Monday, May 31, 2010

Work in Progress

The long holiday weekend has let me spend more time beading than I have been able to for weeks.  WooHoo!!

The necklace inspiration I talked about most recently is working out really well. I got the entire base bead covered with fringe and then small loops between the fringe. I just strung it on some wire to photograph it, and yes, the picture is really sucko. I can't get the focus proper for some reason.

But it'll give an idea. This central bead will be the most elaborate, I will make several (5-7) more smaller ones for each side of the work. 

I love the flat amber chips. The fringe dangles and looks different with every twist. All the colors blend wonderfully, too. 

It's so good just to sit and create. Isn't it?

Sunday, May 30, 2010


The peyote bead base works much better than the spiral wire base. 

I took apart the bead I'd done yesterday to reuse the beads. One particular light yellow color (I think it's a color-lined amber) I'm kind of short on. 

So far, it's looking really nice. Not like anything in particular I've ever seen before. I like that.

Now I think I need to go watch the end of the Indy 500 with my sweetie. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Where Do Beading Ideas Come From?

In there, somewhere, is the best I can come up with. 

The other evening, I had a sudden thought. It was really an instantaneous, complete design for an entire necklace. BAM!! Not to quote Emeril, of course. 

It included some really lovely 16mm carnelian rounds (for those who don't think in mm, that's about the size of a small grape) I have had for a couple of years. They aren't graduated, but all the same size, and pretty opaque for carnelian, so they're a brownish red color. 

The idea also included some intermediate beads that I have to construct myself. It was a mass of beaded fringe like Mary Darwall makes, with the fringe changed in proportion to be shorter and wider. Each fringe branch was ended with an amber chip, a rutilated quartz bead, or a small carnelian round.

Mary Darwall was at the Santa Monica Art Show & Sale last fall, and her work really inspired me. I purchased a pair of her earrings, so I could look and see how she did that fringe. I realize that there are plenty of other places on the web to find that out, but I'm actually glad I spent the money for the earrings. Just having them is inspiring, and they match my Christmas embroidered piece nicely. 

So this idea for the beaded beads to intersperse with the carnelian rounds just hit me. I spent the next couple of days musing it over, trying to figure out how to construct the beads. I went back and forth about an interior peyote bead to space the fringe evenly, vs a wire spiral that would just be worked full. The wire spiral is obviously a lot less work.

So I began today with a proof of concept on the wire spiral inner bead idea, and although I'm really liking the way the fringe is looking, I'm not as pleased by how it all flops toward the bottom. Stupid gravity. I'm going to have to make a small peyote bead with perhaps 5 or 6 rows and try that out.  Perhaps it will hold and distribute the fringe at the top of the bead more firmly.  I'll report on that later. 

The colors, and texture and assembly of the whole thing, though, is really cool. I didn't think, after I purchased them, that I would find a good use for the flattish amber chips, but this is working out well. 

I've experienced this kind of "all at once" inspiration before, with art quilts. Those pieces tend to be my best. Of course, the original idea tends to be modified in the process of making. Like they say, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, and no art design survives contact with the materials. But that's what I like about the process too, that it evolves under my hands. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Blog Link - Comment and Get a Mention!

Annika deGroot, who commented on my last post (Thank you!), has a great blog on micro-macramé. I followed the link on her name, and there it was! Great stuff there, so I included a permanent link in the list at the left. I'll be visiting there often.

Aleta Ford Baker, an early commenter, also has a blog or two. I've included a link to the one with the most content, I see she also has an Etsy store. 

Etsy. May be in my near future too. Better pictures, then Etsy!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

More Micro-Macramé and Other Pieces

The micro-macramé has been going well. One of the projects in the book by Kris Buchanan I purchased caught my eye, and I tried out the leaf shape to see how hard it was. The answer is, the decrease/increase wasn't hard at all, but getting the beads in the center, which fall in a small gap, to be tight between the rows of knotting, isn't as easy as it looks. I suspect I did something wrong with the angle of the anchor cord as I did the second side. You have to drop a cord each time to make the top side, then pick it up again as you create the lower side of the leaf. Cool!

I'll continue working at this practice piece until I feel like I can fling myself into a real project. Not yet. A few more leaves perhaps. 

Some earlier pieces joined me in my photography tent, but the light wasn't cooperating, either that or I've forgotten everything from the last session. Pics aren't as sharp as I'd like, or the depth of field stinks, or something. 

