Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Down by the riverside, 2013

"I'm gonna lay down my burdens, down by the riverside; down by the riverside, down by the riverside."
 That tune has been running through my head today; not a surprise, it's the last day of 2013, and I'd like to start 2014 with a clean slate. I'd like to lay down the burdens of the old year, and wake up without them. I've not always been able to do that, though; some of the burdens I'm carrying have been with me for several years. I really want to lay them down; I've wanted to lay them down for a long time, but every time I set them down, I run back and pick them up again.

They are burdens of expectations.

Not mine entirely; these are expectations that someone else had of me; expectations that I either could not, or would not, fulfill; and I want the other person to take them back. I want them to to tell me that it's okay, that they understand that I could not do what they wanted me to do; I want them to tell me that they no longer need me to do those things, that they have forgiven me for not being what they wanted me to be.

And so, the circle revolves again. They are upset with me for not being who they wanted me to be, and I am upset with them for not being who I want them to be. Round and round we go; each needing the other to be what they are not in order to be okay with each other, in order to lay down our burdens of expectations. Each wanting more than the other can, or will, give. Each carrying burdens of hurt feelings, lost hopes, and uneasiness.

And then the second verse of the song kicks in:
"I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside, down by the riverside, down by the riverside."
…and I realize that it's not enough to lay down my burdens. I must lay down my defenses, too.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Post-Encyclopedic Apocalypse

When I was a little girl, everything I wanted to know could be found in the World Book Encyclopedia, the newspaper, or by listening to Walter Cronkite. These were trusted sources, and I knew I could count on them to tell me the truth.

The encyclopedia had history, science, and all sorts of interesting things in it; if they made a mistake, or discovered something new to add to a selection, it was published in the yearbooks they sent to us every year. I loved putting the stickers on the appropriate pages and reading the new, or corrected, information; I liked knowing that even people who wrote encyclopedias learned new things and didn't hesitate to let the rest of us know.

When our newspaper found an inaccuracy in a story, it printed a retraction where people could easily see it. When Cronkite made a mistake, he corrected it with a sincere apology while looking right into our eyes.

I grew up, the world changed, and information became available at the click of a mouse. I taught my own children not to trust sources; I taught them to question, to compare, to narrow in on the truth and discount repetition as a propaganda tool. I think they've gotten pretty good at doubt, as have I.

It's a survival skill, and we are survivors.

I like the wide variety of fact and opinion available to me, and I wouldn't want to go back to those limited sources. But, often, I miss the scrutiny they were under; I miss the attention to detail, the drive on their part to get it right, the emphasis on providing factual information. They tried to eliminate bias; even though they didn't always succeed, it was their goal. If they fell short, their readers and listeners reminded them to try harder. Information runs the gamut now; some of it is very well researched, filled with facts, and as trustworthy as ever. Some of it is not, and it's becoming increasingly hard to know what to believe.

Sometimes, even doubt isn't enough.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Change, change, change

Every year about this time, I start thinking about the year that is nearly over and the nice fresh year coming up. I think about what I wanted to accomplish, what I did accomplish, and what I didn't accomplish.

I think about the things I didn't know I would want to do, but ended up doing; I think about the things I thought I wanted do, but didn't end up doing. And then I start auditioning words to use as a touchstone for next year.

Last year's word was Joy. It was a good word, and the very fact that I still remember it is a good thing. Sometimes the words I choose lose me along the way; I thought they were words that would mean something to me for a whole year, but they're not.

Joy turned out to be inspiring, but sometimes it was a tough act to live up to.

In those hours where it seemed like I would never know it again, it was still there; reminding me that it was a goal, not a given. Sometimes joy has to be worked for; sometimes it has to be waited for. Sometimes it has to be believed in, even when it can't be seen. After working with it for nearly a year, I'm not going to be letting go of it. But I am ready to choose a new word, and this year the word has come early.


Unlike joy, it's a given, but it can also be a goal. This year, I plan to make it a goal; to change the things I can, and to accept the changes that I don't plan. I want to be open to change, even when it seems confusing or strange. I want to let go and see what comes instead of hanging on to the old ways of doing things, and, most of all, I want to embrace change with joy.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A visit with beading friends

I am so excited about a new book that will be coming out this spring called Marcia DeCoster Presents: Interviews with 30 Beaders on Inspiration and Technique, and not just because I'm one of of the 30 beaders in it.

