Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

If you have been sitting around this winter watching it snow, and your only outdoor activity has been shoveling snow, you should consider an alternative for winter 2015.

In January, just as winter was ramping up, my husband, pet dog, and I hitched up the camper and headed for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. The Arctic Vortex caught up with us in Louisiana and iced us in for three days.  When we finally broke free from winter's grasp we arrived in Arizona to one of the warmest winters on record.  While the locals were complaining about the heat, I pointed out that you don't have to shovel it.  One minor glitch was realizing that all of our clothes had been packed in 6 degree weather and were not going to be comfortable in the mid 80's.

This year I shared a room in The Windmill Inn with Beth Kraft of Nordic Gypsy fame. We both offered classes as well as project kits for sale.  My classes involved projects utilizing Delica beads and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS.

This show is always a wonderful opportunity to check out the newest materials and techniques in beading, and to network with other beading colleagues from around the country.

This show typically runs from a couple of days before Punxsutawney Phil (a rodent with the gift of prophesy) predicts six more weeks of reasons to be in Tucson, until late February.  Check out this year's websites while they are still up to see the wealth of activities and events that happen here.

Hope to see you in Tucson next year!

Beth Kraft and I at the show.

Melody Spense, Cathy Benton, and I enjoying dinner.

                                                         Leslie Rogalski and I at the show.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Joy of Teaching

A well known writer once said, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."  This was meant as a derogatory statement at the time, however since then several positive interpretations have emerged.  For example, some of our best athletes have no ability to teach what they do, yet some of our finest coaches were never our best athletes.

Recently, I taught Tucson Bangle II, which incorporates Delica beads and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS and uses a new technique that I developed called Cross-Over Peyote stitch.  It is always exciting for me to watch my students "get it" and enjoy the process.

Several month after the class, I was back at the same bead shop (Bead Soup, Savage Mills, MD) and one off my former students, Jo Ray came to me with several bracelets she had designed using my technique.  This, for me, is the greatest joy in teaching when I watch my own students become designer and teacher.  So, a better interpretation of the old saying could be, "Those who can, do: Those who can appreciate, teach."
                                          Tucson Bangle II

Bracelets by Jo Ray, Bead Soup

Thursday, January 9, 2014

One Solution to Bead Storage Problems

Do you have bags of beads in every corner of the house, and under every piece of furniture? Does your dining room table look like a display counter at a bead store? Does your vacuum cleaner sound like there is a hailstorm when you clean around your work area? When you come home from bead shopping, do you find that you already have the same color seed beads or SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS in your stash?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may need a more efficient organization system for your materials. Here is one suggestion:

The bottles in the photograph are media bottles (square), or chemical storage bottles (round), and both can be purchased from a number of scientific supply houses online. The bottles come in 30ml, 60ml, and 90ml (and larger); the 90ml will hold 150gms of cylinder beads; the 60ml will hold 80gms of cylinder beads; and the 30ml will hold 37gms of cylinder beads or two 10-gross packs of 3mm SWAROVSKI bicones. The bottles are see-through with easy screw on and off caps. When you take inventory, a quick inspection of each bottle will tell you roughly how many grams of beads you have remaining.
Further, these bottles store easily in "Really Useful Boxes,"™ available at Staples. The 8.1L box will hold forty-two 60ml bottles or thirty 90ml bottles; the 4L box will hold seventy round 30ml bottles. These clear boxes make inventory and organization by color or size easy, and the boxes stack conveniently for transport.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tips for Repurposing Vintage Chandelier Crystals

As I was cleaning the vintage chandelier crystals (from my previous blog), I realized some of them had 45 degree angle holes through them. These holes were a necessary part of my designs to embellish the larger vintage crystals with Delica beads and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS.  This presented a brand new challenge as I have no 45 degree needles.  Using a flexible dental floss needle did the trick to make the turn in the crystal.  Attached beads on either end of the hole were incorporated into my designs.  Sometimes the holes in the crystals were larger than a size 11º, or even size 10º Delicas.  Instead of using thread, I coaxed a piece of 24 gauge craft wire through the hole and then finished either end with three small turns using fine round nosed pliers.  These tiny wire loops became anchor "beads" for the rest of my design.  In crystals with sharp edges through the holes that would cut thread, I found that the wire technique worked well.
24 gauge craft wire through a 45 degree hole.

Wire loops incorporated as anchor "beads" in the design. 

Wire used to create anchor "beads" is a crystal with a sharp hole.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Re-purposing Vintage Crystals

A favorite shopping excursion for my husband and me is to check out the local antique shops where ever we travel.  A recent find in Naples Maine was boxes full of old crystals from chandlers.  My mind immediately began racing and before I knew it, I had purchased literally a bucket full of potential projects.  After carefully removing the old wires, I soaked the crystals in ammonia and water.  As I laid them out on my dining room table to dry, I sorted them by shapes and sizes, and ideas began to form.  I could envision beaded bands around the various shapes using netting, peyote and Ndebele stitches.  Several of the crystals had small chips, so I knew I would have to conspicuously place bead work to cover those spots.  Still other crystals had unique shapes that would lend themselves to beaded bands, bales, etc.  My husband pointed out that this was an excellent opportunity to also re-purpose some of my bountiful supply of surplus beads.  At this point I see no limit to the variety of combinations that can be created.  Below are a couple examples of ornaments using several different sizes of crystals, embellished with Delica beads and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

How To Work Around A Discontinued Material

Have you ever finished a new design that you can't wait to offer as a class or kit form, only to find out a major component has been discontinued?  This scenario can be a source of frustration, or motivation to get creative in a new or varied, "colorways."  This has happened to all of us who design and over the past year it has happened to me twice on the same project.  My first design of this bracelet included a favorite color combination of SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS and Delica Beads.  As I often do, I purchase materials that catch my eye and then sit on them until my mind can put them together in a design.  By the time this design was in teachable form, one of the element colors was no longer available.  My first revision maintained as much of the original color combination as possible, but again, by the time I had a wearable bangle, another item was discontinued.  This time I was forced to create outside my colorways comfort zone and the result turned out to be my favorite combination of the three.  The moral of the story is, let inconvenience be another motivation for creativity.

                                                          Kaibab Bangle, version 1
                                                         Kaibab Bangle, version 2
                                                          Kaibab Bangle, version 3

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How To Feed Your Creative Spirit!

Nothing gets the creative juices flowing more quickly than being around creative people.  I belong to a social group of artists who get together occasionally for good food, good conversation, and some free time to work on projects.  We all have our roots in spool knitting and pot holder weaving.  We originally got together as a group of beginning beaders, however most of the group members have gravitated to different handwork.  One is a quilter, two are knitters, one is a wire worker, and while I like everything, I spend most of my time beading.  Each member of the group attends workshops in their various areas and each arrives back with our group eager to share new techniques, new designs and new creations.  One of the regular activities of our group, when we meet, is "show and tell."  From this group I have learned a wealth of interesting artsy techniques, for example, did you know you can dye yarn with Kool-Aid? I should have realized this as my son was growing up!  I have also learned how to knit socks, and I have become fascinated with quilting. As a result, I took a workshop at the Sisters Quilt Festival in Oregon this summer. What a fascinating and wonderful experience; I would highly recommend this festival to anyone who likes sewing crafts.

One of my recent creative project ideas coming from our group was a desire to make a bangle with a quilt-like design.  I used the traditional Flying Geese pattern, and a technique I developed called Quilted Peyote stitch, to come up with the bracelet pictured below made with Delica beads and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS.