Friday, December 28, 2007

Aces High

I said yesterday that I wouldn't have any new work to show for a few days, but I dug this out of one of my WIP bags - it's part of a project that has been on the back burner for a while. When I made this, I was a little worried that the hand-cut image would look a little crude, but I think it turned out all right. I'll be doing more in the near future, I think, including a couple holiday-themed ones. In the meantime, this one is going back into its project bag (muttering, no doubt, about my lack of progress).

Athough our company is no longer here, and we don't have any special plans for the New Year (apart from maybe taking the Short One to our local Children's Museum), it's seemed incredibly busy here this week. I don't really go in for resolutions, but I wanted to usher in the New Year with a clear mind and a fresh perspective. Instead, everything is in even more disarray than usual here. You think I would have gotten used to this as the status quo, but it still surprises me.

At any rate, in an effort to maintain sanity, I've decided to take a blogging break until after the holiday. I'll be back on Wednesday. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dragon Heart

Well, in a spurt of unexpected productivity, I fired another kiln-load of silver tonight. Here's the second Valentine-themed pendant. I'm still on a dragon kick (at least in theory - I haven't made any more headway on the "Here Be Dragons" necklace), so I thought a little dragon's heart pendant would be appropriate. Once again, I hand-carved a stamp block for the rough cut dragon scale design. I made the heart design by filling a heart-shaped depression with opaque red resin. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not generally a big fan of heart jewelry - I often find it to be a little insipid - so I wanted to create a strong, almost masculine-looking pendant.

In Norse legend, Sigurd the Dragon Slayer ate the heart of a dragon and gained wisdom and the gift of prophecy. I understand that in other folklore, a dragon's heart bestows strength. For my own part, I simply wanted a heart image that was unusual but still conveyed a sense of romance and the fantastic. I might make the heart a little larger the next time, but overall, I think it turned out pretty well.

This is probably the last new work I'll have to show for a few days. Although I did fired a kiln-load, all of the other pieces are for a contest entry. With the new year upon us, several annual contests will be open for submissions soon. Although I know that my chance of actually making the final cut in any of these is diminishingly small, I also feel that at least entering this year is necessary for moving forward with my work. Once again, I'm astonished by how time consuming all of this is.

On other fronts, the Short One and I practiced our Greco-Roman wrestling holds at great length today over a variety of issues, such as putting on the winter coat and boots. Ever since the SO arrived, I've felt that there should be an official Baby Olympics with various categories like swaddling, bathing (with the 50 meter dash that often accompanies being lifted out of the tub), the diaper change (while we would never win any time trials in this category, I've always felt that the SO and I would have been a shoo-in for the freestyle event), etc., etc. I don't know about you, but my day just seems filled with small athletic events.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Happy Boxing Day! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (for those who celebrate Christmas, of course). The Short One made out like a bandit. In fact, he had so many gifts that he lost steam halfway through and completely lost interest in the remaining gifts (I'm assuming that age will take care of this little issue, if you can even call it that). He didn't manage to open the last gift until right before bedtime. In addition to the fancier gifts (toy bus, huge toy train, etc., etc., etc.), being a cheapskate, I cleverly purchased one of the big box of 96 crayons that had been on sale at the local grocery store, wrapped it (having taken out the crayon sharpener - he's still a little young to cope with that) and stuck it in his stocking. It's turned out to be one of his absolute favorites.

As for me, in addition to the really beautiful digital camera that was an early gift in November, I received a Lortone 3lb rock tumbler, which I have been wanting for some time - not for polishing rocks (although I intend to use it for that purpose, too), but for polishing silver. I still need to buy the mixed stainless steel shot for the drum, but I'm really eager to try it out. And the Husband (who is an engineer), having noticed my steely eyed squint most nights when I work on jewelry, bought me a Bausch & Lomb magnavisor - a sort of magnifying helmet-thingy that's commonly used by toolmakers. Yep, come to think of it, I made out like a bandit, myself. One thing I find funny on the blogs I read (much of which is jewelry-related) is how much the authors get excited by gifts of tools and machinery. I'm sure it must seem unfathomable to most women. Of course, if you were "most women", you probably wouldn't be reading this blog, right?

