Thursday, December 6, 2012

Swings and Roundabouts

You ever have one of those months? You know the one where every where you turn it just seems there is one more obstacle in your path? Well that was my November, starting with the work in the studio.

My hands hurt. My whole body hurts. I haven't been able to do anything for weeks. It seems I'm not tolerating one of the cancer drugs very well.  But life is all swings and roundabouts.

While it's been just one more thing in the month of November that has made me sad, it has given me an opportunity to pause and decide what I want to do. Not a bad thing, really. I find myself moving to a more experimental direction with new forms, new ideas. When I can work, it's like playing. It's exciting.

My old dog Bob has entered his twilight years. Diagnostic tests in November came back showing that he has heart disease and tumors all over his body. He has problems walking and can no longer get himself up the stairs at night. But we help him, sometimes Peter carries him, all 62 pounds of him.

He is resting comfortably. We're seeing to it. He gets extra treats like peanut butter with his tablets. We've had him since he was 8 weeks old. He is an amazing dog who has brought us so much joy. We brought him back with us from Australia. (His ticket cost more than mine). My children grew through their teens and became adults with him. He'll be 13 in April and he's had a good life. He's getting pampered. Secretly, I think he's saying to himself it's about time I get extra treats and cuddles. But it still breaks my heart to have to acknowledge that Bob is not immortal.

 My son deployed for Afghanistan on the 12th of November. It's his third deployment and this time it has hit me hard. The hardest of all the times he's been away. He missed Thanksgiving with us, his favorite holiday. He'll be gone again for Christmas, the fourth Christmas in 6 years. But most of all it has hit me so hard that he'll be missing 9 months of his new son's life. So many mile stones.

But this time we've pulled together as a family in a way that is even deeper and stronger than before. Another opportunity. A time to be grateful that we have each other. And thanks to the magic of skype, my son got to see one of those mile stones. Brody laughs and coos at Daddy and even picked up his bottle with his own two hands for the first time just for Daddy.

It is hard to be sad when you have grand babies to love. Look at them! All full of giggles and smiles. Learning new things all of the time. Teaching me new things all of the time. We'll be seeing them again at Christmas. Decorating cookies and leaving a plate for Santa. There may even be a bowling outing in the future. There is nothing in life more entertaining than bowling with a 5 year old. Truly. You should try it. If you don't have a 5 year old of your own, you should seriously think about borrowing one.

And there will be Christmas in Afghanistan, with maybe not all of the trimmings, but stockings, teddy bears, candy canes, and even a Christmas tree.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A super easy how to

Want to know how to make these earrings? A few of you did when I posted them as part of my contribution to the Ears To You blog hop on Saturday.  The hoops for these earrings are fairly simple to make and are an upside down, no solder variation of the hoops used in Stacie Florer's  Ranch Hand Earrings that she taught in a class I took at ArtBliss last September.

Let's get started, OK? You don't need a lot of tools or supplies to make these hoops. I imagine you have most of these in your tool box already.

heavy gauge wire (14 or 16 gauge. I used 14 g copper)
scrap fine gauge wire
jump rings (I used 18 g sterling, 8 mm outside diameter)
Something to form your hoop on (sharpie, glue stick, top of nail polish remover, the world's your oyster here)
flat nose and round nose pliers
wire cutter
hole punch
chasing hammer
bench block

Cut two pieces of wire. Mine are 14 gauge copper a wee bit over two inches long. Length depends mostly on how big you want to make your hoops and a little on what you are forming them on.

Use your chasing hammer to make paddles at the end of the wires. Be sure to make your paddles plenty long enough. You'll be punching holes through them later and too short makes that a small nightmare. I like to do one wire and then do the other along side of the finished one so I can get approximately the same size paddle and overall length on the wire.

Mark the centers of the wires with your sharpie. I kinda judge by eye but it's important to be close or your hoops are going to end up a little skew-whiff when you go to close up the ends of the wires.

Center your wire on whatever you are using to form your hoop. Use your fingers to pull the wire around the form. I'm using the top of a nail polish remover bottle. The ends don't meet on the other side. This is just getting a nice curve set up for the bottom of the hoop.

And yes, my nails are often in a disgraceful state. I don't actually used the polish remover on my nails. I use it to remove sticky things like labels.

Use your fingers to squeeze the paddle ends of your wires together. You are going to have a kind of fat U shape when you take it off your former. I just put my fingers on each side about in the middle and gently squeeze the wire into something life a tear drop shape.

