Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Goodnight Moon...

Goodnight stars, goodnight air...
Goodnight noises everywhere.

New Vintaj...

Guess what came in the mail today? Lots of beautiful natural brass goodies from Vintaj! I'm smitten with the new lines and the new Vintaj Jewelry Technique Book they've recently come out with. The book is full of ideas and beautiful designs.

Above are some of the new Altered Blanks. They are so full of potential. One of the ideas in the new techniques book is to run it through an embossing press to create custom patterns! I can't wait to try that one out. I'd be very interested to see some of my drawings embossed on the metal blanks.

I'm really excited about the new Fastenables. They've got really innovative shapes and could easily be manipulated into decorative bails and unique earring components. I love how they've got a nice mix of natural themed designs, like the leaves and some more structural-looking pieces like the "Odd Parts". The "Odd Parts" would be particularly nice in some new Steampunk designs.

I have to admit though that some of my absolute favorites are in the new Arte Metal series. I love the rich coloring. It's like a cross between gunmetal and cast iron. I can't wait to string some of these components up with some lustrous dark blue pearls. The other thing that's cool about these pieces is that they're not just for jewelry and can easily be used in altered art projects and assemblages. My mind is reeling with all of the possibilities!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To Fly, To Hunt...

There are a pair of hawks who soar through the valley that the homestead overlooks. What grace! What beauty! And every once in awhile, from their great heights, with dart like precision, they descend upon their unwary prey in a rushing, sweeping, free-fall. Tonight I'm going to adopt this technique and try and hammer out as much of my chores as possible. Big skies are ahead, indeed. But for now... the hunt.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Rays of God: Completed...

Four years ago, I started a body of work entitled, "The Rays of God". At the time, I was very interested in the concept of change and the manifestations of change physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Part of my research and work dealt symbolically with change. I explored the symbol of the butterfly and compared it to patterns in the brain and in bone structures. Chaos Theory and "The Butterfly Effect" depict a hypothetical butterfly over the ocean and causing, through a sort of ripple effect, a hurricane to form thousands of miles away. The idea of such a small creature causing such a big reaction intrigued me. I even filled a room with artificial butterflies hung just above the head on clear filament. With a few arranged mirrors, it looked as though the white room was swarming, endlessly with these creatures. If one butterfly could cause a hurricane, imagine the potential of thousands!

The other half of my research lead me to the human body and studies in anatomy, abnormalities, and evolution. That was probably one of the first times I was introduced to ivory anatomical sculptures popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was all very fascinating and I was charmed by their functions. I was also very curious about the morphology of organs and bones. It was only a matter of time before I descended into the psychology of the brain and discovered the case of Dr. Schreber. If you're not familiar with Dr. Schreber, his story and psychosis were interpreted and evaluated by Sigmund Freud as one of Freud's major case studies. Dr. Schreber believed that "The Rays of God" were transforming him into a woman... and that they were, in some way, making him more perfect. The idea stuck with me.

Thusly, this sculpture was born. It was patterned off of the old anatomical sculptures. In some of them, I filled them with drawings. In others, I left them empty... but in this one, I wanted to fill it with light... with the "rays of god".

I came across the sculpture while I was unpacking. I was saddened that I didn't get to finish my project. That's when my fingers began itching and I couldn't not work on filling up the cavity with crystals and resin.

Not only do the crystals reflect and refract light, but they are also symbolic of perfection. I was curious about what would happen if indeed the "rays of god" changed and manifested in a human being.

Above is a detail of the face. I wanted the figure to be androgynous and neither overtly male nor female. Perhaps, in a weird way, I gave Dr. Schreber exactly what he wanted and needed.

Above is a detail of the crystals and resin arranged within the cavity.

When I came across the sculpture, I knew that I wanted to finish it and so I set about doing just that. It's been years since I worked with many of the concepts, but as I worked on the piece, all of these thoughts and ideas came back... the idea of transformation in different ways and on many levels.

It took years, but "The Rays of God" series is finally complete.

Collaboration for a Good Cause...

The star-studded George Clooney special is merely an afterglow now, but the rebuilding of post-earthquake Haiti will take years and concentrated effort. Our help is needed now, more than ever. Jewelry designer extraordinaire, Lorelei Eurto and I teamed up to create a collaboration to help raise money to further aid the American Red Cross's Haitian Relief Fund.

The necklace is comprised of a hand-stamped silver focal by Heather Wynn (that reads: "The entire sum of existence is the magic of being needed by just one person"), wire-wrapped natural sapphires, Herkimer diamonds, green quartz crystals, vermeil cornerless cubes, and faceted moonstone, an abundance of sterling silver chain, hand-made silver metal clay chain by me, a toggle from my family at Green Girl Studios, vintage buttons from Lorelei's grandmother's button collection, Swarovski crystals, a Marsha Neal Studios ceramic shard, hand-made chain from Lynn Davis, and vintage lace.

The necklace measures 27 inches long.

Above are some details from the necklace. Bidding for the necklace will take place on Lorelei's blog in the comment section. Make sure to read the previous bids before making your own. The auction will run from today (Monday, March 29th, 2010) to Midnight on Monday, April 5th 2010! CLICK HERE to visit Lorelei's blog to bid and find out more!

