Thursday, March 28, 2013

Decorative relief carved and hand painted pot of flowers ceramic tile

9x12 relief carved and hand painted ceramic flower pot tile.
Available from
One of the many spring celebrations held around the world is the Hindu festival of Holi, also known as the festival of colors First and foremost it celebrates the beginning of spring, traditionally commemorating the fertile land and hope for a good harvest. It is a time to say goodbye to winter and enjoy the abundant colors of spring in bloom. Celebrated wildly by thousands of Hindus for two days every year beginning on the last full moon day of February/March, it is said to be one of the most exuberant festivals in existence. During this event there are bonfires, dancing, singing and it's customary for people to throw colored powder at one another. No one expects polite behavior during Holi, only copious amounts of fun and joy and color! 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Decorative handmade ceramic wave border tile

8x2.5 relief carved and hand painted ceramic wave border tile.
Available in a variety of colors and finishes from
In honor of World Water day yesterday here is one of the several Irish legends surrounding the creation of my namesake, Ireland's longest river the Shannon, named after the Celtic goddess Sionna. This particular story tells of Coelrind, a well filled with salmon that were very wise from eating hazelnuts containing 'eigse' the spirit and inspiration of poetry and wisdom that dropped into the well from the trees above. These special salmon were highly sought after by men, but women were forbidden to catch or eat them, which is just what Sionna, mortal rebel daughter of the moon and granddaughter of the sea god Lir decided to do one day. No sooner had she caught and eaten one of the wondrous fish when the water of the well rose overflowing, sweeping Sionna and the salmon all the way to the Atlantic ocean, creating the Shannon river. Sionna was transformed into the goddess of the river and  her city under it's estuary, which is only above the waves once every seven years, is deadly for mortals to look upon. The salmon still make their way back to the river every year to spawn and die in the water from the well of their birth place.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Decorative relief carved and handpainted Saraswati ceramic tile

4x16 relief carved and hand painted ceramic Saraswati tile.
~Happy Spring Equinox~
The whole nature of life is dominated by the existence of periodic events which we have celebrated, dramatized and ritualized throughout our history. To eat and beget children has been the primary want of mankind in the past and will continue to be so in the future. Though many things are added to enrich and beautify human life, it will cease to exist without first satisfying these needs. For early man the beauty of a Spring morning was of no consequence compared to the fact that the animals and more importantly the plants that provide food were reappearing and would in time disappear again. It is these times, central to survival that became the focus of human interest and emotion, eventually leading to the dates of religious holidays. Seasonal rights and ritual with the same intent, the promotion of fertility in plants, animals and man, occur almost everywhere, with dates and traditions varying according to climate and geography. In the Northern hemisphere the most widely celebrated festival, to which we owe much of our art and drama to now, is the celebration of spring. The bringing in of a leafy branch or flower bouquet being perhaps one of our most simple of spring rituals, emphasizing the desire for joy and life. To the Greeks Spring is the 'anoixis', 'the opening' and it was with rites of spring that both Greek and Roman started their new year. In severer climates the emotion towards weather and seasons was fiercer and more complex. Along with spring festivities there was often ritual contests and struggle signifying life (spring) conquering death (winter.) The Central Australian spring on the other hand is not a shift from cold winter to summer heat but rather from a long arid, barren season to a short, often irregular torrential rainy season with a sudden brief burst of fertility. Primitive Australians to whom the life or death of the tribe was dependant on this season practiced intricate magical rites and ceremonies upon it's approach. The Esquimaux people of the Arctic have their one and only most important seasonal festival in the fall. For them the fear of a long harsh Arctic winter is stronger than the hope of spring. Though many of us are now free to celebrate the joy and beauty of the coming of spring, far removed from a time when a bad harvest could mean starvation, most people still maintain an intense emotional connection towards weather and seasons. And in keeping with the human tendency to re-enact what we feel strongly about, mankind continues to perform fixed and regular repetition of rites in celebration of the seasons, some simple or practical and many still magical and dramatic.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Decorative relief carved ceramic swan tile

