Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Hatchetfishery, and other fishy things...

 Of course all things start with eyes. ( Except for the ones that don't , but it makes such a good way to start a post, isn't it?)  I am a connoisseur of exotic eyes, always looking for something special.
That's how I found my fellow Etsian, Natalie Monkivitch. She seems to be in love with eyes as much as eye am. This was a match made in heaven, so I could not wait to get my paws on her eyes. I snapped a picture of the bunch I was lucky enough to purchase from her. As you see, all these eyes are a bit different. I like how they are not matching pairs, but they all do their own thing!
 Recently I have found some pictures of Hatchetfish.  They are such creatures that only a mother could love. And me, lover of all things beautiful,beautiful in not the most common ways.
I decided to make a set of bracelets with them. The first version uses a taxidermy fish eye, a variety I use a lot. Then I used Nat's orange eye, a zombie like eye, which has a dreamy look if you ask me.My aim with these two was to create a more realistic, but yet still fairy tale like look with striking ,
 contrasting backgrounds.

The first piece has a turquoise background with a black swirl.
The second piece has an orange pearl crusted back ground to match the eye.
I am not sure which one I like better. Probably the orange one because of the art glass eye, which in many ways is a lot more like the real Hatchetfish's eye.
Since we are talking about a bioluminescent critter, I used some super shiny Swarovski bicones on the fish tummies that catch the sun light like nothing else. These bracelets sparkle more then diamonds.
Diamonds are over rated. Fishies are under rated.

 Here is a set of sardines that made a wonderful earring for a friend and returning customer. These earrings also utilize Nat's glass eyes. They have such a nice look to them, a lot less  predictable then the taxidermy eyes. Good thing I have a handful of them left. 
To get your handful , click HERE. A listing for a lovely batch.
And to prove that not all things have to be big and complicated. Just a simple barrette for the same friend who got the fishie earrings.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Time flies, here are some things I did in the last month...

 I have been a busy little beaver lately,except I forgot to update my blog... But I have been beading away and learning about my new camera and messing around with eyeballs as usual. Take these three above for example. The Trio of Hairy Eyeballs.  Just simple fun with some aluminum cuffs, cheesy dolly eyes and spike beads, but they are so lovable. 
 Then I cranked out some rings for all different purposes, most of these are for dear friends. They are also easy to make and people love them.
 While this piece is not the biggest I have made by far, it definitely has a special place in my heart, because it took me forever to figure our how to properly interlace my squares to form the star I wanted to make. It is my entry for the Etsy Beadweavers' challenge for November. The theme was " circles and squares".There are some pretty awesome entries this month, please vote on them between the 9th and 15 of this month here:
 Then we have  some yummy stackable bracelets here, something new and exciting. Both of these pictures show two bracelets stacked, each of them are made with three lambskin cord-like parts, on which ruffled circles float. Just something light and fun and stylish. I kept one of these for me and I love how it is just so easy to wear with anything....

And of course no blog post is ever complete without a picture of the snuggle beast princess. This is Samantha hijacking my Icelandic sheepskin pelt, and enjoying herself a great deal while at it...
I finished this post , and then realized, that I completely forgot to share two other bracelets: Memento Mori and See No Evil.
The last three pictures basically. Memento Mori means remember, you must die. It is an art form in itself, I am sure you have seen paintings of dancing skeletons maybe even sculptures too. It's purpose is to remind the viewer of their mortality. Also, when on a victory triumph, a slave behind the Roman emperor used to whisper these words into the emperor's ear, just in case in all the glory he might forget that he is only a mortal too.  Sherry from Beadstalkers gave me the cool skeletal cameo before Halloween to do something fun with it, and Memento Mori happened when I glanced at it, and just knew that he was going to have two roses in his skeletal hands offering them to the wearer. The little roses have been laying around my bead box for years, and I finally knew exactly what they wanted to be.

See No Evil is an experiment with a bronze focal made by me. I know, it has a hole and let's just say I haven't mastered the kiln yet, but I liked the look of it, almost like an unearthed antique from ages far far gone. I took a mold of a sculpture I have at home of the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil speak no evil. They are from my grandma, she purchased them in Paris decades ago form a street vendor. I just built a pleasing world around See No Evil, and gave him nice shiny glass doll eyes, because he is not looking, but he wants to!

