Friday, September 30, 2016


When I was a little boy, I used to get in trouble all the time.  I mean, ALL THE TIME.  One of my biggest offenses was the way that I responded back to my parents.  I had the penchant for being a know-it-all and a wee bit sassy.  I also never liked to say "yes" or "no" and it drove my dad crazy.  He had been in the military and expected us to say, "yes, sir" and "no, sir".  This went against my grain.  I didn't want to lie and I knew that things could happen that could change the outcome of a particular response.  Plus, I didn't want to be wrong either.  So I would say, "maybe".  He'd get so frustrated and say things like, "Who are you?  Gomer Pyle?!?!?!"

Even to this day, I still find myself saying, "maybe".  I know it can be frustrating.  Some people have accused me of purposefully trying to send mixed signals to be more mysterious or evasive with my noncommittal response.  It's not meant to be purposefully deceitful or vague, but if there's a possible gray area, I don't like committing to one side or the other.

With recipes, this can again be a sore spot for some.  I remember someone asking me for a recipe for a particular rice dish and when I said, "Oh, I don't really have a recipe..." they said, "well, if you didn't want to tell me, that's all you had to say".  It's not that I didn't want to share... but I knew that there were just certain things that I did that effected that particular recipe and that I could copy down the ingredients and the steps, but that it wouldn't turn out just the same.

Now, there are some things that are fail proof and if you do XYZ with ABC, it'll turn out just right.

When it comes to sharing how-to craft information, this can be the same deal.  Recently someone asked for my process of working with a particular material and my response back wasn't super useful.  It wasn't purposefully unhelpful, but in response I told them that they should experiment and play with the material and that play and those experimentations would inform their process far more than what I could communicate.  It's kind of like the difference between giving someone answers to memorize for a test and teaching someone the way to unlock the secrets of a subject that they'll internalize and appreciate and carry with them the rest of their life.  Sometimes you've got to jump right in, get your hands dirty and figure out what works best for you.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Birthdays and Anniversaries...

Today was my birthday!  We celebrated by having a "Craftapalooza" at the shop.  We ate cake (a delicious cheesecake that my mother-in-law made), drank strawberry wine, and made things.  When I'm gone (hopefully many years from now), I hope that they remember me as someone who inspired people to make things – to embrace their creativity and add beauty to the world.  And that's the way that I wanted to celebrate my birthday... enjoying each other's company and making things.

While today is a birthday celebration, it's also an anniversary.  You see, six years ago I was diagnosed with cancer.  I had a bump on my side that I thought was an angry pimple or a spider bite that rapidly grew until it was the size of a half dollar.  It turns out that it was skin cancer and I had to have it and a margin of half a square foot of skin removed.  I have been fortunate and blessed not to have a reoccurrence and according to many experts, after the five year mark... I'm cured.  I have been cured for a year.

With my birthday comes a reminder that life is precious.  It is a gift that we are given and we can do great things with that gift.  The greatest thing we can do is to live rightly.  I don't necessarily mean that we have to do good deeds and the like (which of course is a wonderful way to live), but that each person has a particular path.  I believe that the path shifts and adjusts, depending on circumstances and the reactions to the actions of our lives, kind of like GPS directions that recalculate with weather and traffic advisories.  The path connects our births to our deaths.  But just because there's a path doesn't mean people always follow it.  Sometimes they struggle against the journey and fill their lives with frustration.

I remember going hiking once and instead of following the circuitous path back to the car, I decided to take a shortcut.  I remembered a stream near the parking lot and I figured that if I walked along the stream, I could cut an hour off my walk and save my feet from blisters.  In my gut, I knew that I should just follow the path.  The thing about my shortcut was that yes, it was shorter and it worked out theoretically, but as I drew closer to the parking lot, the bank of the stream became more rugged and steep, until eventually it turned into an impassible waterfall with sheer rock walls on either side, where I could either jump into questionable water of unknown depth or turn back.  Not wanting to become another statistic about hikers who leave the trail, I turned back, climbed back up on the path, slipped, slid down a rock face, and twisted my ankle.  I had to walk back in pain and in the dark.  In my heart of hearts, I knew that I shouldn't have left the path, but I wanted to get back faster and I thought I knew best.

