I'm back again with more shameless self-promo. This time it's the March/April 2009 issue of Step by Step Beads. The piece I have in here is a special one - it was the necklace I created for a Collaboration Exploration I was invited to participate in with Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio and Heather Powers of Humblebeads a while back. In addition to the beautiful beads provided by these artists, I also added some really gorgeous faceted ceramic beads by Diane Hawkey to my design. Many thanks to both Melanie and Heather, as well as to, of course, the lovely people at Step by Step Beads.
On other fronts, the Short One and I have been busy painting snow. Earlier this week, his teachers at Mom's Morning Away took all of the kids out and let them "paint" the snow with spray bottles filled with food-coloring and water. The SO went completely wild over this innovative way to play with snow, so wild that we ended up making a special trip to the store to pick up spray bottles of our own. The SO got completely worked up about our new bottles, woke up the next day, bouncing up and down about them - and it rained buckets the whole day (and night).
We watched forlornly as a ton of lovely, lovely white snow got washed away bit by bit. Fortunately for me (ie, for my sanity, as the SO was quite vocal about his disappointment), when we woke up this morning, we discovered that there was still a teenie patch of snow left in the back yard. We kitted up and marched off with grim determination with our bottles. I can now safely say that there is considerably more blue and red in our yard than there was heretofore. And the SO's creative spirit seems to have been satisfied, at least for the moment.
I considered a number of (cheesy) titles for this blog posts: When Bad Beading Happens to Good Beaders, Beads Gone Bad, etc., etc. Really, though, what I want to talk about is what happens, and what to do, if/when your Muse leaves you. (And yet the cheesiness persists - for some weird reason, this statement conjures up images of Olivia Newton-John in "Xanadu", but maybe that's just me. I can only hope. If you are too young to know about what the heck I am talking, don't tell me - I don't want to know.)
This past Monday, I woke up and had a genuine urge to make beads, design jewelry and even write about the whole process. I really hate to admit it, but I haven't had this urge for a long time. I don't know if it's been evident to you, but it's been wildly evident to me that I've been in a slump. A big one. A long one. A big crater of creativity, so to speak. I didn't want to admit it to anyone, because, frankly, I was embarrassed. How could I admit that I was having trouble coming up with original designs? How could I possibly inform you that I felt bizarre ones like the above were perfectly wearable? (Can you believe I actually submitted this photo to a magazine? What was I thinking? My abject apologies to Joan Miller, the artist of the perfectly beautiful ceramic bead at the center of this fiasco. Joan - I've ripped apart this piece, and I'm already working on a new one that will hopefully be much worthier of your bead.)
However, the more I pondered the problem, the more I became convinced that this must happen to everyone at some time or another, right? Right? (Again, if you don't understand what I'm saying, I don't want to know.) So, I thought it would be interesting to open this up for discussion (if anyone would care to discuss it with me). When you hit a slump, when you're sitting around worrying about the economy, when your morale is low, what do you do (apart from feel frustrated)? Here are a few things that I tried, that have been helpful:
1. Get more sleep. I tend to burn the candle at both ends. During the day, I wear my Mommy hat and spend my time discussing urgent issues with the Short One such as whether chocolate ice cream is on the menu, where groceries comes from, when Santa Claus is likely to visit again and whether Donald Duck will be wearing a red tie today. At night, the hat goes in the closet and I don my cape and mask (uh, in the privacy of my own home) and turn into Bead Lady. Sometimes Bead Lady refuses to leave until the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, the SO often gets up shortly after the wee hours of the morning. Thus, I have pretty much been sleep deprived since the stork brought the SO to our doorstep, and it shows. Lately, members of my family have been eyeing me with the nervousness afforded to a ticking bomb. After some grumbling (I don't like admitting that I'm wrong), and as BL wasn't producing much anyway, I started going to bed shortly after the SO. It's amazing what getting reasonable amounts of sleep has done for my perspective on life.
2. Put aside work that simply isn't coming together for you, but, no matter what, keep working. In retrospect, I feel that 98% of the stuff I produced over the past couple months hasn't been very good, and I have a lot of false starts that are still lying around, waiting to be saved or ripped apart. However, I kept slogging away, and I still have that 2% to show for it, work that I actually like in spite of everything. That 2% has kept me sane and interested in continuing with this whole beady experience.
