Sunday, July 10, 2016

I come bearing gifts...

.... Yes. A gift. And I will get to that shortly.
First, let me start with this: I have two bead embroidery videos available from Interweave!

This is what the cover looks like. If you are interested purchasing the videos, they are available directly through Interweave either as a digital download, or you can pre-order the dvds by clicking here.

Making videos is a daunting task. I went to a very nice studio where a professional makeup artist put so much makeup on me, I could have passed for a Kardashian. As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever had more makeup on.There were cameras everywhere, and lights too. There was a microphone attached to my shirt, and the little box that went with it attached to my heinie, and I had to remember to get someone to turn it off  every time I went to the bathroom. I managed to not forget, which is a good thing for me and all other parties involved .  It was great fun, but also scary as hell.

I had this initial idea that I would like to sound like Christopher Walken while filming these videos, the only thing that stopped me is that I am completely, utterly incapable of sounding like anyone else but myself. (There is one exception to this. I can imitate the sounds our old car's leaky windshield used to make every time it rained. But really, that's where my talents in the field end.) 

Meanwhile, so far this year I have traveled to 10 different states to teach classes, met lots of new people, made a great many new friends, and before the year is out, I have 7 more such trips.Which is to say, I have been busy. Good busy, but busy up to my eyeballs.
It's a good thing,  I am not complaining, as a matter of fact, I am enjoying it quite a bit.However, there are some things I simply don't have the time for as much as I used to.

This brings me to my original point of how I come bearing gifts:

Remember the pretty leafy cabs I used to sell in my Etsy store and all over the place, wherever I went. Well, as pretty as they are, they are a pretty big pain in the buttsy for me to make. They take days to make, my hands hurt for days after each batch, and I am done huffing E6000 too.... I can imagine much better ways of eradicating my precious little grey cells...( Think nothing more nefarious than the occasional gin and tonic.)

Anyhow, I won't be making them by the hundreds like I used to. I know, I know, it's so sad, everyone loves them. Well, hopefully everyone loves them enough to make their own, if I tell you all how to.

My gift to you on this lovely summer day, which happens to be a hundred degree day here in my hometown Boulder, is the secret recipe for my leafy cabs. My intention is to give you tips, sources, and set these cabs free in the wind, so everyone can make their own. But because I am really busy, that's all I can do. I tell you everything I am willing to share and leave it at that, and won't be answering questions about this subject. I am leaving for my next teaching trip to Alaska in a few days and have lots to do before that happens, so please no questions, no requests and no helpful suggestions. This is how it it. 
May you enjoy making your own cabs.

List of materials needed with sources:

-Rubbing Alcohol, cotton pads
-metallic leather scraps ( no link here, because I will sell these on Etsy, once I have some time after my trip, until then, you could just do your own search on this)
-Modpodge type glue and a cup to pour it in
-small flat paintbrush
-the glitziest, most sparkly nail polish you can get your hands on ( OPI makes some really good ones, and I love Ciate

Step 1.
-Put all your cabs in a colander, wash them vigorously with dish soap and water.
Set them to dry on some paper towel. 
-Once they are dry, wipe each clean with alcohol to remove any lingering water stains or other stains. Sort out the chipped ones or misshapen ones. (There is always a few.)

-Get your skeleton leaves out. Cut them to the shape of the cab you will be gluing it on to.
Instead of trying to cut out as many as you can from one leaf, focus on the prettiest part of the leaf, and only use each leaf for one or two cabs. The vein is much thicker at the bottom, try to avoid that area. 

Step 3.
-Pour some modpodge into the small container. Spread an even, generous layer onto the cabochon with your flat brush. It has to cover the entire surface, or you will end up with bubbles. Press the cutout leaf directly onto the wet glue, don't wait. Brush over the leaf again, once again, using a generous layer of modpodge.
Yes, your fingers will indeed be covered in glue. It's kind of fun peeling it all off on layers. Like a snake shedding.

Don't worry about the leaf overhanging the edge of the cabochon. You will be trimming it off later. Now you just want to let everything dry. It is super important that you let this dry completely before you move on, or you will end up with a cloudy mess on your hands.

Step 4. 
Don't cheat. Let it dry all the way.

Step 5.
Depending on how glitzy you want those rascals to be, it is your chance to go crazy with the sparkly nail polish you have been secretly stashing, or.... Not.
In this case, I wanted to show you my stash of nail polish and how it looks when applied....

A little goes a long way. Dab it on gently. 
And then, surprise! Let it dry all the way.
Mica powder would be fun to experiment with too, and alcohol inks as well. Really, the possibilities for decorating your leaves are endless.

