Monday, May 28, 2012

Report from the Trenches: Week Two

My second week of work on my "Battle of the Beadsmith" piece is over; and I'm going to to do my best to give you a report without giving away any top-secret information. I can't release any photos, or give you any specifics of the design until the battle has actually begun and my photos are turned loose to joust in their first round. But, until then, here are a few random thoughts and musings from the second week:

Okay, first off, I didn't get nearly as much done as I wanted to this week. I'd hoped to be done with all the components, and I'm not. I'm close, but not quite there. I have one more large one and at least two more small ones to make; maybe more, by the time the design is finalized; but for now, that's the count.

To keep things light, Steven Weiss, of the Beadsmith, has been busy making digital badges for the contestants; here's one that he made for me. I love the bright colors! One of these days, I have to use this color palette for a piece of beadwork; it just screams summer to me.

Back to the Battle: by the end of this week, I'd like to have all the components made, and a good start on putting them together. That's going to be the tricky bit; I've got several ideas on how to do that, but nothing firm yet. I suspect figuring that out will take up a few more rungs on the design disaster ladder. So maybe I ought to revise that goal: By next week, I'd like to have finished the components and figured out how I'm going to join them together. The amount of said joining doesn't have to be a lot - it just has to be known.

See you next week with a report on how I've done!

If you'd like to follow the group on Facebook, click here and ask to join.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I've always loved the concept of taking a walkabout; just pick up, head out, and find myself along the way. No itinerary, no plans, no rules. One foot in front of the other for as long as it takes; let the journey tell me what I need to know.

I like to wander.

Yesterday, we wandered up the coast; we took roads at random and saw what was on them. When we came to this pier, we got out of the car and walked it. I think it's the longest pier I've ever seen; I can't remember seeing a longer one. This picture was taken part-way down; I didn't think to take a photo at the beginning and I didn't like the photo I took on the way back. So, here we are, somewhere in the middle.

That's sort of a metaphor for life, anyway; none of us remember the beginning, we start remembering things somewhere along the way, and that's what is real to us. Just like this picture, we can't quite see the end, and we can't remember the beginning.

I took this photo near the end of the pier; not at the very end, however, because, just like the beginning, I forgot.

There were some people fishing at the end of the pier; they were catching kelp. Not on purpose, of course, but that's all that was biting.

Some days are like that. You cast for fish, but you hook kelp.

This day was clear, the sun was shining, and there was a stiff breeze that kept us cool as we walked. This spot was a great find; someday we will come back with our beach mats and bathing suits.

Or not.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Report from the Trenches: Week One

My first week of work on my "Battle of the Beadsmith" piece is over; and I'm going to to do my best to give you a report without giving away any top-secret information. I can't release any photos, or give you any specifics of the design until the battle has actually begun and my photos are turned loose to joust in their first round. But, until then, here are a few random thoughts and musings from the first week:

I've pulled out some stones that I bought on a trip to Sedona about a year and a half ago. These stones have a special meaning to me; that trip was taken at a time of coming to terms with loss, and the beautiful vistas and time spent hiking in the hills of Sedona helped me find new hope for the future at that point in my life. These stones sum up that trip to Sedona for me; I've been saving them for just the right project. This is it.

The first design disaster is already behind me; that's a good thing. Now there will be one less to worry about. I like the new direction I'm taking much better. I want this piece to be meaningful; I want to let go of the side of me that screams, "Bling! Spectacular! Big! Bigger!" because the theme of this contest is creating for the love of beads and beading. I want to make something that comes from my heart, not my head; something that says love, not ego. I want to make a piece that reminds me of my on-line friends every time I wear it.

The on-line beading community has been very important in my life; I've made friends whom I treasure. This contest is a celebration of those friendships, a celebration of the work we do, and I want to be mindful of that over the next few weeks. Can I create a piece that goes from loss, through healing, to joy? I don't know. But regardless of what it says to anyone else, that's what it will mean to me.

This week, I've focused on making the smallest elements of the design; the baby steps that will become the foundation of whatever I end up creating. It's not an exciting process; it can be rather tedious, as I'm not fond of repeating myself, and repeat myself I must. It's a necessary part of the process, however; both in life, and in beading. Bit by bit, I'm building the foundation for this piece, just as I have built the foundation for this new stage of my life.

Peace and joy be with you.

If you'd like to follow the group on Facebook, click here and ask to join.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wine Festival: One winery at a time

Castoro Cellars
This weekend is our town's annual big wine festival; for one weekend a year, our town doubles in size. Every hotel room is booked, and every restaurant is packed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wine lovers descend like friendly locusts; we tend to avoid going downtown for the duration.

However, one of the advantages of living here is that we don't have to try to do everything in one weekend; we can build our own wine festival all year long, one winery at a time.

So, instead of joining 20,000 of our soon-to-be closest friends in the park for the grand tasting event this afternoon, we headed west and went to Castoro Cellars Vineyard to see what they were up to for Wine Festival Weekend. Many of the wineries have special festival events; we try to hit a few of them every year.

We discovered that Castoro had set up barrels for tasting in the courtyard; getting a sample direct from the barrel is a fun way to feel like a wine insider.Yeah, the wine is cloudy, and no, it's not exactly finished aging yet; but you can get a good idea of where it's going, and you know what to look forward to.

The Belmores
And, if you know about wine, you can comment knowledgeably with the vintner while you are tasting; I kept my mouth shut when I wasn't actually engaged in sipping.

While we enjoyed our wine samples, we were treated to music from the Belmores, a local band. Their music ranged from old standards to their own compositions; we sat in the shade of the old oak trees, sipping wine and enjoying the music.

Welcome to the Paso Robles Wine Festival, our way.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Books, books, books: Metal Madness

Books can be so tempting; they take me to another world, a world where I can learn anything, be anything, do anything. Pure fantasy? No, not really - not when the authors of these books give such wonderful directions and encouragement.

First up is Gordon K. Uyehara's Metal Clay Fusion. I've dabbled in Metal Clay, and I've watched Gordon soar with it for many years. I've always wanted to look over his shoulder and learn from him; now I can. This book truly is a master class in metal clay; there is enough here to keep me busy for years.

Gordon has an incredible sense of design, his attention to detail is amazing, and his craftsmanship is inspiring. What he does with metal clay is art - and, in this book, he generously shares his secrets.

The techniques and projects presented are not for beginners; but even the rankest beginner will want this book. After all, no one stays a beginner forever, and you'll want this book within reach the moment you're ready for it.

Color, Texture & Casting for Jewelers by Carles Codina contains more information than I will probably ever need; it's a metal working course in and of itself. But, even if I never do try all of the techniques presented here, I have to admit that learning about them is fascinating. I came away from this book with a much greater sense of how metal has been worked through the centuries.

The aesthetic in this book is modern, but the processes are often based on ancient techniques. Keum Boo, Granulation, Mokume Gane, stamping, and various methods of casting are all covered in enough detail for the reader to jump right in and begin working with them.

I'm planning to keep this one on my shelf just in case. You never know, right?

And last, but definitely not least, Mary Hettmansperger's Heat, Color, Set & Fire, Surface Effects for Metal Jewelry, is a book that everyone who works with metal will find useful.

Color and texture add interest to even simple projects; this is a book that can be used by beginning and intermediate metal workers to take their work to the next level. Even advanced metal workers may find a few new tricks here.

Mary uses unusual materials - like grout! - to achieve some of her most interesting results; the designs presented range from tribal to very modern.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Let me be brave and admit that I've never been fearless.

However, I'm good at brave. I'm brave nearly all of the time. You see, brave is going forward in the face of fear; brave is doing things even when you're terrified. Brave is living tense, squaring my shoulders, sticking out my jaw, and moving forward.

But brave isn't going to work this time. I want to sing. I want to sing as well as I possibly can, and that means being relaxed. It means letting go of my fears; it means being fearless while doing something that terrifies me.

I don't know how to do that.

I'm not just saying that; I really don't know what it feels like to be fearless. I've always lived in varying states of fear; I've always been brave to some extent or the other. It's not as grim as it sounds; it's the way I've always been, so I know how to deal with it. I'm actually reasonably comfortable with fear; I've grown very used to being brave, and being brave doesn't scare me.

Being fearless does frighten me, however.  It's not something I have any experience with, it's not something I know how to do. It's uncharted territory for me; it's a new experience. I'm afraid of trying it, but I will be brave and do my best to sing without fear.

I just wish that wasn't such a contradiction of terms.

Monday, May 14, 2012

And so it begins:

PRESS RELEASE 5/14/2012 Carteret, NJ USA 


80 Artists, 21 Countries. A Celebration of Bead Artistry around the World

A brief ceremony at Beadsmith headquarters in Cartert, NJ took place Monday, the 14th of May, officially launching the inaugural “Battle Of The Beadsmith”. Steven Weiss, of the family Weiss, addressed the competitors in attendance with some emotional words of encouragement, (transcript seen below), before officially announcing the 40 1st round pairings.

“My fellow beaders. You have been charged with the monumental task of taking your designs to places never thought possible before. Your journey will strain the very limits of your beading abilities… (Pause)......Do not entertain failure! Do not allow uncertainty, and the fear of defeat, to extinguish the fires that burn within your creative souls….. (Pause)…. Though some of you will fall in battle, history will speak well of the 80…. The 80 who beaded steadfast and true…. The 80 that beaded on, when their needles snapped, and their threads frayed… (Pause)...The 80 that beaded until they could bead no more."

The 40 first round pairings for “The Battle Of The Beadsmith can be found by clicking on the link below:

Please contact Steven Weiss for more information:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Meeting a good friend for the first time

Marcia De Coster on the right, and me on the left.
It's an odd fact of this modern world: we have good friends whom we've never met. Good friends with whom we share our work, our feelings, our joys and our fears.

I'm talking about Internet friends, of course.

