Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ticket...

The first time I got off the airplane in New York City, I felt like I had finally started my life.  I was starting a great adventure.  Part of that adventure was discovering who I was as a person and where I wanted to go.

It's been over a decade since I took those first steps into adulthood and five years since I've been back to the City.  At one point, I couldn't imagine leaving it behind.  So much of who I am was hammered out in those early years... pounded down, cast in the fires and forged anew each day.  I think back to those moments of certainty and chuckle a little to myself.  That vision of where I would be and where I was meant to be changed and in that change, I started over and found a new life.  The new life was tested by illness and made stronger by survival.  That new life found roots and built a venture, bead by bead.  That new life has grown in love and stretched higher and deeper than I ever could imagine.  That new life is here now.

As I prepare to embark on a trip back to the City that helped shape me, to see people I knew and places I've left my heart, to walk the paths I once walked, and retrace steps I've taken before... there's a mix of excitement, nostalgia, and a strange sense of hesitation.  So much has happened since then.  So much has changed.  I feel like a stranger, coming home.

As I prepare to leave, I am packing.  I'm not just packing my bags with clothes or supplies for classes... I'm packing my heart with courage.  It's hard to say why I need to do this.  It's not like it's a foreign country or that I'll be alone.  I think it comes from facing familiarity full-on and seeing... really seeing... how much has changed.  All of the things that have led me up to this point were reactions to actions, a winding road of cause and effect.  I think the strangeness stems from a five year full circle, coming upon the first domino again after so many have click-clacked over.

There's no time to dwell.  I've got my ticket and there's a train to catch.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Royal Feather Challenge Update...

I'm super excited to see what everyone made for the Royal Feather Challenge!  The blog hop reveal was originally scheduled for tomorrow, but I realized that I'll be traveling to New York to teach and don't know for certain if I'll be able to post from the road.  With that said, I'm pushing the reveal date back a week.  The new reveal date is Thursday, October 23rd!  If you are participating, email me your link or send me an image and description of the piece(s) you created.  Super excited to see how different and unique all the pieces turned out to be!

Book Club Reminder...

The October selection for the Inspired by Reading Book club is "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman.  If you're not familiar with our book club, you read the book selection and then create something based on what you read.  We have an in-person meet-up and do a blog hop reveal the next day.  Our in-person meet-up is scheduled for Tuesday, October 28th at 6PM at Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, PA!  The blog hop is scheduled for the following day.  I hope you can join us!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fort Daze...

Every year, the town where the shop is located celebrates an event called, "Fort Ligonier Days".  The locals call it "Fort Days" and the merchants sometimes (lovingly) refer to it as "Fort Daze".  At its largest, over a 100,000 people flood through the streets of Ligonier.  The event commemorates the Fort built during the French and Indian War and the celebration includes craft fairs, a parade through town, fair food, and concerts.  This was our fourth year participating in the event as a shop.  We didn't know what to expect after our move.  Would people know where to find us?  How would our sales compare to previous years?

The weekend is always a blur with days that are long and bustling.  Up until the day the event kicks off (even through the weekend), I'm busy making things to sell or model the beads we carry.  It's a lot of work getting ready.  We move the furniture around, set up tables, and change the displays around.  It almost feels as though we're preparing for battle.  So many people pass through, some that come every year and others that are new.  It's always nice to see familiar faces and meet new friends.

We were very fortunate this year!  We didn't know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised by the show of support.  We were super happy that many of our customers were able to find us and that they had nice things to say about the new location.  Many thanks  go out to everyone who dropped in to see us!  We had our best Fort Days yet!  We hope that our neighbors and fellow merchants had a successful weekend too!

The success of the event really is due to the help we had throughout the long weekend.  My greatest and sincerest gratitude goes out to William, who made sure that everything moved smoothly and that I didn't get overwhelmed.  He kept me well-stocked with coffee, sweet tea, and fair food.  Without him, I wouldn't have been able to do it.  Thank you!  I also wanted to thank Zack, Laurel, Becki, Ruth, and Alison for lending a hand and a watchful eye.  They made sure that everyone received excellent customer service and that all the little beads were well supervised.  Some of them sat in the cold for hours, hauled tables, and fought through crowds to run errands.  Go team, go!

I also wanted to acknowledge all the people who work behind the scenes to make this a successful event.  It takes a lot of people and a lot of work to pull off something on this scale.  We are fortunate to be part of such a vibrant community and have events that attract so many people.  Thank you!

