Monday, June 30, 2008


Happy Monday, everyone. I thought I'd start the week by showing you one of my finished pieces. You may recall seeing the moon-face pendant earlier in the year here on the blog. The pendant is assembled from ceramic buttons and cabochons made by Melanie at Earthenwood Studio that I stacked and set in fine silver. The button closure is another of Melanie's cabs that I special-ordered from her and again set in fine silver. I am really pleased with the way the focal turned out and am thinking of making myself one to use as a brooch - I think it would look great with a pashmina shawl. (It's a little hard to see the detail in the cabs and button in this photo, but you can click on the image for a closer look, if you are interested.)

The theme for this piece was an Italian masquerade ball. I have a decent stash of Earthenwood beads, and I was playing around with them one day. I had an ornate designed button in a blue color and a black and white face cab, and I decided that the designs together looked great and had a vaguely Venetian flavor (for whatever reason - I can't really explain my gut feeling here). I contacted Melanie, who, ironically, does not like Venetian themes all that much, but who kindly made me two cabochons in black and white with the same design as my button but in different sizes. I'm a big sucker for extravagant costumes and beautifully rendered leather masks, so I decided to try to design a necklace that could be worn as part of such a costume. This largely monochromatic piece was the result.

This piece is also the second one I submitted to the Bead Star contest, the one that did not make the cut. I actually, personally, like this piece much better than the one that made the finals. In this regard, I think it's always interesting getting a third party perspective on my work, as the preferences of other people can be quite different from my own. Even though this is not my usual style, I can actually picture myself wearing something like this for an evening out on the town. I think I'd get funny looks if I threw this on over my usual tee shirt and jeans, though.

In other news, the lovely Jean Yates asked me to participate in an ongoing interview project she has put together for her Links book. If you have not seen or do not already own a copy of Links, I highly recommend that you hie ye to your local bookstore to find one, as it is truly wonderful. Jean has some exceptionally lovely chain maille projects in the book - I have a couple on my list of things to do right now. More on this later, hopefully. I have had the pleasure of reading a number of different interviews that Jean has written up both for magazines and for her on-line readership, and I have to say that she does a fantastic job profiling her subjects and asks tremendously thought-provoking questions. I was really thrilled when she asked me to participate in her current series of on-line interviews with bead and jewelry artists. She posted her interview of me this weekend on Amazon (follow the link above and scroll down to see it) and on her blog. Thank you so much, Jean, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of your project - it was tremendously fun, and, as I mentioned before, your questions were so thought provoking that I feel that I learned a great deal in answering them!

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Birds Fly

Did you think I'd let you get away without showing off some more of the Short One's artwork? Ha! Here's this week's creation from class by the SO (and undoubtedly Ms. Linda and Ms. Sheryl). It's currently on the fridge, but because he likes to pick off the birdseed, I'm not sure how much longer it will last there. And now for this week's bead and jewelry linky love: Jewelry Making
Think outside the jewelry box and consider other crafting techniques for making jewelry! Crochet is just one example.

Art Bead Scene
Polyester Makes a Comeback in a surprising new way!

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
Melanie reflects and gives thanks to everyone who helped her out at the Bead & Button Show

Jennifer Jangles Blog
Eye Candy, a few new designs from Jennifer Jangles

Jewelry & Beading
Just having returned from Italy, Cyndi was inspired by all the suppliers of beautiful Murano beads.

Katie's Beading Blog
Multiple strand necklaces are always in style. Read Katie's blog for tips.

Linda at BeadStyle Magazine
Linda created a necklace for the Ornament Thursday blog group and wanted to share it with everyone!

Savvy Crafter
Rockin' Riveted Ring over on Candie's blog!

Snap out of it , Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean interviews the fabulous Margot Potter for Art Bead Scene!

Strands of Beads
Melissa discusses beautiful presentation boxes made from origami

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Origami Boxes

I'm playing a bit of catch-up, as I missed my post for Tuesday, which is why you're seeing me twice today. I thought I'd show you a project from one of my favorite craft books of all time, Origami Boxesby Tomoko Fuse. As I've mentioned before, I've been making origami figures ever since I was a child. My father used to fold cranes for me to entertain me when I was very young, and thus began my lifelong obsession with little folded paper animals.

As the title indicates, Tomoko Fuse's book focuses solely on a variety of styles of boxes. The above hexagon box is my favorite of all of the ones in the book, although they are all beautiful. I still find it amazing that simply using 12 pieces of square paper you can create something this lovely - no scissors, no glue, no tape and no ruler are involved at all. It is fairly time consuming to make them (especially when you are trying to make them as small as the above box which uses 3" square chiyogami paper), but the effort, to my mind, is completely worthwhile.

I think the boxes themselves are nice gifts, but they also make really lovely presentation boxes for jewelry. The 3" square sheets of paper yield a finished box that is approximately 2 1/4" across, the perfect size to hold a pendant and chain (as you can imagine, I like the box for my koi pendants). I have always been a sucker for the beautiful printed chiyogami paper that you can find sold as packets of origami in many hobby stores, most Japanese bookstores and even some Japanese markets. The hexagon box design displays each pattern to its best effect. It is quite easy to cut a little cotton batting to fit the interior, if you do wish to use the box for jewelry. (I also enjoy filling slightly larger sized boxes with miniature origami animals, which makes a nice gift for a child.)

All of the boxes in this book are modular in design and each folded piece interlocks with the next. If you do not have much experience with origami, there are simpler square box designs to try, which also look lovely. I do recommend in this case that you start out with the plain origami paper which is both less expensive and generally easier to fold than the chiyogami, though. If, on the other hand, you are already familiar with origami but do not yet own this book, I highly recommend it as a worthy addition to your library.