Next you need to get out your flat nose pliers. On the paddle ends of the wire bend them out just about 90 degrees. Try to keep your pliers square across the wire and make the bend on both sides the same distance from the end of the paddle. Like everything, there's a little fudge room but life will be easier if you get pretty close to spot on.

Pinch the paddle ends of the hoop together with your flat nose pliers and hold them closed while you wrap it up with fine gauge wire. I don't know what gauge wire I used because it was scrap floating about my drawer. But it's reasonably fine, maybe 24 gauge. Doesn't really matter as long as you can wrap it around the end to hold the paddles tightly together. Then use your hole punch to pierce both paddles at the same time. The paddles should be quite thin enough to get your punch through and doing both paddles together keeps the holes lined up nicely. 

I use a plier-type punch that I got from Fusion Beads. You can replace the pin that punches the hole if they break. Really big bonus there, as I've had other punches in the past that once broken the whole tool was wasted. 

I like to file the ends of the paddles at this time to get them more refined to the same shape, and get rid of burs and sharp bits. 

I insert a jump ring through the holes at this point  but that could be done later if you like. I do find it easier to do while the paddles are still wrapped with wire to hold them closed. Also the final shaping tends to make the holes in the paddles get a little misaligned. If the holes aren't quite aligned, or big enough, I stick a round nose file in there and give it a few twists. 

Last lap here. Place that hoop on your bench block and start shaping and flattening the bottom of the loop with your chasing hammer. Doing this with the paddle ends wrapped up tends to keep the ends from creeping apart. Add what ever texture you like and you are done with hoop number one. One thing to consider while you are making these is that the hoops going to get gradually larger as you shape the wire. See how small it was before shaping the bottom?

Two hoops ready to punch the holes at the bottom to add whatever bead you'd like.

I really love these and am starting to think of so many ways to use these hoops. Pendant holders? Smaller, larger? It's a lovely form and I'm happy I learned something of it.

Happy making!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ears To You

I don't do a lot of blog hops but when Amy at Copper Diem organized this one, I knew I wanted to do it. Had to do it. . Ears to You is a non-profit organisation that gifts earrings to women undergoing chemo as a way of helping to lift their spirits. If  you've been around this blog over the past few months, you probably  know that I finished chemo for breast cancer treatment not too long ago. So this blog hop seemed a natural for me and a way to give back just a little tiny bit of the love that sustained me through the months of treatment.

Amy asked us to make 3-5 pairs of earrings to donate to Ears to You. I started with what I knew best and that's my ceramic beads with some little bronze nuggets and garnets.

A lot of you out there were so kind and one of the things that meant so much to me were the earrings you all sent. All sorts of handmade ones that made me feel very special. Because lets just face it, when you have chemo you are probably going to loose your hair (and your eye brows and lashes). I did. Pretty much overnight I went to completely naked on my head. And a lot of the time that naked head of mine made me feel kind of naked all over.

Earrings were the answer for me. I hadn't actually worn earrings much in the past. But when it came to bald, even with my head covered in scarves, earrings were one of the things that made me feel good. It gave me something to focus on, rather than how strange I looked to myself.

I made this pair thinking how much I loved long dangly earrings. Something that went with the turban look. The turban look can be hard to pull off without looking like a chemo patient. But add some long dangly earrings and you've got an instant 'I am an artist, somewhat bohemian look.' You shout,  'I am not a victim of cancer, I am exotic.' Well even if you don't really look it, you can feel it and that is kinda important :-)

This last pair is a technique I learned from Staci Florer when I was at ArtBliss only I turned the copper hoops up side down. The ones I learned how to make, which I really wanted to do, required soldering. Ones like these. Well the soldering station has been over taken by the not anymore Secret Project which has made a momentous coup of my studio and my time. So in a stroke of something approaching a light bulb going off (dimly), I used sterling jump rings. And now that I think about a little more, I could actually turn these upside down again. A hint here, if you want to do something like this style of ring hoopy thing, wire together the top ends temporarily and then punch the hole. Much easier to get the hole lined up that way and the jump ring in. I know this from experience and one or two cuss words.

By the way, I do have hair again (and eye brows and lashes). It's almost an inch long and so very curly. I look a little like Richard Simmons but not as fit and perky. The earrings, especially long dangly ones, are what I am using to combat the post chemo, your hair is growing in look.