This book has the work of so many people I hold dear in it; owning it will give me the chance to visit vicariously with them whenever I like. I've already cleared a space for it on the table beside the futon in my studio; I've already imagined myself curling up with a cup of tea and dipping into it whenever I want a break from my own beading.

One of the things that this book brings home is how much the Internet has changed the way we socialize. Marcia has included people she met on-line in it, and that's how I first go to know her; later on, I met her in "real life" and am very happy to have her as one of my friends. Also in this book is my very dear friend Nancy Dale, whom I know only via the Internet, but who is as close as can be even though she lives on the other side of the country; Linda Jones, whose incredible courage and joy inspires me every day; and Beki Haley, a generous spirit whom I got to know on-line and recently met. But those are just three of the wonderful people who are profiled in this book; there are ever so many more on-line friends and, hopefully, future in-person friends.

I will be counting the days until this book ships!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Just a quick note to say:

It took me awhile, but I finally got it. 
I appreciate the lesson, even though it was a hard one.

I'm not afraid anymore.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

If you remember me

It was an ubiquitous creative writing assignment when I was in High School:
Imagine that you have lived your life, that you are very old now, and write your own epitaph. How will you be remembered? What have you accomplished? 
I don't remember what I wrote then; it doesn't matter. The older I get, the less my accomplishments matter; the only thing I want to be remembered for these days is sharing. Sharing happiness, love, and sorrow; sharing good times and bad. Sharing exploration and discovery; learning, and creating, together.

This means more and more to me every day, and I'm writing about it now because I recently learned that there is a campaign by a few beaders to form a guild for the primary purpose of raising money to take legal action against those whom they believe are copying their work. This makes me sad. Not because I don't think beaders deserve to profit from their creativity; they certainly do. And not because I think that people should be allowed to "steal" other people's work; they shouldn't. It makes me sad because I think that creativity is a synergistic process, and I think that demonizing people for copying and going on witch hunts to expose them is already doing more harm than good. I don't even want to imagine what would happen if lawyers were involved.

It's a rare individual who can create in a vacuum; most creative breakthroughs are built on top of other people's work, on top of other people's creative breakthroughs. We see this in all fields; in science, mathematics, painting, sculpture, music...why should beading be any different? If you've been to the Louvre, you've seen art students with easels set up in front of paintings, copying the Masters' work right out in the open. They're not doing it to steal the Masters' work; they're doing it to learn. They're learning technique, they're learning about color, they're learning about brushwork. They're doing their apprenticeship, and yes - they sell those paintings in order to continue their studies, in order to perfect their own skills and in order to put in the time required to develop their own styles and launch their own creative endeavors. Or not. Some of them may end up doing nothing more than making competent reproductions. But that really doesn't matter, the point I want to make is that copying is not an evil act of a depraved individual; it's how we learn. Artists have always stood on the shoulders of the previous generations; even when they turn art on its head and break all the rules, they are still building on what others have already done.

Because I started beading long ago, before the Internet existed, I had only my grandmothers to learn from. But learn I did - and I learned by copying exactly what they did. They showed me stitches, bead by bead. They taught me thread paths, and they showed me all of the things they had learned, and all the things they had created. Over the years I discovered books and other beaders, and I learned more. I am thankful that I was born before the copyright police went viral, in a time where beading stitches, styles and methods were happily passed from person to person. Yes, we bought books. Artists were paid. Teachers were paid. But we shared our knowledge, and we shared our love of beads.

I want to end this as I began. If you remember me, please remember that I shared.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Same day, different generation

Daniel and Ellen McFadden
in front of their farmhouse 
Summer is my busy time in the garden and in the kitchen. We grow a lot of fruit and vegetables, and we spend a lot of time harvesting and preserving them; I am a dehydrating maniac for three or four months of every year. Yesterday, I found myself getting a bit overwhelmed with all that I had to do, so I spent a few minutes comparing my day to my great-grandmother's day. I realized that many of our tasks were the same, but we didn't always do them the same way.

