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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Components as Inspiration

I was super excited to be contacted by Steven Weiss at Beadsmith.  They have a new line of clasps, Elegant Elements, and he asked if I might like to design using these clasps. Then, my work (and that of other designers) would be featured as a sales strategy for the new clasp line.  The product line was GORGEOUS!  And I said "Yes!"  Although I quickly discovered many of the other participants are my beading heroes, and I hoped I would find myself adequate to the task.

I have only just met Steven Weiss "electronically," but I am going to go out on a limb here and say the guy is a public relations and advertising genius.  This was a really brilliant way to collect great photos of the clasp line in action and I suspect most of us are really happy to be involved in the project.  A win-win situation if ever there was one!

I chose two beauties from the wide range of Elegant Elements clasps.  The first one I wanted to work with was a three-strand, golden nest box clasp, with snowy white pearl eggs.  I thought this piece could serve double duty, since the February Etsy Beadweavers theme is "NEST."  My first thought was to create a similar beaded nest for pearls to rest in, but after a couple samples, I found my work didn't really allow the clasp to shine.  The clasp is a soft, pale gold and although it has beautiful leaf texture, it's very subtle and super organized.  My samples were VERY textural, and one was a little disorganized, and neither suited the clasp.
I decided I needed to let the clasp lead the way for me, as I often do when I find other components I want to work with, so I analyzed it's basic design.  It sits neatly flat, and the pearls sit up off the delicate, flat, highly organized nest to be featured in their little bezels. So I began a search for flat, golden, subtly-textured components that might allow me to provide contrast to big egg-shaped pearls.  I bought some golden shadow rivolis, and those were lovely, but I really wanted something metallic to go with them.  Then one night in a parking garage in South Minneapolis, the answer jingled out of the payment station in the form of a gold one dollar coin.  I had just read an article about the reducing of production of these beauties, because they are not highly circulated, and considered to be an expense our government can eliminate.  But I just loved it.  And lo and behold, it was flat, pale gold, and delicately textured.  Just what I had been looking for.  But coins in jewelry?  And then the idea of a "nest egg" occurred to me, and it seemed perfect design concept for both of the tasks at hand.

I bezeled the coin and dashed off to the bank for more.  Turns out several different presidents are featured, as well as Sacajawea, but I liked the lady liberty backs, so I chose the ones with the best looking "tails" and got to work.  With several coins and rivolis ready I played with placement, and found a way to organize a triad of each (half dozen packaging, just like the clasp) to allow for a place for some of my big freshwater pearl drops to sit, and joined them together.  I played with several edge details, including tiny leaf shapes, but they still felt overwhelming and out of scale with the clasp, so I just netted in some bicones and found that to be appropriately scaled and detailed.

 I broke the edge detail to allow some of the pearl eggs to drip out of the nest as fringe, and to allow for a soft three strand pearl neckstrap, which joined both the focal and the clasp with big pearls again, to help keep the clasp focused as a major player in the design.

Although I frequently let components speak to me in my design process, I had never before considered the possibility of allowing a clasp to dictate a design. This line is more than worthy of  that kind of attention and I am really looking forward to working with my second clasp.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Serendipity for my Sister

Two years ago, my sister gave me three cabochons for Christmas.  She told me that my mother loved one of them, and she loved another.  I made my mother's favorite into a necklace for her 87th birthday.

Last summer, my sister told me that what she most wanted for her December birthday and Christmas gift was "her" cabochon, transformed into a piece of jewelry.  I got it out and was not particularly inspired, but decided I would make a start and see what happened as I went along.

It's a Payne's gray and creamy white stone, maybe something like Dalmation Jasper but the domed surface was pitted and I was having a hard time with that.  I tightened the bezel on the front side and flipped it over to work the back.  EUREKA!  The back of the cabochon is a nearly perfect image of the mountain that my sister and I grew up on in Helena, Montana.  Had she seen this?  I had certainly not. It's the view from my parent's house front yard, on the North slope of Mount Helena.