We can fight the path, or we can go with it.  It may take longer and it might have its own perils, but it is the way that has been created by all the shifting dynamics.   When one lives in sync with their path, it creates its own reaction... a reaction of alignment.  Oprah has a great quote about luck being preparation meeting opportunity.  And, when one lives in alignment, they prepare themselves for all the very best opportunities.  This is what I meant by "living rightly".

It's not always easy to know if one is on their path or not.  It's not always clear.  But for me, the confirmation comes in the form of moments of knowing.  They are beautiful moments of profound clarity, where everything is understood and understood in more than just an intellectual way, but understood in your bones and in your spirit.  Sometimes the moment comes all at once, like a bolt of lighting and sometimes it's a quiet realization, like waking up slowly.

As I stood over the candles on the cake, I felt one of those moments.  It was confusing at first.  I tried to rack my brain for a wish and then it hit me... "more of the same... more of the same".  While my life is no fairy tale and there are certainly things that could be improved, the good far outweighs the bad and it is a beautiful life filled with amazing people and lovely things and a deep connection to my calling and I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Creative heART Challenge: A Harvest of Necklaces...

My days have been full and rich with creativity.  I've been blessed with a bountiful flush of energy and have been working like crazy making things.  It's wonderful.  It's not always easy to harness the ebb and flow of inspiration, but I've been fortunate enough to ride this wave and over the past few days, have made a veritable harvest of necklaces for the Creative heART Challenge.

When I talk to people about designing, we often times mention the fundamentals of design.  We talk about things like space, balance, contrast, repetition, proximity, and alignment.  We talk about the elements in visual work like color, shape, texture, form, line, and hierarchy.  And with jewelry we talk about styles, fads, movement, and wearability.  But beyond that... there's more.

Every component incorporated has a story.  It has an origin and a maker and in some cases there are rich histories and symbolism.  Gem lore alone could fill many tomes (and has).  But beyond that... what does it mean to you?  How are the things that are made by you special and unique.

Unfortunately in this industry there's a lot of copying.  I won't really go into that here, because this post isn't really about that.  But the reason that I bring it up is that sometimes when you see the work by someone who is stealing ideas from another artist, it feels empty.  I call this work, "rootless trees". Because from the onset it looks fine... it looks healthy and abundant, but should a strong wind blow, the tree falls right over and the work can't stand on its own merit.

In my own work, I'm interested in exploring the roots.  The work that other artists make that excite me the most are pieces that have deep roots too.  When I'm working, I like to dig back into my experiences and the ideas that have filled my life, and run my fingers through this flow of thoughts and emotions and dreams.  Sometimes things stick and those little seeds sprout and develop.  There's a power in this.  There is a power in creating from the heart.  Sometimes ideas come unconsciously and sometimes you have to coax them out in a very planned and methodical manner.

In designing, there are intangibles.  Even the most simple and streamlined design includes these intangibles.  They are everything that went into the creation of the piece that can't be seen.  I know there are some people who might scoff at this idea.  There are some people who will say a thing is what a thing is and a thing is worth what a thing is worth and they'll try to give you formulas and recipes for evaluating and pricing your work.  While this is sometimes useful, I find it can be somewhat limiting and only addresses the tangibles.  Sometimes you've got to dig deeper.

For my latest batch of creations made for the Creative heART Challenge, I encourage you to take a moment to click on each of the listings.  Not only will you find the ingredients, but you'll find little snatches of stories and ideas, some real and some imagined, that connect to these pieces.  While each person will add to it their own ideas and take away what they will, regardless of what I want them to or not want them to, these little bits I've shared helped in the process of their making and I hope you'll enjoy them.

If you'd like to see everything that I've made for this round of the Creative heART Challenge, you can scroll back through my blog.  You can also see the still available pieces by CLICKING HERE.

Pantone Fashion Color Report: Spring 2017...

