Wednesday, August 26, 2015

CC7A :: Colorful Chaos

Our CC7A team is back to creating after a summer hiatus. This month Monique is hosting and she picked a beautiful photograph of St. John's in Newfoundland that she titled Colorful Chaos.  

I didn't realize that the picture was North, in Canada. With all those colors I thought it was somewhere South, perhaps in South America. But I bet all those colors are beautiful peeking out of the snow in the dead of winter!

St. John's is said to be the oldest settlement in North America dating back to 1494 when John Cabot (a Venetian explorer) and his son Sebastian sailed into the harbor. And for the next 300 years this migratory fishing town turned into a strategic port that the French, Dutch and English continually battled for control. It ended with the French and Indian Wars in 1762 where the English successfully defeated the French in the battle of Signal hill and the French turned the city back over to the English.

I checked into why a Northern city might be painted so colorfully? It is an area called Jelly Bean Row. Tourist will ask to find the street or row where these house are, but it is a generic nickname that refers to all the row houses in the downtown area. Some say that they were originally painted so the fisherman could find their way home through the fog, which is a nice thought but not accurate. You can't see much through a dense fog no matter the color of the house.

They are actually the result of a revitalization began in the 1970s to the downtown in an effort to preserve the heritage of the houses that we're falling into disrepair and heading for demolition. One guy can be credited with the colors: David Webber, the Heritage Foundation Executive Director. He painted a sample block in bright colors. From there it spread like wildfire with people painting over the drab, dark colors of their houses and adding all kinds of fancy trims as well. At this point the majority of the downtown is decked out in these bright colors.

I got a little distracted in figuring out some history behind this picture, that I need to get to my project for this post! I went with the center colors in the pallet: orange - red hues. I love this piece of deep, cherry sea glass. I did another pattern with this red sea glass a while back that had an Egyptian feel to it. The red does sort of look like a burning sun hanging over a desert. I took some thick copper (14 gauge) and happily twisted and hammered away. Then shaped it around the glass so I could wire it in place. But first I dipped it in patina and tumbled it. I love how the tumbler takes the shiny edge off and buffs out the scratches from all my hammering. Last part of the design is a soft leather strap in the back that holds the necklace from shifting around too much.

And now on to all the rest of the CC7A artists: Monique (this month's host), Alicia, Christine, Therese and Sally

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Slovakia :: Street Art

Cumil: The Watcher
Bratislava was a surprise for me. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had heard for years how Slovakia had been depressed by Soviet control. My husband is Slovak, and visited when he was young while it was still communist. And he had painted a rather bleak view of the place.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a rather wonderful revitalization of an old world city. The split from Soviet Rule was in 1989 and called the Velvet Revolution (so named due to its peaceful separation). Four years later Czechoslovakia split again into separate countries, also known as the Velvet Divorce: where Slovakia and the Czech Republic went their separate ways. 

In the years that followed, Prague was an up and coming tourist destination and Western influence flooded into the country. Not so for Slovakia, still considered an off-the-beaten track destination. While we were in Vienna our hotel concierge gave us a quizzical look when we told him we were heading for Bratislava next. His reply was, "it'll be quick, you can see it all inside of 2 hours." I disagree, and wish we had more time while we were there. It was charming and still had its authentic character in much of the old town, the people and the shops we visited. One of the things I loved were all the quirky statues about town. There seems to have been a revival in the old town (called Korzo) to shed the greyness of the Communist era by repainting buildings and enlivening the old town with interesting sculptures.

Papparazzi
Schoner Naci
Cumil is one of the bronze statues in a series called 'Men at Work.' He is known by several names like the plumber or the watcher. The locals say that he is a symbol of a good man who is spending his time watching people and the life of Korzo. Others have more mischievous things to say about him like that he is looking up the women's skirts.

There are several other statues in the series called the Papparazzi and Schoner Naci. This last statue is the only one with a Bratislava legend. He is said to be a man named Ignac Lamar, son of a shoemaker. He was known as a gentleman wearing a black suit with tails and a top hat. He was smooth with the ladies greeting them with "I kiss your hand" in German, Hungarian and Slovak.