After such a big event, normally I like to take a little time for myself to recover, but there's no rest for the weary!  I am getting ready for New York and am excited to be back in the City after being away for five years.  It's just another adventure on the horizon!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Spooky Beautiful Earrings...

While I think it's perfectly fine to wear skull jewelry year-round, it's that time of year where it becomes even more socially acceptable to flaunt those bones!  To celebrate the Halloween season, I made these fun skull earrings.  They feature the new Swarovski crystal skull beads and chains embellished with wire-wrapped crystal bicones.  They've got a great playful movement and embellished chain reminds me of a spine.  I used a limited palette of gunmetal and gold to create these spooky beautiful earrings.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Kits Sold Out...

All of the Noble Knight and Star Frost Kits are sold out!  Many thanks to everyone who claimed a kit and will participate in the upcoming challenges!  Thank you!

Keep your eyes peeled next week for the Royal Feather challenge reveal!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

New Kits, New Challenges...

The next few weeks are going to be busy ones for me!  I had a look at my calendar and realized that I'll be away when the next few challenges are supposed to launch.  I'll be teaching in New York and didn't know what kind of computer access I'll have.  (Plus, I anticipate it being a whirlwind trip with not much time to update blogs and add things to the online shop!)  And with it being a bustling time of year, I didn't want to throw off the calendar.  I decided to post them early and hopefully get them out early as well!

Normally I try to space out the debuts of the kits, but since they'll be coming out in quick succession, I decided to lump their launches together.  This way if participants and to be involved with more than one challenge, I can combine shipping and extend the savings to the customers.

I've been listening to the Game of Thrones audiobooks lately and have been entranced by the world depicted by George R.R. Martin.  It has made me think of other stories like "Le Morte d'Arthur" compiled by Sir Thomas Malory and The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.  I wanted to create a challenge that was inspired by that noble code of chivalry and courtly valor.  I selected a dark palette, perfect for winter, with bold shades of burgundy wine, cold steel, and royal blues.  CLICK HERE to pre-order your Noble Knight kit.  I've set the tentative reveal date for the Noble Knight Challenge for Thursday, December 11th.

I've been having a lot of fun working with the Midnight Magic Special Challenge Kit.  It has definitely put me in the Halloween spirit.  The more I thought about it, I didn't want to pass up an opportunity to celebrate the winter holidays!  Originally I thought about doing a kit in the traditional Christmas colors of red and green, but it seemed too obvious to me and is so specific.  Not only that, but I felt weird excluding participants who celebrate other winter holidays.

So, I started to think about a kit that would celebrate the beauty of winter.  I selected a crisp, clean palette.  The kit features snowy whites, cool silvers, icy blues, wintery grays, and crystalline clears.  When thinking of the challenge, I tried to summon up the first weeks of winter, when all is transformed, as if by magic, into a winter wonderland.  I tried to focus on that feeling, when everything is still fresh, fun, and exhilarating!  (I tried desperately not to think about the latter months of winter, where it seems like it'll never end after weeks of bitter cold, shivering and ever-wet socks.)  CLICK HERE to pre-order your Star Frost kit.  The scheduled reveal date for the Star Frost Special Challenge is set for the following week on Thursday, December 18th.

If you're interested in participating in one or both of the challenges, I encourage you not to delay!  The kits are quite popular and sell out quickly!  I'm hoping to get the kits out before I leave for New York, to give participants a little extra time to work.  If you get both kits, I'll combine shipping.  

I'm smitten with the kits and can't wait to see what everyone makes!

Making Faces Class in New York City...

In a little over a week, I'll be back in New York City teaching at the Whole Bead Show.  I'm super excited to be back in the City!  I'll be teaching two classes:  Making Faces and Mixed Media Mod Brooch.  For more information about the classes CLICK HERE.

I thought I would share some more samples from the Making Faces class.  It's a lot of fun and it's interesting to see what faces emerge from the clay.

If you're interested in taking either or both of the classes, it's important to sign up in advance so that I know how many supplies to bring.  Plus, it helps defray my travel expenses.  AND space is limited.  Students who sign up in advance are guaranteed a spot (unless the class fills), while students who sign up the day of may or may not be able to snag a seat.

I hope to see you there!  CLICK HERE for more information about the classes and to sign up.  For students who have reserved their spots, I'll be sending out invoices by the end of the week.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Rollin'...

