Sometimes Adversity Leads to Invention

 

About six years ago, with a well-intentioned move to save our remaining magnificent elephants, several states made ALL ivories illegal. We, from the depths of our hearts, support the protection of these amazing animals.

The tragedy of the law is that it did not distinguish between our beloved elephant’s ivory and the tusks from Great Wooly Mammoths, extinct for 10,000 years. Since the beginning of ‘Susan Tereba – World on a String’ we have designed and employed many carvers to create our art from this exquisite ancient material.

 

These new laws necessitated asking our wholesale customers where they sell. If it was one of the States where mammoth tusk is illegal (California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, DC, New Hampshire, and Vermont), we informed them that they couldn’t resell the mammoth there. This was a large part of our customer base. It was a big blow.

 

Being an ‘up for a challenge’ person, while tempted, I opted not to curl up in the fetal position and go to sleep. I began to search for new exciting materials we could carve. I am responsible to keep our carvers and their families going. I also don’t want to see their talent, which has matured over the decades we have worked together, go to waste and either not have money for their families or see them, instead, turn to construction of new Bali ‘villas’ our planet does not need.

 

Bone

 

Bone ornaments have been carved for eons by various cultures. Perhaps the oldest bone carving is from 51,000 years ago. It was found in the Unicorn Cave in the Harz Mountains of central Germany, where many fossilized bones have been found. Centuries ago, they were believed to be from Unicorns and were ground up and used medicinally.

 

Indonesia, with its thriving beef industry, has bone readily available. We like that we are using a by-product that keeps our carvers using their talents. While bone doesn’t have the mystique of 10,000-year-old mammoth tusk, we enhance it with color for a unique and creative product. 

 

Our bovine bones come from Java – the next island to the west of Bali in the Indonesian archipelago. They are boiled and cleaned of any remaining fat, meat, and marrow, and then set out to sun-dry for a few weeks so the material can be used for art, rather than be discarded.

 

Because the bones are hollow and thinner, we are limited in what we can carve from them compared to mammoth tusk which is much thicker. But they are perfect for pendants, earring pairs, beads, and bas relief sculptures.

 

Synergy

 

After I make the designs for our pieces, our expert carvers bring them to life. Sometimes we tea stain them to give them an antique look. Most of all, I like enhancing them with color.

 

We found a talented artist whose genre of work had gone out of fashion. With two children in school, he needed to make a living. It was a perfect pairing. 

 

I choose the color palette for each piece and give it to the painter. He is free to use it as he sees fit. Somehow, he gets what I want almost every time and sometimes he does something even better. Back in our studio we seal the pieces with an acrylic sealer.

 

I love the synergy of working with our master craftspeople – something magical happens that is more than us as individuals.


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Our Journey with Fossil Walrus Tusk

 

We started World on a String over thirty years ago, carving fossil walrus tusk from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. Only the native islanders could legally hunt for it. Sometimes, our material came from garbage dumps where broken fossil walrus fish hooks, harpoon points, and other artifacts had been tossed. It always tickled me to turn garbage into works of art.

 

Most of our fossil walrus tusk was excavated from the soil or found in the sea. We love this material. It served us well for years until bureaucracy intervened.

 

Fossil walrus tusk has an outer layer of dentine and an inner core that looks like popcorn. The popcorn is fine for shapes but it doesn’t show detail well. It was the dentine we were after and the thicker the layer the deeper the carving could go showcasing the expert talent of the Balinese master carvers.

 

And then the colors – depending on where the tusk had been buried, colors such as caramel (my favorite), blues and greens, and velvety browns emerged as the outer skin was carved off.

 

In the beginning, the material was not regulated but eventually, a CITES permit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service was necessary to export the raw material to Bali and re import it, carved, back to the States. This became increasingly more difficult.

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Hand-Carved Fossil Walrus Sculpture

 

Mammoth Tusk

 

Necessity pushed us towards mammoth tusk which is not only more economical but no CITES permit was or is needed.

 

Mammoths mostly died out about 10,000 years ago after roaming the earth for millions of years and evolving into the Woolly Mammoth. A small herd managed to remain on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean and evolved into smaller animals. It makes me chuckle to think of tiny mammoths! Eventually, about 2,000 years ago, they became extinct as well. There are no living mammoths on earth.

 

Our mammoth tusk comes from the permafrost of the Yukon. It is a by-product of gold mining. The miners dig down through layers of permafrost and come across whole mammoth bodies, broken tusks, skulls with tusks, and just the tusks. The tusks sometimes take on the smell of the decaying bodies and it has been a challenge to find the right essential oils to eliminate that smell! No one wants to wear a necklace or earrings with odeur-de-mammoth wafting around!

