Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Disney Holiday

To celebrate our girls finishing up a great first semester of college, Kraig and I whisked them off for a surprise trip to Disneyland and Universal Studios for Winter Break. With barely a day to catch up on all the sleep they missed during finals week, we left behind cold, dreary WA and jumped on a plane to Anaheim, CA for four days of fun in the sun!

Golden Horseshoe Revue: The girls got a table in the front, hoping Kraig would get picked to participate on stage…and it worked! He was "lucky" Bachelor #1 out of 3 vying for the hand of the *lovely lady* behind him. LOL

We also enjoyed visiting Universal Studios for the first time—especially the Transformers and Mummy rides and the backlot studio tour where we got to see movie sets and experienced a 3D King Kong wrestling with a dinosaur all around our tour bus that felt very realistic!

After all the excitement of constant walking, wild rides, too much fast food, and long, action-packed days, we reluctantly headed back for some much needed rest and the first snowfall over our home. I'm so glad we were able to spend this quality family time together, celebrating the joy of the holiday season! *Ü*

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Styluses with Style

It's no secret to my family and friends that I am a total Geek when it comes to the love of my Apple Mac computers and four—count 'em!—four assorted versions of iPads, iPods, and iTouch gizmos.  I especially love the ones that have touch screens and drive my girls crazy whenever I use their laptops, touch the screen, and complain that it's not working properly. LOL But I don't love how messy they get with fingerprint smears that I have to constantly clean off. So imagine my delight when I discovered I could make my own styluses with my glass beads! Oooooh, the ideas were tumbling over themselves at all the possibilities!

It took a bit of experimenting with the bead size and shape that I thought fit best in the hand, but I finally figured it out after making a few duds in the process. These are the first successful ones I made in a mini stylus version:

Aren't they darling?! They fit perfectly between your fingers and come with an attachment that connects into the headphone jack when you're not using it, so you don't have to worry about misplacing it. Now, how cool is that?! I also have the hardware to make regular size styluses that I will share later on, but these little guys are so unique and cute to use, that they have completely stolen my heart.

I definitely have plans for a bunch of other design ideas, but it will probably have to wait until after the holidays to try them out. In the meantime, I would love to hear your input and any suggestions you might have for a design you'd like to see? *Ü*

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Bevy of Bronzed Beauties

I've got a big show coming up Thanksgiving weekend, so I've been doing my best to hunker down in my studio to make more goodies to sell. In between long bead making sessions on the torch and quick snack runs for McD fries and chocolate chip frappes (hey, gotta keep the energy up, right?!), I've been having fun creating metal components that I will include in some of my jewelry designs.

I love to use Bronze Clay that I form into unique findings using a variety of shape cutters, rubber stamps, clay tools, texture plates, and molds I made with found objects—anything that has an interesting texture is fair game for me! Here is what they look like in their unfinished state, where they need to dry thoroughly before I can fire them in my kiln to burn away the binders and turn them into nice, shiny metal…

…and here is what my fingers look like after I've sanded and refined the shapes so the edges are nice and smooth…

This is actually a much *cleaner* version than what they looked like after I finished the entire batch—but I was afraid to use my camera then in case all that metal dust would get into it. Trust me, a coal miner might have better hands than mine at that point?! LOL As is often the case when I go into "panic production mode" the week before a show, my hands suffer all manner of chipped nails and a variety of stains from the paints, patinas, and other materials I use—so a nice manicure the day before the show is definitely on order to make sure I don't scare off my customers!

But the chaos and bruised vanity is well worth it, when I end up with beauties like these…

This is what they look like after they've been fired overnight in my kiln, polished, patina'd with liver of sulfur, and tumble polished again to a soft glow. I love the old gold color of Bronze, and the rustic elegance I can give it with the use of texture and a selective "aging" process. My favorites are the ammonite pendant and the long sea urchin findings I created with molds I made from the shells. I can't wait to turn them into some cool beachy necklaces!

I'll be sure to share the finished designs soon—or better yet, if you're in the area, you can stop by the EtsyRAIN Holiday show in Seattle to see them in person (click on the logo on the right sidebar for all the details)! And if you have any favorites of your own, please feel free to leave a comment to let me know! *Ü*

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pantone Fall 2013 Color Forecast

Whew! Judging by the way the leaves had just changed and then the wind blew them all down in the space of about two weeks here, I'd have to say the Autumn season is definitely upon us! I'm a little late to the party sharing Pantone's Fall forecast, but there's still a few more months left to pull together that killer outfit or accessory in some of this year's hottest color trends!