Sometimes it's hard to focus and that numb, creative freeze makes it difficult to make anything at all.  And then... sometimes you're in the zone and on a creative roll!  I've been on a roll lately.  I've got lots of other projects that I should be working on, but I figure that I've got to make hay while the sun is shining!

One of the best cures for creative blockages I've found is creating consistently.  When you've got the juices flowing, it's hard to keep them contained!  With this in mind, I try to make a least one thing every day.  If I can't get around to finishing a piece or even tackling an idea, I open up the sketch book and draw a line.  The line, in of itself, isn't any spectacular, but it is a reminder that I am an artist and that I am creating something... even if it's just a line.  Some of the best ideas start with a simple line.  It can be a map from Point A to Point B, a horizon, a signal to stop, a blank space to fill... a line can mean so many things.  I had a professor in college who did this and I do it too when I don't have an opportunity to create something more elaborate.

Here are some of the necklaces that I've recently made.  The first one is a mix of orange chalcedony, rose quartz, coral, brushed bronze, and a bronze butterfly clasp.  The second necklace puts the spotlight on graduated turquoise with red horn discs and carved acrylic amber at the center with a sterling silver toggle.  In the third necklace, there's a little bit of everything blue.  There's a mix of labradorite, kyanite, larimar, faceted pearls, aquamarine, copper, and shibuichi.  The great thing about this piece is that since the clasp is decorative, it can be worn in different combinations.  The clasp can be worn in the back, off to the side, or even in front.  Another piece that is like this is the fourth necklace.  The last necklace has a sterling silver bird toggle, freshwater pearls, kyanite, labradorite, and Hill Tribe Silver seashell beads.

I'm really happy with this yield.  I have a nice sense of accomplishment after making so many pieces in one night.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Goodies from Brenda...

Look what came in the mail!  I was super excited to receive this parcel!  (All of the goodies can be found in Brenda Schweder's Etsy shop.)  I got new accessories for my Now That's a Jig! and her new book, "Collaborate: Friends in the Making".  The book is stunning and includes innovative collaborative efforts between her and some of her artist friends.  The designs are really cutting-edge and are really wearable art.

It was like getting a box of inspiration the mail!  I can't wait to play with the new pegs!  The book is packed with cool ideas and the new ring pegs will take the guesswork out of sizing (and making) consistent wire rings!  If you're interested in her new book or Now That's a Jig!, CLICK HERE to check out her Etsy shop.  I highly recommend it!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Allegory Gallery Newsletter...

We've been super busy and have a lot of great activities planned.  Did you see the latest newsletter from Allegory Gallery?  It's all in there!  The newsletter features recaps, current events at the shop, and projects in the works.  CLICK HERE to see the web version and CLICK HERE to sign up for the mailing list.

Reflections...

Yesterday was my birthday.  I used to plan elaborate birthday parties and celebrate with true gusto.  Nowadays, I use the day in a much more contemplative way and reflect back over the years.  I think about all the things I have done and all the things I would like to do.  While it isn't as festive, it grounds me and centers me.  It reminds me of how far I've come and how far I'd like to go.

Last year, we were still at our old location.  We had finally finished renovating the Annex and had been running classes for a few months.  I have to admit that I had an odd sensation of satisfaction.  The store was doing well and the Annex was up and running after so much sweat and toil.  In hindsight, it was the calm before the storm.  Six months later (and after one of the most severe winters I have experienced), we decided to leave the old storefront, close the Annex, and start over in a new space.  The transition was hard, but the rewards of taking the next step were ample and bountiful.  We have been in the new shop for nearly half a year and I couldn't be happier.  We didn't know what to expect when we moved, but the business has grown, become more established in the community, and continues to flourish.

As I look back over the years, I see a steady stream of hard work.  I see my calling.  I see my passion.  I think back on all the people I have met and the friendships I have made and forged all the stronger.  I think back on all the beautiful things I have seen and all the things that I have made.  I feel lucky.  I feel full of gratitude.  We have been blessed with such an outpouring of positive energy and support.  It's hard to imagine that four years ago, I had been diagnosed with cancer and was facing treatment.  It was a dark time and I couldn't have fathomed having a store then.  It seemed like an impossible dream, that maybe... someday... might come true.  As I look back, I see all the winding paths, connecting and unfurling... bringing me to this place.  It is a good place.  Thank you for being a part of this journey, of going with me and William into unknown territory and discovering happiness.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Inspired by Reading August/September Blog Hop...