I'll be back tomorrow with links for the weekend. In the meantime, have a great day!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ornament Thursday - Live Free

Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.

-General John Stark

Welcome, once again, to Ornament Thursday! This month's theme is "Independence". To be perfectly honest, I never intended to use a red, white and blue color scheme for my piece at all. I created the fine silver "live free" charm with the intention of doing something non-traditional with it, replete with a flaming heart and a lot of black stone and glass. However, last week I had an appointment with my opthamologist whose office is fortuitously located a mere two blocks away from one of my favorite local bead stores. Could a stout heart resist temptation? Well, I certainly couldn't. Despite being able to see virtually nothing (my eyes were still dilated), I took the opportunity to browse around there and, after much squinting and swanning around, I found a cup of these cute star-shaped pearls. So, I tossed out the flaming heart idea, hauled out some garnet and lapis lazuli instead and created this rather traditional-looking star-spangled piece to celebrate this month's theme. (You can click on the photo for a closer look at the necklace.)

I am sure you will recognize my quote, if only by virtue of the fact that the first half of it is used on the license plates for the state of New Hampshire. When I was in law school, I remember studying a case in which the Defendant, a New Hampshire resident, decided that he did not want to "live free or die" and obscured the "or die" portion of his license plate. (The Supreme Court later ruled that the state could not prevent him from doing so.) I decided to side with Defendant on that issue and created a charm incorporating only the rather uplifting words "live free".

As I mentioned on the Art Bead Scene blog last week, to me, right now, independence means having creative freedom. The words "live free" are a reminder to continue to take risks creatively, to reach beyond my current capabilities and to continue to grow. It's a very positive statement, to my mind.

To view the other interpretations of "Independence" by our talented Ornament Thursday crew, please follow these links:

Alexa Westerfield a.k.a. Swelldesigner
Craft some red, white, and blue drink charms from vintage wartime posters. They'll make a big bang at your 4th of July cookout!

Art Bead Scene
Field of Poppies bracelet project from Heather.

Cindy Gimbrone aka Lampwork Diva
Celebrate the Independent Spirit

Hurray for Red, White and Blue
Lisa takes a shot at teeny tiny beads for a change

Independence Jewelry!
Beading Help Web has two easy jewelry projects that you can put together just in time for the July 4 holiday!

Linda at BeadStyle Magazine
Childhood memories of Independence Day's past inspired this necklace.

Michelle's take on Indpendence
Over at http design, Michelle has scuplted a piece which gives a different perspective on independence.

What is America to Me?
Michelle's favorite words on our country...

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Creative Jewelry

Greetings. I hope you had a great weekend. We spent Sunday taking the Short One to the zoo. We tried to go last week, but it rained all day. This Sunday, the forecast called for thunderstorms in the "pm", so we decided to risk it, even though it looked a little gloomy out. It turned out to be the right decision - we passed through some showers a few miles from the zoo, but once we arrived, the sun came out and we had good weather right up until the time we left. Once again, a few miles from thee zoo, we not only had rain but hail, too. Very odd, but you'll forgive us for feeling smug that we actually timed our trip right, for once!

The SO saw his fill of lions, tigers and bears, and even a tank full of sting rays (which he loved). All of that fresh air, excitement and running around did the trick, and he promptly passed out in his car seat, as soon as we left the zoo grounds. All of this would have been fine, except that all of the fresh air, excitement and running after the SO made us want to pass out, too. Having had a refreshing 20 minute siesta on the ride back, the SO refused to take his regular nap at home, and we ended up flailing after him for the rest of the afternoon. Still, a fun morning was had by all.

My advance copies of Creative Jewelry arrived over the weekend. As promised, it is a huge issue with 135+ projects, including over 75 lovely necklaces. For anyone not familiar with it, Creative Jewelry is an annual publication put out by the folks at Interweave Press who publish Step by Step Beads. It focuses exclusively on simple, immediate gratification-type pieces - you will find no peyote stitch or bead weaving projects in this magazine. This issue represents another milestone for me, as it contains my first published project. It's a simple necklace using one of my koi buttons. Creative Jewelry also did me the honor of including a shot of my koi necklace on the main, full-page photo for the necklace section of the magazine, so I'm quite excited. Anyway, the magazine will be available on June 30th, so I hope you will check it out!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I forgot to mention yesterday, I'm doing Studio Saturday over at Art Bead Scene today. I'm giving away one of my word charms in connection with the post. Please feel free to head here to learn how to enter. The winner will be determined by random drawing next Saturday.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Where Does the Time Go?

I can't believe it's the weekend already. The Husband and I took a "date night" tonight and left the Short One with his grandmother (said G. always enjoys telling us that the SO didn't even know we were gone on the occasions when she visits and babysits - some day I suspect she will simply tuck him under her arm and take him back home with her without telling us). We went to see the new Indiana Jones movie. The movie was fun and didn't require a lot of strenuous thought, which was basically what we needed. I am not really up on any of the young actors these days (I feel like such an old fogey), but I must say that I tend to enjoy Shia LaBeouf's movies. Before the SO was born, H. and I actually went to see "Holes" by ourselves at the theater. Really a great movie - a cute story involving two boys who form an unlikely friendship in an unlikely place, a family curse and hidden treasure - and one we intend to introduce to the SO when he's old enough. If you have young kids, I recommend it.

I'm determined to get a few things done this weekend, so hopefully I will have new work to show for it next week. In the meantime, here's a little bead blogging linky love: Jewelry Making
Tammy hearts jewelry making! Find a load of heart-themed jewelry projects along with a free e-course designed around the theme of love.