One of my favorite things about this time of year is that Pantone's biannual Fashion Color Report is released.  After the New York Fashion Week, they launch their color forecast for Spring 2017.  The color report includes the top ten colors that were seen most frequently during the shows and includes an in-depth analysis of what's next in fashion.  It sort of takes the temperature of what we can expect to see in the coming months.  I know a lot of designers that ignore the reports (and can sometimes be quite hostile), saying they don't create things because they are trendy.  For me, I like to know what's out there and what other art professionals are doing.  Whether or not it effects my decisions is debatable, but I still like to be aware.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, reported: "One of the things that we saw this year, was a renewed sense of imagination in which color was appearing in context that was different than the traditional..."  She went on to say that, "... designers applied color in playful, yet thoughtful and precise combinations to fully capture the promises, hope and transformation that we year for each Spring."

The fun thing about the spring color report is that usually the Color of the Year is selected from one of these!  What's your guess?

If you'd like to read the entire report and get a break down of all the colors, CLICK HERE.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Power of Dreaming...

Some of my favorite people are dreamers.  They are the people that can reach within and puncture the barrier between what is and what could be.  To me it is one of the most admirable qualities.  One might be brave, but without direction, what is there to fight for?  One might be intelligent, but what use is knowledge without an application?  One might be loving, but what is love without depth or meaning?  Dreamers are the seers and the makers and the doers.  They tap into one of the oldest magics, the act of wishing.  Dreaming is wishing from the heart, the casting out of a wide net, straining the cosmos and forming pictures from what remains.  Dreaming gives shape to that which is unknowable in its vastness and secret from the heart.  And even if one tries to fight this power, it still seems to slip in unbidden.  In the quiet hours of the unconscious mind, to the listless hours of the mundane and monotonous – dreams come in.  We can fight it and we can deny it, but they still find a way.

Dreams show us what once was, what undeniably is, and what could be.  They show us what us what is possible and give us glimpses at what is thought to be impossible.  And that's a scary thing.  While there's the potential for greatness and of the most heartbreakingly beautiful things, there is also the possibility of horrors and atrocities. And that's where dreaming can be a dangerous power.  For dreams can turn into nightmares and can crush the spirit and warp the heart.  They can poison and seduce.  They can isolate and possess.  One can lose themselves in dreams and fly free without tether.

All powers, great and small, come with a price.  And the potential for dreaming darkly is one of them.

But what can be gained by this gift, this talent, this special thing that to so many seems inconsequential or frivolous... is so much more.  Sure, it might not be easy.  It can be downright terrifying, but the rewards of opening up to the power of dreaming are far richer and more abundant than if one tries to close themselves off from this active form of imagination and creativity.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Commission Work...

The past few months, I have had an overwhelming amount of commission work.  On one hand, I enjoy the challenge – I find it interesting to have a client initiate an idea and then I filter it through my aesthetics and work with my heart and hands to create something that I may not have originally made otherwise.  Plus, I appreciate that people trust me with their projects and want me to be a part of their experience.  There are a lot of other people out there who are more than willing and are highly capable to assist with projects... so it's an honor when someone wants me to create something with them.  

On the other hand, because it's something that didn't originate with me, I don't always feel the compulsion to work on a project relentlessly.  With my own projects, I can set to making something and days will pass and I won't notice.  Often times, with commission work, I have to think about things and let them sit out on my work bench and let them "breathe".  Of course, if there's a time crunch, it helps speed up the process.  I try to plug my ears when a client says, "Take your time.  Get to it when you're moved to do it."  Because, if you want me to get to it when I'm moved to do it, it might be months before that particular inspiration strikes.  I still try to do things in a somewhat timely fashion, but it doesn't always come easily and I don't want to just crank something out that I don't feel good about.  Sometimes I try to trick myself into working faster and set little goals for myself, just so that things don't linger too long.  