Moving right along, you may have noticed from the photo above that I've zipped right past Christmas and New Years onto Valentine themed jewelry. I'm pretty happy with the way this sweetheart pendant turned out, although, of course, the carved coral rose does most of the work, here. I must confess that I'm not much of a Valentine's Day person, and I don't tend to like conventional heart jewelry all that much. Coming up with holiday themed pieces (I have two or three in mind) has not been easy. The next one that's in the planning stage is pretty unconventional. I hope to have it ready to show you within the week.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying the remainder of the year. I'll see you tomorrow.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I'm totally punting today, because I've run out of time and am doing the classic night before Christmas wrapping-up-of-presents-at-the-last-
-wrapped-that-I-cleverly-didn't-label. Sigh.

[Okay, this post has been edited. My husband wasn't too pleased to discover I'd put a photo of the Short One, however old, on the blog, so I enlisted the aid of a Stunt Monkee to double in for the SO. For the ten or so people who were kind enough to visit last night and saw the original photo of the SO - this looks just like him, don't you think? For everyone else, please just disregard this paragraph. For anyone experiencing monkee lust, please visit the Monkee Maker for more details on how to obtain one of your own.]

[Edit number II: Apparently I can't win with this post. After changing the photo to accomodate my husband's objections, I then received a complaint from the knitwear designer who designed the cute hat I knit for the Short One. As she did not like the fact that I put up a link to a website where you could purchase her book quite inexpensively, I took down the link, put up a link to her website instead and sent her an email. I never received any acknowledgment from her about this. In the interest of not driving myself crazy over the issue, I have decided to take down the photo of, and all reference to, the hat and replaced it with a completely uncontroversial image of some of the ornaments my mother made for the Short One this year. I presume this resolves any remaining issues for all parties. And thanks, Mom. The SO loves his new ornaments.]

Merry Christmas to all. Now where did I put that roll of tape??

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy (Belated) Birthday!

I think I called this a Christmas present earlier this week, but it was actually a birthday present for a friend who has a holiday birthday. Her birthday was yesterday - and she did receive it - so I can show it to you now.

My friend has a necklace that she always wears, so I knew I couldn't make a necklace for her. The problem was that the koi pendants I've been making are really a little bulky to wear on the wrist and a little too heavy to wear as earrings. (I would have made a brooch, but I didn't have the fine silver pin back at the time to make it.) So I fiddled around and tried to reduce the overall size of the pendant enough to use it in a bracelet. This is the smallest koi I've tried to make to date - it measures an inch in diameter and is shallower than the larger versions. I was worried it wouldn't look like much or would still be too wide to wear on the wrist, but it ended up fitting pretty comfortably, even for someone like me who has a skinny wrist.

Happy Birthday, IHT! I hope it was wonderful.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Final Ornament Thursday

Well, okay, I am posting this on Wednesday and not Thursday today. I have family arriving tomorrow, and I'm afraid I won't have time to post, so I'm doing it today. I can't believe it's the final Thursday before Christmas. I haven't managed to mail a single holiday card yet! Shameful, isn't it? I did, however, manage to make two quick ornaments. The first one, which I planned - is this snowflake ornament. I bought a sheet of small molds from Sherri Haab over the summer, and I never used it! I looked it over and the largest mold on the sheet looked about the right size for a small ornament, so I decided to try it. I think the directions are pretty self-explanatory on this one. Briefly, I made a snowflake out of extruded polymer clay and baked it per the manufacturer's instructions. I then coated the bottom of the mold (and this particular mold does not require a release agent, which is nice) with a thin layer of resin. Once again, I used UV resin, so I cured it under a UV light for a few minutes. I added another layer of resin, then dropped the snowflake and cured the resin again. I added a final thin layer of resin to finish. I drilled the hole in the top with a 3/32" bit in a drill vise and put a heavy jump ring through the hole. I finished with a scrap of blue ribbon. After finishing this, I had a little resin left over, so I decided to make a second one:

This one was even easier, as I followed the same steps as above but filled it with crayon shavings from a few broken crayons that the Short One had in this art table drawer. (I had in mind those art projects we all did as kids where you put crayon shavings between pieces of waxed paper and then had an adult iron it. Remember those? Do kids still do this in school? I guess I'll find out pretty soon..)

If you wanted to embellish these further, you could drill a quarter inch deep hole through the bottom of the ornament and epoxy in a piece of wire to add wire-wrapped elements. Oh, and you could sand the edges of each ornament with fine grit sandpaper underwater. I didn't do either, as I ended up being a little short on time (sorry!), but, yes, they would look more finished if I had done this.