The first thing I did yesterday was laundry. She would have been doing laundry, too; but she would have had to pump the water, heat it on the stove, wash the clothes in a tub, wring them out with a wringer, hang them on the line, and then fold them. She had thirteen children to enlist in the process, and I know from my grandmother that she did delegate. Still, all things considered, my load was considerably less work. I put the clothes in my washing machine, transferred them to the dryer when the washer beeped, and took them out of the dryer and folded them when the dryer beeped.

Daniel and Ellen McFadden Family, 1907
Next up, transferring yesterday's frozen dried apricots into bags, and putting today's onto trays to freeze. (I like to freeze them individually before I bag them; otherwise they turn into a brick of apricots. And I freeze them because we like them best when they're not quite all the way dry; when they're still a bit soft and gooey, they are just incredibly yummy.)

Great-grandmother didn't have an electric dehydrator; she canned everything. Over a wood-burning stove. In the middle of the summer in Minnesota. No electricity, no air-conditioning, no deep freeze in the garage in which to put them.

You see where this is going?

I washed out the dehydrator trays (I have running water! Heated running water!), prepared a big batch of kale chips and plugged in the dehydrator. I gave it a little wave and left it to do its thing for the next couple of hours. I weeded the garden, picked blackberries, squash, and peppers. I checked on the peaches, plums, pluots, plumcots and nectarines; they're all getting close, but done of them are quite ripe yet. I have a couple of days respite from preserving fruit.

Yes, most of my time in the summer revolves around preserving our harvest, just as hers did; and even though she had a lot of help from her children, she had to preserve a lot more than I do in order to feed them over the winter. I am grateful for her legacy, and I am extremely grateful for my modern conveniences.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chiles Rellenos

I'm about two and a half years into my healthy eating program, and it's still a challenge some days. Not today, though; today I had gorgeous Poblano peppers and lots of beautiful little scalloped squash in my garden, and some queso fresco in my refrigerator.

So...Chiles Rellenos for lunch!

Here's my easy recipe:

Roast the peppers and and steam them while you prepare the filling. I roast mine over the gas flame on my stove, turning them as they blister, and drop them into a bag when they're blistered all over. They sit in the bag and steam while I make the filling, and then I use the sides of the bag to rub off the skin before filling them.

Dice the squash into about 1/4 inch pieces, and put into a microwave safe bowl with a little bit of olive oil. Stir to coat, cover, and microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until just tender. Stir in a little bit of crumbled queso fresco, or any other cheese you like. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut a slit in the top of each chile, and spoon in the filling.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Inspired by MRAW

Contemporary Geometric Beadwork
by Kate McKinnon
Awhile ago, I got a copy of Contemporary Geometric Beadwork by Kate McKinnon, and I haven't been able to put it down. I confess: I read it like a novel the first time through. I couldn't stop reading long enough to actually do any beading with it; I wanted to see what Kate did next. I couldn't wait to see what happened; the possibilities were just too exciting. I gobbled the book up and have been letting the ideas and new thread paths percolate ever since.

What is it about this book that inspires me so? Although I love books that contain projects and directions (and this one certainly does!); I especially like that this book gives the reader so many different options and jumping off points. The projects feel open-ended to me; Kate challenges her readers to try new things and come up with their own unique designs. That's important to me; I admire Kate's style, but it's not my style, and I love that this book gives me the tools I need to take her ideas and transform them into my own designs.

Twice as Nice Bracelet
I used the MRAW thread path in my Battle of the Beadsmith piece, and blogged about it here. And now, I've used it in a bracelet that I call Twice as Nice. (Pattern available in my Etsy Shop and coming soon to my website.)

The MRAW thread path is really fun; it is a hybrid of RAW and peyote and works up very fast with nice, even tension. I'm sold on it; it takes the wobbly out of RAW for me and makes a lacy, but firm, foundation. I am quite sure you will be seeing many more MRAW projects from me; I hope you will enjoy using it as much as I do

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kale Chips

I've discovered Kale Chips, and I'm loving them. They're light, crunchy, and good for me - and I can add whatever seasonings I want to them. Here's the recipe:

Rinse off the Kale leaves.

