Friday, October 31, 2014

Dia de los Muertos :: Day of the Dead

Halloween has always been a fun holiday in our house, one that the girls enjoy celebrating. Not just the treats (but let's be honest ... those do matter) ... but really they enjoy the chance to dress up and have a little fun scaring each other.

My youngest (aka, the bead girl) was very interested this year in the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muetos, or Day of the Dead. A tradition of remember those loved ones who have died. It is a custom that dates back hundreds of years to the Aztecs. 

When we were in Mexico earlier in the year she helped me paint a sugar skull (with Luis), which my husband has since claimed as his own souvenir from the trip? Not sure how that happened exactly, but it did. Anne and I had a lot of fun just scouring the local village for other variations and colors of skulls and paintings. 

So for Halloween 'trick or treating' this year (which might be her last time? .... so sad for me) she decide to dress in the Mexican custom. She got very in to it with face paint and skeleton attire. Check out her finger-less skeleton gloves and socks! She set her alarm early this morning so she could get up and apply all that face paint before heading off to school today. So glad I got pics before she left tonight as the rain set in and the paint is now running down her face. No worries ... we're all sorting out the candy and claiming a few. Sugar comma is imminent.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oktoberfest :: Fall Earring Series

A few weeks back I was inspired by the stash of artisan beads piling up on my bead table. Yes, I admit it. I am a hoarder; at least when it comes to beads. But I decided that I needed to put these beautiful beads to work. 

I started with my embarrassing large stash of Michelle McCarthy's ceramic discs from her shop Firefly Design Studio in both circles and squares. I started mixing and matching them up with a number of other artists.

Those artists include Jana Bližňáková from HappyFishThings. I love her rustic ceramic charms and focals she been making. They are earthy and bohemian, and perfectly my style! I also used a few of her polymer charms like the owls; how sweet are those?

I also had to include one of my favorite artists Lesley Watt from THEAElements. I never get tired of her brass charms she makes. And once I posted these sweet ammonite ones over on Facebook Lesley was getting requests to make more. Can you blame people for asking for more? 

Another one of my favorites is Sue Kennedy from Sue Beads. Oh how I love her lampwork beads, and I picked up several of her lampwork headpins. So fun and whimsical! 

I also made a pair from Genea that I'm in love with. Look at the rich colors of these beads! I couldn't get myself to list this pair I made with Genea's beads and have been wearing them for about 2 weeks straight.

You'll also see some Marsha Neal ceramics in there, which I love. She always uses greens and rich reds, which are my favorite colors to work with. I have a few more on the bead table I'm working on now from Marsha. I just need to finish up the next batch and get those posted. I made roughly 15 pair in the first batch, and another 10 in this current batch. So look for all of them over on my Facebook or my Etsy

For more Fall inspired designs check out Rita's Oktoberfest blog hop going on today over on Jewel School Friends. Looks like everyone just about is joining in today to celebrate with Rita and her annual hop to celebrate her favorite season.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Upcycling :: Fall Inpsired

A few months back, Hope Smitherman who works with ZnetShows ask a few of us if we'd be interested in doing some Fall designs for the new Fall issue of Creative Spark. The themes were 'inspired by Fall' or using 'upcycled materials' in our pieces.

Well, I knew immediately that the upcycled one was for me. I had in mind that I was going to use an old key that I found up in our camp in the Adirondacks. I was thinking about leather and grey pearls for a dress-up Boho look. 

Now I know a few of you (Christine in particular) who are going to laugh at this next bit of information. I saw the grey pearls and thought perfect! .... um yeah, and when they arrived they were not just large, they were huge. Well at least based on what was in my mind. Yep, didn't pay any attention to the diameter size ... because that is what I do. 

So plan B was in order. I did actually like these grey pearls, but they needed a more substantial idea that made them the star. But now I needed something else upcycled for my theme. I remembered that I had some old basting tape I scavenged from one of the drawers in my mom's desk sewing machine. I liked this option as it was more rustic looking than pulling out the expected silk ribbon. I created a chain between the pearls and hammered out a piece of silver for the focal. I was finally happy with this one.

On to the next. One of the items I got from Znet Shows was some leaf chain. I really love this stuff. It is fun, a bit whimsical and very Fall. Nice combo in my opinion. I had been holding on to some acorns for about a year. The Bead Girl (aka Anne, my apprentice) started collecting these last Fall. Every few days she'd come home and pull out a few from her pocket. We stuffed them in can as she collected them, and forgot about them. I pulled them out last August to find a fine film of mildew on them .... oh gees, these are real and I should have dried them. Note to self. So we buffed off the mold and laid them out for about 2 weeks. Worked perfectly. I made a little copper loop and a coil bead cap. Then glued it right on top of the acorn. And now I had acorn beads! My kids tease me all the time saying that I think everything is a bead. Well maybe not eeeeverything, but lots of things.