Art Bead Scene
Ahoy Mateys! Cap'n Heather Powers sails us to a new ABS Feature - The Trendy Bead! This week's trend is nautical - no swabbin' the deck required!

Barbe Saint John's Blog
Tool Love-How many pairs of wire cutters can one girl own, and whats the difference between them?

BeadStyle Magazine
BeadStyle Senior Editor Naomi talks where her great finds from the Bead&Button Show will turn up next.

Jennifer Jangles Blog
Want to know where to buy ceramic supplies? Check out Jennifer's Blog.

Katie's Beading Blog
Check out Katie's new video clip from the public television show Beads, Baubles & Jewels!

Naughty Secretary Club
Get all caught up on the latest office gossip with the Naughty Secretary Club Newsletter.

Savvy Crafter
Candie's definitely been inspired by her Asian adventures---see a Fan-tastic necklace and some fabric she plans to make into a kimono shirt.

Strands of Beads
Melissa takes at look at Chinese character name stamps from a crafty point of view

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Good, the bad, the...chop?

The Good: We have a winner in the koi pendant giveaway. Drum roll, please... It's Jill B.! Thank you to everyone who entered. Jill, I will be contacting you shortly with details on how to claim your prize.

The Bad: Sadly, as I feared, I did not place in the top five in the pearls category of Bead Star. Alas. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to vote for me - I certainly appreciate it! Still, I have to say, it was a great contest - it inspired me to create new designs (one - my favorite, ironically - did not make the finals) which is always a good thing, it enabled me to meet new people which ditto and the bottom line is that it was really fun. I intend to enter next year again. Until, then, congratulations to those who placed!

The Chop: Yes, I know the title of this entry doesn't make much sense, but that's often the case with my titles, no? For some time now, I've been contemplating designing a chop for myself or simply ordering a metal stamp with my initials (for anyone who has bought or won one of my pieces, that untidy chicken-scratch type mark on the back is supposed to represent my initials). And by "chop" in this context, I mean essentially a maker's mark - something that will identify a piece as having been made by me.

It occurred to me the other day, though, that I actually already own a chop, and a pretty nice one at that. When I was in my twenties, my parents took me to Korea to meet my extended family for the first time. While there, my father insisted that I have a stamp made of my Korean name (in Chinese characters). This service is offered in various places (I believe that we ordered the above one at one of the big department stores in Seoul). It is carved from stone and has a nice weight to it. (I also have a larger, more elaborate square one with the figure of a tiger carved on top, but I believe that may be at my parent's house, as I have been unable to find it hanging around here.) It was a very nice memento of my visit, but practically speaking, I hardly ever used it. I dug it out last month and, lo and behold, it does look pretty nice stamped in fine silver. Of course, it's a little large to use on the back of a bead, but it's about the right size for a jewelry tag. I could also see it as an attractive component for a piece of jewelry. In fact, it seems like a potentially versatile little stamp from a crafty point of view.

So, I thought I'd share it with you. If you find yourself traveling in Asia or know someone who will be going, you may want to consider ordering your own chop for use in jewelry design, scrapbooking and/or many other crafty endeavors. If you don't have an Asian name as I do (curiously enough), you could have a translation rendered based on the meaning of your name. The result is sure to be attractive and to add a nice, personal touch to your work. It's possible that you may be able to find a similar service in one of the large Chinatowns in the United States, but I'm less sure of that (if anyone has any opinion on this, please do leave a comment).

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Even More Shameless Self-Promotion

I thought I'd go ahead and show off The Short One's other watermelon. Cute black "seeds", eh? He went around shouting "black seeds!", "black seeds!" yesterday. It's the first time he's exhibited pride in his artwork, which reminds me, once again, of how quickly the SO is growing up.

I believe the teachers also served watermelon as the mid-morning snack. I thought the whole exercise was pretty clever. Actually, I am completely amazed by how well two teachers manage twelve toddlers. Parents are pretty much completely banned from the classroom. Although the classroom has windows, they are covered with paper and no peeking is allowed. Okay, we'll move on from this topic now. But, really, they're cute drawings, right?

Speaking of watermelon, though, we're trying to grow some in the garden this year. Not much luck there yet, although the cauliflower, tomatoes, sweet peas and bok choy seem to be coming up just fine. We have no idea if the climate here is even right for watermelon. The local nursery was carrying seedlings, and the Husband bought one on the spur of the moment. Anyone have any success on this in their gardens?

It's the last day to vote! What are you waiting for? Ahem. I thought I'd issue a last reminder. Truthfully, I think there are a lot of strong contendors in the pearls category, and I'm a little doubtful I'm going to place. Because I tend to be pessimistic by nature, I thought I'd at least try to give it my all, so I wouldn't have regrets later. Anyway, here's the link to vote. To all who have already vote, many thanks. Also, have you entered my koi pendant giveaway? There's still time!

Thanks for visiting. Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Portrait of the Watermelon as a Young Fruit

It was a very exciting day today, chez Short One. We woke up at 8am, got dressed and zoomed off to our first day of school. Well, technically, it's the local Mom's Morning Away program, but we call it pre-preschool at our house. I had weird dreams all night about dropping the SO off, but when the time came, it was fairly straightforward and eerily reminiscent of my own preschool days (funny how that works, eh?). The SO did not bawl, but he did hide behind the door for the first three minutes and refused to go into the classroom. When he finally decided it was safe to at least take a look inside, he zeroed in on a table full of play food and zoomed off into the room without a backward look.

