Friday, May 30, 2008

Stand back

Sometimes those maxims from art classes are kept firmly front and center, and other times I discover them unexpectedly, misplaced in a corner of my mind. I just found one of those this morning.

Last night I was ready to rip out my latest bead embroidery necklace. The only thing that stopped me was the sheer amount of work involved in the ripping out; I was just too tired to begin. So I set it down on my desk and watched Star Trek instead. Am I ever glad I did! This morning, as I walked down the stairs, I glanced over at my desk.

To my great surprise, the beadwork that I thought was not working looked great! It just needed a little distance. Up close, right under my nose, with my hand on the needle, it seemed disjointed and not quite right. But from a distance, oh, from a distance, everything changed. And then I remembered, "Always analyze your art work from the distance and height at which it will be viewed. Don't judge anything from the the other end of the brush!"

Luckily, it doesn't need a lot of distance. A foot or so is fine. And I don't expect anyone to get any close than that to my chest.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stop and smell the flowers

I got some new toys, and I couldn't resist playing with them. First stop: my garden.

My new toys? A ring light and some magnifying filters. So here's a picture of an iris and a rose from my garden. Although the background is very dark, it was taken in full sunlight. But that little ring light puts out so much light, it turned day into night; and captured the color and detail of the flowers with amazing clarity.

I am going to have a lot of fun with these new toys!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The price was right (well, close enough!)

I finally found a photo grey card at an (unreasonably) reasonable price. I mean, $5.99 for a piece of grey cardboard?!?!?!?! But it really looked good to me yesterday! Let me explain.

I've been wanting one for a long time. It is so hard to get the exposure right when photographing jewelry; especially on the light backgrounds that I prefer. I've been relying on Photoshop to make up the difference, but if I'm going to enter contests or send my work to be considered by magazines, that won't do. They want photos that have not been Photoshopped, and mine are just not up to that standard. I really, really needed that grey card.

But they're not easy to find, and when they are available, they're outrageously expensive. I've been to several camera shops; when I ask for a photo grey card, I've mostly been greeted by blank stares. When I did find clerks who knew what I was going on about, they usually laughed and said, "I haven't seen one of those for years!"

It seems that most people just use the auto features on their cameras. Erm, that's not working for me! I need to do it the old fashioned way. So I began looking online. I committed myself to just buy one, no matter the price. I told myself that it really doesn't matter how much it costs; I need this thing. In the long run, it will save me so much frustration and time; I will recoup the cost in weeks, if not days.

But the best price I could find was $12.99 with $6.99 shipping. I couldn't talk myself into spending that much; I just couldn't do it. I put it in my cart and took it out several times; but in the end, regardless of how much I wanted it, regardless of how many times I reminded myself that I needed it, I just couldn't do it.

I just couldn't spend $19.98 for a piece of grey cardboard.

Now I'm glad I couldn't. We just happened by Sam's Camera in Mount Kisco, and the lovely gentleman behind the counter not only knew what I was talking about, but he had them in stock, and agreed that they really were better than the camera's meter for getting the exposure right,

Now let's just hope this does the trick!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bead Embroidery, day 5

Whew! Beading on leather is really tough on the fingers. My fingers haven't looked this bad since the last time I made a quilt. I do wish I could get the hang of using a thimble; I didn't learn to sew with one, and they just slow me down. But I suspect that learning how to use one would save a lot of wear and tear on my fingertips.

I'm not going to learn this time, though. I've just this minute finished the beading on leather part; I glued on the backing this afternoon, let it sit long enough to dry, and worked the edging this evening. It's sitting on my table, ready for me to start the fringe. Yesterday I found some beautiful strands of amber chips, in colors ranging from pure yellow to the darkest red-brown. I'll use them, and some turquoise chips, and pearls to make a long, lush fringe.

This is so not going to be a subtle necklace.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bead Embroidery, day 2

This is just too much fun!

