Sunday, October 22, 2017

Welcome to my gallery of things that only exist for their own purpose...

.... What do I mean on this title? Well, I truly enjoy coming up with exciting class projects and kits. It's a challenge to make up a design that can be recreated over and over, taught to a great number of beady people in a workshop format. A project that features interesting elements, techniques, stuff people haven't done before.

To me, that's about ten times as hard as sitting down with my own stash featuring one of a kind components, like semi precious stones I hoard, or a vintage purse frame, and then just letting loose and not ever thinking about the future of this piece as a project.

And as I was saying in my previous post, I oftentimes get reprimanded for not making everything, every part of my creativity accessible to everyone's needs. Because somehow my creativity has become public property. I don't resent this fact. At all. I love my life, sharing my creativity pays my bills and feeds my pups.
And not only are they well fed, they get to have a wonderful life. So do I and my husband Paul. And that's why I have no regrets and in general, I am happy as a clam.

But there will always be things that I just make for the fun of it. Just to experiment, to play, to learn new things, to breath inbetween all my trips, all my responsibilities, and I decided that from here on, I will stop apologizing for not making this little section, this tiny part of me not available for public consumption. Without me making these things for the sheer joy of just creating, the rest won't happen.

Without further ado, I give you all the things that are only available for your viewing pleasure and to serve as inspiration and beyond that they just exist because why not. Some of these I will keep, some I will give away to the right person, and that has little to do why they exist in the first place. They exist because making them pleases me.

 From top: andamooka opal bracelet, wooden carved Buddha bracelet and a bracelet with eyes. Eyes are by Wayne Robbins, the bronze components are by Wayne's wife Judie Mountain, andamooka opal by Althea Rose Duffy.
 Three opal bracelets. On top a boulder opal, then a synthetic opal surrounded by Ethiopian opals, then on the bottom another boulder opal with Ethiopian opals. Varying sources of materials, do not recall the sources.

 A Colombian amber focal surrounded by watch bittsies and Ethiopian opals.
This sterling silver focal came from my friend, Marcia Balonis. It was a gift.

 This piece features a Russian enameled Virgin Mary with a homunculus Baby Jesus. I called it "For a Catacomb Saint" and it was featured in the summer edition of Perlen Poesie.
 Here we have the bracelet with the eyes again.

 Closeups of some of the pieces I introduced before.

 This wrap bracelet also features one of Althea Rose Duffy's opals. It's quite magical. But then, as you might have figured out, I do have an opal habit.
 This vintage Judith Lieber purse frame came from Beads by Blanche. I wanted to make something for myself that was suitable for occasions when dragging my 15lbs bottomless black hole of a "purse" was simply not the way to go. Since opals are not the only thing I stash like a dragon and I have a veritable arsenal of ammolites as well, I figured I would bedeck the whole thing in ammolite cabochons. It is satisfyingly heavy and wonderful from every angle. I am very pleased with myself.
 Look at them shine. Since this is my latest creation, I am particularly fond of it for the time being.

 And it's pretty on the inside too. I lined it with pewter lambskin.
 And here we have two more pictures of my synthetic opal bracelet. It fits so well. Paul got me the opal at the Rocky Mountain Bead Society's bazaar last year, and I stashed it, called it precious and fondled it a lot before I gave up on the infinite possibilities of what it could have become and picked a linear path for it. It has become my favorite piece to wear this year.
And that's the end of it. I think the lesson is that I am happy to share everything I make even if it's just show and tell. May it serve as some sort of inspiration.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Class Offerings for 2018

It's time to plan ahead for next year's classes!
My teaching schedule is full till the second half of 2019, so I figured it is time to post about the new projects that are coming everyone's way from Alaska to Florida and everywhere else inbetween. 
Let's start with this Mandragora:

In the center of this composition we have a delightful precious metal clay hand sculpted medallion by the talented Cynthia Thornton.  The bracelet has the feel of enchantment, playfulness and childlike innocence. Kind of like a magical garden. It's a great project for those who want to experiment using fabrics in bead embroidery, and those who want to play with a more three dimensional approach. Or just those who think the piece is so darn cute, they just need to make one for themselves.

