Friday, July 30, 2010

Time for Creativity, and More Better Pictures

Given that I spend so much time whining that I never get any time to bead, I do manage to get a fair number of pieces done. Never as many as I want to, but then, who does?

Looking back, though, the number of pieces I've managed to finish add up.  And this morning I worked a bit more with the camera and light box I built to try to improve on the pictures of recent pieces.

First, more pics of the most recent, still without the clasp.  This one is much more true to color, though the red is less prominent in the ammonite than it looks here. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm being fooled when I look directly at it.

The strung sections aren't quite as clear as I'd like them.  Here's a detail of the same item. I worked and worked on that embroidery. By the time I'd finished (on the outer edges and top) I'd gotten quite a bit better at spacing the beads without letting them pile up on each other. I'm just pretending for now I meant them that way. Ahem.  Although I planned the shape of the pendant and the placement of the ammonite, the rest of the design "just grew."  I'm happy with the subtleties that emerged as it neared completion. In some places, the beads that came next were more of an 'of course!' moment rather than 'what the heck do I do now?'  I think when you're experiencing that kind of moment of flow in creativity, the end product is more successful than either total planning or total thrashing about. 

Next, the amber/carnelian piece I've shown before, but I think the pics are more clear than any I've posted. Once again, the full piece and a detail.

It actually hangs quite a bit better around a real neck. I need either a model or a neck-shaped display piece. I may construct one for photo purposes over the weekend and give this puppy another shot. 

And, something one cannot know until one wears this piece, it is a sensual delight. There's a slight sound of amber rustling together as you move, and a satisfying but not too heavy weight. Then when you raise your hand and feel all those small fringes and beads shifting through your fingers, it's almost like a worry bead or rosary. I find myself playing with it all the time, not to readjust it, but just because it feels good to touch!  

Last is one slightly blurry picture of a previously unseen piece. This one was started long ago as a kumihimo braid with beads, in forest green, translucent orange, and yellow-green. The braid sat just sewn end-to-end, with overlap in the middle, for a long time in the unfinished project pile. I had intended to sew just the fringes with the fruit beads, but when that was pretty much done, I decided it needed a small embroidered pin with a dichroic glass cabochon I had gotten quite a while ago.  The pin finishes it off well, and the pin-back means that it will hang asymmetrically as intended without having to fuss with it all the time. It's long enough to slip over the head, so no catch is needed. It's fun to wear and gets quite a bit of attention.

I'll try for better pictures of this one soon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Newest Work in Progress

Some interim pictures of the ammonite pendant with bead embroidery.

The first one is before I added the fringe.  And a closer detail though that's a little fuzzy. 

The finishing of the pendant portion is good. Even though the back of the lining is lumpy, due to the thickness of the ammonite, it looks good. The brick-stitch edging came out well. I like the part where I varied the color of the edging beads to match on the upper part where it folds over to make the attachment. Sewing hat last edge down wasn't great, though. Too little space to work. Next time I'll have to give that more thought.

The fringe gave me some trouble. It took a couple of starts, after a few tryouts of fringe designing. I had to undo and redo at least twice before it began to please me. There's more to planning fringe than I thought.  The process of adding it, though, was pleasant. There's something zenlike about repetitive counting of beads. 

And here is the result. I'm quite pleased. Next there will be pics of the strung necklace with the beads seen in the first picture, lying next to the pendant. They are wonderful glass or agate beads (I forget which but will refer to my database to find out) and I mixed them with some tribal silver spiral beads that were just perfect. 

I'm waiting for the delivery of a necklace extender to finish the strung portion. Because I want the pendant to lie fairly high on the chest, I need to make it adjustable so people of different sizes can wear it. I ordered that last week, should be here soon. So keep watching. 

Next up, a variation on my amber and carnelian fringy necklace. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Exciting Part

Like in the books I read, there's always another exciting part coming up with a project.

I get a big rush when I've auditioned and assembled the palette of beads I'm going to use. That's the first moment that the idea becomes real to me.  The design, to the extent that I sketch or lay out the loose beads, isn't all that stimulating, because so far, I haven't really put that much energy into it.

Design, for me, happens with the beads in my hands. When I decide that next to the green, I need opalescent ones going this way...or pink ones going that way.  When I decide that the cabochon will look best with a peyote bezel, or a netted one, made out of these nifty, but teeny, size 15 seed beads.

