Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shifting Into Autumn

Which means I am entering major production mode!
Here's this weeks projects.  Don't you just love LOVE love that David Christensen glass?  I hoard it.  But it seems the perfect compliment to the glass sun.
I'm a pretty fast embroiderer.  I've been at this awhile.  I've developed a "system."  About 4-5 times a year, I go through my bead bins, pulling out anything that looks like fun to work with.  I put it all on my bead table and move stuff around until pieces click together.  I do pay attention to what I need to add to my stock - if I need glass pieces, or stone cabs, larger collars, collage pieces, smaller pieces.  I look at what colors I need to add, what's sold in the last few months, what colors are "hot," what season is coming up.  I look at European magazines, especially, as trends tend to show up there first.  (Thankfully, big jewelry seems to still be the rage!)

So the designs aren't completely random.  But my "To Do" bin certainly is!
Very organized chaos.
When I've matched up designs, I glue down what needs gluing.  (527 glue - FTW!)  If a complete design shows up in my head, with accent beads and colors - a  vision, really, of what the piece wants to be, I pull those beads out of the bigger stash and put everything in a large plastic baggie.  It's a way to  keep everything together and available, but also acts as a reminder of what I saw in my head.  Most of the time, though, I'm winging it.  (True in life, too.)  And I think this is why I end up with so many different colors and textures in my work.
A glimpse of some textured necklace I still need to edge.  I'll finish these in the next few days.  I may even do fringe (!) on the purple Greek Island one.
While I'm most informed by the beads, I also remember who I'm beading for.  I have a BIG public show the first weekend in December.  Did well at the spring version of this show, selling several large collars and lots of smaller pieces.  Even though it's largely a conservative crowd, the pieces that sold in the spring were pretty wild.  I'm aiming for repeat customers and expanding into the conservative market.

I also had several nice sales on Etsy during the holiday season last year.  So I want a fully stocked site, with lots of diversity.  And I generally do a decent amount of private sales to a specialized client base.

So I am wildly beading, beading, beading.  Aiming to complete the 30+ designs in my bins so I can start on some of the Dallas stash stuff.  Beading, beading, beading.  

Oh, and school starts in a week!  So then the mantra  will become Study Bead Study Bead Sleep Study Bead.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thank you, Ladies!

On this day, in 1920, women were finally granted the right to vote.  Take a moment today to honor the women who fought so hard for this.  Take a moment to explore women's history. 

What does it mean to you, to be able to vote?  (Do you vote?)  Do you feel educated about the political decisions that you make?  Do your votes protect the rights of women - our welfare, our education, our strength?

For a detailed history of women's struggle to gain the right to vote, watch "One Woman, One Vote."  This films shows how hard the struggle was, how gender and race and class complicated the movement.  Your right to vote was not easily won...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fifty for 50

In May, I celebrated my 50th birthday.  I think I'm over the shock now, a few months later.  I get that I'm not going to die.  That I still don't feel my age.  Except last Tuesday.  I felt 50 then, with my backache and inability to breathe a deep breath.  Ugh.

Most of the time, as a 50 year old, I feel very very grateful for where I am in my life.  My first five decades were very interesting.  I've lived in interesting places and done even more interesting things.  I have lots of good stories and memories and the accrued wisdom that comes with them.  I am blessed with dear friends, all over the US. 

I am especially blessed with a myriad of special women in my life. Women that amaze me and inspire me, that challenge me and teach me.  Women that I laugh with and cry with, some that I can even get mad at and then get over it with.

When I knew I was headed towards 50, I wanted to find a way to honor the women in my life.  I didn't have the money to fly everyone to a fancy retreat, ala Oprah.  But I did have lots of beads.  And lots of creativity.  And lots of love for my beloveds.  So I decided to make fifty necklaces for 50 women.

It's taking longer than I expected.  Mostly because I want each piece to be special, representative of the place she may have in my life.  Or, the piece needs to be one that she claims for herself. 