Step 6.
Meanwhile, as you are watching your nail polish dry, get out the stash of metallic leathers. I have not listed a source for it, because you really only need scraps. I will be selling scraps just for this purpose in my Etsy store in August. Until then, if you don't have metallic leather scraps at home, get some holographic paper from Michael's or Joanne's from the scrap booking department . It will do. It is not quite the same, but it's the next best thing.

This part is the main reason I can't make these by the hundreds. Cutting the leather and also the skeleton leaves out in such quantities will surely cause pain. In my case even with the comfiest scissors, I lose feeling in my my thumb for a day after a batch of these. I know, I know. I could get a laser cutting thingamajig to cut things for me. If I did, I would not be writing this blog post sharing the joys of cutting little circles with you, Dearest Reader! But seriously, you don't want to mess with repetitive motion injuries, so be careful.

When cutting those circles out, stay inside the line. Even then your cutouts will need to be further trimmed later on.

Step 7.
Now that all your leather bitsies are cut to shape, get your E6000 out. Spread an even, generous, almost goopy layer onto the back of your dry cabs. All the way around, or you will get air bubbles.
Press a cutout onto the back of each and every cabochon.

 Make sure there are no air bubbles. Lay your cabs on a flat surface, and squeeze those pesky bubbles out by pressing down on your cab with your little fingers.Here I used a cookie sheet lined with baking paper and put the whole thing out on the balcony to dry.
Let everything dry for hours and hours. Or overnight. Especially if you don't like the fresh scent of E6000. 
Step 8.
Get your handy little scissors out and trim the edges off. No matter how precise you were with all the other steps, you will need to trim each and every cab thoroughly. I haven't got that far with today's production, so no more pictures unfortunately. But I should tell you that the very last step after trimming everything, is to seal your margins.
So get out your trusty little brush and modpodge again and seal those edges by painting a line of modpodge all the way around sealing leather to glass.

DOs and DON'Ts:
Do not just try to use modpodge and skip the E6000, or vice versa. There is a reason I use both. It works better, there are less bubbles and things are less likely to peel apart.

Do not try to cut either your leaves of leather to the perfect shape. No matter what you do, you will still have to hand trim every single cab later.

Do not worry if your first batch is not perfect. I have made thousands of them and some were just meant to fail. Some colors are better than others.
Do experiment.
Make them with friends, have gluing parties if you wish and make as many as you like. But be nice. Please give credit when credit is due. That is, if you want to sell them, please mention where you got the idea from, and do not publish any altered version of this process either in print or online. I shared it, but the process remains my intellectual property.
Thank you and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

So many many things to be thankful for this year!

With Thanksgiving just behind us, and my travel schedule for the year ending, I am finally home for a month and a half.
What a busy, wonderful year this has been! I have so much to be thankful for. It was less than a year ago in mid January that I quit my day job and decided to give this "beady thing" the chance I thought it deserved, and it paid off.. I have traveled far and wide teaching beady classes and giving presentations, all over the country from Alaska to Florida and many places inbetween.

My calendar for next year is already full, plus half of the year after that too.

That is huge! I went from worrying that I won't be able to pay rent to knowing for sure that I can for a year and a half ahead. Doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life, spreading the love of beads to everyone who, much like myself has a tendency to want to roll around in shiny little seed beads, because ladies and gents, some of us are just born dragons, and it is a beautiful thing to be, indeed.

I learned so much this year ... Every time I have the good fortune to give a workshop, I learn something new from the good peeps participating. It's definitely a back and forth process, and when we all put our heads together, everyone leaves richer, filled with more inspiration and creative ideas than we know what to do with.
 All these travels have enriched my spirit and soul and filled me up with all sorts of ideas for future projects.

 And that is why it's essential for me to have times like right now, when I will have over a month to develop new designs, work on competition pieces and get ready for next year's traveling. I have a list that's longer than Santa's for the things that need to get done during this time...
 Because as great as traveling around  the country is, I still have to come up with  exciting new projects to tempt my beady friends with, so they come and take my classes. I don't want to get stale. I want to keep on hunting around for exceptional elements and create cool, enticing designs around them. And so travel, and creative time still need to be balanced out, which is also something I learned this year, when I scheduled some of my trips so close together, that for a couple months I was only home inbetween trips  for not more than 4 days.
Because I am so happy go lucky and full of energy and bright eyed and bushy tailed just to be allowed to do what I am doing, it worked out. My dear husband put up with me, but next year I am spreading things out a bit more and will try to work on having my Etsy store open more. This year in August before things got really busy I had to close the Etsy store simply because I wasn't home enough or had enough stock on hand to be able to keep it open. I want to work on that too...

Well, I am ever so thankful for all the people in my life who made this year possible for me. Friends that became family, and family, that supported me through all the craziness and made it all possible. Thank you all! You know who you are... I am getting gushy just thinking about all the love I received without which this would not have been possible.

In case you read through all this hoping for eye candy, I got that too. I updated my bracelet section, necklaces and collars  too. Added a new class in two colors, well, technically they are different enough that I could almost call them too separate things, but they are Sunrise & Sunset Shores.

Just for good measure here are those pictures again, and some other pieces I finished in the last few months.

 Then here are some pictures of a pendant I made for a friend:

And some random stuff:

 This is Loki. She is Sammy's girlfriend. She followed her belowed's paw  steps into stardom as a canine supermodel.
Wee pendant...
Angler fishie for my friend Helena Tang-Lim.
An ammolite bracelet,

A labradorite pendant,
A bracelet made with a Stuart Abelman focal.
Two labradorite pendants .

A very simple little blue bracelet that features some new shapes. Very textural...

A bracelet called Visitation, with an angel by Dorcas Midkiff.

This one is called Enchanted Something. I made this while in New Mexico, where every single thing is called enchanted something.

And that's that. Thank you for reading and looking.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Evil Bunny and why it's important to keep on making things for ourselves. Plus what I won for my first place in the Crystal Category of BeadDreams

Self employment is still treating me right, and I enjoy waking up every morning and working on all the things I need to work on. Such as developing new projects for classes and kits.
If you are not in the business of doing such things, but you would like to know what it entails, I will gladly share, although keep in mind, this is just my way of doing it, some other designers probably have very different methods.

When I get an idea for a new class, I come up with a design. But I have to keep in mind that whatever this design is, it should contain "ingredients" that I can ideally have a never ending supply of. Well, at least for a while. This is crucial, because bead embroidery uses a whole lot of unusual bits that literally (as in not figuratively) come from all corners of the globe. If you have bought my kits or taken a class from me, chances are that the materials in you kit each came from different suppliers I have scavenged for all across the internet and at various trade shows. Of course matters are made even more complicated by the fact that seed beads are not uniformly numbered, so even sourcing what you would think is the easiest part of your kit becomes an issue. Here you might shake your fist and demand that suppliers start all uniformly labeling their seed beads, but it's a silly request that will drive you insane, and of course nothing will change.

It won't happen.Not in a million years. It's a pipe dream, like uniformly sized bras, pants and shoes. Dye lots change, manufacturer's numbers overlap, so suppliers have to have an in house system to keep things straight, and there are a hundred other issues that will prevent that from happening. So let's not get too worked up about it, just understand that even procuring the same seed bead from different places can be an issue.

After I have a bullet proof design that looks like people would like it, I better make it over and over and over again, even before I start taking step by step pictures and writing directions for the project. If it includes a stitch I haven't used before or new materials, it also means I will need to get those bits illustrated. I don't do my own illustrations, because I don't have time to learn it, and because even if I did, I still would not do them as well as other peeps who make a living doing them.

 So by now I made the project roughly 3 times, going perhaps on the fourth. I have ironed out the kinks, figured out the ways it can me messed up, and I am using this knowledge to write the directions that much better and making a list of things I will need to point out in class. I am also taking pictures, editing them, and really trying to break down my thinking process into manageable bite sizes bits that allow anyone to recreate the results at their own pace.

Chances are I need to do a different colorway, which should not take as long as the first, but still adds long hours to the process. Meanwhile I have stashed hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of product so I have enough on hand to make kits for a while.

I also bought thousands of pages of paper and a whole lot of ink, and I constantly pray that the printer doesn't give up on me. Philip, my printer deserves to be worshiped. He doesn't understand the meaning of planned obsolescence, and I hope it stays that way. I would offer him sacrifices to keep it this way, if he had any use for them.

After all the printing I have to make sure I have enough zippy bags of every size to put the beads and all other components in them. I use more zippy bags than drug dealers do.

Measuring all the beads out for the kits is actually quite soothing and I don't hate it. Yet. Although I have been assured by my elders, that this will change in time. For now, I like it.

So by the time I show up to a place ready to teach a class, there have been months of hard work that went into those kits. Sure some things need to be improved, and I have to deal with kit failures ( the moment when oops, someone is missing something), but I have a "cannibal kit" for this with me. My cannibal kit is actually not eating other kits, itself is what gets cannibalized when failures happen. And I better be ready for failures, because chaos is what the beadiverse wants, and I have to fight that with needle and scissor in hand.

Talking about fighting! As I approach my target( bead store or society or bead retreat) by airplane, I have to make sure that I stash all the class kits into my carry on suitcase. This suitcase utilizes every possible square inch that can be used by any airline's standard, and once I fill it, there is no room in there even  for an adventurous wayward ant. Because it's packed  THAT tight. This is to prevent my luggage getting lost. Sure I can replace my undies and toothbrush, but the class kits, never! They need to be guarded in case chaos wants to mess with my luggage. Of course bead kits never fail to look like dangerous objects in the x-ray machine, so I better get to the airport early, because chances are I will be searched. Again. And again.

Dear Reader, you see, a lot goes into this. And I love every bit of it.   But!!!! Sometimes, this also seems like a daunting task, and this week I found for two days after figuring out what I wanted to do,( which was a new kit I can sell on etsy), well, I simply found that nothing was going the way I wanted it. It was just not working.

This weekend being a holiday and me being my own boss and all, I told myself: " Fine. You don't have to bang your head against the wall, and you obviously can't stop working for three days" ( since I have very high expectations for myself and my productivity), "but how about you do something that makes YOU happy."

Me? ME? Oh yes. YOU! I am talking to YOU too Dear Reader, who perhaps leads a very different lifestyle than what I have described before, but perhaps YOU too take the time to do all sorts of other stuff, make things for sale perhaps, and then you don't make things for yourself. Maybe you are habitual gift giver who gives it all away, or maybe you supplement your income by selling finished jewelry ,and you just don't have time to make things for yourself. If this is YOU, then you need to take a deep breath, and tell yourself that you are worthy of your own efforts.

If we always make things to be productive or to give away or to sell and we don't take the time to make things for ourselves, that's as bad as not ever sharing your gift with the world in the first place.Sure, the world needs your work in it, but you need to have some special things for yourself. You just  really need to share your own gift with yourself too,because you deserve your own best efforts. This is because when you free yourself from the constraints to your normal way of making things ( cost of parts, how easily sourced they are, etc..) then you can truly just enjoy your own creativity and end up with something that makes YOU happy.

And that's exactly what I did in the last three days. I made myself an Evil Bunny bracelet.
 This will never ever be a kit, because it is just too price prohibitive. The focal came from Judie Mountain at Mountain Robbins .
 It's made out of bronze. I don't think Judie meant for the bunny to be perceived as evil, but something about the bunny's facial expression made me think that it had evil plans for the carrot. I loved the mischievous look on that bunny's face. The bronze piece had a good heavy feel to it. I just had to have it. Judie is only one half of the creative team at Mountain Robbins, her husband Wayne Robbins is the other half,who creates the most whimsical lampwork glass creatures. Their collaborative piece with Kim Van Antwerp won second place in the Finished jewelry category of BeadDreams this year. I strongly suggest checking them out if you are not familiar with their work. They are my new obsession.
 Besides the very exclusive focal what makes this piece very special is the use of a strand of  faceted Ethiopian welo opals.This was also a purchase I made at B&B this year. It was beyond my means, but I had to have it because. Because. They were that sparkly. I just had to. No excuses. I knew I had use for them.
 The fire within these opals is not something I have ever seen before. Their milky colors change to fiery red and green and purple and blue too. They are magnificent.
 They were very hard to work with because the hole on them was very small and I kept on breaking them and kicking myself for every one I broke. But I saved the shards and will do something with them. I can't let a single bit go to waste.
 Since I only had myself to please with this project,I just added things I liked to look of. Like some unicorne beads ,
 O-beads, and fire polished Czech beads. Then I used cubes to edge the bracelet with.
 And every time I look at the finished piece, I get lost in the details. And it's all mine! Only took me about 12 hours to make, but the material costs were roughly between $270- $300. It sure is excessive, but did I deserve something super special for being a good little worker bee? Sure I did. And so do you. And you don't need to drop that much money on making something that makes YOU happy. As beaders we all stash special components that we never use because they are just too precious. Well, guess what. Nothing is too precious to be turned into something for yourself. Make yourself happy, because if you don't, no one can, and because when you do so, your creativity spikes and you get even better ideas for all the other stuff you are doing for other people too.
 Did  I say they sparkle????
And glitter and gleam?
Now that I have exhausted the subject of making things for yourself and why it's good for the soul, I also want to fulfill my earlier promise of showing you what I won for getting first place in the crystal category of BeadDreams..
It's $450 worth of completely random stuff from Swarovski. Years ago winners could pick their own choice. Not anymore. Last year when I won third place and was supposed to get $150 worth of stuff, I got more than this and there were many things I could use out of what I got. Last year I got a really nice card from Swarovski which I treasured so much, I saved it. This year I got no card, and what I got, well, this is what I got.  Prizes are just a plus anyways, it was never the motivating factor behind entering the contest.