Jewellery and bujutsu?


This blog is about two important parts of my life: martial arts (under the Dentokan umbrella) and making jewellery.

Please join in - there'll be ponderings on processes, and pictures of processes (maybe not in my gi, though...) but in both jewells and bujutsu I've got sooo much to learn, and waffle on about.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Folky Friday

Good morning. After an interview yesterday for a job I'd really like to do, this weeks Folksy Friday is a ring collection ... because I am expecting their call today. I'm hoping, against reason, that the news will be good! In the meantime I can peep at these lovely things.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

'The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources'

What I have to blog about, jewellery wise, are my ideas, plans and mental wanderings. Like many I've let promotion get in the way of making, and that, fellow makers, has not worked for me. Stock making, flexing of hands and squinting of eyes are now the order of the day. Eventually I'll get it all balanced, along with a rewarding job, and shine, a crafting beacon. Of which there are a number, and greatly admired by me, especially when they are good enough to share their knowledge and experience, like Haptree.

My ideas are penciled into my sketch pad which sits on my desk or by my bed. I wish it's thick creamy paper could be covered by someone with skill and with whole pictures so that it could exist to it's full potential. To assuage my guilt I have just started using my Inkscape software to doodle in vectors. Having built stocks of beads, lovely, lovely beads, I've decided that my usp (humour me?) will be wire. Not Eni Oken style wire wrapping and art, but just using different guage wires to create shapes and patterns with differing finishes and textures. Like

With Einsteins (see post title) words playing on my mind, I wasn't sure whether or not to post about my current designs. I realise there is vanity here. After all, I am not a great or well promoted (ahem) talent , so any worries of my designs suddenly appearing in shops or catwalks are a tad indulgent. However, I support the ideal that a designer should enjoy producing their own designs, and if they desire, licensing the right to copy. Even tiny, beginner makers like me. I hoped to gain the wisdom of others, but, pushed to think for myself * brain grinds away *: reckon they're only mine, no big shakes, and hey, the blog is dated with my logo on the pics...Plus i find it interesting reading other people's blogs setting out their creative process -  Diomoglass, Averilpam and amyorangejuice to name but three
I'd also love to hear what you think. Would you consider wearing any of them of them yourself (probably not the boys)?

From the top and left to right:
Kuromatsu as it is based on the shapes of the Japanese pine. Brass or copper wire with maybe some green coated copper wire to weave through one 'head' or to wrap round the bottom of all components. Probably oxidised (with eggs!)
Plumage (?) based on 'song' but with longer 'scales'. Mix of copper and brass wire, with some oxidised and /or hammered
Mirror (?) Silver wire, repeated shape, textured but left satin or shiny. Possibly using some wee mirrors I have.
Tori - based on a Japanese print (from Pattern Sourcebook, Japanese style) and the kanji for 'bird', which shows a little beak pointed right up in the air. Probably in silver and brass, with or without a branch. Not sure yet.
Pod (?) Lovely simple geometric shapes in brass, some hammered flat, some hammered with texture and using some beads to unbalance the piece a little more. Started on this one.
Grid (?) Simple and inspired simply by wire properties - it's lengths and plasticity. Hammer flat wire bent at 90 and wrapped once round any other tracks. May use silver, with one 'track' of brass and maybe one of copper. Ends will be bent over for comfort...
Kumo - little Japanese cloud with 5 raindrops / blue sky and a shaft of sun. I've changed the design in making it, as I expect to do with the others. A simple design, but not too similar to other clouds - i checked having make the cloud shaped, so hope I'm right and not stepping on toes.
Gan - means wild geese in Japanese. Will use fine chain to link the bottom two birds. not sure which wire yet - are they in daylight, or catching the setting sunlight...?
Maze - simple large, bold spiral. Nothing else. Probably in copper - and will make today. hurrah. Probably hanging from simple copper chain.

I have components or proto-components of all, but can't wait to get making and tweaking and deciding what to hang them from - chain, cord or handmade chain like Greenfinch? Planning in Inskscape has helped me work out proportion and placing, and how and where the components might be connected.

To finish, some other quotes on creativity:

In the spirit of a recent thread on Folksy - on worry and perfectionism:

“The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.”

Oscar Wilde


Something, maybe, for the banking and investment institutions and those in power who perpetuate the myth.

“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”


Cough ... stepping down from my soap box,

“The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person.”

Frank Barron - a civil engineer, i think.


A prod for me to get making...

“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.”

Rita Mae Brown, writer


Friday, 23 April 2010

Folksy Friday 23rd April 2010

Hello, Just a quick post to say Folksy Friday is all done for this week and is ready to view on the Folksy Friday page. This week my First Anniversary is on my mind, and I've found 9 gorgeous things that make me think of my top notch husband, who is a marvel.