The summer has been zooming by!  Today is the Reveal for the August and September selections of the Inspired by Reading Book Club!  For August, we read, "Stiff" by Mary Roach.  For September, we read, "Lavinia" by Ursula K. LeGuin.  We decided to combine the two most recent reveals.  Both books were met with positive reviews.

"Stiff" is a book about the second "lives" of cadavers.  While it's a macabre topic, the author uses wit and humor to soften the gruesomeness.

Fans of The Wizard of Earthsea books will recognize Ursula K. LeGuin's lyrical prose that boards on poetry.  The focus of our selection features a minor character from the Aeneid, based in ancient Italy before the rise of the Rome, giving voice and life to a female character that is marginalized in the original.  The book not only gives background and depth to the title character, but furthers her story and gives conclusion to the unfinished epic poem by Virgil.

The meet-up was a lot of fun!  Isn't it always though?  Not only do we talk about the books, but we share our lives and take a night off to celebrate creativity.  Since Lavinia was set in ancient Italy, Alison brought pizza!  Laurel brought cake and sweets to celebrate my birthday and we had wine as well!

And without further ado... here's the REVEAL:


Alison made this necklace for the August selection.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "I call this piece, "Heart and Soul".  It is inspired by the ethics and morals underlaying the practice of using cadavers.  I was inspired by this quote:  "H is unique in that she is both a dead person and a patient on the way to surgery.  She is what's known as a "beading-heart cadaver", alive and well everywhere but her brain, a body will not breathe on its own.  But hook it up to a respirator and its heart will beat..."  "... these afford her an opportunity most corpses do not have:  that of extending the lives of two or three dying strangers."  The necklace is made up of leather, a bronze toggle from Saki Silver, peanut beads, artisan lampwork glass, Swarovski crystal, and an enamel focal from C-Koop."

Laurel made this necklace inspired by the August selection.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "One of the funniest stories in the book is about a mixup in the postal service, when a box of groceries was received instead of the expected human remains!  Imagine the surprise of the people who got the cadaver instead of their ham!  I made the polymer clay components, marking the focal with the words: "contents unknown".  The beads are supposed to represent the wooden boxes the parcels were shipped in.  I strung the polymer clay beads on waxed Irish linen, to replicate the look of packing twine."

This is the necklace that I made for "Stiff".  I dug out my copy of Gray's Anatomy and scanned in some anatomical illustrations.  I printed the images on shrink film and popped them in the oven.  I used the shrink plastic components with milagros of body parts like feet, ears, arms, heads, and lungs.  All the pieces were attached to a silver chain with jump rings.

This necklace was made for the September selection by Alison.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "As promised, Lavinia never dies as she lives along with her poem.  At the end of her human life, she is transformed into an owl.  I was particularly inspired by this quote, "I fly among the trees on soft wings that make no sound.  Sometimes I call out, but not in a human voice.  My cry is soft and quavering: I, I, I cry: Go on, go.  Only sometimes my soul wakes as a woman again, and then when I listen I can hear silence, and in the silence his voice."  To make the necklace, I used one of Andrew's porcelain pendants featuring an owl, Czech glass, and leafy chain."

This necklace was made by Laurel.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "The book features several battle scenes.  I thought about chain maille armor and battle gear.  I had this necklace made of these funky "O" rings and took it apart to make this new bib-style piece.  I used silk ribbon with metallic stitching (in a leaf pattern) for the back of the necklace.  To me, the leaves represent Lavinia's connection to nature."

This necklace was made by me for the September book.  For the base of the necklace, I used a kumihimo technique with hemp cord.  From that, I hung an articulated mechanical owl from my family at Green Girl Studios.  Cynthia gave it to me years ago as a birthday present and I held on to it for just the right project.  At the bottom of the owl, I attached a bronze ring that I hung an acorn, an ancient coin replica, and shibuichi oak leaves.  In the book, Lavinia goes into an old oak grove to pray and receive visions.

