Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quick Tip: Adding Color...

I make A LOT of wire-wrapped dangles.  Headpins are my friends and they have done their job marvelously over the years.  But I wanted to add a touch of color without having to break out the powdered enamels or wait for the already colorized ones to arrive in the mail.  So... I made a low-tech version of the popular colored headpins.

I simply scuffed up the heads of the pins with a bit of sandpaper and dipped them in some Testors Enamel Paints.  These paints are specifically designed to bond with metal.  Once the first coat was dry, I dipped them again.

So far, so good!  The paint has held and I didn't notice any significant scratching or chipping while using them.  They were really easy to make, look great, and add just a touch of color.

Day Off...

My roommate at the store and I usually split Wednesdays.  It's something we came up with to help each other free up some time and make our schedules a little easier to bear.

I had a wonderfully productive evening and stayed up late to work.  Now that I have to be at the store early (for me) in the morning and be both functional and relatively pleasant, staying up to work in the quiet of the night is a rare pleasure these days.  I am a night person by nature and my best ideas generally come when everyone else is asleep.  So knowing that I could sleep in, I stayed up.  It was delightful!  The results of my efforts are forthcoming and I'll share in due time.

In any event, it snowed this morning and Laurie told me to just stay home.  (When the weather is bad, it can get mighty slow at the shop.)  So, I thanked my roommate profusely and took her up on her offer in favor of continuing to work at home.

I got a lot accomplished.  I was even about to get some ironing done.  (I have been systematically eliminating all special care clothing items from my closet, but there are still a few things that I still wear and cannot give up that benefit greatly from a good pressing, from time to time.)

I set everything up and went into the other room to grab some starch and came back to the above scene.  Paulo had made a little bed out of the clothes piled on the ironing board waiting to be pressed.  It was so cute and he looked so sleepy and comfortable that I didn't dare wake him.  I guess I won't be wearing that shirt tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Sale...

Along with notes of concern, I also received several requests for me to reopen my personal Shop during my "hiatus".  I was reluctant to add another task to my seemingly endless to-do list, but thought of it more of a chance to liberate some of the old pieces I made to make way for the new projects in the works.  So I've temporarily reopened the Shop for the holidays.  I've added back quite a few of the copper and bronze coin pendants and components; some of which will be discontinued and phased out permanently after the sale is over.  So make sure to stock up on your favorites, before they say goodbye for good!

I've enlisted a coupon code to help in the task to clear the area before the new things are to begin.  How apt that it's Cyber Monday!  Use coupon code "HOLIDAY" to receive 30% off your order.  CLICK HERE to visit my Shop and to take a look at the pieces and get your's before they're gone.  (The code will be good through December 1st.)

A Song for Small Things...

"One.  Two.  Three.  Breathe."  Those are the words I said as I sat down to write this post.  In the six years that I've had this blog, this is perhaps the most sporadic that I've updated.  Usually I post on a daily basis... sometimes even more!  But lately I've had a hard time connecting to this medium.  It's not for lack of things to say or because I don't want to do it.  I do.  But it has been difficult summoning up the mental fortitude to sit down and write and express my thoughts in this digital forum.

In the past few weeks, I've received dozens of emails and messages from concerned readers, asking how I am and if everything is okay.  After going back and reading the last couple of entries, spaced a week apart at a time with the occasional insubstantial filler speckled in between, I can see how my "phoning it in" could be cause for alarm.

But I am fine.  Actually, I am better than fine.  Small things have been shifting.  They are not the things one marks their life by or even particularly notice much, but the subtle changes are starting to move the pieces into place.  The puzzle is revealed to be a doorway to an unfamiliar path.  I find myself in new territory.

And maybe that's why I haven't been writing as much.  It's hard to sing confidently when you're just learning the words to a new song.  You can hum along – surprisingly well at times even – but until you've  taken time to really get to know the new material, it still doesn't sound quite right.

So in my time away, I've been familiarizing myself with this new tune.  I have been adjusting and harmonizing.  I've been singing in the mirror when no one has been looking.  And frankly, I'm excited by all the new prospects that lie ahead.

I'm liking this new song.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Have you heard about the #ShopIndie movement this holiday season?  The aim is to support independent artists and declare freedom from corporate chains and cookie-cutter products.  #ShopIndie encourages people to find unexpected items made with love from artists.