Thursday, 22 April 2010

Kung Fu Dancin: Part 2. Physicality, Space and Stickiness

Hello. Following the first exciting installment, Centre, Circularity and Awareness, this is my second go at responding to Christopher Littlefairs brilliant post, Martial arts, movement and dance, in his blog, Diary of a Martial Artist. Go there, it is good.

Physicality, Space and Stickiness
Physicality is a term used in dance critique and theory, and means freeing of the body to communicate without the constraint of traditional norms, and refers to the link between body and mind. For me it means using  the body honestly and to it's fullest and when I'm practicing karate, to allow myself to let go and to trust my body to do what my sensei asks of me, even if it feels odd at first. Here is a gif of Jasmine Simhalan practicing Kalarippayattu, a Keralan martial arts form. In the second part, I think she shows real physicality. Beautiful.

The practice of karate, and other martial arts, transmits tested and efficient ways of doing things from master to sensei to student over time.It is not appropriate to improvise (to explore bunkai, or henka-waza (technique variations)) until you have built up experience, knowledge and ways of moving. Although dance is a freer artform, the same, I think, can be said. One really has to know one's body and how it moves, especially within a style, before letting loose the crazy dancing.
A.L.Recke, by M.E.Weigert

Both dancers and martial artists - any physical performer - builds up muscle memory through correct repetition so that they can eventually move without the mind interrupting. For martial artists it is important that we trust our mind to be quiet, and our body to act almost instinctively. I say almost, as I think that much of what we do happens through long term mental and physical conditioning. Flinching is instinctive, stepping in with a block and strike isn't.
If your own power of insight is strong, the state of affairs of everything will be visible to you. Once you have attained complete independent mastery of martial arts, you will be able to figure out the minds of opponents ans thus find many ways to win. This demands work.  
Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Although experienced and gifted martial artists show awesome knowledge of their body mechanics, beginners like me often have much, much less. Whilst karateka generally explore dynamics of moving later in training, dancers are encouraged to experiment and understand dynamics from the start as a means of communicating content or emotion. While martial artists should show content clearly, in kata for example, emotion is maybe less relevant for us, as we do not seek to influence those outside the sphere of confrontation. Except in competition.

On concentrating on the where and why, we (martial artists), sometimes skip past the how: 

'OK, that's my pelvis ...wiggle, shimmy ... and that's how it feels to tilt it. Ahaaa.'

A good kata has changes in pace, as my Shotokan sensei keeps reminding me! Running through kata or sparring combinations first with lyrical movement, then with full tension helps me to locate all my body parts and find a better dynamic for the application.

Karateka want to go here                           but not here...
Gigo funakoshi                                                                  Student at Colorado University

... although it really can help.

When a body is moving it is not only important where, but when and how. Movement through space gives meaning - we read how fast, how big, how linear, how high, how low, how much space between. Stillness defines what went before, and what is to come. It gives the chance to regroup and redirect. Movement and changes in it help us to read purpose - in dance and when martial arts.

The Nineteenth of Gichin Funakoshi's Twenty Guiding Principles states:

'Do not forget the employment or withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique'

The energy of kumite is in the negative or empty time and space. Participants and spectators monitor the space between just as carefully as the two bodies, and pay attention to the pauses , or stillness, between actions.
 Shintaido Bokuto, by Pierre Quettier
Projecting kiai, extending zanchin and kime interact or fill space. As a fighter disables one attacker, and moves to face another (at least in kata!) we may feel the negative space left behind for a moment.

Physicality is also about how our bodies interact with others. This picture shows a contact improvisation session, an important part of contemporary dance training
 Davidonet from Wiki Commons
In these exercises it is important to stick to your partner, to
'recognise emptiness and fullness in others and themselves', Sun Tzu in The Art of War,
to be passive and active at the right moments to influence the other. Maybe judoka or aikidoka would recognise some of the lifting techniques in this picture? Dance training also teaches you how to lift, and be lifted.

I confess that I have little experience or knowledge of sticking hands - I want to learn - but have been taught to lean into a block or lock in order to influence the opponent, and to 'read' them and their intentions. I remember the same feeling when doing contact improvisation.

The first of these two clips is contact improvisation in dance, and the second, sticking hands:

I think there are similarities between them - and the first may also ring some capoeira bells.I'd also not heard of Ba Gua Zhang before, but would like to learn more, one day, based on this (YouTube) clip

I was interested to read in Fist in the Frost's blog that whilst teaching kata he experienced a 'beautiful synchronicity in class'. So, finally I'd like to ask if you can see or read the space, synchronicity, dynamics and stickiness in these three groups?

