Sunday, May 31, 2009

I've Been Tagged!

Hi, it's good to see you again. I'm back from New York - we all had a great time and arrived home loaded down with Playmobil toys and, well, beads (guess what belongs to whom). I had the opportunity to sit down over coffee with the wonderful Andrew Thornton while there. These lovely pendants are from him - the one on the right contains a piece of sea glass from Hawaii and is stamped with the words "the river says swim". Beautiful, eh? And I've actually been wanting a bronze owl pendant (which always reminds me of the goddess Athena), so I'm very excited about that - thanks again, Andrew!

Anyway, while I was away, Andrew tagged me on his blog (go here to read his entry) - I thought I'd go ahead and play today:

What is your current obsession?
Motherhood - it doesn't come easily to me, so I tend to think about it (and the object of my motherhood, the Short One) a lot. Hopefully, the SO benefits rather than suffers from all this. I guess he'll let me know one way or the other, eh?

What is your weirdest obsession?
Well, related to the above, we're finishing up potty training right now, so, yeah, I'm quite focused on the two "P's"...

What are you wearing today?
A linen skirt that my mother found for me on sale through the J. Peterman catalog (the best clothing catalog ever - I will just sit down and read it like a book, I find the descriptions so amusing) and a cotton tee. I have a bunch of these linen skirts in different colors (it was a great sale) that I've been waiting to wear since April. I finally gave in and started wearing them a few days before Memorial Day. No one really pays attention to those seasonal rules anymore, do they? Do they?

What's for dinner?
Tofu jigae (tofu in spicy sauce with green onions, pork and pork broth, the way we make it here) for the adults and the SO's version of mac and cheese - plain noodles with a little butter and lots of parma reggiano (he won't eat anything "wet" looking except ice cream right now) for the SO.

What would you eat for your last meal?
Beijing style seitan, pickled shredded papaya, coconut rice and a very berry blast smoothie from Gobo, my favorite restaurant (the dish is on the lunch menu, if anyone is interested).

What's the last thing you bought?
The Playmobil ice cream store super set. (The last thing I bought for myself was a beautiful strand of Baltic "sea" amber.)

What are you listening to right now?
"Fall at Your Feet" by Crowded House, "Buildings and Bridges" by Ani DiFranco and "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel.

What is your favorite ice-cream flavour?
Red bean mochi ice cream (the kind that actually comes served as a little Japanese mochi cake filled with ice cream). Yum.

What do you think of the person who tagged you?
Andrew Thornton is a supremely talented designer with a wonderful "eye" - I love viewing the world as he sees it, which is one of the reasons I visit his blog daily. He is also the perfect person with whom to sit down for a nice cup of coffee and a chat.

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
England. Some of the happiest years of my life were spent there working on my M.Phil. in Renaissance lit.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Hmm, I'm with Andrew on this one - Hawaii, although I'd like to spend more than an hour there, too!

Which language do you want to learn?
Japanese. I'm a bit of an otaku - I like Japanese manga, fiction and pop culture. I would like to be able to read a lot of this stuff in the original language.

What's your favorite quote (for now)?
Insist on yourself; never imitate - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What's your favorite colour?
Garnet, ruby, cranberry - really, any warm, rich shade of red.

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?
An embroidered silk kimono I purchased in Hawaii while on my honeymoon.

What is your dream job?
Well, a job involving writing and design...

What's your favorite magazine?
It's too tough for me to pick a particular beading magazine, because I pretty much read them all, including but not limited to BeadStyle, Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Art Jewelry etc., etc.. Of the general magazines relating to adornment that may include jewelry and beads, I enjoy reading Ornament and Belle Armoire.

If you had £100 now, what would you spend it on?
Books. Making Connections: A Handbook of Cold Joins for Jewelers and Mixed-Media Artists by Susan Lenart Kazmer has been on my list for a while now. I'm also interested in Barbara Becker Simon's Metal Clay Beads: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration (A Lark Jewelry Book). And let's not forget Cynthia Thornton's Enchanted Adornments: Creating Mixed-Media Jewelry with Metal, Clay, Wire, Resin & More coming out this fall!

Favorite designer?
I don't think I've ever discussed this on the blog (but I should - soon, soon), but there are many Native American jewelry designers, especially Navajo, that I admire. I particularly follow the work of Lee Yazzie, Victor Beck and Marco Begaye.

Do you admire any one's style?
Well, I don't really follow a single person's style. I really like the style promoted by clothing designer Eileen Fisher - simple lines, vaguely Asian in flavor, extremely comfortable (this last is quite important to me).

