Saturday, December 27, 2014

Desert Sands Challenge...

When we originally debuted the Desert Sands Challenge, it was a complete mystery... except for the challenge image and a snapshot of the Luxury Bead Blend.  The rest of it was a surprise and up until now, only the participants of the challenges have been privy to the contents of the kit.

Here's a picture of what the kit included.  It's a mix of vintage and new Czech glass, brass chain, antique seed beads, pineapple quartz, and vintage Hamilton Gold.  The kit also included a Luxury Bead Blend and a Mystery Component made by me. I'll reveal the Mystery Component in a few days.

The reveal date for this challenge is set for January 29th!  I can't wait to see what everyone makes!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fathom Art Exhibition...

Our next show on the Project Wall at Allegory Gallery is a group show!  I'm really excited. We have an excellent line-up of artists from across the country.  We will be featuring returning artists that we have shown before, like Todd Beisel, Diane Hawkey, Junker Jane, Shirleah Kelly, Cynthia Thornton, and Elise Wells.  We will also be welcoming new-to-the-gallery artists, Wendy Wallin Malinow, LaLa Ortiz, Deborah Petronio, and Les Plinko.

The upcoming show is titled, "Fathom" and will be made up of mermaid-themed artwork!  We picked the name "Fathom" because it plays double duty.  On one hand, the word means an underwater measurement.  On the other, it also means an understanding or an imagining.  I think it's apt when talking about mermaids.

Not only will we have the Project Wall loaded down with mermaid artwork, but we'll also have several different bead artists represented who work with the fantastical motif.  We'll be revealing who is participating as time goes on!

The show opens Saturday, January 24th!  So mark your calendars and if you're in the area, stop by!  If you can't make it, you can always see the works online!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Feathered Wishes...

The days are full.  They are filled with a wash of activity.  It's hard to keep track of time.  I feel like a bauble, bouncing on the waves, drifting with the fast-moving current.

I can't complain.  Most days are filled with moments that are little gems that gleam and sparkle.  I'm a hoarder of these gems.  I'm a hoarder of these moments.  I think of myself as being fortunate.  I gather the little things – the smiles, the laughter, the kitten purrs, the shiny things, the sweet exhaustion, the happy satisfactions of honoring one's purpose and calling.

I wanted to take a moment out this whirlwind of moments, to say... THANK YOU.  Thank you for being a part of my journey.  Thank you for understanding.  Thank you for believing in me and my dreams.  Thank you for the little things.  Thank you for the big things.  Thank you for the ups.... and the downs.  Thank you for everything.  Thank you for sharing this world with me.  THANK YOU.

With deep gratitude, I wish you all a very happy holiday season.  If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.  If you celebrate something else, I wish you good tidings and much joy. I hope your days are as full of good things as mine.  I hope all the best for you and your's.

While the bloom may fade and fall and turn to dust, it'll return a resplendent thing.  This is the time of filling our hearts with hopeful thoughts, feathered wishes, taking flight and carrying our dreams to the starry skies... and far beyond.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day Trip to Ohio...

With the store and our somewhat hectic (and often times overlapping schedules), William and I don't get to take much time for ourselves.  It's unfortunate, but a reality that most small business owners face in the first few years of business.  But my sister, Sheila, and her husband were visiting from China... so we made a point to take a day off.

We couldn't go down to Florida for Christmas this year, but luckily Sheila and Steve were in Ohio for a few days before they traveled South.  We met up in Youngstown, Ohio and visited the Butler Art Institute of American Art.

I was really impressed with the collection.  I wasn't super familiar with the museum, so I didn't know what to expect.  I think everyone was pleasantly surprised by the rather extensive collection of artwork by well-known artists from a vast array of time periods and styles of art.  They had everything from early folk art to contemporary masters.  One of my favorites was the painting, "Seer" by Adolph Gottlieb.  While it's clearly Modern, there's something ancient and primal with the symbolic iconography.

After the art museum, we headed over to Kravitz Delicatessen for lunch.  Everyone agreed that the reuben sandwiches were most excellent!  I had the Reuben McMillan with a side of potato salad and a pickle!  Yum!

It was really nice to catch up with Sheila and Steve.  We shared stories and laughed.  It was interesting to hear about their adventures and the cultural differences.  I'm really glad that William and I could take a day off and that we all found a way to see each other!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Busy, Busy...

My work bench has been a busy place lately!  I've been coming up with a lot of new ideas.  I can't share all of them, but I can share some of the things that I have been working on recently.