Evidently, we both did fine for the first hour or so. I learned later from one of the teachers, that he did cry a few times during the class. For my part, I was the picture of parental rectitude, until I saw, in the distance, the class being led outside for their morning constitutional (I was waiting in the car for most of the class, convinced that I would be summoned to pick the SO up early - we had been warned that this could happen). As I watched my boy being led by the hand by the teacher, I sat back and bawled my head off. The really embarrassing thing about this, is that I found out later that the class I had seen wasn't the SO's class at all and the little boy in question had not been the SO. (I don't know if I've mentioned this before or not, but I'm really near-sighted.) I've resolved in the future to pack my husband's binoculars if I'm planning on waiting in the parking lot for any length of time.

Anyway, the above represents the fruit (okay, bad pun) of the SO's very first class away from home. It currently has pride of place (along with a second watermelon picture with fingerprint black "seeds") on our refrigerator door, except when the SO feels the overwhelming need to pull it down to show off to his Daddy or Grandpa (the latter vie iChat).

I wish I had further beady news here, but this was pretty much the excitement of the day. However, you can find my review of lampworked cupcake beads over at Art Bead Scene today, so please go here to check it out.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Old Reliable

Hi there! I hope you had a great weekend. I fired a kiln-load of stuff today but none of it's quite ready to show you. I dug through my archives this evening and decided I'd show you a photo of my kiln instead. Ta da! It's a Paragon SC2, and it's been a great help to me since I purchased it, almost a year ago. For anyone thinking of investing in a kiln for metal clay work, I would recommend it. (Ironically, I primarily purchased it to anneal glass beads, and I never use it for that purpose...)

I actually took this photo at Tammy Powley's request for her new book Picture Yourself Creating Metal Clay Jewelry. It's kind of embarrassing, since you can see how untidy things are in our garage in the background, but I remember distinctly that we'd just had a snow dump, the Husband was out of town, and I only had a few spare minutes while the Short One was sleeping to snap the shot. Oh, well, it's definitely true to life. I wonder if Tammy actually used the shot? My copy of her book is en route from Amazon right now - more on this later, once I've had a chance to read it (I can't wait!). You'll note that I keep the kiln on a nifty rolling cart. Technically, we have a two and one half car garage, but the one half space is really taken up by a tool bench. The kiln does have certain requirements for being a minimum distance from any wall or flammable substance when fired - in our garage, that would have put it smack in the center of the doorway. As we enjoy actually being able to use said door, we had to come up with a different operating solution. Putting it on the cart so that it could be rolled into place when in use seemed like a reasonable compromise. Incidentally, the big plastic shoebox in the shelf underneath the kiln is filled with glass rods (COE 104!), mostly Moretti, for all of the lampworking I haven't been doing recently. Sigh. There's just not enough hours in the day. Do you feel that way, too?

On other fronts, The SO starts a Mom's Morning Away program tomorrow. He's reached the age where, for various reasons, I feel that I'm starting to hold him back by keeping him at home with me all of the time, so H. and I decided to enroll him in a once a week, half day program. I've been quite anxious about this since I found out that he made it into the class (it's very popular and participants have to go through a lottery process each session). While I have tried to explain to him over the past week that he's a big boy and will be starting "school" soon, I don't think any of it has really registered. I am expecting that both of us will be bawling around 9:30am tomorrow (hopefully, I will make it back to the car before I start). Any cheerful thoughts you would care to send our way around that time (Central Standard) would be appreciated.

Right, I suppose I should go check his bag and plan his snack for tomorrow for the hundredth time. Good night.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sweet Dreams and Bead Blogging Linky Love

I have to apologize - yesterday's post was a complete mess. I ended up revising it about ten times. Ultimately, I decided that tying in the koi pendant giveaway to voting in the Bead Star contest was an invidious thing to do, so I've just turned it into a straight giveaway. You will have to email me to enter this time. (Scroll down to the previous post for details.) I was worried that people might be reluctant to provide email addresses to enter (although I swear up and down that I don't spam, I don't sell addresses, and I won't even keep the addresses past the contest deadline), but people have been entering, so I thank you for that! If you don't blog, you may not realize how much someone puts their ego on the line when putting together a giveaway like this. There's always the fear that no one will be interested enough to enter! I hope everyone who reads this (whether you know me personally or not) will feel free contact me about the giveaway, if you like the koi.

As far as the Bead Star contest is concerned, I was also worried about whether I could legitimately identify my piece and ask people to vote for it. Well, I noticed today that a lot of finalists have been mentioning their pieces on their blogs and in forums, so I decided "What the heck." (Of course, there was that little comment in my mother's voice - "If the other kids jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?" - but I've decided that I've reached that age of maturity that I can ignore it. Er, don't tell the Short One I said so, though. Come to think of it, don't tell my Mom.) So, I revised the post to identify my piece as No. 17 in the pearls category, and I am now shamelessly asking for people to vote (see the sidebar)! The link I have provided will take you directly to the pearls page, where you can, ahem, vote, if you feel moved to do so. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

Right, on to more enlightening topics. Here are a couple new word charms I made recently. I made them specifically to go with these cute beads I bought from Rachel Place. The colors on these turned out a little closer to what I intended than the first batch - a little more pastel-y. I have one more set of word charms I'd like to make (to go with some Jangles beads, this time), then I intend to move onto some new designs.

Finally, I've been invited to join a group of talented bead and jewelry artists, called Bead Bloggers. I'm really honored to be a member! This is my first post on behalf of the group. So, here's some linky love to get you through the weekend: Jewelry Making
Learn to wire wrap your beads and add an extra little something to your jewelry designs.

