It is said in the elder days of Celtic Lore there was a fairy who carried the light through the longest night of the year. When the last rays of light dissipates into Yule’s dusk, it is a fairy: a Shee who takes up the light and carries it until Dawn, seen flitting through the woods and meadow from dusk till dawn, just beyond reach. If one is full of despair and sees a flash of light bringing Hope, then it was one of the Shee: The Light Bearer. Never resting, always fleeting just beyond reach.
As with many of the old ways, the concept is made manifest through our own efforts. Lighting a candle that will last through out the night, or the lighting of the Yule Log for a fire to last until dawn: preserving the Light through the Dark Time of the year, thus we become Bearers of Light for each other, preserving the Truth, Honor and keeping a Home with Hospitality and Good Cheer.
In honor of this Noble Being, I have created a small statue of the Light Bearer. Wings in mid flight she holds a lantern before her thus projecting the Truth in her Path. This is a full, 3-Dimensional solid bronze sculpture (A heavy one!): 2 1/4″ by 7/8″ by 5/8″. Suspended from a bail between the wings intended to be hung as an ornament, harnessed as a ward against sadness, a bringer of Joy and Prosperity.
I know you have seen this guy at the drum circle, I have!
He is the guy that walks into the circle,
straps on his drum and changes the sound from a basic pulse
to music that sends the dancers flying.
Other drummers crowd around him as he plays that Jimbay like it as a full orchestra.
Dancers prance before him as if filling themselves with his rhythm
– yet he seems unconscious of the fact he is drawing so much attention,
caught in a wave of music himself.
I saw him too…
In my attempt to capture the moment in a tiny piece of jewelry
I created this three dimensional sculpture of the Drummer Amulet
is only one and a half inches tall.
I tucked a lock of hair behind his head to create a bail
so you can wear him or hang him on your drum.
His hands are in the midst of playing a roll as his palms
stroke the goatskin drum head,
invoking the sound of the drum circle.
This amulet is the first of many tiny drum circle drummers,
dancers and guardians,
each of the same scale,
all three dimensional sculptures,
all may be worn as amulets or charms on a drum
marking a particularly good drum circle or as a dedication to music itself.
There are few things in life that can inspire such joy.
It is one thing to perform while an audience watches:
expectations, stage fright, critics…
it is quite another when a group of people create music
for the sole purpose of making each other happy.
Many music groups describe sessions
where it was “just the band”,
pure beauty and healing in just the experience.
In a healthy Drum Circle,
one can see an entire community gather together
to create something fresh,
unique and joyful.
Each drummer “holds” the down beat
providing a “floor”
where the community dances both figuratively and physically.
One in Spirit Sculpture
I have taught “Drum Circle Dynamics” to children for years,
helping them to realize how to interact through rhythm.
On more than a few occasions
a little one would approach
and want to play my drum with me.
In those moments I felt a bonding with the younger generation
transcending nearly every other experience.
In an attempt to capture these moments, One in Spirit”
featuring a drummer and a small boy learning the down beat,
a moment that erases gender,
age, generational perspective
and sync the two into a single moment:
Playing as One in Spirit.
features details in the hair,
ropes on the drums,
texture in the clothing
and joyful expressions of the participants.
If you have never attended an Open Public Drum Circle,
you have missed a great deal of fun!
One of the many things to watch is how children respond to the experience.
They naturally move with the beat and want to participate in every way they can.
As the older ones can dance and drum just as well as many of the adults,
some are still a bit too little
and could be easily stepped upon by spinning bodies and the like.
Drum Mom Sculpture
Typically, the Drum Mom is a position held by one of the mothers attending.
She supervises the water and snacks
and watches over the health and welfare of the Drum Circle:
as drummers tire and take a break through out the night
(even if we are not doing an “all nighter”)
the Drum Mom makes sure that they are cared for
and makes a safe place
for the dancers to gather to share drink, snacks and words.
I have attempted to capture
the many aspects within the Drum Circle
through my work:
mostly jewelry, however I still love to revel in my first love: sculpture.
I indulged myself in this one: The Drum Mom.
This piece holds an aspect of the tiny struggle
between the Drum Mom and a pair of little ones
who are more exuberant then for their own good.
One struggles to climb into her lap
while the older of the two wants to break away into the circle,
armed with a shaker.
The Sculpture is a tiny moment,
a single beat in the Drum Circle,
in fact in one’s life;
yet it is an iconic position,
one of honor.