Describe your personal style?

What are you going to do after this?
Go shopping for a new DVD player. Ours finally bit the dust yesterday and the SO has been wanting to watch "Bolt". I wouldn't mind watching "Bolt" either, actually.

What are your favorite movies?
"Spirited Away", "Howl's Moving Castle", "Amelie", "Beckett", "A Man for All Seasons" and "The Lion in Winter".

What are you reading now?
I'm re-reading Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was - a beautiful fantasy novel about Number Ten Ox, Li Kao, who has a "slight flaw" in his character, and Jade Pearl, a woman with a smile so wonderful it could fell an ox at ten paces. I'm also reading Conspirator: (Foreigner #10) by C.J. Cherryh, part of my all-time favorite science fiction series.

What's your favorite fruit?
Cactus fruit (not be be confused with cactus pear). I only ever found this in England in the tonier Waitrose grocers and at Fortnums. It's spiky and bright yellow on the outside and has white flesh with black seeds on the inside. It is very sweet. I don't know if it goes by any other name.

What inspires you?
My son, always. What I read, especially Shakespeare and Donne. The view from my window. Really, what doesn't inspire me?

What's your favorite work of art?
Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party". Well, perhaps not my favorite, but it's definitely the most pivotal for me. I had virtually no interest in art as a child (apart from scribbling with my own crayons, if you know what I mean) until I saw the original when it was touring the United States with the Phillips Collection.

The rules:
1. Respond and rework; answer the question on your blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own invention.
2. Tag eight other people.

Hmm, yes, well, here are my eight victims:

Jean Yates
Erin Prais-Hintz
Sue of Sue Beads
Cindy Gimbrone
Barbe Saint John
Carter Seibels
Mary Harding
Tammy Powley

Thank you for visiting and reading this!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bead & Jewelry Linky Love

I'm posting bead and jewelry links early (well, early for me) this week, because I'm off on vacation starting tomorrow. Here's a pic of the two tiles I picked up at Home Depot a couple months ago in a (possibly feeble) attempt to improve my staging. Really, after using these for a while now, I still can't decide whether they add anything to my photos or whether they're just distracting. Where do you take your jewelry photos? Inquiring minds would like to know!

Also, I'm, uh, gradually trying to gear up to the 21st century here. I added a Followers link to my sidebar. I still don't quite see how this works - how does this differ from a blog roll? Is it just more convenient, since you can follow a blog by just clicking on a button? I was also surprised to see that people actually have managed to follow me even though I haven't had a "Follow" link up. How do you do that? Yeah, I'm feeling my age these days. Darned new-fangled technology. Anyway, if you feel like following me - please do. I would love to see you again.

Here are your intriguing links of the week: Jewelry Making
Want to try bead weaving but not sure where to start? Consider one of these amazing kits for 1 Bead Weaver.

Art Bead Scene
Beads made from nuts are all the rage. Go nuts and add some to your bead stash!

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
Melanie chooses a new name for her new work: Toolbox Treasures!

Jewelry & Beading
Repurpose old beads and charms into a wicked fun treasure necklace!

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean reveals the cover of an upcoming wonderful new jewelry design book by Jean Campbell all about the fabulous Victorian-fantasy style of jewelry, Steampunk!

Melissa shows off a new necklace design inspired by a beautiful, Russian hand-painted focal pendant

See you next week!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Thing of Beauty

I just saw this on pre-order at Amazon today - Cynthia Thornton's forthcoming book entitled Enchanted Adornments: Creating Mixed-Media Jewelry with Metal, Clay, Wire, Resin & More. Am I looking forward to reading this? Yes. Yes, I am.

Addendum: Oh, I just learned there is a Facebook page set up for the book! For updates on the status of the book as well as other fun facts and even some upcoming giveaways, please do visit.

Good night.

To Each His Mask

A couple months ago, Jean Yates had a beautiful necklace on her blog featuring a gorgeous hand-painted Russian pendant from I'd never seen anything like that pendant, and I fell in love with it immediately.

Well, it turns out that carries a huge, mouth-watering selection of these lovely pendants, including an interesting line that incorporates reproductions of artist masterpieces in miniature. I loved all of these latter, but when I saw the above pendant in their catalog, I had to have it. (Please click on the photo, if you would like a closer look.)

My background is in the English Renaissance, not the Northern Renaissance, but to be honest, I love everything about this period in history, and this piece really speaks to me. Apparently, the original sits in the Uffizi Gallery and is attributed to the Florentine painter, Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio. It is part of a sleeve that covers a more conventional portrait of a lady. The inscription "sua cuique persona" translates into English as "to each his own mask". This enigmatic construction of the piece and the inscription (which I believe may come from Seneca, but I'm not absolutely sure) is often used to illustrate how people of the Renaissance viewed issues of identity.

