Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Toy

My new printer came. So I've been playing with it when I've had a chance the last couple of days. Serious playing. First, I figured out how to print greeting cards on it. Then I worked on the proper settings to print out 12x12 scrapbooking pages, and started going through the thousands of tiling backgrounds I've made to find ones that print out well. So I'm now at the point where I could start doing what I came to Etsy to do in the first place: sell paper goods of my own design. (In fact, the link to Etsy in my bookmarks is in the "paper and cards" file.) Since printables aren't one-of-a-kind, like my rosaries, I can even try selling them on more than one site.

So, does that mean I won't be making rosaries anymore? No, I'm working on one right now. But it does mean that I won't be making as many rosaries as fast. Since I now stand at 130 items in my shop, building inventory isn't as big a drive as it used to be. This is true even though a half-dozen of those items are destash (supplies I bought that I've decided I'm not going to use), and what's left in the Christmas in July/August Sale section will be going out of the shop at the end of August to be remade into new things.

Some destash:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Thought-Provoking Question

I'm filling out a questionnaire this weekend. One of the questions is how my faith relates to my rosary making. I've noticed that not everyone who's had their replies posted so far has answered this question, but I'm going to try to tackle it. The following will be a "thinking out loud" to figure out what I'm going to say.

As I said in an earlier post, I don't pray the Rosary much, which makes this a more difficult question. I certainly wouldn't be making them if I weren't Catholic (although some non-Catholics do) and I wouldn't make Franciscan Crowns if I weren't Franciscan. I don't mind making Anglican rosaries because, at the base, they're ecumenically Christian. But I don't plan to ever make a Lutheran rosary, even though they exist, because they're specifically Lutheran, based on Luther's Little Catechism; I'd feel as if I were poking my nose uninvited into someone else's religion. Same thing with Buddhist malas or Islamic prayer beads. If a Lutheran or Buddhist or Moslem asked me to make a religion-specific set of beads for them, I would, because they'd be inviting me to (that's how I got started making Anglican rosaries).

So, in that sense, my "faith" has a lot to do with my rosary making. I'm a Catholicism geek, so I love all the little in's and out's and why's of putting rosaries and an occasional chaplet together. And being Catholic means I'm part of the family, so I don't mind providing spiritually useful things to other members of the family even if it's not something I would choose - kind of like making sure someone has a birthday cake if that's important to them, even if all I care about on my own birthday is the ice cream. 

But, of course, talking about "the Catholic faith" is a very limited use of the word "faith," and I don't think it's all the writer of the question had in mind. It's a bit tougher to explain what rosary making has to do with my spirituality.

One of the things I miss about the Carmelites is how the work that's done each day is meant to be work that can be done in a state of recollection. I spent a lot of time working in the garden and the kitchen. This is a luxury I don't have at my current job, where I pretty much have to be actively using my mind all the time. But it is something I have while I'm making rosaries. If there's something I specifically want to watch on TV, I might turn it on, but it's usually off, I'm not someone who fills silence with the radio or other music - I love music, and when I listen to it I tend to get completely pulled into the music, so listening to it while I'm doing something else is really difficult. I also love silence - I'd probably make a good anchoress if the job still existed (I don't know about a hermit - anchoresses tended to have lots of people come to visit them for spiritual conversation). Since I live alone, there's not much to bother me while I'm engaged in rosary making except for the cat, the occasional phone call, and the constant feeling that I should really be cleaning my apartment. Rosary making does take some thought, but most of it usually precedes the actual work, while I'm deciding what beads and findings to use.

This could be an ideal situation. The fact that it isn't is mostly my own fault, for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not involved enough in Christian community, specifically my Secular Franciscan fraternity. Several years ago I overloaded on "involvement" and the house of cards finally collapsed under its own weight, so I'm more leery than I should be about any involvement at all. Second, I need to pray the Liturgy of the Hours more regularly, so that thoughts coming into my head are related to psalms and other scripture passages instead of the latest song I heard piped in while at the grocery store (currently we're working on "Good Morning, Starshine"). My recollection would also be better if I actually did clean my apartment and then kept up with it, so I could spend my rosary making time without feeling guilty.

