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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Buddha's Temple Necklace

The assignment for the Etsy Beadweavers 2013 February Challenge, from Kris Empting-Obenland, is as follows:
"Japan has a most exciting culture. There is a distinct division between past and future: ancient traditional values with their strong rituals, art forms and language on one side, versus the crazy dazzling fashion modernity, neon colors, and plastic kitsch on the other side.

Pick ONE of these two styles to create a piece of jewelry that shows the important criteria needed to convey either the traditional or the modern Japan. OR: combine both styles into one piece accentuating the contrasts!"
So, the above necklace is my answer to the challenge.  Let me ask you, before I explain myself,

1)  Can you see any Japanese influence in this piece?
2)  Do you see traditional Japan, or kitschy contemporary, like Hello Kitty and Anime?
3)  What aspect of Japanese culture do you think my research and inspiration was taken from?

I would just love it if any of the ideas in those questions were discernable in the finished work, but they may not be.  If your first impression of the piece, without knowing the title, had a sense of "Asian," without really knowing why, I'd feel wildly successful.  Because, according to what I have read, Japanese architecture derives from Chinese and other Asian construction styles.  So, here's my intention, laid out in words.  Let's see if you got any of what I tried to do.

Image from WikiMedia
I looked at several images of various things Japanese, and found myself drawn to traditional Japanese architecture, specifically the sweeping, gently curved roof lines of temples.

Some of the temple roofs actually had spiked details at the roof corners, which REALLY appealed to me.
Image from WikiMedia
So I decided that these traditionally Japanese /Asian and very appealing shapes would inspire my work for this challenge.

I chose some "Purple Turquoise" pillow beads and a gorgeous 14 carat piece of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, whose softly curved edges reminded me of the shapes I liked in the roofs.  I captured them in 24k dark gold delicas, to emphasize the bronze infusion in the Purple Turquoise.  Then I used Bohemian hand-make spike beads to emulate the spiked details at the roof corners.

The detail is easier to see in the more nearly rectangular beads.

I was pleased with how I was able to make the spikes seem to spring out of the bezels, without fully bezeling them, thus maintaining the same effect as the "spikes" on the temple rook corners.  Then, I connected my spiked components, trying again to use the delicately curved roof lines.

I chose an antique bronze filigree toggle and ring as a clasp, and finished the piece with a delicate drop from the Sleeping Beauty Turquoise center component.  If this piece should be yours, please visit the listing for it in my Etsy shop here!

I struggled for a little while this fall with what to make.  I decided the best thing to put in my Etsy shop are things I myself would want to wear.  I'm kinda lusting after this piece, so, the idea produces things I like, but it's a little hard to part with them. :)  But list I will, and here's a link if this piece should be yours!  I'll take pleasure in knowing I have made something I'm proud of, and would be proud to sell, or wear myself.

To quote the Buddha himself:
"The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows." 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Emotional Roller Coaster

Please check out the Etsy Beadweavers Team blog.  I chose the theme for this month's entries in our monthly challenge promotion, and there are some gems!  The blog poll closes on December 15th, tomorrow, so don't delay!

The theme is "Emotional Roller Coaster" and the challenge is a variation on something I did in college as an assignment in a graduate Sceneograhy seminar.  Set Designers, Lighting Designers, Costume and Makeup Designers and even a Sound Designer had to interpret five emotions, Love, Anger, Sadness, Happiness and Peace, each week, using a different design element.  So one week, we would convey each of the five emotions with a line, and the next week, a texture, color, shape and form, light, or space .  It was a great way to learn to use the basic elements of design and understand how to manipulate each one, and the class discussions of our work were always stimulating and illuminating.

In my version of the assignment for the challenge, members were to choose an emotion, and interpret it in beads, using any design elements they chose.  Some of them were very successful and you can guess easily the emotion they were representing in their weaving.

I chose the title for the theme, thinking that if everyone did a good job of interpreting their chosen emotion, looking at the mosaic would be like riding an Emotional Roller Coaster, moving rapidly from one feeling to another, as you viewed the images.  I hope you'll enjoy the ride!

I really struggled with my own entry.  At first I thought I'd do serenity.  But it turns our, serenity is just not very dynamic or visually exciting.  Plus, I challenged myself to make a bracelet, which I rarely do, and to use some Czech tile beads I had purchased.  My lack of experience always means making MANY tries before I succeed.  So, knowing that, here was my first finished version of "Serenity."

It was certainly serene, but I wanted a better solution to the challenge as a bracelet.  There is really nothing WRONG with this.  I just don't love it.  Plus, I didn't like how it moved, and that was another kettle of fish altogether.