Whether you find something online via BigCartel or Etsy, in a independently-owned local shop, or from an artist directly, there are ample ways to add a truly personal touch to this holiday season!  To find out more and how you can show your support, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beaded Links...

A Bead A Day 
Enjoying the creative process can sometimes be more important than the perfect finished product! Lisa finds that out while having fun with glitter! Jewelry Making 
Here are some tips and design ideas for picking the right bracelet for the right person.

Art Bead Scene 
Heather offers a free project: a quick and simple nest necklace that uses wire to elegantly frame an art bead

Beading Arts 
Bead a continuous loop necklace for a unique eyeglass holder!

Beads & Books 
Join Michelle's last beading challenge for 2011 with a winter-themed kit featuring handmade porcelain beads by Chinook Jewelry, Czech glass, pearls, and ribbon!

Resin Crafts! 
A brand new resin has been created for jewelers and launched on the Resin Crafts blog this week!  

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done! 
Jean reviews the fabulous book, Sharilyn Miller's Arty Jewelry III! Is Sharilyn great, or what?  

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton 
Andrew muses on the importance of having time to think and "tinker".

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Handmade Holiday Kickoff...

We've got lots of really fun events lined up at Allegory Gallery!  Starting at 1PM, tomorrow (Friday, November 18th) we've got the Handmade Holiday Kickoff Event, featuring a Meet-the-Teacher event with Maria Richmond, and an unveiling of NEW work from Hawaiian artist, Candice Wakumoto. Donna Lenzi of Everyday Therapeutics Massage will also be on hand from 1PM to 4PM to ease the stresses of entering the holiday season with massages ($1 per minute).

But wait... that's not all... back by popular demand, local singer and songwriter, Jane West, will be performing from 5PM to 7PM!  Make sure to swing by to catch her live musical performance!

Write It Down...

Sometimes when things just seem too large.. too big to comprehend, it helps to write it down.  And that's what I did.

I made a list of things that were important to me and a list of things that I can do to help promote those life goals.  The lists aren't long, in fact, the more I thought about things... the more they boiled down into a few key elements that cover many facets.  These things I want to nourish and see flourish in healthy abundance.

The deceptive thing about the simplicity of my lists is that it's easy to misread them.  Each person has a different interpretation of what something can mean and how to go about fixing or fortifying it.  A simple theme, like "LOVE" has so many different definitions and aspects already, not to mention that their meanings are tempered by personal experience and personal need.  And I think that's part of the beauty of it... no two individual's lists are exactly alike, even if they appear to say the same thing.

Writing it down does clarify things though.  The act of transforming an abstract thought into something one can hold and look at is an important step of realization and actualization.  Knowing that these lists are scribbled on a piece of paper and not inscribed in stone also helps... because they can grow and change and reflect that moment of time.

These are my good intentions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Art of Thinking...

I think most artists who make a living (or try to make a living) off of their own work encounter, from time to time, the profound sense of not being able to produce enough and that Time is against their creative process.  There's a great post that articulates these feelings on the Sparrow Salvage blog that you might want to check out HERE.

For me, it's no different.  I have a million ideas and a sense of expectation from these artistic ambitions.  I often times have to table these creative pursuits in favor of the everyday demands that rear their head.  Now that there's the Gallery, there are even more demands on my schedule.  Cynthia Deis, owner of Ornamentea, offered up some great advice to those seeking to start their own store.  She left it as a reply to an excellent series of posts that Jennifer Jangles wrote not too long ago on the Art Bead Scene blog.  Basically she said:  It's hard to juggle customer demands and creative work.  It's important to make time to handle business and creative activities you don't want to be interrupted away from.

In times like these, where I feel as though I've lost my footing and am far from being centered, it's important to remember to take time to think and "tinker" as Penny puts it.  It's important to make uninterrupted time to think and to make and do things that are good not just for the business, but for the creative soul.  I have to remember that to be a better artist, business person and all-around human-being – I have to not underestimate the value of thinking.  The very act of thinking and communing with the Muses is a powerful act of creation.  It's the construction of the foundation for any artistic act.

Living In Alignment...

The title of this post might be more aptly named, "Living Out of Alignment".  Because that's what I've been doing.