Art Bead Scene
Wondering what's "in?" Trek on over to ABS to check out the trends!

BeadStyle Magazine
What did Cathy see and do at the Bead&Button show? Read about it and let us know what you bought there.

Jennifer Jangles Blog
Things are growing around here...

Katie's Beading Blog
Take a peek inside Katie's shopping bag!

Naughty Secretary Club
Brand new website, but no sales? Jen helps out a friend by bestowing a bit of the knowledge she has picked up from running her jewelry website Naughty Secretary Club as her full time job for over 5 years.

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beadng to be done!
Jean saw a dragonfly striking a pose and made a necklace in its honor!

Strands of Beads
Melissa visits the New York branch of Japanese bead store Toho Shoji.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Okay, okay, edited a THIRD TIME. This is it, though! Really!

Okay, for anyone who visited earlier today, I have edited this post a little TWICE. Here's the revised and now final version:

Well, I just found out that I have made the finals of the BEAD STAR Competition. I don't know if any of you have heard about this, but Interweave Press has decided to hold a jewelry design competition called BEAD STAR. There were apparently 1,500 eligible entries and out of these, 180 (20 each in 9 categories) have been selected for the finals. Now, voting is open to anyone with web access until June 18th. The top 5 highest vote-getters (1st, 2d, 3d and 2 Honorable Mentions) in each category will be published in the BEAD STAR annual magazine in December. I'm not sure yet whether I'm allowed to post a photo of my piece - if I get the okay, I'll put a photo up later. The piece is No. 17 in the pearls category. Please go here to see the piece. Of course, I would love your vote, too.

I thought it might be fun to hold a little contest of my own in conjunction with this one, and it's been ages since I held a giveaway. So, here it is : I am giving away the koi pendant above on June 19th. To enter, send me an email at strandsofbeads [at] (with the usual "@" replacing the "[at]"). (By the way, I will not do anything nefarious with any email addresses such as spamming, selling them or whatever - I don't even intend to keep the addresses, except for the winner's address, past the giveaway deadline.) I will pick a winner by random drawing from all of the entries I receive on the 19th. My one request is that whoever wins the bead send me a photo of what they do with it (whenever that may be), even if it's just to string it on a chain. Good luck!

Oh, and if you want to see what art beads I bought at the Bead & Button Show, please head over to my post at Art Bead Scene.

Thanks! Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Once more into the breach...

This is kind of embarrassing, but I still haven't finished showing you all of the beads I found in New York City. I think this makes, what, a full week of new stash acquisition posts? Argh. It's just as well that the Husband doesn't usually read my blog (too girly for him, I think). Really, if I didn't love them so much, I'd just chuck the idea of showing you, but I do happen to like these, so I hope you don't mind another peek into my stash. There's a good bead store link in it for you!

As I was saying before, I am an Upper West Sider at heart, when it comes to Manhattan. And my local bead store in that fine city is Bruce Frank Beads. It has the advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it, I suppose) of being right next door to Cafe Lalo, that New York institution of mouth-wateringly fine desserts (as seen in the movie "You've Got Mail". Remember when Meg Ryan is waiting to meet Tom Hanks with the rose and the copy of Pride and Prejudice? That's Cafe Lalo. Actually, I loved that movie, since it was filmed in my old 'hood - it was fun to spot favorite hangouts. Anyway, where was I?). I bought my birthday cannoli there. So basically, you can buy your beads and eat cake, too (okay, that was terrible) in one trip. A perfect afternoon, in anyone's book, I would think. Plus, Cafe Lalo gives out terribly cool Toulouse-Lautrec matchbooks.

But enough about mouth-watering cakes and Toulouse-Lautrec. Bruce Frank Beads is a relatively small establishment that carries a nice assortment of beads. I always find a few focals that I really love whenever I visit. This trip, they had a basket of Chinese porcelain pendants. I'm not sure why, but I've always been a sucker for Chinese porcelain shards. The examples above are modern - they are neither Qing nor Ming dynasty and have no provenance in this regard. But, on the other hand, they didn't cost the earth and they are, to my mind, very colorful and attractive.

So, if you find yourself in the Upper West Side at any point, you'd do well to pay them a visit. (And if you're in the company of kids, yet another advantage of the store's location is the fact that they are right across the street from the Children's Museum of Manhattan.)

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Survived...

...the 2008 Bead & Button Show. I had a terrible allergy attack Saturday night and considered canceling, but ultimately decided I wouldn't let a slight sniffle (this is an understatement - my nose was draining like Niagra Falls, if you'll pardon the image) keep me from all of those glorious beads. It worked out okay. No one actively edged away from me (except one gentlemen, and this was understandable, as I was in the middle of a dramatic sounding coughing fit), and Diane Hawkey, being the nice woman that she is, offered me Claritin, Sudafed and water in succession, to help me get through the day. Enough about my sinuses, though.

The show actually seemed a touch on the quiet side (this is all relative - there were a decent number of visitors, but it just wasn't as crowded looking as I have seen in past years), but this could have been due to issues involving inclement weather. I was told by several exhibitors that Saturday night, during a spate of heavy rain, flooding and tornado warnings, the show closed the convention hall and did not permit anyone to leave for a couple hours. Of course, if one has to be trapped indoors with the threat of tornadoes outside, I'd imagine one would rather do so while surrounded by beautiful beads, but I'm sure people must have spent a few uncomfortable minutes. As it was, my beading buddy Carolyn and I were worried we'd have trouble getting into the city on Sunday, but we ended up having no problems at all.

