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Wealth and Poverty

Found objects, 1” diameter

My daughter was thinking with me about these pendants last night because she made a beautiful and thought-provoking pendant herself. On one side it has a large group of small beads symbolizing the majority of people in the world who don’t have enough to meet their basic needs.  In a separate section are some medium-sized beads representing the group of people who have just enough, and in one corner a few larger beads represent the small number of people who have everything that they want.  As we talked about health she pointed out that everything is connected. One thing determines another, which in turn determines the next. I think about it as cyclical, with each piece eventually feeding back into the first.  In public health we talk a lot about cycles of poverty, and we know the health implications of wealth and poverty are tremendous.  This pendant continues to explore the idea of wealth and poverty as social determinants of health, sitting at the center of a web of connected elements.  The coin sits solidly at the center, contributing to many aspects of a person’s life, each represented by one of a ring of small triangles connected by metal rods.  These triangles are like arrows, pointing the way forward based on how much wealth is at the center.

Well being

1”w x 2”h, glass

Certain colors are calming, others are vibrant and energizing.  I used this pendant to explore the balance in my own life, right now, that creates a sense of well-being.  I found that it’s mostly the calm colors, greens, blues, purples, that form the core of feeling good, but there needs to be a small splash of energy, the yellow, to liven things up.

Fireflies

 

Stone, glass and beads, 1”x2”

At the cabins in Taconic State Park the days were warm and rainy, and the best part of the day happened at night.  The fireflies that we never see in the city came out, shimmering in the evening light while we sat around the campfire.  It was good to find a few minutes to relax.  This pendant is made from stones and glass in the many shades of dusky green that surrounded the fireflies by our cabin, and uses glass beads to catch the light in a way that mimics the fireflies’ glow.

Simplicity

Glass, 1”x1”

Sometimes it’s important to keep it simple.  No cuts, nothing fancy. And yet, even after I had found the right size tiles to fill a square bezel and decided to keep this one simple, I started to wander through a maze of color.  After about 25 color combinations I reached back for the first one I had put together. Blue and green will never be too simple for me.

Audacity

Ceramic, 1”x2”

Why not wear stripes with polka dots?  Who says clothes and patterns have to be staid and somber?  I remember a conversation with my grandmother many years ago when she was horrified by the idea of leopard-print bed sheets and insisted that sheets should only be pastel.  I’ll continue to challenge the old rules when it comes to color, pattern and self-expression, and this pendant does the same.  With polka-dots, checkerboard, stripes, a splash of orange, and an explosion of yellow and green, the piece, made from sections of two different dinner plates, somehow comes together into one cohesive whole where each pattern and color is welcome.

Balance 2

Glass and found objects, 1” diameter

It hasn’t been very many weeks since the first pendant exploring balance.  Can you tell it’s important to my health?  In this disarmingly simple pendant design, a bright blue triangle of glass balances above a lighter, more textured blue triangle, on a bead that looks like a metal rod.  The rod is just barely off balance. The black glass that surrounds the blue triangles is both background and support, representing the systems and people that may be invisible at times, but keep things from being knocked off balance too often.

Harm reduction

1″ x1″, Glass

Over the past 20 years or so the part of prevention that‘s about keeping people safer and healthier  has moved from being something that’s whispered among practitioners to something that’s in the mainstream. With the widespread adoption of nasal narcan as a way to reverse opioid overdoses, people are talking openly about harm reduction in a way that they haven’t since condoms were promoted to quell the HIV epidemic.  And it opens a window to think about harm reduction in many realms. When is it ‘my way or the highway’ and when can we find ways to meet people where they are, to help them explore and find their own ways to be healthier and safer?  In this pendant the dark glass at the top represents a brick wall that’s as tough and unbreakable as addiction can seem.  But as the rows of brick loosen, some of the dark bricks are replaced with lighter and brighter insets.  These are safer practices, new ideas and windows of opportunity.

Sanctuary

1” x 1”, Glass

Without a safe space we all struggle.  It’s been painful to listen to the news about families being separated at the border and to think about where the children who find themselves suddenly alone are sent. What could those spaces do to comfort them?  To make them feel safe in such a scary and lonely moment?  I live in a sanctuary city.  So at some level the city’s policies keep people safer from deportation and separation but they don’t solve the problems of flawed immigration policy and global inequity.  The pendant design evokes the colored glass and dark lead lines of the stained glass windows that adorn so may of the sacred spaces that have served as political sanctuaries for centuries.  But the glass is broken horizontally to leave jagged edges and irregularities because no sanctuary is fully protecting, and we won’t be finished with our work as a sanctuary city until all families feel safe.  Ironically, or appropriately, as I cut away the clear glass from the top of the tiles to build them into the sanctuary pendant, the pieces that fell away looked like ICE.

Medical Technologies

1x1”, Found objects and flameworked borosilicate glass

As someone who studied medical antrhropology, I have a lot of respect for the amazing variety of ways that people heal around the world and the ways that medical technologies change over time. I’ve always loved the history of medicine.  Old instruments, aged metal, glass medicine bottles, peeling labels.  This pendant combines metal and glass objects that feel like old trappings of healthcare with a fleshy-looking piece of encased borosilicate glass.  I love the way that as medical instruments age, they become more like the wounds that they’re meant to heal. Less flashy and perfect and shiny, more real.

