfy-looking scarves, which is basically the thinking woman’s version of the sexy librarian look for men.)

Last night was David’s birthday, so I made bastilla (Moroccan chicken pie), which is not hard but is labor-intensive, so it’s kind of a special occasion thing. I also made baklava for the first time (since I had a ton of phyllo dough in the freezer), which is much easier than I thought it would be. We’ve had a bottle of rosewater in the fridge for the longest time–an Indian friend gave it to Mom because she said I was thinking of making ras malai, my favorite Indian dessert; I was, until I started looking at recipes and decided it sounded too complicated–so I made it Persian style: almonds instead of pistachios, cardomom instead of cinnamon, and 1/4 cup of rosewater in the honey-sugar syrup. (You can also use orange blossom water.)

SO THAT WAS MY WEEKEND. How was yours?

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