Yesterday, I glued the cabochons to the suede, and waited very impatiently for them to dry. That took longer than I'd have liked, and all I was able to do was circle the cabochons; the big cherry wood one in the center, and the four small turquoise circles underneath it. And yes, I most certainly did dream about it last night. (I also had a dream involving pirates, but that's really not relevant, so forget that I mentioned it.)

Today I hit the ground stitching. No waiting around for glue to dry; just me, my needle, plenty of thread, and beads spilling our of their boxes on every available surface. I always seem to pull out a lot more beads than I ever use. I like abundance! I started with the little turquoise cabs; I wanted to make them stand out a bit more, so I added two rows of beading around their bottoms, and bugle beads and pearls to give them some length.

By now, I've decided that it would be a real shame to cover up all this gorgeous suede with beads (the suede came from a stall at the Notting Hill market when we lived in London, and is much finer and softer than anything I've found here) so I took a deep breath and drew a circle about a half inch from the focal. A couple of rows of peyote later, a good bit of netting . . . and now it's time to step back and think about where to go next.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm in!

Yup, I've officially "taken up" bead embroidery. I've been attracted to it for a long time, but resisted until I found a marvelous book that I drooled over at the bookstore for weeks before deciding that I simply must have it. And, of course, owning the book led me to the inescapable conclusion that I really, really must take it up myself.

I suspect that this project is going to take awhile, but it really is a lot of fun. I'm not starting sensibly at all; I've jumped right to a large collar style necklace. I've barely begun; waiting for the glue to dry took longer than I'd hoped it would, so my embroidery thus far is minimal. I've gone round each of the cabs and an idea for the design is beginning to emerge.

I'm going to be beading in my dreams tonight, I just know it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Accidental variations

What's that, you say? That's when I make one earring just slightly different than the first. It isn't different enough to make anyone say, "Hey look! How cute! These earrings don't match, but they sure are fun."

Nope, mine was of the, "Something is wrong with these earrings, but I don't know exactly what it is," variety. And it took me awhile to figure it out! But figure it out I did, and I immediately made one more earring in each variation.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Three beaded beads later

Yes, they definitely were addictive. I now have three of them, in different colors, and with slight variations. The colors are so wildly different, there is no way to combine them into one necklace . . . so I guess I let both sides of me out to play. The "let's do it again!" side got to make more beaded beads, and the, "let's do something new!" side of me got to play with color and bead sizes.

And then both of us sat down and made a pair of earrings.

Life isn't just about beading beads, you know!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Beaded Beads

So I couldn't resist -- I just had to try one. These just might be addictive! But I'm certainly not going to break any land speed records making them. Even allowing for the fact that today was design day, it took me most of the day to make one approximately 20mm bead, containing 4 vintage 5mm square chatons and an uncounted number of sizes 6, 8, 10, 11 and 15 beads.

There are no increases or decreases in the stitching in this little bead; it's shaped purely by using different sized beads to round a basic cube shape. Right now I have it hanging on a sterling silver cable chain; part of me would like to make a whole bunch more, and part of me wants to leave it at that.

I wonder which of us will get up tomorrow?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's Finished!

Yup, there were moments this week when I truly thought I would be taking this necklace apart and reassembling it for the next 50 years; but I finally got all the parts to work together without fighting. I learned a lot while making it, and I'm very happy with how it turned out.

If you'd like to see it, Take the Plunge is on my Jewelry Tales Blog.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The never-ending necklace

. . . is getting close to being finished. It is nothing at all like the way it started out; every part of it has changed at least once, and more often twice. The only constant is the maille focal, and even that has been turned 90 degrees, and given a few extra rings.

But it's really quite pretty, now. I have one more section to bead, and it's a mirror image of the side that is already done, so I'm not anticipating any more changes. It's funny: sometimes designs just come together and it all flows, and other times it is more of a struggle. I don't think I've ever had a piece go through quite so many transformations, however.