First is a fun piece I did in a netting stitch, there are some vintage purple glass beads, some amethyst drops, but most of it is glass. Oh, and the little coral dumbbell shaped beads are so much fun. I wish I had a ton more of those, though they weren't cheap. When you put multiples together, they form such great shapes.

Next is one of the first pieces I did when I came home from Mendocino two years ago. That's when and where I found those wonderful black and white seashell beads. Yes, those shells are naturally striped that way! Not painted. They're combined with bone beads from Africa, some coral, and some onyx. I love this necklace, and actually made it twice, but the other one isn't as full and I like this one best. I treasure those shells and will have to use the remaining ones very carefully.

The lapis and silver necklace is also one of my favorites. The large silver beads are silver over ceramic, there's sea glass beads, along with real Afghanistan lapis that I took out of a crudely strung necklace I purchased at a swap meet several years ago. Silver spacers and liquid silver fill it out. Stringing liquid silver is a bit intensive. This was a "learning to get the lower multi-strands to connect to the single upper strands, and get them to hang right" try. The main lapis piece somehow came out a trifle to one side. Sigh. I don't really want to redo the whole thing, but you can't sell something that isn't perfect.

Last for this post, is the original embroidered pendant that inspired my friend Anne to get her commission piece. I finished this just before Christmas last year, for obvious reasons. I absolutely loved working on this. On the second piece, I incorporated a pin back to help anchor the pendant to clothing and/or to anchor the length of the sliding braid. When worn, this one is a bit fussy as it keeps sliding down and hiding the large fringe at the bottom. I'll have to retrofit a pin back on this one, eventually. 

I also did this directly on Lacy's Stiff Stuff, and that was before I realized that you had to either color the LSS with pens or cover it with ultrasuede so that white doesn't peek through the beading, because nobody can perfectly bead 100% coverage. So, not a perfect result, but still really cool. It impressed the heck out of family members at Christmas!

More gallery pieces as I get the pictures taken.

Friday, May 21, 2010

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not...

My cat likes to lick me. Mostly my hand or arm, if I pet her anywhere near her head and leave it there.

I don't know if she does this because she likes me, or because she is trying to correct what she considers faulty grooming, or if she's planning to eat me when I fall over dead and is just trying out the taste.

It's very odd being licked by a cat, if you just hold still and let them. Yes, their tongues are scratchy and ticklish, but what I find most interesting is the consistent pattern of the licks. She starts out in one spot, and then very methodically moves her head about half a tongue-width to one side, over and over. She manages to cover all available surface very quickly, missing nothing. If you turn your hand over, she'll do that side too.

And when she's done, she stops. I can almost hear her say, "There. Now it's right." 

Of course this is a very funny cat, anyway. She doesn't particularly enjoy being picked up and held, and I'm convinced she doesn't like it because when we put her down she's obliged to lick down every hair we've disturbed. Oddly vain, this cat. 

I'm going with the "correcting faulty grooming" theory, I guess. I clearly don't lick myself well enough to suit her.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our Vacation in The Twilight Zone

About 8 years ago, my husband and took a driving vacation around the northern section of California. We drove north up the east side of the Cascades. We went through Lassen National Park on a rainy day. That was...interesting. The road through Lassen, while completely paved, is none too well provided with shoulders. There are spots where the white line is inches from 3000 foot dropoffs. On the passenger side. "Could you drive a little farther from the edge, dear?"  "I would, dear, but the oncoming traffic might object."

I can't imagine why there aren't dozens of cars piled up in those valleys below the danger spots. Nobody drives fast through Lassen.

In other spots, there are large fields of smoking earth and fumaroles putting out steam, or bubbling mud, clearly visible from the road. Cool place, Lassen. Chock full of Scenery with a capital S. 

At one point near the summit of the road, we passed a woman sitting in her car. She had pulled onto the quite narrow verge, and appeared to have just stopped, hands on the wheel. She wasn't enjoying the view at all, and since we were driving slowly and carefully, we could see that she wasn't moving.

On our exit from the park, we asked the ranger in the booth about her. "Oh," he said, "they freeze up there and can't go on. We have to go up and drive two or three cars a day down. More in summer."  Lassen is a place of adventure and beauty. And driving through it can make perfectly normal people who have driven for decades unable to go on.  But it's not the Twilight Zone. I promised the Twilight Zone.

A day later, we explored around Mt Shasta, stayed overnight, and then headed west. 