Like this one.
My dear friend Lisa is a high school art teacher.  Lisa also does energy work that lights up a life.  I met Lisa years ago, while living in Las Vegas.  On Sundays, Lisa would open up her studio to a small group of women so that we could play with different forms of art.  We painted and collaged and talked and laughed.  And I came to see myself as an artist.
I was more than someone who played around with beads.  I was an intuitive woman with a strong sense of color and form, an eye for texture.  On those precious Sundays, I learned to play.  And I learned to trust myself.  A new concept for me, one that transformed my life.
Here's the necklace I sent Lisa.  I love this 1920s photo.  The woman has the same intensity and gentleness as Lisa.  The photo is accented by pale pink coral beads and a vintage smoky quartz earring, with additional smoky quartz beads.  The seed bead embroidery is done in a rich deep brown (like the coffee that is Lisa's true love).

May she wear this necklace in good health.  And may it bring her lots of love and positive energy.  And maybe, remind her of a friend, but definitely mark her as a wondrous teacher.  

Thank you for being a part of my life, Lisa.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Crystals Galore

As promised, my crystal trove from Dallas.  Whew.  So much sparkly.  So little time.
I know that Chinese crystals often gets (and sometimes deserves) a bad reputation.  These drops, actually all these crystals, are a wonderful exception.  Great weight, even better sparkle.  The photo of these drops doesn't accurately show their brilliance.  So stunning.  They were on a wall display just as I headed to check out.  I knew I was already over my budget, but at $7 for a strand of 100 drops, I couldn't resist.  Ended up with 3 strands.  :)  Budget, be damned. 

I have no idea what I'll do with these cubes.  But, again, stunning sparkle.  And at $3 a 16" strand, a steal.

Butterflies!  I've had an idea dancing around my head for a butterfly necklace for about a year.  Now I have the butterflies to make it.  And can you believe - $4 a strand?

Odd shaped crystals.  Lovely purple/blues and green/pinks.  Sigh.  $4 a strand.  And to think, I've paid 5 times that much for the same beads at a jewelry show.  And thought THAT was a good price.

20 mm pink rondelles.  Gorgeous soft pink.  $3.  I should have gotten more of these...

MATTE crystals!  Oh, matte - I love you.  I've never seen matte crystals before.  Subtle. Beautiful.

And finally, a crystal rainbow.  I think I ended up with 64 strands of 4mm rounds and bicones.  Breaks down to $1.67 a strand.  Many more colors available but I bought quantity over color.  I'm determined to learn to make some Right Angle Weave bracelets.  I will figure out that pattern, darn it! 
So I came home and rearranged all of my bead boxes, separating out the crystal from the gemstones and the czech glass.  I was under the impression that crystal was a new obsession.  Ha!  Going through my bead stash quickly proved me wrong.  I'll been liking the shiny for quite awhile. I have my swarvoskis, stashed away in separate boxes, casue let's face it, those little treasures are much more expensive than chinese crystal.  But really, I don't see much difference.  Both are equally shiny,  well made and useful for bead embroidery accents.  And when doing beadweaving, I'm sticking to the affordability of the chinese.

I'm sure I'll be ordering from May's Beads and Bead on Beads online.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Nothing is more persistent than a cat in the morning that wants to be fed.  'Cause she's starving.
Rhea.  Here's an example of her pathetic, I'm starving look.
Pathetic quickly turns to annoyed.  Much stomping around the bed ensues.  And body flops, as she falls over from malnutrition.  Then, the bunny kicks start, aimed to wiggle the bed.  Then, climbs on the dresser and starts pushing stuff off - papers, books, the clock, my glasses. 
Brother Rick joins in.  Oh, he may look all sweet and innocent with those big blue eyes.  Ha!  He's got quite the yowl.  And Rick isn't food motivated.  Ricky wants to go outside.  Now.  Always.  (If he didn't jump the fence, he'd get outside more.)
If all else fails, Rhea will rattle the window blinds.  Guaranteed success.


I'm trying to remember this admirable persistence throughout the next week, as I head into my final preparation for my History MA exam.  I've studied, I've made flash cards (I have to remember the names of 25 or so authors and book titles), and I'm writing out answers to practice questions.  Three subjects, three questions, three hours. Pass this and I'm rewarded with three more years (at least) of study for my PhD.

