Thursday, June 28, 2012

Birth of a Beader

Brigitte of Unfettered Ink has a blog hop running on how storytelling impacts one's business.  I love this idea, as I'm all about the story.  I read and follow blogs for the stories - of artists lives, of inspirations for their designs, for their individual take on the world and how that affects their art.  And, yeah.  Lots of time the pictures are inspiring as well.
Dale Chihuly display, Columbus Art Institute

It's not often that an artist shares their beginning - how they started doing what they're doing.  It's not like I was a beader from birth.  (Oh, if I were, the stash I would have!)  While I grew up with grandmas that crocheted and knitted, I was more drawn to embroidery.  The colors, the textures, the freedom to stitch outside the lines.  

In my late twenties, someone handed me a statue and said, "Here.  Paint this.  Turn it into something."  I had so much fun with paint and detail!  For months, I obsessively painted statues, turning ordinary statues into Goddesses and Gods from myths around the world.  I quickly needed to add "more" - fabric, leather, feathers, and beads.  

The statues sold well but were a pain to transport to shows and to ship.  But the beads.  Oh, the beads!  Especially the gemstone beads.  And seed beads!  Color.  Texture.  And I loved that the gemstones had magical properties, useful for healing and comfort and energy.  I studied for hours, learning which stones were harmonious, which colors worked well together.  I just couldn't get enough.
One of my first big gemstone purchases.  
I worked at a Las Vegas casino at the time.  All my tips went to bead purchases.  My weekends and evenings were spent beading.  When the casino downsized and I was given the choice of working the graveyard shift or becoming a supervisor, I quit.  I was making decent money making beaded ankle bracelets (used a lace pattern mixed with tinkly bells).  Plus, I'd just discovered bead collaged necklaces.  Taking bits and pieces of old jewelry, gifted rhinestone jewelry and stone cabs, I made collars and simple necklaces, earrings and bracelets.  I sold these to friends who worked on the Vegas strip, who needed/wanted flashy jewelry that was different.  I made beaded bras and thongs, which I sold to strippers.  I beaded ceremonial robes and leather jackets.  I fixed old old old Native American ceremonial necklaces.  I bought a van and started traveling to shows all over the US.  Living the dream.  I loved what I was doing and it seemed like my creativity was endless, even when other things in my life were falling apart.
And then this guy was elected.  And the economy went to hell.  And I ended up in my hometown, near a family I didn't really know, working at a job that left me with little energy for creativity.

Throughout it all, the beads remained the center of my art.  Especially embroidery.  As long as I had a little table, felt, glue, scraps of ultra suede and a collection of beads, I could create something beautiful.  Generous friends continued to supply me with beads throughout the years when new goodies just weren't in my budget.  I look at my stash now and am amazed!  There's some breath-taking inspiration on those shelves.

I hope in my life as a  beader, I can do the beads justice.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thinking of Christmas

I could blame it on the heat.  Michigan is breaking the 90s for the next four days, with beaucoup humidity.  Ehhh.  Lots of time will be spent in front of the fan, with the air conditioner running.

But really, I'm making plans for the winter holiday selling season.  I have limited outside commitments for the next several weeks.  Blissful weeks of creative time before school starts again in the fall.  And once school starts, that's it.  I only have time for production.  No time to try out new ideas.  Or for prepping cabochons, organizing beads, or painting backgrounds.
I'm doing at least two shows this holiday season, one of which is a major show.  I want to have a nice selection of goodies.  Mostly, I want to try new materials and new stitches, along with a few new mediums.  I know - sounds kind of vague.  This is because my plans are only in the dreaming stage right now.  Notes on paper, piles of potential supplies.  I'll share as soon as I have some rough drafts.  But right now, I'm making my lists and checking them twice.  And prepping.  Lots and lots of preparation.

