Archive for November, 2008

So last night (Saturday) I had the pleasure of an empty house. My in-laws took my daughter for the night, my husband was out with his brother, and my son was at his dad’s. It was just me, and me alone. Oh joy! Oh rapture!

I am a most solitary creature at heart.

I worked on a couple Christmas presents, and have them almost finished. During which I watched an episode of The Universe, an episode of Ruby, a bootleg Tori concert, two Doctor Who episodes, and Absolutely Fabulous – White Box (but only part of it). I even steamed an artichoke – just like old times.

The Universe is a show on the History Channel, and I absolutely love it. As I have mentioned before, I am fascinated by the universe, the stars, the solar system, galaxies, anything that has to do with outer space. To examine these things – oh, I wish ever so that I had become an astronomer or a cosmologist. I think that is my dream job. To examine the workings of the universe – it’s like touching the divine. And learning the inner workings of life.

Ruby is one of my new favorite shows. It chronicles the weight loss efforts of an-over-500-pound woman, Ruby. She is so sweet and beautiful, and she has such a lovely personality – I root for her, and want her to lose the weight. I hope she does.

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I finished my ATCs for the Artella Holiday Memories ATC swap. Overall I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. This is the first time I have made ATCs. Each one is 2.5″ by 3.5″. Here they are (the tree background paper is by Basic Grey – I love everything Basic Grey!):

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 1

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 2

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 3

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 4

Artella Holiday Memories ATC Swap - 5

As usual the crystals did not scan well. It’s a shame, because they add just the right touch of sparkle to the cards, but you can’t tell from these pictures.

I made these using the watercolor paper ATC blanks I ordered from ArtChix. I direct-applied red ink around the edges, front and back. I used scrapbook paper for the backgrounds. I used pictures from the Memories of a Lifetime – Christmas book, resized them and toned down the color a bit in Photoshop, and printed them onto white cardstock that I first treated with the coffee technique.

I originally wanted to use ivory cardstock, but found that I had none, so decided to try out the coffee technique on white cardstock. It turned out pretty cool. I only did light splatters, because I wanted the pictures to be clear.

I ended up having to trim quite a bit off the pictures after I printed them out. I did measure them pre-printing, but I misjudged how they would look, and they were simply way too big. I wasn’t happy about that situation but most of them turned out well anyway.

I used German scrap paper and Swarovski crystals for embellishment. The larger crystals are topaz and the smaller ones are garnet.

The only card I’m not thrilled with is the one with the man and woman by the tree, with Merry Christmas along the side. Why I thought putting the Merry Christmas along the side was a good idea I don’t know. There is so much space at the bottom under the picture, and it just doesn’t look quite right. oh well.

Not sure if I previously mentioned this, but I took a class at AC Moore today on tatting. Bead & Button occasionally has articles featuring tatted jewelry, with beads of course, and I always thought it looked neat. Then I was at AC Moore a few weeks ago (well, I’m there every week. I wish they would stop giving me those 50% off coupons!) and I just happened to pick up the November class schedule, which I never do, and saw a bunch of tatting classes. Most were during the week in the daytime when I’m at work, but one was today, and seeing how I had requested the day off from work, I thought surely this is a sign that I must take this class! Plus it was only $15.

So here is my half-finished, first attempt at tatting. It’s hard to see the stitches because of course I had to use black thread (this is size 10 cotton crochet thread). I know very well when you’re first learning anything that involves thread or yarn you should always use a light color so you can see your stitches easily. But I knew that I would use black again, whereas I doubt I would use white.

First attempt at tatting.

The teacher, Leigh Ann, was kind enough to give me her finished sample, so that when I work on it at home I can see what it should look like.

Leigh Ann's tatted lace.

Isn’t that pretty? She used a thinner thread and needle. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. And quick, which I’m all into these days. It’s relaxing too – there’s something about wrapping the thread around my finger and bringing it onto the needle that I find very soothing.

Obviously from the looks of my sample I need a bit more practice, but I’ve already ordered a set of needles and a book from Handy Hands Tatting, so in about a week I should be good to go. I plan on making this my portable creative endeavor.