Persistence also helps when doing beadwork.  I'm already planning a big December holiday sale.  And have at least one large show to make product for.  Enjoyable, yes.  But success relies on sitting down everyday between now and then, picking up needle and thread.  The reward: good sales, new customers, more beautiful jewelry out into the world, more money to buy beads.  :)

Rhea's reward for rattling the blinds?  Food, of course.  And snuggling with Sparky Dew Two all day.

***It should be noted that this is only half of the pet population at our house.  Samuel, the black velvet brother to Sparky is not pictured.  Neither is Heather, the bossy Westie.  Or Rosy, mama to S & S, who only comes inside for food and to get out of the rain.  And Baby, who we've been feeding for 5 years outside because he's too feral to come closer and who we thought was a female, until Sam was born.

Sigh.  Not crazy here.  Just persistent.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Spirit of Bead Embroidery

Oh. My Goodness!  This is truly the beauty of bead embroidery.

I received my copy of Heidi Kummli's new book today in the mail.  For a day when I just didn't feel well (couldn't breathe), this was the perfect anecdote.  Gorgeous pictures, insightful and heartfelt narration.  The beauty that is Heidi's beadwork shines through.

As someone who is very influenced by nature in my own beadwork, this book gives me an even deeper connection.  I've long admired Heidi's subjects.  Now, I'm determined to deepen my own work.

Do yourself a favor and take the day to enjoy this book.  It's available now from Kalmbach Publishing and pre-orders on Amazon.  I got my copy from Heidi's etsy site.  


Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Dallas Bead Porn

Oh gemstones.  How do I love you?  Let me count the ways...

I love you for your infinite colors and patterns.  (In Dallas, I bought a lot of browns.)

I love you for your texture.  These dyed blue coral beads are rough.

I love you for your shapes.  Proof that size/shape doesn't matter, just enhances.

Did I mention color?  Yummy.

I love you for your ability to take on different forms.  Here, howlite masquerades as turquoise.

I love you for your sense of fun.  Okay, these beads are acrylic, not gemstones.  But really, when you're the size of gumballs and rubberized and absolutely vibrant in color, who cares?
I love you for your use of materials - here, bone and horn from India.

Really?  Dyed howlite butterflies and flowers.  I love your sense of humor.

More brown.  Oh, agate.  I love your versatility.  You, I can have a long-term relationship with.

I love your smooth oval shape here, grey moonstone and blue opal.  Doesn't this just sound decadent?

And aquamarine.  You stole my heart and jumped into my basket, with your smooth, soft self.  And really, you sold yourself way to cheaply.  Thank you.

More howlite, More fun.  Drops in blue turquoise, vibrant purple and minty green.  Oh, I have stunning plans for you.

I am so digging the new dyed agate shades.  Orange!  Good to meet you.

My friends thought I was crazy buying this bone.  Whatcha gonna do with five bone elephant thingys?  Wait and see.  (I have no idea.)

And you, not a gemstone strand but oh,, so much fun.  I think I'm gonna keep you all for myself.
These are just some of the goodies I purchased in Dallas.  (I haven't even gotten to the crystal!)  Check out Bead on Beads and May's Beads if you want to build your own stash.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Aunt Grace's Chocolate Pie

My Aunt Grace passed away on July 26 at the age of 90.  Whew.  90.  That's a lot of years.

As a historian who focuses her research on women, I view Aunt Grace's life through concepts of domesticity and the 1950s Cold War focus on women's place as belonging in the home: the caretaker of the family, the husband's helpmate, the religious center.  These were the things stressed in Aunt Grace's obituary and in the minister's address at the funeral.  In fact, the obituary references my uncle's loss of "his amazing Grace" in the first sentence, before acknowledging anything else about my aunt.

I found that a bit disconcerting. 

My memories of Aunt Grace are of her sweet smile.  Always present always welcoming.  Even in her later years when dementia clouded her mind.

And I remember her chocolate pie.
This is the pie that everyone fought to get a piece of at Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings.  We were a large family (40+ most of the time), so you counted yourself lucky to get even a tiny slice.  Creamy.  So chocolatety.  Rich.  Covered in real whipped cream, not the squirt or plastic tub kind. 

