Birds of a Feather

Winter Flower, Beth Hemmila: spectrolite, fine and sterling silver

The pendant for Winter Flower was inspired by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius' tonal poem The Swan of Tuonela. (Click here to watch a beautiful iceberg video on YouTube).

Lemminkainen's Mother, Axel Gallen, tempera, 1897

Through music, Sibelius reinterpreted a section of the Kalevala, an epic Finnish folk poem where the hero is tasked with killing a sacred swan that swims the Tuoni river, the mythical boundary between the realm of the living and the dead. Here in Axel Gallen's haunting painting,  you can see the Swan of Tuonela calmly gliding past the dead hero who has been pulled from the river to be resurrected by his mother. 

The swan was an important image in Nordic and Celtic mythology, often seen as a physical manifestation of the soul's beauty and a mystical being that aids our journey into the afterlife. For me, swans represent that rare, quiet stillness of the outside world -- one that I long to reach on the inside. This feeling was transformed into Winter Flower, a calming and centering piece that suggests infinite spaces and silence.

The white of the barely perceptible swan in the background of Gallen's painting and the glistening ivory of the hero's body inspired my choice to use iridescent spectrolite gemstones, a feldspar native to Finland which encourages tranquility and peace. This white sparkle against the antiqued sterling wire suggests the essence of that boundary between dark and light.

While designing Winter Flower, my friend Catherine was also creating a bird-inspired necklace based on my Lone Feather pendant and her fascination with snowy egrets. Several weeks ago she recounted being in South Carolina, watching the wind disturb feathers on a snowy egret. By using a symphony of irregularly shaped Keishe pearls and silver beads, her necklace completely conveys this feeling of soft whiteness separating and then coming back together into one elegant shape. (Dreams of a Snowy Egret, Catherine: Keishe pearls, fine and sterling  silver)

How wonderful to know that birds provide an infinite number of possibilities for translating elegance and feelings into jewelry design. Just glancing out your window to watch the next bird flutter by can create an instant spiritual moment in an often confusing and hectic day. Thank you little birds -- spiritual messengers of the air -- for taking the time to sit outside my window and find refuge in our tree!


  1. Just found you via Andrew Thornton,, these pieces are stunning and so thought out!!. Joan Tucker, Off Center Productions

  2. Thanks so much Joan! You may have read how much I adored your thoughtful boxed gift to Andrew. I have a deep affinity for anything ancient and archeological, so it's good to meet a kindred spirit in Off Center Productions :)

  3. The "Dreams of a Snowy Egret" pendant is gorgeous! What an uplifting,harmonious combination of pearls and silver.


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