Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Found a Jungle!!!!

A recent find of mine are these wonderful carved soapstone animals from Kenya.
In the past century, Kenya has become renowned for its soapstone (called kisii stone in Africa) carvers. Soapstone carving didn't catch on in Kenya until the 1940s, after Indian laborers arrived to build the railroad from the Kenyan coast to Uganda.

Soapstone is actually a variety of talc, a soft mineral of a soapy feel and a greenish, whitish, or grayish color, usually occurring in foliated masses. It is hydrous silicate of magnesia and forms by alteration of these magnesium-rich rocks and minerals at low temperatures and high pressure. Rocks consisting mainly of talc are known as steatite or soapstone, and are soft enough to carve into various shapes. Soapstone is the softest mineral on the Mohs hardness scale (soapstone being a 1, or the softest and 10 being the hardest, i.e. diamond). Whew! You made it through that scientific gibberish. Want to make it simple? Its a soft rock, about half the way between chalk and marble and its easy to carve and porous so it can absorb coloring and dyes. Kisii stone typically exhibits coloration ranging from creamy white to yellow to red to dark grey, depending on the mineral(s) present in the stone.

Kisii stone is only available in the Tabaka Hills of Western Kenya, and the Kikuyu men of the Kisii community mine and carve the stone. The stone is mined using hoes, pick axes, shovels, iron rods and pangas, which are large knives used to chop the stone into smaller pieces. Most of the carvers are not professional carvers, but are actually sustenance farmers who carve in the evening and in the dry season. These men typically live in small villages with their families and often have to walk five to seven miles to the soapstone mines.

The carvers do not use any form of power tools – only hand made tools usually of their own design. After finding a suitable size piece of soapstone, a rough carving is made, and then refined using a small knife called a kisu. The finished carvings are polished using wet sand, and then cleaned with a small brush made from long animal hairs. Men do most of the carving while mainly women apply painted and dyed patterns to the kisii stone carvings. Traditionally natural pigments are used: clays and ground minerals, goat fat mixed with charcoal from the fire (for black), crushed shells for white, berries or boiled barks for red, roots of the indigo plant for blue, etc. The painting is finished with mineral pigments and natural vegetable dyes. Incised patterns are added after dying. Truly soapstone pieces are singular works of modern folk art to be cherished and enjoyed for many years.

I have these listed on Rubylane at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Where Ya Gonna Find One?

So hubby says I always come home with the strangest things! Have to admit I never thought I'd bring home an Indian chief!
He was a find of mine here in Tucson, most people walked right by him thinking he was plastic or resin... but he caught my eye! And lo and behold when I got my hands on him, he was wood - and signed by F. Gallagher. After doing a little research I discovered what I had found!
Frank Gallagher is one of the last ancestors of the original tribe that carved these cigar store props back in the 1840's.
The Man-Dan indians had their village wiped out by small pox but Frank's ancestor was away working with a furniture maker, that furniture maker's name was Samuel Gallagher. Following the custom of Indian laborers of that era, Frank took his employer's last name as his own. One of the original Wooden Indians are on display in the Smithsonian Institute. The Gallagher's continue the art of carving as their ancestor would want it; the old way - the right way - by hand. Aspen wood from Colorado is the preferred raw material for the creations of the Gallaghers.

So there you have it! A real piece of history hand carved... he is listed on Rubylane and Bonanzle

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Time To Get The Ball Rolling Again!

So I've been in this dilemma the past week, what do I want to be when I grow up? Seriously! A year ago if you had asked me that I would have been happy to say, I'm an ebayer! But now with all the changes driving traffic away from the site I've had to rethink my strategy.

I love what I do. Like most jobs though I don't love all parts of it, some of it is definitely just work to get through, but most of it is fun! I get to be a treasure hunter. I love to handle and see things I've never sen before, learn about them and put them in my memory banks. This is what drives me the most, the being able to go out shopping and digging for something that may turn out to be really special to someone. A lot of what I sell is memories. It's so fun to hear from people who get something from me that fills a void from their life in replacing a long lost momento or adding to their collections.

As a collector myself I know that feeling of finding another piece at a price I can afford. I know the fun of getting a well wrapped package and opening up the goody inside! So I love sharing that with others.

I'm also home with my kids every day. Nothing beats that! They are what life is all about to me. So I also try to counsel moms how to do this also so they can spend those precious years home with their babies too.

So back to where I started with all this... I've finally put down on paper where I'm going this year. I've expanded to RubyLane, Bonanzle and am determined to get my own website working for me as well. There are some great things in the works this year so stay tuned and look for Udderlygoodstuff everywhere!