The thing that strikes me most about this quirky statue series is that it is a celebration of the common people who represent the country. Usually the statues are of the dictators, the scholars, the famous composers or memorials of some horror. But here in Bratislava it is the celebration of the people. And that in my book makes it unique and down right fun. I was taken with the response I saw on Lonely Planet from a local called Peter who took the time to translate and explain the meaning behind these statues. His final words were "Thank you for visiting our country." I found Bratislava to be a very friendly place to visit and worth the diversion off the beaten track.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Another Day, Another Castle

Hohenschwangau Courtyard Fountain
Burg Stahleck in Bacharach Germany
It is amazing that something as cool as a castle can become, well sort of common place. Both my husband and I wanted to see a castle or two. He absolutely loves the history, the architecture and of course all that armor. It turns him into an 8 year old boy. 

We started our trip in the Rhine Valley where there seemed to be a castle on every corner, quite literally. They liter the banks of the Rhine as they overlook what was the major shipping channel of the age. Today they've been turned into magnets for tourism, hotels, some are hostels and a quite a few are just left as ruins. No matter, we loved them all and could not get enough of them. At least in the beginning. Absolutely every one we saw would be a shout out "oh! look another castle!" We'd pull over, and start snapping away. Several of the them ended in muddy back roads that led to nowhere as the castle didn't have a road and wasn't receiving the hoards of tourists.

Burg Eltz
By far the best castle we toured was one of the early ones. Just over the hills of the Rhine in the Moselle Valley is one called Burg Eltz. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, not strategically positioned for anyone. And likely why it survived the bombings of WWII, and one of only 2 castles in the area that were never destroyed through the ages. The castle is still owned by a branch of the original family who have lived there since the 12th century (33 generations).

Hohenschwangau
One of the most interesting things about this particular castle was the family's ability to share. There were three family branches living here, which meant 3 households, 3 kitchens, and multiple additions to house for their growing needs. So each successor, whose inheritance was too small to build a castle on his own, simply contributed to building a castle together. Today the castle is 8 stories, has fortified walls with over 100 rooms. This also meant 100+ family members could live in the castle, which meant reinforcement when attackers arrived at the doorstep. The family ecosystem was a built-in process to collaboration and sharing. A model to learn from.

Hohenschwangau Swan Fountain
So after touring this castle, we started to compare them all to this one. And we saw quite a lot of them. 

Neuschwanstein in the distance
All along the Romantic Road of Germany (a concept that was developed after WWII to encourage a return to German tourism). It runs through 28 towns (dating to the medieval age) along a scenic route that rambles from the lower Rhine Valley to through much of Bavaria ending at the fantasy castle of Neuschwanstein (the one everyone photographs and Disney uses as it logo). 

We did end our travels along the Romantic road in Fussen as we thought it would make more sense to stay overnight near the castles vs. trying to do a day trip from Munich. Which is smart if you want to visit this area. However, be warned this is hands down the most touristy location of our entire trip. We honestly had no idea it was.  Upon arrival we were swarmed with bus loads of tourists coming in for the day (presumably from Munich). And while we arrived at noon, tickets (yes you must buy a ticket to tour a castle) were completely sold out for the day. The lines were long with waiting times of several hours. We decided that since we were there, we would bite the bullet and try for tickets the following morning. Highly recommend this strategy since you cannot reserve in advance. 

The hike up to Hohenschwangau
Hohenschwangau Two Swan Fountain 
Both castles require a hike up to the location. All castles seem to be built on hills, steep hills. It gives them a strategic advantage to the surrounding area. We decided to tour Hohenschwangau (meaning highlands of the swans, and yes everything seemed to be a swan throughout the castle). This is the castle that the legendary (aka crazy) King Ludwig II grew up in. He decided that he would build a second castle over on the other hill that was bigger, grander and with more bragging rights. This is the famous Neuschwanstein castle, which he supervised the building of, but which was never fully completed (at least on the inside). Had it been completed, it would have had 200+ rooms, but ultimately only 15 rooms were finished. Thus why we toured the original castle and snapped pictures of the other. The castle was still incomplete when King Ludwig died in 1886, and there after became a lucrative revenue source for the Bavarian royal family who opened it to paying visitors.

