Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year, and happy anniversary to ME

Times Square New Years Eve Ball by LeSimonPix ★
Times Square New Years Eve Ball, by LeSimonPix ★ on Flickr.

I launched this blog a year ago today, New Year's Eve 2010. My what a trip it's been.

I had no idea whether I would keep it up, or abandon it like so many other half-finished (half-baked?) projects I take up and lose interest in with alarming regularity. My goal was to publish at least once a week. Well, I didn't quite make that--this is post No. 45--but I came pretty close. This past month I've averaged two entries a week, trying to compensate for the long spells in the summer and fall when I posted only once or twice a month.

I've loved becoming a part of a blogging community, and communing with fellow artists in cyberspace.  Even though I've only met one or two of you in person, I feel like I know so many of you through your craft and your writing. When you had cause to celebrate, I felt buoyant. When some of you suffered misfortunes, my heart panged.

Thanks to this blog, I've participated in bead swaps and been challenged to step out of my comfort zone. I've begun to learn photo editing. I've learned how to embed widgets and create a favicon. (Thank heavens Blogger makes the writing part of blogging pretty painless.) I've been driven to complete some projects just so I would have something to blog about! And blogging has led me to become more comfortable on Facebook and Twitter, both of which have opened me to new communities and reconnecting with long-lost friends and distant relatives.

I hope you weren't expecting me to segue into my resolutions for 2012. I don't do resolutions. I just want to say thank you, and that I am richer for having this experience. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

KIP, or kumihimo-ing in public

Just before Thanksgiving, when I participated in the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church Holiday Crafts Show, my friend Patti, a glass artist, mentioned that one of the pieces she had made the night before was a "just for me" pendant.

"You know what that is, don't you?" she asked.

I had to confess I didn't.

She explained that that's when you're creating a piece and--whoops--make a big enough mistake so that it's not sellable, but it's good enough to keep for yourself instead of scrapping it.

Behold my "just for me" kumihimo necklace:
8-strand spiral braid using C-Lon cord and four colors
 of size 8 beads (bead dropped at every pass)

The "just for me" part has added meaning in this case, however. You see, it's made from the beaded braid that I made while at the crafts show demonstrating kumihimo. For the handful of shows I did this summer and fall, I had always intended to bring the marudai and demonstrate the technique, since I don't expect anyone to know what kumihimo is, but I never managed to do so.

It was partly because it takes so long to dress the marudai, and I always put it at the bottom of the to-do list when getting stuff ready for a show. In fact, for the Mount Vernon show, I didn't even start loading the beads and winding the tama until after 11 p.m. the night before. I then got up early and did a few rounds to get the braid going before heading out.

It was partly because I knew transporting the marudai would be a pain (and indeed the bobbins got tangled in transit despite my best efforts to secure them--that's one of the mistakes that makes the braid unsellable).

And it was also partly because I knew I would be self-conscious demonstrating it.

But despite all of these barriers, I hauled the marudai to Virginia, untangled the tama, propped it on a milk crate and start braiding once I got the rest of my jewelry display set up.

The experience was all the things that people experienced in craft shows said it would be: It attracted people to my table. It allowed me to demonstrate that my work was handmade and one of a kind. It provided an opportunity to educate people about this obscure art.

But most surprising to me was how good it was for me personally to do it. Kumihimo has a very meditative, Zen-like quality. It gave me something to do with my hands.

Instead of endlessly fussing with and readjusting the items on my table, I braided.

Instead of sitting there with a smile plastered on my face trying to will passersby to stop and look at my stuff, I braided. Instead of second-guessing my pricing or my color scheme or what to order for lunch, I braided.

Instead of sounding over-eager to engage in conversation as browsers picked up my pieces, I braided. Instead of sitting there trying hard not to look bored as the hours ticked by, I braided.

Throughout the day, I was much more relaxed and the small talk was much more natural. I answered questions about kumihimo if folks asked and simply braided if I sensed they wanted to be left alone.

I discovered that kumihimo is a husband magnet. The men were endlessly fascinated--I guess it looks somehow mechanical, or anyway, different from anything they'd seen before. So the men would watch me, which let their wives linger at my table, which made everybody happy. Kids squatted down on their knees to see the beaded braid forming beneath the marudai.

And it didn't seem to matter when I messed up--and I messed up plenty.  I even noted a few times to an audience that I had goofed and was fixing a mistake. Instead of making me look like a doofus, all it did was make kumihimo look hard.

Although I caught several mistakes in time to fix them, others crept in--two beads of one color that had dropped, instead of just one; a pair of tama moved out of sequence, causing a gap--that were too far back to unbraid and fix. I decided that the braid was serving its own purpose as a demonstration tool and not to worry about it. I could cut it apart and remake it at some future point.

Late in the afternoon, in the final hour of the show, I could see I was about to run out of beads on several bobbins. I didn't want to stop, unwind, thread on beads, then rewind--all for a braid not worth keeping, so I used a trick that Rodrick Owen told us in the kumihimo class I took last spring that he uses sometimes: No one can really tell if you're braiding or unbraiding, so for that final 45 minutes or so, I braided and unbraided that last inch or so over and over again.

This display stand is special to me, too! Darling Daughter made a pair
for me for Christmas. (The source material for the decoupage
is the Washington Post, where I used to work.)

When I got home, I left the braid on the marudai for a few weeks, as I geared up for my final crafts show--the one at my office.