Anyone else thinking of holiday production already?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Designing Jewelry

So many women don't realize/recognize their own beauty.  Heck.  I often forget that I am beautiful, in my own special, unique, glorious, colorful way.  Honoring the unique beauty of every woman - this is why I make jewelry.
Blessed, 2004

My favorite thing is to watch a woman's face change when she picks out a necklace, puts it on and then looks in the mirror.  Sure, the jewelry adds a sparkle.  But there's this recognition that happens when you know you look good, when you've treated yourself to something beautiful or fun or sparkly.  Something that makes you feel MORE yourself.
Fly, 2011
This is the real reward for me, in designing and making jewelry - that happy, satisfied face when a woman recognizes her beauty.  The Goddess within her.
Freya, 2010
The "Brising" of my bead business comes from the Norse myth of the goddess Freya and the creation of a magical necklace.  Freya was known for her beauty.  Her magical necklace only enhanced her natural beauty and strength.  That's what my intention is with every necklace I make - that its owner, its woman, will place the necklace around her neck or hold it in her hands and know her beauty and her strength.
Be the Change, 2012
I'm also beginning to realize that I need to lead by example.  For years, I've made necklaces - hundreds of them - but rarely woren any jewelry.  I couldn't be bothered, I told myself.  Until I realized how often I heard other women make a similar excuse.  "I'm too busy."  "I don't wear jewelry that big/heavy/flashy/colorful."  "I don't have anywhere to wear something that pretty."  "I can't afford to treat myself."  Endless excuses.  And many times, women won't even try on a piece, won't give themselves a moment of enjoyment.  A moment of beauty.
Here's the thing.  I'm not in the jewelry business to make money.  I make jewelry to spread the love.  If I can see a necklace belongs to you, if it changes how you feel about yourself or view yourself or express a part of your personality that's hidden too often, I'll give you the necklace.  It's yours.  No questions, no money asked.

Beauty is not caused. It is.  - Emily Dickinson
Spiral Goddess, 2010
She who is the beauty of the green earth, and the white moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the desire of the heart of man, calls unto thy soul. Arise, and come unto Her. For She is the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe. from Her all things proceed, and unto Her all things must return; and before Her face, beloved of gods and men, let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite. Let Her worship be within the heart that rejoiceth; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And thou who thinkest to seek Her, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the mystery; that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, then thou wilt never find it without thee. For behold, She has been with thee from the beginning; and She is that which is attained at the end of desire. - 
Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente

Monday, June 18, 2012

Seed Beads!

If I were stuck on an island (which hopefully wouldn't be a desert, but could be deserted), I'd want to have my seed beads with me.  I'd also sneak in some needles and thread, some felt and suede.  I bet I could embroider on palm fronds,  too, if I had to.

With that adventure in mind, I ordered a  mess load of hex beads from York Beads during their sale last week.  Actually, I ordered twice. 
See why?
Lots of bright colors, some mattes.  Some metallic.  Lots o' sparkle!
100 strands of lovely for $90.  
That's my kind of bargain.
Now if I could only arrange a bargain vacation...

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Needing a bit of encouragement lately.  Okay, a lot of encouragement.  This video does the trick, from
Enjoy.  I did.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I have a vagina!

And I vote.

Unbelievable nonsense going on in the Michigan state congressional house.  Unbelievable.  No matter where you come down personally in the abortion debate, banning female legislators from speaking because they use the word "vagina" is absolutely ridiculous.  And archaic. 

I don't understand the purpose of legislating women's bodies.  I don't understand the attacks on Planned Parenthood, an organization whose sole purpose is to offer health care to women in need.

I admit, I also don't understand women who would vote against another woman's right to make her own choice about her own body.  But historically, this happens over and over again (suffrage, ERA as prime examples).

I wish that all women thought of  all women as sisters.  Members of the same tribe that have similar experiences in spite of large differences.  When it comes to voting for the well-being of all women, is it possible to focus on our similarities as women, rather than being continually divided by our differences?