Then, we have the Heart of the Ocean:

This piece may seem pretty straightforward, but it took a whole lot of planning. The older I get the more I appreciate how my brain works..
Oftentimes people ask me how do I come up with things I come up with. Is there a long process of trial and error, how many times I need to make things to perfect them, and such.

The truth is by the time I sit down to make something, I have already thought it out. Most of the times I have assembled the potential suspects ( beads that will get used, any other material needed) way ahead of time. I have spent hours constructing the piece in my head. The way things look at this point in my mind's eye, is like a 3D object I can rotate back and forth, observe, but it's still foggy in places.
So then I start sketching. 
This really helps to finalize the little details, add anything that was missing and change things up, if needed. By the time I start beading, the piece already exists. Which is great, because doing things this way allows me to move in a pretty speedy fashion. 

What I wanted to achieve with this  particular project was to create a deep, dark greenish, tealish, glow, something you would see floating in water, looking upward. Also, I always loved malachite combined with amazonite, but let's face it, some things make great one of a kind pieces and impossible class materials.
Because no one is going to pay $350 for a class kit. Understandably so. Also, there are just materials one can not source in quantity. So how to create a feel that I loved about that precious combination of deep greens and blues? This is my answer to my own question. It does glow, and it is aquatic, and after watching the Titanic, it even looks a little bit like the giant blue diamond in the movie.

Now the best part for me is that I successfully created a piece that is entirely usefully multi-functional. It goes from pendant on a rope to slinky wrap bracelet. It was not an easy task to make this happen. The shape had to be just right, the weight and feel had to be just right. But it worked!

Now, on to Kiss my Bass.

I think the main selling points for this project as a class are twofold: 
First of all,every time you get a compliment on your new bracelet,you can go like:  "Thank you, it's called Kiss my Bass."
Then of course the obvious: Just look at that sterling silver badass bass among the aqua fuchsia waves! Husbands all across the country will be finally ecstatic about their wives beading workshops. Yes, Honey! Go make that bass bracelet! 
Ok, jokes aside, there isn't anything super fancy technique-wise here. But the piece is super fun, super wearable and it will also come in a more grownup bronzey colorway, in case hot pink is just too sassy for you.

And last, but not least, here we have Dark Celebration.

Thanks to all of You, Lovelies taking my classes and buying my kits, I now get to go to Tucson to find exciting components at the gem show. And that is how I found this lot of vintage purple abalone cabochons, of which I was able to get 80. And the wee ones that are harder to see on the bottom. There are two of those on both sides of the big cab, bezeled.
Tucson happened back in February, and the idea for this has been gestating ever since. 
See, that is what I mean on things existing before existing. By the time I sat down today to crank this piece out in one sitting,I had everything ready to go, ideas in place, sketch, materials.
And bam!

The interesting thing about this piece is that there is very little contrast, but it works. The dark purple, the rich burgundy, the teal, it all is pretty dark. It's not something colorwise that I would normally do. I like a piece with different values. And this is all dark. But I had a feeling that it would do, and I went for it, and the outcome is a sinuous, curvy, elegant, sexy sort of bracelet. 
What do I mean on no variation in value? Well, let's take a look at this piece in greyscale.
See, how the whole thing is all the same shade of grey without much contrast? 
This normally would not do.
But here is why it works: Look at the textures and patterns even in grey. They are so intricate and enthralling, the textures legitimately take the place of what I normally would assign to contrast of value.
Because I only have enough materials for 4 classes, this class will only be available about 4 times next year. That is, in its current form. I could surely make something similar with different materials, but that is for another day.