But when all the hubbub died down and I had some time to myself, I studied the beaded braid more closely. The mistakes weren't as obvious as I had originally thought. It definitely wasn't sellable, but it would be fine as a just for me necklace--one that would remind me of my first kumihimo demonstration whenever I wore it.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dagger flowers tute for I Might Make That! Monday

Dagger flowers by Maneki of
Wild Roses and Blackberries
A charming blog that I follow is Wild Roses and Blackberries, written in English by a Swedish jewelry artist whose nom de blog is Maneki. She also writes a beading blog in Swedish. (And here's a special message to her: Maneki, your  black kittens look just like mine, only a little bigger!)

Several months back, she featured a tutorial on making these enchanting dagger drop flowers.

This week's blogpost should be called "I MUST Make That! Monday" because, inspired by her, I went and bought a bunch of dagger beads in my October Fire Mountain Gems order. I just haven't had time to play with them yet.

Dagger flowers by Maneki of Wild Roses and Blackberries
Maneki posted a new bouquet of pics earlier this month. Find her original tutorial, from October, here. She has additional examples in her Dec. 11 and Dec. 14 posts.

Keep clicking around and you can find some similar flowers she made with lentil beads. Maneki has a tab on her home page linking to her tutorials, of which the dagger flower instructions are one of many.

Update: I wrote this post several days ago, scheduling it to post today, but since then Maneki posted still another tutorial for the dagger flower series.

She wrote me:

The text doesn't really make it clear that the long magatama bead flower isn't made in the same way as all the other flowers, but I'm afraid I don't have a better photo with just dagger flowers for you. ... Like an evolutionary line, starting with the first lentil flower I made in this design and ending with the latest dagger version], I did discover that the free Christmas tree project at Bead & Button is done in pretty much the same kind of brick stitch I used. The only difference being the sizes and number of tiers.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011


Opal, left, and Pearl
Meet the two new loves of my life--Pearl and Opal. They are about 12 weeks old and we adopted them Dec. 10 from the Feline Foundation. They are both solid black, and the first few days the only way we could tell them apart was that I painted the tip of one of Pearl's ears with bright pink nail polish (a trick I'd learned when we adopted our cat Seymour. He was one of a litter of five tabbies, and the foster parent had color-coded them this way.)

Now we can tell them apart by their personalities--and the fact that Opal's face is a little more angular than Pearl's. Opal is the cuddler and Pearl is the intrepid explorer. They are both champion purrers. Opal is also the loudmouth--meowing voraciously any time someone enters the kitchen to let them know ItMustBeMealtimeFeedMeNowPlease. You can't believe something so little could make so much racket.

Opal is probably the one who got them rescued: Three little black kitten sisters were found under a bush by a kind-hearted stranger who heard them mewling. No mom in sight. He took them to a nearby vet hospital, where a vet tech bottle-fed them--they were thought to be about 5 weeks old--until they were old enough to be moved into a Feline Foundation foster home. That's where we got them a few weeks later. We couldn't adopt all three--and boy, it felt like Sophie's choice to have to choose--but the little sister we left behind has many other cats to play with, and I'm sure she'll warm somebody's heart very soon in a "forever" home.

Seymour, who's 7 years old, is mostly baffled by them, watching them skitter around and play-fight. But he is certainly treating them better than our late cat Cyprus treated him. (I don't she ever really forgave us for bringing him home.) He lets them bat his tail around, but he won't let them get close enough yet for a group portrait.

My office, where all my beading supplies are, is currently off-limits to the young'uns, although Seymour has a cat bed by the heating vent and is welcome. Thank heavens they are ignoring the Christmas tree--a few years ago we switched from buying a full-size tree from the lot down the street to ordering a live, four-foot, tabletop Fraser fir every year. It's up on a table that's a bit too tall for them to access, but we did keep our most fragile glass ornaments in storage, just in case. (Lori, I know you went through the same thing this year!)

I'm off work between Christmas and New Year's, so I hope to use that time to experiment with some new techniques and to make some pieces for me and not for a craft show for a change.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kumihimo necklace for I Might Make That! Monday

Garnie Bethea's satin and silver
 kumi necklace
Since I do kumihimo as well as beadweaving, I want to give a shout-out to the excellent e-newsletter by Karen Huntoon of What a Knit.

I've learned many great tips from her, such as how to start a kumi necklace from the center. Visit her site to sign up for the e-newsletter--or at least check out the kumihimo tips in the right-hand side of her home page--where you'll learn how to finish ends, calculate the number of beads you'll need to make a necklace--all kinds of useful tidbits.

The December e-newsletter featured a lovely bead and fiber necklace by Garnie Bethea. Go here for the simple instructions and to see Karen's rendition of the necklace. (Although this particular version looks very Christmasy, it would look fantastic in other color combos, too.)

And for design inspiration, please check out Karen's slideshow gallery of the work of the very talented students who take her classes.

What is I Might Make That! Monday, you ask? Read installment #1 here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Now THIS is chain maille

Chain maille chess set by artist David Austin

I've never done chain maille. I love the look, and I might attempt it someday, but I suspect my efforts would be limited to making a few decorative links connecting some interesting beads. (I would also need way better ergonomic pliers than I have now.)

I've seen some wildly elaborate chain maille necklaces, but nothing approaching the decorative sculpture that David Austin does. Check out this ArtFire feature.
Chain maille flower by David Austin

Monday, December 12, 2011

Installment #2 of I Might Make That! Monday

O Christmas Tree earrings
designed by Jennifer Ursillo

I'm devoting my second covetous project to a seasonal tute: O Christmas Tree earrings, a free project at Bead & Button online. (And subscribe posthaste to their free daily e-newsletter, if you're not already getting it. There are tons of free projects online--and you have access to even more if you're a subscriber.)