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." - Audre Lorde

In allowing men who have legislative power to determine what can be talked about, what can be voted on, what can become a 'wrong" or a "right," women risk losing our collective voice.  Focusing the discussion on abortion is a smoke screen, a political maneuver that intends to divide a strong voting block = women.  Women are being very effectively silenced, limited to one possible valuable experience, that of potential motherhood, by the abortion debate.  As women, we know we are much more than our ability to carry a child.  So much more!  Yet this is the only debate that current legislators want to discuss.  Not equal wages.  Not health care in general.  Not the society of violence that we all live in.  Not the needed changes in education.  Abortion.  It's a wedge issue, guaranteed to deflect the real issues that concern women.  And men who love and support equality for women.  Men who trust women to make informed decisions about their bodies.  About their vaginas.

I have a vagina.  And I vote.  


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dicro Dance

I saw these dichroic scrap pieces during an Etsy search and immediately pictured a stained glass necklace.  I loved the funky shapes and bright colors and the glitter - oh, the glitter!  So, I contacted Teri from  Frog Hollow Glass and two days later had a bunch of pieces to play with.

Here's my first necklace made with these pieces.  And it definitely won't be the last!
I love how the big cats eye beads compliment the dicro pieces.  I've had these cats eye beads for years!  Proof once again that you must buy what you love when you see it.  Someday, you'll use it.
I actually don't think this piece does the dicro justice.  Needs to be MUCH more funky and colorful.
Next time. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jaynee's Butterflies

Can you believe she's only been bead embroidery-ing for six months?
Blue Dreams Butterfly
Pink Blush Butterfly
My roommate, Jaynee, has watched me bead for years.  And, enjoyed lots of beady gifts.  She has a whole rack of BrisingBeads jewelry.  I'd offered to teach her embroidery many times, knowing what a talented and creative artist she is.  Her excuse was that she couldn't see the tiny beads.

Ha!  That's what good light is for.
These two pieces are full of teeny tiny size 15 seed beads.  
I don't think there's anything wrong with Jaynee's eyesight.
 The proof is in the detail.
So, now, our house revolves around beads.  Jaynee has quite the collection of druzy cabs that she's been featuring in her work.  I love how these become the body of the butterfly.  And how well the druzy plays off the sparkle of crystals.  Her color choices are so different from mine; it's nice to have this interplay.

What a wonderful life, the life that's full of beads.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Nothing is more obsessive than a West Highland Terrier on a "mousie" mission.
Meet Heather.  From the moment she's let out the backdoor in the morning to pee until we drag her in the house at night, she's hunting squirrels and chipmunks and the occasional mole.
I believe the squirrels deliberately hang in the pine tree to torture her, to give her a crook in her neck.  She can stare up for hours.  Hours, if we let her.  Or if a mousie doesn't come down somewhere else into the yard.
Once in awhile, she'll take a break.  This is Heather, post catching a mousie tail.  You can't see it, cause she's laying on top of it.

Makes my obsession with beads look very unproblematic.  :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Garden Celebration

I love this necklace.
Once in awhile, I make a necklace that I fall in love with.  This piece is probably one of my top five of all the necklaces I've ever made.  Maybe top 10.
Usually, I work from the focal piece out, letting my focal dictate the shape of the piece.  With this necklace, I started with a template and filled in the blanks.  The Alphonse Mucha print, Fall, from his season's quartet, is one of my favorites.  Mucha's work is just so sensuous, so powerful and graphic.  Plus, he drew/painted women with curves.  Real women.
The shape of the template requires an asymmetrical placement of the cats eye cabs.  Love the vibrancy of these colors.  I also knew I wanted to use some of the picasso colored leaves I've been hoarding forever along with gold drops.  I like the scattered effect of the leaves.
I used 8mm unakite beads for the neckpiece, 3 strands on one side and one on the other.  It's tricky to get the multiple strands to lay right, but I think I accomplished this.  I like the effect.
I also love when my rows turn out nice and straight.  :)  I think, after twenty years, I might be getting the hang of this.

