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Thursday, December 31, 2009


Yippee! Not only did I really enjoy the process of creating this necklace, for the "Carpe Beadum" contest, I won $100 worth of semi-precious beads, a $25 gift certificate to the 1 Stop Bead Shop in Ohio, and a $50 gift certificate at Good River Gallery. I can't wait to play with my goodies!

I loved the focal bead (lampwork by Hannah Rosner) when I saw its photo, and even more in person when the kit arrived. The supporting beads were top quality (1 Stop Bead Shop) and a great color selection. I decided the shiny finish on the focal bead demanded other shiny beads, so set aside the Toho Copper Gold Iris Metallic Matte for future use. I think I used everything else in the kit as I worked.

I thought the shape of the focal bead and its depth would require weight and dimension in the necklace, so imagined a group of netted ropes. The color in the focal transitioned from a deep indigo, through lavender, gold and hints of green, to ivory, and reminded me on ink spilled on parchment. I decided to make three ropes to re-create the ombre color shift.

To organize the ropes, and create an accent place for the Swarovski crystal and the remaining lampwork spacers, I stitched peyote spacer bars with three thru-holes to organize the ropes, and then began the ropes themselves, making many samples before finding the perfect blends of color to emulate the focal bead ombre. I also realized I wanted a more delicate rope at the center of the piece and a more substantial one at the sides and back, so changed the sizes of beads from 11 and 8 to 15 and 11, hence MORE samples were needed.
When I finished the 24k rose gold spacer bars, I fringed them, and thought the result looked like squid in movement. This reinforced the name I had in mind for the piece, "INK."
The weaving of each rope was done from back to center front with a Russian spiral weave, and the fewest changes of thread possible. The accent section has seven thread passes, from the step down to three beads at the end of the rope, through the bar and accent beads to three loose beads that were the basis of the smaller central rope, and back. This required much sampling and planning to place the "squid" with the spacing and angles I had in mind.
The center tassel was created by fringing circular flat peyote, and the vermiel bead caps added a final elegance. Simple earrings finished the project.
And those matte metallic beads? They have found homes in two other pieces, this one in my etsy shop, Purple Majesty:

and also here on one of my work-in-progress trays, with these gorgeous Swarovski Arctic Ice rectangles, waiting for a bit more time and idea maturation to be completed:

Maybe those lovely beady winnings will work their way into the finished product!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sewing Club Revisited

When I was a young child, my mother belonged to a Sewing Club. The group met one evening a month, in each others homes, to spend time sewing and talking and having dessert. Mom always brought home some edible tidbit for me for the morning after. I thought it must be SO wonderful to be a grownup and participate in such delights!

Now, I am a mother, and instead of a Sewing Club I find my self part of several delightful groups of beaders. I belong to the Upper Midwest Bead Society , Etsy Beadweavers , and am occasionally invited to bead with a group of friends who all worked (at various times) at my favorite bead store, The Bead Monkey in Minneapolis. And my impression as a child of the wonder of comraderie and friendship that grows around shared interest was correct. It is indeed wonderful to have people who share your joys and concerns to talk to, and from whom to seek advice.

Kerrie Slade wrote a lovely blog post about the joys of being part of a "big crafty circle" of online artisans. As a part of that post, she passed on to my humble blog the "Superior Scribbler" award. I am so pleased! :o) Membership does have its privileges, although I am not in the same class, scribbler skill wise! I had to learn a whole new link skill to create this post. Thank you for the gentle shove Kerrie. Part of the recipient's duty is to pass on the award to five worthy recipients, so these are my choices:
Dax Designs by Glenda
Mamma Foxan by Olga

If you want to play along, the rules are as follows;

* Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 bloggy friends.

* Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & name of the blog from whom he/she has received the award.

* Each Superior Scribbler must display the award on his/her blog and link to this post which explains the award.

*Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List - that way, we'll be able to keep up to date on everyone who receives the award.

* Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

OK. I have done my part. Now if you want to play along, it's your turn!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When Worlds Collide

This is a beadweaver's blog, but my day job requires the making of jewelry too. It's an entirely different process and product. Beadweaving for me is about detail and delicacy. About things that are deeply complex and require tremendous time, patience and intense observation to design, create, and even to fully appreciate as an observer.

But in my day job, I am a costume designer, creating competition clothing for ballroom dancers. Their jewelry must have an exceptionally "blingy" first impression, as the primary purpose of ballroom dance wear is to get the wearer seen, and to emphasize and and extend the dancer's movement. I have just finished a gown for a client that relies entirely on its jewelry for visual impact, which is unusual, and most often, the gown istself has a minimum of 30 - 50 gross of rhinestones on its surface. I thought it would be fun to share it with you, and compare the two worlds. This is my lovely client Randee, in her new Latin gown, with necklace, bracelet, earrings and a small brooch at the hip.
Here's a closeup of the necklace, taken on my dressform. I find that the crystals I use for ballroom purposes must be mirror backed in the interest of maximum dazzle for dollar. I've done a couple necklaces for my dancewear clients with huge Swarovski rounds and bicones, but even with AB finishes, they simply do not compare to the mirror backed pieces from even a short distance. You'd think rivolis would be a perfect solution, and I do use rivolis, but the flat backed, sew-on version. And yet I rarely actually sew them on. The sew holes provide great additional grab for my adhesive, which seeps into the hole and makes the application very secure.

Another reason not to sew is time and cost. When a dancer spends a few thousand dollars on a gown, the jewelry cannot also cost a few thousand dollars, so I am always working to keep time to a minimum and result at a maximum. The money needs to go into the materials, and labor needs to be efficient.

Part of the labor cost is in the design and fitting of the ultrasuede base to which the jewels are glued. It must fit perfectly, allow the dancer to move without moving much itself, maintain it's shape through intense exercise, and be immune to perspirtaion. It must be supple, and protect the dancer from the sharp edges of the crystals, but must not stretch out or change shape in use. Sometimes, the necklaces, armbands, and earrings are glued to the body with eyelash adhesive or toupee tape, so the back of the jewelry must provide for that option as well. I start the process in craft paper, cutting in ultrasuede after I am sure I have a perfect fit, and then I check it for movement, before permanently applying the crystals.

I love what I do, and especially the realtionships with my wonderful clients. A huge thank you to Randee, dancing here in another of the Latin gowns I have created for her, for letting me use her photos in my blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Beautiful Friend Cathy

On my birthday, my friend Cathy called me in the morning to wish me a happy day. I told her I was going to a bead sale, and since she too is a beader, I asked if she'd like to come along. She agreed to meet me and have a bite to eat in celebration. It was the day I bought the beads for "Chapeau De Peche," so she was in on the project from the beginning.

When I finished the hat, a couple of my wonderful Etsy Beadweaver friends mentioned wanting to see the hat on a person, and I could think of no one better than Cathy. She has beautifully shiny, sleek ebony hair, which I thought would contrast nicely with the pale beads of the hat, and lovely balanced features, fantastic skin and teeth... the perfect model. So, here's Cathy, in the final product!

Then, yesterday, she brought her charming husband Bill to my costume studio to begin the process of creating a new ballroom suit for him. Cathy has wonderful taste and a great sense of style, and I really enjoy her input, both on the costumes I make for her and on Bill's behalf. While my tailor Michele was measuring Bill, I pointed out my newest finished necklace to Cathy. I always have my most recent piece on display in my studio, and as a fellow beader, Cathy is a great audience, and always has a useful comment. This time, she fell in love. I had not even priced the piece, but she knew she wanted it, and today, it is hers. I do have to make her a shorter neckstrap, as she's a slim girl, so while it's still in my posession, she agreed to let me show it off. Most Excellent Teenager had tentatively named the piece "Mold." My tailor Michele suggested "Lichen," but I'll let Cathy give it it's final name. I love knowing she'll own it. I am very fond of it, and am so glad it's going to a good home. Here it is!

I think it's gonna look even better on her than the hat did! Aren't friends wonderful?

Monday, September 14, 2009

It IS!

Chapeau de Peche??
Well, my mystery project has finally agreed to come into being and not one second too soon, as I need to take it to the Upper Midwest Bead Society twentieth anniversary tea this weekend, Sunday, September 20th. Diane Fitzgerald is our Founding Mother, and we have been encouraged to "wear our Sunday Best embellished bonnet" with a prize for "Best in Show."
Now, I am NOT a hat girl. I do not have a hat face, and I have Obama ears. No hat has ever looked nice on me. SO I decided right off not to participate in this portion of the event. Then I changed my mind. Why not make a beaded hat? One might not necessarily be required to wear such a thing, and it would still be a means to participate. At first I thought it would be a beaded straw boater, but once I finished what I thought would be the hat band, I decided the weight of the beads would make this idea structurally nearly impossible with out using a stiffening agent, and I didn't want to "cheat" in that way.