I like the fact that this project uses magatamas, which you don't see very often. I got some at Fire Mountain Gems a while back that I've been saving. I could see using them for something like this, but I'm thinking beyond Christmas. Look at this pattern--couldn't you imagine losing the cube bead and the star and just having the tapering conical shape? My magatamas are in a shade called rose green, and I think they would evoke baby artichokes.

Or what about flipping them upside down so the drop tapers to a point? Kinda like grape clusters.

If you missed last Monday's debut of I Might Make That Monday, hop here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Everybody's tangoing...

to Pantone's just-announced Color of the Year, Tangerine Tango. (Elisa, if you read this blog, thanks for tipping me off!)

I could never wear this shade of orange--it would turn my skin a ghastly yellow. And as I've blogged about previously, I'm partial these days to Longhorn orange, which is really more of a burnt umber.

Many in the beading world are opining on this color this week, but the best post I've read is by color magician Beverly Ash Gilbert.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lessons from a crafts fair neophyte

On Friday I wound up my last crafts show of the year. Jewelry-making is still very much a hobby for me, but I started committing to crafts shows last spring as a way to force myself to amp up my game. It worked, but I am acutely aware that I am still very much a novice.

So take these lessons from a rookie for what they are:
Gold Cellini spiral necklace and earrings I sold last month--
the buyer put on the choker and wore it out of the show!

1. You need stuff to sell stuff. I had way too little inventory at my first few crafts sales. But let's look on the bright side: Because I didn't do well those first few shows, I wasn't depleting my inventory!

As the months went by and I kept adding stuff, I had more and more to offer. I also was able to offer more items at varying price points. (I am still under-inventoried, but I'm working on it.)

2. Good displays get attention. For my first outdoor crafts fair, I needed to invest in a tent, table, signage and business cards. I didn't have much left over for display stands and had to improvise (put a cake stand into jewelry service, etc.) My table display still needs a lot of work, but I've improved it with every outing. I bought a nice copper earring display stand and some sisal mannequins, and at a yard sale I picked up a cool framed mirror that I use as a tray, some baskets and other pieces for a song. The pieces really made a difference in making my jewelry look nice, not just necklaces laid flat on a tablecloth.

3. Get Square. I used a company called ProPay to take credit cards my first three sales, but switched to Square after my jewelry-making friend Patti turned me on to it. It worked beautifully on my iPhone and the charges were deposited into my checking account very quickly. The swiping gizmo is free, and the charges are very reasonable. And being able to take charges allows for more impulse buying!

4. Choose your markets wisely. I was so anxious to get my feet wet with a crafts show that I signed up for one that was more flea market than a showplace for artisans. Live and learn.

Going forward, I think I will concentrate on shows in which there is no table fee but you pay the organizers a fee based on sales. That was the case at three of the markets I sold at, including my office one, in which a portion of the proceeds went to a designated charity. The other two shows benefited a church and an interfaith religious group. This choice may not be for everyone, but I like the idea of making a contribution to causes I support.

5. Take photos. Subtitle this one: Learn from my mistakes. I was going to illustrate this blogpost with a pic of my booth--except the only pic I ever took of my booth was of that crappy flea market outing. I didn't think to do it at the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church's Holiday Shop, where my display looked the nicest. Then I thought of making a photo mosaic of some of my sold pieces, but I realized I sold several that I never got around to photographing. So I'm just showing the one necklace that I blogged about here and here.

And if you really want to learn more about doing crafts shows, hop through this linky roundup from people who know way more than me: The Ultimate Craft Show Preparation Link List, compiled by the folks at Handmadeology.

I also find inspiration in the Show Me Your Booths Flickr stream.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Introducing I Might Make That! Monday

I subscribe to a boatload of jewelry-making RSS feeds and e-newsletters. (I bet you do, too!) Because I want to start posting at least twice weekly, I've decided to launch a new feature every Monday that will celebrate some discovery I've made of a cool tutorial. (This will also be my lazy way of aggregating this content, because I find myself saving links and sites, but am never able to find them afterward from wherever I've stored them.)

My only criterion for selection is that it must be something that I myself might reasonably be able to make, or seriously aspire to make.

Artemisia Earrings from Maggie Meister’s Classical Elegance
Behold entry #1 in I Might Make That! Monday:

The PDF is here.

Bonus! Have fun with this Random Tutorial Generator, featured recently in the Craft Gossip e-newsletter, filled with all kinds of clever DIY projects.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Color wonderland

A sample of Design Seed's holiday magic
Thank you, TesoriTrovati, for turning me on to the wonderful website devoted to color called Design Seeds, created by an artist and blogger named Jessica. I'm afraid I don't know much more about her and haven't had time to explore her website in much depth, but I love, love, love the holiday-inspired color palettes of her 11-22 post. My favorite is "holiday lit," which I'm sharing above, but I also like "branching hues" and several others.

In my jewelry designs I've generally stuck to monochromatic color schemes or safe combos such as turquoise and black, but I want to start venturing into more varied palettes, like the one above. It's a little unexpected but feels so dramatically ... right.

I blogged a few months back about Beverly Ash Gilbert's Beaded Colorways, and she uses the same technique of pulling a color palette from a striking photo. Can anyone recommend an app that does this? I believe several exist, but would love to hear from folks with firsthand experience.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm alive, really

I know I only have a smattering of readers, but I apologize to you all for going awol these past several weeks. I hope I did not create the impression with my moribund last post about the death of one of our cats that I was too grief-stricken to write.