Due to its secluded location, the castle survived both WWI and WWII. In addition the Nazis used it as a hidden depot for plunder taken from wealthy Jews. Hitler's dream was to create a "Furhrermuseum" with an estimated 5 million pieces of artwork and cultural items he had stolen which included masterpieces from artists like Michelangelo, da Vinci and Vermeer. In April of 1945, the SS considered blowing it up to prevent the building and the artwork falling into enemy hands, but was in the end surrendered to Allied forces. Clearly, we enjoyed touring the many castles and learning more about the history behind each one. They all have stories to tell.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Karlovy Vary :: The Original Spa Town

Karlovy Vary
Tepla River
I'm not sure where to start with blogging about our recent trip. I have piles of pictures and quite a few stories.

These posts are not likely to be in any sort of order, and I suspect they will not be your typical (obligatory) travel post. You all know me by now, and assume you'd be disappointed if I didn't give you a crazy side story or random musing careful observation about the places we visited. So I'll take my time and work my way through all the notes I took on the trip.

Mill Colonnade (Hubby just walking away)
Let's begin, shall we, at the end of our trip. We finished up our road trip extravaganza in a very old world, spa town called Karlovy Varya town known by the Germans as Karlsbad. 

The town is just over the Czech-German border in the Northwestern part of the Czech Republic in an area called Bohemia. The town was built up around a natural thermal hot springs where the Ohre and Tepla rivers come together. 

It is old, very old; founded in 1370 by the King of Bohemia and is everything Calastoga, CA hopes to be when it grows up. We used to go to Calastoga all the time when we lived in California. I loved it. We would rent a little cottage, get a massage, have a nice dinner and swim in the pool heated by the hot springs. 

But here is the thing, Calastoga will likely never hold the charm of this wonderful old world gem. Karlovy Vary is built as an original walking city like so much of the old towns we visited through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The streets are cobble stone, and cars have a very hard time navigating most places (if they are allowed). And that makes for a wonderful, leisurely place to stroll along the water, stop into shops, sample some street cafe food (or better a glass of something local). Most of California is designed to get into your car and drive off to the next destination, and you just don't get the same feel for a place unless you're elbow to elbow with the locals.

Griffin Statue
The hot springs are the main attraction and have several long colonnades built up around the springs. There is the old structure, the new one (or Mill Colonnade) and even a park colonnade that was built in the 1800s and has a Victorian feel. I spent hours walking around snapping pictures of all these Corinthian columns, to the point where you can see my husband just walking away. 

In the main building is the geyser and a row of 'taps' for people to sample the mineral water. Or as they say "drinking cures," which there are various ones depending on which source and temperature of the water you choose. Prolonged use of the cure is not recommended, and suggested that you speak with the spa doctor. Yeah, I wasn't so interested in water that needed a doctor's approval.

Karlovy Vary Cups
The ceiling over the geyser has a 'look out' to the sky above. I wonder if the geyser gushed if it would just come right out the top of the ceiling? They enclosed a room around the main geyser. It was a hot August day when we were there (at least 95 degrees) and it felt like about 115 inside. Holy cats! I just wanted someone to open a window ... please. Everyone else seemed preoccupied with taking a sip of the mineral water in these funny little tea-pot like cups. I wasn't buying. They look like some random tschotske from my grandmother's cupboard sitting next to the porcelain thimble collection. I just couldn't see bringing one of these babies home with me. But everyone else had one. We saw all kinds of people strolling around town slowing sipping on these cups as they sat on park benches or popped into one of the shops. 

We didn't see any American tourists (that we were aware of), not even British. This was an off the beaten track kind of place. Which I loved. Most of the tourists were German, Russian and local Czechs up for a few days from Prague. I felt like I really got away from all that I know back home. That is what travel means to me. Pure bliss.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Travel Hiatus Among Other Things

Bacharach, Germany
Can you imagine waking up to this view? Swinging open your window, getting a faint valley breeze up from the Rhine River and slipping into your clogs to warm the kettle. 

Yeah, I certainly could get used to it. 

