This Coba necklace, a polymer+ mixed media assembled piece using metallic applique techniques to conjure Mayan iconography, was made after a magical, haunting trip to the Yucatan years ago. I’m fixing it up to exhibit as part of my Souvenirs exhibition. My friend Tania’s wearing it here.
Coba is an ancient Mayan city in the heart of the Yucatan. The Yucatan jungle is short and dry, unlike the lush moist canopies of tropical jungles.
That thick, irregular leafiness and the unexpected presence of ancient fragments inspired me once I was back in my studio. This Coba necklace is my talisman: an object that connects me to the ideas, feelings, and abilities of my experience there.
Mixing media is the perfect approach to create talismans. By incorporating different media, we stitch together realities, histories, and magic, while we combine different materials and objects.
To ready Coba for display in this show, I updated my construction techniques, re-applied the gold, and added materials and elements I didn’t have when I originally made it. I’ll show you, and I’ll briefly discuss how the original was made.
Here’s an old photo of the original and its condition before I fix it up:
Poor thing. Big issues:
• The metallics- faded and some bits were missing.
• The beads- some are missing, overall selection needs refining and rearranging to better express what I wanted.
• The commercial clasp was long overdue for personalizing.
1. Photocopy Coba for a quick, real-size record of what I started with, to refer to later as needed.
2. After clearing an open space on a textured white cloth, I cut the stringing cords and slid the beads off, keeping them in order as much as possible.
3. I touched up the metallic areas– three ‘gold’ acrylic paints with metallic powders mixed in to add rich depth to the gold. When I first made Coba, this rich range of metallicized acrylic pigments wasn’t available. Now there are quite a variety of effects and materials to choose from. Metallic surface techniques are covered in this DVD.
These spacer beads are a good example of ‘metallic appliques’. I metallicize sheets of polymer and then cut them into tiny shapes, pressing them gently onto the underlying polymer to adhere. I like the richly textured surface I get, and also appreciate my ability to create exactly the imagery I want by using this process.
Snail, Turtle, Armadillo and Crab
These four spacer beads do much more than carry multiple strands along. The four animals shown hold up the world in the Mayan cosmology. Tiny gold balls on the top of each spacer are the Mayan counting system, from one to four. The style of golden textured decoration is similar to that on the carved architectural facades I saw. For the Bead Shapes DVD, which includes spacer bead approaches, go here.
Let’s chat briefly about the central pendant itself.
This is an assembled mixed-media piece that uses polymer to physically and visually integrate the non-polymer elements. From the top, and lowest in the layers:
• a large abalone tablet, thin, with rounded corners. There is a hole in the top of it, notice, allowing a split ring that holds this pendant onto the doubled beads above.
• the polymer layer that sits on the abalone and supports the metal element at the bottom; covered with metallic applique and ornamented with real scarab beetle wings: these are a pair of Victorian cufflinks, and I took one apart to set the wings on each side of the eagle, then left one in its prong setting above the eagle.
• an antique metal brooch, with granulation and filigree, and a three-dimensional eagle head that clutches a double tier of long oval bells in its beak. The brooch I found at an antique show in New Hampshire years ago, and kept for the right occasion.
All were baked together, then glued with the right glues for their media after baking.
4. Next I restrung the entire piece, originally four strands of beads, in three layers. Now I’ve added a new strand of beads to the outside curve to enhance that dense leafiness. I changed out older beads that either looked tired or were no longer right for my aesthetic goals. I recreated the original pair of doubled knobbed brass dangles on either side of the central pendant.
5. To do this required double, triple and quadruple strands of beads. The number of strands needed to be added or dropped depending on their position along the overall drape of the necklace.
Here’s a detail of the multiple strands merging and decreasing:
This meant careful attention to the number and shape of beads used, the cord chosen – I always use some form of nylon-coated braided steel cable, like Beadalon, and I appreciate the color range now available, another option not around when this necklace was made.
And I use crimp beads. I find crimp beads quite effective when they are the right size for the cord and quantity of strands I am crimping together.
Here’s an image of several sizes of crimp beads. See the detail below also.
Look at the size of them when crimped onto the cord, compared to the size of the cord. The bright silver bead fits best. The thick nickle does not hold onto the doubled cord, but is appropriate for the six strands of mixed cord sizes I added all the way in the left of the photo.
Crimping also requires beads whose holes are big enough to slide over the crimp beads and hide them. Or crimp beads which when crimped are still pleasing and congruent with the necklace.
6. I fabricated a polymer exterior clasp over the commercial barrel clasp by baking a textured green polymer, slicing through the middle of it after baking, and adding gold paint to enhance the embossed surface. This thicker clasp is also easier to manipulate.
7. The redone piece is now even more like my memories of the Yucatan jungle.
Next time, Black and White in a different approach to polymer construction and surfaces.
Have fun, and see you soon-