Twelfth House Blog

A Long and Happy Life — The Ginkgo

I have long been asked by my customers to create jewelry pieces inspired by the beauty of the wonderful and revered ginkgo tree. I have always resisted doing this, simply because so many artists and commercial sellers already offer their versions of the ginkgo leaf’s form. But one day last fall, with Covid raging and little else to do, I found myself wandering around my mostly empty town and was drawn to the small, park-like area across from Berea’s world-famous Boone Tavern Hotel. It was a beautiful autumnal day, and the ginkgos there were in full golden display. As I sat in the grass admiring the delicate and distinctive fan-shaped leaves of this ancient tree, I thought how it was no surprise so many are so taken with the form and pondered if I might be able to let it inspire me to make something that reflected my individual voice. I tucked a few of the leaves in my pocket to take home.

Did you know that the ginkgo tree is considered a living fossil? It has endured for millions of years and is the oldest surviving species of tree known to exist. In its native country of China, it is traditionally associated with strength, hope and peace, and widely represented in the country’s art and literature. But around the world, and especially in Japan, it is probably best-known as a symbol of fortitude and longevity. When the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, survivors included six ginkgo trees situated at the site of the blast, and though experts predicted nothing would be able to grow there for at least 75 years, the ginkgos have endured. It is expected they will live to be 3000 years old.

Back at home, I pulled the leaves from my pocket and spread them out on the work bench before me. With pencil and sketch pad in hand, I drew a form that I thought looked most like them that I could saw, texture, and form by hand. When I oxidized and finally sealed the finished forms, I thought they looked good, but needed something else. Enter the gemstone known as jade. Discovered first in China with carvings dating to the Stone Age, it seemed a natural partner to the ginkgo, and is known as the gem of good fortune and happiness. Together, the ginkgo and jade represent an aspirational pairing–a long and happy life. The resulting pendant and earrings you see here are fabricated from copper, sterling, and jade, and are available for purchase on this site. ♥



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How It Came To Be…

I am often asked by my customers how I started making and selling my jewelry. I guess you could say I came into the profession through a side door, taking my first, tottering steps in the jewelry making arts while on vacation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 1997. At the time I was a freelance writer who fed her creative impulses by constructing handmade books–complete with illustrated prose and poems–and giving them away as gifts. When I first saw jewelry being made by the master silver artisans of Chiang Mai, I thought the techniques would be terrific for embellishing the books. A few years later, while visiting a gallery in Berea, I had a light bulb moment–I thought I could make something new and different from much of the jewelry I was seeing there! So, why not use those techniques for what they were intended–actually making some wearable art! Building on my skills as an illustrator and with a writer’s intuitive eye, I began to do just that, and Twelfth House Designs was born. The rest is a Cinderella story. Within a year of creating my first piece, I was juried into Kentucky’s most respected arts & crafts organizations and making a successful living! Yoo-hoo! Eventually I enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University in the metals program to explore and expand my metalsmithing skills. Now I fully embrace the creative life–living and working with my American Bulldog, Banjo, and my bossy kitty, Sofie–in the inspiring, artistic community of Berea, Kentucky located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

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The Silver Lining

COVID-19 caused countless event cancellations around the world. “Social distancing” they call it. Economically, this preventative measure hit artists, musicians, and other self-employed folks hard. But some good things have come from it, too. My new website is just one example. It’s a work in progress, but I hope you enjoy it.