Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Katie's Senior Project

Life just seems to be getting crazier and crazier for me and my family these days! LOL One of the biggest reasons is that my oldest daughter, Katie, will be graduating from high school this year and she has a lot of things to finish up before they kick her out into the big, cold world! ;-D

One of her graduation requirements is that she had to create her own special project and then present a tri-fold project board and an oral report to a jury of teachers. So about two weeks ago, she came to me for some advice on her project board. After a lot of brainstorming together, we came up with this:

Pretty nifty, eh? Can you tell what Katie's Senior Project might be all about? ***ding!*ding*ding*** If you guessed it has something to do with cooking, then you win a prize! She tested recipes and then created a cookbook featuring all sorts of yummy desserts (a girl after my own heart!). After showing her how to make her own book covers, I got to break out the book binding kit that I've had stashed in my closet for years and this is how it turned out…

Now, how sweet is that?! The pages she created to go inside are very pretty too—but just looking at the photos made me gain about 5 pounds! LOL For the design effects on the tri-board, we came up with some more brilliant ideas…

Making these 3-D cupcakes look as realistic as possible was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself! It involved creating a custom pattern to make the pleated wrappers out of decorative papers, cutting a Styrofoam ball in half, "icing" it with tinted joint compound, then airbrushing on more color (just like they do in a real bakery). They look good enough to eat—but I wouldn't recommend it unless you really like your dentist?! Hah! A "cupcake stand" made out of cardstock spray painted with silver metallic paint and dimensional pop-dots completes the effect.

How about some gingerbread cookies made out of brown cardstock, "baked" with brown stamp ink and decorated with white dimensional fabric paint "icing"? And check out the painted faux wood "table" on the bottom (one of our favorite effects of the whole project!).

A little decorative wall painting techniques for the background, some text, and many long hours later, and voilà! Now, before you start to get suspicious that this whole thing is starting to look like *I* did all of these for her, let me assure you that Katie did 95% of all the work shown here! I'm a firm believer that our children should earn their grades, so all I did was help show her how to do all of these techniques, and then let her do the actual creating of the projects. Katie definitely has her own wonderful set of creative skills and did just fine, as you can see. I did hear that some moms helped their children out quite a bit more than that in order to make sure they would graduate—but that's another story! LOL

Katie did really well during the official presentation day at school and is currently in the 20 top rated ones, awaiting to hear if she made it into the Top 10 out of the entire Senior Class. We're so proud of her and I loved getting to spend this special time together, working on such an important project! But it also makes me a little sad to realize that there won't be too many more times like this before she leaves for college in the Fall… I guess I'll just have to make sure we cram as much "us time" in as we can until then! *Ü*

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fan Page Giveaway!

A little over a week ago, my 300th Fan "liked" me on my Facebook Fan Page! Yipeeeee! I promised that I would do something fun to celebrate, so I've decided to offer one of my Watercolor Rose beads as a giveaway prize!

The main bead is from my Lilac Rose series, accented with two coordinating spacers. I'm thinking this trio would make a lovely charm or bookmark?!

To enter to win this beauty, all you have to do is to leave a comment here by this Thursday, March 31st—and perhaps let me know what is your favorite color combination for Spring? Please also make sure you include the best way for me to contact you if you're the winner. This is really for all my Facebook fans, so if you haven't already "liked" my page, please do so before you leave a comment. If you don't have a Facebook account, then you can still enter if you're one of my blog followers. ;-)

If this is your first time visiting and you would like to also follow my blog, I certainly wouldn't complain. I was a little late in creating my "Fellow Kindred Spirits" box on the right column, and I'm sure more than 38 people follow this, so I don't think everyone has signed up there yet. Besides—I'll need a good excuse for another Giveaway when I officially hit 100 followers here, right? *Ü*

*** Edited to add: We have a winner!! According to Random Number Generator, Michelle Plumb won my Watercolor Rose bead giveaway with her lucky Comment #1! Congrats, Michelle and I'd like to thank everyone very much for your wonderful comments and playing along too! ***

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fire Divas' Customer Appreciation Sale!

As a proud member of the Fire Divas team, I'm so excited to announce that we're having a Special Customer Appreciation Sale for all our customers and fans! Even if you're not familiar with this team of talented lampwork artisans, I wanted to also share the news with my own wonderful customers and blog supporters—so that you you can snag yourself some awesome deals too! The sale begins this Friday, March 25th and runs through Saturday, April 2, 2011 for the team. But I will have both my shops on "vacation mode" starting April 2nd, so I'll have to end my sale a little earlier on Friday, April 1st.

I am offering 15% off everything in my ArtFire shop, and including a free special bead gift with every purchase! Just use the coupon code "DIVATHANKS" when you check out and your total will be adjusted to reflect the discounted amount.