 It has the right shape and proportions, the tree line is nearly visible in the markings, and the color placement makes it look just like the real mountain does about this time of year, with a beautiful frosting of snow.
Flat side of the cabochon, the Mt. Helena image!
I decided that the piece could be reversible, in case it was the front of the cab Cara was loving, and so designed a woven bail that would allow for "reversability."  Then I decided to add some branch fringe, again, in a reversible way, so that it might look as though you were viewing the mountain through frost or snow covered trees and shrubs.

As I worked the fringe, I have another EUREKA moment.  The fringe looked like the branches I was hoping for, and it also resembled ROOTS.  MY roots.  My SISTER'S roots.  Simply amazing to me how a duty can become beauty, and touch your heart with a little effort, confidence, and faith.
The "right" side of the cabochon, with the pendant on the twisted 8- strand neck strap.
I first strung an 8-strand necklace for the pendant to live on.  Well, no.  FIRST I tried to make a bead crocheted rope.  For a couple of days, and many online tutorials, and many different sized and colored beads, and with tremendous frustration, I tried to make a bead crochet rope.  Apparently, being able to crochet has little to do with bead crocheted rope.  This is the first thing I have tried to do with beads at which I have achieved a complete and total FAIL.  I will not allow this to remain something I cannot do, but with a deadline looming, I strung an 8-strand necklace for the pendant to live on.

Because of the breadth of the bail, the strands had to be twisted to look nice and I didn't love that.  SO, I looked up Heather Collin's brilliant and easily comprehensible tutorial for cubic right angle weave, and made a second strap, which I liked much better!
On the CRAW rope, Mt. Helena side visible..
I'll send both necklaces, since either could be worn by itself, or with the pendant.

I know Cara does not read my blog, so I think it's safe to publish this post at this point, but please don't spoil the surprise.  Don't share this post with Cara until December 24th!

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What it Took...

... to make my Arabesque Hearts and Flowers Necklace.

Some materials:

1 8.4 carat Rhodocrosite Teardrop Cabochon  12.00
1 pair Rhodocrosite Cabochons                        20.00
1 piece Pink Bead Backing                                   .65
1 piece Gold Ultrasuede for backing                    4.00
2 2x2mm Gold Filled Crimps                                .30
2 3mm Gold Filled Jump Rings                              .40
22 4mm Swarovski Rose Champagne Bicones      5.50
1 tube 24k Rose Gold Plate Delicas                    15.25
1 tube Nickel Plated Size 11 Seed beads                4.00
1 pkg Size 8 Green Iris Teardrop Seed Beads        2.00
6 tubes Size 15 Japanese Seed Beads                     9.80
1 tube Size 15 24k Gold Czech Charlottes          17.00
1 tube Size 13 24k Gold Czech Charlottes          15.45
4 tubes Size 8 Seed Beads                                    17.00
1 Gold Filled Toggle Clasp                                    9.50
4 bobbins Nymo in 4 Colors                                 5.00
1 spool 10 lb test Red Power Pro                        14.95
1 spool Crystal Fire Line                                    16.80
1 spool Fine Gold Extreme Soft Flex                 25.50

I didn't use up all of each of these items, but I made a just under $200 expenditure to have each item needed at hand to make the necklace. 

Plus some tools:

Needle nose pliers, crimping pliers, beading needles in various sizes, tailors thimble, awl, card stock for making patterns, Lazer shears for cutting the fishing lines, beading mat and tray, bead scoop.

Plus some time:

Usually I keep meticulous track of time, but this time (because I started so late and worked so fast) I have to guess, about 12 hours, but I suspect that is a conservative estimate.

Plus some experience:

Which enabled me to know that what I designed originally could not be finished in time to make the deadline for completion, so I adapted and adjusted my design to allow me to complete it in the time I had available.

Plus the inspiration:

 I got from watching my Etsy Beadweavers teammates post their entries for this challenge, and after deciding that I just didn't have time to do this, re-deciding that I REALLY wanted to make my own response to the challenge of "Arabesque Style."