But wait, there's more! Please visit the fab blogs of the other participants of Ornament Thursday for more holiday goodness:

Christmas cookie - Jennifer Heynen
Christmas tree finger labyrinth - Hali Chambers
Ring in the New Year - Kriss Cramer
Quilty pieced snowman - Linda Augsburg
Simply striking sparkling spheres - Margot Potter
Beaded memory wire - Elaine Luther
Wire & beaded tree - Lynn Kvigne
Beaded sun catcher - Debba Haupert
Jolly and yummy ceramic candy - Melanie Brooks Lukacs
Beaded candy canes - Candie Cooper
Polymer clay gift tag/ornament - Heather Powers
Twisted blues - Lampwork Diva aka Cindy Gimbrone
Holiday spiral tree & party pixie - Art Bead Scene
Wire bird's nest - Rebecca Peck
Plush gingerbread doggie - Jenny Harada
Swell ornament - Alexa Westerfield
Holiday paper crafting - Brandy Lung Gill
Shaving cream & chipboard ornament - Michelle McGee
Easy needle-felted orb - Katie Hacker
Lisa Liddy's Lovely Ornament Lisa Liddy
Girlfriendology Ornament Girlfriendology Too

Well, that's it for Ornament Thursday this year! Once again, thanks to Katie and Candie for coming up with such a great idea. I've had a lot of fun participating and getting the opportunity to interact with such wonderful artists.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How many days left?!?

Well, my complacency about being ready for Christmas was extremely short-lived. I spent last night making a Christmas gift for a friend. I thought it would take an hour max. When I looked up at the clock when I finished, it was 1am! Ack. Well, that was the last gift to be mailed out, thank goodness, so I do feel as if I accomplished something. The gift turned out well enough that, when I wore it to "test drive", I had a two second impulse to keep it (it's terrible, but I'm that kind of person, I admit it). Bad Melissa. I smacked myself on the wrist and packed it up straightaway. I did take photos of the gift, but of course, I can't show it to you until the recipient receives and opens it.

The way things are shaping up this week, I probably won't have any new work at all, except the ornament for the last Ornament Thursday, which I'm hoping to make tonight. Family will start arriving shortly thereafter, and craft time will go out the window through the holiday. I imagine it's much the same for everyone else, though?

Anyway, regarding this pendant, when I did the preliminary sketches for the koi pendant way back in June, I intended to include lotus blooms and lily pads. I finally took a shot at adding these elements a couple weeks ago. I'd like to fiddle around with the colors a little more, but I do like the effect overall. We live near a large botanic garden and the lotus in the water garden, when they are in bloom, are just fantastic. I think I have a photo somewhere that my mother-in-law took. I'll try to dig it up and post it. (No koi there, though.)

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Heavenly Understanding

Well, I actually managed to get all of my holiday packages save one shipped out over the weekend. I bought the last Christmas gift on Saturday. I also created our cards (we finally managed to get a cute shot of the SO), although I have yet to print them out. The tree is now up, with all of our unbreakable ornaments (thanks, Mom!), and the SO, while intrigued, has been treating them reasonably gently. (He has re-decorated the lower branches several times already. He reminds me of that old Boynton cartoon of a bunch of satisfied rabbits regarding their newly-decorated Christmas tree. They are all so short that the tree only has ornaments on the lowest branches.) It's finally beginning to look a little like Christmas around here. Just in the nick of time, too, as my in-laws arrive on Thursday.

Here's a new pendant. I attended a show last week and, in addition to the usual bead vendors, I found a rock store selling lots of lovely stuff, including slices of amethyst crystal. I'd been wanting to set a stone cabochon in fine silver with resin for some time but I hadn't had any luck finding a cabochon I liked. I thought the amethyst crystals would make a nice, unusual pendant. The photo does not do justice to how sparkly the crystal slice really is.

I've been reading up on amethyst tonight. One source indicated that the stone symbolizes "heavenly understanding". Another gave the Greek meaning of the stone as "without drunkenness" - apparently, the Greeks thought the stone would ward off intoxication and often carved wine cups from the stone. In mythology, Amethystos was a maiden pursued by Dionysus, the god of wine. She prayed to the goddess Artemis to save her, and Artemis turned her into a white stone (I'm not sure this would constitute "saving" in my books, but...). In remorse, Dionysus poured wine over the stone, which turned it purple.

I hope everyone has a great Monday. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ho Ho Ho

Just a quick note from me regarding the Showcase sale. Ironically, the Short One picked 25%, the same discount as the first time I tried this (honestly, that was the number he picked). In light of this, I have gone in and reduced a few select items, including this koi pendant, by 40%. This is a 24 hour sale - prices are valid through 11:59pm EST Friday. (By the way, if anyone is interested, items will ship by Priority Mail no later than Monday, December 17th.)