3. When you take a break, do something completely unrelated, like going to see a movie, reading a book, visiting a museum. Much of my inspiration comes from reading. I have a background in English Renaissance literature, but I haven't formally studied in the field since the early 90's. I find that going back to my favorite works by Donne, Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, etc., etc. relaxes me and reminds me why I loved the field. It also, despite myself, gets the beady portion of my brain percolating with new ideas. When you come right down to it, though, almost any interesting experience is fodder for design, as far as I'm concerned.
4. Participate in a design challenge. I don't know about you, but sometimes, it's a lack of focus that's the problem for me. Participating in a challenge can help, by providing the starting point, in the form of a theme, for inspiration to strike. In fact, I started seriously designing beads and jewerly initially by participating in the monthly challenges held by Art Bead Scene. Most of the first designs I had published were all works I created through the lens of an Art Bead Scene challenge. I'm probably too late for this month, but one of the big items on my to-do list right now is to participate more regularly in the ABS, and other, challenges.
I've had a solid, creative week this week, and I'm quite hopeful that I'm emerging from the other end of my slump. However, I'm still interested in knowing what you do when you hit a block. If you feel like sharing, please leave a comment below.
Yesterday was a pretty productive day. The house was (reasonably) clean, so while the Short One was at Mom's Morning Away class, I put aside chores and worked on silver for a while, got a couple project proposals ready, photographed and listed a few things in the shop and started a new piece that has been on my drawing board since the beginning of the year. Pretty mundane, but it's been a while since I've been about to accomplish even these modest tasks, so I'm satisfied. Well, either that, or I've learned to live with severely reduced expectations.
We ended up eating at the local Cajun restaurant last night, and the SO came home with a haul of star-shaped Mardi Gras beads in a rainbow of colors. He has a pirate's ransom worth of them now. I have to confess: I'm itching to use a few of them for a project of my own. However, the SO counts really well these days - up to 41 (one less than the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything), and I'm sure I'd be held accountable for any missing strands! So, we each have our own bead stashes in the house now (although, really, what's his is his and what's mine is his, if you know what I mean).
I hope life is going well for you, too. Have a great day.
Given the day, I thought it would be appropriate to show off the Short One's favorite hat. This is one of those patterns I wish I'd written myself. It's by far the easiest jester's hat pattern I've seen, and I own several commercial patterns for such hats. I took this one from The Yarn Girls' Guide to Kid Knits: Patterns for Babies and Toddlers.
I altered it slightly in size, knit it on circular needles (at least the base) and changed out the original pompoms (I don't care for pompoms all that much) for little stuffed balls on the tips - the extra weight of the balls makes the hat flop quite nicely. It is really cute when worn, especially by a short person. The SO himself has finally outgrown this one (I don't know if you can see how worn looking it is from the photo, but it's been well-loved - trust me), and he's already picked out the colors for a larger sized version (purple, blue and green). Oh, and I knit this with Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere that I purchased on sale somewhere, so it's also really warm.
Incidentally, the Yarn Girls are the owners of the The Yarn Co. on the Upper West Side of Manhattan - it used to be my LYS (although it was under different ownership at the time I lived there, I still make a point of stopping in whenever I visit New York City). Anyway, I love this hat - I imagine I'll continue to knit this pattern for the SO for the next couple years at least, until he's too old for something so cutesy.
I hope everyone enjoys their Mardi Gras. (The SO is a fiend for Mardi Gras beads...)
We were all watching the "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" last night for the very first time. The Short One was entranced (you may recall that we are mad about The Mouse in this house), and, presently, H. turned to me and said, "You know, that sounds like 'They Might Be Giants' singing the theme song." Sure enough, when the credits rolled at the end of the episode, it turned out to be one of our favorite groups. I don't remember Mickey Mouse being so hip when we were kids. Music for the whole family!
I couldn't find an authorized video of the Mickey Mouse theme song to embed here (although you can hear it on the webpage for the show), but I did find this one of the single "Apartment 4", which is from the They Might Be Giants' kids album, "Here Come the 123s".
Katie Hacker has a new column in Beadwork magazine entitled Katie's Beading Secrets. The column in this month's issue discusses various ways to use bead cones and caps, and includes ideas from the Bead Blogging group, including Heather Powers, Melanie Brooks and myself. To see photos of they way we suggest using the cones or caps, please visit Katie's blog, here.
Well, given how generally unproductive I've been lately, I've been trying to resist this one for the past few weeks, but I just had to give in to temptation today - I finally ordered my kit for the USE THE MUSE contest.
