Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cherished Collections: Ancient Egypt

Anubis the Jackal Acrylic Painting

As beaders, we know a thing or two about collecting precious baubles. Even though we often use our collections to make things and then give them away, we still hoard our favorites, organize them obsessively, and hope for new additions on every birthday and holiday. Lately, I’ve been letting my bead collection get a little light, as I search high and low for special new beads, and colors that fit into classic Egyptian palettes.

Exploring new ideas for Egyptian inspired jewelry has been my favorite beading challenge to date, and I have pages of notes and sketches left to try in the coming weeks. I can’t wait to show you this week’s bracelet, which was inspired by the gold and blue striped Nemes crown.

In the meantime, I want to share the source of some of my inspiration - my huge collection of Egyptian imports and artwork. Today I’m taking part in the Cherished Collections blog tour, hosted by one of my favorite blogs, Elegant Musings. There are lots of fantastic vintage, style, and handmade blogs participating this week, with a fantastic variety of collections to share. Please do check it out - you won’t be disappointed.

Egyptian Inspired 1920's Vintage Ads

1. egyptian deities 1920, 2. rigaud 1920,
3. palmolive 1920, 4. Baubles 'N Bits

I tried to capture just a few of my favorite and most interesting Egyptian pieces. Many of them are handmade (not necessarily by me), and many are imported from Egypt, though they are modern made trinkets. Although I love the traditional and authentic look, I also enjoy even the most kitschy recreations, particularly those that resemble the designs of the Egyptian Revival fad of the 1920’s. If I see something Egyptian looking, and the price is right, I’ll usually scoop it up. Everything from cheesy Pharaoh fridge magnets to cobalt blue glassware catches my eye.

Egyptian Decorative Boxes

One of my favorite things to collect is boxes. Since most of what we know about Ancient Egypt comes from tombs, and these were usually filled as if the deceased were going on a long vacation, containers and boxes are quite common in history and treasure books about Egypt. And since you can get little wooden boxes of every shape for about a dollar and paint them, I have oodles. Though I can do some pretty cool things with acrylics, I wouldn’t call any of my own boxes favorites. It’s these two that take the prize. One of my favorite images of Ancient Egypt is the profile Anubis in jackal form, and I love this upcylced, hand painted box above most others.

Treasures: Korean Coins, Sea Glass, Marbles, Gemstones, Shells, Pewter Figurines, Broken Pendants

The smaller box is an Egyptian import, with gorgeous mother of pearl inlay, and a velvet lining. I use it to store miscellaneous trinkets, including the only gemstones I will ever own. Among them are a lapis lazuli donut, and a turquoise or magnesite ankh. This little ‘treasure box’ was inspired by my grandmother’s bauble collection. I spent so many magical hours exploring her assorted scraps and trinkets, that I made a point of arranging all of mine in this box. It has been a great source of entertainment for young visitors in my workspace for a few years now.

Egyptian Desert Beaded Wall Hanging

Naturally, a large portion of my handmade collection is based in beads. Long before I discovered bead weaving, I spent a great deal of time creating beaded curtains or tapestries with seed beads, plus acrylic and lucite beads that I carefully collected for their color and ancient appeal. This one is by far my favorite - a desert landscape in strung beads.

Bead Embroidered Sarcophagus Portrait

I also dabbled a bit in bead embroidery, which is a much more efficient and rewarding way to recreate images that you love in beads. My first piece was this portrait of one of the miniature coffins that held Tutankhamun’s internal organs for burial. Once filled with the precious organs, these were placed inside canopic jars and sealed in a special alabaster chest.

Egyptian Figurines

Statuettes, figurines and trinkets are some of the easiest Egyptian decorations to make or buy, and I have quite a few scattered around my various bookshelves and surfaces around the house. Some are very authentic looking, like the carved statues of Bastet, and the tiny gilt pyramid - all imported. Then there’s the little bust that I purchased at a dollar store. It’s worthless, but loveable.

Hand Painted Wood Miniatures

I have a handful of tiny wooden books and vessels that I painted in traditional colors, with a sprinkling of hieroglyphs. I keep them hidden away in my own little collection of canopic jars, made from upcycled drink mix tins.

Egyptian Papyrus Paintings and Semi-precious Trinkets

I like to pick up things that just barely fit into the collection, like the stone pyramid that I purchased about a million years ago at a liquidation sale. The quartz crystal with pyramid shaped striations was a gift from a friend who was interested in alternative healing. The paua shell egg was another gift, and though it’s not Egyptian at all, it looks right at home.

Hand Painted Salt Dough Propaganda Beetles

After carefully looking through each of the tiny personal artifacts in the ‘treasure box’ my bead helper and I spend a little time going through the ‘beetle bowl’. This is one of my favorite things in the whole collection, although it’s actually many small things - these pieces have been grouped together for as long as I’ve had them.