So you see, I have been busy alright. But next time I remember to write about my adventures instead of just beading on like a crazed spider weaves a web without stopping....

Friday, September 28, 2012

Presence # 1 and Presence # 2

 Think part reptile part robot, part monster with green fur and mismatched eyes, and you got these two guys.
Presence #1 has a brass cuff blank, available from the wonderful Diane Hyde at her bead embroidery store .
Presence # 2 is very much the same, but a real softy, got no cuff blanks at all.
In many ways this is an experiment to find out what YOU prefer. So please leave  your comments.
 The brass cuff blank has it's advantages: fits almost any size wrist, has a wonderful wholesome weight when held in the palm of your hand, and I heard a lot from other artists that they prefer using cuff blanks, because "one size fits all". Well, my experience with "one size fits all" items is that truly, they never fit anyone perfectly.

 Let me explain: a hard cuff with a brass or aluminum blank will never caress your wrist as perfectly as something that has been specifically made for your own wrist. It will fit, it will be reasonably comfy, but it does not move as well with the wrist as a softy cuff, one without the blank.

I prefer making and wearing the soft ones, they are more comfortable, and when I make them without cuff blanks, I start out knowing I might need to re-size a design, or even re-make it to fit my customers needs.
Which is fine by me, but I could see that it could become an issue for other artists. 
 Here we have the two stacked again. Presence #1 with the cuff blank on the bottom, #2 without the cuff blank on top. 
#2 is a lot lighter naturally, and a bit smaller too, since I did not have to add extra room for the edges around the blank, it has a more streamlined appearance. On the other hand #1 feels a lot more substantial, almost like you get more bracelet for the money... When it comes to cuff blanks verses no cuff blanks, I think it's once of those things that is just going to be a matter of personal preference, really. 
 This and the following pictures are all of the soft cuff. Just in case you were wondering  what the green fur was about, it's squirrel zonkers.


Squirrel Zonkers.

Available in small strips at your friendly neighborhood fishing store at the fly fishing section.
Tiny long strips of squirrel or rabbit fur that I laid in in-between rows of 24 carat gold plate size 15 Miyuki beads. These zonkers come in a variety of colors, I also got  purple and white. The rabbit fur has longer hairs but the squirrel is just perfect for delicate bead embroidery projects.
 The funny eyeballs are the work of Matthew Nix, owner of Nixcreations on Etsy. He has these and many more to choose from in various colors. 
 I thought it was an interesting idea to make a backwards bracelet, where what's supposed to be the back is looking right at you in the front instead.
 I had a handful of eyes and based on the asymmetrical shape of original brass cuff blank I built the design around, it seemed like a great idea to mismatch the eyes too.
 There are shimmery green triangle beads, tilas and  a repeating pattern of stripes going around the back. It's definitely a very experimental thing for me. 
Both bracelets got lined with a contrasting green metallic sheepskin linings with a diamond finish.
And now it 's time for you to tell me how you like your bracelets and why. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

My Favorite Time Of The Year

 Autumn is just around the corner and I could not be more excited about it. I love the rich hues of orange and purple and red, the coppers and bronzes and the moodiness and the smells.
 This is  when Paul, Sammy and I usually take some time off to visit with family and friends. Our vacation will start next Saturday, the first day of Fall. Until then, it's full speed around here, work ,work work, and sneaking in as much creative time as possible. Hence the two bracelets here.  Very autumnal, right? 

The one with the bronze snail is really special: I got a kiln and some bronze clay and I have been trying to make some interesting bronze clay components for my jewelry. This is the very first piece using that. I must say that working with a kiln is a bit harder then I thought it would be, and most of the things I put in there came out in dust form. Hopefully I will get better at it. But I was very happy with my shiny bronze snail shell that came out with a gorgeous rainbow patina and made good use of it in this piece.