12x12 relief carved and hand painted ceramic swan tile.
Long before radio and television weather reports many people lived closer to nature, especially in rural areas and farms. Being unaware of the concept of pressure systems, they did notice that when certain things happened in nature, often certain other things happened in the weather. Over time these 'forecasts' were made into sayings, often in the form of rhymes. Many of the rhymes had to do with the behavior of birds, who are actually pretty good at short term weather forecasting, as various changes in the atmosphere affect them in ways that are readily apparent:
The goose and the gander
Begin to meander,
The matter is plain;
They are dancing for rain.
When the peacock loudly bawls
Soon you'll have both rain and squalls.
Wild geese, wild geese
Going out to sea
All fine weather it will be.
These pithy proverbs are based on the fact that birds have extremely sensitive hearing and can actually hear an approaching thunder storm when it's still many miles away. Their hollow feathers also enable them to feel low frequency sound waves. Wild geese on the Atlantic sea coast wait for the best flying weather and nobody goes anywhere until they get it.
Birds high
Fair Sky
Birds flying low
Expect rain and a blow.
Though birds are not aware that when barometric pressure is high, weather is usually good and generally bad when it's low, they do know enough to choose an altitude where the air is fairly dense. Dense air provides more lift under the wings. On fair high pressure days, this optimum level can be thousands of feet up, when  low pressure moves in, the 'thickest' air and best fly space is lower to the ground. Small and large birds are similarly affected by the air density, but small birds have another reason for lowering their altitude...dinner.
Insects are greatly affected by the increased levels of relative humidity prior to rain, moisture in the air makes flying difficult for small winged creatures so they tend to stay lower down where it's less humid.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Decorative handmade ceramic rattlesnake tile

8x8 relief carved and hand painted Santa Catalina Island Rattle snake
The second creature in our endangered species tile series.
$5.00 of each tile sold will be donated to ARC The Amphibian and reptile conservancy.
One of the most notable features of the critically endangered Santa Catalina Island Rattlesnake is the lack of a functioning rattle. This is believed to be an evolutionary adaptation for stealth and unlike many other Rattlesnakes this relatively slender species is an agile climber. The rather barren Island of Santa Catalina in the Gulf of California off the coast of Mexico is the only place this highly threatened snake occurs. Once considered a common species,  numbers have been seriously declining, primarily due to killing and illegal collection. This snakes very passive behavior makes it an easy target and 'pit fall' traps have been found with people collecting the reptiles by the bag full. In addition predation by feral cats and a decline in the deer mouse population, their main food source, may pose a threat.  Like many other snakes this species seems to be receiving less conservation attention than it deserves, due in part to long standing, fairly wide spread negative attitudes and misconceptions towards snakes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Decorative relief carved Celtic Hound ceramic tile

4x18 relief carved Celtic Hound tile
Today I'd like to share a wee story about Patrick MacAlpern, better known today simply as St.Patrick and how his life was strangely entwined with Irish Wolfhounds. Now when he was but a lad of sixteen, Patrick MacAlpern, as he was known, was abducted and taken far from his home in Ireland. For six years he was kept enslaved as a shepherd, a hound being his sole companion. Then one night a dream came to Patrick that foretold of a ship that would return him to his homeland. Following his dream some 200 miles to the coast he finally found the ship, making ready to travel from Gaul to Ireland with a cargo of stolen Wolf hounds. Well now as a penniless, runaway slave, Patrick was not at first very well received when he tried to board the ship. But the Captain had noticed the lad seemed to have a calming effect on dogs, with over a hundred furious and frantic giant hounds stolen from their homes in the hold, Patrick might be just what the captain needed. So in exchange for caring for the hounds Patrick received his passage home. After some time at sea, the very badly provisioned and very off course ship reached a bleak and deserted shore somewhere in Gaul. With nothing left to feed dogs or men, the ship was abandoned and the crew with hounds (worth much more than the ship) headed inland. After not too long a time of finding no food or inhabitants on their trek, dying of starvation seemed eminent for them all. The captain, being in a, not surprisingly, foul humor and having learned that Patrick was a Christian, said to him tauntingly ' If your Christian god is so great as your always saying boy, then pray him to send food!' Patrick did just that, and low and behold a herd of wild boars just appeared, seemingly from nowhere. I tell you, the swine did not run, but stayed within reach while the starving men with assistance from the hounds killed enough to feed everyone. Predictably, Patricks reputation among the men rose considerably after such a miracle. So when the scoundrels finally found their way to the civilized world and the ill gotten dogs were sold, the ships crew gifted Patrick MacAlpern with a wee meager bit of money and food to help the lad resume his journey home to Ireland, not a word of a lie.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Decorative relief carved ceramic crocus tile