I have to say, it was a really enjoyable show. I had the opportunity to catch up with Diane and Melanie Lukacs of Earthenwood Studio (and finally managed to see some of her Steam Stone beads, although many had already been sold. They are even better in person!). I visited long-time favorite bead artist Michele Goldstein's booth and ordered a copy of Kate McKinnon's new metal clay book (she was sold out by Sunday). Incidentally, if you have not seen Kate McKinnon's work in metal clay, I highly recommend a visit to her website. I aspire to be her when I grow up. I also met and had a lovely conversation with Andrew Thornton and Jessica Wiesel at the Green Girl Studios Booth. Really, just having the opportunity to visit and buy beads from artists who are normally scattered throughout the country is wonderful.

Anyway, this is what I acquired by way of stones at the show. If you are wondering whether perhaps I was a touch feverish to be so unusually (for me, at least) restrained in my purchasing, let me say that the art beads I purchased will show up in a few days on Art Bead Scene. I'm quite happy with these beads. The strand at the top is called solar quartz - I had never seen it before. There were both rough cut slices and faceted versions available, and I decided I liked the faceted ones better. The strand at the bottom is multicolored sapphire - the beads are so dainty and unlike my usual style, but I fell in love with them the minute I saw them. The stone in the center is a baby geode that has been cut, polished and drilled through. It is far more brilliant in person - I had trouble capturing that in my photo. Finally, I purchased more elongated teardrop onyx beads from a vendor who also does shows local to where I live.

Oh, and Melanie told me that she actually saw someone wearing one of my koi pendants at the show. To whomever you are - thank you so much!

Obviously the show has a lot more to offer than just shopping. Once the SO is older, I hope to take a few classes myself, including Jennifer Heynen's ceramic class, which I understand was wonderful this year. If you haven't attended the Bead & Button Show in the past, but would like to learn more (including show dates for next year), you can visit their website here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Daisy, Daisy Give Me Your Answer Do

I've been looking for these glass daisy beads everywhere for a while now, and I finally did find them in the Garment District. Yay! I hopped a cab for my second trip down there during our vacation, thinking, for some reason that it would be faster than the subway. Silly, silly me. Half an hour later, we were stuck in traffic on 37th Street, heading back to Toho Shoji, when I happened to look out of the window. Lo and behold, we were passing a big bead store! I made a mental note to come back to the street, as we inched about 50 yards down the street, and - oh, look, another bead store! And another one! At this point, I told the driver he could just let me off right there. It turns out that the one block contained six separate gem and bead stores. Plus, there turned out to be another one right around the corner (where I found the daisies). Yes, it turns out that the Garment District sure is a nice place to browse around if you're a bead enthusiast. I was so busy with these stores, I never made it back to Toho Shoji or to M&J Trimming (which is sort of a mecca for notion hunters, if you've never heard of it - well worth a visit, and they have lots of interesting stuff on their website, too) which was also just a couple blocks away.

Well, you'd think that all of that beady goodness would be enough for me for months, but I'm still planning on wandering around the Bead & Button Marketplace on Sunday, barring any unforeseen circumstances. My beading buddy, Carolyn, and I only spend about 3-4 hours wandering the floor - we never manage to cover the whole place - but it's definitely a highlight of the year. Not to mention getting the opportunity to meet up with other beading friends. If you are going, too, I hope to see you there. If not, have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Eyes Have It

Well, I said yesterday that I'd be talking more about the Garment District today, but in fact, I didn't buy the above in the Garment District. The glass eyes and small ammonite fossils are from a store on the Upper West Side, which is where I lived when I lived in the city. (The one thing that has always amazed me about NYC is, for being one of the best known metropolitan areas in the world, how provincial at heart the residents can be. You're a West Sider or an East Sider or you live in the Village or SoHo or NoHo or any one of the other many neighborhoods into which Manhattan is divided, and that pretty much characterizes how you live in the city and the 20 block radius in which you tend to hang out. This is a bit of an oversimplification but not by much. In my humble opinion, of course.)

Anyway, getting back to the eyes and fossils. I bought them at Maxilla & Mandible, a store which is kind of an institution in the neighborhood. As the name suggests, you can get a variety of bones, including full skeletons, there, along with fossils, shark's teeth, other natural history oddities and, well, things like glass eyes. Fittingly, it's located a block north of the American Museum of Natural History, and it's been around for a yonk's age. I liked the colors in these glass eyes (they are normally used for taxidermy), so I picked up a couple to fiddle around with. And I'm always a sucker for polished ammonite, and these were such a nice, small size. I'm sure you'll be seeing all of these in my jewelry in the future.

Speaking of ammonite, my post for Art Bead Scene is up today and includes, among other things, an ammonite box clasp. Please go here to read it.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nothing to Wear??

Some people worry about what clothes to wear to a formal event. Lately, I've been thinking about what jewelry to wear to Bead & Button this year. Silly, eh? I may have mentioned this before, but I am more a process person in my jewelry making than anything else. I usually have difficulty wearing the pieces that I make, due to the fact that I tend to dress like a soccer Mom these days - tee-shirt, jeans and leather sneakers. (And I've given up wearing any jewelry at all when I'm with the Short One - ie, most of the day - after several rather expensive mishaps. The Short One is surprisingly gentle with my jewelry, but we do end up suffering from accidents more than I would like, due mostly to my toting him and his still-extensive bag of paraphernalia around with me.)

Having looked through my extensive drawers full of necklaces and deciding that I had nothing to wear for Sunday (the day I and my beading buddy Carolyn traditionally visit the B&B Marketplace), I set out to create a simple necklace just for this day. I decided I wanted to wear a koi pendant, but in a way that wasn't terribly decorative. I had picked up some nice heavy (about 6mm diameter) leather cord at Toho Shoji which I felt would work well. I made a couple of end caps for the cord and mocked-up this necklace tonight (the ends are not actually epoxied in yet, and one of the caps needs a little repair).