Around the midpoint of the day, we arrived in a tiny burg called "Happy Camp." It's in the middle of the Klamath National Forest. We had an entirely inadequate map, which seemed to indicate we could take a small road somewhat northwest from there, and get to Crescent City. Please note that the road marked on the map appeared not too wind-y, and seemed to go pretty much directly where we wanted it to. 

And we wanted to drive south on the coast from Crescent City. If we didn't hit the coast there, we'd miss a lot of ocean scenery.  So, we embarked on the tiny road out of Happy Camp, first making time to visit a park with a really unpleasant outhouse. The first mile was through a canyon, with houses on each side, and steep mountains going way up there.  Then there were only a few isolated houses. Then there were...trees. Hills. More trees. The road began to wind, and climb, and fall, and wind some more. Did I mention the trees? More trees than you can imagine.

In places the road had no guard rails, and no shoulder, and quite large drops. It reminded me of Lassen, with less geothermal activity and more trees.  Then we realized there were no more cars. We hadn't seen another car for 40 minutes. Driving well over the middle line wasn't a problem, as there was no oncoming traffic. 

We stopped a few times at scenic pullouts to enjoy the view and chase a few diabolical ground squirrels, which seemed to try to tempt us to chase them right over the cliff edge. We fooled them by not plummeting to our doom, and drove on. I started to wonder if I was going to have to use a bush, as that nasty outhouse was beginning to seem a long time ago. 

The road seemed to stretch out endlessly. Look at the picture. It may be 50 miles as the crow flies, but it's about 400 on the road. Or at least it seemed that way. For most of those miles there were no signs, either. We weren't sure where we were, until....

Finally, up ahead, we spotted a sign. It got closer, and closer, and then, both of us exclaimed together...
"Welcome to CALIFORNIA???!!!??"  We looked at each other and asked "When did we leave?"

Apparently we'd been in Oregon for the last 40 miles or so, and nobody, least of all the state of Oregon, had bothered to tell us. Either that or the Twilight Zone, which seemed entirely possible. Not knowing we'd been in an entirely different state was somehow disorienting, even more than wandering along unknown roads in the lonely wilderness of the Klamath National Forest. 

The rest of the trip was uneventful, if enjoyable. I think that was the first trip we made where we stopped in Mendocino. We go back to Mendocino frequently. 

Happy Camp we leave strictly alone.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Teeny Little Knots

I got a chance to set up the micro-macramé this morning, and started in to practice my double half-hitches. 

I vaguely remember this, it being about mumblety-mumble years (okay decades) since I knotted.  Ahh, the 70s. And that was much bigger pieces, with much larger string.  Progress was faster, yet not so gratifying.

This time I'm using some lovely orange S-Lon.  Since I'm working in a much smaller size than those ancient days, the lengths of working strands are much shorter, which minimizes tangling and sitting there untangling unwanted knots. 

I also worked in some fuschia beads so I could try adding items to the weave. I can see that there are infinite variations here.  I'm going to have to try gluing the ends of the cord into pseudo-needles, though, I couldn't get even 11/0 beads on without a lot of licking of ends, and size 15s were out of the question.  I like teeny beads. 

The muscle memory is coming back. I glued the board together out of two pieces of foamcore left from making the light-tent, and may trim it a bit. Too large a board doesn't seem to pay. I'm not making plant hangers here!

As you might be able to see on the very fuzzy photo, the first rows are a bit shaky, but then I think I get the hang of the whole thing.  I'll need to practice my square knots, and half-squares and all those other neat ways to connect things together.  

What I found though, is that once I started, it was very hard to quit. I just wanted to keep going, row after row. Hmm. This could be a problem.  I think I may need more colors of cord. 

It is enjoyable to see the knots making a lovely pattern. Teeny little knots. 

And now I'm wondering why my spell-checker doesn't recognize the word "fuschia." 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Connections from Afar

My last post got a comment from Annika DeGroot, the author of a book on micro-macramé, offering to help if I got stuck in my experimentation. How totally kind of her. 

I haven't read the book, but Amazon has a nice feature to let you search inside, and it looks well illustrated and filled with interesting projects. I'll keep it in mind, though I can't possibly buy every fine book I see. 

Beaders are finding this blog from hither and yon. I've got readers from Australia, and Singapore, and all over the US. And, I find, they are kind and helpful, sharing their work, their hints and techniques, and their enthusiasm for beads. 

Yes, many crafts communities are like this. As I've mentioned before, I used to do art quilts, until the larger format of quilts got beyond me. Quilters are wonderful people, and many of them are beaders too, as the move toward surface embellishment of quilts doesn't seem to be fading at all. 

