Unsung in the Bleeding Wood

“I can not do this on my own.”


We write what we know, where we are, and who we are in our lives.  I often question why my protagonist is this little girl who spends so much of her time lost and wandering, unsure, but soon unafraid.  If we hold onto our inner child, this is definitely the embodiment of mine.  Filled with wanderlust, and wonder, and out of place in the world, which may in fact be why she has such a nomadic spirit… she’s seeking a place that feels like home, people who are her tribe.


It took me nearly 30 years to find mine.


It’s not just their diverse talents and abilities that are eminent throughout the project, it is also their spirit, their life force, their energy and intellect.  They inspire me, they encourage me, simply by being in proximity.  Mackenzie in particular has been little sister, confidant, anchor, partner in crime and manager of all of things.  She keeps me grounded without entirely clipping my optimism wings, and I’ve accomplished more in the last 3 months with her working officially for the studio than the previous 3 years without her… We pulled off 3 shoots in one day with her help, though if I had seen her threatening to drop the flower oracle sculpture in the pond I might have fired or beat her.


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The Crist Clan is my extended family anymore, and a member from them has been here for just about every shoot and prop.  I love all of them immensely.  You’ll note Jaye holding the reflector above, and poor Siena sacrificed her eyes for the necklace you’ll see in the image below.


I also finally added an amazing hair stylist to my team, something I was in sore need of.  Danielle Kittredge was recommended to me by Sarah Jane for my own hair, and Sarah by far is my most fashionable friend.  Not only was Danielle everything she promised as a stylist, but she’s just one of the sweetest, big hearted people I’ve ever met.  I loved her instantly, and before you could say balayage I was asking her to come be part of my artistic tribe and work on the Reliquarian.


Jaylee is a beautiful spirit that serves with my husband.  She came out on a whim when I said I needed an extra model, and over the last few months I’ve made her into one of my loyal enthusiasts.  My husbands affection for their friendship has diminished slightly now that she slips birdcages and embroidery thread into the back of his car to come home to me 🙂


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We showed a lot of the making of the Tribal outfit in the Forlorn In the Forest of Essence blog.  This accompanied the main feature of this image: the Tribal Necklace.  I wanted it to be somewhere between fashion, fine art, and native.  They say every girl is Alice, traveling down her rabbit hole, and mine is Art, within Art, within Art.  The glory is in the details for me… the little things many who don’t read this blog might end up overlooking, but I know they are there.  Like the details in the dress, and the little twine rings and arm bands, all of which accentuate the feeling I was going for.


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There are easily 9000 stitches to this piece… at the hands of 3 women.  We were literally putting in the final stitches the morning of the shoot.  I was photographing the Elk before we did this one, so that we could get it done.  Siena deserves most of the applause for this, it is the first piece in the series that another artist did as much if not more of the work than I did… and it was such tedious work.
While Jaylee is new to our tribe, she has the spirit, and hopped right in to do several rows… there was something almost mandala like about this piece, and everyone would get sucked into it… “I just have to finish this row” echoed through the studio and grounds for months.


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The inspiration for the necklace came from the want to represent their tribe.  My original thought had been to have mike cut a disk of wood from a trunk and etch into it, but we couldn’t get it to work the way we wanted and she ended up looking more like a dog wearing the cone of shame, it overwhelmed her.  In the tribe different rows represent different ages, different accomplishments, and significant moments, and so it shows their age like tree rings would.  They in turn create the bead work with totems for significant life changing events.  Each of these events warrant a name change.  They do not believe in keeping the same name when you are not the same being.  I did a lot of research on different tribal customs, and coming of age rituals.  Eventually I found the beautiful image above entitled: Pokot girl with giant necklace – Kenya by Eric Lafforgue, a photographer I was unfamiliar with until now.  While I was looking for the necklace the image was so striking I couldn’t stop looking at it.


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The ‘Art within Art’ becomes the Story within a Story.  If you look closely, the necklace tells the story of her journey so far, the finding of the fruit, and the butterfly book.  The magic door, the flower of faces, all done in intricate bead work.  Her dress itself tells the legend of the twin trees… she doesn’t hear the story till later… it’s fitting that Siena had such a big part in creating this for her, as her character Ember actually makes the dress in the story.


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We put the final stitches in, tied off the thread.  Cadence was in hair and makeup getting her warpaint and tribal braids.  The necklace that had been months in the making, my piece de resistance!  And it felt anticlimatic for me.  It wasn’t fierce enough, and we were out of time.  Desperately looking at it with my room full of creative spirits I held one of the pieces of vine and stick that Mack had cut down for the other adornments; and there it was.


“These, all around the outside, radiating away from her like sun rays!”  I barked at my very understanding beloved fellow creatives, who obliged with far more etiquette than I shared.  In the end this little last minute detail really made the image for me.  The forest is in her hair and growing on her dress, the sacred 9 represented in her tribal paint.  The clenched fists of a determined girl in a naming ceremony… and yet she is told that her name has not come to her yet, and so they call her “Unsung in the Bleeding Wood.”



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