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No Small Thing: Spindle Whorls

Sometimes I am inspired by very simple things. Reading in archaeological accounts about the various items found in women's and children's graves around the world, I felt remarkably tender about the buttons, small beads and other artifacts of their daily lives that they took with them, on final journeys.


One item, in particular, held my attention. Often buried with women and children, across cultures and throughout history, it was the spindle. Usually a wooden stick, with a heavy donut-shaped disk or fat bead affixed near one end, they look like an oversized child's top. Spun, while holding onto attached fiber that is twisted by the motion, they are used to make the thread used for knitting, or weaving--even today. 








Spindle whorlsThey are an essential and very portable machine, the heavy disk functioning as a flywheel, providing balance while helping to maintain the momentum of the spin. And, when graves are uncovered, it is only these disks, the whorls--frequently made out of metal, stone, ivory, glass, or clay--that remain.






Picture 121 Spindle WhorlBuried with both women and children, spindle whorls speak to me of the close connections, historically, between women's work and children's  lives. For me, they also suggest the roots of significant differences, that still persist, in how women frequently frame work--not as a means of acquisition, but as an act of clothing--one's own and one's community. As a result, I find the spindle whorls simple, but profoundly meaningful. In their form and purpose, they mimic women's lives...across the centuries and around the world.




I first made spindle-whorl based necklaces for myself. I wore them to work; they were my response to the tie, on many different levels. Later, I made and sold them to other women. They continue to be well-received, whenever I show them. 


Considering their meaning and persistence throughout the ages, I am not surprised. They are no small thing.

3 comments:

  1. This is such a beautiful post. I just love the idea of the bead connection to women, your observation on how it frames their work and that the bead is what remains.And all this so eloquently stated. Thanks so much Victoria.

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  2. Oh - WOW! I loved watching that video… I really enjoy how there is so much connectivity with handmade items on so many levels. Thank You SO Much for sharing this with us all. Makes me feel so Thankful for all of the handmade things that I have and use every day. Wonderful post!

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  3. Thank you. This really reaches back quite a ways and reflects the roots of my aesthetic. Very nice to know it connects & is so meaningful for you both.

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