Did Arachne Get the Shaft? J. Rudy Lewis Muses on His New Silver & Leather Binding

bind_on_wristThe Weavers


As sometimes, in the gentler months, the sun
will return
                          before the rain has altogether
                                                      stopped and through
this lightest of curtains the curve of it shines
with a thousand
                            inclinations and so close
                                                        is the one to the
one adjacent that you cannot tell where magenta
for instance begins
                           and where the all-but-magenta
                                                      has ended and yet
you’d never mistake the blues for red, so these two,
the girl and the
                          goddess, with their earth-bred, grass-
                                                      fed, kettle-dyed
wools, devised on their looms
transitions so subtle no
                           hand could trace nor eye discern
                                                       their increments,
yet the stories they told were perfectly clear.
The gods in their heaven,
                           the one proposed. The gods in
                                                       heat, said the other.
And ludicrous too, with their pinions and swansdown,
fins and hooves,
                           their shepherds’ crooks and pizzles.
                                                       Till mingling
with their darlings-for-a-day they made
a progeny so motley it
                           defied all sorting-out.
                                                      It wasn’t the boasting
brought Arachne all her sorrow
nor even
                           the knowing her craft so well.
                                                      Once true
and twice attested.
It was simply the logic she’d already
                            taught us how
                                                       to read.

“Everyone Learns Faster on Fire”: J. Rudy Lewis and Quotation Bindings

faster on fireI’m kind of too chicken and maybe weirdly Victorian for tattoos, but I love the idea that we can be bound to words: les mots justes; the unexpected turn of phrase; the extraordinary excerpt from a lyric or poem. Tied to them. I like that we can wrap them around our wrists, where our clearest pulses can be felt.faster on fire text

I’m working on a whole new line of these leather bindings, clasped with bronze vulture heads and belt hardware. I’m starting with this one: “everyone learns faster on fire.” The quotation is from a lyric by the band the Alkaline Trio, but it also kind of reminds me of Richard Pryor’s old bit, and also those zingy life moments where something important is branded in your nervous system instantly and permanently. I’m going to be rolling out a bunch of these.

Oh, also, I’m told that I should say that by the end of September, this site will become an online store, so that you don’t necessarily have to visit a boutique that may be nowhere close to where you live to own a j. rudy : exo piece. I’ll let you know when the grand opening will be. I’m a stickler for deadlines. They keep me sane, which makes sense to me.

Can Amulets Protect Us?: J. Rudy Lewis Would Like to Think So

eye of the scarecrow ringI have to admit, I’m pretty pleased with this new “scarecrow eye” ring. It looks amazing on the finger, like a tiny, primitive piece of armor, with a mysterious, all-watching eye in the top center.

It’s the kind of protective, talismanic object. I like to think someone like Gandalf or Patti Smith would wear it, imbuing it with intent and power, as in the dictionary definition:

“a stone, ring, or other object, engraved with figures or characters supposed to possess occult powers and worn as an amulet or charm.”

Can objects created with thought and right intention protect us? It makes sense to me, in a kind of an oblique, witchy way, that energy can be conducted via objects–especially those composed of unalloyed metals or stones–and create their own orb-like “aura,” or whatever the better, less New Age-y word for that is. I hope so, anyway. There’s a lot that I can’t see, but it’s there anyway. Like air. Or sound waves.

Corsetry work on back of ring

Corsetry work on back of ring

When Someone You Think is Interesting Instamgrams You: J. Rudy Lewis Likes It

sgt_instagramI like it when people Instagram me. It’s flattering that people like my work enough to share it with a huge audience–it’s actually very humbling and makes me a little bit nervous (I’m something of an introvert–an introvert’s introvert). metalsmith

But it’s especially neato when someone who I know of and think is interesting Instagrams my stuff–like the philanthropist Princess Ameerah of Saudi Arabia. And just this morning, the author and writer Susan Gregory Thomas posted two of my rings on Instagram. I read her memoir, In Spite of Everything (Random House), which sociologically explores at the lifespan of the cynical, lonely but self-reliant Generation X, while Thomas intersperses her own story as a heuristic example. It changed my whole view of my own life and upbringing: what I read made sense to me.

Today, Thomas wrote this on her Instagram: “j.rudy:exo rings = objects that have changed my whole outlook on things.” Cool. Glad I could return the favor. 

J. Rudy Lewis on Labor: Work Tells Stories of People

metalsmithIt’s Labor Day weekend in these United States, and as someone who works with his hands, it makes to me that I should use this time to contemplate the meaning of this holiday. A few things come to mind.