Tomorrow is the last day of this challenge and if you have not already done so, please visit our Etsy Beadweavers Team blog, and choose your favorite entry of the many delightful interpretations on display and VOTE!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Gift for a Friend

For her birthday, I told my friend Donna I would design a piece of jewelry to go with any outfit of her choosing.  She delivered a new top to me a couple weeks ago and I thought it was a great choice!  It has a funky peacock-inspired print in shades of turquoise, purple, fuchsia, cobalt, and ruby red, on a black ground.  The print is luminous and the colors really pop off the surface of the fabric in some places, and fade to neutral in others. The neckline was a deep V and I immediately wanted to fill that V with a Y shaped peacock tail image of my own.  The top is lush and rich, but subtle, and could be a casual shirt, looking great with jeans.  It could also dress up for a coctail party, so I wanted my piece to serve both purposes.

I found a dyed howlite torus in a nice turquoise-y color, and collected beads from my stash in all the colors in the shirt, choosing some Swarovski sparkle and lots of matte stone to serve my dual purpose.  Then I began fringing the torus wrap to create my tail.

I got it SO wrong the first time!  Bad proportions with too much length, and I mixed the color in horizontal bands and that was a mistake as well.  When you lave lots of texture and color, I think you need to organize it well to keep it from being a  messy pile of confusion, which my first effort was.  I'll show you, because it's the only photo I have of Donna's wonderful top...  But you can tell I wasn't pleased by the photo I took.  Sigh.  See how that color pops?  What a great shirt!

I don't know why this should be, but frequently when I design my beadwork, I have to do it wrong to see what it should be.  After staring at my chaos version for a while, I realized I had an opportunity to create a peacock eye image with the color selection, and that brought order to confusion and calmed the messy texture down to a reasonable level.  BUT, Donna is a petite woman, and I was worried that I had still not gotten the scale right for her. So I dithered about maybe making something more simple, and couldn't quite put the beads away yet.  But I did really like both the color arrangement and the depth and lushness of my second effort.

Fortunately, Donna stopped by yesterday with coconut macaroons from the Crossroads Deli, and while I made us tea, and she noticed the necklace on my stand and liked it! She tried it on, and I marked the length and finished the clasp while we drank our tea, and she will test drive it on Friday on a date she is looking forward to. 

I'm so glad that worked out!  And now all I need is a photo from that date... 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pearls from China

My friend Doris Coghill spoke at the Upper Midwest Bead Society meeting a couple weeks ago, providing insight and information from her many years of beading, teaching beadwork, and selling beads.  When asked about beading supplies from China, she used a very bad word.  She explained that the Chinese government has recently forced the retirement of many skilled workers to provide jobs for younger people entering the workforce.  When many of those experienced workers left, with them went skills and ethical work habits. 

One of the results of this forced mass Chinese early retirement program is a flood of poorly drilled pearls on the market.  Earlier this fall I bought piles of pearls at the local Gem and Lapidary Workers Show when it visited Minneapolis.  I love to weave with pearls, but usually find I must buy them wholesale to afford them. Weaving eats up materials quickly, and the GLWS is a great place to shop.

So when the blitz of my fall costume work ended, I happily sorted through my goodies and got out my favorite 3 strands of golden bronzy 3mm-ish rice pearls and two pieces of Biggs Deschutes Jasper and set to work, with this result:

The jasper was pricey, especially the upper piece, but the pearls were very reasonable, so I had plenty to play with, and after configuring the focal section, I decided to drape the pearls on each side.  I liked the exclaimation point image I had, but wanted to soften and disguise it a little, so it had subtlety and invited a closer look, since the details in the focals were so lovely.  This is where my trouble began. 

When you are draping strands of anything, uniformity is critical to success.  And these pearls were far from uniform. I loved the differences in color, since they echoed the depth in the jasper.

But the differences in length were more problematic.  For what I had paid for them, I didn't think the size differences were unreasonable, and the surfaces were smooth and lovely and with a deep glowing nacre.  I sorted them by length, and realizing that I would not have enough of any one length to do the job entirely, tried to organize them in my draping to provide the best results.  They were visually deceptive!  Fatter ones looked shorter than they were, and vice versa.  But all that was 100% acceptable to me and my purposes.

What I found disappointing was the funky drilling of many of the pearls.  In my triangle weave section, it didn't matter, but in the draping, it did.