Thanks so much for all of the nice comments regarding the ornament. Ornament Thursday is a brilliant idea and I'd like to thank Katie and Candie and everyone else who set it up for all of us to enjoy.

Have a great night.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ornament Thursday II

Another Ornament Thursday (once again, it is Thursday Chez Short One, if not Chez Blogger), another week closer to Christmas. Everyone have their Christmas shopping done? No? Are we panicking yet? (Don't answer that.) Well, you'll note that I've violated the four criteria I laid down last week. However, several people pointed out that the non-safe-for-Short-One ornaments could simply be put higher up on the tree (although I still have disaster scenarios where he pulls the whole tree down running in my head). Plus, I found it too hard to resist the call of metal clay and beads this week.

This piece is a collaborative effort between myself and the SO. As you may have noted from older photos featuring his artwork, the SO has an art table with a roll of craft paper attached. We have quite a bit of his original work stored up already, and I'm always on the lookout for different ways to display/use it, other than "refrigerator" art. For one thing, a number of privileged relatives will receive packages wrapped in unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade wrapping paper this year. (Hopefully the crayon won't come off on their hands.) So, I decided that an ornament with a small piece of artwork in it would be perfect for this year and following years. This is simply a ring made with PMC. I cut the artwork to fit inside and then filled the area with resin to fix it in place. Also, since it is a ring, it is double-sided. I have a cute photo of the artist as a young man on the flip side of this one. Oh, and the little Christmas-y dangle is made from faceted red jasper and a faceted rondelle of peridot.

Instructions to make this ornament follow.

Photo Ornament

©2007 Melissa J. Lee


PMC3 packet (10g is more than enough)
texture tiles
pin tool (or toothpick)
playing cards
work surface
olive oil
liver of sulphur
Wenol silver polish

2 photos or artwork etc.
Mod Podge (or other sealer)
resin (I use UV resin from Art Clay World)
resin cleaner (for UV resin)
UV light (for UV resin)
clear packing tape
nitrile gloves
empty syringe

2 jump rings
1 2" head pin
1 faceted red jasper bead
1 faceted peridot rondelle
scrap of red ribbon

Apply olive oil to work surface, roller and hands to prevent sticking. Roll out PMC3 5 cards thick. (I should add at this juncture that, if you don't own a kiln, you could easily substitute polymer clay and coat the piece with Pearl-Ex powder to give it a metallic look.) Texture on both sides with texture tile of your choice. Using two sizes of biscuit cutters (or a circle template, whichever), cut a ring to whatever size you desire (mine has an outside diameter of 2" before firing). Designate a top and bottom and poke holes in both sides. Either finish the piece while leather hard with a little water and a brush or sand piece once bone dry to finish (if the latter, I highly recommend wearing a mask rated for metal work). Fire in kiln at 1290F for 10 minutes. Remove oxidation with brush. Prepare liver of sulphur solution (I used hot water, since I wanted a dark patina here, but cold is easier to control) and dip brushed piece in the solution. Rinse in water once you attain the patina you desire. Polish with Wenol silver polish to bring out pattern.

Select and print images you would like to place in the pendant. Put PMC ring on top of image and, with pen, trace the inside circle. Do this for both images. Cut images out carefully. Using glue, paste images back-to-back. Finally, images must be sealed before sinking in resin. I apply 2 coats of Mod Podge to each side and dry thoroughly. Don't worry if the Mod Podge leaves a little streakiness - this will not be visible, once the image is coated in resin.

Clean PMC ring thoroughly with alcohol pad and refrain from touching the piece with your bare hands after that (wear your nitrile gloves). Dry thoroughly. Cut length of clear packing tape and place the PMC ring firmly on the packing tape. You must ensure that there are no bubbles or gaps between the ring and the tape - otherwise, the resin will dribble out and you'll end up with a sticky mess. Also, I like to fold down the ends of the tape, so I have non-sticky "handles", if I need to manipulate the piece at all (which I usually do). Prepare resin (whichever type you choose). Apply a thin layer of resin within the ring, enough to barely coat the tape inside the ring. I find that I have more control over resin application if I use a syringe, so I've put that on the list. You don't technically need it, of course. For UV resin, cure this layer by placing under UV light for 3 minutes before proceeding to the next step. Place your double-sided image in the ring. Apply a second layer of resin to cover the image facing upwards. Allow the resin to cure (or cure UV resin by placing under UV light). Once resin is fully cured, you may remove the tape. For UV resin, apply resin cleaner to both sides to finish.