 

Mammoth tusk, unlike fossil walrus tusk, is hollow inside except at the tip of the tusk. It grows in layers and these can pop apart as the tusk dries. The material must be dry before carving.

 

We have been carving this material for about 25 years and continue to delight in the surprises that unfold as the inner layers are exposed.

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Hand-Carved Mammoth Tusk Sculpture

How Do We Know We are Buying Mammoth and Not Elephant Tusk?

 

Susan Tereba – World on a String has only ever worked with ancient-fossilized tusks. We respect the laws and bans on elephant ivory to help preserve these glorious animals. We only work with trusted suppliers who also respect modern-day elephants.  

 

It is possible to tell the difference between mammoth ivory and present-day elephant. On a cross-section of both are lines like herringbone called Schreger lines. Both ivories have these but their angles are different. These lines can be seen under a microscope to determine the lines’ angle.

 

Mammoth tusk also picks up colors from minerals in the permafrost after eons of time buried there. Some of these colors can be seen with the aid of a hand-held UV light. They only occur in the mammoth tusk. They are never present in modern-day elephant tusks. You can find more information about this at: https://www.fws.gov/lab/ivory_natural.php

 

In the next Hot Flash, I’ll be writing about another material we use: Bovine Bone

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Since pre-historic times, talismans were worn to protect one from evil, to bring good luck, or to prevent illness.  Usually worn outwardly as a ring or a stone secreted away, they were inscribed with magic symbols thought to do the trick.

Depending on one’s intent, modern-day talismans can have many other properties. I don’t believe the object itself does anything, but that it acts as a reminder of what we wish to accomplish, whether that is more awareness, love, joy, good health, friendship, tranquility, a smooth transition, or a myriad of other intentions.

I’ve used symbolism in my work for decades, whether in paintings or hand-carved jewelry and sculpture designs.  Now, it has evolved into talismanic symbols combined from various cultures to make a unique image that speaks to the wearer of the piece.

A series of animal carvings such as a blue heron, pelican, wolf, bear, and tiger, to name a few, are hand-carved and hand-painted from bovine bone.  A symbol, created by combining designs from various cultures such as Celtic, African, Native American, Egyptian, and Asian is inlaid on the back of the piece using a black Indonesian hardwood.  

“Follow Your Heart”, the title of our blue heron necklace pictured above, has a talisman symbolizing self-awareness, strength, independence, and the spiritual journey. It was created from a combination of runes and the universal spiral symbol signifying the unfolding journey and changes in life. The piece is framed by a feathered heart. 

I have so much gratitude to have been able to follow my heart and my dreams. I hope our pieces will inspire others to follow their own inner tinglings and tuggings and that our new talismans will remind them of their journey.

Pieces from the collection will soon be on our website where you can buy them online. Or if you have a certain symbol you’d like inlaid in a piece especially for you, let us know. We love doing custom pieces.

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            “Transformation” 


Tucson Comes to You

                   Hand-carved and hand-painted bovine bone sculpture

After thirty years of annually doing the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows, it was quite a shift to not doing them this year. Tucson is so much more than setting up our booths at GJX and The Pueblo Gem Show. It’s about hugs, reconnecting with people we only see once a year, and inspiration.

Tucson is comradery with other vendors and customers, sharing meals, and exchanging new ideas. It’s about friendship.

It is also about seeing what is new and inspiring in the gem and mineral world. And of course, buying materials for our business, ‘World on a String’. While two weeks of setting up and taking down, and talking all day is exhausting, it is also energizing.  I miss it.

Our hand-carved and hand-painted wearable art pieces, as well as mammoth tusk carvings, jet, stone, and wood carvings, are ready to be shown. Rather than putting them all on the website, we made catalogs.  We have eleven of them broken down into finished jewelry, sculptures, and just carvings for people who want to put pieces together themselves.

As we were preparing the photos and information for each piece, new design ideas cropped up.  The catalogs are updated weekly with new pieces and designs added.

If you’d like to see what we have, please email me at susantereba@nullgmail.com

and request either the catalogs of finished jewelry, sculptures, and/or carvings alone.  In addition, we have stock in the States and group photos of those pieces.

And of course, you can buy online through our website, www.susantereba.com.

Stay safe and inspired!

Susan

 Mother Nature Inspires Our Unique Carvings

 

Sitting at the foot of Mt. Agung, the active volcano that dominates Bali, I’m awed. It’s affected me like this for the 28 years that I’ve lived on the Island of the Gods.  Today I looked up from my work and saw the mountain – spewing.