I think in the face of adversity, it's easy to feel small and helpless... especially when something SO BIG happens. But I also think it's important to remember that we can band together and help in our own ways. Even the smallest of stones cast creates ripples. Please do your part by either bidding on the necklace we've created HERE or by donating what you can directly to the Red Cross Haitian Relief Fund. Together we can make a difference.

Note: A big thank you goes out to Nina Bagley, whom we modeled our fundraising efforts after.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Beaded Links...

Ahh..spring green!! Otherwise known as peridot, Lisa uses some swarovski components to create a bright, spring bracelet.

Tammy has been showing off some of her favorite jewelry pieces on her blog this week like this pretty earring and necklace set.

It's the Art Bead Scene Monthly Carnival Blog. This month's theme is "passion."

Does the beginning of spring lift your spirits? Cyndi has made a spring bracelet sponsored by Artbeads to celebrate this most wonderful of all seasons.

A vintage TUMs container becomes a necklace centerpiece in Carmi's project this week.

Rewind: Is your bronze metal clay warping? Then Cindy's got the tool for you - Rawhide!

Whoo- whoo! New porcelain owl pendants inspired by internet sensation Molly the Owl.

Lorelei is playing around with the idea of collections and series in her jewelry line.

Jean's sharp eye spots the first announcement of a BeadStyle Magazine special issue she will be appearing in!

Andrew recaps a recent trip to Detroit for the Great Lakes Bead Guild's Bead Bonanza.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Self-Portrait Friday...

Last week I started to participate in Nina Bagley's Self-Portrait Fridays. Instead of posting a photo like I did last week, I thought I'd paint a painting.

I know I should have been devoting my focus to work, but my soul called out to stop and make something. The Artist in me demanded that I paint a painting. Above is the result. Unfortunately it doesn't do the piece justice; the colors just don't pop like they do in person. The bright, fiery little ladybugs against the cool, dark purple background usually makes the insects seem to scuttle about.

On a collage background, I used a faux fresco technique. No, I did not have a snake on my neck. The snake is a reference to a recent blog post I made about needing breathing room and how my obligations were like a snake, coiling around my neck and constricting. The ladybugs are also a reference to a recent blog post about how this would be my magic year. It felt good to make this piece of work.

(The painting is small 6 inches by 10 and half inches and mounted on board.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Story in the City...

My friend, Cristina, started a blog called, "Story in the City". It's an archive of inspirational artwork and narratives collected and documented throughout New York City. CLICK HERE to check it out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Breathing Room...

With deadlines looming and obligations nagging at the back of my mind, the pressure of my responsibilities started to tighten and constrict. It was like there was an invisible snake around my neck, coiling and choking. I needed to get out of the house today and get fresh air. Although the sun was deceptively out, the temperature was still cool and crisp. My cheeks and nose stung a little and my bones ached, but still I walked. I walked along the creeks, now swollen with the runoff of melted snow. I walked and allowed the fresh air to fill my lungs and the sun to pour over my face... to let the invisible bounds loosen and fall away, one at a time, with each breath.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Beauty Is the Mystery of Life...

I've posted about the essay, "Beauty Is the Mystery of Life" by Agnes Martin from the book, Uncontrollable Beauty: Toward a New Aesthetics on my blog before. I think it's worth posting again. It's good to be reminded of what's important.

Beauty Is the Mystery of Life
by Agnes Martin

When I think of art, I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not in the eye, it is in my mind. In our minds there is awareness of perfection.

We respond to beauty with emotion. Beauty speaks a message to us. We are confused about this message because of distractions. Sometimes we even think that it is in the mail. The message is about different kinds of happiness and joy. Joy is most successfully represented in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and by the Parthenon.

All artwork is about beauty; all positive work represents it and celebrates it. All negative art protests the lack of beauty in our lives. When a beautiful rose dies, beauty does not die because it is not really in the rose. Beauty is an awareness in the mind. It is a mental and emotional response that we make. We respond to life as though it were perfect. When we go into a forest we do not see the fallen rotting trees. We are inspired by a multitude of uprising trees. We even hear a silence when it is not really silent. When we see a newborn baby we say it is beautiful – perfect.

The goal of life is happiness and to respond to life as though it were perfect is the way to happiness. It is also the way to positive artwork.

It is not in the role of an artist to worry about life – to feel responsible for creating a better world. This is a very serious distraction. All your conditioning has been directed toward intellectual living. This is useless in artwork. All human knowledge is useless in artwork. Concepts, relationships, categories, classifications, deductions are distractions of mind that we wish to hold free for inspiration.

There are two parts of the mind. The outer mind that records facts and the inner mind that says "yes" and "no." When you think of something that you should do, the inner mind says "yes" and you feel elated. We call this inspiration.

For an artist this is the only way. There is no help anywhere. He must listen to his own mind.

The way of the artist is an entirely different way. It is a way of surrender. He must surrender to his own mind.

When you look in your mind you find it covered with a lot of rubbishy thoughts. You have to penetrate these and hear what your mind is telling you to do. Such work is original work. All other work made from ideas is not inspired and is not artwork.