If you want to do something special, donations are always welcome at Ears to You. If you know a woman who's undergoing chemo, earrings are a very special way of saying I am thinking of you.

Just one last thing. My heart and soul, prayers, and thoughts are with all of you who have endured so much and lost so much in Hurricane Sandy. Blessings be with you.

Thanks, Amy, for organizing this blog hop! 

Have a look at what some sweet people have made:

Copper Diem
My Addictions
Beads, Tea and Sweets
Juls Beads
Fabric of my Life
Blogging Business Artisans
Jeannie's Blog
Lorelei's Blog
One Kiss Creations
Backstory Beads
According to Katie
Cherish Designs
Beads: Rolling Downhill
Falling Into The Sky
Garden Path Beads
Antiquity Travelers
Sissy and Jacks
Erin Siegel Jewelry/Art Bead Scene
Northwood Creative Studio
SilverRose Designs
Dreamin of Beads/SAS Jewelry Design
Cabe Woman
Summers Studio
Honey from the Bee
Shaiha's Ramblings
Mama's Got to Doodle
Beads for Busy Gals
Tanya McGuire
Creative Atelier

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Secret Project

Often I think to myself where did the time go? This time I know just exactly where it got gobbled up....The Top Secret Project. Its a biggy. I've been working up to it for a long time. Years even. Well, the moon, the stars, the planets all aligned just right and I was able to acquire casting equipment. This is the first little piece, an experiment really. I am happy. There will be more. Well that is if all of the stars, the moon and the planets line up just right.

Happy weekend all. I know for a few of you it will probably be a tense one full preparation for Hurricane Sandy making its way up the eastern coast.  You are in my heart and prayers.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Catching Up

Where did the time go? I haven't been around this blog as much as I'd like. The autumn days have just flown by. Lots of things happening in the studio. One of them a secret project that has consumed an enormous amount of time.

It seems almost like yesterday that we were up in DC for ArtBliss. But it has been nearly three weeks already. How did that happen? Not one photo did I take while I was there. I made this pair of earrings in Stacie Florer's class. Bit wonky but it may be the first time ever that I've come away with a completed project from a workshop. Stacie is a great teacher!

On the way back we stopped to see Monticello. I've always admired Jefferson, well except for that slavery thing. So it was a treat to see his home. Lot smaller than I imagined but packed full of innovation and the most shocking yellow walls in the dining room. Dayglo does not even begin to describe it. My eyes hurt. Apparently this color was used to make the most of the light in the room. Me, I think I'll stick with dark and dreary if the only other option is that yellow.

Lots of things have been happening in the studio besides the secret project. Some of it is organisational. My glaze table mess went from this.....

To this!

I am pleased with myself beyond words. Finally a solution to the mess....Stepped spice racks! Why has this solution never occurred to me before?  I thought about alphabetizing, organizing by color, etc. It seemed a natural way to go. After all, the spices in my kitchen are alphabetized. Pathetic, huh? But for now at least I can see those glazes and get at them without stacking and unstacking.

Part of that organization had to do with necessity. I am definitely not normally the model of studio tidiness. The cheeky monkey and her brother arrived last night. The cheeky monkey likes to fossick around Nana's studio. There are too many things out there that could go horribly only solution is to clean things up. I think maybe the cheeky monkey should visit Nana more often.

gratuitous photo of heliotropes of some sort

 I'm the only one up. It is quiet. It won't be quiet for very long. My grandson is a noisy little chappy. He giggles and coos, loudly. He knows that if he giggles and coos someone will come over and love him up. So he giggles and coos a lot.

Have a lovely couple of bright shiny weeks everyone. I'll be around this week but not on this blog. Nana has a lot of grand baby loving to do. Then we will head off to Dallas for a long weekend with our daughter.

Is it really October? Where did the time go?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Owls Are Back!

Gosh, it's been a year since I made any of these. Where did the time go? But some of you asked and I could not refuse. Besides I like these little guys. Six colors including a purple tummy owl that I really love. Of course, I love just about anything purple. Not lavender. Just a nice dark purple. Ok, I like lavender in spring. I'm quite seasonal (fickle?) about my color favorites.

Sometimes when I'm making beads, a new shape sort of spontaneously appears. I don't think too much about it. They just happen. These are a cross between a lentil and a coin bead with fluted edges. Or maybe they are squashed melon beads with holes in a different direction? Or maybe they are a new bead shape called the amoeba. I might start naming all of my beads after micro-organisms. Next up the paramecium followed by the spirochete.

