Wenches Rock!

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

Often our monthly Ask A Wench post is a reader question that all the Wenches answer in our different ways.  But today’s compilation is rooted in Christmas pictures.  Anne sent us a photo of some of her holiday decorations, another wench noticed the beautiful gemstone bonsai tree and other polished stones—and we were off the races! Or perhaps the quarries. <G> 

It turns out that all of the Wenches love stones and minerals, and we love taking about them.  We could have easily generated a multi-part series on Stones We Love, but I restrained myself. We'll start our rock stories with Anne and her bonsai tree:

Bonsai1--AnneAnne Gracie: 
I love stones, too, and compulsively bring them home from my travels because they're pretty or I like their shape or they evoke a place I loved in my memory. I have round white stones from a beach in Brittany, rugged mountain-shaped rocks from Montana, smooth wave-washed pieces of colored tiles from the south of France, shards of slate from a sliding mountain of slate in North Wales — and much more.

I've had Aussie customs officers heave up my backpack to check it and say, "Gawd, this is heavy.  You got rocks in here or something?"  
    And I say, "Yes, and books."

I also have a couple of friends who are fossickers —— they dig for gold and BoulderOpal3--Annegemstones as a hobby, albeit a fairly serious one. They go bush (to remote locations) several times a year and camp and fossick and dig.  They also dig for opals and I've bought a few beautiful stones from them. I also have these stones (in the picture) that they were going to toss into the garden. They're not valuable, but they're beautiful stones with tiny gleams and glitters of blue, aqua and red opal in them (more visible in the sun than in this photo) and I love them, not just because they're beautiful, but because my friends found  them and polished them and gave them to me.

Amethystgeode_susanSusan King:
Stones, gemstones and rocks can bring very good energy — light and color and beauty — to the home and for writers. I've collected some lovely rocks and stones over the years that I've stashed around the house and in my office, where they catch the light and help to inspire (and distract!) me while I'm working. I find them very soothing and fascinating.

And because most of them were gifts from friends, they have additional meaning and Lapis_susanpersonal connections. My son's girlfriend is an amateur gemologist and rock collector, and I've learned a lot from watching her identify, categorize and rank the stones she collects; she also displays them at gem shows. Several of her discoveries in the wilds of Virginia and Maryland have found their way onto our bookshelves and into our garden, and into my office, where I like to think they're happy clustered on windowsills or on the desk. 

Among the stones in my office are several amethyst geodes of various sizes, including one that's a gorgeous purple cavern big enough for a fairy or a dragon figure (and they've been in there, believe me!); a beautiful polished phantom crystal with curls and whorls and tiny scenarios within the stone; and a big fist-sized chunk of raw lapis lazuli that a friend brought from Brazil. Lapis has very good energy for writers, so I keep it near my computer. That saturated blue is chalky in its raw form, veined with other stone material, and just gorgeous. Medieval artists coveted lapis lazuli, and carefully chipped and ground the stones into a powder to mix with egg (and later oil) to create the heavenly blue that was considered rare and costly in the medieval era.

Madagascarcrystal_susanI also have a crystal point a friend brought from Madagascar — a split terminus quartz crystal about ten inches long, heavy, full of depth and beautiful cloud like veining. You can just feel the powerful energy in it. I clear my crystals now and then with running water and sunlight, as crystals can pick up dust and get a bit dull — and they can absorb energies around them just like little radio transmitters; it's good to keep those energies clear so the stones won't refract the stale energies right back at ya. So they say! 

Rocks15Joanna Bourne:
I've travelled around a good bit, so the rocks I keep are small rocks.  Me, being practical, you know. 

Every one of my rocks has a story.  Some are presents — that carved bird perched on top of the pile so protectively is a present from a friend who carves rock.  Some of my rocks I've found.  The jasper — that's the irregular big brown-red chunk on the right — is from the Southwest of the United States.  The carnelian, a bit above it, is the same color, but translucent.  That's from Iran.  It rated a special professional polishing. 

To the right, the dirty-looking, complicated quartz crystal is what they call a 'desert diamond'.  You find those out in the middle of the sands.  This one is from the Nejd in Saudi Arabia.  You'll be all shook up from driving in the dark, off-road.  There's, oh, just desolation all around
and some scrub brush and big stone cliffs a mile or two off, still black.  It's dawn behind you because you're looking west.  The sun comes up.  You see a glint way off.  That's your crystal.  You go racing off to get there before it's lost again. 

And there's that egg-shaped sort of pink rock in the center.  That's from the north Rocks23part of the coast of Maine, from the beach.  There's a layer of granite that underlies the coast that's about pure pink.  They made buildings of this 'Red Beach granite' or 'Pembroke granite' up and down the Northeast a hundred years ago. 

The egg shaping comes from the washing of the sea.  I picked it up when I was twelve or so and thought of the years it took and the accidents of time that made a neat hen's egg out of some boulder.  So cool, thought I.  And I still do.

I keep my rocks in a basket where the first sunlight hits them. 
They just light up.

Nicola'srockNicola Cornick:
We collect stones on our Scottish holidays, usually round ones that have been washed down by the burn that runs past our holiday cottage. They sit in our garden at home so that we have a ittle bit of Scotland with us all the time. They make great paperweights if we actually get the chance to sit reading in the garden!

My most prized poseession, though, is a piece of chalk that was cut to restore Ashdown House. They opened up the original 17th century quarry to do this and my husband begged a piece from the restoration guys and had it engraved for me. Most people don't get it and wonder why I have a chunk of rock on my desk!