This post is feeling like a list of true confessions today. So one of the other things I ordered from Znet Shows was some jasper polished stones. And guess what happened? Yep the opposite of the pearls. When they arrived they were much smaller than I thought and I could not get my cording through them. Seriously, I need to pay attention to the bead sizes. I had in mind that I was going to use them with these pretty copper filigree charms. I decided to just make some simple earrings using a pretty champaign quartz briolettes. So I have some jasper stones I need to get to work on and think of a more delicate design with my stones. I am hopeless when it comes to bead sizes.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mexico :: Pottery

One of the favorite things my daughters and I like to do is paint. We will paint pretty much anything. So what's one of the activities while on vacation? Why paint pottery, poolside of course.

We hung out with Luis (pictured right) who would patiently wait for people to finish their painted pieces. There were distracted parents who dropped their kids off, spoiled rambunctious young kids, bored teenagers, and a few helicopter moms who would finish their kid's pottery for them. You see it all when you travel. 

Honestly, it really didn't matter much if you could paint .... Luis would 'fix' it. I saw several pieces that the paint was just globbed on, and he'd change up the colors, put in black lines around the images and add in accents. Basically you'd come back to pick up your piece and you'd be stunned by how amazing your Luis' work was!

The pieces you see here were painted by us Luis. I did the two dishes with lids, and Kate did the bowl with the waves. Anne did a series of flowered candle holders, which we discovered later are simply for decoration since the finishing coat burns and turns black when you try to really use them. Opps! Good thing we were standing right there and blew the candle out in a hurry!

I did some online research to see if I could identify what style of pottery this represents. What I believe is that this is influenced by Talavera style which uses bright colors, thick graphics and dominant boarders around the patterns. Talavera was introduced to Mexico by Spanish guild artisans during the Colonial period (1650-1810). In Spain, the style is call 'Majolica.' What makes this method different from others is that the base pottery is already fired clay which is covered with an opaque glaze base. Then the pottery is covered with an opaque glaze and decorated with metallic oxide glaze colors, which are fired together. This blends the colors that overlap and form other colors. The result is brightly colored, glossy surface that maintains and enhances the lines and colors. While our pieces did not follow this process exactly, you can definitely see the influences of the style. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mexico :: Beading Inspiration

One of my favorite things I did when we were down in Mexico was to spend some time walking through the local vendors to see what kind of beading and jewelry I could find. 

What I found was an astonishing amount of handmade beadwork pretty much everywhere I looked. And the colors were vibrant! 

There is a culture of beadwork throughout Mexico, and the more prominent work comes from the Huichol. The Huichol are indigenous people of Mexico who live in the Sierra Madre Occidental range. They refer to themselves as Wixaritari, or "the people" in their native language. The bags shown here (made entirely from beads) are a common item that the Huichol make, but they are known for their bead sculpture. One group even beaded an entire car. I cannot even image how it takes to bead a car?

Huichol art dates back millennia and represents their spiritual connection to their gods and ancestors. Their art is full of symbols that have been encode into their stories. They use vibrant colored beads, yarn and wood in their imaginative work with each piece carrying heavy symbolism. In Huichol culture, art and religion are inextricable; each piece is personal and holds the deep spiritual beliefs of its creator.

Two primary figures are the Jicuri (the peyote plant) which is considered the plant of life and promotes harmonious relations with the gods. And the other is the serpent, which is highly revered for its protection of peyote by eating the pests that would harm the harvest.

At the core of their religion is a pilgrimage of 600 miles (round trip) to re-enter the sacred land of the Wirikuta desert. During their trip they perform a series of rituals and ceremonies to transform themselves into deities. When properly performed the peyote will be found, and 'slain' with a bow and arrow. Everyone is given a slice of the peyote to have their own personal visions. This moment of sharing the peyote is fulfilling their quest: to travel to paradise and transform themselves into deities and commune with the gods.

Since we were not near the Sierra Madre range, I can't be sure that what we were looking at was from the Huichol, but they do seem to be a beading superpower in Mexico!

At one shop there were just tables and tables of beaded bracelets. I pulled out a few of them to take individual pictures. I love how they use basic stitches and play on variation, after variation. I got a bit 'click happy' taking pictures of all these pieces to use as inspiration. And so now it is a matter of actually giving them a try.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bucket List :: Drink from a Coconut

One of the things that my oldest daughter Kate had on her bucket list of things she wanted to do was to drink from a coconut. I think after all those episodes of Survivor, it just seemed like a cool thing to do.

