Monday, December 31, 2012


I'm struggling a bit with focusing on creating the new when I still feel so bound by the old.
Diego Rivera's "Germination"
While I don't think it's necessary to have a new year to begin anew, it does help.  But being a full time student means my new year feels like it starts in September.  So I'm smack dab in the middle of my year - my first as an over-aged PhD student.

Most of the time, I find myself wondering what I'm doing.  Not with the course work.  That, I've got down and except for the end of semester rush to write papers, the work is not overly challenging.  But there's this sense of hoop-jumping.  Nothing in academe is ever done simply.  Easily.  In one step or process.  Nothing.  And because I straddle two disciplines (History and Gender/Women's Studies), I serve two masters.  For someone who loves simplicity as much as I do, this is a challenge.
Aloe spiral
And then, there's the fear.  Fear that I've gone into LOTS of debt.  Fear that I'll never pay off all those loans.  Fear that I won't find a job.  Fear that I'm going to live below the poverty level forever.  Fear.  Overwhelming, paralyzing fear.

I want to feel like this:
Tile from my backyard.  A long ago thrift store find.
I want to be celebrating the gift of my education.  Enjoying the learning process.  Loving to teach. Happy with my home and my beadwork and my friends and family.

But most of the time, lately, I feel like this:
I think it's time to figure out what my fear has to teach me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cecilia Payne

"Since her death in 1979, the woman who discovered what the universe is made of has not so much as received a memorial plaque. Her newspaper obituaries do not mention her greatest discovery. […] Every high school student knows that Isaac Newton discovered gravity, that Charles Darwin discovered evolution, and that Albert Einstein discovered the relativity of time. But when it comes to the composition of our universe, the textbooks simply say that the most abundant atom in the universe is hydrogen. And no one ever wonders how we know."
— Jeremy Knowles, discussing the complete lack of recognition Cecilia Payne gets, even today, for her revolutionary discovery

Sunday, December 23, 2012


"The making of art is no different than prayer."
Rainn Wilson
Diwali celebration
This is the energy I put into my art, my beadwork.  A prayer that each piece finds its wearer and enhances the beauty of its person whether that be through laughter or passion or self awareness.  That someone wants to dance - spin spin spin.  Or stand with their head held higher and their shoulders back, welcoming attention.  Celebrating the wonder of who they are, the jouissance, in the moment and in the process, in the fullest recognition of an arms wide open pleasure.

So often, we (and I mean both men and women, here) are taught to hide.  Hide behind the "you should" or "you can't."  We're taught lack.  Of control, of opportunity, of equality.  Ugh. That bcomes the overwhelming sense of life.  Ugh = the worry/fear/doubt.

When fear takes over, prayers become smaller.  You know what?  I don't want small prayers.  Because I equate prayer with the fulfillment of dreams.  I see something bigger for my life.  I know that I am meant to be of service, that I am meant for abundance.  The Divine has a plan for me that requires I move past worry/fear/doubt and welcome what comes to me with my arms wide open.

Can a piece of jewelry change the world?  Why not?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dreaming Big

Do you believe in dreams?  Yes!

How often do you find yourself saying, "If only..." or "I wish...?"  Having a dream and following a dream are so narrowly separated.  Mostly by action.

Darcy Horn has a dream.  Check out her dream of creating a Beaded Body. There's only a few more days to help her reach her goal.   What I admire the most?  Darcy asked for help in achieving her dream.  Actually stated what her dream was, set the timeline, did the homework for what she needed to reach her goal, and then, asked for help, which greatly increases the likelihood that her dream will come true.

It's that time of year when I focus on what I want to draw to me in the upcoming year.  There's lots!  I've set aside December 21st - Yule - to make a dream board.  I'll take pictures and words from magazines and the internet that spark my imagination, that illustrate some of the half formed plans I have, for my career and for my creative life.  (Not that these are exclusive.)  But Darcy's project has also taught me a good lesson - that dreams aren't isolated.  Dreams are enhanced by being shared.

"Men who want to be feminists do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society & make it feminist."
— Kelley Temple, National Union of Students UK Women’s Officer

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Be the Change

I find myself unable to shake a deep sadness today.  I woke up thinking about the school shooting in CT.  Maybe it's because I'm a teacher.  Every semester, one of my first thoughts as I settle into the classroom focuses on how I would get my students out of the building, if I had to.  Because I would do whatever I could to keep them safe.

