In her spare time, Deirdre Johnston, designs and creates jewellery. She is one of Ireland’s diaspora, living in the United States.
Deirdre’s work is thematic, combining memory and experience into each composition. Her approach to colour and design is thoughtful and harmonious. The ‘Eire’ series is an earthy and sensual collection inspired by her childhood on Ireland’s western shore. In it Deirdre focusses on garnite, opal, jasper and tourmaline and she combines natural and shaped pieces within each design with breathtaking results. The beauty of these gemstones is also imbued with meaning and significance. Green is the colour of the heart Chakra, the centre of life force or energy, situated in the chest and associated with the heart, lungs and circulatory system. The colour green is relaxing, calming – it harmonises – it is uplifting and positive (hence the reason a walk in the country or in a forest is such an enjoyable experience). Deirdre’s ‘Eire’ series reminds you of these simple pleasures and lets you carry them with you all day long.
SONG OF THE SEA
A great tempest rages on the Plain of Ler, bold across its high borders
Wind has arisen, fierce winter has slain us; i
it has come across the sea.
It has pierced us like a spear.
When the wind sets from the east,
the spirit of the wave is roused.
It desires to rush past us
westward to the land where sets the sun.
To the wild and broad green sea.
Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry
Trans. Kuno Meyer. Constable and Company, London 1911
A Hill Song
There is a little hint of spring,
A subtle, silent unseen thing,
By shadowed wall and open way,
And I, a gypsy for the day,
Go straying far beneath the sky,
And far into the windy hills,
Where distant, dim horizons lie,
And earth with gleams of heaven fills.
Helen M Merrill (1866-1951) in Canadian Poets, Garvin, John William (Ed.) Goodchild and Stewart Publishers,Toronto, Canada 1916 (pp 264)
MEDB, QUEEN OF CONNAUGHT
Carnelian is the primary gemstone of Deirdre’s ‘Medb’s necklace. Carnelian was once considered a gemstone of the noble classes and people with high social status were often buried with them. It is an energy booster, said to inspire strength, confidence and courage. It grounds inner power and activates sexual energy. The name ‘Medb’ is, without doubt, both accurate and evocative for this piece.
Medb, or Maeve, the warrior Queen was immortalised in the tale of the Tain Bo Cualgne or the Cattle Raid of Cooley – a legend from early Irish Literature. A formidable woman, she was self assured and fearless. She waged war against a chieftain (Daire) from the province of Ulster for possession of its prize brown bull. The sole reason was because Maeve wished to own an animal equal that of her husband’s, Whitethorned bull. It was a fruitless but bloody enterprise CuChulainn, the hero of Ulster was killed by Medb’s forces. Ailill’s (her husband’s) Whitethorn was slain by the Brown Bull of Cualnge and the brown bull itself died from exertion and rage but not before killing many women and children in Cualnge.
The Pillow Talk from Tain Bo Cuailigne – Medb tells Ailill of her search for the perfect husband..
“Men came from Finn son of Ross Ruad (‘the Red’), king of Leinster, to seek me for a wife, and I refused him; and from Carbre Niafer (‘the Champion’) son of Ross Ruad (‘the Red’), king of Temair, to woo me, and I refused him; and they came from Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach (‘the Mighty’), king of Ulster, and I refused him in like wise. They came from Eocho Bec (‘the Small’), and I went not; for ’tis I that exacted a singular bride-gift, such as no woman before me had ever required of a man of the men of Erin, namely, a husband without avarice, without jealousy, without fear”.
Labradorite is the perfect choice of stone for ‘Fand’. It relieves anxiety, dispels negativity and enhances clarity of thought. It harmonises, giving perseverance, strength and intuition. Fand had an abundance of all. She returned to Tir na nOg without her lover, safe in the knowledge that Chulainn would be hers forever when his soul finally left the human world.