So I tried a few other ideas.

Actually the first one on the left was my very first try, and similar to the neckstrap for my Amur Maple necklace.  I didn't think Serenity should be shiny, so the first try was out. Then I made the one from above, but fell asleep looking at it.   I liked the doubled up version second from the left, but I didn't think Serenity could possibly have bumpy edges.  Visually, that is just not very... well, Serene! But it was certainly more interesting.   So I decided if I was going to make a bracelet I thought was interesting, I'd best change emotions.  I thought maybe Euphoria was a good idea.  It might have an interesting edge and texture.  The third bracelet was the first try at that emotion, and I felt pretty good about it, but didn't quite like my color choices for my chosen emotion.  Then when I picked up my bottle of Calvin Klein "Euphoria" the next morning, eureka, I realized I had the the perfect color palette in my hand.

But the bracelet still seemed  not quite emotionally correct to me.  It was too repetitive and rigid, almost Victorian in feeling.  I thought Euphoria should be more unpredictable and varied, so I brought in an additional smaller component, to add dynamic interest to the shape.   I also learned that the suppleness I was after in the wearing of the bracelet was inhibited by any thread that ran the length of the bracelet, so I came up with a way to weave the thing that is the essence of RAW.  There are no straight lines through the bracelet, but rather multiple continuous loops, and for each component, the thread path reversed from clockwise to counter clockwise, again like RAW.  Pretty cool, huh.  I think thread path is everything in bead weaving, and here's another bit of proof.

I decided I wanted a touch of Euphoria near the face as well, since I apply perfume to both neck and wrists, so I made a pair of earrings to match, and there you have it.

Please go and take a look at the work of our talented members who found time in the busiest month of the year to participate, and cast your vote for the one whose emotional content seems the clearest to you.  I have three personal favorites and none of them is my own.  I'd love to know which one spoke to you!  And,  THANKS FOR SUPPORTING OUR TEAM!

Monday, December 10, 2012


My sister-in-law is someone special. She is the director of a large animal humane society and works tirelessly to control pet population through her support of,  and participation in spay and neuter clinics.  She has also recently been involved in a heart-rending Malamute breeder abuse case with the Humane Society of the United States.  This spring, when my mom was dying, she provided wonderful support to my brother and my sister.  I wanted to thank her for her loving kindness to my mother and my family, and decided to bead a piece in her honor as a gift.

Gina has Native American ancestry.  Her father was a member of the Blackfoot tribe, whose territory is in northern Montana and Canada, around the Glacier Park area.  I know she admired some of the things she had seen when looking at the Battle of the Beadsmith entires, particularly Sue Horine's piece, so although bead embroidery is not my usual technique, I decided to try to represent Gina's heritage in my work.

I imagined buying a beautiful animal cabochon from Laura Mears, but I wanted to get the right creature, so I asked Gina if she had a special "spirit animal" or if there was something she specifically wanted me to include in the piece.  She responded "feathers, and pictogram horses."  I was a lttle stymied.  A pictogram horse?  I googled "pictogram horse" and found images the reminded me of Lascaux Cave drawings, primitive and stylized.  I found a couple cabochons, both agate, as agate is native to Montana, and started a sketch with several pictogram ponies running around the edge of the cab.  But I just could not leave the ponies alone.  I kept tweaking them.

Gina's mother was an art dealer, and had a huge gallery full of Native American art.  Much of the imagery was romantic in my eyes, and after I worked my sketch for a few hours, the pictorgram horses were gone (REALLY, they WERE there to begin with!!!) replaced by a romantically stylized horse, like what I remembered from Gina's mom's gallery, with a few feathers.

 I was absolutely confident that this was NOT what Gina had in mind.  I was also reasonably sure that I was not a person who was going to be able to bead a pictogram horse, given where my sketch had gone.  Plus I wanted the overall shape of the piece to be significant, as well as the components, in the same ways that Sue Horine's work (which I admire) often does, like for example, her Cleopatra (4th row, fourth from the left) piece.

 I also wanted the piece to be biographical, or at least, a sort of character sketch.  But not photoreal or literal.  Symbolic and gestural, like the pictogram ponies.  SO, new plan.