I did the left side first (ok, REALLY I did the right side first, hated it, and did the left side and got a better result, and then ripped the right side and re-wove it) and I was able to use mosly the pearls with the holes drilled straight through, but by the last strand at the bottom, I had to start encorporating the pearls with the angled holes.  See the one in the center of the picture? There's one in two strands from it as well.  Sigh. 

And the right side has more of those badly drilled babies.  I don't see this as a crisis.  My piece is still pretty.  But my friend was right.  Less care and skill is going into the drilling of pearls from China.

Now, maybe the specific Chinese supplier makes a difference, because I ordered the pearls for my Victoria's Secret piece from China, and I was really pleased with their quality, price, and super fast service with reasonable shipping costs.  Better than companies in this country that shall remain nameless.

So, for future reference, caveat emptor!  When you buy a strand of pearls, hold them up and look at how they have been drilled and consider your purpose before plunking down your cash.  If you want to drape them, you want the holes drilled straight.  Thanks Doris, for opening my eyes. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Arts of the Holidays

Last night I attended the "first" opening of a most beautifully curated show, and I am honored to be included in it.  I really love how this gallery goes into Holiday Haven mode each year and manages to display the work of over 120 artists with equity and sensitivity.

I think most Etsy sellers go into wild preparations for Cyber Monday, but I do the opposite.  I take my best work of the year out of my shop and off to the Minnetonka Center for the Arts.

Last year, the sales of my work were brisk and I was very pleased!

If last night's shoulder-to-shoulder crowd was any indication, it should be another great year.

Bob Bowman and his team really do a wonderful job of staging this event, and the opening included fantastic food...

...elegantly arranged tables and flowers...

... a fabulous tree...

...and lots of really wonderful work!  I am dreadful at schmoozing and sales, so I did a little shopping myself.  I love the work of this ceramic artist, Kristine Hites.  Her shapes are so organic and appealing to me and the colors so unabashedly girly!  What a great collection!

I am also very fond of this fused glass artist, Sally Goski of Wild Rose Glass Art. 
Some of her things are "holiday specific, but not all.
I bought this tray, which I love!  I looked at a similar piece last year, and when I went back to get it, it was GONE, so this year I snapped it up immediately. 
I also loved these boot Gaiters, delightfully reminiscent of my dancing leg warmer days...

And this adorable little bag!

All of my other purchases are gifts, so I can't share further!

I mentioned that this was the first opening, because the Center for the Arts also has a location at Ridgedale Mall and that location will open on Thursday December 1st, 6-9pm.  I will likely have to put on one of my favorite pieces and shop again, benefitting what The Best Man Ever refers to as "others of my kind," as well as those friends I will be shopping for.  Happy holiday shopping to you, and I will hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Been Sooooooo Long!

I had a super busy fall and neglected both of my blogs, while working 7 days a week for more than 6 weeks at my ballroom dance competition costume business, Made for Movement.  But I didn't stop beading entirely...

First there was "In the Forest Primeval" a beautiful tabac navette, with matte green leaf fringe to herald the coming autumn.  I made it a peyote neckstrap with dark gold delica edges, and a beaded buttonhole and toggle closure.

And of course, there had to be earrings...
There was a huge forest fire in the Minnesota Boundary Waters this fall, and that inspired this pendant.

And of course...

Then, there was a simple Picasso Jasper pendant piece for the Etsy beadweavers Team "Inspired by Picasso" Challenge.  Love the vibrantly strung neckstrap and the coral bezel.
I am certain there were earrings that went with this, but I don't see the photo!!!

Then, I beaded up a Dutch Spiral for my Etsy Beadweavers challenge "TOTALLY TWISTED!"  I really enjoyed using the metallic matte cubes in the mix, and the Vintaj Brass beadcaps.  No earrings yet...
And then, I had some beautiful Lapis Lazuli ovals and a matched Azurite pair, so I tried a little bead embroidery, not my strong suit, but most enjoyable in my hands.
Since bead art is my second job, I find when I am stressed, it's a meditation that centers, focuses, and relaxes me, but I can't take on projects that are ambitious when my mind is still full of my day.  I'm so glad now to be only normally scheduled for the rest of the year, and look forward to picking up some more substantial projects.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Inspired by Picasso"

Please visit the Etsy Beadweavers October Challenge, "Inspired by Picasso" to view all the wonderful entries!  There are some especially unique pieces which I think really capture the feeling of Picasso's work.  Take a look for yourself and then hop on over and vote for the one you love the most.  On our blog, thanks to Lisa of Artsylis, you can click on each image to be taken to the Etsy listings, if you'd like a closer look or see something you need to own for yourself.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Another Look at Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Last winter I wrote two blog posts about copyright infringement as it applies to beadwork.  At the time, I had experience only as an ignorant and unintentional infringer, and had not really given much thought to being infringed upon.  It seemed to me that it would not be different from seeing copies of my ballroom dance costume designs, which happens to me fairly frequently.  But I was very wrong about that, and I was shocked by my own reaction to the situation.  

Last Thursday I got a convo from an Etsy Beadweavers Team member who pointed out to me that someone had copied my "Bollywood Beauty" necklace and was selling it on Etsy.  I took a look and sure enough, there it was!  It's not an exact copy, but it is certainly my design.  It has all the same components in the same locations, and even is done in nearly the same color scheme.  My fringe weights are different and my focal bead a different color, and the proportions, while close are not quite the same.  But the beader did a pretty good job of figuring out what I had done and copying it.

Just as a reference point, here's my "Bollywood Beauty" necklace.

After my cursory glance I responded to my teammate

 "Thank for showing me. I am not going to pursue any action against this beader. I am hugely amused, and mildly flattered, but I decided quite a while back that copyright would just never be an issue for me, unless someone copies my work and is making a fortune on it, which I do not think will happen in this case."

Then I explained that I work in an industry by day that copyright does not apply to, and consequently have experienced seeing copies of my designs before, and I finished the convo with:

"Do I think it's a copy? Sure. But it's not a perfect one, although substantially accurate in most details. Do I really care? Nah. But I am really glad to know it's out there. I'd love to do a blog post on it!!! I might just ask her if she'd mind my featuring her work on my blog. What do you think she'll say?"

Then I sent the beader who had copied my necklace a convo:

"How interesting. Would you object if I did a blog post on your Peacock Beaded Necklace? You can see my blog at ..."  

Then I had a look around her shop and discovered ANOTHER copy of my necklace, this one in crystal.  My devil-may-care attitude melted away as I noticed that this copy was priced at $1200, well above the $995 price tag on my original.  I was shocked!  Was she planning to make a career of knocking off my necklace with a few subtle variations and different color schemes? 

Then I read her description.  The description on the first copy had talked about being "inspired by nature" but it did say at the very bottom of the listing: "Inspired by hauteicebeadwork."  Now given the detail she had managed to copy from my necklace, I was surprised she had missed the caps in my shop name.  But this second description didn't mention my shop at all. 

I felt my blood pressure rise a few notches.  I went back to the first copy and noticed that the piece had 59 admirers and been in three Treasury Lists.  This is a design I believe to be one of my better efforts, and I use it as my shop profile picture. It won the August 2011 Etsy Beadweavers challenge, and I am very proud of it.   I began to feel angry, which really surprised me. 

What I did next was a very bad idea.  I am ashamed to tell you about it. Without waiting for permission, I wrote a blog post about these copies.  I displayed the images you see here, but without permission, and I said almost exactly what I have said here, but my intent was malicious.  I meant to expose her theft of my intellectual propery.  I wanted my friends to know I had been ripped off, and I wanted them to console me.  I also contacted a couple of my beady buddies whose work I thought was also represented in this Etsy shop, and suggested they take a look.  I was having a deeply unsettling week, having dropped my only child off at college the day before, and while I thought I was doing pretty well, clearly, I had been walking on a emotional tightrope, and had fallen off.  I'm usually more rational and at least a little compassionate.  But whatever else might have been going on in my life, I know how quickly information can be spread online, and my behavior was inappropriate.

When a couple of my friends took it upon themselves to let this shop owner know just how wrong she was to have copied my work, I realized things had gotten out of control.  I contacted everyone I thought was riding off to war on my behalf, thanked them for their support, and asked them to stop, and I deleted my own blog post.  A gentle prompt from a friend (thanks Kate) reminded me how easily I had made a similar mistake as a baby bead artist.

