Saturday, November 27, 2010

Doodling Miracles

I recently became ingrigued with these small talismans called Milagros. Milagros, which is spanish for miracle, are small amulets used as votive offerings in Latin America, Spain and some other countries in Europe. The idea behind a milagro is that it is a physical representation of a prayer. For example, if someone is experiencing a pain in the leg, a milagro in the shape of a leg would be attached to the robe or altar of the saint during prayer.

In addition a milagro can also be utilized in a prayer of thanks. Inexpensive generic tin milagros are often sold by church vendors, but many craftsmen will create custom more detailed ones out of a variety of materials.

One of the things which makes milagros so remarkable is the fact that the tradition has endured for over two thousand years and although these folk charms are most classically associated with Catholic prayer they have been an inspiration for artist all over the world from all sorts of religious backgrounds.

That is exactly my case, for some reason I have been particularly fixated with the heart icon, I love hearts, of all shapes and colors, so no wonder my favorite milagro is, yes you guessed right... THE HEART MILAGRO. It represents love, healing and gratitude as well as longing, passion and worry. It is the most common image offered at shrines.

For the last few weeks I have been taking a metalsmithing e-course with Stephanie Lee. I really love this workshop. This weekend I decided to try to incorporate a milagro somewhere in my work and I started doodling, perhaps to stamp it or etch it or... just for fun. Here are my Heart Milagro Doodles.

Milagros are part of a magical and symbolic past, and are an ongoing part of a fascinating folk culture. If you want to find some to incorporate in your jewelry and you are not quite ready to travel to Mexico, there are some etsy vendors that have a large selection of them. I hope they bring you all they are meant to bring.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jennifer Maestres' Pencil Beads

It never ceases to amaze me how some artist find inspiration and turn the common and most ordinary objects into incredible pieces of art. Jennifer Maestre was originally inspired by the form and function of the sea urchin, animals, plants and mythology.
She started experimenting with different materials to make urchin forms. She started working with nails of different types, textures and colors which she pushed through window screens. She then continued working in a larger scale, adding zippers and other elements.

In her desire of sculpting more complex forms she started experimenting with other pointy things and techniques, and finally came up with the idea of using pencils by turning them into beads and sewing them together. To make a pencil sculpture she takes hundreds of pencils, cuts them into 1- inch sections, drills a hole in each section, sharpens them and sews them together using mostly a beading technique called the peyote stitch.

Born in Johannesburg , South Africa in 1959, Jennifer is a graduate of Welsley College and holds a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art. She has been teaching her off-loom techniques for many years and is internationally known for her unique pencil sculptures.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Steel Lace

Cal Lane born in Halifax , Nova Scotia is a sculptor and welder who turns ordinary objects into lacy artworks. She creates stunning sculptures by handcutting lace trimming patterns into rusty metal objects. Shovels, old car doors, l-beams and oil drums are transformed into transparent, delicate lingerie-like sculptures.
Photo by Phil Mansfield
“I like to work as a visual devil’s advocate, using contradiction as a vehicle for finding my way to an empathetic image, an image of opposition that creates a balance – as well as a clash – by comparing and contrasting ideas and materials.This manifested in a series of “Industrial Doilies”, pulling together industrial and domestic life as well as relationships of strong and delicate, masculine and feminine, practical and frivolity, ornament and function.”
—Cal Lane

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cotton Rag Bath Mat

I've noticed some of the knitting club girls have been getting a little lazy lately. Our last meetings have been mostly eating, eating, chatting and a little more eating.
This is why I decided to post this tutorial by coco knits.
I think this is mat is a brilliant idea, specially because it is a very fast and easy knit, and also because you can make it out of recycled material. I hope it gets your knitting juices going girls!

Rag Bathmat 1


Approximately 18" wide and desired length. The sample is 36” long for a bathtub, it can be shorter for a smaller shower.



Sample used two pre-washed twin size sheets ripped into 1 ½” strips and connected as per the rag knitting tutorial on


# 19 needles.


Using # 19 needles over moss st, approximately 1 st per inch.


CO – cast on

BO – bind off

st(s) – stitch(es)

c4b – cable 4 sts behind. Slip next 4 sts onto cable needle (in this case I used a chopstick) and hold at the back of your work. Knit 4 sts, then knit 4 from cable needle.


CO 26 sts.

Row 1, 3, 7 (RS): [k1, p1] four times, p1, k8, p1, [p1, k1] four times.

Row 2 and all WS rows: [k1, p1] four times, k1, p8, k1, [p1, k1] four times.

Row 5: [k1, p1] four times, p1, c4b, p1, [p1, k1] four times.