Niamh, another spirit of the Shee was not so lucky when it came to her earthly lover, Oisin. You can read an adaptation of the tale of Oisin in Tir na nOg on Brigidswidgets page. Niamh’s love was constant, her beauty immeasurable – a fitting name for the jewellery Deirdre thought suited to her temperament. Niamh was passionate, yet constant. Magnesite, a component of Deirdre’s design, is said to allow the mind to follow the wishes of the heart, as Niamh did. It is believed to aid psychic vision.
Combined with rock crystal, the energy of Magnesite
becomes even more enhanced. ‘Niamh’ has a substance and a beauty that echoes the Celtic twilight of Tir na nOg. It is solid, durable while simultaneously embodying an ephemeral quality. Gold or diamonds did not attract the interest of the Shee. Energy and abundance (in a spiritual sense) drew their attention, which is why Niamh sought out her earthly lover, Oisin.
You can read the tale of Oisin and Niamh on Briditswidgets page. It is an adaptation of the original tale.
Fionn was the father of Oisin and leader of the Fianna, a warrior band in ancient Ireland. They had three mottoes;
Glaine ár gcroí (Purity of our hearts)
Neart ár ngéag (Strength of our limbs)
Beart de réir ár mbriathar (Action to match our speech). During the summer months they lived off the land – hunting and trapping animals and bartering their pelts. In wintered they sheltered in the houses of noblemen, in exchange for protecting their property. It was during Oisin’s visit to Tir na nOg that Cormac Mac Art, High King of Ireland, converted to christianity. According to Leabhar na Uidhre Cormac was killed by the Druid Maelgenn (who caused a salmon bone to stick in his throat) because Cormac the old ways and beliefs. Fionn, may or may not be dead – legend has it he sleeps somewhere in Ireland and that he will wake, as will his Fianna brethren, to defend Ireland should the need ever arise.
Cormac composed Teagusc Na Righ, to preserve manners, morals, and government of Ireland. He was a established laws, rules, and encouraged the development of science. He was also responsible for chronicling the histories of Ireland outlined in Leabhar na Uidhre and Leabhar Dinnsenchusa.
ALL FOR LOVE…
Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow; he who would search for pearls must dive below.
All for Love. Prologue.
Pearls have been used to adorn for over 6,000 years. As societies developed across Asia and Europe, pearls became symbols of wealth and status. They embodied meaning on other levels also. Historically, they were associated with the moon, they were associated with purity and spiritual development. Because they were created as a response to an irritant (a speck of sand in a shell, for example) they were seen as representing the ability to transcend, to move beyond the ordinary, to elevate oneself beyond the trials and upset of everyday life. They also symbolised feminine wisdom, dignity, honesty and are considered to evoke calm when worn. White pearls symbolise a pure heart and mind and faith in the natural universe. Gold and black pearls symbolise prosperity and pink complement the heart Chakra evoking peace and dignity.
Deirdre’s ‘Luminescence’ collection display these ancient and beautiful gems at their best.
Pearl necklaces are named depending on their length when worn around the neck. For example, a ‘collar’ is about 10 to 13 inches in length and when worn, it sits snugly against the throat. Collars, are designed to have multiple strands of pearls. Pearl Chokers measure 14 to 16 inches and nestle just at the base of the neck. Deirdre has combined both in her Pearl ‘Luna’ necklace above, incorporating three strands of white rick pearls, designed to rest against the base of the neck to highlight the decolletage.
‘From the cloud there descended a droplet of rain;
‘T was ashamed when it saw the expanse of the main,
Saying: “Who may I be, where the sea has its run?
Of the sea has existence, I truly, have none!”
Since in its own eyes the drop humble appeared,
In its bosom, a shell with its life the drop reared;
The sky brought the work with success to a close,
And a famed royal pearl from the rain-drop arose.
Because it was humble it excellence gained;
Patiently waiting till success was attained.
Sadi (Persian poet 1190-1291 A.D.)