First, I know that I am damned lucky to make a living by making stuff. In most of the world, people may subsist on it, but make a living? No. Their work is not valued because they themselves are not valued: How else could people still countenance buying an embroidered skirt made in Bangladesh for 20 bucks at Target. It sickens the soul.

Second, there is a value to making things by hand–even stuff as luxurious and seemingly inessential as beautiful things that are made to adorn the body.Art may rank low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but the gift of being able to wear it is valuable: It unites the ideas, hard work, and years of craftsmanship on the part of the artist and the hopes, imagination, inspiration, and pride on the part of the wearer. It is a soulful transaction that is does not stop at point of sale: It goes on, passed down through generations.

Finally, I think that work, itself–at its root–is forever story telling. Everyone who interacts with work created by the laborers who made it and the people who procure it is involved in adding narrative to the story. And stories, I think–to paraphrase the great storyteller and stylist William Faulkner–are what enable the human race not just to survive but prevail.

Happy Labor Day.

J. Rudy Lewis on Coin of Caesar Augustus

Divus+Iulius+coin+(Aug) copyThis coin is so cool: its symbols of power alongside the handmade, bruised-by-time quality.

It was minted after Caesar Augustus wrested the power seat from Brutus, and this symbol on the back is meant to demonstrate the direct patrilineal line to his late uncle/adoptive father, Julius Caesar. metalsmith

I like this quote of Octavian’s: “I like treachery, but I cannot say anything good of traitors.” I take it to mean that political gamesmanship is one thing–even fun–but downright dirty players are another.

You know what I like even more? That the regal sunburst looks like this diatom. I love unintended symmetry in manmade objects and the natural world.


J. Rudy Lewis Muses on the Contribution and Melancholy of Diatoms

diatom1Underwater, these weirdly lovely things called diatoms are everywhere. It is estimated that 20 to 25 percent of all organic carbon fixation–that is, the transformation of carbon dioxide and water into sugars, using light energy–is carried out by diatoms. They contain chlorophyll, so they photosynthesize and glow as they do it.

They are beautiful, mysterious, luminous, tiny. The worlds they inhabit, and they themselves seem to exist in a parallel, spiritual-science fiction-ish reality.

They get eaten a lot. Almost every underwater critter eats them–if they’re not getting poisoned by marine pollution.

To me, there’s a melancholy about the diatom and its world. Unseen, as important as air–beautiful and always dying.

J. Rudy Lewis Says: “What Could Be More Alive Than a Lily Pad?” Dylan Thomas Says: “Death.”

lilypadWhen I look at something as green as a lily pad, all that comes to me is: “Life! Life!” Or as Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park in that Goldblumy way: “Life finds a way.”

Dylan Thomas is a poet I like, but he thinks: “Life–nature–is going to end up killing me.” The poor guy died an alcoholic at the Chelsea Hotel.

It makes sense to me that New Yorkers are particularly afraid of their mortality. Just look at Woody Allen: “I’m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Or Susan Sontag.

It’s corny of me, but I like thinking of death as a lily pad–erupting with that green fuse that drives the whole cycle. I’d rather that than deny it with a lot of booze and buildings.

Like they say: “I love New York, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Not enough lily pads.

What Earrings Would Lilith Wear at Night? J. Rudy Lewis Thinks These.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALilith has gotten a weird rep on “True Blood.” In a way, that take makes sense to me. But Lilith has always had a weird rep, ranging from rebellious first wife of Adam–made of the same earth, not rib, that he was–to night succubus, strangling children, interfering in childbirth, to seducing men in gruesome ways. 

I can’t say I “like” Lilith. That feels too “Bela Lugosi is Dead” to me. But I like to think about what she looks like–does she have black wings? A smooth, ice-blue face? Indigo nails?

I’ve been thinking she would wear earrings like this at night.

I’d, of course, simply give them to her.

Calcareous phytoplankton? J Rudy Lewis Loves It, in Part, Because It Has an Exoskeleton.

Calcareous phytoplankton, SEMThis thing is a type of phytoplankton, specifically a Calcareous phytoplankton. It is classified as a “calcifying organism,” which means that it needs calcium to develop its exoskeleton–its bones are on the outside.

This is probably obvious, but exoskeletons, to me, are cool: Crunchy on the outside with a gooey center. That makes sense to me.

It also made me think of this:

The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly


Once I loved a spider
When I was born a fly,
A velvet-footed spider
With a gown of rainbow-dye.
She ate my wings and gloated.
She bound me with a hair.
She drove me to her parlor
Above her winding stair.
To educate young spiders
She took me all apart.
My ghost came back to haunt her.
I saw her eat my heart.