In a lockdown moment, when it felt the world was stuck in a new type of craziness, I was chatting with gallerist Rick Wester and we mused on an idea “the world needs art that embraces the magic of life”.
The more I worked on the collection the clearer it became, our anxiety is beyond Covid. It is an overwhelming whirlwind of climate emergency, black lives matter, me too, political shenanigans, lockdown loneliness, wars (trade and real) and our personal journeys with the unknown shape of things to come. So maybe it’s unsurprising that, when the universe gave us pause to think, it resulted in a collection of wands called “What are we doing?”
They are inspired by the legends of the trees they are made from, reflecting human experiences across the world and time.
The Black Pearl
This wand is about love. It is made from two entwined plants. Birch a feminine tree associated with the planet Venus and powers of protection and purity and Honeysuckle, which is all about adding sweetness, love, sexuality, luck and the essence of all things that bring pleasure and joy. A honey suckle that twines around another stem is a sign of fidelity and long lasting desire. Russians tie a red ribbon around birch to get rid of the evil eye.
The black pearl is a symbol of hope for wounded hearts as it carries healing powers warding off negative energy. There are many legends about black pearls, in Ceylon there is one where Adam and Eve cried a lake of tears, Eve’s were white pearls and Adam’s black.
The Silver Birch wand, naturally aged by weather and time, shows the spiralling scars of honeysuckle’s embrace in its bark of deep red undertones and a natural silver sheen. Remnants of honeysuckle vine are decorated with gold and small branches have been trimmed and finished to look like small silver (palladium) buds. In the crack of the handle there is a black pearl embedded into a palladium bed. A red ribbon is tied around the handle.
Material: Silver Birch with honey suckle + Palladium, gold and a black pearl – 26 inches
The Moving Stones Wand
A wand about deceit. Walcollienassa, a blue-eyed cockatoo from the Aboriginal Eora Nation, bet a boy that she was as smart as him and could prove it. She made a plan with the other birds, but the boy cheated and got his little brother to hide in the bushes so he could report back on their plan. A kookaburra saw this, and as the little brother was running to tell tales the birds moved the stones on the path and he got lost. The boy’s mother heard the kookaburra laugh and asked what had happened. Angry with her eldest boy she said ‘you shouldn’t have cheated the birds’ and sobbed for her youngest child. Gawarrgay, the creator sky spirit emu, felt sorry for the mother, plucked a magic stick from another land and threw it down to the path making the stones move back, so the little boy could find his way home. But the Emu told the birds if the boys cheat again use the magic of the stick to move the stones.
The wand’s handle resembles emu skin and is tipped in gold. The main portion of the wand is red with black and gold decoration.
Material: Hazel + gold, shellac red ink and black Indian ink – 26 inches
The Seven Sisters
A wand about the oldest story still told. Seven sisters gathered bush tucker as they sang and danced through Martu country, they stopped at Pangkapirni to rest. Whilst asleep a lusty old man called Yurla forced himself on one of them, when the sisters realised what had happened they rescued their sister and flew into the sky. To teach the old man a lesson they teased him, telling him to come get them. He climbed a ladder to reach them and each time he got close they pushed the ladder away.
The handle is decorated with a tall ladder. The sisters are represented flying in the sky by 6 small round scars in the bark, which are highlighted in gold, and the seventh sister is represented in gold at the tip of the wand. The butt of the handle is decorated with black clay and 7 white dots, to represent the star constellation.
Variants of this story are told across the world and historians believe it may be over 100,000 years old, predating the Indigenous Aboriginals and originating in Africa.
For example, other stories referring to the same constellation of stars, include:
– Greek mythology, where the seven daughters of Atlas were pursued by Orion who was filled with desire, until Zeus turned them into doves that became the constellation Pleiades,
– North American Kiowa tribe, where seven maidens were playing until giant bears started hunting them. The Great Spirit raised the ground into the sky to save them but the bears climbed after them leaving great claw marks (at Mateo Tepe or Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming). The Great Spirit lifted the girls until they became the constellation Pleiades,
– Hindu legend, the Pleiades are known as the wives of the seven wise men.
Material: Eucalyptus + gold, black and red clay ‘paint’, shellac and gesso -18 inches
The Jail Bird
A wand about good and evil. The Cedar is known as the ‘tree of the gods’ in Sanskrit and worshiped as a divine tree in the Hindu religion. Cedar was one of the three woods used in Christ’s cross: cedar, pine and cypress.
The wand is black and engraved with prison style Christian tattoo designs, which are spot varnished and reveal the light wood underneath. As Christ was killed alongside criminals it seemed fitting. On the handle small scars, from removed twigs, are enhanced with gold. The bark is treated with frankincense and myrrh, bringing out the
richness of texture and warmth of colour through a wash of black ink.
Material: Lebanon Cedar from Channings Wood Prison (Devon England) +
gold, black Indian ink and shellac on detail – 21 inches
A wand about inner healing. Made from Maple it opens the door to the subconscious wisdom of dreams and nightmares, if there is the courage to face fears.
The Moon Stone captures the light of the moon and shine new light without getting overwhelmed. The waves are pulled by the moon and embrace the nature of change and flow in life. On the handle an owl glides as a symbol of night and wisdom, referencing the owl that sat on Athena’s blind side so she could see the whole truth. Palladium, that decorates the wand, was named after Pallas Athena, goddess of virtuous war (unlike her brother Ares, who was more bloodthirsty).
The wand is shaped like a dagger or a bone from the ribcage of an animal. The handle of the wooden section of the wand is decorated with palladium and an owl, the remainder of the wand is white with the crescent moon engraved above breaking waves. A Moon Stone is embedded into the end of the wand against black, like the night sky.
Maple + Moon Stone, palladium, black ink, shellac and gesso– 17.5 inches