The second one with the Buddha center piece is pretty neat too. The Buddha was part of a pendant that   Paul's cousin gave me when we visited her last year. She had a giant stash of antique beads and components and let me take whatever I could use. That's like giving a magpie shinies! You can imagine my delight.
 I took the little Buddha and it sat in my treasure chest for a year. Then I read a really cool article on how scientists found a Buddha statue  in a Medieval Viking settlement in Sweden.  The settlement being a farm actually. Apparently the Viking farmer was fond of art in general, because the statue was found with various Byzantine and Egyptian objects. And to think that the Vikings had time to make it to America too!

Anyhow, the idea of a Buddha in a Medieval setting intrigued me, and so I built this little bracelet around it. Stone wall like structure with Tila Beads, rusty bronzes and shimmery greens. A muted palette that I found suitable for such an idea.

And now that I have made so many things without eyeballs, I must say I am itching to get back to making something that has a bunch of them. But at least two, not matching of course, that would be too easy...
I will share it before I go on vacation, if all goes well.
Happy Autumn Everyone!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Some things without eyeballs....

 Now that everyone has gotten used to me making things that have at least one, possibly a lot more eyeballs, I figured it was time to challenge myself to make something without them.

The first two pictures are new pictures of old bracelets I made about a year ago. I love these guys, they are so wearable and pretty...
 The one on the left is what came of  my "do anything that does not have eyeballs" effort.

 It was also inspired by a number of things. 

My friend Patrick Duggan was working on a modern contemporary piece that he posted on Facebook. So I have been thinking about what modern contemporary is in jewelry design. Then I happened to go to my local bead store, Arvada Bead Connection where I found a gorgeous dichroic focal piece. I thought to myself: looks like modern contemporary to me!
 By the time I was done with it, it looked stuck on the verge of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. 
 A bit Gustav Klimt - like perhaps. Oh, there is a lot of room for improvement with this piece. The design kicks butt, but there are a number of flaws.
 I should have cut the Pellon closer around the square focal, the stitching shows too much, and it's a bit uneven. ( That's why it's a bit more Art Nouveau then Deco! )
On this picture there is some gunk showing on the side, which happens to be Fireline zapped with the thread burner, but I should have been more careful. Anyhow, this one is for me, and I used my 24 karat plated
 size 15 Miyukis for it, and I am happy with the way it came out, and I will prance around wearing this piece like a prize winning pony. It pleases me, but next time I measure things better when making geometric designs.
Then here is an oldie but goodie. This one is made with those awesome metal seed beads distributed by the Beadsmith. Cost and arm and a leg ( I got those for free, thank you Beadmsith), but boy, they are amazing.This piece has a happy home, and out of all things I made I miss it most. It's so big and blingy and textural. 
Here is a the "Not so Modern" piece laid out.
And here is why I think it's a bit like a Klimt painting. All the lush gold and stones remind me of this picture. Hopefully , one of these days I will have enough time to make the necklace in this picture. This is Judith with the head of Holofernes. One of my favorite paintings ever.A neck piece like this would be extremely unwearable, uncomfortable and stupendously extravagant and splendid in every way.
It's on my list of things to do.....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Globalization Of The Artistic Community And The Return Of The Renaissance Human

This post came by after a whole lot of thinking, and while there might be other, better researched articles on the subject, never the less,I wanted to ponder about our modern world of how social media effects arts, the positive and the negative effects of it, from a very subjective perspective of course. No eternal truths here, Dear Reader, just some random, very un-linear thinking...

Let me start with my personal account how the internet changed my art. Years ago, I used to paint murals. It was never a full time thing for me, but I had some well paying jobs here and there, and people learned about who I was and what I did because they saw my work at their local pizzeria, flower shop, barber shop,or their friend got a mural from me, and they liked it and wanted something similar for themselves. I did not advertise and none of my business was based on any online activity of mine. I suppose many other entrepreneurs  still do business the same way today. If you provide a valuable service for your locals, this is the best method for getting more of their  business. Honest hard work, good ethics will do it .