Scarlett Lanson, Contributing Editor of Beadwork Magazine ("Scarlett's Style"), has started this inspired challenge-style contest. All entrants will receive the above kit, plus a special "Muse" item. Contestants will create their best designs using the "Muse" (the one piece from the kit that must be used) and whatever other elements in the kit they desire, along with beads from their own stashes. I love this concept - the "Muse" sort of reminds me of the secret ingredient in "Iron Chef", a show I love (I realize this might not be exactly the image the creator has in mind - sorry, Scarlett!). I'm mighty curious to find out what the "Muse" is.
One catch - because I was dithering over entering, I've left things kind of late. If you wish to enter, you must buy a kit by no later than February 28th. (If you feel you are too late to enter this one, though, fear not. I understand from Scarlett that she intends to hold another similar contest later this spring, so be sure to sign up for her newsletter when you visit her website.) For more information and the complete rules, please go here.
Despite the 3-4 inches of snow we received hereabouts yesterday, our thoughts are fixed firmly on spring. Here's the Short One's latest masterpiece, made during his Mom's Morning Away class. Evidently, the children learned that George was a naughty boy for handling that dangerous axe and was sent to his bedroom for a time out. Naughty or not, it's a cute tree, right?
I've actually had a somewhat productive weekend - I wrote up a project proposal (I'm determined not to miss yet another deadline), photographed several pieces for the Etsy store, made and fired a kiln-load of silver and now I'm actually posting the week's bead & jewelry links before 10pm. Yay - small (teenie) achievements add up! I hope you had a great weekend, too. Anyway, without further ado, here are your intriguing links for the week:
Following on from that Gryphon pendant I made last year, I thought I'd go ahead and do at least one other (I have an idea for a third, but who knows when I'll actually get around to it).
Although, in general, I was never a terribly girly girl growing up, I did have an overwhelming passion for unicorns. I had a huge collection of them, from inexpensive commercial plastic ones designed for children's play to (what I realize now were) artisan-crafted works of art. (As an aside, did you know that a grouping of unicorns is called a "blessing of unicorns"?) Anyway, I thought it would be nice to remember that cheerful time of life with a new pendant.
Like the Gryphon, I wanted to render the animal in a simple line form reminiscent of the illustrations in medieval bestiaries. Well, after two pages of agonized sketching in my book (as I believe I mentioned in the previous post, this stuff just does not come all that easily to me), I think I ultimately managed to create a nice, simple form, here, and even incorporated the classic combination of the head of a horse, a goat's beard, a lion's tail and cloven hooves. However, my rendering is ultimately pretty modern-looking, overall - the medieval versions always remind me of a cross between a goat and a deer. I added a small resin heart to mine to symbolize the unicorn's purity.
I added five small holes to the bottom of this pendant, as I thought it would look nice with small rose quartz or aquamarine briolettes dangling beneath it. I haven't actually found the stone yet to wire-wrap to the pendant, though.
Even more shameless promo from me - I have a cheerful necklace entitled "Heart to Heart" incorporating some of Michele Goldstein's wonderful beads (along with one of my graphic heart pendants) and a turquoise bracelet project in the Spring 2009 issue of Stringing. My heart charms and pendants are also part of the heart bead profile. Check out Lorelei Eurto's and Heather Power's great pieces on the cover, among others. (It took me a couple days to realize this, but my piece is actually on the cover, too - it's just that you can only see the clasp - big beaded, sterling silver toggle ring smack in between Heather's and Lorelei's necklaces - and the strands of button pearls. Oh, well!)
I was going to show off that new pendant today (really - no, really), but the Short One took a shorter nap than usual, and I didn't have time to photograph it. Will do my best to try again tomorrow...
Greetings. I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day. Here's a photo of what the Short One ended up doing with the (mostly) green hearts he cut out earlier this week. (Daddy received the special blue and white heart card.)
I will actually have a new pendant design to show later this week (I know, I'm so prolific, right?). In the meantime, here are your intriguing bead and jewelry links for the week:
Katie's Beading Blog Katie's spreading the beady love with free shipping and a CRYSTALLIZED™ jet twist pendant with your purchase of the new book, Bead & Wire Jewelry Exposed, from her website. Offer ends Thursday, Feb. 19th.
After a couple nights with about two hours worth of sleep followed by a night of almost eleven straight hours of sleep (I follow the Short One's sleep patterns and he has been sick, after all), my internal clock is completely discombobulated, and I'm wide awake at, well, it appears to be a quarter to 3:00 (am) right now. Given how dodgy my posting has been for the past couple months, I thought I'd go ahead and seize the dead fish, as my friend says ("carpe diem" to the rest of the world) and write this up. In honor of Valentine's Day, here's a delicate bracelet written in that most romantic of languages, Pig Latin. What can I say? I-yay ust-jay ave-hay o-tay e-bay e-may.
