Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Glimpses from the Show...

Yvonne and Frank of Pandora Beads.
In N Out Burger! (Double double animal style, please!)
Deb Nicholson and SuezyQ!
Liz and Sak from Saki Silver.
Robin Hawk and Greg.
Beth and Laurie Anne from Flirt.
Tom and Lisa from Ligonier. (Small world!)
Cheri, Cynthia, Devin, and Mike from ArtBeads.com.
Kelly and Barry.
Lillian and her friend.
Ali and Cathy from Lima Beads.
Christi Friesen!
Paula Best, Leah Fairbanks, and Ask Sara.
Jessican Prill and one of her beads.
Ute, Denise Peck, Kristal Wick.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reader's Challenge REVEAL....

This marks the reveal of the November/December/January Reader's Challenge.  I left my piece back in Pennsylvania and didn't get a chance to take a picture of it before we left.  But I am happy to present the work of the other artists who participated in this challenge!

The kit had enameled pieces by Barbara Lewis, ceramic pieces from Diane Hawkey, glass beads from RareEarth, and a mix of Czech glass, chain, Swarovski crystals, and lots of seed beads.  The color was "jonquil".  It's traditionally a "spring" color, but while I was walking through the woods in late autumn, I found a leaf that was yellow, tinged with green.  Everything else was brown and gray, but this leaf, left in the middle of the path, was a vibrant burst of color.

And here's what they made:

Below are pieces by Alice Bavaud.  She's out of Europe and created a few pieces that are really fun!  I love the textures and the way that she used the bright yellows.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tucson Adventures...

Here are some bronze coins that I made for my family at Green Girl Studios before I left Pennsylvania.  They'll be available at To Bead True Blue, starting tomorrow and I'll have some at the Best Bead Show later in the week.
 Here's the lovely Linka from Raven's Journey!  I love their Czech glass and picked some up for the store.
 A new food vendor showed up at The Gem Mall.  I don't know what the company name is, but this is Lisa and she's serving up some mighty delicious corn... either on the cob or cut and dished up in a bowl.  Lisa is also working a musical production.  I love the people you meet in Tucson!
 Julie Young will probably make many appearences in this blog before the trip is out.  Here she is with Pam at the Gem Mall. They're from TierraCast.
Here is Sandra from the Knotty Do It All.  She's giving a demo on her knotting device.  It's so cool that we picked one up!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Pieces from Green Girl Studios...

Here are the new fine pewter pieces from my family at Green Girl Studios that will debut here in Tucson!  Aren't they great?  I'm a smitten kitten with the new Lucky Kitty-Cat Small Blessings Charm!  I'm also particularly fond of the new Skull Toggle and the Running Rabbit Toggle!  They are a lot of fun!

Friday, January 27, 2012

So It Begins...

And, so it begins... coverage of the Tucson Gem Shows as seen by me.

We haven't even got there yet, but guess who we ran into at the airport in Minnesota?  That's right, Katie Hacker!  She was on her way to CHA.  We had a nice chat while we waited to board our planes.  Usually we only have a few minutes to catch up, so it was a particular treat for us to have a good solid chunk of time to talk.  I admire Katie and all her hard work!  She hosts a TV show, helps with a farm, has two kids, launched a component line, teaches, and writes books!  In fact, Katie is coming out with a new book!  It's called, Live Wire Jewelry: Make Colorful Designs That Shine!  I can't wait to see it!  It comes out February 9th and is available for pre-order now!

Don't worry... you'll probably see me post about Katie again.  After her whirlwind adventure in California, she'll be joining us in the desert for the Gem Shows.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Call to Arms...

I call upon you now, readers of this blog, for your help!  Right now, Allegory Gallery is participating in Facebook Small Business Boost.  They are giving away advertising dollars!  All we have to do is get as many "likes" as we can, before April 1st.  If we get 100 likes before then, we'll get $100 in free advertising dollars!  If we get more, we could even get $10,000 of free advertising dollars!

