Well, I believe I’m finally over my jet lag… It hit me so hard this time around, on top of the emotional roller coaster that Ryan and I rode this week I just could not recover!
So here I sit this fine Monday well rested, my house is spotless, the laundry is done, dinner is planned, life is, at long last, caught up, (for the time being at least) and I have a bit of free time before Ryan comes home to spend visiting (at last) with all of you!
As I sat here staring around my home desperately trying to figure out what in the world we should visit about…. (since of course I gave you a quick overview of the last month and have spent the time since trying to recover my sleep schedule) I realized that it has been sometime (around August if I remember correctly) since I have shared some of the things (local crafts, antiques, ect) that Ryan and I have been collecting here in Germany. So I decided to do a picture post for your viewing pleasure!
First up today is an antique and hand carved Egyptian scarab! I won’t lie, it thrills me!
Speaking of Egypt, Ryan bought me this handmade jewelry box from Egypt to keep it in. The woman we bought this from says that these boxes are handmade and each piece is individually laid into the wooden frame. There are copies of these that come out of the East but they have begun using machines that make a form of veneer that is simply applied to the wood. Egypt is now the only place that makes them like this. Isn’t it beautiful?
Since we are on the subject of jewelry I will share this last piece with you. This has quite the history that I find so incredibly fascinating. It is called The Damascene Work.
The origins of this art began in ancient China, where pieces dating 600 years before Christ have been found. Later the art was practiced by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, although they each used different techniques. After the Roman Empire period, the Byzantines passed this craft on to the Arabs, whose city of Damascus gave this craft it’s name. And then at the time of the Arab conquest of Spain (about 1600 years ago) this handicraft was introduced to the city of Toledo, Spain. It developed side by side with the culture of the city. Today, this craft is done only in the city of Toledo.
It is best described as embroidery with golden thread on a tarnished iron base. The Damascene Work of today can be traced to the Chinese, Mudejar, Byzantine, Gothic, Pletersec, and Baroque styles which are present and intertwined.
The Damascene Work is crafted as follows: The untempered iron is thickly grooved with cuts in two directions with an engraver or well tempered steel spoon. The surface is covered with thousands of microscopic grid squares. The artist then draws the patterns and designs with pure gold wire or leaf in his right hand, while pressing it into the base grid squares with a special tool held in his left hand. The ridges made by the engraver are hammered flat to secure the precious metal. The work is plunged into a bath of nitric acid heated to 600 degrees centigrade. This causes the unworked iron parts to oxidize and become a rich velvety black, making a beautiful contrast with the inlaid golden designs. Subsequently, these patterns undergo work with a chisel and polisher, giving them beautiful texture. This is The Damascene Work.
The recommended cleaning method for Damascene is to pour vegetable oil (olive oil works best) on a piece of bread and rub The Damascene Work gently. Then wipe clean with a soft dry cloth.
Isn’t that an amazing thought? They say that this art was popular in the main areas of the Roman empire at it’s peak… There were women walking around wearing something very similar to this when Jesus walked the earth…
Next up is a new Cuckoo Clock. Ryan and I have been saving up to buy a large eight day Cuckoo Clock and we finally did it. We choose this clock because it simply embodies this area of Germany… In a very real sense this clock is the Germany that I know and love.
The roof line is very reminiscent of this area… right down to all the intricate carving on the balcony and roof line.
When the clock cuckoos and plays music (it plays Edelweiss and The Happy Wanderer) the water wheel on the left hand side turns, the dancers on the balcony turn and dance, the man on the left drinks his beer and the man on the right saws his bratwurst. It is simply delightful!
We also purchased our second beerstein. When we saw what is was we could not pass it up. This is called the Berlin Wall Beerstein and there are only 5000 of them in the world… however ours is signed by the artist and dated since we were there when he put the finishing touches on it. The thing that makes it quite unique and special is the piece of the actual Berlin Wall affixed to the top of the stein.
Last but not least are the Lithuanian Candle Houses.
Each piece has a place for a small candle or tea light and then a spot (usually a chimney) to pour a small amount of water and a few drops of scented oil… They are used as scent diffusers.
Lithuania, the largest of the Baltic states has no natural resources except for it’s clay. So it was only natural that a tradition of ceramics evolved. Each of these is individually hand made and then fired three times for strength. There is no automation or molds used and each is only made 1000 times and then the templates are destroyed. Each piece takes three days to complete and is 100% hand made….There are no two exactly alike. Each of these are based on a real structure in Lithuania.
The clay is rolled flat and each side of the house is cut out and then assembled as you assemble a gingerbread house. Then all the windows doors and detail features are cut by hand, fired, painted, fired, glazed, and fired once again to finish the process. These are so unique because time is taken to accent windows, stair rails, roof tiles, siding, doors, chimneys, and many other features common to all Lithuanian Houses.
It is traditional now for each household in Lithuania to have a scent diffuser, and it will be placed in the center of the table at meal times. The candle is then lit to give a feeling of calm. Once the meal is finished water and a few drops of fragrant oil are put into the chimney. The heat from the candle disperses the aroma. Giving the family a pleasant atmosphere to rest in after their meal together.
The widely accepted story to explain how these became such a tradition in Lithuania is that candles played an important part in the drive for freedom. In 1991, when the Republic of Lithuania broke away from Russia, the Lithuanians showed their longing for freedom by placing lit candles in the windows of their homes. The candles blazing in the windows of thousands of homes validated the widespread endorsement for freedom. This image ignited the concept of making ceramic houses to resemble homes in the villages commemorating their unmitigated longing for freedom. These are made as a reminder of a nation united in it’s quest for freedom… each small home and large alike.
Well there you have it… Some of the things that Ryan and I have found in our explorations of Europe.
And with that I have a few things left to do on the computer before Ryan gets home and I better get to it!
P.S. I think I have gotten around to comment on everyone! That took me forever but I’m now caught up and will hopefully be able to keep up now!