Repeat these 8 rows until you reach the desired length. BO on a row 1 of pattern.


add fringe by cutting rag “yarn” into 4" long pieces and attaching to either edge as follows

Fold strip in half and pull the fold through the c.o. edge with a crochet hook:

Plastic Bag Knitting 1

Then push the ends through the loop you created and pull until it’s snug:
Plastic Bag Knitting 1

Monday, April 26, 2010

Moroccan Inspiration

It all began when I stumbled upon a book called Tagine - Spicy stews from Morocco'. The exotic ingredients used in this books recipes immediately caught my attention. Dates, almonds pistachios, preserved lemons, apricots, saffron, pomegranates, honey...ummm...SOLD!
I took the book home and immediately started browsing through all of the recipes. It is in this book that I first learned about Ras el Hanout. Literally "top of the shop", Ras el Hanout is a spice blend that can contain more than 30 ingredients. For the moroccan souks (spice merchants) it is a point of honour to have the most sought after version of this blend. There are stories of these spice merchants creating custom blends of Ras el Hanout for special clients with ingredients that might include hashish and even Spanish Fly.

My quest for this exotic ingredient then began.I also would be needing a Tagine Pot, but of course!. Google here I come!
After hours and hours of research I ended up NOT buying a Tagine, but I did end up travelling to Morocco, and what an amazing lifetime experience this was.
I can proudly say that I contained myself from buying all that I saw, because it all was truly beautiful but way to big to bring back home. Humongous tagine pots beautifully handcrafted, incredible samovars, rugs, dishes, teapots,leather poufs, jewlery. The terra cotta tiles, light fixtures and lanterns, wall sconces and tropical plants made my heart beat faster. And the doors, oh my god, the doors!

We visited a cooperative of Berber women were ARGAN OIL was produced.I had never heard of Argan Oil before! Well let me tell you,it is the new "it" anti-aging product and it is being hailed as "liquid gold" by the New York Times. It comes form the nuts of the Argan tree which grows almost exclusively in Morocco. The oil is said to have restorative and age-defying effects. The production of Argan oil, entirely done by traditional methods is a lengthy process.
Each nut has to be cracked open by hand to remove the kernels and producing one litre of oil takes 20 hours of work!.
This I could not resist, and I did buy a couple of bottles to bring home. I later learned about Argan Oil craze and that it is sold for 30 dollars for a 2 fl oz by some companies like Eden Oil...yikes, I could have bought a couple more!

Berber woman cracking the nuts

My trip could not have been complete without visiting the Souk.The experience was overwhelming.I could not get enough of this place!

The 2 or so hours we had to visit it were certainly not enough to see it all!. The guide took us to a spice shop, I was not going to miss this one. Everyone in the tour group had heard my stories about the ras el hanout, and by this time I had gathered a couple of followers who wanted to come along to the spice shop to purchase this mystical spice blend.
The visit to the spice shop was an experience on its own, the merchant sat us on this room surrounded by shelves full of jars of all kinds of spices, herbs and who knows what else.
I had finally bought myself some Ras el Hanout, the original culprit of my moroccan obsession and perhaps the reason why I was there, in Morocco.
I bought a little bit more than ras el hanout: some 10 bags of slimming tea, fish spices, paprika, more argan oil, rose cream and some eucalyptus seeds. The vendor promised these would cure all sinus congestion and snoring. I don't snore, but I bought it anyway.

There were food vendors of all sorts, little shops that sold all kinds of olives marinated with delicious spices and chilli. The tour guide advised us not to buy any food from the streets, so I could only imagine how delicious they were. The preserved lemons looked incredible! Merchants with baskets of rose petals, tangerines and orange flowers filled the markets narrow corridors.

My trip to Morocco was an unforgettable experience and it certainly left me wanting more. I came back home with a heart full of inspiration, ideas and thousands of pictures to remind me of this enchanting magical place.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Circle of Friends

'Tis true, 'tis true...Ilana finished her first Scarf and Mery's headband came out beautiful!
I am really happy because when we first got together, some of the girls had no idea how to even hold the needles and they have come such a long way. They have proudly finished their projects, something that they never saw themselves doing before. Our reunions (and our email exchange-sometimes way too late at night) have united us in a very wonderful way, our little knitting group has blossomed into a circle of friendship. Cheers my friends!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Headband Mania

Today was no chit-chat morning. Three ladies from the knitting club came over to my house to learn how to make the flower headband. Both Mery and Aviva were really concentrated and determined to understand the pattern. And the third lady, you might ask? The third lady was Mary's mom. Glued to the cel phone she took part of the meeting on speaker phone. Silvia Abadi is now part of our knitting club and our official representative in Mexico City, welcome to the club girl!

Increases and decreases in the pattern were a bit of a challenge tough, thus we came up with our own visual chart. Although it might look odd for those experienced knitters, it really worked for us!

By the way, The Flower Headband posting has been updated with a little information on the knitted flower pattern. I have added a link to a tutorial video as well. The flower on this new headband I made is done in crochet and it is slightly bigger than Andreas grey one, it is about 11.5 x 11.5 cm.

If you like them oversized, check this one out- from Urban Outfitters. The crochet flower I made is very similar to this one. The actual headband is really fast and easy to make on circular needles... use it as a neck warmer if you wish.