I hunted for horse fetish beads, and found some I thought had a pictogram quality, as well as looking like Pintos, which seemed right to me.  I just didn't think I had drawing pictogram horses in my soul, and wanted to provide the requested animal in a way that hopefully could be meaningful to both me and Gina.  I chose a cabochon to represent Gina's heart and spirit, aiming for warm, complex, and rich, a "keeping-the-home-fires-burning" image, with a stable, grounded shape.  Then I arranged stacked components like a totem, hoping to create shapes that might represent a dancer's fringed skirt and rising sun,

...a warm red parka with horses on its sleeves, and a thick maybe fur-covered hood.
I wanted the woman's arms to be flung open wide, embracing the sky,

and I also liked that the overall shape had a thunderbird quality.

I found beads to use in my fringe that looked like bone and feathers, so hopefully had included all requested components.

I thought maybe the arms should be fringed, and asked Gina how she felt about that.  The piece is already large and the additional fringe would have made it very big and certainly "ceremonial." I imagined that the piece without more fringe MIGHT get more wear, and explained that.  But I liked the fringe idea too, made a couple samples, and turned the final decision over to Gina.  She decided against the fringe.

About this time noticed a facebook post from my niece about her cousin Jackie Larson Bread, a traditional Blackfoot Bead Artist. who had just had one of her beaded pieces purchased by the Smithsonian Institution.  So THAT was what Gina meant with her reference to pictogram horses.  Yikes.  She has a relative who actually does museum quality Native American beadwork.  I'm glad I didn't know this to begin with, as I would likely never have attempted what I did, but it's done, and I hope Gina will enjoy it!

I learned just how challenging symmetry, perfect shapes, and finishing techniques are in the process of embroidering this piece and I salute all Bead Embroiderers for their precision and beauty, and my beady buddy friends who answered endless questions about this work as I finished it.

Thank you Gina.  I love you.  It will be on it's way tomorrow!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Amur Maple" - Exploring Component Connections

Amur Maple Necklace
Sometimes, something outside is just so beautiful!  There is a little tree in my neighborhood, an Amur Maple, that has beautiful color each fall.  It's primary color is nearly indefinable.  Somewhere between cerise, claret, and burgundy, with hints of rust, and it has touches of creamy gold here and there.
Here's a closer look!

When I went the Gem and Lapidary Workers Show a couple weeks ago here in Minneapolis, I found at my favorite cabochon supplier, a "Cherry Creek Jasper" which reminded my of the glorious color in this tree.  I bought some ovals and tiny rounds and could not wait to play with them!

I have developed a passion for Miyuki 24k Gold Delicas.  I had some Dark Gold Rainbow, and they brought a beautiful bronzy rust to the color palette.  I bezeled everything and played around with embellishments.

I decided that I wanted to feature the beautiful stones, and also, wanted to continue playing with connections between components, with those shapes playing a starring role in the piece, so removed all the picots and began to connect the elements.

Oh, and one step back, when thinking about a neck strap, I remembered my "spoils of war." Going to "war" in the Battle of the Beadsmith brought an AWESOME set of dog tags to my home as a token of participation.  Along with the tags were some wonderful 6mm Czech brass tile beads.  I got them out and played with them until they looked a bit antique, and wove up two straps.  You can see the progression of my design, step by step from right to left, with a change in each generation, until the final one, which became the strap. Oh, those fantastic 6/0 beads are Czech too, I've been saving them for something special, and this seemed the right time!
I attached them to check the drape of my connections, and to be able to see how the strap and the focal piece worked together.  I am really interested in an airy look to my beadwork, and negative space that creates lovely shapes.  But once the strap was in place, I decided that some of the connections needed amplification to work effectively with the substantial strap.  So, with a stronger edge in mind...
The black background really helps focus the negative spaces and the improved relationship to the neck strap through the added connections at the edges and between strap and focal piece.
I am not going to list this piece in my Etsy shop right away, for two reasons.  First, I really like the thing, and maybe I don't want to sell it!  And secondly, I have to take good photos of many of my pieces for an upcoming project, and I don't want it to sell until I have it carefully archived.  So, on to the camera work!   One final glance, and then, off to clean my beading counter, and walk the doggie.  Happy beading to you!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

By The Dawn's Early Light

Dawn's Early Light
I enjoy being a member of the Etsy Beadweavers team, and the best thing about the Beadweavers (aside from the wonderful, world-wide beady friends I have made there!) is the monthly challenge opportunity. Not only is there inspiration provided, but a deadline encourages work to be completed, photographed, and listed for sale.

This month's theme was "Misty Winter's Dawn" and I found it very inspiring.  I wondered if I'd feel like creating winter in the midst of my favorite season, but I got into it and loved it.  The fact that acorns are falling like rain here helps! In Minnesota, that is always an indicator of an early winter fast approaching.