Artwork is responded to with happy emotions. Work about ideas is responded to with other ideas. There is so much written about art that it is mistaken for an intellectual pursuit.

It is quite commonly thought that the intellect is responsible for everything that is made and done. It is commonly thought that everything that is can be put into words. But there is a wide range of emotional response that we make that cannot be put into words. We are so used to making these emotional responses that we are not consciously aware of them until they are represented in artwork.

Out emotional life is really dominant over our intellectual life, but we do not realize it.

You must discover the artwork that you like, and realize the response that you make to it. You must especially know the response that you make to your own work. It is in this way that you discover your direction and the truth about yourself. If you do not discover your response to your own work, you miss the reward. You must look at the work and know how it makes you feel.

If you are not an artist, you can make discoveries about yourself by knowing your response to work that you like.

Ask yourself, What kind of happiness do I feel with this music or this picture?

There is happiness that we feel without any material stimulation. We may wake up in the morning feeling happy for no reason. Abstract or nonobjective feelings are a very important part of our lives. Personal emotions and sentimentality are anti-art.

We make artwork as something that we have to do, not knowing how it will work out. When it is finished we have to see if it is effective. Even if we obey inspiration we cannot expect all the work to be successful. An artist is a person who can recognize failure.

If you were a composer you would not expect everything you played to be a composition. It iss the same in the graphic arts. There are many failures.

Artwork is the only work in the world that is unmaterialistic. All other work contributes to human welfare and comfort. You can see from this that human welfare and comfort are not the interests of the artist. He is irresponsible because his life goes in a different direction. His mind will be involved with beauty and happiness. It is possible to work at something other than art and maintain this state of mind and be moving ahead as an artist. The unmaterial interest is essential.

The newest trend and the art scene are unnecessary distractions for a serious artist. He will much more rewarded responding to art of all times and places – not as art history but considering each piece and its value to him.

You can't think, My life is more important than the work, and get the work. You have to think the work is paramount in your life. An artist's life is adventurous: one new thing after another.

I have been talking directly to artists, but it applies to all. Take advantage of the awareness of perfection in your mind. See perfection in everything around you. See if you can discover your true feelings when listening to music. Make happiness your goal. The way to discover the truth about this life is to discover yourself. Say to yourself, What do I like and what do I want? Find out exactly what you want in life. Ask your mind for inspiration about everything.

Beauty illustrates happiness: the wind in the grass, the glistening waves following each other, the flight of birds – all speak of happiness.

The clear blue sky illustrates a different kind of happiness, and the soft dark night a different kind. There are an infinite number of different kinds of happiness.

The response is the same for the observer as it is for the artist. The response to art is the real art field.

Composition is an absolute mystery. It is dictated by the mind. The artist searchers for certain sounds or lines that are acceptable to the mind and finally an arrangement of them that is acceptable. The acceptable compositions arouse certain feelings of appreciation in the observer. Some compositions appeal to some, and some to others.

But if they are not accepted by the artist's mind, they will not appeal to anyone. Composition and acceptance by mind are essential to artwork. Commercial art is consciously made to appeal to the senses, which is different. Artwork is very valuable and it is also very scarce. It takes a great deal of application to make a composition that is totally acceptable. Beethoven's symphonies, with every note composed, represent a titanic human effort.

To progress in life you must give up the things that you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like – the things that are acceptable to your mind.

You can see that you will have to have time to yourself to find out what appeals to your mind. While you go along with others, you are not really living your life.

To rebel against others is just as futile. You must find your way.

Happiness is being on the beam with life – to feel the pull of life.

A Note...

I've received a couple emails about the last post, "Out in the World" and I thought I would address them here.

Firstly, I am honored and flattered by the pieces that Anne Terry and Sue of SueBeads created. What they made were true testaments to our friendships and honor the good spirit that the collages I made were originally given in. I am not offended or hurt by this at all! I am happy to know that they will be cherished. (They both have my blessing.)

Now, I hate to bring this up, because it's such a nasty thing, but my collages are all copyrighted by me. The reason why I bring this up is that I am concerned that the technique of using my collages in jewelry components will move beyond the personal realm and into the resale universe. This is a BIG no-no! Unless I've given my permission in writing, the use of my work in part or in whole is illegal. My collages, especially when used in jewelry components are what make my pieces unique, distinguishable, and one of a kind. They are my trademark and I make my living off of these signature works. There is a fine line between using my art in a personal piece and using it in items intended for resale.

I sincerely hope that this practice of incorporating my collages into jewelry components is not abused in the future. For one, it'd break my heart. (It'd also make me call my lawyer.)

Out in the World...

You never know where your artwork will end up. One particular occasion comes to mind, when I was going over to a collector's apartment to drop off some collages he purchased. When I walked into the formal sitting room, I saw that one of my paintings hung between a Philip-Lorca diCorcia photograph and a Takashi Murakami painting. In the realm of contemporary fine art, these are some HUGE names. To have my piece among them made my heart sing.