Every healthy Drum Circle has such people
looking after each other;
in this way the drummers and dancers
may focus on their purpose:
to generate Joy and Bright Blessings.
The Warrior embodies the youthful spirit of the Maiden taken to twenty first century.
Women are now entering the world with an aspect of personal power,
of the assurance of success in the development of their dreams into reality.
She holds the staff the may be used to combat that which opposes her,
but also it may guide others,
pointing the way to their own destiny.
She is clothed in fire and her hair is braided to remove distraction from her goals.
The Healer holds the medicine bowl,
making the remedy that will cure illness
and strengthen those in her care.
She may be embraced as the Mother aspect,
yet many choose to nurse more that their children,
indeed cure the world of its pain both physical and otherwise.
Her hair is down to enfold and protect her work
and she is clothed in the herbs and vines
from which she draws the source of her medicine.
The Crone is the wise one, the keeper of knowledge and wisdom.
Within her she holds the understanding and experience of previous two incarnations
and offers the lore of the previous eons.
She speaks her words to those wise enough to hear.
Clothed in spider webs,
the ancient creatures that weave and spin their webs
just as the Crone weaves her stories and parables.
Her scroll in her hands holds the knowledge
of those that have come before her.
These three aspects of Woman are merged as one being,
just as every woman holds the potential of all of these manifestations.
Their hair is braided together illustrating their interwoven
and inseparable manifestation: the Goddess in every Woman.
The original sculpture of Warrior Healer Crone
was cast in bronze and is seven inches tall;
currently in private collection.
I have often heard folk speak of art as if it was something alien,
something that only a few could do
and thus relegated to some sort of elite group.
As I was raised by an artist
(both of them were artists in fact),
the concept of art was common to me.
Something I thought everyone did.
Surrounded by my Mother’s Sculptures and Paintings,
I was encouraged to try every medium available.
“There is no difference between them”,
my Mother was speaking about painting, sculptureand Music.
“They all come from the same place,
the only real difference is how they materialize.”
I took her word for it.
A couple of paintings, sculptures,
needle point and knitting,
bead work and jewelry,
all at once.
Fred Katz ~ First Jazz Cellist (composer of the music in the original “Little shop of Horrors” -black and white version), Terra Cotta Sculpture by Althea B. McLaren 1979
The finished Sculpture of Fred Katz Terra Cotta Sculpture by Althea B. McLaren 1979
How she “coped” with what can be referred to as
“writer’s Block” to an artist
is to continually have a multiple of projects going simultaneously.
In this way should inspiration not ferment on one medium,
to move to the next one.
I have found that is all else fails,
play the piano.
what seems to speak the clearest to me
When working in clay (Terra Cotta)
one starts with a rather undefined lump of clay.
Working with it in your hands
by pinching and shaping,
into the form you are visualizing.
Because the medium has it’s limits,
there are compromises you must make
in order for the piece to take shape.
clay has a tendency to dry out
– and so it should before firing.
However thick clay dries slower than the thin areas,
causing cracks and fissures.
One must either make sure everything is the same thickness
or you can wrap the design’s thinnest portions
with cloth or plastic.
The sculpture’s design is a compromise
between design and the nature of the clay itself.
You can design the piece with these compromises in mind
– but there must be a level of pragmatism involved.
Being too demanding of the clay
and you will get flaws or worse:
a stray air bubble caught in the shell
which in turn explodes in the kiln.
Too much of a slave to the clay will yield blocky
and rather unimaginative sculptures.
My Mother was a master at walking this fine balance
between design and media
and showed me that a compromise
can actually be a part of the discipline.
The Wizard Terra Cotta sculpture created by Althea B McLaren 1984
Knowing a weakness,
one can create armatures or use saran wrap at a very thing point,
hallowing our a portion where is isn’t viable can keep a uniform shell
piercing a heavy area of clay and sealing the face can allow areas to dry more evenly.
and there is always the spray bottle.
What I learned in the Studio
I have applied to my life.
Investing one’s self in a multiple of projects in many ways.
Respecting the limits of others, nourishing their vision
and marvel at the way our lives are both sculptures
and what is being sculpted:
a pinch here,
watching how beauty manifests in all things.
The last sculpture I created in her Studio
was the Dance of Shiva,
it was to illustrate my grasp of her instruction
comprehension of religious symbolism
and development in Terra Cotta
(respecting it’s limitations
and working around them).
Shiva The last Sculpture I created in the McLaren Studio Academy
When it was complete
the dutiful son that I was
turned to his mother and mentor
and asked: “well, what do your think?”
(hoping for approval).