I've been an online person for more than 20 years now; I started with CompuServe in the bad old days of "dial-up and get off quick 'cause this thing is costing us by the minute," and it amazes me to realize that I am now connected all day, every day, to friends all over the world. Some of my very best friends are people I've never met; these people know me as well, or better, than people who see me every day. I turn to them without reserve when I need help; we celebrate the good things that happen together, and we comfort each other in sorrow.

Without Facebook, Marcia DeCoster would have remained only a photo and a name on several cherished books on my shelf. Thanks to Facebook, she's a real live person; warm, loving and funny. I've gotten to know her through photographs and the written word; I've admired her work, enjoyed watching her granddaughter grow, and had my coffee while chatting asynchronously on various topics on our Facebook pages. Across the miles, we've both felt the joys and sadnesses that come and go in our beady worlds.

But, when it comes right down to it, nothing beats getting that hug. Or seeing Marcia's beautiful beadwork up close and in person. I can tell you that those earrings she is wearing are amazing - they sparkle and dance. Pure poetry in motion, they are. Pictures do not capture them; they need to be seen dancing from her earlobes.

And that's what is on my mind this morning. Motion. Everything moves so quickly now; I don't know if it's just because I'm getting older, or if the world really is moving faster. I certainly know that the online world moves very quickly; I miss far more than I see on Facebook. It's nice to slow down for a day; to meet a friend for the first time, to share our joys and sorrows with a look and a hug instead of a word and a photo.

I live a lot of my life in the virtual space of the Internet, and I'm grateful for it. I've worked from home for nearly 25 years, and I love popping into the "virtual water cooler" on my breaks. I've gotten to know people from every corner of the world, and my life is richer for it. But there is still something very special about being close enough to touch.

Nothing beats getting that hug. Nothing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Garden Notes

It's spring in the garden, and I'd like to take you on a little tour.

The strawberries are starting to ripen; the first strawberries are always the most delicious, I think. I've been having them with my yogurt for breakfast; they are so sweet and juicy.

So far, I'm keeping up with them; I've been picking every day. I'm sure they will get ahead of me at some point, but right now, there isn't a lot else to harvest, and I can devote the time to searching under the leaves and finding each and every ripe morsel.

Or at least the ones that the blue jays don't find first!

The artichokes get ahead of me very fast; although I love them, they are great producers, and they're so much better fresh than frozen. I've learned to pig out on them in their season, and let my anticipation for them build when they're not in season.

I'm always happy when an artichoke lover comes to visit; today I sent some home with a visitor and we were both happy about it. I'm just hoping that there weren't any bugs hitchhiking along! That's one of the problems with organic gardening - bugs happen. I'm used to them now, but I do worry when I send stuff home with people. I probably overdo it with the bug warnings; it's not like they're covered with bugs, but my produce isn't pristine like their supermarket cousins.

It's still several weeks off, but the blackberry harvest looks very promising this year.

We planted an additional row last year, and they will be fruiting this summer; we're expecting about twice as much fruit as we harvested last year.

Last year, I froze a lot of berries, and we've enjoyed them all winter. This year, I want to make more juice, and perhaps some fruit leathers.

Based on what is already developing, I think there will be more than enough fruit for my experiments. Of course, I have to leave enough for Dan to make his famous blackberry pies and cobblers!

But there's even more, waiting around the corner:  In this bed, you can see cantaloupe at the bottom, then several rows of popcorn, onions, and the asparagus, whose harvest is already over, at the top of the photo.

Cantaloupe is another thing that I only eat in season now; fresh vine ripened cantaloupe is like nothing else. My mouth is watering at the thought of it; when it starts ripening, we will eat it every day.

We had so much fun making and eating our popcorn last winter; we're already looking forward to doing it again. In a few weeks, these little shoots will be over six feet high.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: Making Wire & Bead Jewelry

Making Wire & Bead Jewelry
Artful Wirework Techniques
It's been a long time since I've done any wirework, but that may change very soon. This book is tempting my to get back to my bench, to take my wire and my pliers out of the drawer where they've been hiding, and start playing.

I've always loved Lark books, and when they asked for volunteers to review their books, I jumped on it. And when this book landed on my doorstep, I opened it immediately and didn't put it down until I'd had a good look at every project.

Janice Berkebile and Tracy Stanley have put together twenty-four projects, ranging from beginner to advanced, and each one is neatly explained and illustrated with clear, close-up photographs. Each of these projects uses techniques than can be adapted to other designs; my "what if" response has been working overtime!

Wire Pod
by Janice Berkebile
Some of the projects are very basic and didn't really interest me, but they would be excellent for beginning wire workers. Others, like the Wire Pod necklace by Janice Berkebile, pictured at right, are more complex. This is the one that's tempting me; I'm imagining it as the focal of a bead woven necklace. Can't you just see it with some leaves and flowers, and perhaps a bit of fringe?

See what I mean about inspiration?

And that's only one of the projects in this book. If you'd like to take a closer look at this book, visit the Lark Crafts site, where, coincidentally, you can also download a preview of the book and two free projects - one of which is the project that inspires me so much.

If you make it, I hope you'll share a picture of it with me on Facebook.