The truth is that my job for the past several months had been building to a crescendo that climaxed the last weekend in October. Lots and lots of 12-hour workdays in September and October meant little time for beading or blogging. The past few weeks since then I've using my weekends to get my Life Beyond Work back on track, reacquainting myself with cooking and laundry and my husband. (I still haven't caught up with my blog reading.)

Any spare time I've had in November was devoted to preparing for a crafts show at Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria that took place yesterday. All in all, I did pretty well, and it was a very well-run show with lots of gracious volunteers. (Thanks, Patti, for getting me on the list!)

So now I'm in recovery phase #2. There is going to my an informal crafts show on Dec. 2 at my office, but that's not anything I have to knock myself out for.

The pic is of some beaded mouse ornaments I made for the Alexandria crafts show. (I made the snowflake, too, but did not sell them at the crafts fair. ) Lots of people admired my little mice, but I didn't sell a single one. And of course they were the thing I stayed up until 1 in the morning making the previous week, beading those tiny little skirts. (I sure hope the office folk like them; otherwise, my relatives are getting them for Christmas presents!)

P.S. Plans are afoot to bring some new kittens into our lives. The Feline Foundation of Greater Washington, is on the case for us. We adopted our other cats from them, so I can personally vouch that they have the greatest cats in the world.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Goodbye, beloved Cyprus

We had to say goodbye to our cat Cyprus today. She was 12 years old and lived a happy life up until the end. We named her Cyprus because she was from that country. She was flown to Washington along with a dozen other kittens by a State Department worker stationed in Nicosia (the capital) who spent hundreds of dollars to transport these strays to a better life in America. We adopted her from the Feline Foundation when she was about 10 weeks old.

Cyprus was a Christmas present for our daughter when she was in the first grade. Rosalie picked her out from a dozen kittens at a foster home.

She was our first cat, and came to define "cat-ness" for us. Although we still have Seymour, our gray tabby, our empty nest just got a little emptier.

I wish I had better photos of her. In the one above, she looks like she's auditioning for sci-fi film, and in the one below, she's pissed off about something.
 No photo could capture her sweet purr. She could purr so loud you could hear her in the next room. I think I will miss that most of all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Art on the Avenue

I've completed several new necklaces and earrings in the past few weeks, but without a camera, I can't post pics. So I'll plug Alexandria's Art on the Avenue instead--it's the reason behind my (relatively) prodigious (for me, at least) output.

Look for me at booth #150E. I'm sharing space with Patti North of All Fired Up! (And if you can't make it, please at least throw some karma our way to keep rain at bay.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My reveal for the biggest bead soup blog party ever!

Welcome all blog hoppers making their way through cyberspace, attempting to visit all 362 blogs participating in Lori Anderson's 4th Annual Bead Soup Blog Party! Lori, What an amazing output of creativity and good vibes you have nurtured into existence with your ingenious idea.

I was paired with Jane Haag of MJane Designs, who sent me these gorgeous beads last month. Please pause a moment to admire her lovely handmade clasp and silver-wrapped focal:

This is her own photo of the goodies she sent, and she has helpfully labeled the stones. These soft, pale shades of green are one of my favorite color palettes, so I knew I would love whatever I wound up making.

You'll see that she has wrapped a few of the stones into links, and that inspired me to do the whole necklace that way.

I sandwiched the little jade-like cubes between two silver chip spacers before making links out of them.

From my own stash, I used two-hole spacer beads to create the two tiers of links. It's hard to tell from the photo, but they have a shiny olive finish. I also threw some diamond-shaped silver beads with a kind of Celtic engraved pattern into the mix.

I have to once again apologize for the quality of my photos. My sister mailed me my digital camera--which I had stupidly left behind in a Cajun theme park in Louisiana last month while visiting her. It got rained on (it was in a canvas case) and I thought it a miracle that it was still working.

I took several photos of my necklace with it this evening and it seemed fine. But my luck ran out when I tried to download the files to my computer. No go. So once again I have to rely on my cellphone camera for photos.

Here's a view that shows the clasp.

And below is a closeup of the ice quartz focal. It has this mesmerizing depth to it, doesn't it?

I can't wait to see what Jane has done with the mix of stones I sent her.

(Oh, and if you're not part of the blog hop and have no idea what I'm talking about, your first stop should be the Bead Soup Blog Party site. You can read all about it and find the links of all 362 participating blogs.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Live-blogging Hurricane Irene!

OK, that title is a bit of a tease. The full force of the hurricane is supposed to pass through the Washington, D.C., area later tonight and last through tomorrow morning. Right now, as of 4:30 p.m., it's intermittently pouring and the lights are occasionally flickering.

I am way, way overdue for a post about the Bead Soup Blog Party. The beads from my partner, Jane Haag, were waiting for me when I got back from Austin last weekend. She sent me a lovely assortment of aquamarine and amazonite beads, among others, with a focal of green ice quartz and a handmade silver clasp.

I apologize for the quality of this photo, which was taken with my camera phone. It does not do justice to the beads.
Bead soup bounty from Jane Haag

Why am I using a camera phone? Um, funny story. My digital camera apparently decided it needed a longer vacation than I did. So while I was playing tourist at Vermillion Village in the heart of Cajun country (visiting my sister in Lafayette, La.), my camera stayed behind to catch some more zydeco. I didn't realize it had escaped until late in the evening, and we had to leave early the next morning for Austin.

My sister later retrieved it (thank you, kind and honest soul, who turned it into lost and found), but I guess she has yet to coax it into a box, because I haven't received it yet.