This may be inexperience on my part. It may be an inability to make the connection between the idea and the finished piece without the actual tactile experience in between. We'll see. To some extent, in my past life as a quilt artist, my designs were far more realized before construction started, but they always evolved during assembly. Always.

It may just be my own peculiar style of creativity. Feel the beads. Become the beads. Live down among the beads and let them tell you where they go.

I'm very pleased with the current piece in progress. We're at another exciting part...the entire piece is beaded, and the stiffening cardboard is glued to the ultrasuede base, and drying overnight. I have decided to put on the backing and finish the edges before attaching the fringe I think the piece needs. I've got the fringe designed, now I want to make sure it is even and hangs properly. This is a very good, salable piece, I think. I don't want to mess this up.

Then we'll string the necklace that suspends this embroidered pendant, and it will be done! It's been terribly inspired by The Art of Bead Embroidery by Heidi Kummli and Sherry Serafini, two incredibly talented bead artists. I've taught myself the techniques out of this book, and I totally admire the authors.

I'm proud of the new piece, because although it's inspired by others, it's completely my own. It's turning out sophisticated, elegant and distinguished. Soon, pictures!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Holy Magnification, Batman!

For my birthday, I decided to get myself a new magnifying lamp. I'd been struggling along with a teeny, weak little $8 doohickey from Harbor Freight, and wondering if I should go back to the optha...optom...eye doctor and get her to prescribe special glasses for close-up work. $300 or more, what with the visit and all, plus all the inconvenience of having the wrong pair of glasses on all the time.

So instead, I hunted down this lovely thing. It's the kind of lamp used in medical and chemical laboratories. The magnifying lens is over 6" in diameter, clear, and sweet. The daylight-spectrum florescent bulb gives off almost no heat. It positions every which way with no need to loosen or tighten joints.

I got it off Amazon, so it cost less than you'd think, plus no tax and no shipping. Ahhh.

I had my clever son drill a hole in the wooden desktop instead of trying to clamp the lamp on, and boy oh boy I can see! I feel like the first time I got glasses when I was eight and realized that the entire world had sharp edges instead of fuzzy bits, and people weren't putting me on when they said there was something in the distance!

So. I'm very happy with my birthday purchase. The other one was a high-end leather cover for my Kindle. The old stiff cover is going to be bead-embroidered eventually, I'm sure this lamp will contribute substantially to the ease of my work. It's already made it easier to work on the piece in progress. Which you can see through the lens.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Playing with the Blog

A few tweaks in the design, just for because. I may even audition a new template soon! 

I've been bouncing around using Next Blog> again, and I've come to the conclusion that almost all the blogs out there are one of three things:

- family oriented "my kid learned how to snivel today" blogs. Heavy on the "my spouse is so wonderful" and "my kids are so wonderful." When they haven't posted anything in 18 months (most of them) I have to wonder how "wonderful" they really are. Oh, and God plays a prominent role in most of these kinds of blogs. God gets around. 

- "this is what I like to listen to" music sites. There are a lot of people out there giving their time and energy to music, good, bad or indifferent. Heavy on pictures of favorite bands.  Most of it looks like something that would make me want to wash my ears out with bleach after listening. Done the groupie thing, got the hearing loss, thanks but no thanks.

- random crazies. They are out there. Much less plentiful than the two above, and liberally salted in with the knitting blogs, the painting blogs, the, ahem, beading blogs, the lonely college student blogs, and the occasional issue or point-of-view blogs who actually have something to say.  Random crazies can be new-age fluffy psychics and auras gurus, they're-out-to-get-us paranoids, or anything in between. Some are entertaining. Some are scary. 

The good news is that the general level of grammar and spelling is high. Of course I never stay much beyond the first typo. Oh, and I always travel with my speakers turned off. No point in risking any of that awful music. (How do I know it's awful, you ask?  Because Sturgeon's Law states 90% of everything is crud. And it is correct.)

Not this blog, of course. Perhaps I should have named it "THE OTHER 10%." That would be a good name for a blog. Or a band. 


Monday, July 5, 2010

Work In Progress, Birthday Edition

This is what I've been working on with the time I managed to free for beading this weekend. I freed this time mostly by ignoring all the other things I "should" have been doing.