I still have one or two quilts I'd like to complete, if I can. One is for my son. I made him a sailboat quilt when he was little, which he still sleeps under.  When I first started it, he was very patient. He waited three whole days before asking me if it was finished yet. Eventually, it was finished.

Now, I've promised him a quilt, and even started it, for his college graduation. It looks like I have a year to finish this one, as he's enrolled in a program to get FAA certified in Airframe and Aircraft Engine Maintenance, which will finish this time next year. I'm so proud of him!

And there's another quilt I've had in my head for a good 10 years. It's called "Killing the Good Girl" and evolves from a fine traditional center to a wild, embellished, stamped, ripped, embroidered, beaded and steampunk'd outer rim to reflect my inner artistic and spiritual journey. I could make it even wilder now with the beading skills I've acquired. That one too is started, but nowhere near finished. Somewhat like the journey it is supposed to depict.

Life. A Work In Progress. This is true for most of us, I think.

Friday, May 14, 2010

This is Your Brain on Blogs

About a dozen times a day, I think, "hey that would be a really neat thing to blog about." And then I promptly forget what "that" was. Even when I try to impress it into my long-term memory. In fact, I seem to forget it more thoroughly then. Can't even recreate the circumstances under which I thought it. 

Honestly, sometimes I wonder what my neurons are doing up there. It's like they're plotting against me.  I may have to start carrying a notebook with me. Or chew a ragged fingernail and scratch the ideas into my arm.

So, cat update. She has an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) and the vet gave us some medications for her. Luckily, with her penchant for inhaling her wet food on sight, we've been able to medicate her in the food, so no struggling with shoving liquid antibiotics down a cat. She's feeling much better already, and the sneezing is nearly gone. Last night we had a thundering cat again, where she flings herself about the house and makes little growly noises in her throat. She's hilarious. 

The first morning when we fed her the medicated food, she behaved as if we should have been feeding her in the morning all along. 11 months of night-time wet food only, and the first morning feeding is "oh yes, this is my due." No shock, no surprise. Sheesh. Cats.

I wasn't feeling so great myself. For some reason a couple of fillings on Wednesday knocked me for a loop. Perhaps it was being rigidly tense in the dental chair for an hour. Not good. Though the dentist is gentle and the pain was minimal, I was tense. I feel better now. 

Anne, my friend, got the commission piece today. She loves it. I'm so thrilled. I can do this, I think. The next piece will be even better. 

I got some books on micro-macramé that have some projects I'm going to try out. I've constructed a macramé board out of foamcore left over from making my photo box, and so I can set that up this weekend, I think. And I got a book from Amazon on shaped beadwork that is really intriguing. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sniffly Cat

Ever had a cat sneeze on you? They never cover their mouths!  Or even turn their heads. 

Then they snort to clear their noses. Ewww. Cat sneeze spray all over.

So my cat woke me up early Thursday morning sneezing on my feet, which happened to be on top of the covers. I considered a Saturday vet appointment, but she seemed bright and perky, eating fine and playing, all day Friday & Saturday. 

Yesterday, though, I can see she's not feeling herself. She's got some gunk in her eyes for the first time. 

How a totally indoor cat gets an upper respiratory infection, I don't know. But she's got one.

So the vet, this afternoon. Oh boy. Gotta get out my armor-plated gloves. I'll need them anyway for the inevitable "just give her this twice a day!" medication. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Of Oranges, Beads, and an Epic Historic Truth

I had my Mother's Day a day early, with a lovely trip out with my sweetie.

We left early for a drive to Francisco's Fruits, to stock up on citrus (the Navels and Valencias are in season), avocados and assorted other goodies.  From there we drove down through Moorpark to the 101. The drive through Grimes Canyon is one of my favorites, a dozen miles of winding road through largely undeveloped hills. Except for the gargantuan gravel mine, it's lovely, rolling meadows, green at this season and covered in wildflowers.

As we came down on the south side of the hills, John remarked that the country reminded him so much of the former Orange County of his youth, with large orchards of fruit & avocados, nicely groomed farms, and rural two-lane roads surrounded by lovely vistas. It made me sad, because now Orange County is a sea of red-tile roofed tract homes, massive traffic, noise, and commerce. There isn't even a decent orange stand (or grove) anywhere in the whole county, which is why we have to drive to Fillmore.  I would hate to see this northern area go the same way. Perhaps its distance from LA will preserve it.

