Tuesday, March 1, 2016

AJE COM Theme Challenge: Eye Love Beads

The eyes have it
Eyes are the window to the soul
Keep your weather-eye open

For eons, eyes have been important symbols in human culture, spirituality and religion and beads have played an important role in this symbolism.  I have always been drawn to eye beads and components, doll and taxidermy eyes, and incorporating these items in my work.  For the March theme challenge, I thought it would be interesting to investigate Eyes as our challenge inspiration.  

Yes, I know eyes can be creepy...  But they are also our amazing organs of sight, masterpieces of engineering that refract light in such a way that images are transmitted into our brains.  Please join me on a brief inspiration trip - I hope these cultural examples of eye symbolism intrigue you to explore this challenge with me!

The Nazar, or Nazar Boncugu is a protective amulet and remnant of the Turkish Ottoman empire.  Still commonly seen in parts of the Mediterranean, middle East, and Eastern Europe, this blue within blue eye is meant to protect from the "evil eye", ill wishes and ward off evil in general.  They can be found in shops, worn on the body, or placed in dwellings and shared spaces such as hospitals.   
Early use of a hand shaped amulet called the Hamsa traces back to Mesopotamia, but can still be seen today across the middle East and North Africa.  The Hamsa usually depicts an open right hand, which in itself is a powerful symbol of blessings, power and strength, along with a potent deflector of the "evil eye".  The "evil eye" can be considered a malicious stare, believed to cause illness, death, or general unluckiness, which is why the Hamsa is often depicted with an eye in the palm.  
The Eye of Providence or the All Seeing Eye is going to look familiar to you...after all, it looks back at you every time you spend an American dollar bill.  With origins stemming back to Renaissance Europe, this eye symbolizes the eye of God or the Creator, watching over humanity (divine providence).  The symbol usually contains an open eye surrounded by clouds or rays of light, contained within a triangle.  The Eye of Providence is also used by the Freemasons, as a reminder that the thoughts and deeds of the Freemasons are always observed by God, the Great Architect of the Universe.
Milagros are used across Latin America, with roots tracing back to the Iberian Peninsula.  The Milagros can be all shapes and sizes, and many different materials can be used depending on local custom.  As part of an act of religious devotion, the Milagros will be placed at the icon of a Saint, either as a reminder of the petitioner's specific need, or in thanks for a prayer granted. Because Milagros are formed in shapes representing all different types of needs, eye shaped Milagros can have several different meanings.  Besides various eye conditions, eye Milagros can bring vision, both spiritual and actual, along with insight, intuition, and vigilance.  When depicting an eye with a tear, the Milagros might be warding off depression or seeking help with grief.  
Eye miniatures, now commonly called Lover's Eye, are believed to have originated in the 18th century with the unsanctioned love affair between the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and Maria Fitzherbert.  Originally crafted from watercolor on ivory, these miniature reminders of affection were often worn as bracelets, brooches, pendants and rings, serving the same emotional need as lockets hiding portraits or locks of hair.  The Lover's Eye could be displayed publicly on clothing though, as the depiction of the eye only preserved the anonymity and decorum of the subject.
The Eyes Have It by Laura McCabe, Bronze Protection Eye by Cynthia Thornton, and Starfish Eye by Betsy Youngquist.
The eye is still used as a subject and symbol by today's artists, in all types of arts and crafts.  Above I've collected a few of my favorites.  "The Eyes Have It" is one of the first pieces that my favorite beadwork artist Laura McCabe created using real human prosthetic eyes.  Cynthia Thornton, one of the creative minds behind Green Girl Studios (incidentally, Green Girl has some great eye pieces too), makes these Bronze Protection Eye coin pendants out of bronze clay, set with a twinkly stone cabochon.  Betsy Youngquist creates fantastic beaded sculpture and wearable art, weaving together human and animal spirit through a surrealistic lens.  I find her use of eyes just fascinating, like in this "Starfish Eye" sculpture.  Can't you just envision coming across this creature in an alien tide pool some day?  Our own Jenny Davies-Reazor even has some Milagros eye pendants for sale in her shop...you should check them out!  Are you intrigued and inspired?  I hope you will join us for this challenge!

1. Giveaway - This theme challenge DOES include a giveaway!

I will be giving away one Bead and Mother of Pearl Nazar pendant that I crafted for this challenge!  The winner will be selected randomly from comments on this post. 
  • Winners selected Sunday March 5th.
  • You must have an active blog. 
  • Email and blog address required in comments.  You will NOT be eligible if you do not include this information!

2. Goal - Have fun! Try something different! Be inspired by the Eye in any way you feel! 

Make something that fits within this theme. This can be an artist bead, a component, or a finished piece of jewelry.    
       *You are free to use any artist bead/component in your design -
  • from an AJE team member 
  • of your own creation
  • from another artisan bead maker... 

3. Share/Reveal - Reveal date March 31st! 

If you would like to be included in the blog reveal at month's end, please email Lindsay at phantasmcreations (at) gmail.com. Since this is open to all, this is the most efficient way to be included. Emails need to be received by March 29th  to be included. 


  1. It is such an interesting post Lindsay, I didnt know about milagros before. Though I am familiar with the Hamsa the prayer is new to me. Thanks for the information. It reminds me of a post I wrote long back about Evil eye beads. Cowie shells & Meenakari from India, Dzi beads from Tibet and Horn beads from China (Warring States era) are all considered to ward off the evil eye

  2. I love this! Especially considering I just recently purchased something PERFECT for this challenge! My email address is LYILHA@gmail.com and my blog is: http://beadinblacknblue.blogspot.com/. I do think I would like to participate in this challenge hop! Thank you so much for the fun opportunity!

  3. What the heck, another challenge why not? I'm too late for the giveaway, but I'll join in for the reveal.

  4. This is a fabulous fun theme idea. And I've been hoarding an art bead that would be perfect. I'm in!


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