Then I have moved from New York to Colorado, to Boulder to be exact. A town I did not know anyone in, a town teaming with students including art students where I have not seen a single mural in any businesses.
Well, by this time I kind of had enough of mural painting anyways: there is always someone watching behind your back, making sure the cerulean of the sky is just right for their kitchen. Meanwhile,I picked up beading on the way, and I felt that this was a logical continuation of my artistic pursuits, and it was delightful to be able to make art at home with no one criticizing my work while I was at it. My plan was to sell it online, and soon enough I learned about Etsy, and it seemed so easy. Make it, put the same amount of love and good craftsmanship into it, that I would do with everything, and it will sell.


Well, of course it took years to translate my innate artistic talents from painting into bead embroidery, anything worth doing is only worth doing well ,and talent is zilch without practice.
 So add a couple thousand hours of practice, persistence, patience,falling on my face numerous times, large slices of humble pie and some great moments of beady ecstasy, and the understanding that there is always something to be learned and I am but a dwarf standing  on the shoulder of giants, add all that, and you get to where I feel like I am at the moment.  I make things that people like ( thank you, thank you), things that people buy (awesome), and I still have a full time retail job that sometimes sucks the life out of me. Sometimes it can be rewarding. It is quite tiresome though, and physically demanding.

I have my Etsy store, and I have learned that if my pictures are not right, my products won't sell. I had a point and shoot ittsy bittsy Fuji digital camera, it did the job, but just so, and I have outgrown it. Now keep in mind, that my bead habit pays for itself, but not much more. Which is fine by me, I did not expect to hit the jackpot here, but have no illusions Dear Reader, Yours Truly is not rolling in dough .

In order for me, to sell more product, I had to learn about Search Engine Optimization, and I needed a new camera.  I am still not entirely successful with the SEO stuff, the website I started to build, I never finished yet. There is only so much I can do with having to work 40-45 hours a week, plus commuting, plus taking care of my small family. Stuff we all do, but if I want to get better at beading, if I want to be recognized as an artist, I need to put in full time effort not only at work, where I am the most productive sales person, but with my artwork too.

I got a new camera, and I got a small studio setup, and I got Photoshop and I got a book about how to use all of these things new to me, because I certainly can not afford a professional studio photographer and an IT person, right?

Considering that I never touched a computer till I was 20, that's no small feat.

I joined Facebook, and all the sudden people I only admired from afar, started looking at my work, and soon enough, Steven Weiss of the Beadsmith Company ( May his whiskers never grow grey) found me and put me into his company's album of "Movers and Shakers", US edition.
I thought that was just about the grandest thing ever. Then he invited me to be part of his Battle of the Beadsmith, a global event with 80 participants from all over the world.
This is such a unique event in so many ways: The people in it would never ever be able to get together under the same roof, we are from all over the world, different from one another more then you can imagine, yet united by the love for all things beady...

Here I am, on the verge of a new age, as far as beading and many other forms of art are concerned:
It is clear to me that we entered a new era, very much like the Renaissance, when being a successful artist means something more then what we got used to.

In today's global artistic community, making beautiful, well made and well loved work is not enough, unless you have a different source of income or you are independently wealthy.
If you want to make a living, or just want to be able to participate in this rebirth of arts, the newfound appreciation of all things handmade and well crafted, you have to be a Polymath.
A person who is an expert in a significant number of different subject areas.

You can not just make beautiful jewelry. Unless you are blessed with local buyers or wealth to hire your personal entourage, you are not going to make any money selling , neither will you meet with like minded individuals to help you on the way online, if you have computer phobia.

Is this a good thing? Well, it has it's good and bad aspects. To me, as a person who would not qualify as middle class and has to work an awful lot, I feel like this new system , like any other system is so much easier if one has money. So yes, socioeconomic status in the beading world is definitely relevant.
I do have an inquisitive mind that just wants to assimilate all knowledge around me ( resistance is futile), and a willingness to spend my profits on new equipment that seems like a good investment in my beading future, and this new way of networking made it possible for me to gain a wider audience.