Pour some olive oil in a big bowl, and add your seasonings to taste. I'm using garlic rosemary sea salt for this batch; pretty much any seasonings will work, so add whatever you like. Roll the oil and seasonings around in the bowl to coat the sides of the bowl; this step isn't strictly necessary, but makes it easier to coat the kale with the oil and seasoning mixture.

Tear the leaves away from the central rib, discard the rib (which can be bitter) and tear the leaves into pieces. I use my salad spinner to dry the kale; if you don't have one, pat the leaves dry with a clean cloth or paper towels.

Put the kale into the bowl with the oil and seasonings, and smoosh it around with your clean hands to coat the kale pieces with the oil and seasonings. The kale should look very shiny and there shouldn't be any sign of the seasonings in the bowl. Be a bit rough with it, you want to massage the oil into the kale. 

Spread the seasoned kale out onto cookie sheets; the pieces can overlap a bit, but they shouldn't be too thick; you're aiming for a single layer of Kale on each sheet.

Bake at 325° for 25 minutes, and check for dryness. The chips should be dry and crispy; if they're not, give them a bit more time, checking every few minutes, until they are quite crispy. Let cool, and store in a covered container. I have no idea how long they keep, because they only last around here for a day or two! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

War and Peace on Planet Bead

99.9% of the time, Planet Bead is a wonderful place, filled with fabulous people and more beads than any of us can use in a lifetime. It's the perfect example of abundance; all I have to do is look at my beads and I know that this world has more than enough in it to satisfy me and everyone I know.

0.1% of the time, someone thinks their copyright has been violated, and Planet Bead is split wide open. I'm not talking about the obvious cases, where someone has posted a designer's own photo of her work on the Internet and is selling or trading the designer's work; that causes a ripple of frustration in the waters of Planet Bead, but is oddly unifying.

We come together over such thefts; we console each other and encourage each other to create more; we celebrate that we are the creative ones, and the thieves are not. We hope Karma will get them, sooner rather than later, and move on. That sort of theft is almost a rite of passage; it happens to nearly all of us, and we dry our tears and move on.

It's what happens when someone sees a photo of someone else's beading and thinks, "That looks a lot like my work," that has the power to open a rift on Planet Bead. Accusations can be made, feelings can get hurt, and, when this happens on a social media site, it can take on a life of its own very quickly. Perhaps you've seen the latest episode, perhaps you haven't. It's like pretty much every other one, so here's a generic rundown: two beaders fall in love with the same color palette, accent beads, and type of jewelry. They don't know each other, they're not even Facebook friends, and still they manage to create remarkably similar pieces of jewelry.

Up until this point, no damage has been done. If the concerned designer had investigated the other and discovered that this piece was a natural outgrowth of her previous work, perhaps she'd have realized that great minds do sometimes think alike, shrugged it off, and gone on. They might even become friends; they obviously share a fondness for the same beads. Synchronicity is common on Planet Bead; although there are a lot of different ways to put beads together, it's not an infinite universe. Several people often come up with the same idea and execute it independently of each other.

The damage comes when the designer leaps to the conclusion that the other stole her work, and makes public accusations without having any proof. The accuser's friends rally round, sad that their friend has been hurt, and repeat the accusations. They assume that their friend has proof; they are horrified that one designer would steal from another, and they naturally want to console the person they see as the victim and expose the one they see as a thief.

But what if the accusation has no merit? What if the accuser didn't investigate, didn't talk to the other designer, just assumed that she stole her idea and said so publicly, without any proof other than the synchronicity of an idea?

What if you woke up one morning and found the same false accusations on your Facebook wall?

Friday, May 3, 2013

A new technique in my arsenal

Embellished Double MRAW
I'm still working on my piece for the Battle of the Beadsmith; I've finished the bead embroidery part and begun the beadweaving bits. The embroidery took a lot longer than I'd anticipated, so I'm hoping that the beadweaving will go faster than expected. It's only fair, right?