Balance

Ceramic tiles and putty, 2″x .5″

Health is all about balance.  Balancing enjoyment with healthy choices, balancing all the many tasks that need to be done with time for relaxing, balancing alone time with socializing, and so many more daily, hourly and minute-by-minute microbalances that they themselves can become overwhelming.  But this pendant, made of tiny colorful ceramic tiles, is a perfect balance.  Although a stack of shapes is precariously tall, the pile has stayed in balance and stayed strong.

Exploring twisty alleyways on a moonlit night

Glass, metal, found objects 1”x2”

Some of my favorite things about traveling are exploring twisty alleyways, following a delicious smell, seeing flowers tumbling off a balcony, and watching the evening sky turn dark blue as the sun sets over rooftops.  The variety of sights, the messiness of traveling, and the exhaustion of the trip make the images in my mind fall all over each other, layering colors, textures and smells together to leave me an impression of the place I’ve been.  This pendant reflects that jumble of memory images, the impression of the place, with its blues, glimmers, age and rust. The blue night sky and the shiny water, the rooftops and the stairways.

 

Memory

Fabric, found objects, 1”x1”

Symbols are powerful.  As an anthropologist I learned about the way humans attribute meaning to objects and connect objects to important memories.  These objects maintain our memory, keeping history alive and helping us feel connected to the past.  Some symbols and objects carry longer memories than souvenirs, generations of implications and attributions. The fabric in the background of this pendant is from and Indian sari, and the jeweled hand that covers it is a symbol shared by many cultures, representing happiness, health and protection. Not only the objects and their forms but also their colors and patterns have meaning for my family and for the people who have shared them over generations.

Springtime

Glass, wire, robin’s egg, twine, 1” diameter

The spring air smells different.  When I leave the house at an unreasonably early hour to walk to the bus stop, the sound of birds helps me walk more quickly and the humid warm air makes me smile, remembering the frigid winter mornings and knowing that they’re over for at least a few months.  This pendant celebrates spring, with a ring of bright spring green glass that reminds me of sunlight filtering through young leaves surrounding a wire nest that protects a piece of a real robin’s egg found on one of those morning walks to the bus. The egg has been coated to protect it, but it still shows some damage from falling out of its first nest.  Now it’s ensconced, a symbol of spring’s arrival.

Play

 LEGO brick and glass, 1″x2″

Everyone knows that playing is healthy for kids, and it’s just as good for the rest of us.  Experimenting, exploring, putting things together in new ways…

Making this pendant was an exercise in moving out of my comfort zone to use bright, saturated colors, but its primary colors and bright oranges and greens definitely scream LEGO.  And what screams PLAY more than that?  And what makes it even better is that you can actually build your own design on the center section!

Storied Objects

Glass, porcelain, found objects, 1″x1″

Sometimes the most beautiful things are the ones that are made through struggle.  Their irregularity is striking, their story is told through their texture.  This pendant includes examples of “perfected” beauty that has been valued by American culture for hundreds of years- a gold design on a piece of porcelain from a plate that was treasured by an American family connected to the Daughters of the American Revolution, and glass that shimmers like diamonds.  Next to these is a very different type of beauty- rough glass beads that were painstakingly ground up from recycled bottles, packed into clay molds and fired in earthen kilns made from termite mounds in Ghana. Both types of beauty tell layered stories of wealth, patience and craftsmanship.  I think there’s something healthy about recognizing beauty of all kinds.

Staying Calm

Glass and ceramic beads, found objects  1″x1″

Every day my 3 year-old tests my ability to stay calm.   His tantrums have been monumental for the last few months, and each time he gest worked up I take a deep breath, try to focus on something near me in the room, and do my best to continue with whatever I was trying to do.  It’s not easy.  This pendant has a calm center, with shining ripples of beads moving outward. The calm is not simple, but the repeating patterns of the beads moving outward have a rhythm to them that can help me focus and relax.  Placing them is calming, and looking at them is calming too.

(sold)

Throw your watch out the window

 

Watch parts, found objects, 1″x2″

Sometimes it’s healthy. A friend told me that people who are late have more fun.  I’ve never been late in my life, but it’s time to try to relax a bit and at least not be early all the time. I think I might discover a few extra minutes for fun. This pendant is made from antique watch parts, disassembled and sprawled across a black background.

Social Circles #1

Ceramic and glass, 1″ diameter

My days are brighter when I feel connected to the people around me.  Some of my social circles are small- the people I call on when I have a question or need a boost.  But other circles are wider- the people I recognize on the train and wave to, the people whose names I can’t remember but whose faces I know. They all provide a sense of security and familiarity.  These blue circles and the red and orange lines connecting them are playful, like the friendly waves between old friends who just barely remember each other.

(sold)

Recovering from listening to the news

Glass, stone, wood          1″ diameter

I cry on the way to work almost every time I turn on the news.  War. Rape. Corruption.  Despite the darkness that I feel when I hear about what’s happening in the world, I am able to find some optimism to bring to the slow, hard work of community building and public health.  In the center of this pendant are dark stone and blackened wood.  They’re charred and broken.  Moving out in a slow spiral, the colors of the pieces of glass get lighter and brighter until they reach a warm, rosy pink- warm enough to function again.

(sold)

Exploring Health

In the face of daily challenges to the health of the people in my community and in the world, I’ve decided to explore 52 aspects of health by creating a mosaic pendant each week over the course of a year. I’ll do my best to focus on the positive and search for the solutions rather than feeling bound up by the intricacy and the depth of the threats to health.  The pendants will be wearable art. They will be social commentary.  They will be a form of health promotion.