Reliquaries from Karen's Whimsy

These Reliquaries have a story to tell-- a moment in time, a treasured memory, a small artifact enshrined. The Reliquaries were created by altering children's board books. In keeping with the Christian tradition, the Reliquaries are available for purchase; however, the relics within them are given freely as gifts. To view the Reliquaries in more detail, please click on an image or title.

Reliquaries :: Saraswati Reliquary

Saraswati Reliquary

Saraswati, in the Hindu religion, is the Goddess of creative arts and knowledge. In mythology, Saraswati is depicted with four hands representing the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She is often seen holding sacred scripture in one hand, a lotus in another, and a veena (violin) with her remaining two hands. I enjoy finding a name for the anonymous female images that I collect. What could be more fitting for an artist trying to juggle so many roles, than to have a little Saraswati Reliquary to honor wisdom and creativity.

Reliquaries :: Decorative Art Reliquary :: Rambha's Anklet

Decorative Art Reliquary :: Rambha's Anklet

This Decorative Art Reliquary :: Rambha's Anklet is another one of my reliquaries which was created around a piece of paper. This one is inside -- pale tuquoise with paisley glitter designs. When I found the fringe, I knew it would match perfectly. But I wanted to add the luster of pink as well, and used it as an accent color. A broken piece of an anklet became the relic. I chose the name Rambha for the Indian woman. Rambha means "celestial dancer" and so I imagine her wearing this anklet and dancing in her garden.

Reliquaries :: Catholic Art Reliquary :: Sr. Maria Angelina's Crucifix

Catholic Art Reliquary :: Sister Maria Angelina's

A gold-toned crucifix that I found in an antique/junk store is the relic for the Catholic Art Reliquary :: Sister Maria Angelina's Crucifix. It echoes the rosary that this young postulate is holding in her left hand, as well as the crucifix hanging on the wall in background.

Reliquaries :: A Queen's Games

Assemblage Art :: Assemblage Art Reliquary :: A Queen's Games

This reliquary features a weathered Italian playing card as its relic. The cover paper is also based on a vintage deck of cards. I knew I wanted one of my reliquaries to use the queen of clubs and to overflow with the color red. I didn't know what I was going to use for the female image on the right, until I found this picture in a very old magazine. It was washed out, so I scanned and enhanced it in Photoshop and used colored pencils to bring out the colors. There are so many found objects in this reliquary, that it has really become a piece of assemblage art. It was so much fun putting together the elements of this Reliquary :: A Queen's Games all together.

Reliquaries :: Dancing Girl Reliquary :: Ciera's Spells

	Girl :: Dancing Girl Reliquary ::
	Ciera's Spells

I created Dancing Girl Reliquary :: Ciera's Spells, because I wanted to use a particular piece of beautiful paper in one of my reliquaries. I hadn't seen anything like it before. Soft and pliable, with a black background, bright pink design, and glitter! What could be cooler than that? I bought every variation of this paper that they had in the store and then gleefully discovered the metallic trim. I was in heaven. I had used this wonderful photo of the girl in a collage I had done and was excited to find another way to display her. This is not a picture of my sweet niece, Ciera, but the girl reminds me of her. Ciera loves to be on stage!

Reliquaries :: Saint Joan of Arc :: Saint Joan of Arc's Reliquary

Saint Joan of Arc :: Saint Joan of Arc Reliquary

I have always loved the stories about Saint Joan of Arc, the French maid who heard voices from God telling her to lead an army. I don't know if this vintage postcard is actually a picture of St. Joan, but it seems very possible. I found the card after I had begun creating my reliquaries and knew that I had to use it as part of the series. I love the shades of turquoise and green in the card, and the gold tinting that had been done by hand on this little piece of art. This was one of the first reliquaries I did where I carefully carved the scalloped arch. Creating the Saint Joan of Arc Reliquary was definitely a challenge, but a fun one.

Reliquaries :: Triptych Reliquary :: Marie's Key

Reliquaries :: Marie's Key

It's not often when I can find a series of three antique postcards with the same model, at least not one as angelic as the young girl in Triptych Reliquary :: Marie's Key. I wanted to use all three images together in one of my reliquaries and came up with the idea of this triptych. I had two identical board books that I cut and melded together like a jigsaw puzzle. I almost ruined it when I realized I had glued all the back pages down. How was I going to achieve the depth I wanted if I couldn't create the layered pages? Everything worked out, and I'm happy with the result.

Reliquaries :: Reliquary :: Wedding Pearls

	:: Wedding Pearls

This is one of the first reliquaries I made using a very large book. It has been difficult to find used copies of books this size for my reliquaries, so I snatch them up new whenever I can find them. Reliquary :: Wedding Pearls was my most ambitious carving project at the time. It's difficult to see because of the white and silver color scheme, but I had to do a lot of planning prior to cutting in order to get the layered look that I wanted-- the perfect frame for the lovely vintage flower girl.