Lavender Watercolor Rose Garden set

The list of other participating Fire Divas can be found HERE with their own specific coupon codes and sale offers. But I warn you—bring a towel—because you'll be doing quite a lot of drooling, and I can't be held liable for any wild spending sprees!?! LOL Spring Fever and a great sale week… what a fantastic combination! *Ü*

Monday, March 21, 2011

Signs of Spring

After months and months of the dreary gray and rainy days of Winter, I'm overjoyed at the news that Spring officially arrived yesterday! Waaaaahooo! As if on cue, the sun came out to give a cheerful presence and I just had to run outside and snap some quick photos of the little bursts of color that are starting to appear in my garden…

Ashley's Primroses

I forgot what the tiny purple flowers are called since we planted them as bulbs several years ago, but they look so sweet poking their way up through the dead leaves, along with some grape hyacinths. The primroses were already starting to bloom over the past few weeks, and after a few surprise winter storms they're looking just a little bedraggled—but that doesn't stop them from putting on good show! ;-) As always, one of my favorite creative inspirations is from flowers, so here are some of the beads that I worked on during my last torching session…

I love how these swirly purple and green multicolored nuggets turned out! I made and sold a bracelet a few years ago with similar beads—and I've been wanting to make another one just for me ever since. (FYI: in case you're wondering if I'm getting a little goofy with my color combinations—no, those jade green spacers aren't meant to go with them! LOL).

Along with strong cravings to create more colorful beads, I've also been spring cleaning the house like crazy and am feeling an overwhelming urge to donate and/or throw away half of all the *stuff* that is taking up space in our home and garage. How did we ever manage to collect it all?!? Granted, the majority of it is my own art/craft supplies and home decor stuff! LOL I'm notorious for buying things on impulse because I love it and think that I would like to use it on a project in the future. I usually resist getting rid of them because "I never know when I'll need it for (fill in the blank)." But I think I'm finally at the point where I'd rather have a more decluttered home than hold on to "what ifs."

How about you? What sort of things are you looking forward to starting out fresh this Spring season? *Ü*

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Find: Frit Cups

Kind of sounds like something your Mom used to pack you for school lunch, doesn't it? LOL I just wanted to pop in today to share another one of my "finds" (and using this as a good excuse to procrastinate on my tax return!)…

I found a set of three of these little metal spoon-like gizmos at my local Goodwill store for about $.50. I have no idea what they were originally used for, but I love to use them to hold my frit (crushed glass) and anything else I want to apply to my beads while they're still molten from my torch. They have a shallow, wide bowl shape that keeps everything from flying over my table as I work, the long handles make it easy to maneuver without fear of burning my fingers, and they stack neatly away when I'm done. They could also be very useful on other projects such as to mix paint or hold small jewelry components. If you know what these are really called, I would love to know! *Ü*

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bead Sale for Japan Relief Aid

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Late last night I remembered a little stash of my acorn beads that I thought might be perfect to sell for the Japan relief effort!? Acorns symbolize strength, growth and hope—all the things that I know so many of us are wishing for Japan as they struggle to recover from the devastation over this past week.

So I would like to offer these beads for sale directly from my blog, where 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross fund for Japan. Each acorn is $10, with free shipping to anywhere around the world.

colors from left to right: Olive, Butterscotch, Dirty Martini (a light gray-green), Toffee

Please email me to let me know your first and second color choice and I will let you know if it is still available. Hopefully, it won't take long to sell these and I will be able to send a nice donation in soon! Don't forget, I'm also offering 25% of any proceeds from my Etsy and ArtFire shops this week to the fund as well! *Ü*

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Disaster Relief

I'm sure I've been like millions of other people who have been glued to their televisions and computer screens ever since we first heard the news about Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami this past Friday. My heart and prayers go out to the Japanese nation and I'm inspired to do what I can to help out in my own small way. So I am going to donate 25% of any proceeds I receive from my Etsy or ArtFire shops this week (March 14-21) to the Red Cross organization and am hoping that my wonderful customers and fans will help join me in this effort!

I was hoping to also make some beads specifically to sell where 100% of the proceeds will go to the Red Cross, but I have to wait and finish up my tax return first. *ugh* I'm going to try hard to get some torch time over the next few days and will offer those beads for sale directly from my blog. With either method of sales, I will offer proof that I sent in my donation too, just because I wouldn't want anyone to wonder if I am trying to work some kind of Ponzi bead plan? :-)

Even if you're not a bead or jewelry collector, there are many other ways you can help out by reading this great online article from the Together, we can help Japan rebuild and recover from these horrible events as quickly as possible…

Edited to add: Thank you so much for the wonderful customers who helped me raise $16.50 from my Etsy and ArtFire sales this week for the Japan relief fund! I decided to double that amount and sent in $33.00. I'm hoping my acorn beads will find new homes and I can donate more soon! *Ü*