I knew it was a tad late to sculpt for this year's holiday season, but I made them anyway.  When we were kids, we'd put pillowcases on our heads and chase each other around pretending that we were Abominable Snowmen.  I decided to make a limited edition yeti ornament!

I only made one of these, but I created a Medusa ornament.  We grew up reading the Greek myths and loved (the original) Clash of the Titans movie.  I might make more around Halloween, but will probably re-sculpt it and add more snakes to the hair.

I wanted to make something special for the participants of the holiday destash event.  I asked them to pick, "Bird, bug, or beastie".  They chose, "bird".  So I made these cardinal ornaments.  I wish I could have made one for everyone in the group, but only made enough to slip into their packages.  I thought fondly of each of them while I mixed the resin, poured each one, and then painted them.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Memento Mori...

I have a friend who has a cat that just passed away.  I know how hard it can be to lose a furry companion.  I made this memorial for her.  It features a representation of her furry friend's head floating amongst a field of fluffy clouds, surrounded by a square golden halo.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Night Out...

Last night we had the pleasure of seeing Chris Pureka at the Brown Hotel in Indiana, PA.  I'm a big fan of this artist and am so fortunate that she comes all the way out to our neck of the woods!  (I didn't want to seem like a stalker, but I snapped this picture of Chris frantically writing out lyrics in her sketchbook.)  I highly recommend her album, "How I Learned to See in the Dark".  CLICK HERE to check out the album.

During this tour, Chris brought along MaryLeigh Roohan.  We really enjoyed her soulful voice mixed with her vintage-sounding electric guitar.  Once we heard her, we had to have her latest album.  CLICK HERE to check out her new album, "Skin and Bone".

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bead&Button Show...

Did you know that the browsing for the 2015 Bead&Button Show classes is now open?  That's right!  You can take a look at all the classes being offered during this amazing show!  I'll be co-teaching with my sister in two awesome classes!  Take a look!  CLICK HERE to zoom over and take a gander.

Star Frost Mystery Component Reveal...

When we put together the Design Kits, we add a Mystery Component. For the upcoming special Star Frost Challenge, I created this polymer clay pendant.  I used a combination of tinted pigments, Gilder's Paste, nail polish, and acrylic paint to create the finish on this pendant.  I thought it was perfectly wintery to compliment the kit.  Keep your eyes peeled!  The reveal for the Star Frost Design Challenge is January 8th!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Marsala Valentine Challenge SOLD OUT...

I just wanted to express my gratitude towards everyone who purchased a Marsala Valentine Design Kit.  Thank you!  We appreciate the support for this project.  I'm very excited to see what everyone will create for this design challenge.  I hope everyone will like what's in the kits.  I really enjoyed putting it together.  Can't wait to see what everyone will make!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Marsala Valentine Challenge...

This is the latest Design Kit Challenge!  Let me introduce you to the Marsala Valentine Challenge!  If you're not familiar with the challenges, it's a fun and informal way to play, create, and challenge yourself with a pre-selected set of components.  Let's see what you can make!

To participate, you must purchase a Design Kit. This kit features a selection of antique Venetian seed beads, premium Czech glass (both new and vintage), vintage lucite, hessonite garnet, red tiger's eye, African glass, carved jade, red creek jasper, hand-dyed recycled sari silk ribbon, Swarovski crystal, and a Luxury Bead Blend.

The Luxury Bead Blend consists of Japanese Miyuki seed beads, Toho seed beads, freshwater pearls, vintage trade beads, Czech glass (both old and new), African recycled glass, jade, rhodonite, peanut beads, rudraksha beads, jasper, agate, coral, red tiger's eye, garnets, Chinese crystal, goldstone, Swarovski crystal, vintage sequins, Germain glass, vintage Japanese glass, and glass pearls.

But wait... there's more!  The pictures show a luscious mix of materials, but what isn't show is the Mystery Component!  Each kit will come with a special, handmade component that will remain a mystery until it arrives at your door!

The Mystery Component will be publicly revealed on Monday, January 12th, 2015!

Pantone selected Marsala to be the Color of the Year for 2015.  It's an earthy shade of burgundy wine.  I was inspired to create the latest kit around this brick-red color.  Since this is a kit for February, I thought that I'd spotlight Valentine's Day and compliment the Color of the Year with a blend of juicy reds, deep garnets, and warm pinks.  This is a love letter to the new Color of the Year.

I also used the Pantone Spring Color Report for 2015 to select another accent color, Strawberry Ice.  It's perfect for Valentine's Day inspired creations.

If you've seen the challenges before, then you know that there are lots of different design choices that can create unique pieces, and a single kit can produce several pieces if one desires.