All you have to do to help is go to our Allegory Gallery Facebook page and "Like" us if you haven't already.  (If you have liked us already, please don't like us again, because then you'll unlike us and we wouldn't want that.)  It's as simple as that!  Just CLICK HERE, make sure you're signed in and "Like" us.  You'll have done your part to help a small business, just starting out, get more money to help promote and establish it.  Every little bit helps!

If you could spread the word and get others who want to help Small Business to "Like" us, we would be most appreciative of your help and efforts.  The more people we can get on board, the better!

The Kit...

The February Design Kit sold out within the first few minutes!  And as promised, here are some pictures of the kit.  (Granted, they are not the best pictures, but pictures they are!)  The Design Kit, which I think is extremely challenging (I don't work too much with pinks or fuchsia) consists of a Simple Truths piece from Erin Prais-Hintz, a ceramic bead from Keith O'Connor, a polymer clay round from Pam Wynn, lots of dyed jade, vintage plastic, pink opal, rosewater opal glass, fuchsia Swarovski crystals, vintage glass, organza ribbon, irradiated shell, Czech glass, and the Luxury Bead Blend.

The Luxury Bead Blend is truly a thing of beauty!  It is made up of all kinds of ToHo seed beads, Miyuki seed beads, Czech glaass, pearls, vintage glass, rose quartz and other semi-precious stones!

Each kit ALSO includes a Mystery Component!

I can't wait to see what everyone makes!  I think this is a perfect ending to a great run of challenges!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

February Reader's Challenge...

This will mark the latest and last installment of the Reader's Challenge (that incorporate Design Kits) on my blog.  It has been a thrill to see what everyone makes and I have to say that I am in awe of all the talent!  I feel lucky to have so many wonderful people participate over the past few months.  Thank you for reading, participating and commenting on all the stunning designs!

The kits have been very successful and the blog hops a lot of fun!  You might ask yourself then, "Why is this the last one?"  Well... it's not an easy answer.  I guess it boils down to wanting to try other things out.  It was a challenge for me to round up the best materials possible for the kits and stay under budget every month AND get everything out on time.  I also started these Challenges at a different stage of life.  I didn't have Allegory Gallery then and I had more time to devote to this project.  It was a lot of fun though and I really enjoyed seeing what everyone ended up making!  And.... who knows... maybe someday down the road, the Design Kits might make a comeback?

For the last Challenge, I wanted to really test the creative limits of the participants.  There are only 10 kits available!  So, you better act fast!  I won't even get a kit this time around!  And to make things even more challenging, the contents of the kit will remain a mystery UNTIL after the last kit is sold.  Once the last kit is sold, I'll post the entire kit, save the Mystery Component(s)!  I will give one clue:  Fuchsia and Pink.

CLICK HERE to get your Design Kit.  Once they're sold out, they're sold out!

The Reveal for the November/December/January challenge will be NEXT WEEK!  Mark your calendars!  I'll post the blog hop on Monday, January 28th!  This is a never before seen kit!  Only the participants know what the kit consists of.  I'm mighty curious myself to see what everyone did!

Thanks again for making this a success and for participating in the Reader's Challenges.

Art Saves...

Barbara Lewis, author of Torch-Fired Enamel Jewelry: A Workshop in Painting with Fire, was kind enough to feature one of my blog posts on the Art Saves series on Jenny Doh's Crescendoh!  A big thanks to Barbara for spotlighting my post!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cornbread and Milk...

I was going through boxes in my studio when I came across a picture of my grandpa.  It has been a few years since he passed away and finding the photo made me miss him terribly.  So I went into the kitchen and I made one of his favorites:  Cornbread and Milk.

It's not anything fancy – kind of like him.  He never put on any kinds of airs.    It's just cornbread that's crumbled up with milk poured over it.

Later in life, he used to get really bad heartburn and this was one of the few things that he could still eat that he enjoyed without consequence.

So, I made myself some and thought fondly of the memories we shared.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Under the Floral Moon...

As soon as I get home from the Shop, I brew some coffee and get to work.  It has been a flurry of activity lately!  My work goes late into night and I find myself sorely lacking sleep, but am happy with the things that are produced.