She turned to the piece just mounted on Teak,
raised an eyebrow and let out a half smile:
This is a god of the Old Celtic lines
throughout Europe. Cern means “horn” in Old Irish
and related to similar words carn
in Welsh and Breton,
and is the origin of Kernow,
meaning horn of land.
The depictions of Cernunnos
are strikingly consistent:
and portrayed as a mature man
with long hair
and a beard wearing a torc
to denote nobility.
He often carries other torcs in his hands
to signify wealth and prosperity.
He sits and cross-legged in meditation.
The Amulet of Cernunnos
The Horned God
reflects the seasons of the year
in an annual cycle of life,
death and rebirth. Cernunnos
is the guardian of the forests,
the defender of the animals
the source of the deep forest wisdom,
and the male aspect of creative energy.
He is called upon for vital,
non-violent masculine divinity.
In the Wheel of the Year,
His time is between Samhain and Beltane
as the Goddess’ time is between Beltane and Samhain.
During these High Holies,
they come together
in a balance of energies,
union and blessings.
I created an interpretation of Cernunnos Amulet as depicted on Gundestrup Cauldron.
The Celtic design dates from the La Tene period.
Here he is shown holding a serpent in one hand
signifying knowledge and connection to the Ancients;
and a tork in the other,
the symbol of holding power in the world of mortals.
This piece is 5/8″
and can be worn as a pendant
and may also sit like a statue on your shelf
or where ever you wish!
The Amulet of Cernunnos
For more amulets of Gods and Goddesses, please visit my Mythicals page
In the lore of the Native American Tradition,
the Coyote represents the Trickster
There are many stories that range through out the West Coast
and Great Plains Indians
which look to Coyote as a practical joker
and promotes mischief and at times done harm.
Tales of Brother Coyote
may be found in the Karuk, Chinookan, Flathead and Nez Perce Stories
where Coyote is famed and blamed
for a whole hose of mischief, discoveries;
even the gift of fire.
In most of the Coyote lore
he is here to test our conscience
and tease us into a better understanding of ourselves
and the decisions we make.
A good friend did a sketch of a Coyote holding his staff with his feet
and placing his “hands” in flip flops;
a joke about the reversal of ideas to emphasize their silliness
(why would a Coyote wear flip flops?).
He commissioned a statue of bronze to be made based on his sketch.
The finished piece is a seven inch bronze statue.
The staff is a separate piece that fits between the paws.
To give it balance (and to emphasis the design)
I placed him atop of the world.
The original Brother Coyote Statue now resides in his home;
however he has given me leave to reproduce it
for the pleasure of others.
For many years I was on the road, attending conventions and festivals and two of the most common questions was “How do you make this?” and “How did you start out?”
I started off as a child…
My first reach into jewelry was wanting something that I could not find. When I was seven years old I had asked Santa clause to gift me two badges: I pains taking developed sketches of that I wanted and offered it to him days before Christmas. The odd thing to me at the time was the careful “handing off” of the sketches to my parents while I was “being distracted” by a very tall elf.
After not getting the badges I asked for, my suspicions grew and I though about making the pieces myself. Fortunately my parents later gifted me with a copper enameling kit. I developed a technique of enameling by mixing color and design in the powder, however in the tiny kit the control over design was a bit hap hazard.
As with all things in our childhood, the kit was “over used” and eventually when the hot plate was borrowed and burnt up, I returned to other forms of art. My Mother was a professional artist and trained me in painting, sculpture and many other forms of artistic media and technique. Coupled with music (Piano and Guitar) I began to develop a way to reproduce and interpret what I saw, felt and thought.
I cannot remember a time when I was not sculpting, yet when the opportunity to take a jewelry class, I went into fabrication: working directly in the metal rather than casting. I will always be grateful for this because the broader the education in the field.
It was not until I was going through a rough patch in my life and found myself back in my parent’s home and access to a jewelry bench again that I went to an exhibit of Lalique at the LA county art museum that I found I was on the right track. In combination with my studies in metaphysics, (focusing on the art) I decided to bend the boundaries of my work to include esoteric imagery and use of my art.
For years I had attempted to develop a Tarot Deck, however these adventures into the project kept solidifying into “logo” like pictures rather than paintings. Seeking the work of a master who bent the rules as to what was to be jewelry and what was art, I was inspired.
In order to work on the project, I started to create custom jewelry for folks, building my bench of tools and honing my skills, I began to work out of a shop: the Crystal Cave, at the time in Santa Anna, California. Karen Tate, the owner of the shop was extremely supportive and began to display my work in her cases; all the while I was driving a truck.
