Spectacle Fibula

November 26, 2010

The spectacle fibula is a type of coiled wire brooch from the late Bronze Age of southern Europe.  The ancient ones were made from bronze wire and would have been bright golden when they were new, but most now have a dark green patina.  To make the wire, a thin strip of bronze was chiselled from a larger sheet, then hammered and sanded into shape.  This would have taken more time and effort than the final coiling, which was relatively simple.  The shape is an attractive and mesmerizing double spiral, similar to the figure-8 “infinity” symbol or a double Uroboros.

My examples are made from copper and annealed black steel wire.  The smaller brooch shown below was copied from an ancient artifact and is nearly identical in size and shape.  It is made from 14-gauge copper.  The back has a pin with a simple catch.  The larger spiral is made from 12-gauge copper and has two loops on the back so I can make it into a belt buckle for a sash.

Copper Wire Double Spirals

The ancient brooches commonly had a single figure-8 at the center, though occasionally this was doubled or tripled, giving a more complex look.  I found that it also provides additional stability for thin wire.  The bracelet below was made from 14-gauge black steel wire.  There are two types of double-spiral links, both flattened in the center.  I’ve been making these for several years and they were a perfect match for the ornament.  One of the flat links was modified to create the clasp at the back.

Steel Wire Double Spiral Bracelet

Ring  made from a single piece of 16-gauge black steel wire:

Double Spiral Ring


Forged Iron Tendril Bracelet

November 23, 2010

This bangle bracelet is forged from an 8-inch cut nail that was split, drawn out, rounded, coiled, and shaped to just under 4 inches in diameter.  It was hand polished to a mirror finish before blackening.  Because of its wavy shape and smooth, round contours, it is very well balanced and I can hardly feel it when I’m wearing it, despite its large size.  The first bracelet that I ever forged, fifteen years ago, was a bit smaller and was forged from 3/16 inch square mild steel bar (a nice size for bangles but no longer made).  It had a simple curved coil and a single short tendril (no photo, unfortunately).  For this new one, I wanted something similar but added additional challenges:  the very long split tendrils, spiral coil, larger diameter, and tapered bar stock.

Forged Iron Tendril Bracelet

I’ve put a video of my bell staff on Youtube.  With eight bells tinkling and clanging at once, it makes a surprisingly sweet and beautiful sound.  Several of these bells (with various hangers and ornaments) are for sale on my website, but I moved them to the staff temporarily, just for the procession.  The staff is standing in my shop now, so I can continue to enjoy the bells for a little longer.


Or you can just go to our Youtube channel, where you can view the bell video as well asDan’s new clips of a gila monster and a rattlesnake, and my video of Lin and Midnight Louie resting on the cat porch.


I came across a very nice photo essay on the Tucson All Souls Procession 2010 (including a photo of me!) on this blog:


More photos from last night’s procession can be seen on the Flickr group for this event:


This year I had neuropathy to deal with as well as the usual asthma, so I decided to carry a walking stick.  I strung my iron bells on a staff made from an agave stalk, and decorated it with devil’s claw pods and my copper cat and jaguar masks from the 2008 and 2009 processions.  It made a great clanging, tinkling sound, and was fun and energizing to carry, despite its considerable weight.  My costume was all white, which would be boring in daylight but is very effective after dark, under intermittent streetlights.  I wore my Snowball the Shelter Ghost embroidered cat mask, hemp hiking dress, a Mexican rebozo, and my bell belt (not visible in this year’s photo).

This year’s crowd was huge, especially the spectators (the local newspaper predicted 20,000 people), but the procession had fewer and less elaborate carettas than in years past.  There were several spectacular costumes, but more people with minimal or no special attire, and fewer drummers and musicians than in recent years.  Still, it was lively and had all the usual excitement, especially with the dance through the underpass.  After having been to five of these things, I have the following observations and suggestions to people who want to go:

1.  This event is what YOU make it.  Your energy and spirit – and your costume, music, dance, props, and whatever else you wish to offer – all help create the magic and meaning.  Focus.  Participate fully.  Your contribution matters.  YOU matter.  (I’m talking about the procession itself here, not the finale.  The final performance/street party is a completely different kind of event.)

2.  It needn’t cost anything, and you don’t need any special abilities.  Smile.  Dance.  Burn incense but leave your cigarettes at home.  Play a rattle or ring a bell.  Inspiration for costumes and art is all around you in the desert.  Paint your face.  Put seedpods in your hair.  Make a mask out of paper, fabric, recycled materials, or a fallen palm frond.  Carry a precious photo or memento, or a candle, or a string of lights.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, glitzy, or “professional”.  If it is from your hands and heart, it will have power.

3.  Don’t worry about the spectators.  There are thousands of them lining the procession route.  Their faces are bored, vacant, sullen, or even angry.  Scarcely one in a hundred holds a smile, an expression of wonder, or tears of sorrow – even among the children, or among those who are in costume themselves.  Never mind.  You are not walking for THEM.  You are walking for those who accompany you, moving all around you in a chaotic river of footsteps.  Most of all, you are walking for those who have gone before, unseen but remembered and loved, who ride the evening air and come very close to us all on this night of nights.

Bell Staff

My Costume: All Souls Procession 2010

This is a pellet bell that I cold-fabricated out of steel sheet.  Four rivets attach the domes to the hanging loop, and there is an iron bead inside.  It was more work than I expected, but would probably be OK as a production item if I had the flat steel blanks commercially laser-cut, and formed and riveted them myself.  I had no idea what it would sound like.  It doesn’t ring, but it does make a pleasant rolling-rattling noise.  It is 1 5/8 inches long.  I strung it on a hemp anklet with antique African iron beads and a hot-forged clasp.  I like the hemp/iron combination but if I want to make hemp pieces to sell, I’ll have to get some better cord – this stuff is very rough and uneven, though admittedly it was cheap and I didn’t buy it for jewelry.  It’s not uncomfortable, just ugly, and there is better material available that is evenly spun and polished smooth for jewelry use.

Iron Bell Anklet