This was a glaze experiment. I don't usually use this glaze on this clay because in the past it's gone all drippy and weird. But I like it now. Kind of reminds me of winter with that frosty blue.  I have no idea if I will get this result again because I can't remember just what I did to get it in the first place. Notes might be a good idea but then that seems way to organized.

Have I ever told you how much I like making bead sets?  It's a sort of sophisticated form of procrastination. I don't generally glaze them with any particular sets in mind. I could (and sometime do) spend ours mixing up different shapes and colors of beads. I tell myself it is work all in the name of getting that Etsy shop updated. But the truth is I like playing with beads.

Speaking of updating the Etsy shop, I'll be putting the owls and beads up tomorrow night.

Thursday, 4 October, 8 pm EST

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Color of Hope

October 1st, already, and that kicks off Breast Cancer Awareness month. As many of you know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer last January and finished chemo just a few short months ago.  So many of you of you supported me in my journey through treatment.  All of those hugs and kind words have meant much more than I could ever put words to.

And sometimes just the right combination of goodness happens and magic is made.

photo: Vicki, 2 Bags Full 

Vicki of 2 Bags Full, makes the most extraordinary nests from hundreds of  different fibers she gathers together. They are limited edition, simply amazing works of art.  The kind hearted Vicki donates the proceeds to charitable organisations. These nests truly are spun of love.

The color of hope is pink! Proceeds from Vicki's nests this year will be donated to the Susan G Komen Foundation.  I am so honored that my little birdies in a special edition of pink will become part of this years nests. It feels good to be able to give back just a tiny fraction of all of the love that I've been given over this last year. It truly is a priviledge.

Go on over to Vicki's blog to read about her thoughts about this years nests and have a look at the incredible fibers she'll be using. You will swoon. I had no idea that pink came in so many shades. I had no idea that pink could be this beautiful.

Thank you Vicki! And a very special thank you to Maire Dodd, who introduced me to Vicki and made a bit of magic happen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is it autumn?

Etsy Shop Update - Wednesday the 19th at 9 pm EST

I've got some autumn inspired beads and bronze going into the shop tonight at 9pm EST.  It's a smallish kiln load of beads this time. But packed full with some beautiful autumn colors.

It's definitely showing signs of autumn here in my neighborhood. Bits of red and gold peeking through the trees as some of the leaves start to turn. I love this time of year. I love the cooler temperatures. I love the color. I even like the rain. And we have had a lot of rain. Buckets and buckets of rain. It's good napping weather. But no napping for me. I'm gonna get the last of the bead listings ready to go.

Happy Wednesday

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BTW - Switching Gears

Bead Table Wednesday and this time without a lot of words. I have an awful cold and I can't write without talking to myself and this cold is making it oh so difficult to speak. And yes, I was that kid in primary school who got in trouble for reading books out loud during quiet reading. Mrs Peterson, I still read out loud, usually at home, mostly recipes, and never in airports.

I've switched to bronze this week. That's a little pile of new, mostly autumn inspired, bronze pieces. That's what they look like after the clay is dry and I've gone in and cleaned them up. Looks a little like ginger snaps to me. I have no idea why every thing in my studio reminds me of food. But it does and I think it best not to probe too deeply into the deep recesses of my mind.

Here's a few of those same pieces fresh out the kiln. Ugly. They come out all crusty and quite unappetizing.

Wire brush, tumbler, patina bath, buffing, sealing, and Voila! Finished pieces. Now I am off to find a box of tissues and listen to the kiln click on and off as the next batch fires. Sniff Sniff Snuffle

And maybe I will click this picture to go check out what's happening in other peoples beady worlds this week.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Coming Soon

I am back from a lovely weekend with my children and the grand babies. It's a little hard to get back into the studio because my mind is with the babies. But I figure if I issue myself a challenge I can switch gears. So with no further adieu....

Etsy shop update Thursday the 6th at 9 pm EST.

Lots of beads and just when you thought I'd gone all earthy on you, I changed things up with some yummy jewel tones. Here's a little sample of what's coming up. There are even a few buttons in there. Why? Just 'cause sometimes I get this wild notion that buttons might be fun to make.