Once on the 101, it was a short drive to Agoura Hills, to Beadiak. We've been there before, and the staff, particularly Kelly, was as friendly and helpful as always. I had some general tools/goods I needed, and I found a nifty little set of lampworked fruit beads and some apatite rounds strands that I had to have.  I'm a sucker for fruit beads, what can I say?

I also got two books on micro-macramé, a technique I've wanted to learn. I've got a gorgeous focal bead I think would look wonderful combined with knotting and beads. I used to do macramé, back in the 70s, when I was a mere infant. Ahem. The usual plant hangers of course, and a purse I still remember fondly. But I saw some marvelous micro-macramé pieces at the Santa Monica Art Show last fall, and it really inspired me. The intricacies, and the ability to add beads and embellishments made me want to return to my knotting roots. 

The store had some other inspiring pieces, but I'm just not ready at this point to jump into bead crochet, or trying to create fabric beads.  There's only so much time in the day.  They did have a nice Sheila Clearey lariat necklace that she'd done with kumihimo with already strung strands, rather than the usual add-a-bead-at-a-time technique I usually use. I might try that.

I've got about six projects "in progress" stacked up and need to get to finishing some of them. It always seems there's that one bead or finding I need though. Isn't that always the way?  Now I need some gold bead caps small enough to fit the ends of the kumihimo braid I finished last week. Then I can do the netting on it I want to do, but first I need the end caps & to attach the clasp because otherwise I won't know exactly where the middle is, and that's critical. 

As we were driving, we were discussing the 1804 Lewis & Clark expedition, as you do. Well, at least we do. Among other things! Anyway, we were talking about why Sacajawea was so important to the expedition. I was joking that she was the first administrative assistant, she kept the whole thing running but didn't get much credit. Then it hit me!! OMG, as the texters say. 

They needed a woman along because she was the only one who would stop and ask for directions!  If it had been up to Lewis & Clark, they would still be wandering somewhere in the Dakotas insisting, "I'm not lost, I know right where I am!"

Anyway, after the bead store I used my own geographical skills to help John find his way to Langer's Deli, where we picked up the Pastrami and Corned Beef Sandwiches of the Gods, then home. 

All in all, a great Mom's Day for me. Today, I'm going to do some beading. Yay!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Really Like Kumihimo

Kumihimo is a technique of braiding derived from an ancient Japanese art used to produce cords for samurai swords and clothing fasteners.

Modern beading kumihimo is done with a foam disk instead of the wooden tool used in traditional braiding, and can either be done with pre-strung strands of beads, or by adding a bead to each passage of the braid. This second type is what I do, mostly.

I discovered kumihimo during a trip to Florida early last year. A visit to a combination bead shop/book store in St. Petersburg netted some good strands, including a nice set of unique, large and high-quality lapis I fully intend to use in a special piece. The lady who ran the Sparkle-Spot was very nice, though much of her shop wasn't as accessible as I would have liked. She ran and fetched for me and spent a lot of time. It was a slow time for her and so I got a lot of attention and spent a bunch of money.

Almost as we were leaving (we thought we were done) I admired a braided cord on one of her finished pieces and she told me it was kumihimo. I'd never heard of it, so she got out the disk and showed me how it was done. It was another way to use seed beads, which I hadn't explored much at that time, having mostly been stringing larger semi-precious and stone beads.

So we added a disk and some bobbins to my total, and I went off to follow the pictures, as the instructions were in Japanese! There is much more information on the 'net now about Kumihimo than there was a year ago. 

My first few braids were amateurish, of course. I fumbled with getting the beads to align properly, I missed whole circuits of beads, and proper tension escaped me.  I learned about the relationship of the size of cord used to the flexibility and drape of the braid, and how one should relate size of bead to size of cord. I also learned how starting position of each color affects the pattern that emerges as the braid grows.  There's also some learning in how much to string on each cord in order to produce a certain finished length, and that yes, you do actually need to have 3 times the finished length in cord, maybe more for bracelets and such, even though it wastes a lot of stringing material. Otherwise the cord just slips off the bobbin and there you are picking up spilled beads everywhere. Not that this has ever happened to me, oh no! 

I also learned that it wasn't a crime to go back later and sew in where I'd missed beads in the pattern. It's easy and it doesn't show. 

Now I really like having a kumihimo project going even when I don't know exactly what I'm going to use it for when I start. I set up the disk, and then leave by the sofa where I usually watch TV. I can watch and braid at the same time now, and keep the tension right. My last braid, a lovely dark ruby color dotted with heavy metal gold in size 11 seed beads, ended up without missing a single bead.  That's a first, I think.  I'm now contemplating using it as the base for a golden netting to surround some faceted ruby drops I got in Mendocino. 