Since I've been working on things for the Creative heART Challenge, I've found that the floodgates have been open and there's a free flowing current of ideas and energy.  Here are some of the projects that I've been working on this week:

One of my customers likes big jewelry.  She's not afraid of bold statement pieces and has an extensive collection of vintage jewelry by designers like Miriam Haskell.  She selected the kiwi jasper large carved coin beads and the aventurine chip and wanted me to put them together.  I quite like the way this turned out.  I was able to use the chip to create visual weight, without creating actual weight.  The gold spacers also brings out the jade tones in the focal stones and the little glint of gold helps bring the eye around the piece.

I made this necklace for another client.  We have an amazing rug hooking teacher who lives in the area.  She has students that come from all over the country to take classes with her and stay at her studio.  One of the groups that comes in is from Indiana and they usually come once a year.  On one of the trips, my client purchased the sterling silver and turquoise bird pin.  She wanted me to incorporate it into a necklace.

This was surprisingly a difficult necklace to make.  On a trip to town, she picked out the beads and we talked about lengths and the style and everything... but what made it sort of hard to work on was that the pendant was acquired from a fellow shop owner who recently passed away.  He was one of our first friends in town and every time I picked up the piece, I thought about sitting out in front of his shop and talking and about some of the inside jokes we shared.  It was hard to really focus and I ended up making and taking apart and remaking this necklace several times.

I ended using a converter bail, so that my client can use this piece as a necklace or she can take the pin off and use it as a brooch.

The base of the previous necklace was made up of wood opal nuggets, cuprite, and reconstituted larimar beads.  I had some left over from that project and whipped this piece up and I love it.  I'm a smitten kitten with how it came together.  Maybe because I struggled with the last piece so much, working just with the beads was way easier and everything sort of fell into place.

The same client who had me make the previous two necklaces also picked out this fine pewter coffee pendant from my family at Green Girl Studios.  She also picked out the jasper and fire agate beads and wanted me to create a coffee themed necklace for her.  It's a more delicate scale than the previous necklaces in this post, but still has a little bit of interest with the asymmetrical placement of the beads.

I had leftover beads from the previous necklace and used some of the wood opal from the other necklaces to create this necklace.  It's adjustable in length, so my client can layer it with other necklaces or wear it on its own.

This is the start of another commission.  We had a customer come in several months ago and fell in love with the store.  She's planning to get married and really likes mermaids.  In particular, she liked the 80's movie, "Splash" with Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks.  (Which I just found out that they are remaking with Channing Tatum as the merman!)  In the original movie, Daryle Hannah's character wears a necklace with a lion head on it and my client wanted me to make it.

Since it has been awhile since I last watched the movie, I had to do a search to find an image of it.  I found a few small sized pictures that pixelated when I blew it up.  I found a few different ones and ended up creating a metal composite.  The above version is my prototype for the pendant.  I didn't want to copy it exactly and ended up taking some creative license to make it more my own.  The prototype will be molded and (unlike the movie version) will be made in silver tones.  I suggested that she come into the store with her girlfriends to make the rest of the necklace to give it even more sentimental value and to have a nice day together in Ligonier.  Hopefully I'll be able to snag a picture of her wearing the creation on her wedding day.

I'll post more pictures later of some of the other work that I've created for other clients.  It's been a busy end of summer here!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sj Designs Honey Do Challenge: August 2016...

I don't often times get to participate in other people's challenges, even if I want to.  Sometimes there is just so much to do in a day that it's hard to find time to work on my own projects... however... when Sarajo announced the inspiration for her August installment of her Honey Do Challenge, I knew that I had to make something!  If you're not familiar with Sarajo's Honey Do Challenges, her husband Eric gives her a photograph every month to use as inspiration to use up her bead stash and push her creatively.  Sarajo invites other artists to play along and join in on the festivities.

Photo of pitcher plants at Spruce Flats Bog taken by Eric Wentling.
Sarajo and her husband Eric, came up for Creative Camp over the summer and I directed them to one of my favorite places in the area: Spruce Flats Bog.  It's this little magical area, that you get to by wandering along a wooded path dense with ferns.  It's dark in the shade of the canopy.  And then all of a sudden, there is bright light and a clearing with a wooden boardwalk... going off into a sea of grass.  Studding the landscape are clusters of carnivorous plants.  There are actually two carnivorous plants that thrive here, where little else does.  Sundews and sarracenia (pitcher plants) grow in patches along with giant cranberries and cotton grass.  The sundews are quite petite, but the pitcher plants are showy with their garnet reds and peridot greens.  Eric snapped a picture gave it to Sarajo for the source inspiration.