In one of my trips around the the Intartubes, I found a random blog that was all about living without "Shoulds." You do get a bit more time for what you want if you can make yourself ignore them. 

Anyway, it's an ammonite cabochon, with teeny 15/0 seed beads for a bezel, and 15s and 11s in various other spots. I had to cut through the background ultrasuede, and then let the thick part of the ammonite poke through. I glued another thin piece of ultrasuede behind that cutout, and sewed around it, so it's all held. Putting in a cardboard stiffener and more backing is going to be interesting, but without a stone saw of my own to cut that ammonite thinner, it was the best I could do.

Note to self: in future buy thin ammonite slices for use in bead embroidery. Every new piece teaches me something. I'm having fun. Bad picture, I think it's going to be a nice piece when done, though.

Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Birthdays and Holidays

Today is the birthday of the United States. Tomorrow is my birthday. I joke that I'm one day younger than the US. Some days I feel like it's true!

But not today. Pretty good day. On Thursday my dear sweet husband proposed an impromptu visit to Ventura, just a drive up through Malibu on Friday afternoon, and an overnight stay. I thought it was a good idea myself, and he found a nice room in the Holiday Inn Express on Ventura Harbor. Lots of boats in marinas, the ocean is right out there, and Friday itself was a perfect day. 76F, sunny, breezy. Wow. Couldn't ask for any better. 

Traffic was slow through Malibu, at least the southern parts. But the scenery made up for it.  My husband had done his research, and found a very casual seafood restaurant for lunch, in Ventura. How casual? The big water-filled trough full of crabs, lobsters and oysters right in the outdoor eating area was a clue. The fried shrimp were adequate, the french fries good, and the steamed king crab legs were yummy. Eating outdoors was very pleasant.

Then we visited Beads of Paradise. I had hoped Sylvia, the owner, would be there, but she was out. We spent a good long time talking to her assistant, and I had fore-thoughtfully (is that a word?) packed almost all my finished pieces that I haven't given away. So we reviewed them together and I got some much-needed feedback. Or should I call it reassurance? I was looking for confirmation that the pieces were both marketable and of sufficiently high workmanship to be sellable. 

I got that feedback from Leelee (not totally sure how she spells her name). She was enthusiastic about my design and color sense, and reassuring on the quality of the workmanship. She assured me that they didn't have "anything like this" for sale. 

The gallery next door to Beads of Paradise will probably be my first commercial venue. They rent glass show-cubicles 12"x12"x15" for $35 a month, and take a reasonably small percentage of the sale. I will have space to showcase 3 or 4 pieces, depending on size. So in a few weeks I will prepare a display, call and make an appointment to actually meet with Sylvia, and drive back to Ventura to put something on sale.

In the meantime, I'll be agonizing on pricing the pieces. I suspect it's more an art than a science.

For dinner we walked from the hotel to the restaurant row at the far end of the harbor. We picked a Mexican restaurant, where we had moderately tasty dinners. The dessert was excellent, however. But we fled quickly when the live band fired up...we'd taken a table right in front of the stage before the band showed up. Who knew? They were surprisingly good, but way too loud. I did my time as a band groupie in my teens...been there, got the hearing loss, thank you. We could hear the band anyway from our room across the harbor, until they shut down at 11pm.   Well, we could hear the bass player and the drums anyway, and occasional snatches of the singer.

Saturday morning we simply lazed about in the hotel room. The Husband read fiction for probably the first time in 6 months, and I beaded on a new project, an embroidered pendant using an ammonite as a cabochon central piece. For some reason I decided to use 15/0 seed beads for the peyote bezel, and it took forever to complete! Boy those beads are teeny!

Then we ate lunch at Marshall's Bodacious BBQ, where I had some really primo tri-tip, and my sweetie had a fine chili dog. The baked beans and chili beans were excellent as well. If you're in the area, seek them out. Casual, but whole tables of California Highway Policemen tell you that this is a good place. Those guys can eat anywhere, they know the best places!

Then we drove home. Slowly. There was much more southbound traffic than we anticipated.  

Other birthday goodies include a new, lighted magnifying lamp and a new leather cover for my Kindle. I'm going to take the retired cover and bead it! That ought to be fun. I have to find a beading method that will allow the cover to open out and fold flat behind the Kindle, while being wildly decorative.  So all in all, a good birthday weekend. I love how the whole country celebrates with me!