It started up last September with earthquakes shaking the island daily. After several months of eruptions, it quieted down.  Now it’s acting up again.  I’m thrilled that I can be here, so close in Amed, to experience not only its majesty, but its power

I’m supposed to be working but how can I not watch the changing plumes of steam and ash rising in the sky right in front of me? It’s mesmerizing, and a good reminder that Mother Nature runs this show.  Our sense of control is an illusion.

Our New Carving Material

The volcano continues to erupt, but I’m home in Ubud again and back to designing our unique carvings and jewelry.

We have a new wood to carve that I’m super excited about. It’s called Raja Kayu, which means King of Woods, and has been used for eons as an amulet for protection and as a healing agent by the indigenous peoples in Malaysia and Indonesia. They use the powdered wood for pain relief, as an anti-inflammatory, for skin problems, and stress relief.

It’s also used by Southeast Asian monks as prayer beads. It’s believed to bring wisdom and spiritual power. They call it Saint Wood.

Raja Kayu, (Agathis Borneensis), has a few interesting properties. Unlike other woods, it doesn’t float in water. If you shine a light through its chatoyant caramel color, it turns translucent red. So some people call it Dragon’s Blood Wood. And the best part is, it’s not on the endangered species list!

One of the challenges of carving this wood is working with the natural swirls and ‘eye’ in its interior. Perhaps this natural eye feature is why it’s believed to be an amulet to protect the wearer from negativity – throwing negativity back at the director.

Being quite resinous and hard, it’s a bit of a challenge to carve, but we’ve already gotten started. Here are a few examples of what we’ve done.

​Now I’m envisioning power animals out of it and a tree of life…..

What’s your power animal?

Whether this new material is called Raja Kayu, Saint Wood, or Dragon’s Blood Wood, is not important. It’s the beauty of the wood that inspires me.

Here it is with light behind it.  You can see the dark spot in the eagle’s eye that is opaque. That’s the eye of the wood that we positioned to be the eagle’s eye.

 

Hmmm….I wonder, how could I incorporate an LED mini light bulb?

 

How to Find Us

Not many of you come to Bali where we create our unique carvings and jewelry, so the best way to see what we are up to is with our website – www.susantereba.com.

For over twenty years we have been known as World on a String but I’m finding that doesn’t work well in this digital age. Googling us that way is not successful, as the song that inspired us is just too popular in web searches.

I go by my name now, Susan Tereba, and Unique Carvings and Jewelry.  It’s pretty hard to let go of World on a String since it’s my theme song, but even old dogs must learn new tricks. It keeps us young.

Until the next Flash,

Susan

 

 

Carving Inspiration

Our new website, www.susantereba.com, was launched in early January just before the start of our Tucson Shows. In the whirlwind of show preparations and actually doing the shows, there was no time to write.


Finally back in Bali, I’m writing to you on my veranda, overlooking the rice paddy harvest in full swing. When I left three and a half months ago, the paddies were flooded, reflecting the stormy monsoon sky. Soon they will be flooded again reflecting another cycle of Bali life.

Like the fully matured paddies, I’m bursting with carving inspiration for new styles in our mammoth tusk, jet, painted bone, exotic wood, and stone carvings. Based on requests from customers at the shows, I’ve started drawings of ostriches, sunflowers, bunnies, pandas, baby hippos, new Ganesha designs, and even a Quetzal bird.  I can imagine a pair of iridescent green birds with long tail feathers curving around to meet among the jungle foliage. Will these be earrings, a pendent, or both? And do you have any requests for images you’d like to see carved?


Custom Carving

I also came back with custom orders to produce for other designers. This is our specialty –  manifesting other’s carving inspiration in high quality three dimensional pieces.  I love the challenge of interacting with a client to be clear what is desired and then to actually send the specifications off to the carvers and wait for the raw materials to return, transformed, almost alive in three dimensions.

I’m very excited by one designer’s pieces that are mammoth tusk inlaid with jet. I wish I could show you some examples, but we pride ourselves in keeping every designer’s work private and their designs just for them.

Christmas in April

Coming home after three months away is like Christmas, when new works set in motion before I left, are now each in a zip bag in a basket waiting for me to open them.  Most pieces have that special ‘ooooh’ quality that makes my work so satisfying. This is where carving inspiration becomes carving manifestation. A few might need tweaking to make them just right, but I love the whole process.

I’m so grateful for my team who work tirelessly to keep Susan Tereba: World on a String in motion when I’m here and while I’m away.

 

All the best,

Susan