But wait... there's more!  The fun isn't over yet!  Take a look at what these Inspired by Reading Book Club members made with "Stiff" and "Lavinia" in mind for the blog hop:


The next book for the book club is "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman.  For this year's book list, CLICK HERE.  The in-person meet up at Allegory Gallery is scheduled for Tuesday, October 28th!  The next blog hop is planned for Wednesday, October 29th.  If you're interested in keeping up with what we're doing, CLICK HERE to visit our Facebook page.  We also have a Pinterest board with supplemental inspiration.  CLICK HERE to visit that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Surprise...

I came in this morning to find a surprise!  My friends, Laurel and Alison snuck into the shop and decorated for my birthday!  They filled the shop with balloons, hung streamers, and wrapped the checkout desk in a festive tablecloth.  Laurel's daughter, Haileigh, made a card, featuring the two of us... including my shaved head and army green pants!

It was a nice surprise to start the day with and I feel fortunate to have friends, who know how to make someone feel special!  Thank you, Laurel and Alison!

Herald of Autumn...

In Southwestern Pennsylvania, it's hard to ignore the signs that autumn is here.  The leaves on the trees are becoming a blaze of buttered golds, burnt oranges and flaming reds.  But I look for other signs too.

One of my favorite harbingers of the fall season is the toad lily.  I love the speckled flowers.  They remind me orchids or miniature stargazer lilies. They always bloom around this time of year and I welcome their arrival.

I remember showing my mom a picture of the flower, thinking that I would impress her with a beautiful flower that she wasn't familiar with. She just laughed and said, "This one comes from back home!"  Upon doing a little research, she was right!  The toad lilies are originally from Asia and can be found from the Himalayas to the Philippines.  The toad lilies and I have found each other, far from our roots on the other side of the world.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Coral Statement Necklaces...

We had a customer come in not too long ago with three broken necklaces.  (I believe there was a rowdy dog involved in her story of how they came to be that way.)  After we sat down and talked about what she wanted, we decided to remove the fractured pieces and consolidate the beads to form two necklaces.  They can be worn together or separately.  The necklace on the bottom layer, which is slightly longer and has all the large pieces, forms the foundation for the second necklace.  The other necklace is a bit shorter and rests on top of the base necklace, filling out the collar of coral red.  They come together to definitely form a statement piece!

One of the issues of the other necklaces, which might have contributed to them breaking is that they were strung too tightly and didn't have spacer beads.  Without the spacer beads, the necklaces were stiff and didn't drape as nicely as they could.  So, between the coral sticks, I used some "ruby quartz crystal" beads that I've been hoarding.  I've also heard them called, "red velvet" beads, but they are just a faceted leaded glass crystal that has a deep red color that deepens in the shadows and sparkles in the light.

I'm quite pleased with the result!  Even better, so is the customer!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Club Reminder...

Don't forget!  We're meeting up on Wednesday evening from 6PM to 9PM at Allegory Gallery for the in-person meet-up of the Inspired by Reading Book Club.  We postponed the August book discussion, so we'll be combining meetings for "Stiff" by Mary Roach and "Lavinia" by Ursula K. LeGuin.  The blog hop is on Thursday, September 25th.  The October's book section is, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman.  Hope you can play along!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

A Bead A Day
It's Craft Night and Lisa's looking for inspiration!  If you have an abundance of quick and easy ideas, check out her post.

Resin Crafts Blog
It is amazing what you can cast in an ice cube tray.  Check out these superhero weapons!

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
See what Andrew and the rest of the talented participants made for the Festival Lights Challenge.

Giveaway & Baby Box Goodies
Catch the latest Crafty Princess Diaries podcast and get a chance to win a wonderful new beaded bracelet book.

Winter Note Card Made with "Joy" and Homemade Glimmer Mist
This card uses the prettiest glimmer mist Eileen has ever seen.  Where can you buy it?  You can't.  You make it yourself for mere pennies!

Beading Arts
Cyndi's gathered up some of the best and most recent pieces of advice for jewelry-making and jewelry businesses from around the blogosphere!

Faith and Art
Cherie muses about faith and painting and growing in your craft.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Festival Lights Challenge Reveal...

Today is the Reveal for the Festival Lights Challenge!  Normally I do a recap of how the challenges work and show pictures of the kit and Mystery Component, but you can see that information by CLICKING HERE and HERE.  We'll skip to the good part... the REVEAL!

This bracelet was made by Ann Mergl!  It features beads from the kit wired on to a length of chain for a fun, eclectic vibe.

These earrings were made by Laurel Ross.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "I normally make necklaces for my challenge pieces, so I wanted to go one step further and challenge myself by making a pair of earrings.  I saw a picture on Pinterest and decided to do my own version.  Thank you, Pinterest!  I used seed beads from the mix and strung them up on flexible beading wire, created teardrop shapes and then used brass bells to cinch the points of the teardrops.  They're colorful and bright!"

This necklace and matching pair of earrings were made by Cheryl Lee Tucker.  Here's what's she had to say about them:  "I struggled at first with this challenge.  I guess that's why they call it a challenge!  The multi-colored beads and varied sizes seemed too chaotic.  Then I remembered when I read about the lights and music on a midway!  MORE IS MORE!  So my "Calliope Necklace" is a combination of most of the beads in the kit with a small addition of blue beads from my own collection for balance.  It really stands out against my bright blue shirts.  I also got the beads for the Royal Feather Challenge and can't wait!"

Alison Herrington made these bracelets and necklaces.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "The flashing lights... the blinking lights... the blurred lights.  The popcorn smell... the hot dogs and sauerkraut smell... the mechanical smell.  The carmel corn... the cotton candy... the everything covered in chocolate.  The screams of delight and laughter... the plink games... the beeping games.  The twirling and whirling and spinning feelings in the pit of your stomach!  This is what I tried to capture in my pieces.  In the Ferris Wheel Necklace I used Andrew's polymer focal, orange Czech glass and blue sea glass as the "baskets".  The Swings necklace uses red tubes from the kit and "swing" dangles made with various orange and red glass from the kit.  The Merry-Go-Round Necklace is made without a clasp and in a random pattern of blue, iridescent, frosted cut glass round beads from my own stash.  The Whip Necklace is made with both sizes of peachy orange Czech tubes as the "cars" of the ride.  The Kiddie Ride Bracelet has one Czech glass tube as a focal and matches all the necklaces.  I had a blast with this challenge!"

Naama Eisenstein of Naama from Peculiaris made this matching set of earrings, bracelet and necklace.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "This is the first time I've taken part in such a challenge and it was even more fun than I imagined!  I loved the image Andrew gave in the kit description of colorful festival lights as seen from a carnival ride.  When I got the kit I could really see what he meant and wanted to keep this messy-joyful feel in my designs.  It took awhile to think it out, but I'm happy with the results.  The earrings are long, dangly and have lots of movement."
  
"This necklace/bracelet set is my main design from the kit.  It can be worn as a collar-length necklace and separate bracelet, or the pieces can be attached and transformed into one longer necklace.  If you want to see what else I've made from the kit, you can visit my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/peculiaris"

This necklace was made by Crystal Lombardo Farrell.  Here's what she said about the piece:  "I took this challenge much more literally, and tried to make a necklace which was reminiscent of a string of carnival lanterns."

This bracelet was made by me.  The base of the bracelet is constructed with peyote stitch with a tube clasp.  I embellished the edge with a random assortment of seed beads from the Luxury Bead Blend.  On one side, I've stitched on holographic sequins that remind me of flashing carnival lights.  The bracelet is reversible, so it can be worn with either side facing out.

But wait... that's not all!  Please swing by the blogs of the other participants from around the world!  Check out what they made for the Festival Lights Challenge!


Up next is the Royal Feather Challenge!  The reveal date is scheduled for October 16th!  Check back here to see all the lovely creations!

Unexpected Findings Book Blog Tour...

Earlier this week, I wrote about Michelle Mach hosting a blog tour to celebrate and promote her new book, "Unexpected Findings: 50+ Clever Jewelry Designs Featuring Everyday Components".  The tour offers further insight into the making of this book and shares projects made by Michelle and the contributors featured in the new publication.  PLUS there are fun prizes up for grabs!

CLICK HERE to find out more about the blog hop and how you can win those prizes, including a Grand Prize of a $50 Etsy Gift Card!

When I was asked to participate in this book, I was really honored and jumped at the opportunity.  I love the concept!  It definitely holds a special place in my heart.  When I was first started out, I had studied fine arts, but had no formal training in jewelry-making.  In the early days, I didn't always know what certain components were for and used them how I thought they should be.  Sometimes my results matched up with their intended purposes... sometimes not.  I also didn't have a huge budget then and often times had to make due with what was on-hand to achieve the look I wanted.  Some of those early experimentations and substitutions were more successful than others, but the process instilled in me a curiosity and a desire to think outside of the box.