I adore the fact that a Russian artist turned this old masterpiece into an equally enigmatic piece for adornment - it seems quite appropriate. My original concept for a necklace with the pendant actually involved stringing it with starkly contrasting white quartz. However, while rooting through my supplies, I came across a handful of tiny drilled shells that complemented the tone of the mask design beautifully, so I immediately chucked my first concept (which I still think would work well), in favor of the shells. I added small brass bells which create a gentle jingle when the wearer moves, matte black onyx, olive jade, Swarovski crystal and copper seed beads to finish the piece. Here's a shot of the full necklace.

These pendants are simply wonderful. Mine is much more beautiful in person than in the photographs - the lacquer finish adds a lovely shine to the piece and makes it very satisfying to touch. I currently have four more of these pendants on my wish list (here's one, if you are interested) that I hope to acquire over time. was a great find (thanks, Jean!), and I look forward to using their beads in the future. I recommend visiting the site to peruse their extensive selection of jewelry supplies.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bead & Jewelry Linky Love

Here's the Short One's latest masterpiece. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of his favorite books.) The SO's grandparents (my in-laws) were visiting last week, so it was a whirlwind of activity here - park, zoo, park, children's museum, park, children's play cafe, park. Well, you get the picture - we are definitely enjoying the warmer weather here nowadays.

I have a new necklace to show off, probably tomorrow, with one of the most gorgeous beads I've ever seen, from In the meantime, here are your intriguing bead and jewelry links: Jewelry Making
Take another look at this UK beading and jewelry magazine that has had a recent jewelry face lift.

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Taking advantage of the ten hour drive to Bead Fest Wire in Philadelphia, Andrew created three new necklace designs in the car!

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
Melanie shows some new works in progress, inspired by her family's workshop toolboxes

Carmi's Art/Life World
Carmi makes a cute summer necklace with cell phone dangles.

Art Bead Scene
Be inspired by Impressionism. Monet's Waterlillies are this month's challenge.

Barbe Saint John - New Jewelry from Forgotten Artifacts
Bronze pendant inspires a nature themed necklace

Jewelry & Beading
Spring cleaning tips to get your jewelry business in tip-top shape this season!

Strands of Beads
Melissa looks back on two years of making beads and designing jewelry

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Treating Myself - Kate McKinnon pendant

A beautiful box by Kate McKinnon with bead by Corina Tettinger

As you may guess from my sidebar link to her Metal Clay Safety Project, I follow Kate McKinnon's work. Two years ago, when I told Sarah Moran that I was thinking of trying out metal clay, she advised me to check out Kate's work - and I loved it. Her clean, architectural style is completely beautiful.

I've been dying to take a class with her, and hope to by, uh, well, 2011. I know, laugh if you want, but I think by then the Short One will be okay without me for a day or two. Of course, if she comes back to Chicago to teach metal clay (hint, hint, if you are reading this, Kate) before then, I'll be waiting in line for a spot. Her books and articles on metal clay are also top notch - I've been wanting to review Structural Metal Clay since I started reviewing books on this blog. As usual, in my speedy way, I hope to get to it before the end of the summer.

Anyway, I saw this photo of one of the projects for her upcoming book on her blog and completely fell in love with the piece. So, I decided to treat myself to a birthday present. I contacted Kate and am now it's proud owner. This shot doesn't show the cool, pod-like dangle on the piece, so here's another (in process) photo:

Beautiful, right? I love it, I love the lampworked bead, which is by Corina Tettinger, and the cute vintage brass finding from Gail Crosman Moore. I can't wait to have it in my hands - although, knowing me, it will probably end up in my box of treasures (which contains, for example, Cynthia Thornton's fine silver, polymer and resin Sphinx pendant, which I blogged about at Art Bead Scene last year, here). I get out these pieces periodically and croon over them, but they haven't made it into my finished jewelry yet.

If you are already familiar with Kate's work, then you know why I love her stuff. If not, stop reading this right now and go here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Nice Surprise

I opened the door this morning to put a package out for carrier pickup and was quite surprised to see a box from Interweave Press waiting for me. I don't have any projects scheduled for publication this month, but the shape of the package clearly indicated that there was a magazine or book inside.

Well, it turns out my gryphon pendant and bone and snake toggle clasp made it into BEADS2009! I had submitted beads for this issue but never heard back from the editors, so I assumed that none of the pieces made it. They are in the "World Beat" section. What a nice way to start the day. Thanks to everyone at Beadwork!