All those Costume History classes took me to medieval chapel cap images, and chain maille helmets, but I wanted a more recent reference, so turned to the 1920's when beading and bead embellishment were commonplace. A beaded cloche, a bell-shaped, closely fitting, flapper style hat seemed a great solution and had a wonderful shaping challenge. I wanted the hat to be soft and adaptable to varied head shapes, so netting seemed an appropriate technique. Cloche hats frequently have a button at their top most point and I referenced that with a bit of circular peyote and then charged into the mathematics of creating a bell shaped piece of work that would connect to a 314 bead row band on one end and a 48 bead row circle on the other.

And as I worked on the band, the phrase "peau de peche" popped into my head. Ridiculous for a dressmaker not to have taken French, but I have not, and so I THINK it means "skin of peach," which the hat band resembles. Once it was a cloche, (cloche being yet another French word) then "chapeau" floated into my brain as well. So I think the piece is "Chapeau de Peche."

I am really pleased with the structure and the final product, but less so with the surface embellishment I have done. I may or may not change it for the event, as time is short. But I think I may come back to it one day. My initial thought was passimentary style fabric embellishment, and I made two flowers in that style, but found I could not do the sort of freestyle scrollwork to go with them that is usually passimentary, due to the density of the band and limited choices about where my needle could enter and exit, so I made a couple fabric flowers, bead embellished them and stitched them on. Sadly, this too was not a process I was comfortable with. Usually I pin components on and re-arrange and adjust until I like the results, but pinning on beadwork is not so easy to do, so I finally just started and added, but the result for me is a bit lumpy and undefined... DRAT. I also meant to keep the project monochromatic, but now have stitched and laid on a quick sample leaf in pale green beads and maybe that will be a good solution to my less-than-perfect arrangement. Anybody have any thoughts? Shall I ditch the fabric and use all beads? Introduce more color?

Edited to add:  The result below was my final edit.  Thank you for all of your input!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Habaneros Hideway

The Best Man Ever and Most Excellent Teenager are very fond of spicy food, and take it upon themselves each year to plant a few peppers. When the growing season is over they dry their harvest and ask me to string their crops (I am a jewelry maker, after all, weaving things together with a needle and thread is one of my skills) which then decorate the kitchen. This insures they will have plenty of heat to torture me with over the icy Minnesota winter. This year, I have jumped the harvest a bit, and done my weaving a little early, in honor of the Etsy Beadweavers September Challenge theme, Indian Summer Dreams.

This weaving replaces my original idea, "Fuschia Profusion." Gardens here seem to be alive with fuschia flowers in late summer, and my own personal one is somewhat overgrown; less well-tended due to the time I am spending at the beading counter. I thought to capture that sense of lush excess with a necklace, and was pleased with the result pictured here. This necklace was purchased in my costume studio by a lovely woman who came in to try on ballroom gowns. I was thrilled to sell the piece to someone I could plainly see loved it, but sad to lose my challenge piece!

But then, in my favorite local bead shop, The Bead Monkey, I discovered some funky carved coral peppers. They were wonderful, some neatly symmetrical and perfect and others scarred and twisted, just like the ones in my garden. Hence, the birth of my second September challenge piece, "Pepper Profusion." Same lush leafyness, and obviously bountiful harvest as the original, and but, for me, a bit more autumnal in feeling. I guess it's the difference between early and late Indian Summer Dreams! Compare for yourself. And be sure to check out our EBW team blog on the 9th when voting opens. It's a great theme and there are many wonderful entries to examine and consider. I'll remind you when it's time!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Will It Be?

I was going to call this post, "What Will it Be" but that's not the right question. Here's a peek, from about a week ago. As you can see, based on the number of empty delica tubes, it's a fairly ambitious project, and I would say this is a representation of maybe 1/4th of completion. Fortunately, my favorite bead store decided to eliminate some of their delica stock,
and so were selling their discontinued colors for $1 a tube. This was fantastic for me! I bought all the tubes of this color they had, and am hoping it will be sufficient. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what this is trying to be?

I'll provide a hint. It's for a contest. So it is for a purpose, other than making something I think might sell in my Etsy shop. Actually, I think only a collector of beadwoven art might purchase this item, so selling is really not a motivation for this piece.