One of the best things about doing a contest piece is having time to experiment and try new things; for this one, I'm playing with MRAW.  If you've already started doing it, you'll know why I'm so excited about it. It's a wonderful technique that combines RAW and Peyote stitch into a single thread path. Not only does it make keeping a good tension in RAW easier, but it's a real time-saver; and, with only four more weeks in which to finish my entry, I'm appreciating that a lot right now.  I found out about MRAW in this video:

Of course, being me, I couldn't just leave the original stitch alone and call it a day; this little picture is what I'm calling Embellished Double MRAW, and I'm using it as a structural element in my Battle entry. I'm doing my best to stay focused, but it's hard. MRAW has really made my creative juices run, and I can't wait to start beading up all the ideas that are swimming around in my head.

Have you played with MRAW yet?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Facing another five

Me, beading at Sculpterra.
I remember turning five years old; it meant that next September I could go to school. I was so excited; I was going to read and do math all day, and it would be wonderful. My mom told me that I came home in tears the first day; when she asked me what was wrong, I let out a wail, "All they wanted us to do was PLAY!"

Not surprisingly, that one made it into family legend. And thus started my precarious relationship with half-decades.

Fast forward to age 15: now, that was another big-anticipation year. In my mind, I was no longer a kid at 15. How could I be? Magical 16 was up next, and I knew my whole life was going to change. I would find a boyfriend, stop being so shy and insecure, and finally learn how to be popular.

Erm, not. But it was a nice thought.

25, and the sudden realization that I'd passed a quarter-century on earth. How could I have felt so old when I was so young? Looking back, I can't understand why I felt that way, but I did. I had been married for two years by then, and thought that this was how the rest of my life would be. Luckily, I felt much younger by the time I turned 35; options are a nice thing to have.

35 was a fabulous year. I discovered that I had choices; I realized that I wasn't nearly as old as I thought I was, and I started over. I got out of a bad marriage, opened up to friends, and found the love of my life. Can't beat that; the fives were finally on my side.

45 was a blur. I was homeschooling my kids, and we spent 6 months of that year living in the UK. It was an exciting time, and a birthday without any real emotional baggage to carry. I hit that five and cruised on by without even really thinking about it.

And now I'm facing the big 5-5. It's been a strange run-up to it: this January I suddenly decided to stop coloring my hair and let the grey grow out (I started going noticeably grey in my 20s, so hair color and I have been a team for three decades now) and I'm trying to be comfortable with the fact that my original weight loss goal may have been just a wee bit unrealistic, and I'm probably not getting my 20-year old body back.

(ya think?)

I'm trying to be realistic about it, but failing pretty miserably. I don't feel slightly plump and grey-heaired; I still feel trim and blonde. But I'm going to be 55 this year! First-level senior citizen! I am not a hottie anymore, and I resent like hell that I didn't even know I was hot when I was!

(And I don't want to hear a word from 60-somethings; I know I'm not as old as you, and I know you're handling it better. This is my whinge, and I mean to have it.)

Oddly, now that I've written this, I feel a whole lot better. I can laugh at myself now that it's out in the open; I'm hoping that the free-floating misery that has been dogging me will go away now and let me enjoy these last three weeks of being not-55. Here's to grey hair and a pouf-y tummy.

Maybe being 55 won't be so bad.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rockstars and other celebrities

I'm pondering the impact of fame this morning.

I think we've all had brushes with famous people; I rode up an elevator with Jimmy Stewart and didn't even recognize him; lived around the corner from Carroll O'Connor and never once saw him; and ate a hot dog at the table next to Ron Howard's table. I danced the tango in the same club as Robert Duvall (sadly, we each had different partners), and rode a horse that belonged to Robert Redford.

I asked Kirk Douglas for his autograph and got it, even though his son (not Michael, unfortunately) tried to run me off. Kirk smiled at me, patted me in a place that will not be named here, and told his son to go away; I was much younger and prettier then. And, in perhaps my greatest brush with fame, I played guitar at the Palomino Club for a Los Angeles radio personality, Sweet Dick Whittington, in the 1970s.

And that's probably as much incidental fame as I can handle in my life, though I do have great hopes for some of my young musician friends; hurry up guys, I want to say I saw you play and knew you before you were famous. I'm counting on you to make me a cool granny to my so-far-non-existent-grandchildren someday.