3x3 relief carved and hand painted Prairie Crocus tile
~A Blackfoot Legend~

                                                 How the Prairie Anemone Got Its Fur Coat
Wapee shivered and drew his robe tighter around him. It was cold there on the hillside, but the shiver was more of fear and loneliness, than of cold. Always before he had slept in the tipi of his parents, where his father could protect him.
But at last his father had said, "Wapee is no longer a child. It is time he went to the hills to dream and become a man."
So here he was, by himself, on a hilltop, with great stars above him, the long line of the mountains still sleeping far to the west and nothing about him but a great emptiness.
The morning before he had set out with a light heart. The snows of winter had but lately melted, the sun was warm; and would he not, that very night, dream a great dream that would change him from the child he had always been to the man he was to be? But now the sky was lit by the coming day and all through the night he had lain, not with bright visions, but with dark space and loneliness and fear.
The mountains turned from dark, cold grey to rosy pink, then to purple and last to shining blue, but Wapee still crouched on the hilltop, motionless and brooding. Three more nights like the one just past and he must return to his father and his friends and tell them that he was not a man but only a coward, whom the Great Spirit had found unworthy even of a dream.
The day grew warm and the feeling of great weariness and failure lifted, as it always lifts in the presence of the warm sun god. Besides, Wapee was no longer alone. He had found a friend. Beside him on the hilltop sat a beautiful flower, as white as the snow that was now resting on the slopes of the far-off mountains, before its summer journey to the north land. The flower opened its heart to greet the golden sun and swayed and nodded to Wapee until his troubled mind was calmed by the peace of the blue mountains and wind-washed prairie grass.
Wapee sat on the hillside watching occasional crows pass back and forth, or a hawk wheel far above him, or listening to the stir of growing things beneath him and thinking grave thoughts. So the day passed.
The mountains turned to rose, then grey. The sun dropped down behind them, leaving to Wapee once more the darkness and the stars, but not emptiness, for now he had a friend, the little white flower, near him.
"Little brother", he said, "It is cold for such fragile loveliness on a night like this. I will lie close and shelter you with my warm robe, but I must not crush you with my big body."
So while one part of his mind slept and rested, the other part kept watch over the flower.
When the dark of the night was just preparing to meet the light of the day, the flower spoke. "Yesterday, Wapee, you were sad because you had been afraid. He who never knows fear is a fool. The wise man learns to overcome it and profits by it."
Wapee sat up with a start and bent over the flower to hear better what it might say but the flower only nodded and swayed in the morning breeze.
All day Wapee pondered on the saying of the flower and next night, when he lay down to sleep, he again sheltered it with his robe of fur. Again, just as Morning Star looked out across the prairie, it spoke.
"You have a kind heart, Wapee. It will lead you to great things."
Next night, still sheltered under the robe, the flower spoke again. "Wisdom and a gentle heart will make of you a great leader. But when you are bowed with troubles and cares remember that on a nearby hilltop you will find peace and warmth."
Then Wapee slept and saw, dimly, many visions of what was to come when he should be chief of his tribe and his people happy, contented and prosperous.
Before he rose to go to his people he thought once more of the flower.
"Little brother", he said, "three nights you have comforted me in my loneliness and brought me visions. Tell me now three of your wishes that I may ask the Great Spirit to grant them to you."
The flower, nodding, answered. "Pray that I may have the purple blue of the distant mountains in my petals, that men may seek my company and be rested. Second let me have a small golden sun to hold close to my heart, to cheer me on dull days when the sun god is hidden. Last, let me have a warm coat, like your robe of fur, that I may face the cold winds that blow from the melting snow and bring men comfort and hope of warmer winds to follow."
The Great Spirit was pleased that Wapee's first thought had been for the flower and his prayers were answered. Now over the hillsides thousands of the descendants of Wapee's small friend face the cold winds of early spring, with the colour of the distant mountains in their petals, a bright sun in their hearts, and a warm furry robe wrapped securely about them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Decorative handmade ceramic gnome tile