Have a great day, everyone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A little night music

The local Borders is selling off its CD section - everything is currently 50% off. I ended up buying a copy of "Jagged Little Pill" last week. This was my favorite album from 1991-1992. I was living in England in the time, working on my M.Phil. in English Renaissance literature. The exchange rate was terrible, about two dollars to one pound sterling, and I couldn't afford much by way of entertainment. I think this was the only album I bought back then, and I purchased it on cassette tape, because it was cheaper. I think I played the second side of this album until the tape practically wore out. I've been having a good time listening to it again while I work. I didn't have access to music videos back then, so this is, ironically (no pun intended), the first time I've seen this video. I also like the single "Head over Feet" quite a bit.

Art Bead Scene's Monthly Challenge

It's been ages since I worked with one of my koi pendants or entered one of Art Bead Scene's monthly challenges. However, this month's theme is Monet's Water Lilies, so I couldn't resist. (I suppose I should have used one of my koi pendants with water lilies, but, well, maybe next time...) The pearls and crystal here are intended to represent bubbles in the water.

Entering Art Bead Scene's challenge has been on my list of things to do since the beginning of the year, so I'm glad to have made it (finally). The group's challenges are always inspiring. For more information on how to enter, please go here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bead & Jewelry Linky Love

Happy Mother's Day! I hope everyone had a nice one (those among you who celebrate today's holiday here in the States, that is). This morning when the Short One woke up, we went into his room and H. whispered, "Say 'Happy Mother's Day' to Mommy." The SO thought about this carefully for a couple seconds, then raised his arms to me and said "I have to go potty." Yes, indeed, a sound statement from the one responsible for turning me into a mother, after all.

Anyway, we don't tend to exchange gifts on these holidays - my gift was supposed to be enough free time for a trip to a Chicago-area bead store I hadn't previously visited (more on this later - it was a lovely store), so I was quite surprised when H. gave the SO a flat box to present to me. Guess what were inside (okay, okay, the photo sort of gives it away)? Lindstrom RX pliers! My old reliable $7.00 pliers have been perfectly serviceable, but I've heard such wonderful things about the Lindstrom RX series. I had mentioned at the beginning of the year to H. (who is an engineer and appreciates fine tools) that I was thinking of upgrading my tools at some point - who knew he was actually listening? (Really, that in itself is a wonderful present, eh?)

Here are your intriguing bead and jewelry links for the week. Myself, I'm off to try out the pliers...

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Like Art Nouveau? See this lovely book by Judith Durant and Jean Campbell who explore great works from that period in jewelry projects!

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Andrew shares the new additions to his bead stash.

Barbe Saint John - New Jewelry from Forgotten Artifacts
Cindy's Beads & Barbe's Creativity add up to some great necklaces!

Art Jewelry magazine
It's video madness at Art Jewelry and Addie gives you a peek behind-the-scenes.

Art Bead Scene
Hello Spring! Goodbye self-control! Jewelry Making
Hook up with a cute little fiber flower charm and necklace project! Combine your crochet and jewelry making skills.

Carmi's Art
Carmi sews crocheted flowered into a soft new collar.

Strands of Beads
Melissa shows off a few beautiful fossilized coral beads.

Jewelry & Beading
Combine wirework with seed beads for a one-of-a-kind necklace!

Katie's Beading Blog
Try your hand at tubular peyote stitch with Katie's free beading pattern, Delicious Donut Lariat.

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
A special event inspired a special neclace, which now appears in a special issue of a bead magazine!

Friday, May 8, 2009


"Diorama" includes ceramic beads by Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio

I was sitting here thinking about what I wanted to say today when I suddenly realized that it's May. May is a good month for me. My birthday falls during this month. It's also the time of year where I live when the warm weather finally really, truly arrives and everything starts blooming beautifully (er, don't think I'm not touching wood here, because I am - but this is generally true).

May is also the month I started working with metal clay, two years ago. So, it's my anniversary as a beadmaker. I thought I'd go back and dig up a few pieces I made in those first months and just take a look at them. These were all made between June and September 2007, and they are among the first ten necklaces I ever made that incorporated metal clay components.

"Love in Idleness" incorporates a lampworked flower by Maria Grimes.

My favorite piece tends to be what I'm working on at the moment, and then I move on and don't really think about finished work all that much. I think these pieces still hold up thematically and are still a pretty good reflection of my personality (and, obviously, I still use Shakespeare a lot in my work - the clasp in the above "Love in Idleness" necklace states "love looks not with the eyes", which, along with the quote on the pendant, is taken from "A Midsummer Night's Dream").