Suri Castle, byNakasone Genwa 1938, Merce Cunningham Company, Pacific Islanders team, Tonyrandell, 

Thank you for reading. Again, I must stress that it is very early in my study of martial arts. I've taken out many 'I think's and 'possibly's as there are plenty words in this post, but be assured I'm not certain I'm right, and I'd love to be gently corrected, or directed down a new path of thought.


Friday, 16 April 2010

Folksy Friday 16th April 2010

Just done my Folksy Friday. Please pop over to the folksy Friday page to see 6 items by 6 talented people. Theme: A place for Everything and Everything in its Place

Friday, 9 April 2010

Folksy Friday and Karate Flash Back


Just to let you know I've added my Folksy Friday items - they are on my Folksy Friday page. Please let me know if having a page all of their own is working, or if it would be easier to pop them in my main blog. Ta.

Remember I couldn't wait to get back to karate training...? Hmmm. Well, it's a shame I was in Lalaland and a complete numpty on Wednesday! The dogs woke me at 3am, which is a favourite time of theirs to go mosey round the garden, so I was a bit tired. But really, there was no excuse.

My brain was slow ...'errr, so that's off the front leg, then I move ... where...?', and my body was not co-operating either. Oh, those honest mirrors. I mean, they really are helpful. But, man, are they mean sometimes. It's all good grist to the mill though. Chip chip...

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Kung Fu Dancin': Centre, Circularity and Awareness

I am writing this in response to Christopher Littlefair's recent and interesting post, Martial Arts Movement and Dance. His blog is great and I recommend a visit...

I studied Dance for three years ...some time back ...and since starting to train in karate just over three years ago (a karate ankle biter) have pondered the similarities and differences in performing and training in martial arts and dance. With far, far less knowledge and experience of budo, but (...I think) a little more time dancing under my belt, I hope I can add a little from a dancer's perspective.

I'm going to talk more about contemporary dance as that is where the bulk of my experience lies ... and I'm going to split this post into three as it got a little more boisterous than I expected:

Centre, Circularity and Awareness
Physicality and Stickiness
Symbolism, Ritual and Performance

Centre, Circularity and Awareness
In another brilliant blog, SueC talks of circularity, fluidity and power in her recent post, 'Karate: Hard Not Tense'. To move in arcs one needs a pivot, a centre, and to relax (so hard!) and to go with the movement. In both dance and martial arts circular movement allows the practitioner to absorb and redirect the energy of an attacker, partner or one's self.

In this video the dancer is beautifully connected to her centre

and to the earth. Her movement flows, falls, is caught up, released and redirected in  a way which, for me, is close to me of Aikido movement, or sparring. Not my sparring.

She could be a in state of mushin: no-mind or unconscious awareness. An article by Joe Hyams in 'Zen in the Martial Arts', which pleasingly begins,

'After a brisk workout in the sun, Bruce Lee and I were having a glass of juice in the garden'

talks about how mushin can be achieved through training and and repetition. For a dancer, with their intense class regime, the same is true. The body must be well trained and the mind empty but open to the unconscious, to produce true and technically good work. Imagine too, a gymnast about to perform a tumble run, or vault: only with many hours of practise and an empty mind can they perform a dangerous feat, perfectly.
Jeff Medaugh, Grandjete
Although most styles of ballet strive for the heavens, and to create an illusion of flight, other forms of dance stress connection to the ground and core stability.

In karate we are taught to connect with the earth and to direct energy through our centre, in a spiraling or curved flow: a jab takes energy from the ground, through the feet, the hips and torso and out through a relaxed arm to finish in briefly tensed fist and kime (roughly speaking, I have  much to learn).

However, I think that sometimes we beginning karateka forget or forgo circularity (so far as our style and technique allow) for linearity, especially in sparring. Shooting a punch out straight from the shoulder is not (that) effective or efficient: storming onto an attacker can be counter-productive!

In the Taekkyun video in The Diary of a Martial Artist post you can see how a a regular rhythm  and circular movement - dance steps - allow rapid attacks and quick recovery or redirection. At 1:36 their basic step motif is made bigger to allow a sweep to be redirected into a jodan mawashigeri. I've seen it done before (aaand tried it myself) but rarely that smooth or relaxed.  At 2:06 one of a pair kicks and lose her flow, slightly, but because her flow is circular she can follow it and regain the fight.

Isadora Duncan and, a little later, Martha Graham, the two 'mothers' of modern dance emerging from the formalities of society and ballet, believed that movement and emotion originated from the solar plexus or 'pit of the stomach'.

Martha Graham said, 'The strength of the command is in the centre of the body'.

 Martha Graham, Yousuf Karsh, 1948, on Wikipedia

This seems strikingly similar to how martial artists regard the Dantien or Tan t'ien. By moving with or through our centre we move our bodies (and minds) as one mass. Just as, I believe, Buddhists locate or focus their awareness here, so too does modern and contemporary dance.