I know I will have fun playing with Jane's beads. I love this shade of green, and this combination is very much something I would wear.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It's my party and I can blog if I want to

Woo-hoo, I'm going to be participating in Lori Anderson's Bead Soup Blog Party. I did a bead swap with the affiliated Yahoo group a few months ago, but this is the official big event that's open to all comers (as long as you have a blog and sign up during the three-daywindow). I don't know how many beaders signed on, but my name was in the 200s.

This is the fourth swap event, but it has already spawned several magazine pieces and a book that's coming out in October. And it has won Lori legends of fans. I'll be in Austin by time the beads are due to be mailed out, so I'll have to get mine out before we hit the road this weekend.

My technical accomplishment of the day was to figure out how to successfully paste the html code into a Blogger gadget to get Lori's blog party button to come up over in the right-hand column. (I appear to have been less successful in creating a custom Favicon to get rid of the annoying Blogger logo--I think I downloaded one correctly, but it's not showing up. Maybe it will after I post this. Or maybe it only shows up when I post on other sites.)

I have been working on another kumihimo rope, this one in red, but I don't have any pics to show. So how about I paste in this pretty snapshot from the University of Texas, where I'll be dropping off my daughter in just over a week.

Texas Exes, Your Tuition Dollars at Work

(Not that I went to college anywhere warm, but they didn't have amenities like this on campuses in MY day.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The long-overdue post about the magnificent book Beaded Colorways

Several weeks back I made mention of the book Beaded Colorways and how I intended to blog about it, but was having computer difficulties at the time. Well the keyboard's fixed, the crafts show is long past, so here is my tribute.

I want to declare up front that I don't know the author Beverly Ash Gilbert; I had never even heard of her until I plucked this book off the shelf at my local Borders. (And let's wander off-topic for a sec and all shed a tear for the fact that none of us will be plucking books off Borders shelves anymore.) It's just that I am too novice a beader to be able to offer lots of firsthand advice, so the best way I can make this blog useful is to trumpet a golden resource when I stumble across one.

The cover grabbed me right away--I thought, wow, I want to make THAT. It was exactly what I had been looking for--some way to marry my structural seed bead weaving with the many other types of beads I have--pearls, crystals, random glass beads, stone chips, nuggets.

The necklace on the cover is freeform netting. I have seen lots of freeform beadweaving projects in the beading mags, but frankly, most looked, well, messy to me. Unbalanced. Clashing colors. Perilously constructed. But thanks to Beverly's clear instructions and color guidance, I was able to produce the necklace below as my very first attempt at freeform netting:

Obviously, my piece is monochromatic and does not have the shifting color gradations of hers. But I had confidence in my bead soup mix, thanks to her step-by-step instructions for building complex bead soups with "shadows," "highlights" and "sparkle."

There are tons of books out there on color theory, and some tailored specifically to beads (complementary colors, triads, yada yada), but Beverly gives the clearest explanation I've seen anywhere about the importance of saturation and value. The book also comes with color wheels in the back for you to play with.

Another imaginative feature of the book is to show lovely photographs and then how Beverly builds bead soups from them. The montage below illustrates how she assembled her bead soup from the reds and purples of the grapes and the wine, with sprinkles of green and other hues mixed in for interest.

I have tended to stick with monochromatic color schemes because that's what I feel most comfortable with, but this book is giving me the courage to play with other combinations. I think my first step will be to find some pleasing photographs and build bead soups around them. (I know there are lots of color palette generators out there--anyone have a favorite?)

OK, end of the commercial. I also have to confess I am using this book as a rationale for building up my seed bead stash (Oh, this bead soup would be much more complex if I had THREE shades of rose to add, instead of just one...) And the one bit of personal advice I can throw in, based on my sole freeform beadweaving experience, is to make WAY more bead soup than you think you'll need. For my sea monster above, I kept adding to the soup and ran out of beads in several colors before I was finished.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Some new-ish work

Black Beauty
Somebody remind me again why I decided six months ago that it would be a good idea to (a) launch an online store, (b) start a blog, (c) continue going to graduate school and (d) keep my full-time day job.

I finished several pieces in time for the crafts show last month, but haven't had time to take photos until today.

Above is the first beaded rope that I have made entirely on a marudai, not a handheld foam disk thingy. It was inspired by this necklace, which was made on a foam disk thingy. That piece had so many admirers that I knew I wanted to made more versions of it.

The previous necklace, as explained in the April post, was made in two parts. My original plan was to make this new necklace long enough that I could simply tie it into a square knot, lariat-style.

It's plenty long, but the knot proved clunky. So I decided to simply join the necklace by adding a slider made with Czech fire polish in a simple right-angle weave band.

Here are some closeups, but I must say the silver-lined beads are so glittery that they make this piece hard to photograph well:

One of the reasons I wanted to learn to use the marudai is because everyone said braiding went so much faster on the stand than on a foam disk, because you move both hands at once. That's true for textile braids, as I learned in the kumi workshop I took, but when you're making an eight-strand braid and dropping a bead at every turn, it's less so. You can try to move two strands at once, but you have to make sure the beads "catch"--i.e., that they're in the proper position at the point of braiding so that subsequent strands lock them into place. For me, that translated into dropping one of the tama (bobbins) at almost every turn to poke the bead into place with my finger. 

I'm sure I'll get faster with practice. Eventually, I'd love to take a kumi workshop that focuses specifically on beaded braids so that I can make jewelry like the amazing Adrienne Gaskell (which probably means, duh, taking a class from her. I've been eying her touring schedule for months to see if she's coming anywhere near me.)