To finish, wire wrap red jasper and peridot beads and attach to pendant with jump ring. Attach second jump ring at the top and thread ribbon through to hang pendant.

If anyone has any questions regarding these instructions, please feel free to leave me a comment. Oh, and one thing I forgot to do was stamp the date on the PMC before firing. I would hope to make one of these each year, so next year I'll definitely add the date.

Thanks for stopping by to look at my ornament this week! But wait, there's more! Please visit these lovely blogs for more ornament goodness:

Sara Naumann
Lynn Kvigne
Candie Cooper
Katie Hacker
Margot Potter
Linda Augsburg
Melanie Brooks Lukacs
Art Bead Scene
Cindy Gimbrone
Polymer Clay Craft Gossip
Debba Haupert
Elaine Luther
Rebecca Peck
Jean Yates
Michelle McGee
Jenny Harada

Jennifer Heynen

Hali Chambers
Kriss Kramer
Brandy Lung Gill

Lisa Liddy


ps. Just to clarify from yesterday - the one day holiday sale in my Etsy store will start at midnight Eastern Standard Time on Friday. I'll have the SO pick the discount rate out of a hat before he goes to bed, but there won't be any special announcement about that on the blog before midnight. I'm going to manually change the prices, so if there's something you like, please wait until the item is marked "Sale" before purchasing. Thanks!

Final Holiday Sale this Friday!

I have one last Showcase spot on Etsy coming up on Friday, so I'm going to hold a final holiday sale day in connection with it. Once again, it's going to be Short One's choice. The SO will pick a number between 10 and 40 (in increments of five, eg, 5, 10, 15...) and that number will be the discount in the store from midnight Friday through 11:59 that night. After this, I may start pulling stuff out of the store for Christmas gifts myself (who me, desperate?).

Yesterday, a friend notified me of a call for entries for beads. The only problem was, everything had to be at the offices of the publication by this Friday. I spent yesterday rushing around like a madwoman making new beads and figuring out what I wanted to send. Ultimately, I didn't have as much to choose from as I would have liked (I ended up pulling a couple pieces from the store as a last resort). By 9 pm I was feeling a little depressed about my chances of being selected, but I thought if I didn't at least try, I'd never know. I got ready to print out an Express Mail label on-line around 12:30am, and THE PRINTER STOPPED WORKING. Arrrrrgh. Much tearing of hair, here. After almost two hours of struggling with the drivers, cables, etc., etc., (not to mention use of colorful language) I finally managed to print out the label. It all made me feel like a helpless female, and I hate that feeling. Back in the days of MS-DOS, I used to pride myself on knowing my computer backwards and forwards, but the newer fool-proof graphic user interfaces are so opaque, I never know how to handle them. Anyway, ultimately everything did get packed up and shipped out, so I should make the deadline by the skin of my teeth. Wish me luck!

Today, I have to make the ornament for Ornament Thursday. I've thrown caution to the winds and am going to us PMC for this one. Please come back tomorrow to see it!

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dragon's Eye

The Short One is having trouble sleeping tonight, so, alas, I'm up. It's quite a reasonable hour of the morning right Europe. Not so much in the Midwestern U.S., though. Anyway, I finished making what I intended to show you for Tuesday, so I figure that I might as well go ahead and post for the day.

A while back, I started thinking about a new concept piece based on the old hoary cartographer's phrase "Here Be Dragons". I spent some time thinking about the best way to portray a "dragon" in a fantasy necklace and nothing seemed quite right. Then, one day I was flipping through Sarah Moran's Bead Gallery and realized that if you turned her Twinkle Frond beads on their sides, they looked vaguely like eyes. After flipping through her gallery a little more and consulting with Sarah herself, I placed an order for a small set of beads which arrived last month.

Well, after so much futzing around, I finally sat down and started making the actual necklace this past weekend. Here's the first component - the eye. Lately, I've been enjoying the convenience of using commercial texture tiles with my PMC pieces. However, this time I wanted something rough and irregular looking to represent dragon scales, so I hand-carved a texture tile with a linoleum cutter. I then made a base in fine silver for the eye with this pattern. I added a dangling teardrop shaped piece of peridot. What do you think? Does it look like an eye to you? (It sort of reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, except for the color.)

After doing a couple cute and sweet pieces, I'm looking forward to making something a bit more fantastic and dramatic looking.

Okay, the SO has been quiet for almost 20 minutes. I think I'm going to go pass out myself now. I hope you have a great day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Guess What Arrived in the Mail Today?