I always end my letters with the words, "Simplicity Always".  It's not because I'm a minimalist or think that things should be the classic definition of "simple" but that our daily actions should be infused with a sense of grace and purpose – living in alignment.  It's kind of like the tightrope walker who seems to effortlessly balance a million things and easily walk across a rope suspended high above the ground.  It takes time, practice, patience and most importantly – confidence.  Having faith in yourself and your abilities to do what needs to be done and to do it well... that is a key ingredient.  Writing this out whenever I end an email or a letter is a reminder of the importance of this mantra.

But I have not been adhering to this guiding principle and I think it has shown.  I've tried to do all the things I did before, but being out of sync with myself, it's really been a mess.  At first they were tiny fractures, almost too small to perceive at all.  But then as time went on and they started to spiral outwards, the cracks grew.  Somedays I would do better.  And I would feel like everything was under control, but then the next day the feelings would return and it seemed like I had sunk that much further.  Two steps forward, three steps back.  I guess this is what they call a crisis.

So what do you do when you find yourself amidst a crisis?

The first step is to admit that there is something wrong.

Now comes the hard part... doing something about it.

For the past few weeks I have been actively weeding out the negative individuals in my life and clearing out the mental clutter that pollutes and propagates.  It hasn't been easy.  These things have roots that go deep and the only way to get them all the way out is to dig deeper. I wish that I could say that everything was resolved, but it's taking time... lots of time.. and it'll take more time as I continue to pull back the layers and fix what has been broken.

The other part of actively realigning myself is to address the promises that I've made.  They're kind of like pebbles.  One or two outstanding things-to-do don't weigh so much... but compounded by a hundred... then it starts to get heavy.  A thousand pebbles make a boulder.

I also have to remove what's not necessary and focus on what is.  What's important?  How can I best honor the things that are my primary focus?  Can I delegate things?  Can I ask for help?  Are there better ways of doing things so that there's more time to devote to the things that make me a better and happier person – someone who is aligned?  These are questions that I have been asking myself and am finding surprising answers.

As an artist and a maker, one of the other things that is of dire importance is to find time to make again.  It's about getting in touch with my Muses and allowing them to move through me, as a vessel of creativity.  Everyday I want to make something new.  It could be crap or it could be a masterpiece, just as long as it's something.  I draw a line every day to remind myself that I'm an artist, but it needs to be something more.  Those lines need to converge.

This is me and here is my confession... I am just another person, working to try and find meaning and purpose once again to be centered and to act from an internal space of peace and pure alignment.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekly Word: Finish...

Forty-two weeks ago the Weekly Word project began. Almost a year has passed since the first posting. It started with "Passion" and a group of women who traveled to the desert. Each of them came with a word in their heart that they shared and inspired another with. The exercise meant only to last for a day changed and grew. It became something deeper. It became a commitment. Each week a new word was posted with the aim to inspire, provoke, and encourage. Together we've traversed the seasons, exposing pieces of our hearts, minds, and souls.

The final word is "finish".  It is the last word in this series of weekly prompts.

I want to thank each and every one of you who have participated in this exercise, those who have shared on their blogs and those who have been following along privately and in their own ways. You have inspired me beyond words.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Stone of Hope...

I had a remarkably productive day today.  Early in the morning, I did some baking and some much needed cleaning.  I did laundry and tackled some light organizing AND the dishes.  I also made progress in weeding my way through my backlog of emails.

One of my tasks today was to take some pictures around the shop.  One of them happened to be of these strands of Australian opal chips.  The picture doesn't really do them justice, as flashes of blue fire can be found amongst the pale pink, translucent stones.  The opal has a bad reputation in modern times, but is actually a stone that is supposed to impart the wearer with limitless possibilities and a shining thing called hope.  Staring at the strands, it's easy to see why the ancients felt this way.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Tabula rasa...

I wrote a half dozen entries, but each time I went to post them... I stopped.  They didn't seem right.  The words and pictures felt forced.

I realized that I was holding on too tight.  My goal was to capture the moment, but instead... I was strangling it.  I was burying anger and resentment and feelings of betrayal.  The more I pretended that they weren't there, the harder it was to express myself.  The more I bottled it up, the more I bottled myself up with the salty mix of regret and bitterness.  I kept revisiting how disappointed I was in a business opportunity that ended.  Ultimately the dissolving of that particular tie was a relief and a blessing – opening doors to new and better things, but still the shadow tainted what should be a happy time.