I'm sure I could do a cleaner job with the metal clay now - certainly the pieces would be lighter. Because I had trouble with control, in the beginning I never rolled anything less than six cards thick. Expensive, but it was the only way I could work back then. As with everything, with time and practice, it all got easier.

"Charmed Kiss" includes a lampworked Smooch bead by Sarah Moran

On the down side, it does make me dwell on the fact that I haven't really progressed technically as much as I would have liked in two years. I have grappled with frustration especially this year, as the amount of time I have to devote to beadmaking has dwindled down to a sliver.

"Princess Charming" includes a lampworked floral pastille bead by Lezlie Belanger

Still, I have to be thankful. If it weren't for my cute (and hyperactive) son, who currently occupies most of my waking hours and for whom I left all of my other demanding clients, I would have never had the time to actually try out this medium. I always thought it would be fun to try using metal clay, but I worked pretty long hours in my old job. Apart from a little time spent in a ceramics studio during the weekend (time I could justify, because I spent it with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, who was also interested in ceramics - which of course made it "quality time" for us), I just never got around to realizing any of my creative ambitions.

"Good Fortune" includes, uh, well, a fortune from my local Chinese restaurant

Even though my time is limited, I'm still so happy to spend time with my beads. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing quite so satisfying as turning an interesting idea in my head into something actually wearable (and hopefully equally interesting).

So I have to tip my hat to the Short One and give him a big kiss and thank you, for providing me with the opportunity to learn a new craft and meet wonderful new friends like you. (Sometimes I think that all good things have come into my life from my son, but please don't tell him that - I'd never hear the end of it.)

And thank you, too, for being interested enough to continue to follow my work and to read this blog. I certainly appreciate it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Matter of Time

This was an interesting find for me, and I thought I would show them off today. The photos here are of coral beads I picked up at one of my local bead shops, during a trunk show the shop was hosting. Beautiful, aren't they? The pattern of the beads is reminiscent of paper parasols or perhaps chrysanthemums and reminds me of Japanese obi cloth.

Apart from the general beauty of the beads, though, the thing I find interesting about them is that they are not ordinary coral beads - they are made from fossilized coral.

I have been working with fossils quite a bit in my work this year, so I love finding new types of fossils to incorporate into my necklaces. I have to admit, though, I also like working with coral. The fact that these beads are fossilized - agatized in this case, where the organic material in the prehistoric coral has been replaced over time with agate - and therefore do not have the same potential environmental issues as other coral beads, makes me happy, too. While these beads are a nice caramel color, I've noted that you can also find beautiful fossilized coral in pink/red tones (either natural or enhanced) on the market, as well.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bead & Jewelry Linky Love

Hey, Happy Cinqo de Mayo everyone. Here's a shot of what I've been doing the past couple days. We bought the Short One some pirates earlier this year in the hope that we'd have rousing adventures sailing the Seven Seas. And we have had some, truly. However, lately, our pirates have had a distressing tendency to just want to go grocery shopping and hang out with their (extended) families at the local cafe. They share a passion for pickles, you may note, from the cart. It does make me wonder if the SO gets out enough... (Toys are from Playmobil, in case anyone is wondering. I got onto Playmobil after reading one of Andrew Thornton's blog entries last year - I think it might have been a Christmas gift he bought for his niece. Really, I get the best toy reccomendations reading his and Cynthia's blogs. )

After the good news about Bead Dreams, I got all optimistic about finishing a second big contest piece and spent yet another sleepless week working away into the wee hours. Once again, I did manage to finish, but am wondering if it was worth the sleep deprivation causing my sunny (I use this word loosely) disposition to go down the tubes. Oh, well, it's over. I managed to completely miss the Bead & Jewelry links last week, so I am going to go ahead and post them here somewhat belatedly. I hope everyone else had a good week. Jewelry Making
Tammy has some knotting jewelry tutorials for you, as in making jewelry with fiber. It's an often inexpensive media that can add a unique twist to your jewelry designs.

Art Bead Scene
Wings are the backdrop for a visual treatise on creativity.

Carmi's Art
Carmi turns a dried crab apple into something wearable.

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
Melanie shares her thoughts on ethics in art and an example on how she used inspiration from another artist's work in her own work, finding her own expression with the idea without copying.

Jewelry & Beading
Use antique optical lenses to make wonderful mixed media jewelry!

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Kim Miles is on the road and she is giving away beads as she blogs! Check it out!

Thanks for stopping in.