How to get from what you see to what you make….

In October, I went to Manhattan to help my friend Pam at the New York Bead Show.  Pam has a great online bead business,, and does shows around the US.  We had a fine time together, and of course I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There were many wonderful exhibitions there, but the show of Turkmen silver jewelry was the best part for me.  I purchased the exhibition book, Turkmen Jewelry by Layla S. Diba – the photo above is from the book.  If you paste the link above in your browser you can see more glorious objects from the exhibition.

I hadn’t been looking at these incredible pieces for long before I started thinking about how I might be able to adapt some of the motifs to my stamps and texture mats.  Needless to say, I also wanted to see the rich reds of the carnelians on the pots too – more of that later.

It generally takes about three incarnations of a single stamp before I get one that is really strong.  Consequently, there are boxes of the dang things around the studio…  I just roll out a 1.25″ thick slab of low fire clay, cure it until it can be cut into fairly regular shapes, and then cure further until I can just carve into it.  After a bisque firing, they are ready to use. My favorite  use for the stamps is as “tiles” repeated in a grid pattern to create a ground that  can then be extended and individualized with decorative borders…  usually made from other stamps and rollers that I have thrown at the wheel, carved, and bisqued.

The beautiful central motif of the opening photo is described as a “cordiform” motif.  Most of the cordiform ornaments are described as “dorsal” – women actually wore them on their backs, perhaps  to counteract the weight of the mass of silver jewelry that was worn on the front of the body.  I have not yet experimented with cordiform designs, but that’s next. Here are some early tesselations built up by combining my original stamps.  I’ll be refining the stamps, and creating some texture mats from the patterns I that I like best.

Oval stamped forms with a diamond border.

Oval forms over Greek key image.

Four-part square with Gothic dot border.

This one is a bit funky, and wasn’t neatly stamped. This image will have several iterations in the next generation of stamps.

Is making stamps more fun that making pottery with them?  Probably…  Today I need to get into the studio, make a fire and warm it up, and start applying slips to pots that will be fired next week.  It’s probably my least favorite part of my process but it has to be done so I can open that kiln and have those pots.

I’ll be thinking all the while about my next bunch of stamps, and maybe I’ll spend just a little time rolling out some low fire slab – just in case I get a really good idea for a new stamp.


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