Does this sound like everyone has a fair chance at being known for their outstanding work? Definitely no. I have an insane drive, and even though I consider beading as my second job, I don't mind spending all my free time doing it, or doing things related to it. It is worth it for me, because I found my bliss,and now I understand that doing what I love to do has a lot to do with learning about 10 different things I might not love to do as much. But I do recognize that I am privileged because my family supports my pursuits ( that is Paul and Sammy, Butters and Moony could not care less), and I am young enough where the technology does not scare the  living daylight out of me, and at least I know I have a chance to meet the right people, so to me , this artistic globalization works.

How do you feel about it? I am insanely curious to see if anyone even read through of all this. Send me you comments .
Beaders of the World, Unite!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Octopus is back!

 This one is shy. See, it's peeking over his shoulder here.
 Since the feedback has been so great , I decided to make more of these. 
 They are all a little bit different, as if different colors gave them entirely different personalities.
 In the past I have said  I don't like repeating myself.
I have some new insights  into not repeating myself...
 I am lucky enough that most of the things I make eventually seem to sell. This is a true blessing, and I am humbled by it. Every time someone buys something, I still freak out thinking they might not like what they got, but they do. 

And some things I made are more popular then others. Like the seasons cuffs and the wrist octopi.
That's why I made more of them.
It's great that people like my work, and if some are more successful then others, does that make me less original? It could. But in the process of making the 4th octopus and the 5th seasons cuff, I came to this conclusion: They are much alike, but in repeating yet changing the design, it becomes more me, I have more control over the complete outcome, and I am more confident of the design's success.

I still don't think I will ever just make one thing and many variations of it, but repetition has it's advantages, and one can hone one's skills in the process, because there is something to measure against.
Not that any of the other octopus or seasons cuffs were bad, but there is a personal growth involved in keeping on making them. Kind of like a mantra. 

Ultimately, whatever we do, if we put in hundreds of hours of work, we get a lot better. Sometimes it takes inventing things, sometimes it takes repeating what you invented. I am impatient and impulsive and I would have never thought I would enjoy repetition, but  I really do.
Does this make any sense?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sammy's Fishies revealed

The day has come, Oh Curious Visitor to reveal the Fishies!
My intention with this piece was to create something that I have never seen any other bead embroidery artist do. I am constantly inspired by the strangest things, smells, the way insects move, the things my furkid does. In this case her fishing habit.

Never catches anything,yet  never ever gives up, just chases those fishies for fun. One day, when either her modeling carrier takes off, or I become famous and rich, she will have her own goldfish. 

Until then, this will have to do.

Well, I believe that even the most outrages design has to have balance, one beyond symmetry.
I credit my elementary school art  teacher Gyorgy Orban with everything I know about composition and balance.
An outstanding artist himself, he has been instructing children for decades on the nuances or building a pleasing composition. It is true that I have learned everything I use today from him, and he has been the greatest influence on everything I make. When in doubt, I ask myself , what would Gyuri do?
Gyuri, thank you so much for all you have done and for all you are doing every day!

In a design like this , with such heavy elements, I had to apply what I know of balance by finding a way to attach the very different, very individual fishies and make them a harmonious whole, where no element is too heavy, so you don't get a feel of the piece visually tilting one way or the other.
I tried to achieve this by attaching the fish with bubbles and balancing them so while they appear to be individual, and all different, viewed from farther away, the picture becomes unified.

I used an odd number of fishies, therefore an odd number of eyes looking back at you, and even an odd number of orange pearls for the fishies  gills and an odd number of bubbles.
Even the Swarovski crystals are odd in their numbers, although I forgot to count the teal colored pearls I used for the neck piece.
Odd numbers have a way of looking more pleasing to the eye.To me that is.

By the way: I know fishies is not grammatically correct. But Sammy and I agree that is what we call them.

Of course I could not have the muse not present her very special piece to her loving and devoted fans.
I think she looks regal. Hence her middle name Regina.
Well, this is my entry to the Battle of the Beadsmith, 2012. I have no idea how far it will go, or not go, since my opponent is the very talented Tamuna Lezhava, and unfortunately one of us have to loose.
Either way, this has been fun, and I would do it all over regardless of the outcome. It's been an honor to be paired up with her!