When I was in Detroit this past weekend, I was greeted by Anne Terry, who was wearing a lovely piece that she made in a class with Anne Mitchell. Behind the mica was one of my collages. It was a treat to see this collaboration and my collage framed so eloquently. I had almost completely forgotten that she had written me earlier in the year about this, but was pleasantly reminded when I saw her wearing the piece!

Earlier today, I was surfing the web, when I dropped by Sue Bead's blog. I scrolled down and saw a post called, "Heart Collage Pendant". Upon hearing about Anne Terry, Sue was moved to create her own pendant out of one of my collages. As a general rule, I don't encourage people to cut up my artwork, but this turned out quite nicely! Sue immortalized my collage by embedding it in a heart-shaped pendant much as I did earlier in the year in a piece called, "Not Without" (which now lives with a delightful new friend named Lynette).

You never know where your art will end up out in the world... whether treasured on a wall or next to someone's heart, it is always a surprise and a pleasure to see that it is cherished.

Lampwork Sale...

I'm uncovering goodies from my travels to post in my shop and I need to make room for all the new treats! Receive 10% off all Artisan Lampwork Glass in my shop by using coupon code "lampwork". I've got some really awesome pieces by Kevin O'Grady and Art Seymour up right now. Take advantage of the sale and receive a special lampwork glass gift in addition to your order!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Year of the Ladybug...

When I moved out to Bolivar, which is small town of 450 people in rural Southwestern Pennsylvania, and described the area to my sister, Cynthia, she said, "This will be your magic year."

To be absolutely truthful, I didn't really know what she meant by that. Not really, anyway. Sure I grasped the concept of being dedicated to one's craft and having no distractions... but what I recently came to realize, was that it wasn't about making artwork without distractions... it was making it in harmony. It was about discovering the power of little things and taking advantage of the moment.

This past weekend was the Spring Equinox. After such a rough winter, the warm rays of the sun are much appreciated. The melting of the ice and snow thawed out the sluggishness in my soul and the chill in my heart. As if by cue, swarms of ladybugs came out. These little creatures, crawling all over my hand have a message – a promise. That this will indeed be a magic year.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Due to some traffic complications, I arrived in Detroit a little later than planned. I was greeted by Anne Terry, who was wearing one of my collages in a piece that she made in a class with Anne Mitchell. It turned out lovely and I was able to at least stow my stuff.

I made my way over to Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio's house. She generously offered to let me stay so that I wouldn't have to kill myself by driving all night, setting up, doing the show, breaking down, and then driving all the way back for the one day show. After all that I'd need cheap health insurance! When I got there, Melanie had a couple of people over for a little soiree. It was a delightful treat! I felt so welcome and warm.! When I got there, Melanie had a couple of people over for a little soiree. It was a delightful treat! I felt so welcome and warm. She went to a lot of effort to produce a fabulous spread and for that I'm super grateful! It was the perfect way to wind down after a long drive. I had a delightful time talking with her and her friends and family.

I brought a cake I had made the night before to add to the general splendor. It was my take on a Rum Raisin Cake. It turned out lovely, but I was disappointed that in the last hour in getting there, a car stopped in the middle of a ramp and forced me to slam on the breaks (as she was sort of hidden behind a bend). Of course a suitcase shifted and half the cake got smashed, but it was still edible.

Below are a couple of pictures from the show. I quickly snapped these in the morning before the show opened.

Above is a picture of Sak behind his Saki Silver booth at the show. I love all the new capped Buddha beads that they're doing now and all the new bronze and shibuichi they are making. It looks awesome.

Another really fun friend and talented artist at the show was the ceramist, Diane Hawkey. She was one of the folks who came over last night to Melanie's house. I've admired her work for awhile from afar, so I feel lucky to have gotten an opportunity to see her work in person and up close before the show started. She had so many new and different pieces that were really exciting.

Pictured above is the delightful, Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio. I had a lot of fun talking with her and catching up. She's definitely one of those people that I wish I saw more of. Melanie had a lot of really awesome new stuff and her Big Cartel shop is definitely not to be missed.

Anne Terry told me that this lemon cake rocked. Apparently they hire a really nice caterer for the event instead of having the standard show food. The cake was tasty. It was super zingy and zesty! It probably wasn't a good combination with my warm can of Coke, but I made do.

The show was a lot of fun and I could tell that everyone was excited to see us. We took a break from the show, so it was sort of like our home coming party.

After the long ride back, I'm finally home and will have a little while before the next show. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Come See Me...

I'll be representing my family at Green Girl Studios at the Great Lakes Bead Guild's Bead Bonanza tomorrow in the Detroit area. I'll have signed copies of Cynthia's new book, Enchanted Adornments: Creating Mixed-Media Jewelry with Metal, Clay, Wire, Resin & More, new designs in pewter, bronze AND shibuichi, and hundreds of your long-time favorites. If you're in the area or anywhere remotely within driving distance, you should definitely stop by and say hello! I'd love to meet you and see what you've been working on. (Remember that if you wear anything by Green Girl Studios, you'll get a free bead as our way of thanking you for representing our work!)
While you're at the show, don't forget to drop by some of our fellow vendors and artisan friends like, Earthenwood Studio, Diane Hawkey, Gary Wilson, and Saki Silver! I'm really excited! This will be my first time at the show and I look forward to meeting new friends and catching up with people I don't get to see nearly enough.