I also have some sarsen stones (mine are a bit smaller than the ones in the photo!) Sarsenwhich are the local sandstone rocks washed into extraordinary shapes during the Ice Age. There are may legends around them. They are the stones that made Stonehenge and Avebury stone circle. The holes in them were made by the roots of palm trees

ROCKS!!! I love rocks! My friends give me such a bad time about my passion for rocks. I'm always finding pretty rocks in my driveway gravel, in the pasture, on day trips to various places like Mount St. Helen's (I have a lava rock from there), and many other rocks, geodes, ammonites, agates, crystals and petrified wood collected over the years. Below are some of my water washed stones from Prince Edward Island.








Our webmistress Sherrie Holmes has some amazing stones, too.

Sherrie Holmes:
A former co-worker's mother was an artist who hiked the rugged Hell's Canyon trails along the Snake River that borders Oregon and Idaho. When she found out that the Hell's Canyon dam would flood a section of the canyon rich in historic pictographs, she made it her mission to preserve as many of them as she could for posterity. She did it in a RockBullseyeStarChainunique way: first photographing them, then painting their exact replicas on rocks from the area. She donated her painted rocks to a local museum, which sold them to tourists. Her generosity helped keep that small museum afloat.

When my co-worker showed me samples of her mother's rocks, I begged her to sell them to me. Despite the fact the museum was the only outlet for those rocks, her mother made an exception and allowed me to buy several pieces, after which she turned the money over to the museum.

This one us irregularly shaped, and each of the four sides has a different pictograph from Hell's Canyon.

RockDeerHunterHere's another stone of a deer hunter:  



The Flower that Survives in the StoneMary Jo again: I have my share of amethyst geodes and pale blue fluorites and pretty pebbles and minerals (of which I don't always remember the names!)  The only one I'll show here is actually a piece made by my sister, Estill Putney, who is a professional stone carver.  It was created as a memorial for the Virginia Tech shooting, which took place in her home town.  The orange flower is made from a rare shade of natural alabaster.  The carving presides over my dining room.


BoulderOpal1Do you also love stones and collect pretty ones from your travels?  Do they all have stories?  I’d love to hear more!


Mary Jo, adding more of Anne's opal boulders 

Playing with nature


Anne here, taking a slight detour away from history for the moment and into the realm of contemporary art, specifically sculpture. Nicola's blog on Wednesday, where she mentioned standing stones, got me thinking about one of my favorite artists — certainly my favorite living artist, Andy Goldsworthy.

Andy Goldsworthy is an artist from the UK, but he's worked in countries all over the world, creating artworks both timeless and ephemeral. I discovered him in the 1990's, by accident, while browsing through books in a bookshop, waiting for a friend. I bought that first book, and I've bought a number of his books since, and still prize them. They make wonderful gifts, too. I've never found anyone who his work didn't speak to, no matter what their cultural or educational background. Cairn

One definition of an artist is someone who shows us familiar things in an unfamiliar way. Andy Goldsworthy certainly does that.  For me, there's a childlike wonder in his work. He shows us nature as we never experience it, yet his art draws us closer to nature.

A reviewer in The Smithsonian said: "A new kind of poetry is created when Andy Goldsworthy works with stone, wood and water — our world never looks quite the same again" ~ "Searching for the window into nature's soul", Smithsonian magazine (February 1997)
He works mainly in the open air, in all kinds of weather, creating art from the materials he finds around him. He's made sculptures on the North Pole in freezing conditions, and in the desert in baking heat.

He doesn't use any of the normal tools of a sculptor — no chisels or hammers or glue or anything like that — he creates from the environment, using what the landscape provides, so he might sew leaves  together with thorns, or wrap rocks in autumn leaves, or use his spit in freezing temperatures to hold together confections of ice, or join reeds with thorns to make a delicate screen, like the one in this picture. He also stacks rocks in wonderful ways, using dry stone wall techniques, among others.  He's made cairns like the one above all over the world. There's even one in my home town of Melbourne. I must confess, I really love dry stone walls and cairns.

Icespiraltree He said: "I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and "found" tools–a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn." 

I've watched videos of him creating his sculptures and it's so impressive. He's amazingly patient, and his works are frequently spoiled at the last minute, by a breeze, a wave, an animal or by gravity, and yet he never seems to lose his cool. He just starts again. Leaves

Many of his works of art only last a few hours or a few days. Snow melts, leaves wither, tides sweep sand constrictions away. Other of his works will last for many years, but they are not always kept in art galleries or museums — many stand out in the wind and the rain and the hot sun.

Luckily for the ordinary person, he takes photos of his work and sells the best of them in books. (All of the photos on this blog were taken by Andy Goldsworthy.)

Sometimes puts a note about the work in the book with the photo. Some read like short poems. 
Iris blades pinned together with thorns
filled in five sections with rowan berries
fish attacking from below
difficult to keep all the berries in
nibbled at by ducks


Rowan leaves laid around a hole   Rowan_leaves
collecting the last few leaves
nearly finished
dog ran into hole
started again
made in the shade on a windy, sunny day

A portfolio of his work is listed at this website.
There's a rather beautiful video of Andy Goldsworthy and his work here. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do.

So, tell me, what do you think? Do you like them or not? Is there a piece of art or sculpture that really speaks to you? Or would you rather stay home with a good book? 

*Anne coming in after the post above was posted, to say how horrified I am about the news coming out of Japan. My thoughts are with the Japanese people at this terrible time.