I began with Swarovski rivolis, in Light Sapphire, Rose, and Rose Champagne, and bezeled them in 24k blue gold Miyuki delicas.  I wanted to make tiny stars of the rivoli's, and play down the sparkle factor while featuring the amazing blue gold bead bezels.

I kept the centers of each component clean and simple, and added pearls and magatamas as texture and density at the edges.  I wanted an impression of stars winking out as the sunrise begins to color the sky.  I muted and narrowed the colorway to keep the results soft and misty.  I rarely use grays, or silver, so this was a true challenge for me.

I also ran into a mathematical challenge.  Since I wanted to feature a star shape in the center of each component, there could only be numbers of beads in each bezel that would be evenly divided twice by two.  So, 24,12,6, the smallest stars, 32,16,8, the medium stars, and 40,20,10, the largest star.  But I had purchased 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18mm rivolis.  So, I had to cheat repeatedly with technical control of tension to make this work.  Yeeks!  Much of what you see here is structural netting.  The rivoli's are only about half of the width of the component in each case.  Here's a peek at the back, which gives a better sense of how where the rivoli stops and the structure begins.

I also wanted the piece to have an organic, natural quality.  I found that in my stick pearl tassles.  For me, the sticks look like newly bare branches, glistening in the dewy dawn. 

Fringe detail

This piece grew as it developed.   I had created a piece with linked rivolis earlier this summer in a hex pattern, which was supple and flexible, and I loved the feel of it.  I wanted to explore what other shapes would be stable as negative spaces.  I found that each opening I created required structural support from its neighbors and that the strength and suppleness of the whole was very dependent on the ingtegrity of each connection.  I want to explore this further in the future!

Early assembly detail, which really emphasizes the negative spaces and connections, before I finished the star picots.

 Please visit our Etsy Beadweavers Team blog and view my teams beautiful work and varied interpretations of "Misty Winter's Dawn."  Please choose your personal favorite from the array, and give it your vote on confidence in the right hand column.  Thanks!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

So Much!

I have been a neglectful blogger this summer, and find there are several things I should address before I move on to new work. 

First, I want to mention the Battle of the Beadsmith, still going on as I write.  We are down to three "semi-finalists" and there is a final battle yet to come.  I managed to get into the top 20, but my "Missing" lost the battle with this splendid "Armadillo Blossom Purse" by Mikki Ferrugiaro.

It was structurally complex and elegant, featured beautiful color and unusual details (Butt hairs?  That really made me smile!) all of which came together to to make a spirited and beautiful bit of beaded art.  I am super fond of the tail/strap... I love it's connection to the bag and artful way it contrives to be the strap.  I also think that the title of artwork should help me understand how to see it, and "Armadillo Blossom" is super descriptive!

Congratulations to Mikki!

The final battle is scheduled to begin next week, so stay tuned and check it out.  For participating, each artist was given dog tags.  I LOVE this!  Battle of the Beadsmith has been a fantastic celebration of beaded art, and I look forward to next year's battle!

I remember that I was thinking about my work as a sort of "demonstration of competency," the kind of thing that might have been required a few hundred years ago to get into a professional guild.  I can't claim I made a masterpiece, BUT,  I managed to complete my work in the midst of personal chaos.  It was not exactly what I planned to make, but I am trememdously proud of the results!

"Missing," honoring the absence of my mother in my life, with her death in June.
Moving on...

When I arrived back in Minneapolis after over a month of my mother's funeral and the cleaning out of her house in preparation for sale, I needed some theraputic beading to do.  I chose some Aquamarine nuggets and chips, and participated in the Etsy Beadweavers "Lunar Obsession" challenge.  I visited a bead shop I had not been in before, J Ring Glass, and the Aquamarine just seemed to fall into my basket for purchase. I highly reccommend this shop, by the way.  I believe they have the BEST SELECTION OF SEMI-PRECIOUS BEADS in the Twin Cities. I later looked up the metaphysical properties of Aquamarine:

     "Aquamarine stones are beautiful crystals that heighten courage... and aid clear communication with the Divine source of all that is.
     They have strong metaphysical properties that help you to let go of old emotional issues you may be holding on to. By assisting you to release anger and reduce stress... it may help you to make positive changes in your life.
     These lovely stones help to heighten your courage when you are handling grief, and are powerful to assist self healing."

They were the perfect thing to be fondling in August!  Here's the result of that bead therapy.

"If Crystals were Craters, and Turquoise, Blue Cheese"
With the Aquamarine, a few tiny turquoise chips, and a little Swarovski Crystal, I embroidered four moon phases, and then created a interchangable system of three neck straps, each with a unique and interesting clasp.