Splendid Things: Whimsy & Spice...

I once read a book (with a title that now eludes me) where the protagonist listed all of the "splendid things" in her life. I've decided to chronicle my own favorite things. I'm a HUGE sweets fan, so it is no surprise that my first Splendid Thing are cookies.

I first became aware of Whimsy & Spice, a confectioner out of Brooklyn through my friend Sarkilahti who owns Odette New York. She had mentioned that Jenna and Mark, the married team behind Whimsy & Spice would be in attendance at one of the local flea markets. Now when I say "flea market" you must push all thoughts of greasy questionable food carts, rusty tools caked in mud, and bootlegged DVDs out of your mind. The Brownstoners Brooklyn Flea is host to established fabric designers and authors like Lena Corwin, "rogue" perfumers like David Moltz and Kavita Ahuja of D.S. & Durga, and high-end landscape architects like Groundworks, Inc. In this hip venue, gourmet artisan-made cookies were not out of place. That's when I got my first taste and I've been hooked ever since.

My favorite of their line are their Rose & Black Pepper Thumbprint Cookies. A buttery cookie, amplified with the heat and spice of ground pepper, is balanced with the sweet floral rose petal preserves that evoke gossamer images of English rose gardens and tea services with The Duchess. The unusual addition of black pepper to the nutty almond base adds layers of complexity and elicits daydreams of voyages along the Silk Road to forbidden cities and aromatic spice markets. These are definitely not to be missed, nor is their blog called Sweet Fine Day, which provides an intimate look at the lives of a family business in Brooklyn.

Rose & Black Pepper Thumbprint Cookies by Whimsy & Spice are Splendid Things indeed.

Required FTC Disclosure: These items were purchased by me, Andrew Thornton, the author of this post. I was not paid by Whimsy & Spice or their affiliates for my honest review of their products.

Mood Music...

I'm gearing up for the drive to Detroit in the morning. Sunday is the GLBG's Bead Bonanza. Besides packing and finishing up last minute chores, I've been getting in the mood by listening to Sufjan Stevens' Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State. Soulful, melodic, and just dang expressive, these folksy ballads hit the spot good.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Beaded Links...

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Spring really arrived here, FINALLY, and Jean was inspired to create some colorful, sparkly CZ jewelry with the beautiful components she found at Artbeads!

A Bead A Day
After a treasure hunting trip through a bucket of fun spirited plastic beads, Lisa creates a "charm" bracelet to remind her of the experience! Jewelry Making
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is not a new issue for jewelry designers, but here are some resources that may help.

Art Bead Scene
Art Bead Scene Editor Heather Powers shows how she organized her studio for $45!

Carmi's Art/Life World
A few word charms by the cash register are the inspiration for a new brooch.

Cindy Gimbrone aka The Lampwork Diva
A seed catalog keeps Cindy's inspiration alive. The result is a Victorian Garden Bee Skep bead.

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
Melanie reviews a delighful new multi-media book by Sherri Haab.

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Just back from a whirlwind adventure in Hawaii, Andrew shares his experience in paradise and spotlights some bead-making talents.

Self Portrait Friday...

I had originally posted this picture in The Big Hawaii Post. I took this photo of myself in Hawaii at the beginning of the trail to the Royal Birthing Stones. You can see the stand of trees where the stones are in the distance.

When I originally took the picture, I loved it. The red clay road so perfectly contrasted the green fields flanking the path and the sky was misty and hazy and doing a marvelous halo effect and picking up shades from my grey t-shirt. The trees in the background were the perfect prop to add depth and make the space recede and add a bit more fluidity to the composition, drawing the eye back around. But upon closer inspection, I was dissatisfied with the splotchiness of my tan, the 4 o'clock shadow and the silhouette of a tree in the background, coming out of the top of my head looking like a "growth" or a tuft of unruly hair. My good friend, Nina Bagley saw the photo too and saw what I originally saw. With a couple touches digital magic, she perfected the picture. She recently started Self Portrait Friday and I thought I would participate, sharing this better version of me.

New Online Beading Resource...

I'm always on the look out for new bead resources and places to purchase components and jewelry supplies. Often times I'm asked for suggestions, but I must admit that my scope of online retailers for beads and related paraphernalia is pretty narrow and generally falls within the US. Recently I've become aware of I-Beads, which is based out of London. This is perfect for Europeans looking for competitively priced beads and supplies. CLICK HERE to visit their site and peruse their selection. Don't forget to check out their Clearence Sale on colored wire, enter to win their voucher giveaway, and explore all their new products!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


A bunch of the vendors went out for "Chinese" buffet after the show in Minneapolis. At the end of the meal, the waitress handed out fortune cookies. While the other vendors were cracking up and making jests about their fortunes... in bed, I secretly and quietly squirreled mine away. In my horror vacui heart, the words hit me in most profound sort of way.

The Twin Cities...

