Thursday, December 30, 2010

Time Hearts

Old friends, new friends.
Old traditions, new events.
The year 2010 has been one of momentous changes for me.
Thanks to all of you who came along with me,
and stuck around while I try to figure it all out.

The year winds down, the calendar turns over.
Let's toast to a new, fresh page.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Series #2 of "Ask Me, Who Knows"

There are people I "know" in a virtual sense, that I've never met in person. Only interact with online, through email and blogs. 

I still consider them my friends. Andrew Thornton is one of those people. He did a giveaway with some of my french-themed beads, and I was thrilled.

I feel that I sort of "know" him from reading his blog and following along on his adventures in writing and art. He's very talented in many different media.

He has used several of my components in gorgeous designs, this one called "Sanctuary" was featured in a well-known beading magazine in 2009. I always love when he incorporates something I've made into something he's making. They become more fully developed, and have his story added to their own.

He has a wonderful, quirky talent for pulling things together, and making the whole more beautiful than the parts, like this pair of skully earrings.

His question to me on the "Ask Me, Who Knows" post, was this:

"What's your favorite medium to work with and how did you find it originally?"

That's a long story, I hope you'll be interested in the answer.

I wish I was the kind of person who tried many media, then found one that made me say "AH-HA!" or "EUREKA" and made me stick to that one. This is it! - I've heard many other people say that, once they found that one, they KNEW it was the only one for them.

I think I'm easily bored, I move from one to another, basically keeping myself interested by not repeating myself endlessly. And seeking ways to get the "look" I want, by finding the medium that gives me that look.

I work in polymer clay.
I fuse and cut glass.
I pour resin.
I cast molten pewter.
I do wirework.
I enamel glass to copper.
I solder glass and copper foil.

The main thing is to get that faux vintage look, the reproduction of metal, hand dyed costume pearls, gems, ivory and jet. The antique image. I use whatever medium I think will get me to that "look" I'm after. The texture, color, weight and feeling that brings back that image of the original antique.

BUT If I absolutely HAD to choose a favorite .... just ONE medium ... and ONLY one ...

It would be casting pewter to create metal replicas.

I wanted to do it for a long, long time. I did a lot of research and testing on my own. I'm basically self-taught, with all the accidents, failures and bad results that come with that.

I continue to learn new things with it. To build on what I've figured out so far. And I love the look of the pewter patina.

It's what I do most of the time now. 
I take a little time for paper, resin, glass, fiber and polymer clay.

But most of the time, I'm working with hot, molten metal. 
Grinding, drilling, finishing and polishing.

I also enjoy combining the pewter with the glass, resin and polymer clay.
Bringing it all together.

I'm a MIXED MEDIA mixed up ALL AROUND creativity hunter! 

Thanks, Andrew, for the great question...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Heartfully Thinner

No, this isn't about some new diet program, although I do have a few resolutions in mind for New Year's that have to do with fewer sweets! What, no chocolate? Oh, dear.

I've been making this heart charm for a while, but always have struggled to get it both thin AND flat on the back.

But since I got my new belt sander all that has changed!

I'm way beyond thrilled with it, and it helps me make these cute little hearts both flat and thin, the easier to wear and design with.

It was the best pre-holiday present yet! And I jumped the gun and gave it to myself. It's the gift that seems to keep giving - to me! Tee Hee...

Now, if it would just flatten and thin my anatomy as easily! But that's going to require less baking and more walking, of that I'm sure.

Next year, cutting down on the sweets. Sigh.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos. 

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe,
Help to make the season bright.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow,
Will find it hard to sleep tonight. 

They know that Santa's on his way;
He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh.
And every mother's child is going to spy,
To see if reindeer really know how to fly. 

And so I'm offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Snowmen in a Bottle

I've had it in my head for several weeks to make some little holiday ornaments, that can be wearable or used as decorations. For more things on that topic, check out my 12 Days of Christmas Post today at the Art Bead Scene blog.

12 days of Free Projects at Art Bead Scene Blog! 
These little snow folks have been in the back of my mind, and finally I took some time out to get them started.

I ordered these tiny glass bottles a while ago. I used them for a bead swap, putting gold glitter and resin inside, and adding words on the outside. I had some left over, just waiting for the next inspiration.

These bottles are very tiny, about an inch tall. I put some of my hand dyed resin beads and costume pearls inside, and frosted the outside with glitter glue and mica glitter. Everything looks better with bling!

For the heads, I made some carrot shapes out of orange polymer clay. The head is made from white polymer clay rolled into a ball, then a stalk for the neck was pulled down and pushed into the opening of the bottle, to make sure it would fit after it was baked.

I used pale pink eye shadow on the unbaked clay to give the snow faces rosy cheeks.

A wooden skewer makes great eyes, I used the pointed end for the pupils and the flat round end for the eye sockets. I poked holes for the mouth, one of them seems to be whistling or singing!

After I baked them, they looked like this. You can see the neck pushed down in the bottle, it can be glued into place when ready, and a strip of cloth or tinsel used to cover the top and beautify it.

Then the heads got a coating of glitter glue and a liberal shaking of mica glitter, to make them shiny and snowy. They look a little dark in this photo, but they're really bright white and covered with gorgeous shiny bling!

I'm going to finish them with little pointed rolled paper hats, made out of pages from an old elementary school math book I picked up for twenty-five cents at a used book sale. They'll get a necklace of shiny beads around the top, then a loop for a chain so they can be hung up or worn as special holiday jewelry.

I can think of lots of designs that could be done this way. Maybe pumpkins for Halloween, bunnies for Easter.

Use your imagination and have some fun, hope these snow guys inspire your creativity too. 

If you make some, be sure to let me know how yours turn out, I'd love to see the snow family kin!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Revisited - Star Card Ornament - Mini-Book Instructions

Here's a photo of the starbook cards I made last year, tucked under the 2010 holiday tree in the new house. I thought it would be fun to re-visit the instructions, in case you missed out on them last year.

Here are the instructions and photos for how to make a fun greeting card that converts into a mini-star book that can hang from the tree or be used as a centerpiece on a holiday table as a decoration. They turned out so well, I thought it'd be good to see them again this holiday season!

I learned how to make star books several years ago. Most of the time I make large ones. This design is small and lightweight, and very interesting as a project for those snowy days when your young helpers are out of school - they can decorate the papers for you! 
You need decorative papers, scissors or a paper cutter, a big glue stick and cardboard or card stock. You don't need anything fancy, use the cardboard from an empty cereal box, it's recycling too!
You'll need: 
2 pieces of card stock or cardboard 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" (or use recycled cardboard from cereal boxes or other packaging)
18 inches of ribbon, yarn or cording for the closure (recycling old gift wrap ribbon works)
Art Bead or Large Button for closure and decoration
You also need decorative papers, pick your favorites but they are only seen on one side. Make them in these sizes, glued to the card stock to make them sturdier. (Or use last year's greeting cards, another recycling possibility.)
I use spray adhesive to attach the papers to the card stock, it's quicker than glue stick, but use what you like best.

Three complimentary colors and designs of card stock cut to these sizes:
7 pieces 3 1/4" x 6"
7 pieces 3 1/4" x 5"
7 pieces 3 1/4" x 4"
2 pieces of decorative paper for the cover, measuring 5 1/2" square
Photos, old greeting cards, rubber stamps and other things to decorate inside the pages.
Cut all your decorated card stock or recycled greeting cards. Cover the outside of the cardboard or matte board for your book covers, leaving the inside uncovered. Add your stamps, decorations and pretty images to the cover.

Fold each set of seven papers in half. I used the edge of a ballpoint pen to score and crease the papers well. The 3 1/4" dimension is the top-to-bottom measurement of your pages.
Think of each folded piece of 3 1/4" x 6" paper as a card, then glue the back cover of the first card to the front cover of the second one, and do that for all seven pieces until they look like a folded accordion or pamphlet.
Fold the 18" of ribbon in half and lay across the inside front cover board horizontally, leaving a 1" loop to make your closure sticking out beyond the cover's edge. It also acts as the hanger for attaching to the tree.
Using the glue stick, glue the front of the inner pamphlet you just made to the cover with the ribbon sandwiched in between. The pages should be almost flush with the book cover, you can open it to make sure it will open all the way without catching.
Using the glue stick, attach the back cover to the back page of the folded pamphlet with the ribbon sandwiched in between and the ends hanging past the edge of the backcover. To make them nice and tight put the two spines next to each other while gluing together, then check to be sure it will open up with the back cover glued in place.
Decorate the inner 3 1/4" x 4" papers with stamps, photos and embellishments. If you want the book to close flush, don't let this get too thick.

Take the folded 3 1/4" x 5" papers and attach the edges to the insides of the pamphlet pages. lining the edges up next to each other, then close the book and press, to make sure it will close and open correctly.
Attach the decorated inner 3 1/4" x 4" papers to the inside edges of the pamphlet as you did the 3 1/4" x 5" papers, this is the part of the book that will show when it's opened up. There will now be three layers of angles to the pages, this gives lots of stability and strength.

Embellish the cover, add your art bead to the ends of the ribbon that are loose and tie a knot - the loop on the front cover goes over the art bead to close the book and when it's fully open in the star shape, the art bead secures the book to hang from the tree by the front loop.
You can alter the size to make the star books larger or smaller. Once you get started making these, you won't want to stop.
A perfect activity for a snowy evening in front of the fire, with a cup of eggnog nearby! And a great project with kids, too.
This is the front cover, with the loop and art bead showing how you use it to close the book.
And here's the decorated back cover, very festive, don't you think? If these directions aren't clear or you have questions, post them there and I'll try to make things clearer.
Have fun!  ... these are very unique holiday cards, you'll need a size larger than usual envelope to mail them! But your family, neighbors and friends will love them... and so will you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Designing for Two Kinds of Saints

This medallion reminds me of dog tags or ID tags because of the shape, but the ancient medieval form, because of the ancient design on it. 

I combined a religious emblem with ancient script, to make a shape that's useful for a holiday ornament, a key chain or for wearable jewelry.

In fact, I created a keychain for a friend with this medallion, and added a fleur de lys charm on the bottom as a dangle. The idea was the Saint and the Saints Football. It was a kind of secret message, I guess for those around these parts who connect a fleur de lys with their favorite Saints football team automatically.

I've always admired the illuminated manuscripts, like the Book of Kells. I can see  this cast component used as a decoration or clasp on the front of a hand bound book. 

Or for jewelry, with a pretty cross as a dangle.

But the one I made was for a fan of the Saints football team. Hey, I'm flexible, all about multi-purpose, I can go with that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Indian Treasury

See my pewter-topped ring there on the second row at the right?

It fits right in with the pinecones.

Treasuries always interest me, how things that don't seem to belong together look so right!

Hey, nobody told me, but guess what? I was featured at Craftgossip a few weeks back. Very cool! Always happy to provide the back story, only question is whether anyone wants to hear! I've never thought of myself as fodder for a columnist's story, but who knew?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday's Medal

I created the medallion on this special necklace, using my new belt sander -- the one that I showed in my last post. It's so helpful in getting down into those little crevices, to clean up after casting. Those are hard to reach, and I have to be very careful not to take off any of the medal's details. 

The Eiffel Tower cast component, I just learned, is going to be featured on a design in the Spring Issue of "Stringing Magazine."  I really love when that happens.

I used a large, faceted round resin bead for the dangle. I wanted it to look like a hot air ballon, floating over the skies of Paris, or maybe a medal won long ago for a balloon race. My imagination races when I start working on these emblems, I have to give them a fictional back-story.

The costume pearls were hand-dyed to get that warm, current cranberry color. It matches so well with the coppery-bronze tones of the cast pewter, and the warm copper link chain.

I hope I can remember the recipe for that warm red-brown color when I get motivated again to mix up some dyes. Time, where are you? 

I did buy some white-white costume pearls last week, so I have some blanks to work with again.

