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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.