I created a limited-edition series of "Floral Moon Pendants".  I rolled out porcelain and impressed it with different designs.  I then cut the pendants out and let them dry.  Once they were dry, I hand-tooled them and then fired them.  Once they cooled, I prepared them to be coated in fine silver.

Then the hard work... finishing them.  They're patinated, polished, buffed, waxed, buffed again and polished again.  It's a lot of hand-finishing and it reminded me why I don't make more of these style of pendants!

I think the silver looks sharp and definitely gives the pieces a lunar effect.  They seem to glow with a celestial coolness.  The floral pattern look like craters and accentuates the moon effect.

I only created 16 pendants.  Each one is unique and different and I am pretty confident that I won't be making any more.  Each one is signed on the back and would be perfect as a focal on a necklace.

Imagine it hanging from a simple silver chain or from a piece of leather, embellished with white pearls.  To find out more about the pieces and to get your's, CLICK HERE.

Ready to Tango...

I received so many requests for me to make the "Tangerine Tango" enameled beads from THIS post, that I stayed up late and made a small run of them.  I hate production work, so this will be a limited run.  To find out more about them and to take home your own, CLICK HERE.  I've only put up ten sets.  Each set includes five of the vintage beads covered in glowing shades of orange enamel.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More Than Metal...

I've recruited William to help me roll out these beads in porcelain.  Aren't they fun?  We pressed simple designs into the clay to add a decorative element.  The impressions are enhanced and really shine when enamel is added.  Before the enamel is layered on top of the porcelain, they kind of look like chewed up pieces of spearmint gum – lumpy, white and nondescript.  But adding the color is magic and all kinds of hidden details are brought to life.

Of course, the high temperature porcelain reacts differently in the flame than metal does and the success rate is much lower.  Sometimes the beads experience thermal shock in the flame and pop, snapping in half! A fourth do not survive the fire!

The porcelain also takes enamel differently and I've had to create a new cookbook of recipes to achieve the colors and vibrancy that I want.  The above image is of my efforts.  Seeing a dozen different color-palettes and five each of these beads make the process look easy, but is in fact, quite tedious and monotonous.

Tangerine Tango...

You might have heard that Pantone's Color of the Year for 2012 is Tangerine Tango.  I've been working in the studio to cook up the perfect recipe to capture this color and translate it to my enamel work.

I'm quite pleased with the results.  I've added a bit more burnt golds to my version.  I think it makes the darker – more red – orange POP!  I can't help but daydream of using this in all kinds of projects!  Just wait and see!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dimples and Skulls...

Another of my porcelain experiments included the creations of these dimpled rounds and little skull beads.  I made the picture black and white to showoff some of the details of each.  I think I might toss the dimpled rounds into the tumbler, but not for too long.  I don't want them to end up looking like golf balls.  And I think I might hand-paint the skulls (maybe Day of the Dead style).  The jury is still out...

Comfort and Creativity...

I recently saw a post on Sara Sally LaGrand's Facebook page and it really made me think.  Not so much about if I would still keep creating, because I think I'm fundamentally someone who is hardwired to be a maker of things and is compelled to create.  But it made me think... what would I do if I won the lotto?

And the thing is, I don't know if it would change my goals or even me for that matter.  I'm not a fashionista and balk at the thought of wearing impractical clothes.  I'm not really into fast cars or ones that you have to worry about getting scratched in the parking lot (of course, having a car that doesn't break down or catch on fire would be nice).  I can't fathom living in an overly big house that was so stylish that you'd be worried to put your feet up or have cats.  The thought of cleaning it or wandering the endless corridors gives me nightmares.  

However, the thought of not having bills and wondering if I'll be able to scrape up enough money to cover all of them is definitely exciting.  It would be nice not to have to count every penny.  I don't go to the doctor's or the dentist's as much as I should and knowing that I could put my health first would definitely be a relief.

On the more extravagant side, I would like to travel more and see and experience more places.  Eventually, even without the aid of the lotto, I hope to do that one day.  I'd love to travel the flea markets and bazaars of the world looking for unique finds and interesting objects.