When we were in Mexico last winter; she got her chance. Her sister was right there with her and game to give it a try as well. At our hotel we saw a few people walking around with their very own coconut, and we thought 'oh, I guess you just order one from the bar.' But surprisingly no one seemed to know what we were talking about when we tried that?


But then one of the staff suggested we find a gardener who could whack one down from one of the trees on the property. And so now I had both my girls hunting around the grounds looking for a guy with a machete. Not exactly what a mom wants to hear. But we did find a very nice gardener who was more than willing to help the girls out. They had a bit of trouble trying to drink from the hacked opening, but a straw was a quick solve so they could enjoy their drink with lunch.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Simple Macrame

Last time I got together with my BBF (best bead friend) Christine we did some swapping of beads. A usual activity. She gifted me really cool shell 'nugget' beads that have a bit of a rough cut to them to show off the inside of the shell. I think I remember her saying that they were abalone. Check out the greens in these - so very cool.


I wanted to do something sort of Mystic Seaport inspired and turned to an old technique I learned as a kid: macrame. When I was younger I used to do those macrame pot hangers. I know, you can all just picture me in my striped bell bottoms knotting away on my pot hanger. I do have a few pictures from that time, but they will remain in the old shoe box in the attic.

Ok back to the beads. I figured how hard could it be to do a few basics knots with some fiber? Actually not that hard, except for the fact that it was a bugger to keep that thing still while I was working those knots. 

As a kid, I used to include the big wooden hoop in my macrame and I would slip it under the leg of a piece of furniture. Then I would kneel on it to keep it tight when I did my knotting. 

Today my knees are not that happy doing that maneuver, and my project was not that large (thankfully). I resorted to some tape on my lap desk, which did the trick. It fought me a bit, but not too bad. And I surprised myself by remember how to do the wrap on the ends where you pull the loop back through itself.

I added a cute little anchor charm that works well as a closure through the end loop.

I think the hardest part of this project was getting a decent picture. Can you tell? I tried my usual trick of photographing on a piece of water-color paper as it helps to absorb the reflection of direct sunlight. I also tried it on my burlap bust, and I asked one of my daughters to model it for me. Then I tried it on the slate path outside the house and on the front-door railing. Do you ever have that problem trying to get the right angle? Or getting the depth of the beads to pop in the way you were looking for?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mystic :: Encore

Between the four of us, we had something like 200+ pictures from our day at Mystic Seaport. I thought I'd add two more of my favorites.

One of my photographer, Kate. And another picture of the seaport framed in shadow and with Kate having a look out over the water. It was a peaceful day.

One exhibit I wanted to mention was of the Gerda III, which was a Danish workboat during WWII. In 1943 it was used to ferry Jewish refuges from occupied Denmark to neutral Sweden. The refuges were smuggled aboard and hidden in the cargo hold of this small boat. Although it was regularly boarded and inspected by German soldiers, they were never discovered.

The Gerda III rescued approximately 300 Jews taking 10 - 15 people at a time to safety. The boat was part of a spontaneous effort by Danes who rescued roughly 7000 Jews --- nearly the entire Danish Jewish population were saved from the hands of the Germans. Now that is an amazing story!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Day at Mystic Seaport

We moved back East over 10 years ago, and live about an hour from historic Mystic Seaport, but we'd never been until a few weeks ago. We decided to do a day trip and spend the afternoon walking around the still working shipyard. 

I hadn't realized that it was essentially a similar type of open air museum as you'd find at Colonial Williamsburg complete with demonstrations on how to properly set the sails or to rescue a distressed ship at sea. 

Many of the original buildings are still standing and open for you to step in and speak to the merchants; grocery, watch maker, maps, blacksmith .... all showing items from the 1700s and 1800s. 

The maps show the tracks of whaling ships, and we stopped into the watch shop where all the pieces are still running including a large grandfather's clock from the 1700s. There are exhibits of small sailing boats and early racers called Cat Boats as the area became famous for competitive sailing. 

The ship shown at the beginning of this post is called the Charles W Morgan (built in 1841), which is the oldest commercial ship still afloat. It sailed for over 200 years as part of the American whaling fleet. This ship was built for durability, not speed and navigated all over the world from the Arctic, to around Cape Horn.  We went on board to tour the cramped quarters below deck where the officers and men lived.

I loved that this was a 'working' port and that the blacksmith was pounding away, the grocer was weighing items on the old scales and there was real salt cod drying (pictured above). Drying food is one of the world's oldest known preservation methods. Here the salted cod is dried by the wind and sun laying on wood racks. Many people think drying cod this way makes it tastier. Might be all the salt? I'm just say'n.