It's been really valuable, examining dance and martial arts. Thank you for bearing with me! I am a beginner in the study of martial arts, and it has been some time since I wrote about dance. I'd love to learn from your thoughts and responses, but please keep in mind that these are my early ponderings - I am not claiming to be correct, rather mashing my neurons about a bit.

Next time I'll post about Physicality and Stickiness.


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Rose is a rose is a rose (or, naming a necklace)

  "... she would carve on the tree Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose until it went all the way around." (The World is Round)

I understand Gertrude Stein used this phrase or variants of it through her work. I don't pretend to know as much about her writing as I should, but enjoyed the evolution of meaning which she and others gave to 'rose is a rose is a rose', and the room it gives us to play with language and sense. It's circularity, of illuminating difference, departs from traditional lineal (patrilineal) structure. I like this because I am a bit of a feminist.

There is a connection between this reading of 'a rose is a rose is a rose' and my recent process of naming a necklace. I acknowledge that one has weight to it, and one is mere frippery. Sorry. However, I do now want to find out more, which has got to be good, right...?

Part of my creative challenge, right at the end of making a piece of jewellery (and right before the practical challenges of pricing, photographing and listing) is finding a name for it, in one word. Usually this is as easy as looking into the face of a new born infant and realising that s/he was a 'Stevie'. Sometimes I struggle. Although my struggles should be with more important matters, like money and mind and food shopping these are the places my brain skipped through:

Demin (colour of pearls) > Cowgirl (bit of sparkle and denim) > Southern Belle (necklace is too perdy for a hardworking cowgirl) > Debutante (a southern belle is a debutante is a southern belle, and for the white rose) > Georgia (the white rose is a symbol of the state) > Trueblue  (like a virgin and Madonna's demin and lace era (I think)) >> the white rose is used as symbol for Virgin Mary >>> Virolai is a hymn sang to the Virgin of Montserrat and begins 'April rose...'

So, there you have it: white rose and Mary blue = Virolai. Does anyone else go through this kind of process every once in a while, or should I go see Dr (boo, hiss) Freud?

From Wikipedia:
  • "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." (Sacred Emily, Geography and Plays)
  • "Do we suppose that all she knows is that a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." (Operas and Plays)
  • "A rose tree may be a rose tree may be a rosy rose tree if watered." (Alphabets and Birthdays)
  • "When I said.
A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
And then later made that into a ring I made poetry and what did I do I caressed completely caressed and addressed a noun." (Lectures in America)

Monday, 5 April 2010

Karate cold turkey

It's holiday time, which means karate-ka are freed for one week, to roam, to eat chocolate and to commune with loved ones.

It really is great to spend time with my loved one. He is a marvel. A human wonder and the best one I've ever known. Also, our dogs are splendid. However, I confess that I miss training. Yes, I've done kata in the garden, and practised uchi-uke in shiko dachi up and down my galley kitchen, but I do this anyway, everyday.

I cleaned the frog pond in kiba-dachi

But it's not enough.

Practising karate / martial arts has become part of the rhythm of my life ... tax, death and martial arts. Physicality is very important to me, so it is natural that my body misses the challenges of a session, whether sparring or using my bo or just breathing correctly through press-ups. There is an energy generated in body and mind, a kind of space and focus. Maybe it's the balance of force and kime (and other ideas I'm just beginning to understand), the control of force and respect between two sparring partners, and the learning that happens at every - every - session. Oh - more on that soon... I'm waffling.

So, come on, Wednesday. Wednesday is my session with helpful and experienced teachers ... and mirrors. I learn a lot on Wednesdays (not much of it immediately positive ... so plenty humility).

Having said all that, I must say again, that it has been wonderful to spend time with my time-off-work husband : ) and cleaner frogs

Tippety tap - an elfin anvil

My Da gave me his father's steel block so I'd have a solid base for my hammering activities. Here it is, pictured with my bettered (hammered on my new block) Daisy earrings. It has gorgeous colour ... and surface texture. It's the size of a brick, reassuringly weighty and, now, retired.

I've started working with fine silver wire, because I reckon I'm pretty much good enough to, and need a sleek, smooth and respectable surface. A week ago my new, drop forged, case hardened (uhuh) anvil arrived. Right at the bottom of the ~20x20cm box and hidden by about five foam peanuts.

What a tiny piece of kit. OK, I bought it from tinytools (good, quick delivery), but this wee thing nestles in my hand, and is hard to spot on my desk. However, I speak up for tiny things (from down here, at five feet three two and a half), when i say, friends, it does the job. Perfectly. Lovely wee thing. Here it is, with Da's old hammer (also once his dad's) and my polite and new hammer, for dainty whackery


Look - I also made the whole of this 20inch necklace on it. Great textured surface, and no health and safety issues when lifting.