I only had a few hours at home from when I came back from Hawaii and when I headed out to Minneapolis. It's funny because I guess when I was leaving the airport in Pittsburgh, a group of security guards had just started their shift and when I came back to leave for Minneapolis, they were still on and jokingly asked, "Back again? What are you doing here so soon?"

It was my first time in Minnesota and being at the Twin Cities Bead Bazaar was an interesting experience. There were a lot of very talented artisans and vendors, most of whom I don't normally get to see but at Bead & Button. It was definitely a treat to meet all the lovely people who came out for the show.

Of all the pictures I took in Minnesota, this was the only one to survive. Somehow I managed to delete all the pictures of the potholes, the lakes, and Cathy Collison. The odd thing is that Jeannie (shown on the left with her husband) had a similar experience and believe it or not, deleted all of her pictures as well! I am glad that this one survived though. She brought by a most excellent polymer Steampunk winged heart for me to play with. I'm excited to use it in a piece.

I was corresponding with Jean Campbell, a local talent and beading celebrity of the region, about how I made a list of observations of the area. Here it is:

1: The potholes are the largest I've seen in my life! Some are bigger than my head!
2: 9 times out of 10, the people are not drunk, but are swerving to avoid the aforementioned potholes.
3: Internal clocks work overtime; I don't think I saw the sun once while I was there and there was a time change that gobbled an hour.
4: Every customer I spoke with mentioned the weather at least once during the conversation.
5: Speaking of the weather, my idea of "balmy" is different from people who live in Minnesota.
5a: Some people who live in Minnesota will wear short pants and flip-flops when it's 40 degrees out.
5b: People who live in Minnesota are sturdier stock than I am and were I to live there, would whither up like some kind of exotic flower.
6: Winning meat at the local bar is a common topic of conversation.
7: The colloquialisms, expressions, and accent are infectious, don't cha know?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Big Hawaii Post...

It seems as though it was forever ago that I last posted. And in terms of how fast things move online and in the cyber universe... for all intensive purposes, it might as well have been an eternity ago. But here I am... finally updating my travels.

While I was away, I had the pleasure of attending the Soft Flex Company Hawaii Show in Honolulu. This event happens twice a year and is one of my absolute favorites to attend. Sure, obviously it's in paradise, but there are so many reasons why this is so close to my heart. The biggest reasons are the customers and the other vendors. They really and truly are some of the nicest, most generous, and all around delightful people ever. They make me feel so at home and as though I'm surrounded by friends. (I could spend an entire post going on and on about the wonderful customers, but I'll limit it to a quick shout out to Donna, Elizabeth, Kat, the folks of Bead Gallery, Bead It!, and DACS among many, many, many more! You guys know who you are and hopefully I'll see you in the fall for my birthday!)

Speaking of great people who come by the show, Cora Yee, a local artist attended. I am a great admirer of her whimsical work, seeped in the local mythos and imbued with a cosmology unique to her island home. CLICK HERE to check out more of her fantastic work.

I first became aware of Cora's work through another of my Hawaiian friends and award-winning artists, Candice Wakumoto. CLICK HERE to visit my shop and see components made by Candice Wakumoto. Candice sent me post cards with Cora's work on them and I would pin them to my "Hawaii corner" in my studio. I would sit in that tiny room in Brooklyn and feel thousands of miles away, basking in the beauty of paradise.

After the show closed the first day, Candice and her husband Paul took us out to eat at a great Vietnamese restaurant called, "Bac Nam". It was absolutely delicious. They ordered ahead and made sure that some specialty dishes were prepared just for us!

These were some of the best spring rolls I've ever had. There was a whole ritual of eating them, from tearing the large veins from the lettuce leaves, to stuffing them with smaller "egg rolls", noodles and mint and then dunking them in a sweet, sour, spicy dipping sauce.

The garlic butter fried chicken was not to missed either! I'm from the South and I can appreciate good fried chicken... the addition of the garlic and the butter were an interesting take on one of my favorite staples. It's hard to imagine that fried chicken could be made more rich and flavorful, but they've managed to accomplish just that.

This is one of the specialty dishes that they had to request in advance. It's "seafood noodles" and I'm not really sure what all is in it, but it was dang tasty!

Another of the specialty dishes that they requested in advance was "poached" ginger chicken with an anchovy dipping sauce. I don't think I've ever had moister or more tender chicken. I'm told that a giant pot of water is brought to a boil, the chicken is thrown in, the pot is covered and then the heat is turned off. Two hours later, the heat from the water and the trapped steam cook this mouthwatering chicken. It's served cold and is drizzled with an amazing sauce that I couldn't stop eating. We tried to reverse engineer it. It had anchovies, chillies, fish sauce, vinegar of some sort, and other mystery ingredients.

One of the much loved dishes of this restaurant are the grilled ribs. They've got a nice char on them that imparts a smokiness and crunch. I'm not a huge ribs person, but these were fantastic and absolutely crave-worthy. I enjoyed my meal with the Vietnamese Ice Coffee which is SUPER strong and done with a mini-drip press and sweetened condensed milk. The sweetness and richness of the condensed milk cut down the acidity and bite of the dark espresso shots.