This is actually the pendant from that big piece I made for competition in April. I did disassemble that necklace - I've turned two of the links into earrings already, and I think the focal works very nicely here. The silver end caps give a nice finished look to the cord, but at the same time the piece as a whole is simple enough to go well with the usual tee shirt and jeans without looking ridiculous. Anyway, if anyone sees an Asian woman wearing this necklace at B&B on Sunday wandering around in a daze, clutching a handful of beads, that'll be me. Please do say "hi".

On other fronts, I've been meaning to mention this for a couple weeks - I've been invited to be a guest editor for Art Bead Scene this month, along with the uber-talented Jean Yates. Of course, I'm going to look like a complete amateur next to Jean with her polished and witty posts (not that I've been, y'know, fretting about this more than ten times a day or anything), but I'm going to give it my best shot. Jean has an inspired review of Jennifer Heynen's book Ceramic Bead Jewelry on Art Bead Scene today. My own post will appear later this week. Oh, and by the way, the theme for the Art Bead Scene Challenge this month is "Pearls of Wisdom". Why not enter?

Back to my exploration of the Garment District in NYC tomorrow. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Lost My Mind at Toho Shoji and It Never Came Back

So, as I was saying yesterday, we had a great trip to NYC, and I had a great 40th birthday. It's odd - I wasn't expecting to feel any different on the day, but I really did, a bit. I wasn't depressed at all, but I felt a little introspective, with a sort of, "Wow, I actually made it to 40" kind of feeling. Anyway, I celebrated by taking a really long, luxurious...nap. I'm sorry to be such a walking cliche, but I entered middle age with a great desire for a little extra sleep. (It may help to put things in context if I tell you that the Short One celebrated my birthday by not taking any nap at all that day.) We had dinner with my folks at one of our favorite Japanese restaurants, Haru, and later in the week I ate lunch at my absolute favorite restaurant, Gobo, a sort-of Pan-Asian vegetarian place.

As with most trips these days, we tend to plan our itinerary around the SO. So, we admired the polar bears at the Central Park Zoo, visited the Manhattan Children's Museum, played in the big playground in Central Park, visited FAO Schwartz and did other SO-friendly things. However, this trip I did have a cunning plan involving beads, too. In particular, it involved leaving the SO, while he napped, with the Husband during the week (who had gamely agreed to this beforehand) and trotting down to the Garment District to raid, er, visit the local bead and notions stores.

When I started my career after graduating from law school, my first job was in Midtown Manhattan, very close to the Garment District. For anyone not familiar with Manhattan, the Garment District is just that - the fashion center of the city and home to many of the world's great fashion houses including fashion jewelry designers. The appeal for neophytes like myself not directly involved in this industry are the many wholesale/retail stores that service and/or revolve around it - store upon store of notions, fabrics, jewelry and...beads. Back then, I was not a beader at all and never set foot in any of these stores (although I did attend the Swarovski sample sale each year, that only involved finished jewelry). What a waste, eh? So, I thought I'd rectify this lack in my background this trip and make some small attempt to canvas the area. I had the address of a single store in my possession - Toho Shoji - whose brightly colored plastic flower beads I admired in BEADS2008, as a starting point.

Well, I entered Toho Shoji one afternoon with the intention of checking things out quickly before moving on to other stores and emerged two hours later in a daze, clutching a bag full of beads and leather cord. It turns out that the store is a branch of a Tokyo-based bead store. To be precise, it is one of three branch stores outside of Japan and the only one that operates outside of Asia (the other two branches are in Hong Kong and Shanghai, I believe). New York being New York, this meant that when I entered, the store was holding a class on beading in Japanese. Indeed, most of the clientele at the time I visited were Japanese (although I did spot one or two young men wearing chic glasses and black clothing chatting with the employees of the store). I felt for a moment as if I were back in Tokyo (a city in which I have, alas, not set foot for nearly twenty years), and it was a wonderful feeling.

The photo above represents just a small sample of what I ended up walking out with. I love these beads - they are colorful, they are light and they are not terribly expensive. I accumulated so many little individual bags of beads on my tray that one of the sales clerks came up and asked me (politely) what exactly I was planning on doing with all of it? In addition to the cheerful plastic stuff, the store also has what looked to be an extensive selection of seed beads, a very large variety of truly lovely Japanese Tensha beads and a wide variety of metal beads and findings. Even though I spent almost two hours at the store, I actually only managed to cover two tables. I'm dying to go back. If you live in the Tri-state area, I highly recommend a visit to Toho Shoji - they are located at 36th and 6th Ave. If you don't live in the Tri-state area, many of their beads and findings are orderable through their website.

Anyway, my cunning plan for the trip was partially foiled by my overwhelming desire to nap, but I still did manage three separate trips to Midtown. Although I intended to go back to Toho Shoji later in the week, I ended up getting distracted and visited a bunch of other stores, instead. But more on this later. (I have to say that it was a quite profitable trip for both the SO and me - when we packed up our bags before heading home, the spare space in our luggage was equally taken up by toy safari animals and beads.)

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, June 2, 2008

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Hi, there. I hope everyone had a good week last week. I don't know if I mentioned this or not, but I actually spent most of my time off in New York City. We had a great time (the Short One in particular, made out like a bandit), and I have a lot to tell, but before I get to all that, I wanted to stop for a bit today and say "thank you" to a few people.