And here's a non-kumihimo project--a Cellini spiral necklace that I blogged about back in April. It was going to be my donation to a silent auction at my daughter's high school, but it was taking so damn long I was afraid I wouldn't finish in time. 

Golden Glow

At the crafts fair last month, this was the bling on my table that stopped people in their tracks and made them come over to stroke it, squeeze it, study it to see how it was made. (But no one bought it.) 

I made matching earrings using some clever findings from Fire Mountain Gems-- tiny perforated beading disks that fit into post earring findings. They, too, had admirers (including my daughter), but no takers. 

They remind me of fireworks--so much so that I had planned to post a pic of them on the 4th of July. But Hell already has enough roads leading to it that are paved with good intentions, so I'll take a detour.

I've completed some other pieces as well, but these were all I had time to photograph and list in my Artfire shop. (And the next task on my to-do list is to to figure out why my pics look so dark and crappy on ArtFire. They look better on my blog. Are there otherArtFire artists out there who can solve this riddle for me?)

I know that learning to take great photos of jewelry is an art in itself. This blog has already made me a better photographer. (Lesson 1: Turn off the flash. Lesson 2: Find the macro setting on your camera. Lesson 3: Clear your local Target's shelves of daylight-spectrum lightbulbs and commandeer every small lamp in your house when attempting to take photos with no natural light available.) See?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How do you know your obsession with Swarovski crystals has gone too far?

When you think this is a good idea:

I wish I could tell you that this image has been Photoshopped, but jewel-encrusted contact lenses are a real product--and not even new. I learned about this from a September 2008 Beading Gem blog post . (OK, I'll admit--they are probably are easier to find if you lose one.)

I suppose you could also title this blog entry "how do you know when you have too much money?" 

Can you come up with others?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The kindness of bloggers

Titiana's Folly by Lisa Sittniewski

The end of June marked six months since I launched this blog. I remember my trepidation setting up the Blogger account and the first few posts--should I use my real name in the bio? How personal should I allow my posts to be? Will creepy people start spamming me? My worries seem so silly now.

Because what I've discovered in my six months as a blogger--and oh, maybe 18 months as a bead blog reader--is what a special community you are.

At left is the bracelet that inspired this post. It may look familiar to readers who blog-hopped their way through the Fairy Tale bead swap organized by Lori Anderson of Pretty Things. Lisa Sittniewski of Alterity made it from the beads I sent her--then mailed it to me as a surprise gift because she knew the button I had included in the bead mix was special to me. I was so touched by the kindness of an artist who didn't even know me a few weeks before.

And that got me to thinking about all the other bloggers who have touched me with their generous spirit and wisdom and guidance. First there is Lori, whose Pretty Things was one of the first bead blogs I stumbled upon well over a year ago. I so felt that I knew her that I sought her out to introduce myself when she participated in a local crafts show. She was as charming and encouraging in person as she was online and invited me to join the bead swap group. That fairy tale challenge was one of the funnest things I've done and exposed me to a whole new community.

Then there is Mortira of Inspirational Beading. I hardly ever comment on her blog (my bad--I'm still trying to move from lurker to participant on the many bead blogs I read and love), so she probably has no idea what a huge influence her blog has been on me. Like Pretty Things, Inspirational Beading was one of the earliest blogs I discovered, and Mortira's beadweaving tutorials are a model of clarity. I love her curated collections as well, not to mention following her bead self-challenges, like the bracelet-a-week one she's on now.

Then there's Mandy of Bead for Brains. I started reading her blog a couple of months ago when the Beading Gem's Journal blogged about her quest to tackle a new bead project every day for a year. At the time--it was probably around day 60 or 80 of her journey--I thought that she and I were on about the same skill level of beading. But she has since lapped me many times over in her fearless pursuit of knowledge. She has generously shared her discoveries--great bead books, online tutorials, marvelous blogs--as well as documenting both her foibles and feats of wonder. Her latest adventures have taken her to Russian and Hungarian sites, where she has conquered beading patterns thanks to her uncanny ability to decipher photos and the often whimsical translations provided by Google Chrome. Thanks to Mandy, I know not to "sweat under the buru"!

There are so many more bloggers and I can't name them all, but I want to give a shout-out to all the wonderful participants in the Kumi2 Yahoo Group for their wonderful guidance as well--Janis and Wheat and Carol and Adrienne are just some of the many kumihimo experts who have shared their knowledge and passion with me and so many others.

So thank you all, you passionate and generous artists who take the time and effort to share with others in the beading blogosphere,

Friday, June 17, 2011

Show time!

Q: Geneva, why haven't you been posting lately?
A: Because I've busy cranking out jewelry for the...

Thanks, Patti, for the customization of the sign!

Come on down to downtown Silver Spring this Saturday to sample not only the Fenton Street Market's wares but the Silver Spring Blues Festival, which has expanded to two stages this year. Part of the vendors' proceeds go to support the festival. The market will go until 5 p.m., to overlap with the blues festival.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fairy Tale Bead Swap Blog Hop--the Reveal!

Catch of a Lifetime

My computer and/or mouse have been very temperamental this week, so I haven't been able to post the buildup to the reveal that I planned, and I will have to keep this entry short--but I couldn't miss the June 4 deadline for posting what I had done with the beads I had gotten from the lovely Lisa of alterityart .

This was my first time participating in the Bead Soup Party bead swap that is run by Lori of Pretty Things. She pairs up beader-bloggers, who swap beads with each other and then make a piece of jewelry on a designated theme and blog about it. This swap's theme was fairy tales, and Lisa sent me a haunting fable by the Brothers Grimm of a fisherman and his ambitious and greedy wife (who seems to have torn a page from the playbook of Lady Macbeth).

