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.