And then I wrote the words on the back of a leaf.  The leaf was still green, but edged with brown and red.  Its time was done too.  I wrote the words on the back of the leaf and when I was finished pouring out the feelings of hurt in a hurried hand, I cast it into the creek that runs along the road.  I could see the ink lift and the words smudge as it floated away... drifting away, away, away.

So, here I am... writing perhaps the first "real" post in a long time.  They too are clicked out with hurried hands, before I have a chance to reconsider.  I've put into this post more than just the recounting of an act of cleansing, but my hope for the good things ahead and blank slate I'm leaving behind.

Weekly Word: Cherish...

This week's word is "cherish". Create a piece of jewelry, a work of art, or take a picture that, in your opinion, best captures the meaning of the word. Think about the word and its different interpretations and how it makes you feel. Translate it into whatever medium you'd like and then post about it on your blog. Once you've uploaded your blog post, copy and paste the URL into a new comment on this post. Be sure to check out what others are making, inspired by the weekly word. Don't delay; you have a week until the new word is posted.

Friday, November 04, 2011

October Reader's Challenge REVEAL...

Today is a special day!  It marks the reveal of the fourth Reader's Challenge on my blog!  A design kit was created with artisan pieces made by Sue Kennedy, Keith O'Connor, and RareEarth beads.  It also featured a mix of Swarovski crystals and pearls, carved stones and a Luxury Bead Blend.  The kit also included a special mystery component from my family – a fine pewter skull bead from Green Girl Studios.  Originally I had planned for some natural brass peanut chain to be added, but it was confiscated by TSA... so I added a ball chain instead.

Participants were asked to create a piece (or pieces) using as much or as little of the kit as they were inspired to.

Challengers who wanted to share their creations and don't have blogs were allowed to send their pieces in or send photographs of their work to be revealed here.  Below is a fine example by Christina Porter:

The above piece was created by Christina Porter.  Here's what she had to say:

The Kit items reminded me of eclectic items I would collect as a kid and put in my jewelry box, especially the blue swirled ceramic bead from Keith O'Connor and deep blue round tiger's eye carved bead.  I used the items in the luxury mix to make the necklace and a gunmetal padlock from my treasures as the pendant/clasp.  

I attached more charm/ treasures dangling from the lock.  I also made a pair of semi-matching earrings from items in the luxury bead blend - I love the cobalt blue glass seed beads. They remind me of vintage blue glass!

Aren't the pieces that she created lovely?  I love the mix of textures and how she's got a funky vintage feel.

The below pictures are my own contributions to this month's challenge:

For the necklace, I made a real departure from my normal style.  I think I've got the bones of an interesting idea.  It needs a bit of tweaking and a few edits, but it's a good start.  I created a bib-style piece with textured layers from the Luxury Bead Blend.  The holes of the recycled glass beads, created from cassava stems, are large enough to pass nicely over the ball chain.

I reworked the necklace several times, trying to put in all of the different artisan components.  But I think the necklace demands a more simple approach.  So with the leftovers, too good to pass up, I made a bracelet.  It's not too terribly designed... just a bit of Memory Wire, but I was pleased with how everything seemed to just work on the bracelet.

It was such a pleasure to see what everyone made.  So many different design ideas!  Everyone's pieces turned out so unique!  For more fun, check out what the other participants made on their blogs:

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Asheville: Tupelo Honey...

The first day of the workshop, we went to Tupelo Honey for lunch.  The wait for this popular downtown restaurant was long, but once we were settled in, the Southern comfort food worked its magic and the steady stream of sweet tea plied good humor from the hungriest of the bunch.

The picture is of Dawn's serving of Brian's Shrimp and Grits.  It was too pretty not to take a picture of it!  Having had it in the past, I can attest to the creaminess of the goat cheese grits and the full flavor of the mix of sweet caramelized onions, slightly spicy sausage, earthy mushrooms and of course the gosh-darn yumminess of the shrimp!

Asheville: ScreenDoor...

When the idea of having a blogging workshop in Asheville twinkled into life, I knew that one of the first places that we'd go to was ScreenDoor.  What I love about ScreenDoor is the interesting mix of objects – such a wide array of art, antiques and eclectic artifacts.  If the provenance and personal histories of the pieces weren't enough to pique the curiosity of any passerby, the way that they were displayed in little still-lives was.  The arrangement told a story and sometimes the contrast of the different elements said it all.