Way back in the spring, Rachel Place and I, having recently met on-line through Art Bead Scene, agreed that we would have a holiday gift exchange. Rachel was already a very talented lampwork artist, but I had only a few months of lampworking experience, and I'm not even sure I'd even started working with PMC at that point. So, I looked on the future exchange as a goal - to have something worthy to send by the end of the year. As usual, the year is winding up unexpectedly fast, and we've both ended up embarking on new ventures over the past few months, so the prospect of the exchange was actually pretty exciting.

I received these lovely little packages in the mail today. (Even the box was super-cute, with big polka dots and cupcake stickers.) If you look closely, you'll see that the wrapping paper is totally kawaii, which, as you know, I love. Fortunately, the packages opened like little envelopes, and I was able to preserve the paper - I'm hoping I can do something with it in the future. (By the way, background art in this photo is once again courtesy of the Short One.)

Are these not to die for?!? Cakes and skulls, my favorites!!! In the center, my favorite cupcake design, called "Grinchy", with a red-and-white candy-striped base and green icing. To the right of that an amazing little cake bead with beautifully detailed "icing". As if that weren't enough, she completely surprised me with two of her gorgeous lampworked beads (look closely at the stacked dots on the one bead) a sugar skull bead (which is a "Can This Bead Be Saved" project - it is cracked, but I'm almost positive I can use it with a little epoxy and a lot of resin), and one of her cute pocket mirrors with a photo of my favorite Sugar Topper Skull on chocolate cupcake. For more information on Sugar Toppers and Rachel's cake beads, please visit her blog and her Etsy store.

Needless to say, I feel that I made out like a bandit in this exchange, and I loooovvvee my new beads. I'm sure you'll be seeing them in new projects on this blog very soon. (I do feel completely inadequate in that I only sent her one measly pendant in exchange, in an unwrapped box in a plain padded envelope. Rachel, mea culpa - I am unworthy. I'll do better in the future, I promise.)

On other fronts, the slew of Christmas cards that we received in the mail suggested to us that we'd better photograph the Short One for our own cards sooner rather than later. (I make our Christmas cards with the computer, so it's not as if we have to send the photo out anywhere for processing.) I have a cute jester's hat I knit for the SO last spring that still fits, and we thought it was sufficiently elf-like to serve the purpose for our cards this year. Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, the Husband and I spent the better part of half an hour this evening chasing the SO around the living room with a camera, trying to keep him in frame long enough for a photo. We've ended up with about 40 very blurry images of the SO in various stages of yanking said hat off of his head and maybe 20 images of a random hand or foot that we barely managed to get in frame. I have a feeling that I'm going to be digging our boxed cards out of the basement instead, this year...

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Holiday Bead Treasury

Just a quick post from me, today. I just put together my first Treasury on Etsy with a holiday bead theme. If you'd like to see the work of just a few of the bead artists I love, please go here.

(The photo above is of one of Rachel Place's yummy cake beads. You can find out more information about it in the Treasury.)

That is all.

Friday, December 7, 2007


This is the final version of the focal from the "Princess Charming" necklace. The lovely floral pastille-shaped lampworked bead is by Lezlie Belanger. As usual, I set it in my own PMC base.

It's been nothing but snow, gloomy weather, rain and ice here this week. Having said that, I do prefer winter out in the 'burbs generally. When I lived in New York City, I hated winter. Everyone thought I was terribly strange, but snow in the city mixes immediately with the muck on the streets and turns nasty. There's nothing really romantic about it, to my mind. As a teenager, I went to school in a quiet town in New Hampshire. We tended to have heavy snowfalls in the winter there. The snow made getting around difficult, but it was really beautiful.

I was thinking that I had just vowed earlier this week that I wouldn't be knitting this Christmas and then turned around and knit the SO's christmas ornaments for yesterday's Ornament Thursday. Oh, well. A little inconsistency is part of a charming personality, right? (For some reason, the Husband snorted when I said this last night.)

Have a great weekend, everyone. I'll see you on Monday.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ornament Thursday

Welcome to Ornament Thursday! (Once again, I'm confounded by the fact that I live in a different time zone from the good folks at Blogger. It is definitely Thursday where I live, although the date stamp on the entry is reading Wednesday. You'll just have to trust me on this.) Last week, Katie Hacker and Candie Cooper decided to have a virtual get together for holiday crafting each Thursday until Christmas. Brilliant, no? They've invited folks to participate, and I asked to join this week. I actually have two sets of ornaments today - one made by me and one made by my mother, who is currently visiting.

