Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Avoiding the Evil Eye

When I lived in Egypt, long ago, on the Nile River, which ran beneath my balcony, every vessel from the tiny fishing boats to the ornate gold floating pleasure cruisers, bore painted eyes on their prows like those on the pharaoh’s tombs to ward off danger. Taxi’s and Lorries and the big people carriers , so prone to accidents they were known locally as flying hearses, held together with dust and rust all had brightly coloured eyes superimposed on a hand shaped design, plastered on them. Even the Zabbaleen, the despised Coptic Christian garbage collectors carts had them and in Upper Egypt, the women place hand prints on their mud walls with ochre pigment. Every shop, every office every handcart selling Coca-Cola had a hand and an eye hanging from it, even the Cairo Hilton had one above the front desk and the horses pulling the caliches on the Corniche wore them on their bridles . In shops everywhere you could buy self adhesive versions of varying degrees of luridness for a few pence. The goldsmiths make them encrusted with gems and sell them to the wealthy for a fortune.

This hand and eye symbol is the خمسة, Khamsa/Hamsa meaning “LIVE” in Arabic, a protective symbol used all over the world. Look and you will find it in Jewish houses sometimes inscribed with prayers; you will see it too amongst the Masonic symbols. Turks and Greeks paint it on their boats. In America and Europe between the wars it was worn by women on charm bracelets and was as common as a horse shoe or a four leafed clover as well known as a a wishbone.

It dates back before Christianity, before Judaism and before Islam so far back that its origins and full symbolism are hazy. Do the 5 fingers represent the 5 books of the Torah or the 5 pillars of Islam, is the eye the eye of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, or of Miriam the sister of Moses who hid him in the bulrushes to save him from the Pharaohs slaughter of all the Hebrew newborn infants? No one knows but across the world it has become a sing of the protecting hand of God, whoever that God may be, a magical talisman against the envious attentions of the evil eye, an amulet of protection and it crops up in the most unlikely places. Even Hollywood celebs are wearing them now, Nicole Richie for one, mind you with as a best friend Paris Hilton she may need all the protection she can get!

If you need a little protection yourself or just think these would be fun to hang up in your home have then email me.

Ceramic Blue Evil Eye

( 10cm wide handmade and cobalt glazed on a blue beaded leather thong.)
3.00 sterling plus 2.50 sterling postage.

Ceramic Hand of Fatima

(18 cm long handmade and glazed in bright colours on a beaded leather thong)
10.00 sterling plus 2.50 postage.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Broken Plates.

Digging in the garden I am for ever finding small shards of old French pottery which I collect in a most un feng shui fashion to clutter my studio with. I love the tiny glimpses of design and wonder at what the complete plate might have looked like and the stories that lie behind their destruction. Was it a child who dropped it on the unforgiving slate floor perhaps or part of a cherished dinner set the loss of which caused many tears? In my minds eye I can imagine some sunlit family celebration in summer the plates all placed with joy on long trestle tables laid with white cloths under the apple trees in the orchard and how one dish may have shattered at some small piece lost in the earth for me to find over a century later.

Even on holiday I trawl the tide line looking for lost fragments of peoples past lives. Never sure what quite to do with them but happy to find these serendipitous shards of beauty. One of my favourite pieces is no bigger than a child's finger tip with a small floral design in red which I found in a river one hot day in the Pyrenees Orientalle. It is so small with barely a hint of the full picture , just one corner of a flower with petals like the suns rays, but I love it . It is that little remnant of broken dish that inspired me to make some ceramic pendants recently to hang on leather thongs. And here they are, an attempt to capture something of the original design and transport it into something beautiful and wearable.

I had so much fun making them that I went on to make some crosses in similar designs and had great fun making intricate little patterns with my brush and glazes. Each is only about 4.5 cm long and I am now thinking about earrings in porcelain . I wonder what the owner of the original plate would think to see them!

For more pictures and further deatils you can go to my shop front