For dessert, the owners brought out homemade icy tapioca. There were two kinds, both colorful. One was served with sweet red beans and the other with coconut milk and agar agar. These were cool treats to end the evening and cleanse the palette. What an awesome meal!

At the show, there was no shortage of talent. My neighbors were Calvin Orr and Rene Yoshida of the "Aiea Glass Shack". Both of them are local and make some really unique work and are both extremely generous – generous with both local tasty treats and their bead-making techniques.

Another local artisan with a huge following is Kim of JuJu Beadz. She makes the cutest cartoon-style beads. CLICK HERE to check out her whimsical characters in lampwork glass.

For instance, how dang cute is this little puppy flying a plane? Isn't it absolutely adorable? I just love the fun that Kim has with her pieces and isn't afraid of being silly and zany.

I know that my niece, Azalea, would be going crazy for this Scooby toggle. She's a Mystery Machine addict and will watch the same Scooby Doo episode over and over. Not only is an interesting design and really inventive, but it really does appeal to the inner child in us all begging to play.

This little baby bird is another example of just how cute Kim's work is. I remember sitting in on a lecture by the art critic Jerry Saltz. He was talking about the "Vermeer Effect" and how everyone loves Vermeer and how works of art have a power to suck the negativity out of the room. His supreme example was Jeff Koons' 1992 topiary sculpture, "Puppy". He stated that if Osama bin Laden were standing next to the "Puppy", the infamous terrorist would be sucked dry of negativity and all that would be left would be a pile of "glitter and sparkles". When I think of Kim's work, that lecture springs to mind and a smile spreads across my face.

Continuing down my row at the show, there was Sara Sally LeGrand of Pretty Babies. I saw her this past February in Tucson at the Best Bead Show. I had forgotten her last name and was trying to add a caption to a photo, but couldn't remember. What ensued was a Googling frenzy, typing in every combination of details I could remember from our conversation, like "former ISGB President" and "Missouri Lampwork Artist" – all to no avail. So it was good to see her and her work again and reconnect. (I also grabbed a card this time just in case the synapses containing her last name wouldn't fire again.)

What I love about Sara's work is that it has such a lush, organic and sculptural feel. Her finished pieces are often constructed in web-like buttresses and do a marvelous job of spotlighting the fluid lines and biomorphic shapes she's created out of glass. The colors remind me of a marriage between flowers and sea-life, like the patterning of an orchid collided with the chatoyant camouflage of an octopus or some other cephalopod mollusk.

Katherine Natalia Wadsworth of Natalia Designs was set up next to Sara. I've really enjoyed getting to know Katherine from our visits to Hawaii. Even though we are only rows apart at other shows during the year, it seems like the only time I see her and actually get to talk to her is during the Hawaii show. One of the things that I've learned about her through our talks is that she's also a technical editor for science journals. This precision and eye for detail is apparent in her intricate beads with very natural motifs and themes.

Here's a panorama of some of Katherine's beads. Aren't they beautiful? My fingers itch to work with one of her beads. Several of the tree beads remind me of the woods that surround the property here in Bolivar. I'll often times spend hours examining the shapes of the lattice of branches and spread of roots at various times of day, and these beads remind me of those happy moments, communing with nature.

Of all the beads that caught my eye at Katherine's table, this was the one. This autumn tree glows with an inner fire. I love the warm, rich, amber tones and the lacy lines of melted glass cleverly creating the tree. It's as though she captured a sunset in early autumn, a tree ablaze. One day it shall be mine!

When the show was over, we had a couple of days to explore the island. I always look forward to this. We started the festivities with a trip to Jack's Restaurant for breakfast and indulged in their special biscuits. McDonald's was across the street, so we got some iced coffee and "island pies". In Hawaii they have different flavored fried pies besides the apple, like taro root, coconut pudding, and banana. Banana was the flavor this time. (And yes, the pies are fried, unlike some McDonald's where they are baked.) With full bellies, we began our adventure around the island. Even though it's something that we do every time we come, I find new things or see things from a different perspective. For instance, this time we hiked down near The Witch's Cauldron near Hanauma Bay. The waters are treacherous here, so we didn't go in, but it was breathtaking to see the swirl and pull of the sea and the intense blue that I've seen no where else.

Not far from there, are a grouping of tide-pools. I feel most at home here. Perhaps it's because this is the quintessential "in between" place. Magic can be found here. Life springs up in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Here pieces of jagged glass wash up smooth, etched pebbles. Fish swim. Crabs climb. Each tidal crater is a vessel of life, filled with treasures both alive and inanimate.

On the island, I'm referred to as "hapa". It's a term that means, "half". I'm half Filipino and half Caucasian, but in a way I'm divided down the middle in many ways. Part of me longs for the ocean and the other the fields of farms and the heights of mountains. I've never belonged to one or the other; I've always straddled the fence. The "in between" places, like the tide-pools, neither wholly sea nor land, resonate with me.

This is a view while hiking up Makapu'u. In the distance you can see a Pele stone. This stone is dedicated to the goddesss Pele, matron of fire, volcanoes, and dance. In essence she's force of destruction and creation. Most people think of Hawaii as a lush rainforest, but the islands are home to many ecosystems, including the desert. The trek out to the Pele stone is a dry, dusty one through brittle, brown and yellow grasses, pokey cacti and drought-tolerant succulents.