Check out the vineyard over there on the hill. We went by several and saw a few stout Germans traversing those vertical fields. I think you might need to be part mountain goat to tend these vines? The wine, and the beer from this region ... oh who am I kidding ... from all over the country is delicious. And we spent a week sampling our way down the Rhine and along the Romantic Road of Germany.

And then we spent a second week traveling through Vienna, on to Bratislava (that's Slovakia's capital city), then Prague and finished up in Karlovy Vary (the original spa town - it's what Calistoga wishes they were). We had a fantastic trip and I can't wait to tell you all about it. But for now, I'm still sorting through pictures and laundry. Piles of it since we also picked up one of the girls from summer camp. 

Yep, that's right. We dropped the kids at summer camp and promptly jumped on a flight to Europe. Last summer the house was just too quiet while they were away at camp, so the hubby and I decided to go away when they were away this year. Our first vacation alone in 12 years. I'll be back to blog about the travels, the stories and show you all the pictures.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Sea :: Aegean

This is the final posting for my sea inspired series using sea glass beads from Znetshows.comI still have a few beads left, so good chance I'll be back with more designs. But later in the summer, or maybe this fall. I've been swamped at work lately and haven't made it to my bead table at all yet this summer other than this handful of sea glass designs from early June. 

I made one last pair of sea glass earrings, this time in a beautiful sea foam green. And I included a companion pair using silver sequins. I never really thought of myself as a sequin person, but in these designs I love how it gives off just a bit of chime in your ear when you wear them. I can imagine sitting high up on the bluff of the sea with that bit of sea breeze giving everything a bit of sway.

For this series, I've given you a few places that top my bucket list to visit. This next place is featured in my inspiration board. The Aegean Sea, home to some 2,000 islands inhabited through the ages by Greeks, Turks, Phoenicians, Philistines, Egyptians and countless other travelers. If I were a time traveler and could go back in time, this would probably be my first stop. All those flowing fabrics, strappy sandals, dangling jewelry and plenty of wine. Who's with me?

The first time I can remember reading about the Mediterranean I was cracking open that enormous book of Homer's Odyssey that talked about journeys on the sea, colossal statues and sirens off the sea cliffs. Even though it is full of myth and legend, it had me dreaming of warm breezes and clear blue seas. Don't forget to check out all the other designers and the most current edition of Creative Spark.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Sea :: Near East

This is the second post in my sea inspired series using beautiful, softly tumbled sea glass beads from Znetshows.com. I absolutely love the pale aqua blue in these beads. And normally I would just stop with blue, the color of the sea, and a touch of silver wire. Usually I gravitate to using silver with sea glass as I feel like it brings a sharp, fresh feel to the design. 

But in these, I went with gold and it brought out the touch of the exotic to each pair. The gold also paired up beautifully with this soft yellow, a color I had yet to try from the huge color choices over at Znetshows. The chain had me thinking of belly dancers, which a few of you might remember some past designs I did with a similar theme. These designs got me into a Near East state of mind for some reason, and transported me to the shores of North Africa.

The term Near East isn't used much anymore. Originally it was used to refer to the Ottoman Empire, and the countries under its control that lined the shores of the Mediterranean. The term was used in contrast to territories that would fall in the Far East, or Northeast / Southeast Asia and Far East Russia. Both terms are clearly defined through a Western lens. It described territories by the super powers of the age, the British, French and Spaniards, as they fought to gain more land and riches and outline the world by their conquests. Today, the terms are used mostly in the context of history and old empire boundaries.

There is an air of the exotic when I think of the historic region. It brings images of camels, sands, bangles, baskets and rich fabrics. Not to mention spices, tajines and tea served in glass cups. I long to shop the markets of Marrakesh or explore the romantic city of Casablanca. Not the one of Bogart and Bacall, but the ancient city called Anfa which was settled in the 7th century BC by the Berbers (the original indigenous people of North Africa). Berbers call themselves i-Mazigh-en, scholars guess the meaning to be 'free people' apart from the Romans and Greeks. The area was one of the most prosperous cities on the Atlantic coast because of its fertile land.