This is why it is so darned hard to switch gears. Love these grand babies of mine.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Peek in the Kiln

Well it's actually not a peek in the kiln at all. More like a peek at what came out of the kiln this week. Lots and lots of beads. A big bowl of beads. Some I love and some are just not at all what I anticipated. Some of those stinker beads are in that photo above. I'm not telling you which ones though. Because like as not, in a few days I will change my mind and then I'll think they are the most wonderful beads in the world. I'm fickle that way.

Big bowl of pendants too. There were some true stinkers in that lot. Ones that I definitely will not fall in love with. It's like first dates. Sometimes you just know that this is not going to work out. Unlike some of those dates, stinker pendants are easy to get rid of. The just go under the hammer in a very satisfying crunch and chink.  Not something that is every acceptable to do with first dates.

Well I gotta run. I have a date this weekend with my grand daughter. She's turning 5 this month and there is a birthday celebration. I snagged the last Tinkerbell wings and tutu set at the toy store. I see a bit of dancing and twirling in my future. Probably not in a tutu. But I do have a fairy wand. My grandson is now 2 months old and I'm told that he is very interested in his hands and feet and shiny objects. So I'm thinking there may be a bit of on the floor with the little one's tummy time. Gawd, I hope that someone will help me get back up.

Have a fantabulous weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BTW - The episode where win the bead glaze marathon

freshly glazed beads drying 

The bead glaze marathon was a pretty easy win given I was the only one competing. I like a good challenge like that. I've been glazing beads, pendants, connectors and such like a mad woman for the last couple of days.  Last count 153 beads. Yes, I counted them. I did not count any thing else. While I am easily amused, it does not go so far as counting every thing in sight.

So my work table is once again in complete disarray. Cleaned it up on Sunday and by Monday night a big fat glaze bomb had gone off.

beads skewered and ready to glaze

I like glazing. It's a time when I get to think big thoughts and ponder questions of great significance to society. Things like that peanut butter Snickers bar at the Kangaroo Express looked good. I wonder if I should go out and get one? Why is a convenience store chain named Kangaroo Express?  To my knowledge there are no species of kangaroos native to North Carolina. What is a group of kangaroos called? Maybe I should go google that. Ice cream sounds good. I wonder if there's any Ben and Jerry's Heath Bar Crunch in the freezer? See? Immensely important thoughts and questions. None of which I actually have an answer to.

This morning I am waiting for the kiln to cool off enough to see what's in there. It's always a bit like Christmas. Anticipation, excitement, oh I never ever get tired of opening a kiln. Always a bit of  good stuff. Like I'm hoping I'll get some more of these melon beads out. But then there is always the well intentioned gift Aunt Jane sent. Great size but the color is all wrong. Had some of those a couple of weeks ago. Only problem with the the beads is that I haven't got a receipt to return them.

Want to see what's on other peoples bead tables? Just click that photo and it will whisk you away.

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Are you going?

To Art Bliss, that is? I am. And I am very very excited. What? You want to know what that naked clay unfired bead has to do with Art Bliss? Well I'm taking a workshop that will need a pair of side drilled beads. Search my stash and I couldn't find a thing that appealed to me for this particular project. Then the light bulb clicked on and I said, hey I make beads, couldn't I just make a pair, or two, or three? So obvious I know but sometimes it's matter of forest for the trees kind of vision. I just didn't like any of the ones I was currently making for this project and middle of the night (I have my best ideas at 4 am) I figured a flattish mellon bead would work perfectly. So yesterday I made approximately  164 of the little guys. (Sometimes I exaggerate, but trust me it was a lot).

Kind of cool even on top view down. Bit like a patty pan squash which is, I think, technically in the mellon family.  I might be making that up for the sake of continuity with the melon bead idea. I have a million ideas or at least two more ways that I'd like to use these.  And a rainbow of colors that I can see them in.

Ahh, the class, now we get down to the meat of things. I'm taking an earring class with Stacie Florer. I have drooled over her work for some time now. See that earring at the bottom? That's what I needed a pair of beads for. Gorgeous stuff, eh?

There are some terrific instructors on board for the weekend retreat. It was really hard to choose. It's September 21-23, Washinton DC. Just click that photo down there and you can see what's up. Still time to register and from the skinny I've heard, this is a lovely weekend and organized by two fantastic hosts, Cindy Wimmer and Jeanette Blix. I'd love to see you! I'll even bring some patty pan squash beads for you too.

Happy weekend all. I'm off to the garden to wrestle with the weeds and pick a peck of tomatoes.