I loved Aunt Grace's chocolate pie.

One Christmas, she pulled me aside, saying, "I have something in the car for you."  We walked outside and there it was - heaven in a pie pan.  A whole pie, just for me.  I couldn't believe it.  I felt so lucky and so loved and so special.

Aunt Grace just smiled.  And handed me a recipe card with the recipe for the pie written on it in her neat print.  So I could make my own pie whenever I wanted to.

I don't remember if I shared the pie with my brothers.  Probably.  Maybe not,  since at that point in my life I didn't feel like much belonged to me alone.  But I've made Aunt Grace's pie many times since that Christmas, sharing its deliciousness with friends and family.  Always, I think of Aunt Grace's gift.  And, when my nephew Lucas fell in love with a cream cheese pie, I made him his very own pie.  Now, every birthday, he gets his own cream pie.  And Aunt Grace's love will live on.

And, in case you need your own bit of chocolate love, here's her recipe.  I don't think she'll mind.

Aunt Grace's Chocolate Pie

  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate - chips or bar
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) sweet unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) sugar

Melt chocolate chips and butter.  Set aside to cool.  Separate eggs.  Whip egg whites until fluffy.  Add egg yolks, salt and sugar to cooled chocolate.  Fold in egg whites.  Don't over mix.  Place in pre-baked pie crust. Top with whipped cream and chocolate garnish.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Recipe is easily doubled to fit into deep dish pie crust or to share with a beloved.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mothers & Daughters

Often, I am a reluctant daughter.

I love my mom, but I don't always want her closely involved in my life.  I don't want to hear her opinion, especially since this usually contradicts with mine.  A close friend pointed out that if Mom told me the sky was blue, I'd automatically disagree as a knee-jerk reaction.

Tulip close-up, garden 2012
The older Mom gets, the more I feel like she's the daughter and I'm the mom.  She's slowing down.  Some days, she accepts this gracefully, some days not so much.  Right now, I'm struggling to find a new balance in my relationship with her.  Especially as I enter a phase of expansion as my schooling takes on another level and I find my professional ground, while Mom's life becomes a bit more dependent.
Garden lily, 2012
I fear that the responsibility for caring for my mother will fall on my shoulders.  As women, we are often expected to care for others.  I rebel against this, wanting less responsibility at this point in my life - not more.  So, I'm not always gracious.  I limit my contact with Mom, perhaps at times when she might need me most.  
Bright lily, garden 2012
I'm praying for clarity in my mother/daughter relationship.  And for patience.  A sense of humor would probably be good as well.  And trust - that I'll do the best thing for her and the best thing for me.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dallas Bead Porn

Oh. My. Goodness.  So many beads, so little time.  Not enough money.  But honestly, I think I did pretty good at the two Dallas wholesale bead stores that I visited last week.  I'll let the pictures prove it:
Bone (.95 each) and ammonites ($7 for the pair)

More bone and shell.  I have a thing for interesting faces.  Wonder what I'll do with these...

Cabs: sodalite, crysocolla, pink marble, dyed blue jasper, picture jasper and crazy lace agate.     
Large marble donut and fun ceramic rounds

Dyed orange shell points.  These have shades of pink and grey running through them as well.

Assorted cabs.  I rarely use hearts in my work but can't wait to play with this composite piece.  $.69 to 3.00 each.

Ceramic tiles from Greece.  These are about the size of a quarter.  At $2.50 for a pack of 12, I wish I'd gotten more colors.  These will make a really fun collage necklace.

Each leaf is about 3".  Really rich colors.  $8.00 for the strand of 12.
I've been looking for large geodes for quite some time.  In the past, I've made necklaces out of amethyst, citrine and quartz formations - some of my favorites pieces.  These will be so much fun to play with.  And at $6 each, I could afford three gorgeous pieces.

Close-up of the largest geode.  Just look at that depth!
I'll share some of the gemstone and crystal strands I bought next week.  Equally fabulous, trust me.  

All in all, I feel extremely blessed to have come home with such wonderful goodies.  Can't wait to play with some of these items.  But far more special than the bead porn are the memories created by spending a wonderful vacation with a wonderful family of friends.  Sigh.