Since the Short One has officially reached Active Toddler status, we have four very simple criteria for the holidays. All ornaments must be:

1. unbreakable;
2. non-toxic;
3. not small enough to easily stuff up one's nose (don't ask); and
4. simple enough to make after a full day of chasing a pint-sized personal trainer around without keeling over.

My mother made the cute ones, above - the little red felt apples. As the project conforms to the above criteria (particular No. 4), we don't feel that specific instructions are really necessary. We will say that, after drawing an apple template and cutting two copies from red felt, Mom used blanket stitch to sew the ornaments up and stuffed them with polyester fiberfill. She stitched the green leaf in place with a bit of brown thread to simulate veining.

I made the odd looking knit things - they are supposed to be lollipops. I wanted to make something out of I-cord. For any non-knitters out there, the "I" in I-cord stands for "Idiot" (seriously - this is true), and I therefore felt it would be just my speed for making ornaments. The instructions (such as they are) follow.

Knit Lollipops

©2007 Melissa J. Lee

Rowan Handknit Cotton (or any dk weight yarn) in two complementary colors - oddments
Rowan Handknit Cotton (or any dk weight yarn) in white - oddments
Any scrap yarn, ribbon or thread (for the loop of the ornament).
2 US6 double-pointed needles (I thankfully threw swatching out the window for this one - of course, if using US6 results in too tight or too loose-looking stitches to you, you know what to do)
Needle to sew up cord

The I-Cord: Cast on 3 stitches in the primary color you have chosen for the lollipop. Knit one row. Instead of turning the work as you would normally do, simply slide the work to the other end of your double-pointed needle and knit the next row from that side, pulling the yarn from the left side where it is dangling over to the right to knit the next stitch. What you are essentially doing is creating a very narrow tube - this is I-Cord. Continue knitting the tube in this way without turning your work. Bind off (when you are ready to bind off) in the way you usually would for a regular flat piece of knitting.

Knit approximately 7.5" of I-Cord in the primary color of the lollipop and approximately 4.5" of I-Cord in the secondary color of the lollipop. Coil the two colors of I-Cord around each other and stitch in place (similar to the way you would stitch a braided rug together). Knit 3-4" of I-Cord in white. Stitch to the base of the lollipop (where the coil ends). Thread scarp yarn/ribbon/thread through one of the top stitches of the lollipop for the loop. Simple, no?

But wait, there's more! For great holiday crafting ideas (all of which are undoubtedly much hipper than ours - we kind of threw hip-ness out the window this week), please visit the blogs of the other participants of this week's Ornament Thursday:


Rebecca Peck
Michelle McGee
Melanie Brooks Lukacs

Margot Potter
Lynn Kvigne
Linda Augsburg
Kriss Kramer
Katie Hacker
Jenny Harada
Jennifer Heynen
Hali Chambers
Candie Cooper
Art Bead Scene
Alexa Westerfield

If you would like to join in Ornament Thursday, feel free to leave me a comment, and I will forward your information to Katie, or contact Katie directly by email through her website.

On a final, unrelated note, I just learned that Mary Harding included me in her Treasury list on Etsy. Thank you, Mary! I feel so flattered to be in such beautiful company. Also, be sure to check out Mary's work, too, at her website and on Etsy. I used one of her beautiful leaf beads in a necklace earlier this year. To view Mary's Treasury, please go here.

Thanks for visiting!

Now for Something Completely Different...

I was organizing my Flickr account earlier tonight and came across some photos of a few pieces of pottery I made several years ago, so I thought I'd share one of them tonight. I don't know if I've mentioned this before or not, but the Husband and I used to take pottery classes at a local studio. The first time I tried using the wheel I was in college, and I never managed to learn how to center to the clay properly. I ended giving up in frustration but was later persuaded by an optimistic colleague at work to sign up for a class with her and another friend of ours. The two didn't really take to it, but to my surprise, I found that I enjoyed it. I never got good at it, mind, but I did enjoy it.

Anyway, after you throw a pot on the wheel, you usually trim and shape the bottom a little before bisque firing it. (A basic pot will go through two firings - a bisque fire to harden the actual clay and then a glaze firing once you apply the glaze to the pot.) That was my salvation, as my pots were always a little bottom-heavy. I'm afraid I over-trimmed this piece. It came through the bisque fire okay, but after I glazed it, the lip completely distorted during the glaze-firing. Nevertheless, I sort of like how the glaze came out on this piece, so I keep it around and use it for a knitting notions bowl now. (It's kind of embarrassing - I can just feel the professional ceramic artists wincing as they read/view this. Sorry guys. At least I have a complete appreciation for how beautiful and technically wonderful your work is!)