So here's another quick snapshot, from a few days ago. Does it focus your estimating? I'm not convinced that this will stay as is, but this new section is behaving at least somewhat as I hoped it would, unlike the bit I did last night, which will need to be ripped out for sure. Hence, no photo of that section, although it might be descriptive...

Place your bets ladies. The project needs to be done by September 22nd, so I have a month to fool around with it. I'll keep you posted. I am hoping my energy stays focused on finising this little number, and I thought maybe telling you about it would encourage a bit of responsibility. Thanks for taking a peek, and helping me hold myself accountable. Feel free to post a guess, if you have one!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Into the Gallery and Beyond

Monday, August 3rd, I loaded my beadwork into my Saturn Vue for delivery to Your Art's Desire Gallery in Minnetonka. When I started my car, the William Tell Overture on Minnesota Public Radio underscored my feelings perfectly. I felt like I was charging joyfully headfirst into uncharted territory.

I began this journey in April with a visit to the gallery. I had visited previously, but saw it from a different perspective as a potential consignee. They specialize in local artists, and demonstrate a respect for the work, while creating a very accessible and unpretentious atmosphere. The jewelry artist (usually only one at a time) has an open display area, as opposed to being behind glass, which I thought was important for beadweaving, due to its tactile nature. And right above the jewelry display, there is a BIG mirror, another of the things I value. A personalized and private approach to buying art is possible in this gallery, and I think the process of choosing adornment to wear around your neck is a very personal one. On my visit, a client was picking up a painting she had purchased from, and had framed by, the gallery. She was very pleased with the results, and I liked how she was treated. The place felt good to me.

I then sent an e-mail, including some images of my work, suggesting I would like to meet to explore the possibility of the gallery showing my beadweaving. I didn't hear back. A couple weeks passed. I was really busy with my day job at the time, and not thinking all that clearly, but eventually, I decided, "I will not be so easily put off. I will make a phone call to see if they got my e-mail." They had indeed. Foolish me. I mentioned in the e-mail that I would phone in a few days to discuss a possbile interview, but I had forgotten this entirely. They were very kind about my inability to understand what I had written, and offered to view my work, but they were not particularly encouraging. Melissa, co-owner of the gallery with husband Ken, said they had shown beadweaving in the past, but had not had good success with selling the work.

I arrived for our interview, nervous and excited to show what I had brought, and found Melissa to be kind, knowledgeable, encouraging, and best of all, excited by my work. She enthusiastically agreed to show it beginning in August. I feared I would burst into tears at one point (I was so completely overwhelmed and filled with joy!) near the end of the interview, but managed to keep my head, which was swelling. I had to turn it sideways to get it out the door, and work really hard to keep my feet on the pavement on the way to my car.

So, here it is, August, and I am a
featured artist at the Your Art's Desire Gallery. Please visit when you are in the neighborhood. Have a coffee at the shop next door, buy an art card or two, and try on my jewelry if you like. Or visit online at :
You can read about me and the other featured artists at the News and Events tab, under Current Exhibition. I hope you'll enjoy your visit as much as I am enjoying the experience.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

First Art Fair

I sold a pair of earrings that went with a necklace set. Just the earrings. I was SO not expecting anything like that, I didn't even have one of my little earring boxes for them. But going to this art fair was an excellent experience.

Let me set the stage for you. At 7:30am, it was literally POURING rain. If you have never visited Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, you have maybe never seen rain like this. It let up at 8am for registration, and stayed dry just long enough to make it possible to find my spot and get my tent up, (this with the help of The Best Man Ever and Most Excellent Teenager) and then it poured again. This was actually helpful, as I knew my tent was indeed watertight, and also exactly where my tables should be to stay dry.

This particular art fair is still in it's youth. It is a one day affair, and part of a City of Minnetonka Summer Festival. It takes place on the grounds of a beautifully restored turn of the century historical homesite, the Burwell House. Originally the Burwell House portion of the festival was an old fashioned Ice Cream Social with bands and entertainers and house tours and an open air antique market. Three years ago, the city decided to add an art fair.

The majority of the people attending are there for the ice cream and entertainment, not to buy art. But many were happy to look, and most were enthusiastic and complimentary. No one was rude, or questioned either aesthetic or price . The value in this experience, although obviously not monetary, was immense, and I really want to write it down while it's fresh in my mind.