Waning Gibbous Moon

Full Moon
Waxing Crescent
And my personal favorite the Quarter Moon.
Conveniently, August 2012 contained an official Blue Moon, a rare occurrence with two full moons in a month, which make the Aquamarine doubly effective! 
These little pieces were excellent and inexpensive therapy; a perfect anodyne for dragging 940 pounds of wine boxes, bottles, and magazines (belonging to my sister, and filling, literally, my mother's lower level) to the Helena recycling plant.  I'd love to show you pictures... but I think that might count as slander... or maybe libel.  I'm never sure which is which.  Or maybe, defamation of character?  Well, whatever the really good reason, I will just not do that. 
With all that behind me, I was ready to pick up my needle seriously again, for the Beadweaver's October challenge, "Misty Winter's Dawn."  You can see the results in my next post. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Not About Beads

Today is my kitty Samantha's 23rd or maybe 25th birthday. She has been with us for so long, we are no longer sure whether we adopted her in 1987 or 1989, when presumably she was about 8 months old.  We counted back and found ourselves approaching the end of August and decided, "Hey, we both have birthdays on 24th days of the month, the cat should have one too."  So we chose it for her.
I want to preserve her story in my blog today, because this summer, she has declined, and I don't know how much longer she will be with me.  She has always been a beautiful cat, and very petite.  At her prime, she weighed just over 8 pounds, and now, I think she has slipped under 5.  See the curled whiskers on her right side?  That is her sleeping side.  She has not groomed herself for years.  I do my best for her, but she does not like her legs or tummy groomed, so those parts get ignored as much as possible.  She does love to have her head rubbed, washed and combed, and her ears cleaned, so those things we do often.

We have gradually adapted her home, as her age has limited her movement.  Her food and litter box used to be in the laundry on the ground level of our split level home, but she has always liked to sleep on our bed, and the stairs got to be too much for her a couple years ago, so the box moved into our bedroom.  The food came up too, but to keep the dog from eating it, we had to build an enclosure that only Sam could enter.
And her sight is failing, so she needs a night light to find the castle door and her food inside.
Last fall, her arthritis made it difficult to get into the litter box, so we put the box on a waterproof bed pad, and began to put puppy training pads around the box for her to use.  Over the course of this summer, that group of pads has become an ocean of pads.  This is my side of the bed, this morning.
So, this is her life.  She demands one brand of cat food (the chicken pate flavor only) 8-10 times each day, by yeowling.  I can hear her from my studio, or anywhere in the house.  Occasionally she leaves the bedroon in quest for food, and sometimes, even manages to negotiate one short flight of stairs to find me, if I do not respond immediately.  The can of food is divided into sixths,
...because no more that a couple tablespoons are eaten at a time, and the rest goes to waste.  The food must be warm to be considered edible, so I soak the dish in hot water before putting the food in.  Then it is smashed with a fork to fully encorporate the stool softener/bulking agent that is her only medication, hopefully to the texture of fluffy mashed potatoes.
YUP.  That is a 101 Dalmations bowl.  The food must be oriented to only 1/2 of the bowl, because she can't reach the far side and I always like the dogs peeking at her when she eats.  She adopted this bowl after my son, who turns 20 this year, out grew it.  SO... she eats, but only as much as she can stand and bend over for, and then, off to the water cup (which she has had longer than the bowl) for a drink, and maybe, if her balance holds, a quick swipe of the paw in an attempt to wash her face.
She might then toddle to the sea of pads, but more often, she is just too tired, and curls up for a nap on the floor, no longer able to jump to the bed.

She is not in pain.  She is not sick.  But today, getting to her feet is a challenge.  I have to demonstrate for the Upper Midwest Beading Society at the MN State Fair this afternoon, and I feel badly leaving her.  But my son will be here with her, and can call me in a emergency, and keep her fed and comfortable.

She has been as faithful a companion as any cat chooses to be, for nearly all of her life.  It's hard for me to imagine how she ended up at the humane society, because she is an easy-going little creature.  If she has a fault, it's that she was only rarely a lap kitty, but many are not, and she has been affectionate with us on her own terms.  I know she has lived a full and long life, and it pleases me that she is still happy to purr when her head and face are groomed and petted.  But I also know she will not be with us much longer.

For my beading friends, yes, this is certainly a departure.  But I was told to use my new camera in preparation for my first photography class next week, and have done so for this post.  Indulge me.

POSTSCRIPT:  Samantha experienced a sort of feline stroke and was unable to swallow without choking.  On Sunday, September 16th, we took her to the emergency vet, where she was euthanized to end her suffering.