On other fronts, the SO has been practicing his scissor work by cutting out paper hearts all day. I have to say, his skills are coming along nicely, although he seems to want to combine the St. Valentine's holiday with St. Patrick's Day, as we've mostly been making green hearts.
Since I probably won't be seeing you again until Sunday, I hope you have a very nice holiday, however you spend it. Thanks for stopping in.
The Husband, who became convinced that he was suffering from allergies rather than a bad cold, because he just wasn't getting any better after two weeks, stopped taking any precautions, germ-wise, around us last weekend. As a result, the Short One and I are now suffering from what, yes, really is just a bad cold. So the whole family is sick (again) now, but the SO, who managed to avoid the last round of family illness, has it the worst. Since his throat is pretty raw and he has a terrible, hacking cough, we ended up making his first serving ever of Jell-O, thinking that it might be something soothing (albeit not terribly nutritious) for him to eat.
The SO, being the SO, thought it was a pretty cool toy (he liked the way it jiggled) and enjoyed my attempt to tie it into the upcoming holiday - everything is heart-shaped around here this week. I don't think he thought much of it as something to actually eat, though. For my part, I enjoyed the completely unnatural blue shade of the gelatin, which ended up reminding me of these (a-ha, you see? I finally manage to tie one of my posts in to jewelry!):
I did not make these, I hasten to say. I lived in England in the early 90s, and my mother and I found this pair while browsing around Liberty in London, I believe during the summer of 1990. She bought them for me as a gift (I seem to recall that they were rather hideously expensive, although I'm sure the exchange rate, which was around 2-1 back then, didn't help), and they were my favorite pair of earrings for the next several years. I found them again while cleaning up our spare bedroom preparatory to painting it a couple weeks ago.
They are made of shells suspended in tinted blue resin. At the time, I thought they were a funky, chic re-interpretation of all of those shells-in-acrylic spoon-rests that were once all over the place in the 70s (remember those? at least, those of you who are as creaky as I am?) Because they are clip-ons (I do not have pierced ears), they are also fairly big.
I find the earrings an interesting relic, especially in light of the kinds of jewelry I'm actually making these days. While I can tell that my tastes have definitely changed with time (and I certainly don't ever intend to post any pics of what my hair looked like back then or during the 80s, for example), I think it's evident that the sort of designs in which I'm interested now definitely stem from my salad days.
Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that, looking back over pieces I collected and wore as a young(er) woman, I can actually see a certain development in style over the years. Like many designers, I started out in my youth as someone who simply liked jewelry. Without thinking about it much, I would probably say today that I don't have a really fixed "style" in my designs. However, looking at these favorite earrings from almost 20 years ago, a few things are, in fact, evident to me: I still like big pieces that make a statement, I like color, I like resin and mixing resin with more natural, organically-themed objects, and, well, I still like sea-themes. (Really, if it weren't the fact that I'd have to fight with the SO over them, I might start wearing these earrings around town again.)
It does make me wonder if this kind of continuity is true for other designers. What do you think? If you go back through the types of jewelry you collected in your youth, how do you think they inform your current style as a designer? Inquiring minds would like to know.
The Short One and I have been watching Wallace & Gromit videos a lot lately - "A Close Shave" is definitely our favorite. Much to our joy, we discovered today, through the official website, a whole series of Wallace & Gromit shorts, entitled "Cracking Contraptions", that we hadn't yet seen. This one is our favorite. (Well, it's my favorite - the SO doesn't really discriminate among them. He loves them all. Come to think of it, he has a point, doesn't he?) If you love W&G as we do and haven't seen these yet, they are well worth your time. (Be warned - you do have to sit through the sponsor's commercial in order view the videos.) Go here to view the others.
Back with actual beady posts later. Thanks for stopping in!
I can't believe it's Sunday already. When not chauffeuring the SO to classes, play dates, etc., I spent a lot of this week hibernating - taking naps with the SO and sleeping early. My cold hasn't completely disappeared, but I do feel much better. Not much happening on the bead front, though. I've spent some time mocking up of a few pieces but haven't really finished anything. I also went on-line geode shopping, but that's for another post, I think.