With your kit, using as much or as little of it as you like, create a piece that showcases your creativity, individuality, and artistic expression. Ideally your creation will spotlight the great assortment of beads included, but the sky's the limit with what you can make! Keep your project secret until the reveal date!

The reveal date is set for Thursday, February 19th, 2015!

Post a picture on your blog or send one to me to post on your behalf (if you don't have a blog of your own). The Marsala Valentine Challenge will end in a blog hop, sharing all the lovely creations with your fellow participants! 

There are only 20 Design Kits available (with one set aside for myself)! Once we receive your order, we will process your kit and send it out within five business days. Hurry! Supplies are limited and are on a FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE basis! (Sorry, no exceptions!)

I also wanted to mention that all the Design Kits will be shipped with Priority mail. This can take anywhere from one business day to fourteen. For international participants, it may take longer! If you know that it takes a long time to reach your destination (from Southwestern Pennsylvania) please place your orders early! I will do my best to get your kits out as early as possible, but unfortunately can't be held responsible if it arrives late due to the postal service. All sales of the Design Kits are final and there are no returns or exchanges. With that being said... I hope you have lots of fun and I can't wait to see what you make!

CLICK HERE to get your Design Kit!

Disclaimer: This challenge is not associated, affiliated, and/or sponsored by Pantone.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Inspired by Reading November Blog Hop...

I know... it's already December, but with the holidays we pushed back the blog hop of November's selection of the Inspired by Reading Book Club, "Proust's Overcoat" by Lorenza Foschini.  It was a short book about a man's obsession with the possessions of the melancholic and unhealthy author.  I thought it was a quick read and was entertained by the treasure hunt quality of the book.  It was studded with all kinds of gems of inspiration perfect for our purposes.  If you're not familiar with the Inspired by Reading Book Club, we read a book and then create something that was inspired by what we read.  Then we share what we made.

And without further ado... here's the reveal:
I made this necklace.  The focal is made of polymer clay, wood, and a stone bead.  In the beginning of the book, they talk about the protagonist's upbringing and how he amassed his wealth in order to afford Proust's belongings.  The main character is an heir to a perfume company and develops a scent called, "Le Dandy D'Orsay".  In the book, they describe an octagon-shaped bottle with a rounded black topper that looked like a pearl.  The rest of the long necklace is made of vintage Czech glass in black and gold.

Here's what Laurel made.  She made a tiny mustache out of a recycled leather bag and did a decorative bead edge  The mustache can be hung from a long chain necklace, so that it can available for quick access.  She styled the photo by laying it on French bottled water and a fur trimmed coat... kind of like the coat in the story.  The mustache was inspired by Proust and his brother's mustaches.

This necklace was made by Alison.  She said she was inspired by the description of Proust's desk.  The author described it as being very ornate and made of black pear wood with brass accents.  Alison used a mix of Hamilton gold knots, glass, stone, and filigree to create this piece!

But wait... there's more!  Check out what other participants were inspired by in the book:

We are taking a break from December!  But the full list of books can be seen by CLICKING HERE.  January's book selection is, "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer.  We have tentatively scheduled the meet-up for Wednesday, January 28th at 5PM at Allegory Gallery.  The blog hop is the following day.  To find out more about what we do and to keep up with the events, CLICK HERE to visit our Facebook group page.

Noble Knight Challenge Reveal...

Today is the reveal for the Noble Knight Challenge.  When I put together this kit, I was deeply immersed in George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones book series and was enamored with the stories of knighthood.  I drew further inspiration from the Arthurian legends (particularly Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory) and The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.  I selected a dark palette of blood red, cold steel, and royal blues.

Here is what came in the kit.  It was a blend of antique seed beads, Japanese hex cut seed beads, vintage Czech glass, vintage German glass, vintage Austrian glass, waxed Irish linen, lapis, and a Luxury Bead Blend.

Each kit included a Mystery Component.  I created this polymer clay pendant.  When coming up with the motif, I researched heraldry and decided upon this star cross formation.  

And without further ado... here is the reveal:

I made this bracelet.  I used the hex-cut Japanese seed beads in this peyote stitch bracelet.  I liked the way the bead pattern looks almost like scales of armor.  I embellished the edge with the red antique seed beads and ran a row of labradorite rounds down the center.  I used a gunmetal tube clasp to close things up, but I might switch that out for something more decorative.

This necklace was made by Laurel Ross.  She said she was inspired by the romantic side of the tales of knightly valor and courtly love and created this necklace as a token for a knight's paramour - a necklace made for Queens of Love and Beauty.