My one year anniversary for working with metal clay passed last week. After procrastinating all month, on May 28th, 2007, I decided that I wanted to enter the Art Bead Scene Challenge for the month, the theme for which was "Ophelia's Garden". Even though I had made only made a whopping four beads (the first of which I actually ended up using in my design for the challenge necklace) with metal clay and hardly knew what I was doing, I decided that it would be perfectly plausible to execute a full necklace using the material in three days. I finished it just a few hours before the challenge deadline, and that was the start of everything that's happened for me over the past year, including this blog that you are so patiently reading.

I've met a lot of people and made many new friends during this year, which has been a wonderful experience. One of the things that has constantly surprised me is how generous, friendly and supportive the beading community is - the artists, authors, designers, editors, etc. who have so generously given their time to a newbie like me are too numerous to mention. I say "thank you" to all of them and am extremely grateful. However, there are a few people and/or organizations I would like to mention particularly as having had a great impact on my first year in jewelry and bead design:

The editors of Art Bead Scene. ABS gave me the initial inspiration I needed to get started working with metal clay. For the first several months, I designed almost exclusively around the ABS challenges. In fact, two of the pieces in the July 2008 issue of BeadStyle were created specifically for ABS challenges. Thank you so much to Heather Powers, Melanie Brooks Lukacs, Tari Sasser, Cindy Gimbrone, Elaine Ray, Lori Greenberg and Virginia Miska - editors past and present of ABS.

Sarah Moran. Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love Sarah's work. Sarah happens to live in Oklahoma City near where I spent part of my childhood. She is completely sympatico and has patiently listened to me rabbit on on various beady topics for some time now. My current jewelry design sensibility has been greatly inspired by Sarah's work.

Beatrice Killeen of Fried Peas. Another favorite lampwork artist of mine! (Check out her beautiful stringer work when you get a chance.) She always made time for my beginner lampworking issues. She has also quietly (and often without even mentioning the fact to me) promoted my work on her website for the past year.

Melanie Brooks Lukacs of Earthenwood Studio. Back in the early days, before I even knew what an art bead was, I traveled up to something called the Bead & Button Show (on the recommendation of a friend of mine who owned a knitting store). Since I was a knitter and not a beader, I resolved only to buy buttons at the show (and I actually kept to that resolution, belive it or not). While there, I met a nice couple named Melanie and Chuck who were selling really beautiful ceramic buttons, among other things. I bought a heap of them, kept the business cards they gave me, got on the Earthenwood mailing list and checked the website from time to time (which eventually led me to Art Bead Scene, as Melanie is one of the founders). The amount of support I've received from Melanie, as I tentatively tested out the beading waters last year, so to speak, has been staggering. As just an example, this blog exists primarily because she encouraged me to start one.

Jennifer Kelly of CaliGirl Art Glass. Together, Beatrice Killeen and Jenn are the Hollister Hot Heads. Like Beatrice, Jenn does lovely things with glass. One of my favorite necklaces I have created ("Java Jive") uses a really beautiful set of beads I purchased from her. It will be published in Step by Step Beads in January 2009 (yay!). I originally met Jenn through Beatrice. I was trying to find out more about working with kilns and metal clay, and Beatrice told me I should contact Jenn. Despite the fact that I was a complete stranger, Jenn gave me a generous amount of her time answering questions about annealing glass and firing metal clay, and we've gone on in a similar fashion since then.

Rachel Place of Sugar Toppers. I met Rachel through the Art Bead Scene Challenge Flickr group. It turned out that we have very similar tastes in beads! Rachel is a talented lampworker in her own right. In fact, I'm working on a necklace using her beads right now. We've been beading and Mommy comrades for the past year. Rachel designed the lovely banner that you see above on my blog.

The editors of BeadStyle Magazine. I had a lucky break early on last year, in that the editors at BeadStyle accepted several of my pieces for publication right off the bat. Since then, I've had my fair share of rejections (believe me), but those initial acceptances gave me the confidence I needed to continue designing for publication. Call me shameless, but I still can't believe how beautiful the Gallery spread in the current issue of the magazine is.

Debi Cogwell, aka the Palm Tree Queen. When it comes to humorous lampworked beads, Debi's are definitely at the top of my list. Two of the first beads I purchased from her were a couple of Hip-Hop bunnies (and I mean hip-hop in genre of music - I didn't realize until the Husband pointed it out, but one of the rabbits is grabbing his crotch, with real Attitude). Debi was always generous with lampworking tips as I struggled my way through trying to design my own beads.

Lezlie Belanger of Canterbury Keepsakes. I like pretty much everything that Lezlie makes, particularly her sweets beads. Lezlie was also very generous with her time whenever I had a lampworking issue. She even once offered to anneal my beads for me before I bought my kiln, when I was having problems with bits of stringer popping off of my early beads.

There are many, many more people I could name here (and many people that I have met more recently, that I am just now coming to know). As I say, I can't believe what an open and friendly place the beading community is. I should probably also say that the opportunity to start making beads and jewelry really only arose after the Short One arrived (the hours I kept in my former job really prevented me from trying out a lot of this creative stuff), so I have to thank the SO, too.

To cap everything off, I just received notice today in the mail that my entry for the Fire Mountain Gems 2008 Beading Contest has made the cut and will be considered for final judging next month. My goal this year was to reach the finals in one of the contests I entered, so I am extremely happy. (Please wish me luck for the next stage!) Creatively, this has been a great year for me, and I can only reiterate how much I appreciate the help and support of my friends.

Thanks for listening. Tomorrow I'll have a photo from my trip to show you. Have a great day.