I hope you had a more productive week than me! Here's your intriguing bead and jewelry links to help you get inspired this week:
This post is sort of an addendum to my earlier one about the allure of the local rock shop. In my quest to become a better rock hound, generally, I've been scouting out more rock and fossil venues lately. I haven't had much luck finding nice dino bone or coprolite beads yet, but I did score this unusual strand recently. I actually came across it on my own while browsing through attractive strands of jasper and quartz beads. I thought they were interestingly tactile (it doesn't come across well in the photo - the beads have great texture) but hadn't the faintest idea what they were. I ended up getting distracted by some beautiful polished ammonite halves and put them back without making an inquiry.
Fortunately, when I checked out with the items I had put on my tray, I asked about the dino and corprolite beads and received this reply: "If we could find good quality ones, we would definitely buy them, but they're actually pretty hard to come by. [Pause.] We do have mammoth bone beads, though. Would you be interested in those?"
I love stuff like this. I found the beads intriguing before knowing what they were, but the fact that they are actually fossilized mammoth bone (and I should point out that they are mammoth bone and not mammoth ivory) makes them irresistible to someone like me. So, I say again - check out your local rock shop. You never know what you'll find.
I found this video by complete serendipity tonight. I'm not familiar with Oren Lavie's work, but I quite like this single, and the video, featuring a young woman sleepwalking in bed (I know it doesn't make sense - you'll just have to watch it), is charming. Thought I'd share. G'night.
It's cold and blustery here, there's still tons of snow on the ground (which has been lying there long enough to turn brown and icky) and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. Darn it. So, in my usual state of denial, I'm closing my eyes, covering my ears and thinking firmly about spring.
Here's a new, simple piece for your review. Although it doesn't really look like one, it's inspired by dream catchers, those Native American pieces that resemble elaborate, embellished webs. As a child growing up in Oklahoma, I always loved the idea that dream catchers (which are to be hung above the bed) sift through the sleeper's dreams, catching the bad dreams and allowing the good dreams to pass through the center to slide down the (sometimes elaborately) woven beads and feathers onto the dreamer.
So the feather pendant in this necklace is a wish for good dreams. The slices of Sleeping Beauty turquoise (as in the SO's birthday giveaway necklace) represent the sky. White quartz suggests the propitious dreams. I finished the piece with cream silk cord and a sterling silver toggle clasp by Robert Jennick (the end caps are also by him). A nice piece for spring, right? Now if only I could dream of warmer weather - that would be a good dream.
Well, I meant to show this off last week, but circumstances intervened (H. and I are finally starting to feel more human and the Short One never did contract our sneezy, drippy cold, yay). I did NOT make this, I hasten to say. I placed a custom order with FELT86, who does wonderful things with, well, felt. Each of the little decorations is detachable, so the SO can decorate his own birthday cake to his heart's content. The SO, who loves to bake, adores this toy. I can't tell you how many cakes we've been making. Except for the fact that H. would kill me, I'd be so tempted to order her sushi set next.
Due to the aforementioned sneezy, drippy cold, you probably noticed that I failed to make any interesting observations about beads this week. Sigh. However, fear not - you can get your beady fix by following the links below to the usual, talented suspects:
I am an intellectual property lawyer by training and have a background in English Renaissance literature. I love science fiction. I primarily watch Sesame Street these days and find myself humming "Pop Goes the Weasel" at odd moments (guess why). I can happily eat ice cream in the middle of winter when the wind chill is 20 below 0. I have been making beads and designing jewelry since 2007.
2010 - Winner, First Place, British Bead Awards, Other Finished Bead Jewellery 2010 - Winner, Second Place, British Bead Awards, Metal Clay Jewellery 2010 - Winner, Second Place, Bead Dreams, Metal Clay
2010 - Grand Prize, Gold Medal Winner, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, Metal Clay, Metal Beads, Wirework and Chain Jewelry-Making Contest
2010 - Finalist, Bead Star, Stones, Plastics and Designs with Heart Categories
2009 - Winner, First Place, British Bead Awards, Metal Clay
2009 - Winner, Second Place, British Bead Awards, Beyond Glass, Handmade Beads and Components
2009 - Winner, Second Place, Bead Arts Awards, Necklace
2009 - Finalist, Bead Dreams, Metal Clay
2008 - Finalist Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Beading Contest, Metal Clay
2008 - Finalist, Bead Star, Pearls
A word about copyright
As indicated in the copyright notice, the contents of this blog are copyright by me. To the extent that instructions to make jewelry, beads, knit items or other instructions are included in this blog, they are free for you to use to make the projects for personal use. They should not be used for commercial purposes, ie, to make items for resale.