This necklace was made by Alison Herrington.  She used the antique seed beads with blue-dyed coral discs.  From the points where the coral meet, she hung wire-wrapped dangles strung with the vintage Austrian glass to create movement.

These pieces were created by Naama of Peculiaris.  Here's what she had to say about them: "Even before I saw this kit, I knew I'd love it.  I've always had a thing for knight stories.  The title immediately brought medieval jewelry to mind: saturated red and blue with (now tarnished) silver and brass.  I also love the long necklaces and heavy pendants.  With these images in mind, I made a long, versatile lariat with matching earrings, a polymer clay semi-stone pendant, and grey crackled glass earrings.  I will post more pictures on my Facebook page and would be happy if you stop by and tell me what you think.  Please visit my Facebook page: "

These pieces were created by Lisa Mendum.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "I wanted to say thanks for your great kits.  I haven't been beading for a couple of years and started following you on Facebook and saw your link to your online shop and this is my second kit.  I decided to make time after my 8 to 5 job and bead!  Loved the mix so much!  I tried to use as little bit of everything.  Thanks again!"

This piece was created by Joanne Goldberg.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "This is my little girl.  She's named Queen.  I used one of Cynthia's fine pewter heads with the kit components and some pieces from my personal stash."

 These pieces were made by Donna Hoblit.  Here's what she had to say about them:  "Hi!  My name is Donna Hoblit of VeraDonna Treasures.  In addition to designing jewelry, I'm a medieval reenactor.  The inspiration for my jewelry set is the medallion that has a cross on it and the chain that our Knights wear. I used the beads in the kit, silver and aluminum chains, pewter clasps, a pilgrim's badge - the cross on the necklace - made by Billy and Charlie's Pewter Goods, and lampwork beads made by my favorite glass artist, Jill Symons.  The title of my set is, "The Flowering of Knighthood."

Want to see more things created with the Noble Knight Kit?  You're in luck!  Check out these awesome blogs:

Featured on Andrew Thornton's blog:

Monday, December 08, 2014

Featured Designer at Dakota Stones...

Recently, I had the honor of being selected as one of Dakota Stones' Featured Designers!  It was nice to be able to share a little bit about my work and my process.  I really like Dakota Stones, so it was a pleasure to create for their spotlight.  To see the pieces that I made out of their lovely Matte African Turquoise beads and to read the full interview, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Want a look at what's on Andrew's work bench?  Take a peek at all the resin ornaments he has been making lately!

My New Book!
The Crafty Princess talks a little about her latest book.

Decoupage under Glass Using Holiday Theme Paper Napkins
Use holiday-themed napkins to make inexpensive decoupage plates for display or serving.

Beading Arts
Cyndi shares a tutorial on how to make a silk flower necklace, including links to making your own silk flowers!

Carmi's Art/Life World
Elizabeth I is the inspiration for this new necklace idea, featuring vintage pink-colored pearls.

Blue Jean Baby
Cherie experiments with mixed media.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Pantone Color of the Year 2015...

And... the winner is: Marsala!  It's an earthy shade of red, blending warm brown and rusty red.  Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Panton Color Institute, said, "Interesting on its own and a wonderful contrast for other hues, Pantone 1801438 Marsala serves as the foundation to the Spring/Summer 2015 palette.  Sensual and bold, delicious Marsala is a daringly inviting tone that nurtures; exuding confidence and stability while feeding the body, mind and soul.  Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this robust shade incorporates the warmth and richness of a tastefully fulfilling meal, while its grounding red-brown roots point to a sophisticated, natural earthiness."  To find out more and explore the color, CLICK HERE.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Work Bench...

With the holidays just around the corner, I've been spending a lot of time working on ornaments.  I've been having fun making different kinds of baubles to decorate the tree.  When I make them, I sculpt the originals out of polymer clay and then make a mold.  After the mold is ready, I pour them in resin.  Then I paint and embellish the ornaments.
Here are some different sugar skulls I made.  The first batch were lighter and the second batch was darker.  I used a wash of black to bring out the details.  Then I went over with layers of glitter to make the glowing eyes.

I'm a smitten kitten with my chubby owls!  I went a little crazy with the paint job on these.  There are lots of layers of paints, pigments, and glazes.

I really like the folktales of Krampus.  I decided to create ornaments with this anti-Santa figure.  I have always enjoyed the old cards and illustrations of Krampus.  They were delightfully macabre.
Speaking of Santa, I sculpted this.  I'm not sure if I'll cast it or not.  I'm not super into Santa.  I thought that maybe I could turn this into a Belsnickel ornament.