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fire Divas Monthly Challenge: Monochromatic Mixes

We challenged the Divas this month to come up with beads in the category of "Monochromatic Mixes" and we have some beautiful entries! Please vote for your favorite, and starting this month, we are introducing a special prize for one lucky voter! Just make sure to vote and enter a comment at the bottom of the original post HERE (one per person, please), and when the voting is over, we will announce both the Diva winner AND the voter winner! This month's lucky voter will receive a coupon for 20% off anything from my ArtFire shop (Ashlyn Design)! *Ü*

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Find: Free Lampwork Tutorials

Talk about perfect timing?! I was going to try and post a tutorial later this week, but when I found an email in my mailbox this morning announcing three free glass bead-making projects from Jewelry Making Daily, I figured this would be much better to share!

For those of you who might be just starting out learning the wonderful hobby of lampworking, there is even a bonus section with a supplies and tools checklist. I can't wait to try these cool projects and hope you'll have fun with them as well!

Also, if you're a jewelry maker, Jewelry Making Daily has an email newsletter that is a great resource featuring other free project downloads, new book reviews, and tons of yummy bead and jewelry inspiration. I would definitely recommend signing up for their newsletter too! *Ü*

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Desktop Screen Saver Fun

The girls and I enjoy playing a little game, where if they can sneak on to my computer while I'm still logged on, they get to change out my desktop screen saver image with anything they want. The "rules" are that it can't been too scary or so ugly that I can't concentrate on my work and I have to leave it up there for at least the next 24 hours. This is what I found staring at me on my screen earlier this morning…

Well, at least it's cute, right?! Because the last time Ashley put a sloth on my screen, it was a fully grown adult and very creepy—I couldn't wait to take it off after a day!! LOL

I've had a circus of images to surprise me every few days—ranging from weird hedgehog cartoons to lettuce eating giant tortoises. And I have to admit, sometimes I leave the room just to see if they'll notice and run in to post something else they think is utterly hilarious. But my very favorite time was when Katie uploaded a hunky photo of Hugh Jackman (one of my favorite actors). Hubba, hubba! I left that one up all week—until one of them snuck back in and changed it on me! *Ü*

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Find: PittyPat's Burn Gel

This is a product I found a few years ago, but couldn't live without and thought you might like to know about it too? For those of you who work with molten glass or any craft that involves potentially burning yourself, this is a truly wonderful "find"!

Two years ago, when I was starting to get serious about lampworking, I bought a used Minor torch from someone on the Lampwork Etc. (LE) online forum. Her name was Patricia (LE name: PittyPat) and she included a surprise gift of her handmade PittyPat's Burn Gel along with the torch.

I kept it next to me on my work table, but for a long time I didn't use it (mainly because I am so cautious around my torch flame). But then one day *it* happened… I accidentally stuck my finger in the flame—or at least close enough to the outer portion of it—and gave myself a Total Freak Out.

For a nanosecond, I couldn't believe what I had done, but then the pain kicked in and I immediately dunked it into Pat's gel and left it there for several minutes while I berated myself for being so foolish and prayed hard that it wasn't as bad as it felt. It stung like crazy and was bright red for the rest of the evening, but I kept it moist with the gel and continued to pray. By the time I went to bed, the pain was starting to subside, and when I woke up the next morning to check on it, I was overjoyed. Because there was my finger… in perfect condition… without a blister or anything to show I had burned it!?! whoohooo!! I might have thought I had imagined the whole thing if it wasn't for my husband backing me up as an eye witness!

Pat's gel obviously has a base of Aloe Vera, but when I emailed her to let her know how much it had helped me, she let me know that it also contains several essential oils and other "magical" ingredients that make it perfect for treating minor burns. All I know is this stuff is awesome! And while I'm happy to say that I've only had to use it a few times since then (and never for something as scary dramatic as that first event), this is definitely a "find" that I keep close at hand whenever I'm making beads or using my kiln. I found out over the summer that it's also great for sunburns! *Ü*

I know this sounds sort of like an "infomercial," but I swear Pat didn't know I was going to post about this today, nor is she paying me to do it! LOL

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

With Katie recovered from her wisdom teeth surgery and the weather easing up a bit, I was finally able to get some torching done in my studio over the last two days. YAY!! Here are some of the things I've been working on…

New Watercolor Rose Rounds

Leopard Print Mini Set

Zebra Print Mini Set
These mini sets are a fun option I'm going to start offering in my shops—each set has a pair of small size beads that would be perfect for making earrings, and a small matching focal. I'm also working on more Watercolor Rose beads in other flower colors and shapes. I'm getting ready to list these in my Etsy shop later today, so I'd love to hear what you think of my offering mini sets vs. full sets of 5 to 7 beads in the same size? *Ü*
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