Finally, before I finish up this post, I would like to point out something,that has been on my mind for a while. Every time I travel for workshops I have a bunch of eye candy to look at. Stuff that's one of a kind, and inevitably there are the questions of when and where is it a class?  The answer is just no. It isn't, it won't be, it never meant to be, and just no.
Some things are one of a kind, and they can not be classes. I just lug them around to share them with You All, for fun. For inspiration. For the sake of sharing.

And sometimes I even feel like I should not, I should just hide them, give them away, hoard them, whatever, because it does get frustrating to become a source of infinite disappointment when my inevitable NO surfaces.It is not because I am such a tease that I make those things, or that I show them at the places I teach at.

It is because by making one of a kind pieces- just for shits and giggles- that I learn, that I grow and that I am able to come up with ideas I can successfully implement in stuff that I can reproduce to make up class materials and kits.  It is my playtime.

I am ever so grateful for being able to make a living now on what I love doing. But without the playful experimentation things would get boring. Not just for you guys, for me too.
Even my most awesome job would become tedious, repetitive and un-enjoyable.Consider this:
 It is so much, much, much easier to come up with opulent, over the top, crazy expensive or simply too impossible one of a kind designs, than to be able to come up with something I can teach over and over with materials I can buy enough of, and with techniques that I can explain. Does this mean that class projects are inferior to one of a kind pieces?

Nope. It does not have to mean that. It just means that my own experimentation paves the road for more clever class projects, and that rightfully so not everything I have ever made or will ever make will become a class. And that I really should not be made felt guilty for "keeping things" to myself. 
And sometimes I feel like I don't even want to show new pieces I made for the sheer joy of creating because it gets so tiring to have to repeat, that no, not everything can become a class. 
I have made some pretty awesome new pieces inbetween the last blog post a year ago, and now, and they are nowhere to be found online, because I don't want to disappoint people by telling them no, you can't have this. Even though I got super good at saying no, I don't do it with a light heart. I am after all a pretty agreeable creature, aiming to please. 
But I am considering posting them all sometime in the next month or two. Take nice pictures of them and just put them up here... Just for the sake of sharing, like I said. Maybe they can serve as inspiration... Maybe there will be just never ending questions. And may this be my toughest dilamma this year. I am off to count my blessings.
Peace, Peeps!

Sunday, August 7, 2016


I don't know if parents have favorite kids, but I can tell you that designers have favorite projects. It is time again to submit classes for the next bead and Button Show, which is usually the time for me to come up with all sorts of new class offerings in general for next year.
To see what is new, click here.
You will see that I have added four new class projects. There is more in the making. There always is, things just take time.
My favorite, the one that took the most thinking, planning and love is called Japonica. It was quite the process to create this design.
It all started with a previous project called Sunrise and Sunset Shores. A friend of mine, Laurey Gilbert, who is a maker of gorgeous bead embroidered art introduced me to Jo Anne St James' polymer clay landscape cabochons. Jo Anne has an Etsy store, and I just picked two of my favorites to create that first design. It was an instant success. It has become my most popular class for 2016. Many of you Dearest Beady Readers have actually taken that class from me this year. Thank you all!
At the time of designing that piece, Jo Anne, who is a fellow painter and a dreamer of magic herself, offered to make me some special, exclusive cabs, just for my work. I knew I would take her up on her offer one day. Then the day came. The way this usually happens is that I get an idea in my head that just doesn't go away, sticks around and keeps coming back. This idea was about Japanese design and aesthetics in general. 
Simplicity and tranquility were things on my mind, something I wanted to portray with a piece of jewelry.
So I started talking to Jo Anne about creating me a cabochon that looks like Japanese watercolor paintings. Sort of like this.