I've already been busy creating some new lampwork glass bead designs that would fit in nicely with this color palette, like these…

Caramello Leaf Headpins
Baroque Delphinium Set
Marrakesh Mixed Bead Set

I love jewel tones and I can see myself wearing any and all of these luscious colors! My favorites are Acai, Samba and Vivacious, paired with one of the softer neutrals like Linden Green or Carafe. And I can't wait to head out to the studio and make more beads with these rich color combinations. What are your favorite shades that you look forward to wearing this Fall? *Ü*

Friday, October 25, 2013

Feeling Lucky? Bead Magazine Giveaway!

Edited to Add: This Giveaway has ended and CONGRATULATIONS to Kay of KaysKreationz, for being the lucky winner! Her #4 comment was chosen by Random Number Generator and I'll be shipping this great issue out to her soon. I really appreciate everyone who entered and shared some of their favorite Autumn colors—and please check back here often, since I'm sure I'll be doing another fun giveaway before the end of the year too! *Ü*

I'm so pleased to let you know that my "Rivendell" Necklace is featured with step-by-step instructions in the lastest issue of Bead Design Studio! I received two copies of the magazine earlier this month, but admit that I forgot all about it underneath of pile of mail (ack!). But since there's still a week left to the month, I hope it's not too late to offer my extra copy to one lucky reader?

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment to share you favorite Fall jewelry colors by October 28th and I will draw names on the 29th to announce the winner. Please don't forget to include a way for me to contact you and Good Luck! *Ü*

Monday, October 21, 2013

Whitworth Family Weekend

This past weekend was Family Weekend at Whitworth University, where our two daughters are both attending school. Kraig and I were so excited to see Katie and Ashley for the first time since we helped them move into their dorms in August, and we couldn't have asked for nicer weather so we could all enjoy some fun time together on the beautiful campus and surrounding area. Here are some of the highlights of our visit…

We brought both the girls' beloved pets up with us as a special surprise (where they each proceeded to smuggle them into their rooms for the whole weekend—shhhhhhh! Please don't tell! LOL)

Katie and Lion, her Lion Head mini bunny
Ashley and Romeo

On Saturday morning, we enjoyed a lovely country drive out to one of the great Pumpkin Patches that were in the area…

Gorgeous new barn with a cool "castle tower" that I just loved!

…and while it turned out to be quite a challenge to get a decent family shot, we finally managed to snag a few good ones (after too many outtakes to share here, thanks to a ton of weird spontaneous poses by the girls and the *ahem* unusual compositions taken by Katie's boyfriend, Ian?! LOL)

Then after a delicious lunch at one of their favorite diners, we headed out for some shopping, walked around campus to enjoy the Fall color, and caught part of a soccer match (we won, yay!)…

We couldn't figure out if these white things up in a tree were supposed to be ghostly decorations for Halloween, or underwear…and we were too afraid to ask!!

We managed to cram in a great visit in the short amount of time we had, but all too soon we were saying our goodbyes for the long drive back home, while the girls went back to preparing for their upcoming midterms. I can't wait to do it again soon (and maybe we'll try to see if we can smuggle Max in this time?!!) *Ü*

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Find: Spicy Frit Rack

Always on the look-out for a fun surprise at my local thrift shop, I happened upon this spinning spice rack the other day and thought it would make for a great storage piece! As is often the case whenever I stumble upon something like this, I wasn't quite sure what supplies I wanted to put in it at first—but then the light bulb in my brain went off and I decided it would be perfect to store my favorite frit blends in my glass studio…

I used to have my frit (crushed glass bits) stored in a plastic bin that I would have to sort through whenever I needed to find a certain color I wanted to work with. But now everything is out and easy to see—and makes for a pretty pop of color on my work table too. I forgot to take a "before" photo when I first brought it home, but I don't think it will be too hard to use your imagination for that, right? All I had to do was rinse out the empty bottles, pour in the frit, and transfer the labels from the original bags to the new jar tops (I used my handy-dandy bottle of Un-Du from my scrapbooking days—works like a charm!).

I love that it can hold so much in a compact area, especially since my table space is limited. (But to be honest, this isn't all the frit I have! LOL) The tops have flip lids so I can choose to sprinkle a little out at a time, or unscrew it to pour a larger amount.