In 1992 I went full time into jewelry, moved to Newport News, Virginia and completed the Tarot Caster Set: the first (and only) three dimensional Tarot Deck of it’s kind. Yes, each of the Major Arcana may be used almost pharmaceutical, however when used together the set is a deck which may be dropped and read as they fall. I developed the name “Tarot Casters” because the process is much like casting a net. In some of the more esoteric writing, Tzaddii (the Hebrew letter attributed to the Star Card) is the fish hook: one drops one’s mind into the great waters of the unconscious to see what would bite. By using the entire major arcana, one is using a much broader casting for ideas, inspiration and (perhaps) answers on one’s troubles.
Within a few months of being on the East Coast, I was introduced to a more esoteric community which appreciated what I had accomplished and rewarded me with praise and commissions for more work. I began with creating jewelry for circles, covens and groves as well as Churches and other religious organizations, focusing on Serving Spirit rather a specific religious trend. The only criteria I’ve maintained is that all is focused on Good Intent.
Thanks to a commission by my land lord, I developed a Tap Handle for his private reserve, thus I returned to sculpting, one of the first steps in training in my youth. I sculpted in in pieces, then assembled them after casting – a technique used in much larger pieces, however when casting with a jewelry centrifuge you are limited in how large one can go. For several decades, I focused on tiny pieces rather than the large ones, however after working so small, the larger pieces came easy, but they required me to look to a foundry rather than relying on my tiny set up for rings and pendants.
It was when I sculpted a pair of motor cycle mirrors that I turned to a local artist for help. He (who as asked me to omit his name) taught me the gaps I had in casting larger pieces, then introduced me to his buddy who had a foundry at his disposal.
At this point, I have the ability to cast at any size: even life size (and bigger). I continue to serve those who want jewelry through my website. I do not have a “store” but rather I do show my work at the Mystic Moon in Norfolk , Virginia, should anyone wish to drop in and see it . As always, I have a full catalog for your review and a gallery of some of my work. Most of the images of the pieces made in the past are “lost” in that I have not had a digital camera the entire time, so only in the pat ten years do I have pictures worthy of display.
If you wish to have something made for you, please view my website and don’t hesitate to email me with any questions.
I first met Mark years ago at a science fiction convention named SheVaCon. A very large, quiet man who seemed to lurk in the shadows and “tried” to be unobtrusive. The first thing I noticed was his smile: he seemed to know much more than he let on, quiet jokes he kept to himself as he observed the Fans rushing about in costumes of their favorite books and shows, LARP players taking themselves all too seriously; Mark took them all in in stride.
He often hovered around my tables in the Dealer’s Room as I sold my jewelry, listening in on conversations and turning his head when someone said something particularly funny, but one day he was present when I was asked to explain my Tarot Casters. I found he had pulled up a chair and sat next to my tables and simply watched.
Several years went by when on one convention he asked me to step aside for a quick nip of Scotch: “It’s as old as I am” he told me. So, we “snuck” away to a room, only to find he had let me into a meeting of the board of the convention. They were debating about how to expand the curriculum. I was there for the Scotch, not to be a part of the board, however after a little while (and a few shots) I found myself participating in the conversation. All the while Mark was grinning at me, offering the bottle for one more nip. Before I knew it, I had proposed and volunteered the Amulet Making Workshop.
To this day I blame Mark for my return to teaching as a way of life.
Over the years, he has been very supportive. Encouragement at the right time, careful reflection of complex issues summed up in an almost haiku statement as if he were conserving words making each syllable more potent and more profound than the volumes I have heard other people speak; all the while his simple presence said more than his words.
We lost Mark a couple of years ago due to an accident. A dreadful loss to those who knew and loved him. His wife gave me the honor of creating a memorial sculpture to be added to his tombstone. The request included a series of ideas to be incorporated: knot work, a tree dominating the image with ivy, a symbol of wisdom and the figure of a dwarf (his favorite character) whittling something under the tree. An “Aum” (OM) as the center piece, meaning “everything and nothing: a fundamental symbol of all things scared; leaves making out other images (if you look, there are dragons and many other figures in the leaves). Each of these meant something to his Family.
This custom memorial sculpture was cast in bronze with a patina set into the metal so it will colorize over the years, pulling out a variety of hue in time. The piece is five and a half inches across and twelve inches tall: developed as a one of a kind piece dedicated to Mark Bodkin: he will live in our hearts forever.
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