Jo Anne thought this would be a great challenge, and she made magic happen. She was so thorough and inventive. She invented a whole new process to make me cabs that were just right. We had ongoing skype conversations, and she showed me her samples and thinking process. I wanted the cabs in two colors, one a foggy, muted silvery and stormy blue, and one very much like that in feel but in pink.
Let me show you Jo Anne's process:
She put so much effort and love and care into making them just right. I squealed when my order arrived. It looked like this:

It was everything I could wish for, now I just had to find a way to make the design worthy of the focals.
Besides the watercolor pictures, my other inspiration included pagodas.
( pagoda image by
The challenge was to incorporate architectural elements of the pagoda shape into a bracelet. And keep it in line with my idea of tranquility and simplicity. I wanted to carry the not quite stormy, not quite silver feel of that blue throughout the project. And  to have straight lines contrasting with points. 
Here is what came of my efforts, so far only in blue, but the pink colorway will happen soon enough too. I will start teaching this project next year, so there is time for that.

I hope that this design will be as popular next year as it's predecessor was this year. Thank you Jo Anne for making it happen! For those of you dear beaders who like Jo Anne's work, please visit her Etsy site here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I come bearing gifts...

.... Yes. A gift. And I will get to that shortly.
First, let me start with this: I have two bead embroidery videos available from Interweave!

This is what the cover looks like. If you are interested purchasing the videos, they are available directly through Interweave either as a digital download, or you can pre-order the dvds by clicking here.

Making videos is a daunting task. I went to a very nice studio where a professional makeup artist put so much makeup on me, I could have passed for a Kardashian. As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever had more makeup on.There were cameras everywhere, and lights too. There was a microphone attached to my shirt, and the little box that went with it attached to my heinie, and I had to remember to get someone to turn it off  every time I went to the bathroom. I managed to not forget, which is a good thing for me and all other parties involved .  It was great fun, but also scary as hell.

I had this initial idea that I would like to sound like Christopher Walken while filming these videos, the only thing that stopped me is that I am completely, utterly incapable of sounding like anyone else but myself. (There is one exception to this. I can imitate the sounds our old car's leaky windshield used to make every time it rained. But really, that's where my talents in the field end.) 

Meanwhile, so far this year I have traveled to 10 different states to teach classes, met lots of new people, made a great many new friends, and before the year is out, I have 7 more such trips.Which is to say, I have been busy. Good busy, but busy up to my eyeballs.
It's a good thing,  I am not complaining, as a matter of fact, I am enjoying it quite a bit.However, there are some things I simply don't have the time for as much as I used to.

This brings me to my original point of how I come bearing gifts:

Remember the pretty leafy cabs I used to sell in my Etsy store and all over the place, wherever I went. Well, as pretty as they are, they are a pretty big pain in the buttsy for me to make. They take days to make, my hands hurt for days after each batch, and I am done huffing E6000 too.... I can imagine much better ways of eradicating my precious little grey cells...( Think nothing more nefarious than the occasional gin and tonic.)

Anyhow, I won't be making them by the hundreds like I used to. I know, I know, it's so sad, everyone loves them. Well, hopefully everyone loves them enough to make their own, if I tell you all how to.

My gift to you on this lovely summer day, which happens to be a hundred degree day here in my hometown Boulder, is the secret recipe for my leafy cabs. My intention is to give you tips, sources, and set these cabs free in the wind, so everyone can make their own. But because I am really busy, that's all I can do. I tell you everything I am willing to share and leave it at that, and won't be answering questions about this subject. I am leaving for my next teaching trip to Alaska in a few days and have lots to do before that happens, so please no questions, no requests and no helpful suggestions. This is how it it. 
May you enjoy making your own cabs.

List of materials needed with sources:

-Rubbing Alcohol, cotton pads
-metallic leather scraps ( no link here, because I will sell these on Etsy, once I have some time after my trip, until then, you could just do your own search on this)
-Modpodge type glue and a cup to pour it in
-small flat paintbrush
-the glitziest, most sparkly nail polish you can get your hands on ( OPI makes some really good ones, and I love Ciate

Step 1.
-Put all your cabs in a colander, wash them vigorously with dish soap and water.
Set them to dry on some paper towel. 
-Once they are dry, wipe each clean with alcohol to remove any lingering water stains or other stains. Sort out the chipped ones or misshapen ones. (There is always a few.)