Even now, after my collection of tools and beads has grown exponentially, I still turn things around, flip them over, and play.  The goal is to look at things differently and see beyond what is "supposed to be".  I think there's a sense of adventure when you're exploring what could be in your designs and examining the potential of a component.  It's off the beaten path and can result in new discoveries.

For the book, I created two pieces:

"Searching for Simplicity" by Andrew Thornton

"Queen of Thorns" by Andrew Thornton

It was really fun coming up with these designs.  I got to play around and try new things out and look at common components in different ways.  I'd elaborate on the designs and the special techniques incorporated in them, BUT I don't want to spoil all of the surprises and encourage you to check the book out!

Here is the list of participants in the Unexpected Findings Book Blog Tour:

Monday, September 15th
Michelle Mach

Tuesday, September 16th
Lorelei Eurto
Erin Siegel

Wednesday, September 17th
Cindy Wimmer
Erin Prais-Hintz

Thursday, September 18th
Andrew Thornton

Friday, September 19th
Denise Yezbak Moore
Molly Schaller

To be entered to win one of the prizes, all you have to do is comment!  You can comment on all eight participating blogs for a total of eight chances at winning!  Michelle will randomly select a winner from the comment sections.  For more information about the book, the blog hop, and the prizes CLICK HERE.

I definitely recommend this book, and not just because I'm in it.  It's packed with all kinds of useful information and innovative ideas of how to rethink everyday findings and give them new life.  If you're interested in finding out more about the book and ordering it online, CLICK HERE.  For a limited time, you can save 10% off!  Use coupon code, "THORNTON10" to receive 10% off your purchase OR use coupon code "AT5OFF2)" to save $5 off of a purchase of $20 or more.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pretty As A Flower...

Our neighbors at the shop have a beautiful garden.  On nice days, it seems like there's at least a dozen or more people who stop to admire the abundance of brightly colored flowers.  I have to confess that I'm one of them.  I think that we're lucky to be so close and can enjoy them on a daily basis.

The other day, I stopped to take in the technicolor dahlias, speckled lilies and sunny Black-eyed Susans.  A storm had come through the night before and some of the plants had been slightly damaged.  I noticed that a stalk of flowers had blown over and fell across our sidewalk.  I bent down to right the fallen plant and paused to study the fanned out corona of pastel petals.

At first, I was struck by the sheer beauty of it.  It was so... pretty.

As I looked closer though, I saw that the flower was damaged.  Some of the petals were crushed and others were loose and fluttering off.  The flower was teeming with insects.  Small beetles had chewed the under-petals lacy, spiders had spun dew-splattered cobwebs, and tiny gnats swarmed around the slightly ragged center.

What happened?  A moment before, I was floored by how pretty it was and then... I was shuddering as I felt something scuttle across the back of my hand.

This is life.

At first glance, things can seem like absolute perfection.  Under closer examination, you might find things that give you the heebie-jeebies.  But then, as you consider that everything has its place in the Universe, the sense of beauty returns.  The dying flower is all the more beautiful, because it exists in that moment.  It is ephemeral.  There have been flowers before... there will be more flowers in the future... but this flower is special.  It is special, because it is the one here and now.  While there may be other flowers in other gardens that are ever so similar, it is not the same.  This flower becomes more than just a flower.  It becomes a moment.  The insects are part of bigger picture, of life, death, decay, and rebirth.  The moment is a link in a chain that seems impossibly long and almost endless, but eventually connects back.  Flaws might be discovered, but the beauty returns and it's a deeper kind of beauty.  It's the beauty that comes with understanding and appreciation, and recognizing that the moment must be cherished because it is fleeting.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Today is the REVEAL for the Mystery Component for the Royal Feather Challenge!  Up until now, only the participants of the challenge were in the know.

The Mystery Component is a polymer clay pendant made by me.  Originally I thought I was going to make something with a peacock feather, but then I decided to throw a curveball and put the emphasis on "Royal" in "Royal Feather".  So I made a pendant with a stylized crown motif.

To find out more about the Royal Feather Challenge, CLICK HERE.  And keep your eyes peeled for the Blog Hop Reveal of Festival Lights on Thursday, September 18th!

Unexpected Findings Book Blog Tour...

My friend and talented jewelry-maker, Michelle Mach, is coming out with a new book!  She and the contributors of, "Unexpected Findings: 50+ Clever Jewelry Designs Featuring Everyday Components" are sharing a little bit about the book AND she's giving away prizes to celebrate the new publication!  To find out more about the blog hop and how to win the prizes, CLICK HERE.

