I love the idea of creating things that go beyond the merely decorative, things that have deeper meaning and, at least in the mind of the maker, are imbued with the power to protect us or heal us or inspire us. What more marvelous use for our creative powers, right? So of course the idea of creating amulets and talismans has always appealed to me.
Many years ago I made this necklace, incorporating everything from my wisdom teeth (because of course I saved them; didn’t you save yours when they had to be removed?) to a little vial of puppy teeth I saved when my puppy was getting her big-girl teeth, back when I was about 9, to a lock of my own hair to various milgros collected over the years to a few plastic toys from childhood to–well, just about anything I could figure out how to attach to the leather cord.
The necklace was featured in Legacy magazine, and people were so intrigued with it that I got to teach a workshop, having people bring in all their bits and pieces of personal memorabilia and then helping them wire and wrap, drill and solder until we secured everything into one wearable piece of art. It was great fun, and I even got to make a three-tiered custom piece for someone who boxed up all her treasures and mailed them to me.
More recently, I beaded a protective heart on the front of one of my linen tops, a project that took many, many hours but that was wonderfully satisfying:
So you know I had to read Sheila Paine’s book, Amulets: Sacred Charms of Power and Protection.
In it, Paine explains the difference among amulets, charms, and talismans:
An amulet is a device, the purpose of which is to protect, but by magical and not physical means–a lump of meteorite worn against gunfire is an amulet, a bullet-proof vest is not.
A charm is something believed to bring good luck, health and happiness. In so doing it might also be expected to protect from bad luck, sickness and misery, but protection is not its primary function.
A talisman is something thought to be imbued with some magical property. It can both protect, and radiate power, and is often used in ritual.
She goes on to explain: A fetish is somewhat different. The origin of the fetish was as a West African amulet but the word now describes an object believed to contain a spirit.
What I love most is the idea of protective garments: pieces of clothing altered and embellished to become something more than just something to cover our bodies. I love the idea of a magical shirt to be worn under a jacket to a job interview or a pair of jeans with lucky patches covering the worn spots. Creating a lucky or protective garment could be anything from sewing on buttons salvaged from your grandfather’s favorite jacket to embroidering dreams along the hem of your favorite skirt.
All of this reminds me of the conversation I had with Robert Dancik, the author of Amulets and Talismans: Simple Techniques for Creating Meaningful Jewelry.
I dearly love the pin he created from the coat button (you can see it on the page with the podcast), and I want to make garments that have that much meaning to me, things I can wear that envelope me in bits from my past and that surround me with warm fuzziness.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS