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.

Friday, June 26, 2015

New classes and great things happening all around!

 I have had a very exciting and busy last couple of months! Lots of traveling, lots of work, and because finally I am doing exactly what I think I should be doing with my life, it was also an awful lot of fun. 
As it turns out, my BeadDreams entry ( see previous post for pictures), got first place in Crystal category.

This was quite a surprise to me. I was teaching  when one of the ladies in my class room told me and everyone else there, as it was just posted on Bead and Button's Facebook page. I almost cried, and got really really giddy and had to make  an effort not to shout obscenities, which is my natural inclination at such situations. Sure you might imagine more graceful ways to deal with excitement, like how Miss America always seems to be ever so cute, surprised and fluttery when her crowning is announced. My reaction was almost peeing myself , feeling shaky and wanting to shout unholy things I won't type in here, but just so we are clear on this, that's how that went down. Excitement does weird things to one.
It's truly an honor, and I could not be more grateful. I like what I made, it makes me happy, but it's also a rather strange piece, and I am glad others liked it as much as they did. I never took it for granted that they would. And will not feel entitled to any such things in future either.

 What I have won is $450 worth of Swarovski crystals. I haven't received them yet, but I can't wait. Last year when I got third place in the same category, I got a marvelous goodie bag of completely random and entirely wonderful Swarovski beads. I suspect the same thing will happen this year too. When it does, I will be sure to take pictures of my loot and share them here.
Leading up to the Bead and Button Show I have been traveling for a month and a half and teaching classes all over the country, and the more I do this, the better and easier it gets, and since no one complained yet, I assume I am doing good. More than that, according to the positive feedback, I think I am indeed doing good, not just assuming it. But it's important to keep things in perspective, and admit that there is always a whole lot more to learn and there is always room for improvement, so of course, it's a continuous effort.The day I say I am an authority on bead embroidery and things need to be done my way, the "Right Way", is the day I expect someone to kick me in the butt real hard.
 It's all just playing with beads, but it's serious playing, just like children are deadly serious about playing their games. It's what I want to do, day after day, start all over and do it all over again with never lessening intensity. At my current level of being largely satisfied with my life, the idea of Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence is extremely soothing to my soul.
Well, at any rate, here is a picture (above) of me at the Meet the Teachers event at the Bead and Button Show. The following pictures underneath are of my new classes I added to my list of designs I currently teach.
 Marty the Chameleon
 Marty currently exists in two colors.
 Sweet little googly eyed chameleon sitting on his green branch.
 It's a fun smaller project, perfectly awesome for beginners and advanced bead embroiderers too.
 The octopus bracelet shown here is the latest addition to the group. This project is more for intermediate to advanced beaders.
 Comes on an aqua/turquoise color combo.
 And also in a hotter than hot pink, spiced with orange version as well.
 Here they are tangled.
And side by side showing what the back looks like.
And on my mannequin hand. Once in a while I get some excited beaders demanding to know where to get such a hand. Mine came from a mannequin at the shoe store I used to work at. A small child knocked the mannequin over and it got really beat up and dismembered and put away. I took it's hands. It does have a silver nob on the wrist, where it attaches to the arms, but I always photoshop it out of the pictures.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Oops, I did it again.

 I did, I did. I totally thought that if my BeadDreams entry made the finals, I had the good grace to keep it to myself for another month. Like the responsible grown woman I ought to be. Epic failure on that front! I guess I might as well give up on being an adult altogether. Given my success in the past two years, I had a feeling that there is a possibility that they will like my entry this year too. You never know though, it's all about personal tastes, and who brings what to the table at any given competition at any given time. I would not have taken it personal if my bulldog skull, encrusted in a pound of Swarovski crystals failed to impress. It's not very vanilla, you know...My sister told me it reminded her of Rosemary's baby and Indiana Jones. I also got friends thinking it looked Asian and sinister. Or Maleficent like.I am pleased with all those comparisons. Thank god no one went like, " Yeah, it's really Stepford Wives -like." Then I would have thought I failed.
 It's close to my heart for many reasons. One, I have been visualizing it, and building a veritable stash for it for almost a whole year. I knew exactly what I was going to make for my BeadDreams entry last January. That is because one twisty- turny, insomnia filled night this materialized in my head inbetween being awake and being asleep. You know, that magical place things like this come from.