Anfa became a safe harbor for pirates, which was its undoing. The Portuguese attack and destroyed the town in 1468 and used the area as a military fortress. They renamed it Casablanca, meaning the White House. The old city of Casablanca is still referred to as Anfa. The beautiful Mosque in my inspiration board is called the Grande Mosquee Hassan II, and is the largest mosque in Africa, and 7th in the world. The minaret is 60 stories high and has a laser which light is directed towards Mecca. The building itself sits a rock edge looking out to the sea, and where the glass floor of the main hall shows the sea bed. The Mosque was commissioned by King Hassan II, with work starting in 1986 and finishing 7 years later. Pretty spectacular location looking out over the sea.

One more area that also sits near the top of my bucket list, right behind Croatia. Eventually I'll travel to Morocco, but probably after the kids are no longer traveling with us. Check out all the other designs and artists in this edition of Creative Spark.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Sea :: Adriatic

A few weeks back Hope, of Crafty Hope, sent around the call for a few designers to work with that gorgeous sea glass beads from Znetshows.com. I just cannot help raising my hand every time she asks. I love pretty much everything about the sea, including all the treasures you pick up in the sand. Znetshows has some of the best shapes and sizes in their glass ... just check out those sea foam green fish!

I decided this time around that I was going to do an earring series, so over the next few days I'll show you a few designs and some sea inspired images that brought my designs to life.

For quite some time now Croatia has been at the top of my bucket list. Not only because it is stunningly beautiful but because it has that touch of history and an 'off the beaten track' appeal, at least to me. Sure plenty of Europeans have known the secret of Croatia's beauty, but not many of the masses of tourist from my neck of the woods would have it on their 'must see' lists. And frankly that works for me.

Croatia is known for its views of the Adriatic, one of the many seas that spill into the Mediterranean. It is the northern most arm of the Mediterranean with over 1,300 islands alone, most of which are located along the coast of Croatia. Anyone seen the Game of Thrones? King's Landing is filmed in Dubrovnik. One of the amazing things about watching the show is how they transport us to another time through the filming locations. Real places that I want to see. Well, some of them I've already seen, but Croatia is still on the list of places to visit. Don't forget to check out the designs from all the other artists in the latest edition of Creative Spark.

Friday, June 26, 2015

CC7A :: Soft Summer Hues

This month's CC7A challenge is hosted by Sally Russick and is inspired by these beautiful soft summer hues.

I confess that I had originally designed my cabochon #3 as my piece for this month, but I ended up posted it early. Truth be told, I posted it and then remembered several days later that I meant to reveal it for this hop. It was too late to switch it around! That is exactly how distracted I've been lately. 

Ah well, I did have a plan B. I had also made a sweet pair of earrings in the color pallet using a beautiful pair of headpins by Genea that I could not resist buying. I love the celery green color mixed with earthy colors. It just feels like summer to me. I really love her headpins, and all those silvery additions to the beads were perfect for me to add just a touch silver fringe to bring it out.

Be sure to check out everyone else's creations this month: Alicia, Christine, Therese, Sally, and Monique.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Stone Cabochon Series :: #4

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Years ago, before we had our kids, my husband and I took a road trip through the Southwestern US. What a gorgeous corner of the world, and something that continues to influence me when I sit down to create jewelry. 

The red rocks and painted desert of the area are breathtaking and remain carved into my memory along with our hike down into the grand canyon as we watched a thunder storm erupt along the opposite rim. Mother Nature's light show was spectacular.

I will absolutely never tire of the bold, but simple colors and geometric shapes from local artisans. I am inspired by the Southwestern Native American tribes of the region with Navajo, Zuni and Hopi being personal favorites. If you have time to browse, check out my Pinterest board for some of the regions beautiful inspiration.

This set of red stone cabochons gifted to me from Melinda Orr were two of the first I paired together for this series. While they are not of the same stone, they seem to depict the shifts and changes of the rock layers throughout the region. It is one of the memorable things about visiting the Southwest. I love how you can see the the layers of sediment exposed to the elements over the millennium; a rich history you can study as you hike these magnificent natural wonders. You can see more inspiration on my South by Southwest Pinterest board.