A quick shout out to my oldest daughter who has been into photography for the last few years. She took the vast majority of these pictures, and I'm really loving how she captured the light from inside the buildings to let the doors and windows frame the seaport. This is definitely worth stopping for an afternoon walking tour around the seaport if you're in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wheely Fun :: Barn Bonsai

Janet from Honey from the Bee asked a couple of us back in July if we'd be up for a challenge to create with a wooden wheel. 

I'm always up for a challenge, but I admit when I saw the wheel I was more than a little stumped. I had originally thought I might create something nautical like a ships' wheel, but I just could not get my mind around how to create that as a necklace.

So on to plan B. It did just look like a wagon wheel to me, and I wanted to leave it that way. So off to the art store with my daughters who helped me pick out a few things like a shadow box, tiny hay bales and a cute little watering can to use as a planter.

Anne, my apprentice, was right by my side as I started to play around with the shadow box. She painted each individual board on the barn (aka Popsicle sticks), and helped me out with craft paper for the field. There was much gluing to bring this to life! She also picked out the miniature weather vane.

Once everything was dry we stained the shadow box (note to self; stain it before you start assembling). I had to re-paint much of it due to the wood stain seeping into everything.

When it was finally done we headed out to the yard to find a Japanese Maple seedling to plant in our little watering can. I have absolutely no idea how to tend to Bonsai, but that didn't stop us. I had in mind that we would be gifting this to a friend Melinda Orr, who said the moment she saw it that it looked just like her barn. I knew that, LOL. The little tree did not make the first round. We had to grab a second by the time we were off to Bead Fest where we were meeting up with Melinda. Anne was so excited to gift this to her and immediately started showing her all the tiny features. I'm hoping that Melinda has a knack for Bonsai. Although I have a yard full of spare seedlings just in case.

Please check out all the other artist's creations: Janet (our host), Christine, Bobbie, Therese, Sally and Hope

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Spoils of Shelling

One of my favorite things to do when I'm at the beach is to walk along the water picking up shells. I've done it my whole life as I grew up on the coast and have always lived next to the ocean. The only exception being the 4 years I was in college. For me, I can't imagine living anywhere but next to water. I'll take a lake when it isn't the sea!

Last February we spent some time down in Mexico by the sea. It was a wonderful 10 days in sunshine when the rest of my world seemed to be covered in snow. You can see my favorite little lunch spot here where I grabbed a fish taco (or two, or three) along with a cerveza for lunch. Yum. Then off to the water to comb the shore for some shells. I could seriously do that forever.

Anywho, I did bring back quite a collection of local shells off the beach where I spent my afternoons just walking through the lapping waves. Did I mention that it was wonderful? And the best part is that many of the shells had a natural hole in them, which is perfect for beading. A beader's little secret.

Months later, I grabbed some of those shells, along with a piece of suede and some seed beads, and got stitching. The suede made for the perfect band to attach my shells and beads into. I also included some trade beads that look and feel like mud, which were the perfect complement to my design.

The suede feels soft and comfortable on with this bracelet. And the ball clasp was the perfect choice to tuck up under your wrist and not take away from the drama of the shells. I left it just a little loose so it would have some sway to it and give that wonderful sound of shells cascading. 

I included it in the last issue of Bead Chat Magazine and posted a picture on my Facebook page. I sold it inside of a day, and then another friend asked if she could buy it. So I needed to make a second one, which surprised me as I really wasn't expecting that kind of response for my little beach boho bracelet.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beadweaving :: Tubular Netting

I have a bead book that I've used through the years with dogged eared pages called Your Seed Bead Style by Bead & Button Magazine. I don't use it often, but there are quite a few beautiful patterns in this book that make it worth the purchase.

One that I've meant to try for some time now is by Marla Gulotta called Web of Silver that uses large beads to create a tubular shape with netting up over the top of the pattern. I've always loved how it looked, but never got around to trying it. Until this past summer when I had some time to bead out on the porch of our summer camp. Nothing like beading next to the lake with only the sound of the wind in the trees. I think that might just be my favorite place to create.

I decided to use the pattern as a large beaded bar as making the entire bracelet with this pattern would have been too much, at least in my opinion. It is fairly stiff, which would make it tough to get this thing to bend for a bracelet. The pattern actually uses two of these bars with a large center focal bead. I just went a different way with this one. I added a bit of chenille in a simple silver to finish it up with a small magnet closure. The netting was enough drama by itself so I didn't want to add more to the bracelet.

It does feel really nice on, and has a bit of romance to it. I had this listed in my store for less than a week, and sold it. I wasn't sure it would appeal to many as it has a tad old fashioned, sort of Elizabethan, Renaissance Faire look to it. But it really turned out to be a pretty pattern, and not difficult once you get the rhythm of the stitch.

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