-Get your skeleton leaves out. Cut them to the shape of the cab you will be gluing it on to.
Instead of trying to cut out as many as you can from one leaf, focus on the prettiest part of the leaf, and only use each leaf for one or two cabs. The vein is much thicker at the bottom, try to avoid that area. 

Step 3.
-Pour some modpodge into the small container. Spread an even, generous layer onto the cabochon with your flat brush. It has to cover the entire surface, or you will end up with bubbles. Press the cutout leaf directly onto the wet glue, don't wait. Brush over the leaf again, once again, using a generous layer of modpodge.
Yes, your fingers will indeed be covered in glue. It's kind of fun peeling it all off on layers. Like a snake shedding.

Don't worry about the leaf overhanging the edge of the cabochon. You will be trimming it off later. Now you just want to let everything dry. It is super important that you let this dry completely before you move on, or you will end up with a cloudy mess on your hands.

Step 4. 
Don't cheat. Let it dry all the way.

Step 5.
Depending on how glitzy you want those rascals to be, it is your chance to go crazy with the sparkly nail polish you have been secretly stashing, or.... Not.
In this case, I wanted to show you my stash of nail polish and how it looks when applied....

A little goes a long way. Dab it on gently. 
And then, surprise! Let it dry all the way.
Mica powder would be fun to experiment with too, and alcohol inks as well. Really, the possibilities for decorating your leaves are endless.

Step 6.
Meanwhile, as you are watching your nail polish dry, get out the stash of metallic leathers. I have not listed a source for it, because you really only need scraps. I will be selling scraps just for this purpose in my Etsy store in August. Until then, if you don't have metallic leather scraps at home, get some holographic paper from Michael's or Joanne's from the scrap booking department . It will do. It is not quite the same, but it's the next best thing.

This part is the main reason I can't make these by the hundreds. Cutting the leather and also the skeleton leaves out in such quantities will surely cause pain. In my case even with the comfiest scissors, I lose feeling in my my thumb for a day after a batch of these. I know, I know. I could get a laser cutting thingamajig to cut things for me. If I did, I would not be writing this blog post sharing the joys of cutting little circles with you, Dearest Reader! But seriously, you don't want to mess with repetitive motion injuries, so be careful.

When cutting those circles out, stay inside the line. Even then your cutouts will need to be further trimmed later on.

Step 7.
Now that all your leather bitsies are cut to shape, get your E6000 out. Spread an even, generous, almost goopy layer onto the back of your dry cabs. All the way around, or you will get air bubbles.
Press a cutout onto the back of each and every cabochon.

 Make sure there are no air bubbles. Lay your cabs on a flat surface, and squeeze those pesky bubbles out by pressing down on your cab with your little fingers.Here I used a cookie sheet lined with baking paper and put the whole thing out on the balcony to dry.
Let everything dry for hours and hours. Or overnight. Especially if you don't like the fresh scent of E6000. 
Step 8.
Get your handy little scissors out and trim the edges off. No matter how precise you were with all the other steps, you will need to trim each and every cab thoroughly. I haven't got that far with today's production, so no more pictures unfortunately. But I should tell you that the very last step after trimming everything, is to seal your margins.
So get out your trusty little brush and modpodge again and seal those edges by painting a line of modpodge all the way around sealing leather to glass.

DOs and DON'Ts:
Do not just try to use modpodge and skip the E6000, or vice versa. There is a reason I use both. It works better, there are less bubbles and things are less likely to peel apart.

Do not try to cut either your leaves of leather to the perfect shape. No matter what you do, you will still have to hand trim every single cab later.

Do not worry if your first batch is not perfect. I have made thousands of them and some were just meant to fail. Some colors are better than others.
Do experiment.
Make them with friends, have gluing parties if you wish and make as many as you like. But be nice. Please give credit when credit is due. That is, if you want to sell them, please mention where you got the idea from, and do not publish any altered version of this process either in print or online. I shared it, but the process remains my intellectual property.
Thank you and enjoy!