Each one of these paired cabochons has taken on its own personality, and this one seemed to need a brass chain to draw out the flecks in the sandstone. As I think about it, the first time I ever saw sandstone was in the small market as you enter Monument Valley. The cluster of vendor stalls were full of local craftsmen selling items in the traditional native Southwestern styles, including pottery, blankets, clothing, bags or jewelry. I've been in love with the stone ever since and it continues to reminds me of our trek through this region each time I pull it out to create.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Stone Cabochon Series :: #3

Haystack Rock Cannon Beach, OR
For as long as I can remember there has been one place, that when I close my eyes it is what I see. I can instantly feel the cool mist on my face, the whipping wind twisting my hair and the roar of the surf. It is the one place that can bring me peace from the moment I crest the hill, and round the corner to head down the long drive to Cannon Beach. The rock will come in and out of view as I wind my way there. 

When I looked into the pattern of the stone that Melinda Orr gifted me, all I could see was the silhouette of haystack rock that dominates the view from Cannon Beach. I see a "moody" winter sky surrounding the rock. Just as I remember it being most days. 

My childhood was spent along this coast line at the various beaches in the area, but nothing captivated me as much as this mammoth rock jutting out of the surf. I always wanted to climb it, and I would shift around to a side, dig in and begin to climb a few foot-holds up. But my mother would notice and yell to "get DOWN off that rock!" Once upon a time I was 7 and would wait until I thought my mother wasn't looking so I could sneak in a little excitement, something I was definitely not supposed to do. Yes people climbed it, and yes it was wet, slippery and dangerous. But there was a time in my life where I just wanted to see the view from up top. 

I no longer have this piece as a friend bought this one from me 2 weeks ago. She tried on almost every one of my stone cab necklaces in this series, and nearly bought the one I showed last weekend. But in the end she took this one. I knew from the beginning that this was the one for her, but it took her most of the weekend before she knew it too. She also took the cuff I posted last weekend. When she told me she wanted it, I was a bit taken aback because she exclaimed "oh, this will be perfect for the wedding I'm going to!" Totally didn't see that coming. But once she told me it was a wedding on a beach and she had a cute cotton jacket it would match, it all made sense to me. Absolutely nothing makes me happier than to think of her wearing these pieces.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

ATTS 7: Bead Embroidery

I just love this hop hosted by Christine and Therese. Each one has been a challenge for me to try something new. To practice a stitch or technique. This installment had us trying our hand at bead embroidery. 

While I have been doing quite a few bead bezeling pieces lately, I wanted to try some stitching into fabric. So that is where I wanted to start this challenge. With a piece of fabric, some beads and a simple design. 

The last time that Christine and I got together for a beady weekend, I decided to get started on a piece for this hop. Christine happened to have a bit of grey cloth that matched a bead bezel focal I had just finished. She gifted me the cloth and I got started. I attached the focal and continued the design on the fabric with the same beads. I was going to fill in more beadwork, but both Christine and I agreed simple was better.

But it did just need a bit more, and so I decided to do some bead crochet for an edge. I stitched that in place and then added a suede backing to the fabric. I love the way this one feels on ... that suede backing is so comfortable! And the cuff has that bit of boho elegance that I love. So a win, win for me!

I thought I'd show you all another piece I recently finished. I've been in a bezeling mood lately and I've created a number of pieces with some small polished stones that Melinda Orr gifted me. There is a wide variety and I've had so much fun mixing and matching them. I'll come back and show you more later, but here is one of my favorites. 

I've discovered a nifty trick. If I glue a jump ring to the back of my focal, and then add the suede, I can stitch the whole piece together with a small loop for me to connect the focal. So instead of a large embroidered piece, I get a few individual pieces that connect and have a bit of swing to them. I have a growing collection to show you all that I'be been working on for months. Yes, I am just a tiny bit obsessed with this style.

Be sure to check out the rest of the hoppers today: our hosts Therese and ChristineAmyLiz EKim, Janet, BobbieMaryanne, KarenBecky, ShirleyLola, Lori, Karin G, Debbie, Paula, Wendy, Jasvanti, Ginger, Alicia, SarahLizzie, Samantha, Sally, and Niky

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