Here are the beads Lisa sent me, an assortment of mostly vintage beads in blues and greens with a few grays thrown in to represent the tempestuous sea, craggy rocks and roiling skies. There were some nubbly textured gold beads and two patina'd beads that suggested sunken treasure and diving bells to me. All of them with lots of character and history. She also included this amazing Vintaj brass fish focal.

This necklace was so much fun to make. It was my first attempt at freeform beadweaving, and I was inspired by Beverly Ash Gilbert's marvelous book Beaded Colorways. In fact, I had planned to write a whole blog entry just raving about this book, which I picked up by chance in my local Borders a couple of weeks ago. That will have to wait until I can get my keyboard working again--I simply can't type on the laptop keyboard and need my ergonomic one, which is flaking out on me.

Anyway, I have Lisa's aquaeous beads swimming around in a sea of seed beads in freeform netting that is meant to suggest waves and seaweed and perhaps a net ensnaring the magic talking fish.

If you'd like to see what Lisa did with the beads I sent her, hop on over to her blog--I'm dying to see myself! [8:30 a.m. update: I wrote the above on Friday and scheduled it to post on Saturday. But it's Saturday morning and I've peeked at Lisa's Titiana's Folly --the gorgeous charm bracelet she made with my "moon pearls," "magic seedpods" and spectra glass.]

And please check out the explosion of creativity from all the talented beaders who participated in the swap. The links are below--start hopping!

Fairy Tale/Spring Bead Swap Blog Hop

Lori Anderson, Pretty Things
Rebecca Anderson, Song Beads
Courtney Breul, Beads By Breul 
Loretta Carstensen, Designs by Loretta
Evelyn Hall, Dragon Lady Evelyn
Sandy Richardson, Sandy's Coloring Box
Tara Plote, Newbie Beader
Christine Brandel, A Hot Piece of Glass
Lisa Sittniewski, Alterity Art
Joanna Matuszczyk, Filcowe
Jenni Connolly, Jenni Bead
Geneva Collins, Torque Story
Elisabeth Auld, Beads For Busy Gals
Sally Russick, Wireworked
Mary McGraw, MK's Creative Musings
Norma Turvey, Moonlit Fantaseas
Erin Prais-Hintz, Treasures Found 
Stephanie Haussler, Pixybug Designs
Shai Williams, Shaia's Ramblings
Johanna Rhodes, Fire Phoenix Creations
Sandi Lee James, Do Be Do Bead Do
Valerie Norton, Hot Fused Glass

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Next stop, Fenton Street

I learned recently that I've been accepted as a vendor at the Fenton Street Market in downtown Silver Spring. (The market is not, um, located at Fenton Street. Long story there. Check out the site for the explanation.) I'll be selling my jewelry (and, hopefully, demonstrating kumihimo) at the special June 18 market that's being held in conjunction with the Silver Spring Blues Festival.

I'm very excited--this is my first "real" crafts fair. The two others I've done were closed events with people who knew me. But never fear, my awesome friend Patti is going to be selling her gorgeous fused glass jewelry next to me (if our request to be placed together can be honored), and she's a pro!

(Pssst, Patti, get that online storefront up so I can hyperlink your name!)

Time to start cranking out the merch! Oh, and I need to get a tent. And a banner. And real business cards. Oh, and class starts next week. Yikes.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The REAL Kumihimo 101

I am embarrassed that I titled a blogpost a few weeks ago "Kumihimo 101." In it I described a few basics about kumihimo and showed a beaded necklace I was making on a handheld foam disk. This post is the real kumihimo 101, because I just spent the weekend taking a two-day workshop on using a marudai with the fabulous ladies of the Blue Ridge Weavers Guild under the guidance of Rodrick Owen and Terry Flynn.

Rodrick is one of the world's leading authorities on kumihimo. He lives in Britain, so I was lucky that he was teaching a workshop less than an hour and a half away.

I can't remember if I mentioned it in my last post, but I have had a marudai since Christmas. After a year or so of using the disk, I felt ready to graduate to the "real" thing. I tried to teach myself how to use it using a book by Jacqui Carey, but just couldn't get the hang of it. I signed up for a workshop taught by Carol Franklin at the end of January, but it was canceled for lack of enrollment. This April one was the only other one I could find anywhere near me.

I had to get up way early on Saturday to get to Purcellville, Va., by 8:45 a.m. I was very warmly welcomed by workshop organizer Beth and all the other talented women who belong to the guild.

I have to confess I was a real klutz and much slower than the others to grasp how to wind the threads on the warping pegs, how to secure the warp threads to the leader threads on the tama (bobbins), and how to flip and twist the bobbins so that they would spool the thread naturally when set up on the marudai. Terry had the patience of a saint working with me, the non-weaver in the group.

Saturday was devoted to eight-strand braids, with the day broken up with an amazing potluck lunch. On Sunday, we ventured onto 16-strand braids (and another amazing potluck lunch). It was midway through tying on the 16 bobbins that I finally got the hang of it.

Once the setup was out of the way, I think I did all right with the actual braiding. I could follow most of the diagrams that I attempted from the handouts, anyway.

I don't have the greatest pics, but here are a few snapshots of the weekend:

Here's the group as a whole late Saturday, as we were winding down. (No pun intended. Really.)

The other pictures are from Sunday.
In the photo at left, Rodrick is demonstrating something important. (I don't remember what.) Laritza is clearly paying more attention that I am.