I'm grateful for this question, since it got me thinking about what I need to do to make the experience more faith-filled.

A few of my rosaries that I'd pick for prayer, if I used such things. As usual, clicking on a picture will take you to more photos and a full description:

Friday, August 6, 2010

August 6

Ever since I was old enough to notice such things, August 6 has been an intriguing date to me. Is it simply coincidence that the first atomic bomb was dropped on the feast of the Transfiguration? I'm sure it's not among the reasons the date was picked (I'm not even sure August 6 was the feast of the Transfiguration during the 1940's). I find my thoughts about it coming from two different directions.

My first, almost subliminal, reaction is to notice the similarity between both events as explosions of light and displays of power.

But that's where the similarity ends. The power displayed in each event is poles apart. That of the atomic bomb is destructive and supremely impersonal. That of the Transfiguration is life-giving and supremely personal. It's also self-giving in a way that no bomb can be. The glory we see in Christ at that point is based on his total gift of self, not on any desire to draw power to himself or to have power over others.

If I may be allowed a Tolkien digression (since he provided the title of this blog, it seems right to bring him up occasionally): he said that none of the characters in The Lord of the Rings is a Christ figure and, because they all have their own flaws and faults, I totally accept that. He said specifically, when asked, that Frodo was not a Christ figure because, in the end, he failed - as any finite creature would have. But like several of the main characters in the book, Frodo also has some Christ-like qualities. The most obvious, to me, at least, is his total gift of self. Unlike Christ, Frodo's "all" simply wasn't enough. His moment of transfiguration is also simpler, and witnessed by only one faithful follower, as Sam sees light coming from within him and thinks, "He's like that, and sometimes it shines through somehow." It might be interesting to apply Sam's reflection to Christ's Transfiguration. What Peter, James, and John saw in that event was always the truth - just not always visible: "He's like that, and sometimes it shines through somehow."

For many more reflections on Tolkien, see my The Lord of the Rings as a Fundamentally Catholic and Religious Work

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Is I an Artist?

There's a thread on the Etsy forum about how people who make their own beads can be dismissive of those who "just" assemble ready-made components into jewelry. The consensus was that it takes a good eye and a lot of creativity to put together a beautiful, unique piece of jewelry.

I sometimes feel like I'm a rung below someone who makes jewelry, because I really just "string beads". I don't even use headpins. I do have to be able to count to ten. Other than that, I just choose two kinds of beads to put together... and what spacing beads to use... and which center and cross. The one thing I do that may be technically more difficult than making jewelry is getting the tension just right when making the second attachment to the center. Most jewelry doesn't involve a "closed system" like that, where the ends can't be adjusted separately.

Another consideration with rosaries is usability. How much space is needed between the beads and how is that affected by different sizes and types of beads? I'm working on one now with narrow beads where color contrast becomes an issue in telling where one bead ends and the next one begins. The fact that I like to use all different sizes and shapes and types of beads makes usability more challenging - and more fun. Not huge decisions in the broad scheme of things, but they at least make me feel creative.

I like the line some of the jewelry makers use when someone at a craft fair comes out with, "I could make that." The reply is, "Sure, you could, but will you?" Not only will you put the pieces together, but will you take the time to hunt for the best pieces to be put together?

Here are a few of what I consider my more "artistic" pieces - these all happen to be Franciscan Crowns. Clicking on a photo will take you to more photographs and a description:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Christmas in August

Just a short note to say that in my Etsy shop, the "Christmas in July" sale is continuing into a "Christmas in August" sale. I'm leaving all of the sale items in the special shop section, with each rosary still marked down to $10 apiece. Click on just about any picture in this blog to get to the shop.