Here's the schedule:

Monday, September 15th
Michelle Mach

Tuesday, September 16th
Lorelei Eurto
Erin Siegel

Wednesday, September 17th
Cindy Wimmer
Erin Prais-Hintz

Thursday, September 18th
Andrew Thornton

Friday, September 19th
Denise Yezbak Moore
Molly Schaller

If you're interested in finding out more about the book, CLICK HERE.  For a limited time, you can save 10%!  Use Coupon Code "THORNTON10" to receive 10% off your purchase OR use "AT5OFF20" to save $5 off of a purchase of $20 or more.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

Blue Glass Sculpture
Cherie makes a blue glass sculpture for her home.

Beading Arts
Sometimes you just need to use some leftovers!  Cyndi has a cute earring project to share with you.

Is there a clay recipe suitable for an essential oil diffuser pendant?
A reader was looking for a clay recipe to make essential oil diffusers.  Read Eileen's answer.

Ornament Prototype
Crafty Princess is planning ahead for the holidays with this super simple sewn felted ornament project.

Resin Crafts Blog
Halloween and resin go hand in hand if you shop in dollar stores!

Carmi's Art/Life World
The summer project of creating a dozen crafty cuffs is right on track.  Number eleven is elephant themed!

A Bead A Day
Did someone say Sparkle?  Lisa has come up with a new mantra: Sparkle, sparkle, sparkle!  Join her as she obsesses over shamballa beads.

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Andrew does a recap of his recent trip out to Philadelphia for BeadFest.

Snap out of it, Jean!  There's beading to be done!
Jean reviews the wonderful new book by Jamie Cloud Eakin, "Bead Play with Fringe, Techniques, Design, and Projects".

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beads Baubles and Jewels Project...

In the second segment of the episode of Beads Baubles and Jewels that I appear in, I show viewers at home how to make decorative bead caps using two-part epoxy clay.  It's a fun technique to add texture, disguise a wire-wrap gone wrong, or to coverup a chip.  If you're interested in step-by-step instructions, they've posted them online!  CLICK HERE to see the tutorial.

The great thing about two-part epoxy clay is that it cures rock-hard and can be customized with different textures, pigments, and embellished with chatons and flatback crystals.  So you can let your creativity run wild with this technique.

If you would like to see the episode I appear in (and are not in an area that airs the show), episode 2010 will premier ONLINE on Friday, September 19th starting at noon.  Just visit the website and follow the links to the latest episode being shared.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Beads, Baubles and Jewels: Episode 2010...

Did you know that I'm going to be on TV?  Last year in November, I filmed an episode of Beads Baubles and Jewels with the lovely, Katie Hacker.  The show airs on some digital PBS stations and I've heard from folks around the country that they've caught the episode already!  If you're like me and live in an area that doesn't air the show on TV, you can see it online!  The episode debuts online next week on Friday, September 19th starting at noon!  Just CLICK HERE to visit the website.

Initially, I was a little apprehensive, as this is the first time that I've been on TV.  (It didn't help that I white-knuckled it through a lake effect blizzard to get to the studio.)  But once I got there, I had a lot of fun.  It was so nice to see old friends and make new ones!  Katie and the crew were so patient and made the process a breeze!

In episode 2010, "Art Inspired Jewelry Making", we quickly chat about my artistic background, blogging, and starting a business.  Then we shift into the second segment, where I demonstrate how to make decorative bead caps out of two-part epoxy clay.  In the last segment, Katie shows how to make a necklace with beaded chain.  She uses one of my porcelain pendants as a focal in her lovely (and easy-to-make) design!

This is a necklace that I made using the epoxy clay bead cap.  It's a wonderful technique if you've chipped a stone or want to add a little bit of an organic vibe to your wire-wrapped pendants.  In this piece, I've used a piece of amethyst (embellished with the epoxy clay technique) on a length of chain with a vermeil spacer from Singaraja Imports and Swarovski crystal dangles.

If you get a chance, I'd love for you to take a look and watch the episode.  If you like it, I hope you'll comment with wild abandon and share the link.  I had a lot of fun and would love to be invited back.  So make sure you check into www.beadsbaublesandjewels.com on Friday, September 19th starting at noon to see the episode!