Karen, right, is demonstrating that twisty-hand thing you have to do sometimes. It's awkward to start the bobbin transfer, but your hands land right when you're done, which I suppose is better than starting untwisted and finishing twisted. That's Beth next to her, poring over the textbook (Rodrick's Braids book).

When you know what you're doing, kumi is a very serene, Zenlike, rhythmic art. The wooden tama make a gentle clacking sound as you braid, which is soothing in a wind chime-y kind of way. I know I'm going to like doing this.

I think the Blue Ridge guild will post a photo album on the workshop soon--Beth was snapping away both days--on its site soon, so be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rhapsody in Teal

Here is the finished necklace that I showed in progress on the kumihimo disk two posts ago. I am absolutely ecstatic over how it turned at, as immodest as that sounds. (You like it? If you live in the D.C. area, you can bid on it at the Blair High School silent auction Friday evening.)

It is actually a necklace in two parts. The first part is a spiral rope necklace about 22 inches long. It was woven on the disk using matte-finish size 8 teal beads on six of the threads (C-Lon Bead Cord) and two threads loaded with super-sparkly silver-lined teal beads.

When I started the necklace, I knew I would have to do something to jazz up the simple rope, but I wasn't sure what. I had some freshwater pearls died peacock blue that coordinated with the teal beads beautifully. At first I tried to make a beaded bead using the pearls, but that didn't come out well. I was flipping through my beading books for inspiration and came upon a crocheted rope by Rona Loomis in Creative Beading vol. 3. She had accented her necklace with 7-inch beaded ropes that had various fringe and dangle treatments on the end, and tied the way you see illustrated on my piece. I knew immediately that I wanted to borrow the technique.

Problem No. 1: I wasn't sure if I had enough beads left for another 7 inches of cord. I had plenty of the shiny beads, since the main rope was made up of mostly matte ones. I thought an all-shiny-bead rope would look garish, so I came upon this grandiose idea to change the proportions as I wove the braid. It required a great deal of math and counting, winding and unwinding the bobbins to switch the proportions of beads, measuring every inch, and more than a little angst as to whether I would have enough matte beads, but I wove it so that the first inch on both ends was all shiny beads, followed by another inch of half shiny, half matte, then the middle three inches was the same ratio as the main necklace--three parts matte and one part shiny.

It was a cool hombre effect, but frankly, I don't know that you'd ever notice it unless you stuck your nose right up to it. (Here, go ahead. Stick your nose right up to it:

Problem No. 2: how to embellish the ends? I envisioned using those peacock beads that didn't get turned into a beaded bead. I knew that pearls have tiny holes, so before I began weaving, I made sure that the C-Lon cord would fit through the bead holes. Hah! This is where I outsmarted myself. When I finished the seed bead part and tried to string on the pearls, they wouldn't fit. I had stiffened the cord ends with Fray-chek to string on the seed beads, but the pearls just wouldn't go. I struggled for more than an hour and managed to get only about three pearls on. Forcing the cord through the holes caused it to lose all its stiffness, so I would have had to re-dip every cord in Fray-Chek and let it dry after every bead.

Time for a plan B. I rummaged through my supplies. Luckily, teal and aqua are among my favorite colors, so I had options. I found these glass chips that coordinated nicely. I was a little afraid that they might make the fringe too heavy, but they don't at all. Success!

I also used glass chips to make coordinating post earrings: I like their simplicity.

(Ironically, I wound up having matte beads left over. I had been reluctant to use them all up in the braid because I figured I'd need some to stitch up into tubes for earrings.)

So yes, it was hours and hours of work for a necklace I'm giving away, but I hope its eventual owner will feel the good karma it's imbued with--it was a happy process to make it, and I'm happy to show it off as an example of my best work.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My new favorite color ...

... is Longhorn orange. Time to go shopping for a mug that says, "my daughter and my dollars go to Texas."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kumihimo 101

My last post showed off the beginnings of a tubular peyote-stitched gold beaded necklace that I said would be for my daughter's high school's silent auction. After stitching a few more inches on it, I realized it would take forever to make the long rope I had imagined, so I set it aside for something that would materialize a bit faster. Behold my kumihimo-beaded rope.

For those not familiar with kumihimo (which is just about everybody, duh), it is an ancient Japanese braiding technique traditionally done on a wooden stand called a marudai. However, several years back, an ingenious Japanese artist (I can't recall her name, and I'm too tired to Google it), invented a handheld loom made of foam. That is what I'm holding in the photo. Kumihimo is normally used to make textile braids, but when you add beads to the thread or cord and drop a bead at every pass, it creates a beautifully textured beaded rope that looks a lot like beaded crochet.

Although it takes forever to load the beads onto the eight strands (I'm using size 8 beads in two finishes of teal; the stringing medium is C-lon cord), the braiding goes relatively fast--a lot faster than the peyote stitching, anyway. (Thanks to Adrienne Gaskell for giving me the tip to stiffen the beading cord using Fray-check. This allows you to thread beads onto thick cord without a needle. If you use a needle, you have to use much thinner cord in order for it to fit through the beads doubled up).

If you want to learn more, check out the works of Jacqui Carey and Rodrick Owen, whom I believe are considered the foremost authorities writing in English on the subject. However, I want to give a shout-out to a series of posts on the Stone Heart Beads blog I discovered that led me to want to learn more about this fascinating but obscure art. The four-part series led me to the book Braiding for Beaders by Anne Dilker of Moss Hollow Pottery. There is also a Yahoo group devoted to kumi.