 3x3 pair of relief carved and handpainted ceramic Gnome tiles
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owls feather!
Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain lake,
With frogs for their watch dogs,
All night awake.
By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.
From 'The Fairies' by William Allingham

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Decorative handmade ceramic humming bird tile

6x6 relief carved hand painted humming bird tile
Humming birds have long been admired for their beauty and diligence. In the ancient Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs they were called "Huitzil"a word derived from the zip of their darting flight and humming wing beat. The speed and agility of the Huitzil has made it a symbol of vigor and vitality and due to the accuracy with which they use their long sharp beak, a connection to skill with weaponry and intimacy. Humming bird talismans were worn by the Aztecs to aid in mastery of weapon use and sexual potency. The symbolism of intimacy comes from the very real intimate relationship between flowers and humming birds, many species having evolved symbiotically with the flowers they pollinate and use as their primary energy source, both altering to become perfectly fitted and accessible to each other. Humming birds feed on ornithophilous flowers which are high in sucrose and reflect light in a particular way that attracts the birds, but not insect pollinators which prefer flowers high in fructose. This helps prevent "nectar robbing" as well as making the flower dependant on the humming bird for pollination. Nectar, being low in necessary vitamins is used primarily for fuel and the bulk of their nutrition is from small insects. Despite this they must drink from hundreds of flowers a day for only about 20% of the day, the rest of the time they need to perch in order to digest and conserve energy. Humming birds are very territorial over their food source and the constant chasing of one another, which is so entertaining to watch,  is not play, but a fight for survival. Because of their high metabolism, the highest of any animal excluding insects, they are always on the brink of starvation. At night or when food is scarce they go into a hibernation like state known as a torpor. During torpor their heart rate slows to 1/15 of it's normal rate and kidney function mostly stops. This prevents the bird from starving or dehydrating overnight. Warmth brings them out of torpor and they must find nectar within about 20 minutes. Feeders can be helpful to humming birds ( though not so much to the flowers they pollinate) but when supplementing a natural food source like a flower we must remind ourselves of the intimacy and trust between humming birds and real flowers that tell them by their color and shape that they are there for them to survive, so by putting out a feeder to attract them we are making that same promise and it becomes our responsibility to up hold it. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

8x8 relief carved Sun man ceramic tile
Light, though it's essence can not be seen is everywhere, lifting our spirits, bringing richness to our experiences, sharpness to our observations and illumination to our soul. The nature of light and the discovery of the organic light given off by every living being is still a mystery that remains unravelled. Is it any wonder we've always had, and still do have such a strong reverence for light, most often in terms of the sun and have placed it at the center of virtually every religion ever known, from Stone Henge, where sunlight touches the healing Hele stone through the worship of Egyptian, Incan and Mayan sun gods to the beliefs of today where it remains a symbol of life and divine power. A halo of light around the head has been used in the art of many religions for over 2000 years to depict personal holiness. An example of this in ancient Greek mythology was Apollo "the shining one." One of the twelve great Olympian gods Apollo came to be seen as not only a sun god, but the god of music, healing and archery as well. The Phoenician people worshiped two sun deities, one representing the beneficial and the other the injurious powers of the sun. Many North American indigenous cultures still participate in the ancient sun dance ceremony to this day, also honoring both powerful aspects of the sun. The ancient Aztec civilization's sun god had many aspects and was so important that the Aztec people rarely ventured forth after it's disappearance at night unless they were brave trained priests and the moon was considered as the 'goddess of filthy things.' The planets to the Mayan people who practiced astronomy were considered deities with the sun being the supreme god and their rhythmic dance in the sky served as a guide for human conduct.