Thank You All for your patience and support.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Shhh.... It's a secret!

It is indeed! You know, I am not allowed to share pictures of my completed Battle of the Beadsmith piece just yet. I am having an extremely hard time not sharing. So I made a bracelet in the general style of the necklace, one that also will be entered the Etsy Beadweavers' July challenge.( I won the May challenge, and I got to choose the theme for July, and I chose Tangerine Tango, the color of  2012. Well, my goldfish are tangerine tango. So I am in !)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On Materials

 I have been working on my Beadsmith competition piece and part of the rules is that I am not allowed to share pictures of it till reveal day. It's going to be big and very fishy. That's all I got to say.
But for now, I was thinking I should still keep on blogging, if not about new pieces, then maybe issues like basic materials we beaders all use.

A very nice artist, who is new to bead embroidery contacted me on Etsy a week ago asking for my honest opinion of her work. I thought her work showed great promise, the only constructive criticism I could give her was to use Fireline instead of Nymo.

Yupp, we are back to that debate.

The picture above shows a few of my early pieces, (here is a link about the bracelet on the right, that's not my design.)
 Anyhow, these pieces were made between 2007 and 2009 with Nymo, and they are fraying and falling apart now.
 Some more then others, the two bracelets need constant fixing the necklace has fared  better.
I loved using Nymo because it's soft, you can get the color that matches your backing and beads, and it's just like thread. But you need to wax it, and the wax weakens the thread further.
So I say Fireline is the way to go. 6 pound test goodness in both smoke and crystal color.

I buy it by a 300 yard spool, and the best place to get this Cabela's.
It's about $30 for this much, and it lasts a long time.
 The grey matches most things, for lighter colors I use the crystal.
Don't waste your money on the braided variety, unless you are buying it specifically for long fringes on a collar. It feels more thread like, but much harder to put it through a size 12 needle's eye...
And it is too expensive for regular stuff. Fused original or fused crystal is the best way to go, as pictured above.
Compared to other beading threads it is quite an investment, but it really is the foundation of everything else. Doesn't matter how much money you splurge on beautiful cabochons and beads, if they all fall off  of your  creations like Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall.

There are many glues out there...
I bathed in glue for years to find what works best.
E6000 is my choice. It stinks to high heavens, and the smell takes quite a while to air out , but it works so well. It is toluene free now, (toluene is a a solvent that's carcinogenic), so supposedly safer to use.

If you find  anything else, that's clear, dries quick, remains flexible, is capable of bonding porous to nonporous surfaces and smells better, let me know.
Until then, it's E6000 for me.

There are times when you need a teentsy bit of super glue, I usually use it to seal things that I am afraid would unwind. When that happens, normally one gets covered in super glue from ear to ear, no great wonder since super glue was developed by the army as a field dressing, so it bonds skin really well.

Also, it dries out after one use, since it's mostly packaged in little aluminum tubes.

Not this little guy with its  pointy tip and a long cover over it that keeps it from drying out.
Also it contains more glue then the normal packaging, and with the precise tip you only get it to where you need it, so glue away, you will no longer be stuck to your beadwork.

This product is made by Loctite, and I buy it at my regular hardware store for about $3.50.
I bet it's available at other hardware stores too. Here is a link to a picture to show you what it looks like in it's package.

It took me years to figure out that I needed a thread burner.
 This little device gets really close to loose threads on your beadwork, and just burns all the little tails off. Gets to places no tiny scissors can get, and makes things nice and smooth.... My first one came from Joanne's, and it had a thick plastic housing and was flimsy as they get, and when the tip burned out, there was no replacement available.

This one , Thread Zap II is from the Beadsmith, and it has a metal housing, feels much nicer in the hand too because it's the size of a fat sharpie. The tip is replaceable, and it takes one AA battery that seems to last a long time.

It's predecessor ( Thread Zap) was more expensive, bigger and clunkier, so if you are in the market for one of these, get the new version.

Well, I hope this post will help someone who is struggling with choices in clouds of glue fumes and fishing lines.
 I am off to work on the Fishies....