Maybe it's because I believe so deeply that our society is on the brink of change.  What that change looks like is up to all of us.  Not just the people in power, but all of us.
It's been a rough week here in Michigan for civil rights.  A lame duck legislature enacted laws that restrict women's rights, enacted city and school managers, made MI a right to work state (which is shown to reduce wages and worker protections), and sent a bill to the governor that would make it possible to conceal-carry weapons into public places.  Private gun transactions would also not require background checks.

No, I don't think the world is going to end in a few days.  But I do think that any time a large amount of energy is focused on change, change happens.  Let's face it, even if it's subliminally, everyone is aware of the calendar counting down and marks an end.  Of something.

What if we, as a culture, decided to change the culture of violence that we live in?  What if we started by listening to each other?  Instead of continual debates have long, on-going discussions with multiple voices, in the spirit of "harm none" or "do unto others as you would have done to yourself."

Our respective congressional delegates - state and federal - may have forgotten how to do this, but we, the people haven't.  We know that continual exposure to violence creates a more violent culture.  That limiting civil rights/jobs/access to health care/etc..., creates desperation and disconnect.

The loss - it's so unnecessary.  Especially if we, as a society, learn nothing from it.

Friday, December 14, 2012


"Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. This seems so clearly the case with grief, but it can be so only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. One may want to, or manage to for a while, but despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel." - Judith Butler 
My heart's in Connecticut today.
Peace Lily


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hey, it's the inside that matters!

"All girls continue to be taught when they are young, if not by their parents then by the culture around them, that they must earn the right to be loved — that “femaleness” is not good enough. This is a female’s first lesson in the school of patriarchal thinking and values. She must earn love. She is not entitled. She must be good enough to be loved. And good is always defined by someone else, someone on the outside."
bell hooks 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


"Why am I compelled to write?… Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispel the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit… Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing."
— Gloria AnzaldĂșa

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas at Wings (Stadium)

It's gonna be a busy weekend!
Wings Stadium, in Kalamazoo, turns into a major Arts & Craft venue the first weekend of every December.  And this year, BrisingBeads Design is part of the madness. 
This is just a glimpse of the crowd in 2010.  There's about 200 other vendors in the halls of the arena as well as in outbuildings.  Event is sponsored by EagleTakeFlight - or as I like to say, my cousin Bev.

Set up ran late last night.  But the booth looks beautiful.  We've worked hard on our creations and now surrender the beautiful to their new, loving homes.  Buy, shoppers!  Buy!  Fill those stockings and that space between the tree.

Very hopeful for this holiday season, as the money made will fund a trip to Quartzite, AZ in January.  Can you say - Bead Shows?

I'd cross my fingers but am hoping to use them to ring up sales and package jewelry for customers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Arrange whatever pieces come your way.
Virginia Woolf

Okay.  I'm sure that Virginia Woolf wasn't thinking of art show props when she said the above, but it's front and center on my mind right now.  

I love an eclectic look for the jewelry booth.  Lots of layers and textures.  Funky displays.  I'm going for that bohemian look.  It's an expression of who I am - as a person and as an artist.

So I spent an afternoon exploring the local thrift stores and scored, big time.  The wooden display with the shelves will be great for bead embroidery bracelets and brooches.  It turns.  I think I'll either leave it plain or maybe add some gold and purple layers, to spice it up.  I'm thinking the red basket and the silver basket will work well for earring displays.  Bonus - I need a new wastebasket and the silver one is the perfect size.  
The wooden shelf in the front of the picture will be a great necklace display.  Might need to mark a few notches so that jewelry doesn't slide down, but I like the simplicity of using these.  Plus, there were tons of these shelves in the thrift store, most under $2.  The wooden jewelry box is also pretty cool.  Instead of drawers pulling out, they swivel to the side.  Another great display option for bracelets.  I'm thinking I'll put my pearl bracelets here.

The wire racks add some height.  Not sure I'll use these.  A bit modern for my taste, actually.  But I like having them around for an option.  Or to use at a second show.  I have three wire mannequins that I will most likely use.  Love them and they fit well with my current display.
Best of all, the business has a new banner.  So excited to display this.  It's a wonderful mix of my work and Jaynee's.  I think it illustrates what we create wonderfully.
What do you use for props?  Any ideas I can steal/borrow?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sequintastic Craft Fair Blog Hop

Save the date!  November 24th.

Sarah, of Saturday Sequins, is hosting an online Craft Fair Blog Hop.  For the list of contributors, check out her blog.