If you're in St. Petersburg, Florida, definitely visit the Sparkle Spot. I never even got to the bookstore part, but that was intriguing too. Since I was there, I've ordered some Lacy's Stiff Stuff through her online store, because she has the best prices on it I found anywhere on the net. She has a lot of nice gemstones and sells Fireline in colors!  She also has a full range of S-Lon used for kumihimo or micro-macrame.

Ooo. Micro-macrame. Something else I want to try, soon!

So many projects, so little time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Back to Beads

Well, having got that Wells Farto rant out of my system, we can get back to beads. Whew!

When I got the June 2010 issue of Bead & Button magazine I was intrigued by the "Layered Ladders" article by Lisa Keith. 

I looked at the instructions for the project, and the finished bracelets and necklaces and thought to myself, "Myself, what if instead of laddering just a couple of beads, you make a ladder of bugle beads?" 

So I did.  These are a blue/plum raku finish bugle. I used the two-needle method of ladder stitch to minimize the number of passages through each bead. And I used a nice teal Nymo thread that cost a ton. $8 for a tiny spool, if I recall.  I thought at this point that the thread would show when finished. And it would have if I hadn't gone crazy with the design! Like many kitchen recipes, I use the original as a jumping off point, and don't follow it exactly.

I made the ladder a bit longer than 7 inches. Then I started following the instructions for the next layer. In this layer, you are supposed to string several beads from the top of one ladder row to the bottom of the next in line, passing through the ladder bead(s). So it zigzags. I did this with 5 small square beads in a nice teal all along each row on the first side. But in the center section of the bracelet, I substituted a small liquid silver bead I happened to have left over for the central three beads of each row.

When I got to the end, I really liked it. But the back was naked bugles and looked a bit odd. At this point too, the promised spiral had not happened at all. 

So I turned it over and started again. This time I used alternating rows of triangular pink/purple raku beads, and purple 3mm magatamas. As I worked, I noticed that the triangle beads nestled nicely with a flat side down and the point up. This made the magatamas lie very neatly in between. Nifty!  About halfway through, I also noticed that the spiral was appearing! Imagine that. Keeping the tension tight enough made that zigzag path of thread pull up enough to create the spiral. 

So I finished that side. Then I realized that, hey, the sides were now hanging out, with thread passing through each bugle multiple times. I couldn't have that!  So I got out some triangular 11 silver-lined crystal beads and did an up-down weave through each row of bugles, picking up a crystal bead each time. At the end, I realized this left spaces on each side, so I turned around and did the same weave on the alternate rows, which filled in the line of sparkly beads completely! I was really pleased by this time. 

I finished with an increasing/decreasing peyote button, but it came out sort of lumpy because triangle beads do not play well with decreasing peyote. I may replace it if I find the proper silver button. I think that would look marvelous, don't you? A loop of crystal beads to capture the button and I was done!

As it turns out, the very thin Nymo was a good idea, as in some places I ended up passing through the ladder bead about 6-10 times. I would probably use less costly stuff next time, though, as I figured out it probably took about 18 yards. and in the end, it doesn't show, if you do all the sides. That's a lot of back & forth!  The finished piece is surprisingly substantial, and I'm very pleased with my almost-original design sparked by the B&B article.  In fact, the finished piece looks a lot more weighty than the magazine article samples, as I thought those looked a little thin. A tiny petite person could wear those, not someone with a lot of....presence. That's what we'll call it, eh? 

Presence. Yeah. That's the ticket!

PS. The pictures were taken on a pink working mat, so that's why it looks so pink. The colors of the finished piece are very close to true.  Also the depth of field on that shot is not good, so only the back of the bracelet is in focus. 

Why I Hate Wells Fargo

Or, as we call it around here, Wells Farto. Once when I set up an electronic transfer from another bank account into a Wells Fargo account, the other bank got the name wrong. After furnishing much jocularity around the house, we adopted the name as only appropriate.

Once, about 8 years ago, we did our business and personal banking at Wells Farto. It was the bank my husband had when we married, and for a long time, it was just fine.

But then I started noticing something. WF never missed an opportunity to impose another fee, for anything imaginable, even for so-called "free" checking.   Then, I started seeing fees on my free checking that were just simply wrong. I called the first month, and got the fee reversed. No problem. The people at WF were always very helpful and courteous, I never had a problem with them. It was the system that drove me nuts.