Usually, once I've finished a piece, I don't remember making it.  It's all about the process for me - letting the stones and the beads and the artwork "talk."  Maybe I enjoy this piece because I played with different materials.  Maybe it's the Mucha influence.  But this necklace just works for me.  This one, I'd call art.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Studio

One of the best things about summer is that I get to bead here:
The view from the back door

The bird sanctuary near the picnic/bead table.

My bead companions.  Who am I kidding?  All Rhea and Heather want to do is stare up into the pine tree, looking for "mousies."

Lots of inspiration in this gorgeous place.  Truly, it keeps me sane. 
Mornings are quiet and peaceful.  Lots of birdsong.  The wrens are hatching right now, so if there's a stranger in the yard (a cat), the wrens are growling.  But it's a nice spot to sit and listen or to journal.  Or, as I have to do this summer, read/study for my History exams.
I'm taking lots of pictures this summer, documenting the colors and shapes and shades of the flowers and leaves.  Since I don't have lots of bead time right now, I need some way to keep my creativity moving.  Wish there was a way to bottle the smells.
Here's a close-up of the necklace I finished over the weekend.  Think I was influenced by my garden at all?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Color as Inspiration

swirls together shades of green, a  faint purple, yellow light, and white.  Lovely.

highlights shade and subtle changes.

The necklaces I'd create with these two pictures would be completely different, using different seed beads and accent beads.  Inspired by the first picture, the necklace I would make would be very simple.  I'd let the picture tell the story.  The necklace I'd create using the second picture would be much more funky, playing up the shapes of the petals, using sharper angles and a bolder color combination of deep purple, a touch of white or silver to accent, maybe a drop of emerald green.

The cropping of a photo determines its character.  This:
becomes this:
becomes this:
Oh, yeah!  I see future necklaces here.

What inspires you?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bead Stores

Okay, yes.  My living room kinda looks like a bead store.  There probably is enough beads stashed away to open up a small store, IF I really wanted to  give up anything in my stash.  (I should mention that much of my bead stash comes from Sally Smith - the Bead Lady Extraordinaire, who sadly does not have a website that I can direct ya'll too.  She's been VERY generous to me, with more than just beads.  Someday, I'll interview Sally and record some of her beady adventures traveling the country with a home full o' beads.)
Sally (the Bead Lady), Jim (the Bead Dude) and Jason (the Bead Son) at the MD Fairie Fest, 2008.

While living in Columbus, OH, I was fortunate to have access to several great bead stores - Byzantium (sadly no longer in business but an excellent resource for seed beads and funky focals), Ally Beads (also out of business but the best gemstones and lampwork trunk shows!), Gahanna Beads (I found some gorgeous vintage ceramic beads here that I'm hoarding) and the best over-all shop - 1 Stop Bead Shop.

1 Stop remains my favorite because this shop owner knows how to run a successful bead business.  Lots of classes, lots of selection, great sales and regular clearances.  While her staff is so-so (not always friendly or willing to extend advertised sales to new customers that I've brought to the store), I could always find something new along with the staples that I stopped in for.  From a business perspective, I was continually impressed with the variety of events offered.  This owner had a real knack for bringing in new and repeat business - "garage" sales, where customers could sell off surplus/unused beads, 50% off days, make and takes, open beading hours.  Lots to do, lots of opportunity to "play" with beads.

I haven't had the same experience here in MI - yet.  There's a small local shop that's trying to build its business but they do very little advertising.  Frankly, they're sitting on a gold mine as they are well-stocked and the owners are emotionally invested in the beads, if not the business.

So, what do you look for in a bead shop?  Any favorite sales ideas?  Favorite shops?  I'm curious.  Curious as someone who wants to support local shops and also curious as someone who might want to have a shop in the future.  :)