But that's not really the big question I'm pondering this morning. Today, I'm thinking about the real lives of famous people; about nice people who just happened to have achieved a certain level of fame in their own industry. I'm blessed to call several extremely talented and more or less famous people my friends. The way I think about fame is different when they're my friends; I forget about the fame and just enjoy them for themselves. And it surprises me when people are awed that I'm friends with these really awesome people; not because people are wrong to be impressed with what they've accomplished, but because these are really nice people who are a lot more than just famous. They're not in it for the fame, they're in it for the love of what they do, and that's why I love them. They're real people, with real feelings, and real lives.

I think sometimes we forget that.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Welcome to my ornate side

It's time for a sneak peek of my Battle of the Beadsmith '13 entry:

I've been telling you on Facebook that I've been going over the top with this one, and here's proof. This picture shows about one inch by three-quarters of an inch of what I've beaded thus far.

This section is a mix of embroidery and beadweaving attached to embroidery; it's very dimensional and most of the seed beads are 15°s or charlottes.

This piece has a Steampunk theme, and I've taken apart more than one wristwatch to get the gears and mechanical bits I've used so far. I've also used quite a few crystals and pearls; I'm letting myself go way over the top on this one. I see it as a companion piece to my Out the Other Side ring; I plan to wear the two of them together when I'm in one of my baroque moods.

It's fun to bead wildly.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Battle Begins

It's nearly the end of Day Two of working on my Battle of the Beadsmith 2013 piece, and this photo of my bead board at the end of the day is as much as I'm going to share right now. Yes, those are lots of little piles of size 15° beads; this is as close to making bead soup as I get.

I know, I know - other people mix colors together and work from a lovely mixed up pile, but not me. Not intentionally, anyway. If you look very carefully at the pile of pearl beads on the bottom right of the photo, you may be able to see that there are 2 or maybe even 3 shades of pearl beads in that pile; trust me, that was an accident that happened several years ago when I accidentally poured a pile of pearl beads into the wrong tube. I haven't been able to use that tube since; they're so close to the same shade, it's nearly impossible to sort them out. It turned into a fortuitous accident today; I wanted to give this piece an antique look, and I think that the mixed up tube of pearl beads accomplishes that. I hope you'll agree with me in 8 weeks when I can finally share it. 

See those little set stones on the bottom left? That's my nod to my metalsmith self. I'm calling this piece Rivers of Time, and I'm planning on adding as many elements from my life's journey to it as I can. So far, I've manipulated fabric, done a little bit of bead embroidery and lacy bead weaving, and set those stones. There will be more to it than that, but finishing what I've started so far is more than enough to keep me busy for quite awhile.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Intellectual Bead Porn

Suzanne Golden Presents:
Interviews with 36 Artists
Who Innovate with Beads 
Of course, the artwork is beautiful. It would be easy to go through this book looking only at the photographs.

But it would be a mistake. A very big mistake.

After you've looked at every photo and drooled over the amazing and wonderful art that Suzanne has curated into her own personal gallery, go back to the beginning and read the text. There is as much here for the mind as for the eyes: you'll meet thoughtful, passionate and intelligent artists who work with beads for many different reasons. You'll be inspired by their words; by their choices, by the way they create and the way they live their lives.

Suzanne Golden
Suzanne has put together the perfect dinner party of bead artists; I would love to have all of them in the same room at the same time. I would even cook a multi-course feast for them, just for the pleasure of their conversation. (Though, if they brought their artwork with them, that would turn my imaginary party into a major event.)

If you know Suzanne, you'll recognize her style. Quirky. Fun. Colorful. Always surprising and interesting. Never predictable. If you don't know Suzanne, you'll wish you did. This book is one that will stay close to hand for a long, long, time; I'm quite sure that I will find something new to love about it every time I pick it up.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Heading into the unknown

The starting point for the Battle of the Beadsmith is rapidly approaching, and I'm beginning to think about what I want to make.

I don't draw out my designs, or plan in advance, but I do tend to have some sort of theme for my larger pieces; something that expresses how I feel, or what is happening in my life.

Last year, I was counting my blessings; I'd had some tough times, and was coming out the other side. I needed peace, and I spent my working time thinking about good friends, and about how much they meant to me. It was a time of quiet reflection, and I found the peace I needed.