Not only that, but it would be quite nice if I could upgrade my equipment and materials and explore all the things that pique my curiosity.  It would be a treasure to be able to take classes again or work with new processes without worrying too much about the expense of everything and if I'll be able to adapt it into my own personal work.  I would be wildly fantastic to mack out a workspace with all the bells and whistles and work extravagantly with a pound of PMC or use gold or diamonds.

But I think my core of wanting to be a vessel of positive change and to inspire creativity and beauty everyday would not diminish.  The desire to want to help support and sustain the artistic community that I belong to would not waiver.  I would be able to help other artists achieve their dreams and create new work and let these artists not feel as though everything that they did was attached to a price tag.  I know how hard it is to honor your muse truly and genuinely when you're creating things for sale.  "Will this sell?"  Is one of those questions I hope to one day not have to ask myself when I make something new.

I think the original statement of comfort killing creativity, results from a misconception that artists must suffer to make work.  I think the "myth" of being an artist – someone who is unusual, crazy, sad, depressed, tortured, wild, addicted to drugs, sex, and alcohol – is a disservice to all artists.  It's true that artists are people and are flawed just like anyone else, and that their craft often times allows them to see things that others don't, BUT do we have to proliferate the idea that art is born of pain?  That in order to create art, that you must be inherently unwell?  It's a romantic image, in that bad boy sort of way, but not necessarily something that I want to embrace.  I think when artists can give up this false image, they are better able to cope with changes like success or sudden windfalls like winning the lottery.  Then, when creativity is anchored in the Genuine Self and not rooted in the False Artistic Ego, nothing can kill their artistic spirit.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Something Old, Something New...

When we were kids, we used to go out to Sebastian Inlet so that my mom could go fishing with her friends.  I was too little to go out on the jetty; if I fell in, either I'd die by drowning or being dashed against the rocks by the rough Atlantic.  They set out five-gallon buckets in a row with nylon cord strung up between and I wasn't allowed to cross that point.  Instead, I spent time combing the beaches for shells and rocks with holes in them.  I loved them before I knew what they were.  Some people call them hag stones or witch stones; wearing them would give protection and looking through them could reveal hidden identities or peer into the world of Faerie.  Cynthia and Sheila helped me make a necklace with the stones I collected with some of the nylon cord.  I called it my "necklace of power" and pretended that I understood the language of mermaids and fishes when I wore it.

Years later, I am revisiting this form.  I love the organic shapes and the stringing versatility of the pieces.  I've made them out of porcelain and they have a magical, musical quality to them.  I'm curious as to how this will translate into my work and how I'll finish them off.  I thought about throwing them in the tumbler for a silky, matte texture... much like those original stones.  Maybe glaze them with a clear glaze?  Or finish them off with some wax?  I am smitten with the bone-like quality of the white porcelain.  Or maybe coat them in PMC slip and fire them again?  I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with these pieces, but I feel very, very good about them.

Enameling Cookbook...

In the kitchen, I am notorious for never making the same dish twice.  I am an "intuitive cook" and often work from instinct and half-remembered recipes, improvising in between.  While the results may be "good", they are far from consistent.  Those that eat my food often times lament the fact that I rarely write down my recipes and always hope that lightning strikes twice when I'm trying to replicate a dish.

After I read Torch-Fired Enamel Jewelry: A Workshop in Painting with Fire by Barbara Lewis, I went a little "hog wild" and started enameling everything I could get my hands on.  Like my cooking, I achieved results that I thought were "good" but I definitely noticed that some were better than others.  I found myself in the same boat.  "How did I get that color?  Did I layer this color with this one?  Or was it that one with that one?"  So, in order to combat my natural bad habits, I've decided to create my own personal "Enameling Cookbook" where I store all my "recipes".

Above are some of my first recorded experiments.  It's a rather dull affair; I don't too much care for production work.  But it is a good baseline and I can see definite improvement in my consistency.  Could this mean that I've turned over a new leaf?  Probably not.  But it's an exercise that I'm learning from.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow...