Reliquaries :: Clown Art Reliquary :: Angel's Bone

Clown Art :: Clown Art Reliquary :: Angel's Bone

The clown images in Clown Art Reliquary :: Angel's Bone were from a single sheet of paper that I found in a wonderful shop in Berkeley, California, called Castles in the Air. It was the last piece of this paper that they had, and nobody in the store even knew what the price was. There were lots of wonderful vintage clown pictures on it; it was difficult to decide which one to use. I'll probably do one or two more reliquaries with the same theme just so I can use some more of the pictures. This was one of the first reliquaries I did that does not use religious imagary. It was the paper that caused me to break away from the religious theme.

Reliquaries :: Theresa's Cross Reliquary

          :: Theresa's Cross

It was the nun's blue eyes that inspired the blue theme in this Reliquary :: Theresa's Cross. It was a wonderful bit of fate that I found the cross with the blue stones in a thrift shop. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the columns are rather wide, and so was the book. Carving out the niches took a long time and put quite a strain on my wrist. I experimented with other methods of cutting the book, but nothing has worked as well as my monster exacto blade. I use it for all my reliquaries.

Reliquaries :: Woman Praying Reliquary :: Christopher's Hair

Woman Praying :: Woman Praying Reliquary ::
	Christopher's Hair

This is another one of my reliquaries with a religious image and theme. I had just received some incredible silky lavender paper that I wanted to use for a cover, so that's how the purple color scheme came about. Coincidentally, as I was in the process of carving the arches on the right page, I found this lovely flower trim and knew that I had to use it in this book. It wasn't until the very end that I decided to use a lock of my son's hair in the vial, and that's how Woman Praying Reliquary :: Christopher's Hair got its name. By the way, since I snipped my son's hair for this art work, his hair color has gone to black to red and black again. No blonde to be seen.

Reliquaries :: Religious Reliquaries :: John's Tooth

Religious Reliquaries :: John's Tooth

Religious Reliquaries :: John's Tooth, was the first in this series of reliquaries that I created. I started with the wonderful vintage picture of the nun and discovered that I already had this lovely green paper with the gold embossed design running through it. The rhinestones and baquettes came from a broken piece of costume jewelry that I found at a yard sale. I've been searching for broken pieces of jewelry for my reliquaries ever since.

A BRIEF HISTORY of RELIQUARIES :: Browsing through an old decorating magazine one day, I turned to a page which had photographs of a lovely Italian villa. The owner was a passionate collector of antiquities and his incredible collection included beautiful architectural drawings and what looked to be religious assemblages in glorious gilt frames covering one of the room's walls. Nothing much was written about them except to say that they were calendar reliquaries. I wasn't even sure how to pronounce that second word (relic-quarries). They were fascinating, but I wanted to see them close-up, so I started searching online and in the library for information about reliquaries.

What I learned was that reliquaries are shrines used for storing relics. A relic could be a piece of bone, skin, hair, limb, clothing, or other personal item kept after the death of a person for the purpose of creating a memorial venerating that person. Relics are important aspects of religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

During the early years of Christianity, tales began to be told of miracles associated with the relics of saints and other religious people and artifacts. In the Middle Ages, people would go in search of relics and bring them back to be displayed in their churches.

These relics would be stored in all different types of shrines, or reliquaries, within the church. They would often be elaborate vessels of gold encrusted in jewels. Sometimes the reliquaries would be in the shape of the object they were holding such as an arm or a skull. Often the reliquaries would be simply made, using embellishments of quilling or embroidery, beads or shells, and the images of saints.

Relics can also refer to personal items that we treasure and want to keep through time.

MY RELIQUARIES :: I was inspired to create my own reliquaries as a way to combine my love for the beauty of religious imagery, architectural ornament, and altered books.

My reliquaries start in different ways. Sometimes I'm taken by a piece of beautiful paper or fabric. Sometimes I have a religious image that I want to use in my art. Other times I've been drawn to the architectural features of a church or temple that I want to try and recreate in my own simplified way.

I pull together paints, papers, fabrics, beads, ribbons, trims, jewels, glitter, found objects, and anything else I can discover to help me create my reliquaries. Sometimes the reliquaries have religious overtones; other times they don't. It just depends on my mood and whim.

I use children's board books as my canvas. They are sanded and primed with several coats of gesso. Then I carve through the layers of the books to create the architectural features that I want. The various layers are decorated with paint and/or paper. I often include columns, windows, or curtains to embellish the shrine.

The relic is sewn into the display area, and then the front and back of the book are decorated and the finishing touches are made. Every altered book is special and has its own unique story behind it. Creating these reliquaries has been a joyful experience.

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