Then, the second month, the fee reappeared. I called and had it reversed, and then spoke to someone the next time I was in the bank. They fiddled with their computer for a bit, said "Hmmmm" and told me they would look into it. So the third month, when the fee appeared again, I called customer service.

Turned out that "their computer system just wouldn't accept the command" not to charge us that fee. All I had to do each month was call and they would reverse the charge. I sat there stunned. I was supposed to call twelve times a year for them to correct their mistake?

Yep. They were embarrassed and apologetic, but that was the best resolution they came up with.

So I went through all the hassle and inconvenience of changing both business & personal accounts to a small, local bank named Western Financial. They had great service, free checking that was actually free (except for fees where you screwed up, like overdrafts) and a very close branch. We actually asked, in a joking kind of way, "now you're not going to get bought up by any other bank, are you?" when we opened the accounts. They assured us that no, they were well funded and they wouldn't be bought out.

All went along well for more than 3 years. I was very satisfied at Western Financial.

Then, they were bought out. By Wachovia. But really, it was about the most painless transfer ever. I didn't even have to change checks. Wachovia service remained great, and the primary change was that there were many more branches I could use. My free checking terms remained unchanged. I gave it a chance and it worked out well.

You can see where this is going, don't you? Yep. Last year, Wachovia itself was bought out by...wait for it...Wells Farto.

When I found out they were in negotiation, I emailed them and said, "don't do it. You'll be sorry. I'll leave if you do!"  But oddly, they didn't listen. They went ahead and made the deal.

So I made arrangements before the finalized conversion of the branches to WF, to move my business checking to Chase and my personal checking to USAA. And last Saturday, I went into the nearest WF branch and closed my accounts there.

I was carrying with me the final statements from both accounts. They were the first statements issued by WF instead of Wachovia's system. On each of them was a long paragraph delineating all the new fees that WF was imposing on my formerly free checking account. This particular leopard hasn't changed it's spots in any particular. They're still the Bank of the Fee. None of the staff that came over from Wachovia seemed happy to be there, though. Some of them seemed desolate. Happy to have a job, sad that it wasn't with their old bank.

So adios, Wells Farto.  Don't let the door hit you on the way out.  I hope all the Wachovia clients leave you in droves. If they have any self-respect, or clue about fee-charging bandits like you, they will.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Joining Things, Signing Up

Today I joined Technorati, a blog directory site, and Beaders Who Blog, a blog-ring. 

I did this mostly for the sake of my other life, as a publisher of my husband's books. The book has been out there, and sales have not been all we hoped. Actually, they haven't been anything we hoped.  I will admit I've let the marketing lapse a bit, in the press of other things, like life. Time to amend that.

So, I typed into Google, fount of all knowledge "how to publicize your book online" and one of the first links I visited suggested Techonrati. They have this concept called "Authority" which I think means a combination of how many people visit your blog, how many like it, and how many link to it.

So I signed up The Skeptical Juror, and while I was there, I thought, what the heck, I'm creating accounts hither and yon anyway, why not sign up BeadEnCounter too. Drive some more traffic to the site. Perhaps I'll get more hits! 

Then I was wandering about the net, and found the web-ring site for BWB. I signed up there too. Just the beads, this time. 

With both sites, it may be a few days until my blogs appear. I'll track and report on the huge upsurge of traffic we're anticipating. 

Oddly, there were few other useable suggestions on publicizing your book. We already do the website/blog thing. Oh yeah. Visiting other sites and making cogent comments, which just happen to include a link to our site? Done that. Didn't really turn out to create much of a buzz. Oh well, it says here, "keep trying." 

Release a press release? Ha! Among all the thousands of such things any outlet gets, how do you get attention, other than having it printed on incendiary paper that bursts into flame right after being read? 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pictures, Just Because

I'm still working on the camera. I need to get a setup in place so it's easy to turn on the lamps and get the lighting right. At the moment the light box is cluttering up my dining room table. 

But the other day I managed to get a photo of my cat, to show off the gorgeous colors of her coat.  Apparently my attempt to rename her "Petey" has been roundly rejected by everyone, including her. So she remains "Meri" pronounced "merry" for now.

I've gotten a shot of the commission piece for my friend Anne which I'm pretty satisfied with. I think this means I can now send it to her. A shot, and a detail of the pendant alone.