When I wrote THIS post, I thought that winter had nestled in and that the blankets of white were here to stay.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning and all traces of the winter wonderland were gone save for the snowmelt!  Little silvery ponds sprung up where the snowdrifts once were, reflecting the sky and truly mirroring the world around it.  The patches of gold and green were a welcome reprieve.
Along the roadside, little rivers formed.  Rushing water flanked the way, carving out new paths were old ones were lost.

And I thought to myself... life is sort of like this too.  You never know what's going to happen next.  Things can change unexpectedly and life finds a way.

Earl Grey Brownie Recipe...

This is a fairly straightforward brownie recipe with a few twists.

Earl Grey Brownie Recipe

1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar (I sometimes use 3/4 the amount of regular sugar and 1/4 the amount of brown sugar, but that's because I like brown sugar.)
1 teaspoon vanilla (I also put 1 teaspoon ground vanilla beans, but this can be tricky to find and not essential to the recipe.  I also make my own vanilla "extract" by soaking vanilla beans in rum, giving it a shake every now and then and storing it in a cool, dark area.)
2 eggs (I like to use farm eggs.)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cups cocoa powder (Dark chocolate powder is my favorite, but you can use regular Hersey's)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt  (I like to use kosher salt.)
2 tea bags, your favorite Earl Grey Tea  (Depending on the tea, there could be more or less bergamot.  Brew a cup and test it out.  If it's REALLY bitter, cut back the dose.)

You can also add nuts or cocoa nibs for added crunch.  I like to lightly toast either if I add them to bring out the flavors.

3 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (Trust me on this one.)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of strongly brewed Earl Grey Tea  (When I start to make the brownies, I make the tea and let it steep while I prepare everything else.  That way when it comes frosting time, it's nice and strong!)

For brownies, pre-heat oven to 350F.  Grease a 9x9 pan.  Mix all wet ingredients well, slowly add dry and make sure everything is thoroughly combined.  If you're ambitious, you can sift all the dry ingredients together, but I don't think it's necessary.  Open tea bags and fold in contents.  If you're adding nuts or nibs, fold them in now.  Spread evenly in the pan.  When they come loose from the sides and the fork comes out clean from the center, they're ready... usually around 25 minutes.

Let them cool before icing!

For icing, beat all ingredients together until smooth.  If it's too "wet", set in the fridge for a little until it thickens back up.  Spread evenly on brownies and lick spatula when finished.  I generally try to work on the icing while the brownies are in the oven, so that they come together quicker.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Earl Grey Brownies...

The winter brings with it a focus on home.  I find that this time of year, I'm more inclined to make soups and bake in the kitchen.  As evidence of this, I recently whipped up a pan of Earl Grey Brownies.  I was introduced to these by a friend named Monica.  I was thinking of her recently and thought that I'd make a batch.  The sweetness of the brownies is cut by the bitterness of the tea and punched up with floral notes of the bergamot.  The orangey flavor pairs well with the dark chocolate.  I like to portion the relatively "dry" brownies small and layer on a thick frosting.  What a fine wintertime treat!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Senator...

A friend of mine forwarded THIS news story to me.  I was sad to read it.  I remember running along the wood plank walkway flanked with saw palmetto and cyprus trees draped with Spanish moss.  The sound of footfalls and childhood laughter mixed with frog songs and mockingbird calls made in triplicate. I remember the sounds of my sisters and my brother running ahead with me following after and our mother's cries of protest behind us all.  No matter how many times we saw it, our childish squeals died the moment we came upon The Senator.  It rose out of the woods like a skyscraper and made all of the other trees around it look like scraggly, knee-high children.  Our eyes widened.

We didn't have much money growing up and Big Tree Park was a nearby amusement that was free and impressive enough that we took every out-of-town relative, family friend, and house guest passing through to it.  We took pride in knowing the trail and pretending like it was "no big deal" to live so close to a giant.

The Senator was 3,500 years old before it burned.  When this tree was a sampling, pharaohs still ruled Ancient Egypt, the Babylonians were under Kassite rule, and the Minoan civilization faded into ash with the eruption of Thera.    The Assyrians waged war with the continent, Hittites hammered gold, and the Mycenaeans carved the Lion's Gate.  The Shang Dynasty held China and the Mayans controlled the pre-Columbian Americas.  I didn't think that within my lifetime, this tree rooted in history would fall.