Sarah does beautiful work with sequins and beads!  (She even shares well.  :)  She and I swapped sequins and cabs.  Just wait 'til you see what we do with these lovelies.)
Some of Sarah's gorgeous work.  Love the mix of texture here.  And the colors.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Artisan Whimsy Cyber Holiday Event

Why buy at the Big Box stores when you can support small businesses and handcrafted artists?  
Here's an opportunity to shop the finest Jewelry Designers of the Holiday season, from home!

As a member of both Etsy and Artisan's Whimsy, I am happy to be involved in the largest Artisan shopping event of the 2012 Holiday season.  Below, you'll find the link for other artists: some are offering discounts in their Etsy shops or online stores, some are offering a give-away of a special item.  (Winners will be chosen individually by blog/shop owners.)

In addition, there are three exciting giveaways placed in shops throughout the participants.  When you find these, follow the directions to claim your prize.

I am offering a 15% discount in my Etsy shop, through December 15th.  Just use coupon code
when you check out.  I'm also including a special gift with every purchase.

On Etsy, search for AWHOLIDAY to find other artists involved in the sale.  Let's make this a huge success - a win for customers, a wind for artists.  After all, artists are some hard-working people!  And wouldn't it be great if art was supported by the community?

AND! Bookmark for Future Artisan Jewelry Shopping Opportunities!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Today is the only day I cook.  Really cook, as in the whole meal - the turkey, sage and sausage stuffing, potatoes, veggie (corn or beans), and pies.  A couple of pies.  Aunt Grace's chocolate pie, pumpkin and peach or apple.  Jaynee makes the cranberry goop, 'cause cranberries = yuck.  And she makes the deviled eggs, 'cause Oh My Goodness = delicious.  Oh, and she makes the gravy, too, so I really don't do the WHOLE meal.  (Leave me with my delusions, please.)  So I'm thankful for the oven.  And cooking turkey bags.  And the dressing.  And the pie.  And that I no longer do dishes for 45 people, ala childhood.

Of course, Thanksgiving is about more than the food.  And the football.  It's the day when being grateful takes the forefront for everyone.  (Why does this happen only one day a year?)

This year, I'm grateful for lots. I'm employed at a job I love.  Teaching.  I have two great classes of students, who always teach me while I'm teaching them.  I'm grateful that I'm in a PhD program that will give me the chance to continue teaching.  And really grateful that I have wonderfully supportive advisors (as this is not always the case!).  Next year, I get to teach a history class for the first time. And continue teaching Women's Studies at another college.  Very grateful for the extra income this will bring!

I'm grateful for my family - Jaynee and the cats and Heather, aka the stinky dog, too.  We have a tiny house that's stuffed with lots of beads and books and dust, but most of all, love.  I'm grateful for my blood family and my chosen family.  Looking forward to spending part of this weekend with P & T, visiting from Vegas.  Missing V-squared and Aadi in Dallas, and the C-bus cohort, but comforted by happy T-day memories.

I'm grateful for time to write and bead and study and think (though doing so at 3 a.m. is not optimal to the rest of my day).  I'm glad that I can be creative in all areas of my life.  Whew.  Can't imagine doing work that did not value that.

I'm grateful for you, my readers.  While I'd probably keep on writing and posting without you (cause it's too big a part of my soul not to), I'm so happy for your presence and so honored by your comments and feedback and support.

But, apparently, the thing I am most grateful for in this post is parentheses.  (!)  That said, have a happy day!  Enjoy your life.

Nature Never Says Adieu
Nature opens its door of blessings
Round the year we receive things of our choice
Without uttering a word of appreciation for the dressing
We only think we have paid the price
And never offer thanks to the farmer who raised the crop
In the fields and trees of fruit in the orchard
Keeping us healthy to jump and hop
Animals and poultry in the farms are fostered
For our choice of food and taste of mouth
Flowers in the garden and above the hills
From east to west and north to south
Colors of nature spread beside the gills
Stones like rubies and diamonds hidden in mountains
And wealth of minerals buried at their fountains
All are countless in content and value
Nature is   bounteous and never utters adieu 

Author -Naushaba Perveen Khan

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Can I Wrap That Up For You?

Why do people buy?  In particular, why do people buy jewelry?

In doing an internet search (of course, the font of all knowledge), I found all sorts of theories.

One website suggests that people are motivated by four goals: to be Happy, Healthy, Wealthy and Sexy.  People are motivated by praise or the need for social acceptance.  One's appearance also comes into play.  Jewelry can be an enhancement, a source of bringing out one's smile or eyes or unique point of style. 
Photo from International Gem & Jewelry Show website.