The large white stone piece came from the rock shop in Fortuna, CA, Chapman's. They say it's a fossilized piece of pine or cedar. Very heavy, but a nice neutral color and not too much texture to act as a background for pieces. I think it's a nice display piece. The rock is about 11" tall, so you can judge size by that. 

And then there's a very bad picture of a tagua nut bead I purchased at a trunk show at Brea Beadworks.  They were being sold by Sheilah Cleary, and I found this iguana among her beads.  She had quite a few iguanas, but I liked mine best because it's fat around the middle and looks pregnant.

Of course, I'm keeping my eye out for beads to compliment it, as it deserves to be the focal bead of a truly extraordinary piece.

It's about 2" at the longest, and even though much of the carving on the leaf is very thin and detailed, it's incredibly strong. The closest I can come to describing it is that it's like a light, strong resin or plastic. Except it's a natural nut, carved by hand, and dyed with natural forest dyes. Amazing. 

The Theory and Practice of Bead Organization, Part Three: Seed Beads

There are so many seed bead kinds, colors, sizes, and shapes, that trying to organize them requires a whole separate system of containers and organizers.

In the software, BeadEnCounter, that I'm working on, seed beads are tracked separately from other kinds of beads and findings. They have their own section in the database, and I can print out a current inventory any time I want to. This is invaluable when I want to purchase new beads, because when I'm confronted with a whole rack of beads in a store, I find myself drawn, over and over to the same range of colors. After I purchased my third batch of 505 blue plum in 11/0, I said "this is enough!" and started keeping the list in my purse.  It's right next to the long list of medications I take, and just about as important!

Of course, not all stores, local or online, adhere to the same numbering system as Toho does. If they use their own numbering, you'll have to rely on color descriptions, which can also vary. Delicas have their own system. But at least I know if I've bought too many tangerines, or if I happen to need a tangerine in size 15. Having a list, as well as organizing your beads, can let you know where your palette is thin. For instance, since I divide my drawers of regular beads by colors, I know that I've got red beads out the wazoo, and very few actual clear beads. Yellow and white are also under-represented.

In designing the software, I found I needed several important criteria to distinguish among my seed beads. Size is first. Then comes shape, then code/color.  Cost is not as important as it is with regular beads, as it's impossible to count all the seed beads in a piece. I can guesstimate (a word which interestingly, my spell-checker does not flag) that I've used a certain number of grams, or half of the container I bought, but I can get close enough for costing that way. I generally only worry about seed-bead costs with the heavy metal type beads, which can run close to a dollar a gram. 

Every store, it seems, packages their seed beads differently. This makes comparison shopping difficult, unless you're able to break the prices down per gram. However, I've found that if you get on the email list and watch the sales, the most economical way to buy seed beads is from Artbeads.  At times they have dollar sales where 8gms of beads will be discounted 75%, depending on the original cost. Or they'll have 50% off sales. If anyone has a better source, let me know.

Artbeads uses small plastic bags for their beads, 8gms each. Other stores around here use round tubes, with 30 gms in them. Or triangular tubes. Or short round tubes with 15 gms. Or different tubes for different sizes of beads.

In any case, it's impossible to logically organize anything when everything is in different containers. Drives me nuts. So I standardized on these plastic containers with a flip-top like a Tic-Tac box.  Dee's Place has them in at the best price I've found anywhere, locally or online. She ships quickly too, I've ordered several times, trouble-free. I get the smaller ones for small amounts of beads. The 3.75" ones will hold 28-30 gms of beads easily. 

And then I lay them down in these "project cases" from Stacks & Stacks. Right now, they're divided by size, though my size 11's are just about to outgrow their case, when they all come home from the project boxes they're currently in.

Inside the box, I'm not terribly fussy about how the colors sequence. I figure if they get messed up, I'll just see some new combinations that might spark an idea. What I do not want is two layers of containers. That's why I chose the shallow document case. I can fit about 55-60 containers in one case. One layer means I can see them all without shifting anything about.

Notice the labels? First each item is entered into the software, with a code if it has it, by size & color if not. Each flip-top is labeled with the P-touch as I transfer the beads into it. If there are special facts, such as one being a heavy metal or extra-costly, I note that on the label too. I found that one bead mixture was costing about $27 per 30 gm tube. But by combining two other $3.95 colors, I got my own custom mixture that is essentially identical. At least I can't tell them apart. 

I'm still working on way to stack these boxes so each of them is accessible without having to pull one off the bottom all the time. 

Soon, I'll include a picture of my working area, with all the storage in place.