This year, I think, it's about the journey. The road ahead, and the road behind me. There will be lace. And metal. And, of course, beads. Lots of beads. That's all I know right now, and I'm beginning to find the things I want and set them aside.

A lace-trimmed handkerchief. The inner workings of a watch. Thin gold lace yarn. A bag of baroque pearls. Crystals. Brass wire, wound into a coil, and hand-sawn into jump rings with my own hands. Steampunk. A future-fantasy with elements of the past.

Me: old enough to be an antique, but still dreaming about the future.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

There are rules about these things

I like rules. I may not always follow them, I may even break them, but I like them. I like knowing the rules; I like knowing what is expected. I like the predictability of rules.

Strawberries in January? Nope, that's against the rules. Apparently my strawberry plants don't know the rules (or perhaps they just like breaking them); despite freezing nights and no cover from the elements, they're still fruiting. Not a lot; just a berry here and there, and don't they look funny amongst all the dead leaves. But there are new leaves, too; just a few, and I guess the daytime temperatures are warm enough to keep them going.

It takes a lot of hope to break the rules.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The river walk

Our town has been slowly creating a walkway along the Salinas River; it's a seasonal river that runs north through town over a fairly wide flood plain and the walkway has recently made it to the road that intersects with ours. There is water in the river right now, courtesy of our recent rains, and we decided to walk the new section last Thursday.

It was a cold, overcast day; the new part of the walkway isn't quite pretty yet, as it still shows the effects of the bulldozers that were used to carve it out of the side of the hill, but looking past that, the river and its surrounding area is the same as it ever was.

There has been an attempt to landscape around the path, but I didn't photograph that part. I like having a nice, wide, flat place to walk, but I'd rather keep my eyes on the wilder side of our town.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Block

It happens.

It happened this morning: I woke up with nothing. No ideas, no "what-ifs" spinning their way delightfully through my mind, no beady imperatives at all. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

That used to terrify me (who am I kidding, the terror is still there, just tempered a bit by many, many years of alternating cycles of barrenness and plenty), but I know that terror only aids and abets The Block, so I am determined not to give into it. I had a cup of coffee, read the comics, and crocheted a bit.

It was still there.

I tried humor. I went outside and took a picture of the block wall that squats heavily in my front yard, always visible through my studio window. It's a good, sturdy, thick, concrete block wall that keeps my neighbor's yard from slipping down into my house. It's a good wall. I hoped it would remind me that blocks can be used for good, or at least give me a laugh and enough lightness to let creativity back in.

Okay, taking a picture of a block wall wasn't as funny as I'd hoped it would be. So I tossed that puppy into Illustrator and used the flare tool on it. (I think I was hoping it would act like a ray gun and break the block in my mind.)

Rationally, I know that The Block will pass. It always has, there is no reason to think that it won't; but today it has sprung up solidly around me, and so has the fear that, this time, I won't be able to break out.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

One, two, three, four...

Sometimes it's hard to remember to count my blessings; sometimes troubles, annoyances, problems, fears and worries multiply and simply crowd them out. Sometimes I don't look inside my mug and see the reminder; sometimes I hold it with my left hand and the reminder is hidden from me. And, other times, I'm drinking my coffee too fast to see what's right under my nose.

Blessing number one: work I love.

Blessing number two: pretty things to work with.

Blessing number three: a quiet place in which to work; a place that has been arranged by me to suit me.

Blessing number four: A sweet friend who always reminds me to look for what's good in life instead of letting the bad overwhelm me - even when she's not actually trying to remind me, she does it by example.

Thank you, Nancy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When the student is ready

And the lessons are often not what I'm expecting:

  • Control.
  • Responsibility.
  • Consideration.
  • Good work.
  • Patience.
  • Planning.
  • Expectations.
  • Promises.

The new year is only two days old; I don't feel quite as ready to learn as the universe seems to think I am.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The 365 Project

I've decided to join an interesting project; the participants have committed to taking a photo every day and sharing it. It's one of those projects that I can't decide if it's too ambitious, or just fun.

I'm seriously hoping it will be fun.

Anyway, in the interest of at least starting it fun and easy, I took a photo of the orchid that sits between my computer and my beading area; to take the pressure off, I used my cell phone, and balanced it on the edge of the pot, looking up.

It's a start.