Originally, I thought that I was going to dig out this beautiful sterling silver bead by Anne Choi.  Anne and I both share a love of sarracenias and this large focal bead would have been perfect for the challenge.  I got bewitched by it though and couldn't stop admiring it all on its own.  So I didn't end up making anything with it yet.  I still might... you never know!

This is the bracelet that I did end up making for the challenge.  I love this design.  Bracelets are sometimes a tricky sell.  They have to fit perfectly.  This design allows many sizes of wrists to fit and has a little decorative flair with the dangly bit at the end of the chain.  It features a mix of dyed raspberry jade, hessonite garnets, rhodonite garnets, tumbled serpentine, copper, and polymer clay by me.  For the little dangle at the end of the adjustable chain, I added faceted green amethyst, watermelon tourmaline, more garnet, and vintage Czech glass.  I use a swivel lobster claw clasp to make it easier to put the bracelet on and prevent the beading wire from twisting over time.

I worked on several different versions of these polymer clay beads.  At first, I wanted to play with translucent clay, but the color contrast was too subtle and I really wanted the beads to POP like their source inspiration.  So, I ended up making some canes that were mostly opaque with a little bit of shimmer.  I quite like them and think they capture the colors of the pitcher plants perfectly.

I had fun playing along and hope to participate again in the future!  If you want to see what the other participants of the challenge made, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Green Into Gold...

The days are slipping quickly into autumn.  When I wake up in the mornings, there's a chill still clinging to the air leftover from the evening and the light has been changing.  Instead of the bleaching and blinding light of summer, there's a softer glow.  The greens of summer are gilding, transforming into golds.   It hasn't yet erupted in the riot of fall color.  The burnt oranges and flaming reds are still around the corner.

I want to reach out and fix the sun in the sky, suspending the moment and making it stretch out longer, lasting just a bit more.

I find that's my current mood.  I want more.  I feel greedy.  I want more time... not just any time, but this time.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

Section Five is Live!
The free Tiny SAL is almost halfway done, but there's still plenty of time to get involved.  Find out how to get the charts.

Silhouette Foil Print & Cut: How to Save Time and Money
This Silhouette Foil print and Cut project should be quick and easy.  It will be for you if you follow the tips Eileen learned along the way.

Beading Arts
Cyndi shares a bead embroidery tutorial that you can customize for whatever special stones or cabochons you have on hand!

Art Bead Scene
Take a look at the inspiration for September's Monthly Challenge: "Old Woman from the Poorhouse in the Garden with Glass Ball and Poppies" by Paula Modersohn-Becker.

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
For Andrew's latest Creative heART Challenge pieces, he created some interesting Fantasy (Faux) Stone earrings!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Five Years...

It's hard to believe that it has been five years since we opened Allegory Gallery.  We had always dreamed of opening a store, someday but we didn't really think it would happen until much later.  And then one evening, the stars aligned and we were presented with an opportunity and we jumped in!  I remember showing up with my tape measure the next day.  It's one heck of a ride!  We've definitely had our ups and downs, sometimes questioning if this was the right path, but in the end we always come to the conclusion that we couldn't really imagine our lives any other way.  Mostly this is due to all the amazing people we've met over the years.  We are fortunate enough to have an amazing support system of loyal friends and patrons and we have achieved so much because of all of them.  We have a beautiful life, built little by little, bead by bead, and it is all because of all the wonderful people who have believed in us and our little dream.

And I thank you for that.  I can't really express the amount of gratitude I have.  My heart bursts with it.  It overflows with thankfulness and appreciation.