Winter's Mirror...

It has been a relatively mild winter so far.  I am grateful for that.  I don't think that the transition into being a storeowner would have gone very smoothly at all had I been forced to shovel my way out of my house to go to work on a daily basis.  (I generally run as fast and far from the cold as possible!)

But the sunny skies and temperatures in the 60's couldn't last forever.  The cold has set in and blanketed everything in snow.  This is a shot from my window. If you look closely, you'll see a herd of deer at the edge of the woods.  If you can't spot them, don't worry!  They're very good at vanishing into the landscape.

Sometimes I feel like that... like I'm disappearing into the background.  I don't mind this feeling.  I was an awkward pre-teen and wished with all my might not to stand out or be noticed.  I felt comfortable in the role of observer and even still, I gravitate towards roles of support, rather than being in the spotlight.  It's funny... to look out at a landscape, foreign from my youth and upbringing, but see so much of my personal history in the barren branches, long blue shadows, and crystalline whiteness.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Handmade Scarves at Allegory Gallery...

I'm going to be brutally honest... I have a skinny neck – like bobblehead kind of skinny neck.  And it gets really cold in the winter.  To combat the frigid temperatures, I have a collection of handmade scarves.  They are probably my favorite wintertime accessory as they can be switched out and add new life with color and texture to my rather neutral (and dare I say it, "drab") winter gear.

That's why I love these handmade scarves.  They are all crafted by hand by an artist here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  Each one is one-of-a-kind and completely unique!  She uses a mix of vintage sari silk ribbons, Merino wool, banana fibers, and silk to create these lovely works of wearable art.  I wear one of mine EVERYDAY during the cold months and receive so many compliments.  I have to admit that I was hesitant to post them, as I wanted to keep them all for myself!  But I have about half a dozen already and didn't want to be too greedy!  CLICK HERE to see the selection we've uploaded to Allegory Gallery's online Store.

Create Your Style Design Challenge...

Will you be in Tucson for the Gem Shows this year?  The very sparkly, Margot Potter, will be leading an eight-hour intensive creativity workshop on January 31st from 9AM to 5PM through Create Your Style with Swarovski Elements!  But wait... it's not just a class – it's ALSO a contest!  During the class, students will create a haute couture piece that could win them big prizes!   They will also take home bountiful amounts of swag and have the lovely opportunity to spend the day with Madge!  The design event will culminate in a champagne award ceremony!

To find out more, CLICK HERE to check out the promotional video she made for the event.  You can also CLICK HERE to visit her blog and find out more there.  It sounds like tons of fun and hopefully I'll be able to make it out to participate!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Human Nature Opening...

The opening for "Human Nature" at Allegory Gallery featuring photographs by Lorie Lee Womack was a huge success this past Friday!  Artists and art-enthusiasts celebrated the new show.  I had a lot of fun and met lots of new people.  If you're in the area, you should definitely stop by.  The show will remain up for the duration of January.  If you're not in the area, you can still take a look AND even get a piece from the show HERE.

Above is a picture of the spread of edible goodies we provided for attendees of the event.  We are really fortunate to have Jewels Phraner of Oven Lovin' help cater the event by contributing delicious homemade dishes she whipped up.

This is a shot of the Chocolate-dipped Coconut Macaroons.  Jewels has generously shared her recipe HERE.

Another sweet treat that she cooked up where these Eggnog cupcakes with rum-flavored butter cream icing!  They were absolutely delicious!

On the savory side, Jewels created a Bread Bowl filled with Spinach Artichoke dip.  It was very tasty and I happily took home the bowl at the end of the evening, infused with all the great flavors.  You can find the recipe HERE.

Jewels also made a Shrimp Pate, which I unfortunately did not get a picture of.  She has made it before and posted the recipe HERE.

Speaking of the talented Jewels and her culinary efforts, she is hosting a giveaway on her blog!  I highly encourage you to stop over and participate!  You might win a dozen baked treats!  CLICK HERE to visit her blog and find out more about how you can win!  (But HURRY!  Time's running out!)