Assorted Scarab Beetle Trinkets

The bowl was a gift, handmade by the giver, and is covered with beautiful blue pottery glazes. Inside are piles of scarabs. There’s a carved bone scarab from Egypt, a genuine dung beetle encased in resin, and a little faience scarab bead. These rest atop a pile of scarabs of many shapes and sizes that I sculpted from salt dough and painted with classic colors.

Egyptian Inspired Dresser

My most recent addition also came from the need to paint things in black and gold. Earlier this year I got tired of how old and dinged up my dresser was looking. It was left to me by an old roommate and I can’t bear to part with it, simply because the drawers are huge and I’ll never find another like it. So I got out the paints and the masking tape, and copied the pattern of one of my bracelet designs to give the whole thing a makeover.

Egyptian Collar

Last but not least - the jewelry. Most of these designs are not obviously Egyptian inspired, with the exception of the gold St. Petersburg chain collar. It has all the right colors, and of course the strands of striped beads make the theme easy to recognize. I only wish I could wear it more often.

Egyptian Inspired Necklaces

Egyptian Inspired Necklaces

Handmade and Vintage Egyptian Style Jewelry

The bangles were a fabulous thrift store find from many years ago, when I went as Nefertiti for Halloween. There were also several black wood and silver bracelets which have been lost along the way, and a pair of handmade earrings to match the blue pendant.

Golden Girl Handmade Egyptian Musk Soap

I promise that my apartment doesn’t look like a museum, but there are a few corners that have an ancient vibe, especially when I neglect the dusting. I wish I could show you everything there is to see. I left out so many things, like history and travel books, papyrus paintings and the wonderful tastes and scents of Egypt. Since I can’t live in a clay house with date palms and pomegranate trees in the yard, and a pet snake to keep away the pests, at least I can try to bring home a little Nile life here and there. Since making tiger nut sweets, I’ve become a little obsessed with eating dates, though I prefer to eat them whole with cubes of salty mozzarella cheese.

Thank you so much for taking this little tour with me! I hope you’ll visit some of the other collections in the challenge as well.

And tell me, what do you like to collect?

Elegant Musings Cherished Collections Blog Tour

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading and soapstar
Photo Collage by
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  1. OMG!!! I love the King Tut embroidery!!! That is fabulous and captures the colors of his robes and head dress perfectly :D I love to collect Japanese art. I love the pen and ink used along with paints to bring certain objects into focus while other elements remain watercolor blurs. I especially love the landscapes and architecture from ancient Japanese culture.

  2. Hi !!! I loved your blog, you are wonderful creations and the beading tutorials... thanks!! I'll be visiting, greeting from Chile. bye.

  3. I really love Egypt and in this post you have captured the essence of Egypt!
    I went 2 times in Egyp and every time someone gave me a torquose beetle (as talisman)!
    And my first time in Egypt I bought in Khan El Khalili a box like the first one in this post!

  4. Oh dear you have a wonderful collection, when I saw all the picture I was actually wondering you are living in the museum...hahah when I came got through the last bit of the post there you have mentioned about your lovely apartment. I just all your collection and your work.

  5. What an amazing collection of scarabs! I love scarabs... when I was younger, I was obsessed with having a scarab pendant because they were somewhat hard to locate before Internet shopping became popular. You are an amazingly talented beader!

  6. Wow - what a stunning collection! you know how I LOVE all things Egyptian too - I carry one of those little scarab beads everywhere I go as a good luck charm ☺
    I adore the Anubis box - I am always drawn to Anubis somehow...
    so happy you love my Golden Girl soap as I tried to capture the wonderful scents used by the ancient Egyptian queens.

  7. What a wonderful collection..thanks so much for sharing it with us.
    Love your blog...I visit it everyday and so appreciate all you share with us.

  8. Fabulous collection, I have a slight obsession with scarabs recently and this has definitely inspired me.

  9. What a stunning collection! I have seen another Egyptian collection recently but yours far surpasses the quality of the pieces. wonderful, thanks for sharing.

  10. Wow! What a wonderful collection. I once saw a linen jacket with scarab style-buttons. I thought it was the most beautiful thing. Thank you for posting your collection1

  11. I've always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt. You have an amazing collection. I love the things you have made. Very pretty jewelry.

  12. What a fun and quirky collection. I love your treasure box with the treasure inside, too!

  13. what a nice collection! you just reminded me that I have a scarab bracelet I aught to wear more often.

  14. love the collection, i just wish that false truths were not glamorized in those pictures you posted. Caucasians were never Egyptian..

    1. I'm not an expert on the 1920's and what people assumed, but I'm sure that the women are depicted that way because the target audience for the advertisements was Caucasian.


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