The pottery studio where I, and later the Then-Boyfriend-Now-Husband, took classes will always have a special place in my heart. It so happened that the day of our fourth dating anniversary was a Saturday, the day we took classes. H. ended up proposing to me that morning, five minutes before class. I remember that I actually refused to take the ring off after that, and ended up getting it covered in porcelain slip and other muck pretty much immediately. It was a great morning.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I made this ring back in June, less than a month after I started working with PMC and about 5 months after I started, on-and-off due to limited time, to make glass beads. This was also the first lampworked sundae bead that I tried to make. I had some structural problems with the first version of the ring. I made a second version, but never really finished it and ended up moving on to other projects. Looking back on it now, I think I can probably resolve those problems. I have a real yen to try it again, but it's really too cold in the garage (I think, at least) to use the torch right now. I really need to get a space heater...

The Short One has discovered his primary nemesis for the winter - his snowsuit with button on mittens. Just thinking of trying to stuff him in the suit and button on those mittens to go grocery shopping or whatever is exhausting enough to make me want to stay in the house all day. Right now, the SO voices his displeasure quite vocally and with a great deal of pathos. Weeping and wringing of hands doesn't begin to cover it. I can't really blame him, though. I don't know about you, but one of my few early memories of winter involves being so bundled up in my snowsuit, scarf, hat and mittens that I was barely able to move. The SO's suit is so heavily padded that he looks like the Michelin Man.

Well, I suppose I should start girding my loins now, since we're going out this afternoon. I hope everyone has a great day.

ps. This seems an appropriate point to mention - the weather really hasn't put a dent in my ability to eat ice cream, though. I've just discovered Ben & Jerry's Banana Split flavored ice cream. Yum.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Java Blue

Here's another piece I made for the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge. The lovely lampworked beads are called "Java Blue" and they were made by Lezlie Belanger of Canterbury Keepsakes. The combination of chocolate brown and blue is one of my favorites and, as usual, Lezlie's stringer work is so beautiful.

The Husband and the Short One both came down with a stomach bug on Friday and, as a result, we spent most of the weekend at home feeling under the weather. Just as well, as the snow/freezing rain that hit us wasn't really conducive to going out and doing much. However, despite feeling not quite himself, the Short One still managed to make the amazing discovery that Mama is ticklish. I spent a good part of Sunday trying to get chores done while Someone kept sneaking up on me, running tiny hands across my middle and giggling uncontrollably as I jumped five feet straight up and yelped (I really am quite ticklish). Considering that he spent other parts of the day trying to stick his fingers up my nose (what is going through his mind at times like this - I would give good money...), it was still a lively weekend from my perspective.

My mother, who is visiting, decided to make Christmas ornaments out of felt for the SO, since we're not putting anything on the tree this year that is remotely breakable. After three nights of cutting, sewing and stuffing little trees, snowmen, apples, etc., etc., she's discovered what you and I already know - Handmade is Hard Work.

Speaking of which, how is everyone coming with their handmade Christmas gifts? This is the first year in a long time that I'm not knitting like a fiend for the holiday (probably a relief to all of my relatives - I'm never really certain that they want hand-knit gifts for the holidays. I just take advantage of the fact that they're my relatives and can't really complain when I give them hand-knit gifts.).

Just out of curiosity, does anyone knit gifts for their spouse/significant other? The Husband was in line for a sweater of his own, but then the Short One arrived, and he got bumped down the list, again. With apologies to H, it's a sad fact that I'd far rather knit a sweater for someone less than two feet tall who wears sunny pastels than for someone who wears a size large (Mens) and only seems to wear dark brown clothing. (Okay, this is a slight exaggeration - he likes charcoal grey, too.) Also, I've never completely recovered from knitting him a scarf when we were dating. He kept telling me he wanted it longer so he could wind it completely around his neck at least once. I think he tried on the Work in Progress and told me it was too short at least three times. After knitting the same pattern for an eon and a half, I finally finished blasted thing. When I asked him how he liked it, he replied, "Well, it's a little too long..."

I actually bought some really nice cashmere yarn on sale in July (July is a good time to buy nice yarn around these parts - just saying the word "wool" seems to make everyone break out in a sweat). I think I will try to knit H. another (shorter) scarf with it this month, but that will probably be my only holiday knitting. I can't tell if I've been liberated or if I'm just being a wuss this year. Probably the latter.

Have a great week, everyone. Thanks for stopping by.