 Of course there were technical tidbits and hiccups on small details, like how to attach my bulldog skull to the church hat I stripped of it's embellishments. ( No bulldogs were hurt in the process. The beautiful skull with the underbite is a a museum quality replica.) I also knew that I needed roughly a month of peace and quiet dedicated to this and this alone. ( It turned out that once I got started it took me between 2 to 3 weeks, BUT, and it's a big but, I did have every single component ready to go and a complete mental picture of what it was going to look like.)
 Not working in retail anymore, I don't have access to the store I used as my showroom, and gorgeous models who were my coworkers. I got me. And a remote shutter  release on my camera. Lots of makeup. And my trusty Halloween wig. The remote shutter release is finicky.
 And awkward. Imagine putting a ton of theatrical makeup on, setting the camera up on the tripod at what you think is the right height. Then testing. And again. And again. Meanwhile you are kneeling, trying to suck your double chin in ( how is that done???) and thinking about all the things I have subjected my poor models to. This sucks.
 And then somehow, out of 200 terrible pictures, there is one I even like. Gosh, I got a good angle. It just doesn't look like me, but how neat!
 Of course, there are the moments, when I keep pressing the little remote button and the camera stares back, like the Nietzschean abyss that you should be careful with.It's not even blinking,no matter what I do, so I am flipping the bird making funny faces at it. Of course this is when the light is just right and everything is in focus. Yaay! This is the picture that will make me famous.

 But where does this demented looking blingy idea come from? 

Well, there is a story to it. The name of the piece is Homage to Endre Szász. Who happens to be my favorite Hungarian painter. I grew up with his work glaring down on me from every wall. My father was a big fan of his. We had framed prints from him in our apartment. My mother wasn't very fond of him because she thought his paintings were creepy. There are many, many worse  things is life than creepy. Creepy is good. It's an aesthetic quality I was always particularly fond of and felt right at home in my creepy daydreams about the people with the hats.I think I said this before, but there are so many, many things in life that are less predictable and safe than creepy monsters. In fairy tales and stories, rules always govern how monster act. In life, oftentimes the monsters are a lot harder to identify and they are rarely good or bad. More like a mix of both.

 At any rate to me these people seemed like they lived interesting lives in a parallel universe. Imagine the places they went wearing those hats. Imagine the architecture surrounding them. I could  imagine the whole world around them. And to me, art was always a door that opened on all the things it did not show, only hinted at. You look at a picture, soak in the details, but the best part is what happens to your mind building a world around what you glanced at, through that window. I can see the cities these people live in. The pools they go to, the parks they visit.... I am eternally grateful for having had the good luck to live my childhood amongst them. They were my secret garden.
  Unknown to them, they replaced a set of  skulls with antlers attached  that my paternal grandfather- whom I never met- killed. And a mask of the devil, made out of paper mache that my father's college buddy made in art class. I think me and my sister were a little squeamish about the devil and the deer heads and my mother gave those objects away thinking that was the right thing to do. I missed the skulls, and even the devil. They were my predictable monsters too.  But I am glad they were replaced with my new Hat People.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


It's been a mighty long time since I wrote a blog post. Lots happened since. 

 By now the dear reader might have gotten used to my constant work related angst and gorgeous pictures of my young coworkers. Well, the angst - and thank god the retail job too - is gone, but unfortunately my access to young and  beautiful models and my spacious studio setup at the back of the shoe store I used to work at are gone too. 

How did this come to pass one might ask. The short version is that I spent about 4 years finding my artistic voice with beads, and then spent another 4 more to figure out how to make a career of it, and worked towards it.

 There were no short cuts, it wasn't like one morning I woke up saying I am going to be a bead artist, and quit my job. Truth be told, as long as I can think back, I have been always making some sort of art, (and yes, I always considered what I did art, and not hobbies or crafts, but some efforts were worthier than others. Like I am an ok trompe l'oeil mural painter and a crappy sculptor, but all of that was art, just not great art.) But beads.... Well, I fell for them. Real hard. I really felt like with time and energy and patience, I can make things that  somehow ring more true than other things I made before.

In many ways I think that being an artist is like being a being a funnel. There is an opening on top. Dreams, imaginings, nightmares, fears, experiences, visions, memories all pour in on top. A cacophony of unfiltered creative juice goes in, and then the artist collects this and is able to process it into a stream of visually comprehensive harmonious something. Something like a painting, or in this case, jewelry.

I know that many people feel like making jewelry is not art, but a craft.

 I would argue that it is as valid a form of self expression as any other form of high art, and just because I personally think I am an artist, it does not make me any more elite than any one else who thinks of themselves as craft people. All I can say is that I think it's art, but it's also work, work that can never be perfected, yet one has to keep on striving  forever making better pieces. There is always so very much to learn, and so little time to do everything!

That brings me back to my initial point to while there is never enough time to make everything I want to make, I now have much more time indeed. When it became clear that my designs are in demand enough that I can line up enough teaching jobs nation wide to finally quit my job, well, I did just that.

Let me take this moment to remind everyone to be nice to their fellow humans in the service industry. It's full of people like me. Big plans, not enough time, not enough money, and not everyone gets a chance to go out into the world and do what they want to do. I have worked with writers, poets, painters and all sorts of dreamers, and what we had in common was a nearly minimum wage job with bad benefits and cranky customers. I hope they all get to get out and chase their dreams too. ( Disclaimer: this is not a reflection of my now ex job. It's a reflection on the system we live in, where only the toughest survive, and oftentimes barely so, and if you don't fit the mold, life can be ever so difficult. )

It's been two months since I quit. I have been off to teach classes in Chicago and Orlando since, and have all sorts of engagements coming up very soon. (Please see my list of classes if you are so inclined.)

Meanwhile, my production of one of a kind jewelry has slowed down. But I have been designing class and kit material, and I have also completed my Bead Dreams entry, which I will post very soon if it doesn't make the cut, or if it does, as I hope so, then I shall post pictures of it and of course the story that goes with it in late May. It's quite something. It's my favorite creation so far.

For now I shall leave you with pictures of my last handful of one of a kind pieces I made since the last post.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crime and Punishment, and what I got out of it all

 I have given a complete account of how "Crime" came to be two posts ago, but here is a picture to refresh our memory.  Lucky me, Crime took home third place in the Swarovski category from BeadDreams. Woohoo, did not see that coming, and I could not be happier about it. 

I had an extremely hard time  making Crime, and no doubt it was due the the very personal nature of the piece: it made me face my demons and fears. Compared to Crime, Punishment was a cakewalk.
 "Punishment" was made for the Battle of the Beadsmith. As a competition piece, it was a complete flop, got kicked off sooner from the battle than either one of my two previous pieces,in the second round. But just like I did not cry myself to sleep the past two years, I did not feel the need for that this time either.
Once again, I want to remind anyone who might be reading this, who much like me likes to enter competitions, that your self worth and respect ought not to be wrapped up in the outcome of any of these events. You win some, loose some. It's awfuly subjective to judge art, especially from pictures. And  Punishment  is smaller then Crime and was not winning material to begin with. What it was, was therapy. What it was, was a dead bird hanging from two grinning fishies' mouth  It set my mind and soul at ease, and it made all the emotional silage that Crime has stirred up before, settle down in peace.

 If Crime was  terrible labor, Punishment really was a cakewalk. It came together painlessly and was done in no time. Maybe time just flew more. Now, why is that? Well, with Crime, I was the fish in the claws of the mythical monsters of my past. With Punishment, the fish, and now there are two of them,( interpret that as you may) slay the monster for good. Yes. This necklace is of a dead monster and two weird fishies killing it. Entirely not a winning competition piece, and completely, utterly freeing on a personal level.
 At the end of the day, Punishment is the one I glance at with love as I type these words, and Crime  I carefully study. Crime definitely has more intense details and I can see why the judges liked it. But I can't wait to see it go and leave my house. And it will, because it's already found a new home, and good riddance to it. I definitely won't miss it. I might keep Punishment around a little longer though. Makes me happy looking at the dead Kókó dangling from the mouth of the happy little fishies. 

 If you are reading this and you aren't convinced that I am a nutcase, then you might just agree that any kind of art oftentimes comes from the darkest places and pulling it out little by little is like pulling thorns from under nails or draining poison from a snake bite. Not everything one makes has to be dark, but art can be the best therapy there is, and oftentimes the most amusing things we create, and  most cheerful things we can give as artists, come from some deep dark places. I exorcised my demons and conquered them by making this piece, and  it's entirely inconsequential that one got some serious acknowledgement for being awesome, and one fell short.
Unlike with years of psychotherapy , the results of beady therapy can be sold  at the end of the session,and they can bring joy to others as well. Any therapy has it's place of course and I am not discouraging anyone from participating in any other sort of therapy, but if you are a beader, you know that creating with beads is good for the soul and can  soothe all sorts of aches.
That's all there is to it. I guess I had to sit on this  for a couple months to be able to put it this way. But that's all there is to it.
Thank you Anna Alford for bringing my creations to life.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Before I tackle bigger things, here is some eye candy.

The last few months of my life have gone by in a blur, as I got busier and busier not only with commissions and competition pieces, but with teaching opportunities and getting ready for these teaching opportunities.     I have completely abandoned my poor poor blog, deserving of so much more.
Even at the best of times I am a lot better at making things than talking about them, but recently the situation got a lot worse. Gone are the days of documenting every piece I make, because I simply don't have the time, and it seems like most people reading this blog are also on Facebook, and I just got really used to posting all my pictures there, instead of writing about them here.
Of course the blog format is a lot more friendly to long monologues about all sorts of things, and I shall not forget that,and will be trying to get back to writing more, but for now I just decided to post some pictures here of some of my favorite efforts since this spring.
I am planning on writing a post regarding placing third in the Swarovski category in Bead Dreams, and also plan on writing more about my slowly but surely unfolding future as a teacher. 
For now, enjoy the eye candy.