Another website gave 20 reasons for purchases, acknowledging name recognition, niche identity, and/or following a fad.  Well, honestly, I keep waiting for bead embroidery to become the latest rage, but after twenty years of creating, I'm losing hope.  Even though celebrities are currently wearing large statement jewelry, there hasn't been much of a trickle down effect in my conservative hometown.
Love the layers of this Junk Gypsy style.
Why do I buy jewelry, on the rare occasion that I do?  It's to symbolize my uniqueness, my personality - whether that be my fun side, my spiritual side, my rebellious side.  Or I buy jewelry to mark an event in my life - an achievement, a memory.  If I buy jewelry as a gift (a much more frequent occasion), I do so as a token of affection, of love and appreciation.
More from the IG&J website.
As I head into major jewelry shopping season, I'm working to find ways to transfer "why people shop" into sales.  Sometimes, often, it feels very mystifying.  What prompts a sale?  What turns fondling a necklace, trying it on, into "I'll take it." - is there a secret I'm missing that keeps me from making more sales?  Not that I don't make solid sales.  But let's face it.  I'd love to be the next big thing in jewelry.  Wouldn't we all?
So, why not?  Does it come down to marketing?  To being in the right place at the right time?  I've worked hard at my jewelry business for many years.  Have I just not "worked smart?"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Flower Power

All the spring bulbs are planted! 

I took advantage of likely the last (gorgeous) warm day of fall.  68 degrees.  Windy, but beautiful.
Brodieia. Planted right outside the back door. Hoping these smell as lovely as they look. 
We have about 2000 bulbs planted in the backyard.  But there's always room for more, especially when it's for a good cause.  The Michigan Women's Center and Hall of Fame offered spring bulbs as their yearly fundraiser.  Since I'm all about the women's history AND flowers, this was a perfect opportunity to support two things I love.
Daffodils.  The happiest flower on the planet.  These are double ruffles!  Double the happy.
The fundraiser is run by Flower Power, who returns 50% of every purchase to the fundraising organization.  Win!  I am really impressed with the simplicity of ordering, their customer service (bulbs arrived exactly when promised) and the quality of the bulbs.  If you or your organization are looking for a great fundraiser, check Flower Power out.
Glory of the Snow.  These will be the first to come up this spring.  And I'm told they spread like crazy.  I think they'll look gorgeous mixed with my Johnny Jump-ups.
While I was planting, I thought about how flowers are like beads.  Always different.  Always beautiful.  Always inspiring.  Always something I want to surround myself with.  Always the reward at the end of the winter (or long day of schoolwork/life).
Sweethearts collection.  Tulips and white daffodils - come with every order.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mistletoe Market

It's the season, folks.  Political ads have been replaced with holiday commercials and the red buckets are jingling in front of stores.

This holiday season, I've signed up for a couple shows.  Today was the first delivery of product - about 100 pieces to the nearby South Haven (MI) Center of the Arts Mistletoe Market.  Earrings, bracelets, and necklaces - most under $25.  Hoping this is a good price point.
I know.  The building doesn't look very Holiday-like here.  Trust me.  It'll be covered in snow in no time.
It's the 26th year of the Mistletoe Market and it showed in the check-in.  So organized!  Labels pre-made and a comprehensive checklist based on an inventory that I mailed in last week.  I so love it when organization happens!

I haven't done a show like this before, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the sales are.  How 40 vendors will fit in the building.  To seeing the Center decorated for Christmas.  And, I'm excited that my jewelry can be in a venue, on display, while I continue working on other projects.

Have you ever done a cooperative show like this?  How well did it work for you?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bead Soup Party

It's a party!

In honor of the release of Lori Anderson's new book "Bead Soup," Kalmbach Books connected bead stores throughout the country with beaders.  I received a bead soup from Wicks and Stones in Wyandotte, MI.  Here's my lovely soup:
Don't you just love the colors: a mix of reds and oranges, yellows and turquoise, set off by copper.  And the focal is so simple, yet so funky.  It reminded me of something that would have been dug up from an ancient archeological site.

The same day that I received my soup mix in the mail, I also got an order from Thailand with some clay Goddess figures.  One went perfectly with the soup.  What do you think?
So I went through my stash and pulled out a jasper donut, an ammonite, red jasper cabochon, copper earrings, old coins, and a art glass butterfly from my collection.  I also added copper and amber beads, some 6mm matte czech beads and, of course, seed beads.  For the neckpiece, I used copper beads and some wonderful sandalwood beads, which have a subtle scent that I think will become more pronounced as the necklace is worn. 

Here's the final product, which, I admit, I'm pretty excited and proud of:

That's some good soup!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Body Art

I have three tattoos.  One is in honor of my husband.  All three of us present at his death got the same tattoo.  It's a really nice memory of a life-changing event.

I also have a tattoo on each forearm.  Something that reminds me every day of how blessed I am, and that I've made a commitment to a purpose greater than myself. 

On my left arm, I have "destiny."  On my right, "free will."  I wore bracelets with these words for several years before I got the tats.  I think of it this way.  In palmistry, one's non-dominate hand shows what you've been given at birth, what your destiny is.  Your dominate hand shows what you've done with our destiny.  I think of this as making use of my free will.

So I have this flow going - energy comes in and energy flows out.  Having the tattoos keeps me conscious of this every day.
A Leap of Faith - Jane Evershed
I love the symbolism.  Plus, I love words.  

Lately, I've been thinking of another tattoo.  I'd love to get a wren in a lilac bush on my left shoulder.  Reminds me of my maternal Grandma and of spring, new beginnings connected to fond memories.  And, I'd love to get a tattoo to honor my education - a tree of knowledge with the school symbols of my alma maters hiding in the leaves.  My back would be perfect for this.  But it'd probably end up on my leg, since I like seeing my tattoos.

something like this Klimt clip.  Love the spirals.
But this will be my next tat, on my left wrist.
joy can whisper.

Monday, October 22, 2012


This past week, I had a discussion with my students about "Women and Work."  Perfect timing on behalf of the second Presidential debate, in which a question was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
 The students were somewhat engaged in the conversation.  But, as I reminded myself while listening to them discuss, they don't yet have a lot of experience in the workforce.  Most of them work entry level jobs, for low pay.  Their living expenses are still fairly low.  At this point in their lives, money is still an abstract.

What is real to my students is sexual harassment.  When I asked them to raise their hands if they had experienced sexual harassment, all but 3 out of 30 did.  (The other 3 may just not realize what sexual harassment is.)  And the floodgates of anger and disbelief and disgust opened as they began to share the assaults on their bodies.  On their self-worth.  On their spirits.  On how they view themselves as women.
 What I heard was a group of young women who desperately wanted to know how to protect themselves.  To be able to say - Oh, hell NO!, to any unwanted look and touch and disrespectful comment and/or suggestion.  Comments often made, I might add, by men old enough to be their fathers.  Definitely old enough to know better.

I wanted to go all Valkyrie.  
Valkyries Ride
Get out my sword and fight their battles for them.  Slay all those dragons that dare to minimize the wonderful, powerful women they are all becoming.  Cry for their pain and confusion at a world that enforces the silencing of girls and women, teaching passivity rather than power, and submission rather than the right to say NO!

I took a deep breath.  I let the students vent for a few minutes.  Then, I started to talk to them about power.  About how when a man makes an inappropriate comment, he knows it's wrong.  He's likely not after what he's asking for.  (I hope not.)  What he's after is their power - their youth, their innocence, their spirit for life, their openness, their love for life.  Their joy.  But, mostly, their power to control what they do and how they feel about their bodies, about who they are as a woman.

We don't talk about this enough in society.  Especially as women.  I wonder if it has to do with the lack of power that many women of my generation, and even of older generations, feel.  We've been taught to stay silent.  To stay submissive.  And even if we don't follow that lesson, there are daily reminders of what some members of our society expect of us.  (Watch a political commercial lately?)  

Last night, I dreamed about a man that I had a long relationship with.  It was a nice dream.  We had lots of fun together, he and I.  We also had plenty of not-so-much-fun history.  And I realized something, twenty years too late.  Those times we had fun?  I held my own power.  The not-so-fun drama?  I gave away my power, to him.  I allowed myself to be used, to be taken advantage of, to be minimized and dismissed.  Why?  

Because I didn't know that I had my own power.  Or that I had a right to use it.
Now, I am reminded that what I teach is intended to give my students the tools they need to empower their lives.  I think I need to be more explicit about this.   We've talked a lot about how and why power is limited - through gender socialization and race and class and sexual discrimination.  Through a system of patriarchy that we are all complicit in.  

Now, it's time to have a conversation about power - what it is, how to use it, how to protect it as if your life depends upon it.  (It does.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Clip Art

I worked for a long time to come up with a way to make my own cabochons, using art prints under glass.  I love the versatility of this.  Plus, it's something different.

Etsy has wonderful clip art/mixed media artists that sell downloadable images.  Really wonderful diversity.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  And, with a good editing program (I recommend Print Shop), you can create your own sizes, mix up your own clips, and even change colors.  Endless!

It's changed the way I approach beading, removing any limits.