If you don't have a need for frit storage, there are plenty of other supplies you could use this concept for, such as headpins, buttons, sequins, or small beads. The only bummer is that one of the jars was missing when I bought it—so if you happen to have an extra one of these laying around you would like to send me—please feel free! *Ü*

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Design Challenge No. 5 Reveal

Whew! These past two weeks have flown by and time for another Challenge reveal already? To refresh our memories, this is the Inspirational photo I chose for this Challenge:

To be honest, I've been swamped with getting myself prepped for one of the bigger bead shows I do that is coming up in October, so I wasn't able to get too carried away with it. Although I did make more Raspberry beads (an obvious choice, but it also worked in my favor to bring to the show! *Ü*) Two other artists stepped up to the Challenge and submitted their fabulous designs that I'm sure will prove to be much better inspirations to you all…

The first one is a pair of beautiful earrings by Janet Bocciardi of Honey from the Bee. I love all the different shades of pinks and how she combined the textures of the glass beads and the fibers together!

And Janine from Esphera Travel Blog shared this bracelet incorporating floral lampwork beads, antique brass, and the more gorgeous wine-pink pearls I've ever seen.

She also made a coordinating pair of earrings with raspberry colored Swarovski crystals wrapped around the ear wires. I love how just that little touch gives them a unique flair. And I was stunned to read her blog and see that she lives in and travels the world in a Mercedes-Benz truck and creates all her jewelry while on the road?! Now that is traveling in style!

As for my little Giveaway of one of my Berry beads, Janet ended up being the name I drew from the hat. Congratulations, Janet! Thanks so much to both of you talented ladies for entering this Challenge. I am wowed by your inspirational ideas and ingenuity! *Ü*

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

40 Bead Challenge - The Beginning

Last month, I heard about an informal event being hosted by one of my favorite glass people, Haley Tsang Sather on the Lampwork Etc. online forum. She was encouraging other bead makers to join her in playing along with the "40 Bead Challenge," originally introduced by another amazing artist, Heather Trimlett.

The premise of this exercise is to work on developing one of the most basic (but also sometimes the most challenging!) of lampworking skills: Dots. It takes steady hands, a careful eye, and thoughtful planning to achieve excellent results. Made even more challenging by these key rules:

  1. Use ONLY dots as the decorative element
  2. No tools of any kind are allowed (ack, a knife to my heart!)
  3. Use only the same two colors
  4. Limit yourself to making 5-6 beads at a time, over a series of days
  5. Make a total of 40 beads, all with unique patterns

As a former graphic designer, I have to admit I take a bit of pride in my ability to almost perfectly measure out things by eye (sometimes I'm off by 1/32", but who's counting?) So I mastered dot placement fairly quickly on my beads, but I have never challenged myself to tackle anything more complex than a few "go to" dotted designs. Something about this challenge spoke to me, and since I'm always up for learning new skills, I just couldn't resist signing up to join in!

I've been swamped with work and family stuff since the beginning of summer, so I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself and thankfully, this challenge is all about doing it in your own time and having fun with it. So I've been squeezing in work sessions as I can, and avoiding any time-wasting indecision by focusing on one type of design style per session, i.e. basic dots, triangles, or rings.

I chose to work with Reichenbach Deep Black and Effetre Light Pink as my two core colors. Here's what I have done so far, over the course of four different days:

Day 1 - Simple Dots

Day 2 - Flowers

Day 3 - Soft Triangles

Day 4 - Rings

The first photo at the top of this post is what they look like all strung together and I am so happy with what I've been able to come up with so far! I started off with the favorite basic designs I often use, but almost everything else shown is a completely new design effort. This exercise is definitely making me look at dots in a completely different light and each work session generates even more ideas I want to try, with 20 beads done and 20 more to go!

If you would like to join us on the LE forum and explore your own dot and design skills (as well as get some wonderful inspiration by the others playing along), just click HERE to sign up.

P.S.—You might want to skip the morning coffee before you start on this one, unless you're going for a "Wild and Crazy Dots" theme?! *Ü*

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Inspired Design Challenge No. 5

Ready to be inspired to play again?! Now that I'm back from my summer break and the kids are back in school, it's time to light a fire under our creativity juices again! For this new Challenge, I picked a new photo palette from Design Seeds that really appeals to me, since I've been on a recent berry bead making roll lately (and who doesn't love raspberry red?!). The last days of Summer are upon us and soon we'll be breaking out the sweaters and thick socks—but for now, let's get inspired by the sunshine and fresh produce from the Farmers Market and see what we can create!