Whew. I'm actually going to finish this one!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Edison, again

The necklace I'm currently working on has been taken apart more times than I can remember. Nothing, and I mean nothing has gone right the first time on this one. These beads have participated in so many different patterns, I'm sure they feel like square dancers. So I'm calling this necklace a major learning experience. I have learned quite a few ways not to bead on this one!

But, each time, it gets a little bit better. And so do I.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I recently had occasion to butt heads with a young woman who believes that there is no such thing as absolute truth. She is very, very sure of that. Absolutely sure, in fact; she let me know in no uncertain terms that my belief in absolute truth is at best, naive, and, quite possibly dangerous to the development of my children. Let me be clear: I don't know what is true in most cases. I simply believe that there is an absolute truth in all situations, and we all should do our best to find it. We might never find it, but it's out there. It's like physics. We don't know exactly how the universe works; but we're not going to let that stop us from trying to find out.

Anyway, this young woman believes that truth is relative; she explained that we all form our own truths; that two mutually exclusive viewpoints can be equally true at the same time. She cited studies that proved how beneficial this belief is to people; she delicately informed me that people who don't come to see this truth are ignorant and, sadly, headed for bigotry, if they're not there already.

Turn the clock back 25 years and that was me! She used the same brilliant explanations I'd used; experienced the same frustration I'd experienced when confronted with a person of faith. And there I sat, using the same non-argument that had so annoyed me quarter of a century ago:
I don't know what Truth is, but I believe it's there.

God has a wonderful sense of humor.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Dangerous liaisons

Making jewelry can be a painful process if one lets one's mind wander; especially in metal working. Fire, saws, hammers; all carry the possibility of injury and pain, and mistakes made in silver are very rarely recoverable My scrap pile runneth over. You may have noticed that there isn't much metal in the things I've been making lately! No, I haven't given up my liaison with silver; it's just been something that is a little too dangerous for me right now.

I've been driven to distraction.

Some good things, some bad things; it isn't all doom and gloom by any means. But my mind is full, and I've turned back to seed beads. Okay, there is a needle involved. And yes, I have stabbed myself with it on numerous occasions. But that's the worst of it, and (usually) there isn't even any blood involved.

Seed bead mistakes are rarely ever fatal. If I make a mistake, I can pull out the thread, sort out the beads and start over. That's a good metaphor for my life right now.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday, Sunday

I don't know what I'm going to do today; I don't have any projects lined up, demanding to be done. I have a few ideas, but they're not pitching hissy fits. Sometimes I just can't stand not getting started, but today, the weaver woman is feeling laid back. It's funny, but the seed beading is using different muscles; I can really feel it in my arms from pulling those long lengths of thread. So who says beading isn't exercise?!?!?!?

Works for me!

It is still cloudy, and the ground is all wet, so it must have rained again last night. I slept right through it; I was so tired and I really needed a good night's sleep. But unless that sun shows itself and the clouds break up, I think I'm skipping the crafts show at Lyndhurst this year. Sigh. I feel sorry for all the vendors; I'm sure I'm not the only one who let the weather rule my decision. If I were going to buy stuff, I'd probably brave it; it really is the only really high-end crafts fair around here; but I figure I can get inspiration from browsing the Internet. It isn't quite as nice as actually touching things, but it will have to do.

So. I'm at loose ends today, unless one of the ideas that is tickling me starts pulling my hair!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

I don't usually mind the rain; sometimes I even enjoy it.  But not this weekend!  This weekend is Crafts at Lyndhurst, our biggest and best crafts show.  Erm, did I mention that it is an outdoor crafts show?  Held in a large field?  A field that hasn't had time to get a good crop of grass growing yet?  

Yeah, it's a muddy mess over there when it rains.  And we've had a lot of rain; not just yesterday, when the show started, but it rained most of last week.  So, reluctantly, I've decided not to go this time.  

Unless it clears up tomorrow.  I'll brave the mud, but not the rain.