And I also ordered a bunch of punches that I need for my Polyshrink jewelry. So I’ll be able to work on that soon too.

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In the March/April 2008 issue of Somerset Studio the Business of Art column by Quinn McDonald addressed the question “What makes you a professional artist?” Ms. McDonald goes on to to write “The answer may surprise you. It’s the day you decide you are a professional. That includes behaving ethically, creatively and artistically. You are a professional on the day you admit you create art because art is important, because art speaks for those who can’t, because art defines a culture and a time in history.”

And I was surprised by this answer. I have always thought that being a professional artist meant you made a living from your work. But, as Ms. McDonald points out, artists who support themselves through their work may end up having to compromise their art – they have to make what sells, not necessarily what their artistic muse dictates. Having a “day job” can be a benefit, in that it frees you to make what you want.

I only recently started calling myself an artist, and I’m not entirely comfortable with it. I use it mostly for convenience – “crafter” sounds not serious enough and “woman obsessed with making stuff” is too unwieldy. But “artist” sounds a little snobby to me, or maybe it’s that I don’t think I’m good enough to call myself an artist.

This brings to mind a post I started writing several months ago but never finished. The subject was the problem I have in taking my creativity and my art seriously. And again, I have a hard time even calling what I do “art.”

I think this stems from fear and a lack of confidence. I’m afraid to let my passion for creating show. I’m afraid that it’s really just frivolous and silly and meaningless. It’s terrible to say, but it’s true. Of course that’s not going to stop me from making stuff, because what else would I do?

Anyway, back to the article. Ms. McDonald states, “An artist is a professional when they have their own ideas, create their own work and contribute to the larger art world.”

She then gives three steps one can take to move toward becoming a professional artist:
1. Don’t use the words “just” or “only” when describing your work. These words devalue your work, and yourself. I am guilty of this, and will stop using these words immediately.

2. Challenge your creativity by doing new things. This one is easy for me – I am always looking for new techniques and new materials to use in my work. I have no desire to make the same sorts of things over and over again. To me the whole point of creating is to explore.

3. Give back to the art community, whether by teaching, volunteering, motivating and inspiring others, or donating to an artsy cause. I definitely need to work on this, as I am not currently doing any of these things.

But thankfully there is always hope!

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I’ve been working on taking pictures of my jewelry for my Etsy store. There are some great articles there with tips on how to use your digital camera to take close-up shots, as well as how to intentionally make part of the picture blurry and how to get the right exposure. So I’ve been practicing and had some time yesterday, plus the light was good (I’ve already learned that I need to take pictures on a reasonably bright day, in the living room, in the early afternoon).

I pulled out my tray of jewelry, took one look at it, and immediately felt utterly discouraged. First, I have so few pieces. And then they are such a mixture of styles – there’s no cohesion, no vision. I like the pieces just fine. But after all these years of beading – why do I still not have a vision? Or direction? My beadwork is nowhere. I feel at such a loss with it. I don’t know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and I feel no inspiration. I don’t even know what to make anymore.

I put the tray back without taking any pictures, and went into the living room to ponder my dilemma.

Then I thought, wait a minute. I do know what I want to make. I do have ideas. I want to make mixed media jewelry – with glass-enclosed mini collages, shrink plastic, wire, and beads (not necessarily all in the same piece). And I want to use wire and chain and beads to create simple but lovely and delicate jewelry pieces. I have lots of ideas for these. Once I realized this, I felt some enthusiasm and hope returning.

The problem with beadwork is that it takes so darn much time! And time is something in short supply these days. To make a beaded bracelet that would take, say, 40 hours would be dragged out for months, and during that time I’d get nothing else done. My new ideas are not such time-eaters, especially the simpler pieces that I have in mind. I could even finish a piece in a week!

Originally I wanted to open my Etsy store by October 31st (already missed that deadline). Now I’ve decided to push it back to the end of January, maybe even into February. I’m working on a plan to determine what new pieces I can make between now and then (as soon as Christmas gifts are finished). I am going to buy my soldering supplies – every time I’ve had money for them, I end up having to use it for something else. But I’m not putting that off any longer. And I have a few more shrink plastic supplies I need.