I learned a great deal about selling my work. I learned that my beadwork is TACTILE, and looking at it is not the same as TOUCHING it. It needs to be turned over and EXPLAINED. Materials that are amazing need to be pointed out. What makes for good beadwork, like no visible threads or stitches on the front or back of the work, needs to be demonstrated. And most important of all, people need to TRY IT ON, and see themselves wearing it in a BIG MIRROR. It makes a difference how I am dressed, and I think this will vary from fair to fair. And, spending next to no money on my display, other than the cost of the tent, does not really create a fantastic environment. It was functional, but could be so very much more. Thank God for my Fairy Bead Mother's (Hannah Rosner, Good River Gallery) great advice about the bed risers under my table legs, because that was pure genius and kept my stuff up high enough to be seen without a backache for me or my browsers.

At about the half way point in the fair, my friend Donna joined me. Donna is a petite, delicate woman, but you musn't let her seemingly small aspect mislead you. Donna is a dynamo. She is a tiger. And when she gets her teeth on an idea, she does not let go. I learned alot from her about persistence and positive thinking. I also learned the difference between an ATTRIBUTE and a BENEFIT. The attributes are the things I like to talk about; how the work is done, why I chose the materials, what inspired the piece, and how it might best be worn. But it hadn't occurred to me to discuss benefits. Like, when I wear something I have made, people stop me to ask about it. Check out girls and dental hygienists and Most Excellent Teenager's teachers all want to know about my personal, portable art. That's a benefit of buying art for your neck instead of for your wall. And the fact that those lovely beaded toggles are so easy to use, as well as gorgeous. Benefits. Donna was so helpful!

Then, when the wind came up, Most Excellent Teenager and friend Jayd and The Best Man Ever appeared with bags of water softener salt, (which he informed me we needed anyway) and bungee cords, and secured the EZ-UP, so Donna and I didn't have to worry about taking a trip somewhere over the rainbow. Heroes! I love my boys.

Another art fair? You bet. There are wonderful fairs here, most of which need to be applied for by March, and I was not ready in March 2009. March 2010? Haute Ice Beadwork is fair ready!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Me, Blog???

Gosh, I would just never have thought so. But I guess for everything there is a season, and this appears to be my time to try the blog thing. Partly, this was prompted by my new love affair. This is one of those life changing relationships I am embarking on, and I am SO taken with my new amore. I wonder if any of you know him?

Let me introduce you to Power Pro! It says right on the fabulous green (my favorite green, mind you) spool that this is ULTRA SENSITIVE and SUPER STRONG. What more could any girl ask for?

I have tried several beading threads. As a classically trained tailor, when I discovered that silamide was a beading thread, I was ecstatic. I love silamide for pad stitching, rolling collars, all kinds of finishing and even basting, but somehow, it never felt right to me for beading. Just didn't seem to be strong enough for my purposes. So that was a brief affair.

Then I discovered fireline. Lots of strength there, and for a gal with a pretty tight hand, it does a great job with structure and bezels. Sadly, there were limitations. I love beadwork that moves with the wearer, and fringe is a favored technique. Fireline is just lousy in fringe! Too crispy and crinkly. Fringe should be supple. So although I still use fireline, it just wasn't the answer to all my needs.

In a class with Diane Fitzgerald, I was introduced to nymo. And not just nymo! Doubled nymo, with a shop tag knot, coated with (what seemed to me like tons of) microcrystaline wax. Now I don't like double thread for anything in my dressmaking and tailoring world. I'd rather sew twice any day. But after the six hours of class, it was growing on me. Sadly, the stuff has no twist, and for a silamide fan, that just feels wrong. Plus, it's so easy to split when you pass back through. Thankfully, it does make nice fringe. Both fireline and nymo had a place in my life, but neither was the whole package I was looking for.

Enter Power Pro! What a dashing hero. Soft, supple, strong, and nicely braided. I have been working on my Etsy Beadweavers "Here Comes the Bride" project all week and as is my usual style, I have moved ahead and then "de-beaded" to try a different idea multiple times. I am used to having to start a new thread after ripping back, because fireline kinks and nymo splits, but honey, let me tell you, Power Pro is all a girl could want in a beading thread. I fringed and re-fringed multiple times with NO sign of wear of any sort. It's got staying power I have never experienced! I am feeling like I've met my beading partner for life.