I try to think back over the five years and it seems like a blur.  Part of me feels like it was only yesterday and the other part feels like it has always been and has never been any other way.  We've squeezed a lot into the five years that we've been open.  We've had dozens of art shows, featuring artists and artwork from all over the world.  We've had classes that have brought people in from all over the country.  We've collected and offered treasures from the furthest continents and by makers who lived thousands of years ago.  We've sent out thousands of packages all over the world and have been in contact with thousands of people on a daily basis.  Some of those people have already walked through our door and live around the corner... and some of them only experience things vicariously and through the magic of the internet.  I would like to think that we are making a difference.  That we're not just here to sell things, but that we have contributed to the community and enriched the lives of those around us.  I would like to think that we've added beauty to this world and inspired others and hopefully encouraged others to reach for their dreams and make them a reality.

Here are some photos from our journey:

And here's to many more...

Monday, September 12, 2016

Creative heART Challenge: Fantasy (Faux) Stone Earrings...

When I was little, I used to get in trouble for talking too much at school.  No matter who I was sitting next to, I would regal them with endless stories.  One of them was about a wizard who could make stones of power.  Depending on the day, the stones had the powers to grant the possessor the gift of flight or the ability to breathe under water or the curious knack of walking through fire.  It all really just depended on what I felt would be most convenient at the moment.  I invent stories of brave knights (and daring princesses) who would embark on perilous quests to find those stones AND I would try to rope the other children into acting out the parts.  Needless to say, my desk was dragged off into a corner and I was sequestered next to the chilly and relentless air conditioning vent to prevent me from distracting my classmates from their lessons.

To this day, I still dream of wizards creating magical stones imbued with special powers.  And as an artist, I can create what my mind's eye sees.  (And as an adult, I can sit where I want and talk as much as I want!)  The Fantasy (Faux) Stones are created with layers of textured polymer clay.  I've embedded iridescent inclusions and added metallic and opalescent paints to simulate large, flashy opal slices.  I wanted them to glow with an inner fire, as if they only need to be touched to active a burst of energy.  I've also added washes of paints and pigments to give the pieces an ancient, rustic feel.  They are attached to vintage brass lever back earwires with a mix of textured copper rings and heavy gauge brass rings.

Click on the links to follow them to their listings in our Etsy shop:

I've been having fun with the reboot of the Creative heART Challenge so far.  I think by not putting a daily deadline on myself, I've been able to dig a little deeper and work more intuitively.  I also have been less stressed this go around.  Previously, I felt so frantic trying to make new things every day, photograph everything, and post everything.  I work more like a bee, flitting around, pollinating projects here and there, until all of a sudden... I have a wonderful bounty.  I have also noticed a few things developing.  I've seen my personal color palette shifting slightly, taking on more pastel colors.  As I post more work, you'll see what I mean!

You can see all of my currently available pieces by CLICKING HERE.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

Make a Donation Can for Your Favorite Charity with Laser Image Transfers and Cut Vinyl Text
Here are two methods to create designs that conform to uneven surfaces like the ribbed surface of this can.

Beading Arts
Cyndi has an easy bead embroidery tutorial for you to try!

Art Bead Scene
Want to see who won the August Monthly Challenge?  Take a look at the pieces inspired by "Park Near Lu" by Paul Klee.

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Andrew's Creative heART Challenge is going full steam ahead!  See his latest creations for this project!  If you like rubies, you'll be in for a treat!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Beads Baubles and Jewels Update...

This past November, I was fortunate enough to be asked to return to Beads Baubles and Jewels as one of their guests!  I love Katie Hacker and the KS Production crew and was flattered that they invited me back!  I filmed episode 2409 - One of a Kind.

In the episode, I show how to make silicone molds, work with fast-cast resin, and give ideas on how to incorporate your resin creations with TierraCast components.  I had a blast!

If you have CreateTV, that episode has been airing this week.  If you don't have access to CreateTV or you don't have a PBS station local to you that plays Beads, Baubles and Jewels, you can still watch it!  My episode starts streaming TODAY (September 9th) at noon and will run for 7 days.  

CLICK HERE to visit their website and watch the episode!  (And if you pay attention, you can see how I turn a crafty disaster around on camera!)