* BONUS!! * For this Challenge, I'm also going to give away one of my new Raspberry beads to one lucky particpant! YAY!! I'll pull names from a hat for everyone who comments (one entry per person), and give a second entry for those who submit one of their inspired creations at the end of the challenge, so please be sure to include your email or some way for me to contact you if you're the winner.

Guidelines to Play:
  • Your creative inspiration can come from the colors, textures, subject matter, or even the feeling or memory that you received when you first saw the Challenge photo.
  • Anything goes as far as materials used—it doesn't matter if you like to work in glass like me, or prefer a different medium like clay or paint. I would love to see a variety of items, whether it be a bead, knitted scarf, jewelry, painted canvas, pen doodle—whatever your Muse is itching to make!
  • If you have a set of coordinating projects like a necklace and earrings, please submit a group photo of them with just one link to share.
  • Please keep your designs to a decent subject matter (i.e. no provocative artwork) and nothing politically motivated.
Submission Deadline:
  • Post a comment with a link to your finished project as soon as you can between now and Monday, September 30th

Throughout the next few weeks I will share my on-going projects, as well as yours, on my Facebook page HERE, my Pinterest board HERE, or on the next Challenge blog post. So if you can add your finished project as soon as you can, that way I hope to be able to spread out my posts over the duration of the Challenge instead of one giant update. And please don't forget to give details on what you used to make it and how the photo inspired you. *Ü*

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bonkers for Berries

I try participate in local craft shows whenever I can because I love meeting my customers in person and seeing their faces light up when they discover new at my booth. This has been my third summer with the Issaquah Farmers Market and I can't believe it took me so long to think of making Berry beads to sell there?! (Fresh Farm Produce + Glass Beads = Berries…Duh, right?!) I first started out making Strawberries, which are one of my favorite summer fruits…

Then, a little while later I added Blackberries and Raspberries to the menu. These are much time consuming than they look and I can only make about three or four in row before I start to feel a little dizzy from adding all those dots…

People really love them and comment on how realistic they all look. And what can you do with all of these juicy looking beads? Turn them into delicious jewelry and other goodies, of course!

Sterling Berry Earrings and a Big Hole Charm Dangle

By far, the most popular response has been to these sweet stainless steel Jelly Spoons, which is also a new item I started offering this year. The little silver ball at the top unscrews so you can also switch out the beads for something like a Pumpkin for Thanksgiving gravy or a Mistletoe Ball for cranberry sauce at Christmas! If you make your own jellies and jams (or buy from your local market), these are great for putting together as a unique gift to a favorite teacher, housewarming, or "just because" for a special friend.

I haven't listed very many of my Berry items in my Etsy shop since I started making most of them a little late in the season. But if you would like to order my Berry beads or finished designs for yourself, please feel free to email me any time of the year and I would be happy to make something yummy just for you! *Ü*

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Design Challenge No. 4 Reveal

 To recap, here is the inspiration photo behind Challenge No. 4…

This Challenge was a fun one, since it has a lot of colors that really appeal to me, as well as a Beachy theme (always near and dear to my heart!). A lot of people seemed to like it too, judging from the great comments on my Facebook page, but sadly, they weren't able to participate after all. I totally understand since this is Summer when all the kids are out of school and vacation season is in full swing. 

But designer Dini Bruinsma came through with a stunning necklace design within hours of my posting the Challenge—a world record response! LOL It turns out she had just completed it the day before, but we must have been on the same wavelength, because it goes perfectly with the Challenge colors and natural vibe.

I love how she was able to mix up so many different elements, but the soft colors are what keeps everything in harmony. I would wear this in a heartbeat!

I was inspired to work on some more of my Sea Urchin beads, but tried something new by adding powdered enamels to give the illusion of the subtle shading and texture shown in the photo. Some were more successful than others, but then that's the fun of playing, right? Will definitely be doing some further exploration with enamels from now!

I also created a "statement" necklace using similar shades of the purple and olive green in the photo. All the beads are hollow, so even though they have a bold presence, they are very lightweight (think hollow Urchin shells). The center focal was also inspired by the Urchins, but I went for a more abstract design with the dimensional bumps. I really love how it turned out and will probably keep it for myself!

"Verona" Necklace - featuring my glass hollow beads and sterling silver accents

I hope you enjoy these projects too and if you make something later on because of the Challenge photo, you're more than welcome to share it here in the comments and I will still help share it on my Pinterest for you.

Also, I think I'll take a break for the month of August since I have kiddos to get ready for college (two at the same time—oy!), so the next Challenge will begin again on September 1st. Stay tuned for some more good stuff! *Ü*

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