Moon Turtle Mandalas

February 18, 2009

The circular turtle shell is a motif that I have used in several drawings, the most detailed of which is the scratchboard Tsunami Turtle.  The first time I used it, I painted the Dark Moon Tortoise Mandala in forest fire charcoal, charred bone, and silver metallic powders.  It’s been holding a collection of white chalcedony “moon pebbles”, though now I’m drilling some of the pebbles for other projects.  Here it is with an old pencil drawing, Coyote Imitates Uroboros.

Coyote Imitates Uroboros

Coyote Imitates Uroboros

The design was modified from a realistic drawing of a box turtle shell:
Box Turtle Outline

Box Turtle Outline

I’ve used box turtle shells for several drawings that are inspired by the infinite variety of yellow and brown designs on the shell.  The one below is a fanciful handprint design painted in realistic colors using handground iron oxide mineral pigments (goethite, limonite, hematite, and Fe-Mn oxide).  I have a collection of more than a dozen shells, all with very different patterns.  One is nearly black with only a small brown patch on each scute.  Another is mostly yellow.  Most are about half brown and half yellow, with concentric, radiating, or irregular glyph-like patterns.
Box Turtle Hands

Box Turtle Hands

Download a large printable version of the Box Turtle Outline template  HERE to decorate with your own “cheloglyphs”!
The Turtle Shell as a Moon Calendar:  In most turtles, the carapace (the top half of the shell) has 13 scutes (thin brownish and/or yellowish plates that are made of keratin, the same material as hair) and the plastron usually has 12 (some species have 10).  The scutes cover and protect the bone underneath, and develop concentric ridges as the turtle grows.  The number of marginal scutes (the small rectangular plates around the edge of the shell) varies depending on the species but their are typically 12 to 14 on each side, sometimes with a tiny scute called the nuchal at the center front.
All these divisions make the turtle shell an interesting way to lay out stones or other natural objects, divination spreads, drawings, and similar projects that are based on the lunar calendar.

This Moon Turtle design is a very stylized and fully reversible circular version that I adapted for use with many different media – paper, fabric, metal, etc. :

Small Circular Turtle Template

Small Circular Turtle Template

Download a large printable version for your own project  HERE.
(Downloadable images are for personal use only, not for resale .)
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Acuna Cactus

February 17, 2009

Over the weekend we visited a remote locality for the rare Acuna Cactus, Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis.  After driving for several miles down a 4WD road and hiking up a steep, rugged hill, we reached the hidden cactus garden.

Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis

Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis

The other variety of this species, var. erectocentrus (Needlespine Cactus), grows near our house and is an old friend.  Both cacti are rare, very picky about habitat, and have very small ranges.  I’ve had a page of var. erectocentrus photos on my cactus website for several years, and was very happy to finally add new photos of both cacti and publish the first detailed, fully illustrated comparison of the two as living plants, not as herbarium specimens.  The only thing still missing is a photo of acunensis in bloom, and with luck, I’ll get one this spring. 

Echinomastus erectocentrus webpage:

http://www.mineralarts.com/cactus/needlespine.html

Drilled Pebbles

February 6, 2009

The Tucson gem shows are in town.  Years ago, this annual event was a total-immersion experience for me – a mad week of looking, visiting, buying, selling, trading, and discovery that inspired me for the rest of the year.  But the shows have changed, though there are still tons of minerals and gems to delight the eye.  Dealers are scattered through more venues around town, prices and expectations have risen, and the whole affair is more serious and less fun.  I haven’t made a sale or a trade in several years, so I don’t buy as much.  The friends I had among the dealers have long since died or quit coming, my own interests and projects have diversified, and I have more cats, more responsibility, and less spare change than I used to.  But I still visit a few shows each year, to admire minerals and buy a few tools, a strand of beads or a cabochon, and perhaps a rock or two.  This year my first stop was the outdoor show at Tucson Electric Park, a sprawling village of little white tents, RVers with tables full of rocks, and the diverse (and sometimes just weird) collection of dealers in the Main Tent.  Made my traditional visit to Kent’s Tools.  The store is a Tucson landmark, with an enormous inventory of new and used tools of all kinds, and their booth at the gem show has a huge array of jeweler’s supplies and lapidary equipment.  This time I bought some little diamond core drills for poking holes in rocks.

Peridot Pendants

Peridot Pendants

These two pendants are for an iron necklace.  Total length is 1.75″ and 1.5″.  They are very large specimens of facet-grade peridot (the gem name for the mineral olivine) from the mines at Peridot, Arizona.  Both are natural rough stones – the one on the right has a natural rounded, frosted, slightly oily-looking polish.

Drilled Pebbles

Drilled Pebbles

These two are stones that I collected.  They will eventually adorn knife chains or jewelry.  Both are about one inch long.  On the left is a brown chert beach pebble from the Outer Banks.  The other one is a transluent chalcedony ventifact from Wyoming, naturally sculpted and polished by windblown silt.  The little white hydrated spot is opaque and moonlike, and both pebbles are much more attractive in person.