An example of the cacti found on Makapu'u are the prickly pear. Tourists and those wishing to capture and preserve the moment often times carve and scribble their names into the leaves. The scar tissue glows a worn tan against the bright green, some going back days... others years.

This is the view from the top of Makapu'u. When the waters are less choppy and the wind less pushy, it's said that you can whale watch and look for dolphins. At the top of the hike, the winds were blowing furiously. Even with the sun baking down, I was still chilled to the bone.

After the hike up the mountainside, it was time for a little bit of relaxation at the beach. One of the most untouched and as a result, most beautiful beaches is Lanikai. Unlike some of the other lovely beaches, this one doesn't have a public park and access is restricted to these alley-like walkways down to the beach in between private properties. Most of these properties are topped with multi-million dollar homes and it's easy to see why.

The brunt of the waves are kept back with a system of coral reef. The water is warm and clear and the sand on the beach is like wet sugar. The experience of walking on it is unique. It's soft and loose, and you have to take your time. Step by step, you're able to soak in the majesty that is Lanikai. Since there is limited access, there are fewer crowds and this private meditation stretches on for miles of quiet relaxation.

Look what I spotted washed ashore on the sands! It was a baby flying fish. Once I snapped the picture, I put it back in the water. Hopefully this little guy survived. When I saw it, I thought of Anne Choi. The last time I visited her house, she showed me her collection of flying fish prints.

This creatures also resonates with me – a creature caught between sea and sky.

After our beach adventures, we drove back to the hotel via H3. The ride glides through the verdant green of rainforests, hugging the base of and tunneling through epic, jutting mountains.

The next day, Calvin and Rene had a bunch of us over from the show for lunch. Rene prepared a feast of delicious food. We brought cupcakes from Satura Cakes. They were pricy, but there was a special promotion going and we figured that we'd splurge. We so rarely get to see these friends. In the above picture, Calvin demonstrates one of his techniques to Katherine and William. Calvin taught William how to make his first glass beads. William picked it up easily and had three finished by the end of the visit.

After lunch, we headed to the North Shore. This is outside of Haleiwa. The last time I was here, sea turtles were basking on the sandy shore. This time they were all in the water and swimming around. It was magical to watch them dipping in and out of the surf, getting momentary glimpses of these beautiful creatures.

On the drive back down, we stopped at the Royal Birthing Stones. Above is dew-covered offering of a hibiscus blossom left on one of the stones. I highly recommend for anyone planning to visit this site to bring plastic bags to put over your shoes. The red clay earth, especially when wet will easily cake the bottoms of your shoes and dye your skin a rusty orange.

In between tour buses, this is a powerful spot. The land is cleared, surrounded by tall fields and flanked by standing stones and an array of volcanic rocks that at one time meant something to someone. It's said that royalty were brought there to be born. Being there, in the stand of trees and boulders draped in leis and scattered flowers, breathing in the misty air... it meant something to me too.

The night before we were scheduled to take off, Candice and Paul met up with us for one last dinner together. We joked that in combination with the time we spent together in Tucson that this was the most we've seen each other consecutively in all the years we've known each other and that our quota was filled for the next few years. They took us to a sort of out of the way place called, Au's Garden Restaurant for authentic Chinese food.

I think this was my favorite dish from the evening. It was shrimp with honey walnuts. It was a perfect balance of sweet and savory and had a delightful crunch to it. Dipped in a mix of Chinese mustard and soy sauce, these were just fantastic!

The above dish was black mushrooms with "abalone-like". Apparently real abalone is hard to come by or really expensive and thusly they have to make the distinction between "real" and "like". The mushroom flavor was strong and earthy, and the "abalone-like" gave a nice richness and buttery aspect to the dish.

A little bit spicy, but all the way good, this eggplant dish was supremely tasty. I wish I could remember more about the dish, but I was too busy stuffing my face.

This was one of the more unique dishes. Proudly the waitress said, "This is REAL Chinese food." I believe it's pork (or chicken) with greens that's been tossed in fermented shrimp paste. Before I tasted it and after I heard the description, I really didn't know how I would react. I've found that all things "fermented" create a polarized love/hate response. I found the dish strangely familiar and a memory of a glass jar with a foreign language scrolled all over the label in my mom's refrigerator came to mind. Was fermented shrimp paste one of her secret ingredients in some of her top secret dishes? Seems highly possible.

The crowning dish of the meal was the fish. Candice said it was saltier than it should have been, but I thought it was another hit. I liked all the textures and how the different it was from the "Chinese food" that I'm used to. I felt very fortunate to have Candice and Paul show us around and take us to such delicious places that we probably wouldn't have found otherwise.

Note: I thought about breaking this rather large post up into smaller posts. It certainly would have been more manageable and perhaps I would have been able to write this sooner, but for me, the events of Hawaii were squeezed into such a short amount of time and I feel like having it all in one post captures that essence. I hope if you've made it this far, you feel as though you voyaged with me and experienced it a little as well... for I know that I carried many of you with me in my heart and you were right there along side me.