Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Tale of Amber

I have been looking forward to today for quite awhile. On Tuesday we put LW on the plane to Northlands (Denver) to visit his 90 year old mum!!!! Yesterday I had lunch with girlfriends, that way I won't have to go anywhere until LW comes home on Saturday. Waaaaa Hoooo I know you guys can understand why I'm so excited. I have 2 WHOLE DAYS all by myself to play in my little art corner. The only thing I have to do is feed and walk the firkids!! Now just how cool is that??? :)

To make an already awesome art escape even cooler is the amber beads that Miguel&Helena and I ordered came yesterday!!! I love amber!! For me each piece of amber carries all that is mother nature. It plays with all my senses. It's always warm to the touch, much more comfortable in your hand & more forgiving unlike other gems, that feel cold, hard, and impenetrable. It has a wonderful smell of pine forests. Did you know that the ancient Egyptians burned amber as incense?? The scent is a very calm and relaxing one especially once it's warm up by body temperature. It can be any number of beautiful colors and often has foreign matter caught in it. Have ever gotten pine pitch on something that ended up close to your taste buds, Amber "tastes" the same way. Kinda earthy/ pine nutty slightly astringent. If you drop it on a hard surface it doesn't have the intrusive hard brittle sound like other stones. See it truly is a small piece of all that the earth is.

So Miguel&Helena and I placed an order for Chiapas amber (Mexican amber) Amber is mined in the mountains in the state of Chiapas. Chiapas is one of the poorest, small inhospitable terrain areas that many of the Mayans then later the indigenous Mexicans escaped to during the many years European nations "conquered" and brought "civilization" in exchange for unimaginable riches. Nearly all of the towns and villages have been designated as "Ejito" owned land. After the revolution, land was divided up by the government and given to the indigenous populations. However each person was not given a piece of property. So much land was allocated to the village to be owned and shared by all the members of the group. Yikes trying to make heads or tails of this whole system does take the intelligence of a rocket scientist. For amber what this means is the amber mines are owned and worked by the ejitos that the mine is on. But most ejitos sell their amber at pennies on the dollar to amber brokers who turn around and sell the amber at enormous profits. These profits NEVER get back to the ejito. Many of the brokers want all the amber that can be squeezed out of the mine with no regards to the physical damage to both the earth and the miners. 

The three of us decided we would either find amber sold honestly to both the environment and people or we would do without. Helena was able to find a small mine own and run in a small village high in the mountains in the Tzotzil (land given to the Mayan descendants) area. The village, mines,cuts, polishes,brokers, and transports it's own amber. They also know that what damage they do with their mining will be there long after the last amber sliver is mined. Therefore they are trying to make as little impact as they can.

On these heishi beads see how they are not perfectly rounded?? That's because the amber is cut, shaped, and polished by hand.
Once Helena located this tiny village run business, she gave them a call to ask for descriptions and prices. Keep in mind this is all done by phone (which happens to be the only one in the village) with nothing more then verbal descriptions. No internet, or digital images only what you can see in your mind's eye through this guy's description. When we had decided what to order she called him back, told him how much we would spend and what we wanted for beads. The shipping cost was added and then he (the village representative) gave Helena the number of the bank account he wanted the cash deposited to. Most of Mexico is still a cash based country with a real fear and distrust for banks. In all honesty this is how nearly all mail orders are done, which most foreigners seem to realize and accept. What many foreigners can't seem to accept is the money is payed first then the merchandise is sent. It works on a trust principle, and it has been done like this for just a couple of hundred years. What keeps them honest??? Needing to stay in business, all they have to do is cheat once to lose their customers.

 About 4 days later the representative called Helena told her he would head down the mountain in the morning to send the package of beads via DHL. True to his word he left his village at 5am so he could drive the 6+ hours to the larger town at the base of the mountain where the only pick up/delivery office is. He wanted to be sure he got it there in time for it to go out with that day's run!!! Oh and by the way the shipping wasn't as much as we thought so we refunded you with a small string of amber :) See the little "bracelet" in the center??
Two days later you could hear Opie singing "Oh the Wells Fargo Truck is coming to town"
Actually it was more like Helena called me because DHL had delivered the amber. She was a bit distressed because it wasn't exactly what we had ordered, and she didn't want me to be upset. Are you kidding me I was so thrilled to have real Chiapas amber of any shape!! OHhhhhhhhhhh and it's soooooo beautiful. This is what greeted me when I got there :)
Have you ever seen a more beautiful sight???? The colors range from nearly crystal clear to nearly black.
Some are completely clear and others have, what they call in the biz, debris
The sizes go from little 4.5 mm heishi to a 35mm But you want to know what the coolest part was??? We payed a good fair, and profitable price for these beads. Which still was far less then we would have to pay for strings of invisable chips to the brokers and middle men!!!!
Now like me are you wondering why I'm still farting around arguing with Blogger about where to put things instead of playing with all my lovely scrumptious amber??!!! Well I'm just about to put right this observation!! Here is wishing you an audacious art filled day no matter where you are in the world   p;) 


Silver Parrot said...

Oh - there is nothing better than a couple of totally free days with a brand new stash of beady loveliness to play with! Strangely enough, I am wearing my multi-stranded amber bracelet today - it looks just like that pile o' strands in your picture with a few touches of brown pearls and gold-colored pewter beads thrown in.

SharDon Exclusives said...

I so want some of those beads! They are wonderful! Can anyone order from them in the USA? I would just like a few just to feel then and appreciate their lovely appeal. I am anxious to see what you make of them. Please keep us posted. I would love to know more.

stregata said...

Gorgeous!!!!! Wow - now that is what I would like to be able to do. Buy directly where the material is sourced. Of course, the amber here is Baltic amber, which is often found on the beaches along the Baltic sea, after storms.
Now - what loveliness are you going to create? Enjoy yourself during your playtime!!

SummersStudio said...

Stunningly beautiful amber! It makes my little heart sing that you got these goodies by fair trade. Have fun with your couple a days. Hope to be seeing some of these beauties in jewelry soon. Although, if it were me, I think I'd hoard them.

donna said...

Little tree dogs? (grin)

I want some amber, toooooo.....

Riki Schumacher said...

Hi Pattie, what a wonderful story! I love it, and the amber is so beautiful. I have some I've had for years, just can't part with it. And that you bought directly from the "miners", so cool. Can't wait to see what lovely creation you come up with. Hugs, Riki

LuLu Kellogg said...

I can't wait to see what you will design with these. I LOVE's such a beautiful stone.

I do hope LW's Mum is not ill.

Have a lovely time playing with your treasures my Big Sis!

LS, The Commander and the Furry Ones!

Charmingdesigns said...

You are so darn sweet, I just saw your link to my name about your header. I'm blushing. lol
Those I cant wait to see what you do with the lovelies.
REally, there is nothing quite like a couple of quiet days to yourself to indulge in your own creativity!

Cindy said...

Hi Pattie
I hope your husband made it back safe and sound over the weekend after visiting his Mom!
Thank you for the education regarding have done your research and it's wonderful that these gorgeous beads are Fair Trade.

Diane said...

Just beautiful Pattie....and your story to go along with it was worth reading every word of it =)
Just lovely!

Deryn Mentock said...

Oh, this just isn't fair! I'm absolutely in love with that heishi. Gorgeous stuff, Pattie!

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