Then I wrote to the shop owner and stated very clearly that she was using my design without giving me credit for it, and that she did not have my permission to do this.  I told her to remove her listings from Etsy. I was 100% ready to hire myself a lawyer to enforce that if need be.  I also suggested that she might not be aware that what she was doing was wrong, and I directed her to my blog posts  "Give Credit..."   and "...Redux" to read about my own similar mistake.

She was respectful, apologetic, and removed her listings.  I thanked her and we convoed a little.  And the next day, after a restoring night's sleep, I convoed again and told her she could relist her items if she credited me with the design and posted a link to my shop in her listing.  She did so, and I am A-OK with it.

I am still shocked at how angry and threatened I felt, when something that defined me as an artist, and my "brand" on Etsy was copied without any design credit given.  I'm glad I had this experience, because I now have great sympathy for other artists who want credit for their designs.  I had no real idea how they felt, until I felt that way myself.  And I am so sorry that it took me so long get a handle on my distress and find an appropriate way to handle the situation.

 I share this, with permission from the other artist involved, who asked me to add this comment from her: "These last few days all I have been able to think about is how ashamed I am and how stupid I was to not research all this more. It has really been bothering me and eating at me and I would appreciate people realizing how sorry I am."   But in her defense, it's an easy mistake to make.  I know this from personal experience.

The lessons here are many and obvious.  We both hope that telling our sorry tale helps others avoid our mistakes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Lion's Tale

Actually, this is a tale about a dog.  My dog is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, usually a beautiful animal that looks something like a small golden retriever.  But after a summer of swimming, the fur on her thighs had become matted.  She objects to these matts being combed out, because it hurts.  So after trying creme rinse and various other grooming tools, I gave up and cut all the matts out.  Poor thing, she looks ridiculous.  Her thighs and legs are usually plumed with long waving hair, and she looks as though someone gave her a crew cut.  But I must say she seems thrilled to be rid of the nasty matted fur.  I was joking with my husband this evening about maybe using the clippers to neaten up the job I had done, and maybe trimming more of her sides, back, and some of her tail in what groomers call a "Lion Cut."  You leave a "mane" of fur at the shoulder and neck, and then trim away all but a tassel of fur at the end of the tail and the resulting pet looks a bit like a lion.  I've seen it on poodles and cats as well. You can see some "Lionized" kitties here if you need a reference point.

After dinner, I sat back down at my beading bench, where I have been making things for a holiday gallery show and sale at the MInnetonka Center for the Arts.  I had good success at this sale last year, and am trying to assemble a body of new work to send in to the jury process by the end of September.  It's a tough year for me, with my only child leaving for college this fall.  Seems I am constantly distracted by various college-related stuff, and really, I WANT to be the best mom I can be for these last few weeks. 

I thought I would have to forego the September Etsy Beadweavers Challenge, out of sheer lack of time.  But the piece I had been working in the last few days really reminded me of the Yellow Brick Road, which would be great for this "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!" Challenge. Except that in addition to the Wizard of Oz theme, the challenge has to include an animal inspiration.  I hadn't seen a way to work an animal reference into my necklace until I decided it needed a center focal point and began working on a design for a tassel. 

Then, "POOF" like magic, the Lion Cut image merged in my mind with the tassel design and I had my challenge piece.  OK.  It was not really instant or very magical.  I made tassels all night until I ended up with this one which finally pleased me and looked like the right shape.

"The Lion's Tale" is a delicate matte metallic collection of Czech fire polish beads in yellow golds and pinky bronzes with hints of green. Their texture felt very brick-like to me as I worked with them, and I loved the hints of green that seemed to represent the Emerald City and the pinks that reminded me of the poppy fields. I was also pleased by the delicate by spiky bud shapes in the edges of the necklace, which seemed to be about both the beauty and the danger of the poppies.

When the dog sees the necklace, I am certain she will run to her favorite hiding place in the deep basement, lest I should carry out my evil plan to give her a Lion Cut, but hopefully, I have worked out all my need to do that with my tassel, and managed a reasonably effective challenge entry in the bargain!