I hate putting off opening my store, but I need to be happy and proud of my work, and I need more than a few pieces. The perfectionist in me wins again. Sometimes that’s a good thing.

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Here are my pages for the first two muses in the Artella Alphabetter Muse workshop. The workshop introduces one muse for each letter of the alphabet and provides journal pages, clip art, and journal prompts.

The first muse is the Asymmetry Muse, the Champion of Lopsided Living.
Asymmetry Muse - journal page 1

Asymmetry Muse - journal page 2

And here is Baby Face Muse, The Sweet Guardian of Wild Dreams and Curious Growth.

Baby Face Muse - journal page 1

Baby Face Muse - journal page 2

I’ve always enjoyed writing, though I certainly wouldn’t call myself a writer. I love the physical act of writing, and it doesn’t matter what I’m writing – it could be a shopping list for all I care. I’ve kept journals here and there throughout my life.

I’m enjoying the workshop, but it takes me forever to finish a muse. And there are 26 – this could easily take a year at the rate I’m going!

I finally got my order from Art Chix – I always forget they’re in Canada. I had forgotten that I also ordered glassine envelopes, so I was excited when I saw those. I also got the Mystical and the Ruby Red collage sheets. So I guess I better get started on my “holiday memories” atc’s. I didn’t realize December was so close!

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Not on one strand are all life’s jewels strung. – William Morris

I added a review of French-Inspired Jewelry, by Kaari Meng, to The Librarian. It’s a beautiful book filled with darling jewelry to satisfy the vintage French woman in all of us. Ms Meng also owns French General (look under My Favorite Shops for the link) where you can purchase vintage beads and buttons and other fun stuff, as well as kits.

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Now that my MA pieces are done and off in California, I’ve turned my attention to creating some jewelry. I realized the other day that the only jewelry I’ve made this year is the pair of earrings I made for Julie for her birthday. And they barely count – all I did was throw some beads on wire and attach to a finding. Here they are:


Don’t get me wrong – I think they are quite pretty, and I still want to make a pair for myself.

For now though I’m working on a necklace; it’s a project from the December 2007 issue of Bead & Button. I don’t make very many projects from magazines – I’d like to, but I’m always so busy with my own projects. But once in a while I try one, just to do something different. And it was a project in Bead & Button that initiated my love of Swarovski crystal. I never cared for it – I felt it was too cold – until I made this one bracelet, and I’ve loved it ever since. Anyway, here’s the magazine:

Bead & Button magazine - December 2007

The necklace is by Bia Alessi – gorgeous!

And here’s the article:

Crystal Showers pendant necklace by Julie Glasser

This necklace was designed by Julie Glasser. It’s a not-too-complicated pattern for someone who is familiar with right-angle weave. For me, it’s been a bit of a struggle. I don’t know what it is with right-angle weave, but even with the simplest of designs I have problems. And I never have problems with any other stitch. My needle always seems to be coming out at the wrong place. But I’ve managed to get my pendant almost completed:

Crystal pendant, design by Julie Glasser

This picture, as with any picture of Swarovski crystal, just doesn’t do it justice. The sparkle! Like stars.

I almost forgot about the Holiday Memories ATC Swap I signed up for at Artella. I wasn’t sure what to use as the foundation, and I knew I’d seen ATC blanks, so I did a little searching and found some at Artchix that are made from watercolor paper. Now I suppose I could have just made my own, but here are my reasons for not doing so:

1. I don’t have time
2. I like to support my favorite arts & crafts suppliers
3. This gave me the opportunity to also order some Artchix collage sheets

Of course reason number 3 was the deciding vote. Being on a limited budget, I only ordered two collage sheets, along with the ATC blanks, but I’m happy with that. I love Artchix collage sheets – I have a bunch already, and I have used them in many projects. Of course now I don’t remember which ones I ordered (I think it was maybe about a week ago) but that’s ok, because now it will be a surprise when I get them.

By the way, if you’re curious about the title of this post, my two-year-old daughter Lily is going through an I-don’t-want-to-wear-my-pants phase, so the words “where are your pants” is a common refrain in my house. Oh, the joys of living with a two-year-old!

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