This is my small-size dress form replica, I bought it a good long time ago, but it was so dark in the basement studio in Saint Louis I couldn't really seem to get the light to work with her.

But in the new studio here she is, sitting in front of a window with a white muslin curtain, very old fashioned looking. The strand of costume pearls are behind her, just the focal part of the necklace is coming over her little wicker shoulders.

This necklace was a gift for family, it has been received and hopefully is already being worn. 

So I'm not giving away any surprises by showing it here!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Muse Zing

My Daughter Took This PHOTO -

Has anyone seen my muse?

I turned around, and she had left me. I think it's temporary, though. She left her shoes behind, I can tell they're hers because they're so small and sparkly.

I think the cure for MUSE-LOSS is new equipment.

So I went to Harbor Freight, searching for Muse Bait.

Sure enough, I found a belt sander, it's so cool! Actually, it gets quite warm when I use it, I have to put finger protectors on my hands, to keep from burning my fingertips.

And if I had a manicure ever, this thing would be the most efficient way to remove it.

But it's great at speeding up the cleanup from casting the pewter. I can get way down in the details and crevices, sweet!

And it has a vacuum hose attachment, see it there at the bottom on the side -- so the dust is handled and doesn't go everywhere. I still wear my eye protection and my face mask, but I don't end up completely head-to-toe dusted with metal when I use it. AND it was ON SALE! Woo Hoo ... Santa came early.

I LOVE TOOLS! and especially ones that make me more efficient.

Okay, Muse - time to come back and play now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fleur de Lys Gray

I made this sweet little fleur de lys necklace on Saturday, it was an order from a neighbor for a gift.

It's sparkly and light, not too long. Should match almost anything, with a faceted crystal bead and gray glass stone beads.

The fleur de lys is a big favorite around here, as you might imagine. You see them everywhere, on gates, street signs. Even bumper stickers.

I put a length of crew chain at the end of the necklace, so it can be adjusted longer or shorter. and I finished off the chain with a little star glass bead, to hang down for some bling when the short end of the chain is fastened.

I may make one for myself, too!
Gotta blend into the fleur de lys background, right?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rosette Sundays

Holiday baking is a tradition, and fun.
Since the mid-1980's I occasionally make rosette cookies at Christmas.

This year I've been making them and sending as gifts, taking them in to the office.

And I tried making some savory ones, instead of sweet. Sort of like homemade corn chips.

With a tangy, salty finish. YUM!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sieve in the Cranium

Did you know there's actually a word for "brain like a sieve" - it's DRUSHLAK, it's Ukrainian, pronounced "droo-shlak."

1) a sieve or colander
2 ) empty-headed, forgetful, stupid, brain like a sieve

This time of year makes me DRUSHLAK!

So ..... if you want to celebrate DRUSHLAK day with me, or share it with a friend, here's a link to Urban Dictionary - they have mugs and T-shirts for those of you who, like me, are feeling a little (or a lot) like a Ukranian SIEVE these days.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Series #1 of Ask Me, Who Knows

A while back I did a post with "Ask Me, Who Knows" as the title, inviting you all to ask me questions.

I didn't forget about them. Some of them were wonderful questions, that made me think. Really hard! I thought I'd try answering some of them, as a sort of end of year, holiday series. 

For the first in the series, I'm calling up the questions posed by Erin Prais-Hintz at Tesori Trovati. She has used several of my components in jewelry designs, and I just love the look she gives them. Like me, Erin is one of the editors at the Art Bead Scene, and she has a great sense of color and style.

Erin asked me these questions:

"How did you decide to start making your own beads?"

I love things that are vintage and antique. When I am given, or get ahold of the originals, I tend to hang onto them. I have a bad case of TPS - "too precious syndrome" - that keeps me from using them.

I decided if I could re-create them, or replicate them myself, I'd be more likely to use them instead of hoarding them. That led to making many more of them than I could use up. So I started offering them to others, before the house filled to the roof with them and the floor fell through with the weight of them all.

"Did you take classes, go to art school or are you self-taught?"

Many, many years ago I had a dream to become a commercial artist, or a college art professor. I went to a liberal arts school and majored in art. I actually studied to be a potter and worked with clay while in college.

I had to give that up, and ended up in a management law-related career, but always tried to stay creative in any way I could. I've been to Bead & Button, Artfest and similar wonderful places, starting around 2000. I took classes back then with Nan Roche, Pier Voulkos, Susan Lenart Kazmer and others, learning about polymer clay and jewelry construction using wire and cold connections.

Since then, I've tried to take the basics that I learned, and put together my own ways of getting that vintage look, reproducing old ivory, carved jet, pearl and other antique looks. I've tried to build on the lessons I was given, and add new methods and techniques to my tool box over the years.

"Is there something in your background that has helped you with the style and direction of your art?"

When I look at the work of others I admire, I like what they do but know that my hands wouldn't turn out the same look or feeling. The bright modern designs attract my eye, but I just don't seem to make those type of images.

I'm attracted to things with a history, whether real or faux, and a look of having lived and been worn. Like stairs with the marks of many feet and handrails with the smooth polish from the touch of many hands.

Whether I'm making things from my imagination or trying to reproduce an actual antique, things that come under my hands seem to emerge with an old, timeworn look.

My grandmother had a box in a drawer that was full of old coins, costume pearls and old pieces of jewelry. I loved the sparkly rhinestones, and went crazy over things that were imperfect or had been worn and chipped, with that look of age on them. I don't know why, but those are the things I always seem to pick up first at flea markets or swap meets.

And those are the things I try to re-create in metal, glass and polymer clay.

I hope that answers some questions, and a big Thank You to Erin for hers. I never know what is interesting to you.
I'll answer some more in Series #2 later - so comment here if you want me to keep going. I'm not used to talking ABOUT myself!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'm On A Favorite Site List

I was contacted by Seth Apter who is compiling a list of Etsy Favorite Shops on his blog, The Altered Page. I was pleased and surprised to find that my Etsy shop was listed among the favorites as part of his series of "Viewer's Choice" listings.

Check out the blog if you're interested in finding many other talented and creative folks from his list of favorites. From my quick peek, I saw many names I recognized and whose work I admire.

His artwork interests me, as he is a mixed media artist in New York City, and works in assemblage. I'm always happy to know that the pieces can be used for many things besides jewelry.

That's all due to all of you, many thanks as always. Sometimes I do wonder if I'm talking into my hat here on the blog, and creating in solitude in the studio. When I find out about things like this, it helps me feel connected to others out in the world of creativity.

So thanks for that!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kirk in the Wood

A couple of people have told me that they plan to use this round, sculptured button replica, from an original loaned to me by Deryn Mentock for casting, to create ornaments for the home and tree. One of them is Heather Powers, and today on Art Bead Scene blog there's a free project - what timing?

I can really see that working, with the church and trees in the background, so detailed. Check out the beauty that Heather created, she's a wizard.

With a handmade hook at the top for hanging on a bough, or a detachable hook so it can also be worn, when the season is over.

Why is this bead called "Kirk Wood" - the history of the word "kirk" is interesting. 

There is a church on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland called Tron Kirk. It was built in 1637-47, and was closed as a church in 1952. It was briefly a tourist information center, but as of 2008 it is unused. When I visited Edinburgh with friends, I spent several evening hours walking around the town from the Castle and back to the flat where I was staying, having gotten very lost. It was before the days of GPS and guidance of that sort, and I saw a lot of the town that the tourists probably don't see. I finally found my way back to the Royal Mile, and from there back to the flat. It was a kind of adventure.

The word "kirk" is a noun, meaning a Scottish Church, especially as the Church of Scotland is distinguished from the Roman Catholic Church. 

The word originates around 1150-1200 ME, from the initial kirkja "church," of the Old Norse. In Old English it was "cirice" church.

This is the gospel of labour, ring it, ye bells of the kirk!
The Lord of Love came down from above, to live with the men who work.
This is the rose that He planted, here in the thorn-curst soil:
Heaven is blest with perfect rest, but the blessing of Earth is toil. 
-Henry Van Dyke