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[Tidbits] A Conundrum

Here’s the thing of it… and I don’t mean to be waxing
philosophical on you all… but… if it’s made of gold and has a
diamond in it and it hangs on a chain around your neck… and it’s
decorative by your standards… is it jewelry? Well… what if it’s
not gold… or any other precious metal… and it does not have a
diamond in it… or any other gem for that matter… but it still
hangs around your neck and it’s still decorative by your standards…
is it still jewelry? If not… why not?

What if it’s just a little doo-dad you found on a forest floor one
day … a bird’s claw for instance or a bear’s tooth… and you took
a liking to it … and you tied a piece of string to it and hung it
around your neck… would it be jewelry? I say it would. But now
here’s a divergence. Let’s go back to that diamond. If you took it
off your neck and hung it in a rather fashionable way around a sash
tied around your waist… would it still be jewelry? And if instead
of that diamond… you took that bird’s claw or that bear tooth off
of your neck and tied to the sash around your waist … would that
still be jewelry.

We come to a juncture here my friends. There will be those who will
think–as do I–that all this is still jewelry even when it ties
around that sash around your waist because it’s decorative and
fashionable and tends to enhance the image you are trying to present
to your friends. And there are purists out there who will insist that
a bird’s claw tied to a sash ain’t jewelry no how and no way.

Let us… for the sake of this discussion… take the side of those
that agree that it does not have to be gold to be jewelry… and it
does not have to be worn around one’s neck. A bird’s claw will be
fine… tied to a sash around your waist will also be fine.
Jewelry… by any other name… is still jewelry. Following this
irrefutable form of logic… I am going to present to you a
magnificent piece of jewelry that was not only decorative and
fashionable in its time… but also served a purpose. Can jewelry
attain a higher level than this I ask you?

They were a fierce tribe of the Amazonian rain forest… and they
possessed as it were… two souls. This is quite a gift for most of
us have only one soul which we hold quite dear… for if we lose
it… we can not–to the best of our knowledge-- replace it. The name
of the first soul was Arutam… and it gave its possessor the power
to kill. But not with impunity… for the second soul–
Muisak–existed for the sole purpose of avenging the death of the
one you killed. These are the check and balances of life my friends.
For every Yin there’s a Yang… for every plus there’s a minus… for
every head there’s… well… you get the idea.

But the tribesmen liked killing… and they had to figure a way to
evade revenge upon their souls by Muisak. And they did. They made a
piece of jewelry of sorts … I will not yet tell you what… but I
do believe they wore this fashionable doo-dad hanging off of a sash
tied around their waists. I’m not too sure about this part… but
when you see it I am sure you will agree it’s quite plausible. So go
take a look at the image I am about to show you… and tell me if you
think it’s jewelry.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you will
scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that says
Current Tidbits… and then click on it in order to view a rather
innovative piece of jewelry… or is it? Hmmm?

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark

You are absolutely correct. In my opinion, it is detrimental to the
artistry to make jewellery out of gold.

Gold should be used only when required by the design and/or
construction of the piece.

What defines the article of jewellery is the craftsmanship that went
into it’s creation. Material simply is not relevant.

Leonid Surpin.

Adornment is anything worn on the body that is perceived by the
wearer as decorative, or perhaps sacred…jewelry must contain a
jewel in the assemblage…seems pretty clear cut to me - without
having to drink ayahuasca in the amazon or eat mushrooms and/or cacti
with the Huichols in N. Mexico…


jewelry must contain a jewel in the assemblage 

The assemblage IS the jewel. Did you mean a gem? That is not a


Good Morning Orchidians

In reply to Benjamin’s query about whether the sash ornament head is
jewelry… maybe not so much jewelry as “adornment”. In my mind
there is a whole world of personal decoration that doesn’t fit into
the jewelry concept, but is still someone’s idea of fancying up their
every day world or personalizing their “self”. I am thinking of body
piercing, tattoos and the wearing of amulets or good luck charms or
whatever trinket people find gives them a sense of “self”.

Of course some amulets are works of art in themselves as are some
tattoos, but most of the ones I see on the younger set these days
are not. There was, I believe, a certain art in the practice of
shrinking heads, but I am not convinced that makes the thing a piece
of jewelry. I wonder if I have been schooled to think of jewelry as
bright and shiney and expensive.

Hhhhhmmmm… Maybe this makes my attempts at finding a niche for my
creative efforts a little more interesting. Perhaps I should be
presenting them as “Adornments” rather than jewelry. This opens up a
whole new concept that I had not considered. Is there a new business
card in the works? A new brochure and direction??? Maybe one that
will feel a little more comfortable in my mind?

I am very curious to see if this thread goes anywhere. Does anyone
else feel the same way about the head?

Greetings from Sheila in Ontario Canada where spring is teasing us
with one or two days of warmth and then more cold.

Actually: How do they shrink Heads???

A very interesting idea as other small animals, rats, lizards, (we
are thinking unlikable ones which are plentiful) might be able to be
shrunk and added to slightly unconventional jewelry.

Enter the realm of ‘body ART’

Any ideas, knowledge, or ‘daring do’s’

I love gems etc., but the realm of daring ‘stuff’ is always a
challenge, and exciting.

Sharron Gray
Visual Arts Dept.
I.B. Diploma Instructor
International School Dhaka

Sharron, look up the work of Bob Ebendorf or Ted Noten (especially
his piece "Princess"). 

They shrink heads by removing the skull and meat (leaving the skin
and hair), treating it with some sort of plant derived chemicals and
then filling it with hot sand, which shrinks the skin and then
stitching it up. I imagine this takes repeated steps… This is what
I have read on the subject…


Actually: How do they shrink Heads??? 

Hi Sharron, that was my thought too, so I willingly admit that this
is a guess- I think the skull would have to be removed, and the
brains, then the remainder would be dried / possibly smoked. Maybe a
temporary filler material to help keep shape whilst the drying
process is proceeding. A bit like a cross between boning a whole
chicken to keep it’s shape and ancient Egyptian funeral practices.
Not really a fun job,

cheers, Christine in Sth Australia

How to shrink a head.

First skin the head. You must be very careful where the skin is
thin, like around the eyes and nostrils. When you skin the head, you
will make an incision up the back of the neck to the top of the head
so the skin can fold back as you remove it from the face.

Now sew the incision shut. Sew the eyes shut, and plug the nostrils.

You will now have a bag of skin. Fill the bag with hot sand and it
will start to shrink. Be careful, it won’t shrink evenly so you must
constantly turn the bag and shift the sand to make it shrink where
you want it to. You also must smoke the head. This will cure it into
something like leather. Eventually, you will have a bag that is a
little larger than your fist. Fill the bag with something like dry
leaves to preserve the shape as you smoke it.

You can see real shrunken heads in Seattle on the waterfront.
Unfortunately, I forgot the name of the store. They only display
them, not sell them. They also display fake ones made from animal
heads. By selectively shrinking parts of the animal head, you can
make take the shape of a human head. To tell the difference, look at
the hair on the face. The most obvious telling parts are the
eyebrows. The shrinking process obviously takes a lot of skill,
particularly if you want to make an animal head look human.

I once had the pleasure of holding a real shrunken head in my hand.
It was at a “freak show” at Quartzite a few years ago. The owner of
the show had very few customers so he was willing to give me a
detailed tour. When I held the head, I could see the pores in the
skin. I looked inside it and saw how the skin is thickest in the
back of the neck. This head was missing any stuffing so I could look

Now just figure out how to use this to make jewelry. I
will leave that up to you.

Actually: How do they shrink Heads??? 

I used to live in South America and saw some in museums there, also
the Museum of the American Indian in NY had in its collection
(around 1988) two completely shrunken bodies, one a native and the
other a Portuguese explorer. I read in the museum that they heated
sand as hot as they could get it and poured it into the head through
the neck. It would cook from the inside, would make bone brittle and
then the bones could be broken up and taken out through the neck.
When I lived in Ecuador there were a lot of shrunken head souvenirs
but they were fakes made of goat skin.

Donna in VA

Hi Sharron and all,

Here is a jeweller doing what you suggest.

  Julia deVille - Artist statement 

  My jewellery is inspired by the memento mori jewellery of the
  fifteenth to eighteenth centuries and Victorian mourning
  jewellery. I find the acceptance of death in these periods
  fascinating. I work predominantly in jet, a petrified wood
  historically used in Victorian mourning jewellery, recycled
  components and taxidermy, designed to serve as memento mori,
  or reminder of our mortality. I use the symbols of death
  throughout my work because I think it is important to identify
  with the concept that we are in fact mortal creatures. The
  nature of our culture is to obsess over planning the future,
  however in doing so, we forget to enjoy the present.Through
  taxidermy I challenge my audience to reassess the way our
  society views the uses of animals for art and fashion. I use
  only creatures that have died of natural causes to accentuate
  this point.

and an interview with her

and her site that took so long to load I haven’t seen it

alison in Melbourne


I remember finding the same general info when I wrote a short paper
in grade school. The subject was “How to get ahead” as in the
American Way. Well, I have always marched to a different kazoo and
did it on the Amazon Indians and head shrinking. Dang! To the office

Now the question may be, why were you reading upon the subject?

I suppose it would be a good way to keep your eye on the
competition. Which was probably part of the reason for doing it in
the first place.

This is such a wonderfully educational forum! Love it.

Bill Churlik

Ah my major in college was finae arts sculpture/archaeology
(palentology) the head is treated by Jivaro as such:

The head of the victim is cut off, and later, in the seclusion of
his hut, the victor prepares it into a lasting war trophy, attaching
to it the significance which the North American attached to scalps.
The skin is opened up from the base of the neck to the crown, and the
skull is removed entire, leaving only the soft, pliant skin.

The skin is now dipped into a vegetable extract which dyes it a
blue-black and probably has some action preservative, and then the
cut skin is sewed up along the neck to restore the head to its
original form.

The cavity is filled with hot sand or pebbles, after which the head
is constantly turned and moved, so that the drying goes on uniformly.
When the sand has cooled, hot sand takes its place, and this process
may last for several days before the head is completely cured.

Shrinking to an unbelievable degree takes place, but it is so
regulated that the features retain their individuality to a great
extent, and the finished head is about the size of a man’s fist.

The lips have been sewed shut with a series of long cotton cords,
the exact pattern of this stitching varying with the locality and
seeming to have some significance.

Within a short time after the preparation of a head, generally
within a month, the victor celebrates the event by a ceremonial dance
at which there is an orgy of wild drinking. After this dance it may
be possible to buy the head from the Jivaro, if his interest can be
aroused in an object whose value he understands and appreciates, such
as the musket.

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry