Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ear! Ear!

The family agreed several years ago to give mostly hand-made or home-made gifts at the holiday season.

This year, the offerings were wonderful and varied:
Oldest daughter Kage made coffee/sugar facial scrub for the women of the family and peppermint bark for the men, both presented in mason jars. Here's hoping that none of the couples mix up their jars...

Son BeanBeanMoreBean created dozens of tiny (business-card sized) paintings and asked us each to chose our favorite.

Youngest daughter Smallest of All took a photograph of a table that my grandmother (G-Nan to the kids) had given her. She then altered the photo to add one of G-Nan's most familiar sayings in a font that looks like cross-stitch and gave us each a large print of the final product.

I worked for several weeks making holiday-themed earrings, which I hung on a jewelry organizer from Home Goods. (Slight diversion: If you do not have a Home Goods nearby, I weep for you.) Everyone was invited to chose a pair for herself or for his significant other.

This is what the selection looked like before the family arrived on Christmas Day:

The jewelry organizer was perched on the music rail of our 1910 Milton upright piano. My Mom disassembled the piano and refinished it in the garage of my childhood home back in 1969. I come from crafty stock.

Here are a few close-ups of the earrings:

From the left, the designs are: Christmas tree, angel, Christmas tree again, gold snowflake with lots of dangles and holiday gift with bow on top.

Another close-up:

Besides another view of the Christmas tree and holiday gift design, this view shows the snowman design.

It was fun to see which design each family member and friend selected. Making the earrings was great fun, too, because they were finished so quickly that I didn't experience my usual foot-dragging dislike of finishing a piece.

Which design do you think was most popular? Which one do you like best?
Happy Holidays to all! I am looking forward to a creative New Year.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Saturday Morning Cartoons

This may be hard for younger folk to believe, but there was a time before DVRs or TV-on-demand internet services. There was an even more distant time before VCRs. It was an era when, if you wanted to watch a particular television show, you had to be sitting in front of the set when it aired.

During this primitive time, the most important TV viewing time for kids was Saturday morning. This was the only time that all of the major networks showed cartoons for hours on end. There were prime-time cartoons during the week, like The Flintstones and The Jetsons, but for a dizzying glut of animated slapstick and mayhem, it was all about Saturday morning.

I have a visceral memory of flopping on a bean bag chair in the den of my childhood home just as Saturday morning cartoons were about to begin. That sense of anticipation is something that I did not experience again regarding a television show until many years later when my daughters Kage and Smallest of All got me hooked on (bwah!) Project Runway.

A consistent favorite during the Saturday morning cartoon era was any Looney Tunes cartoon: Bugs & Daffy (Wabbit Season! Duck Season!), Marvin the Martian (I am sooooo angry!), Michigan J. Frog (Hello my honey, hello my baby!). But for dialog-free, surreal cartoon bliss, there was nothing like The Roadrunner.

The great Chuck Jones directed many (if not most) of the Roadrunner cartoons. He crafted the complex and doomed methods that Wile E. Coyote devised (with help from The Acme Corporation, of course) to capture (or obliterate) the Roadrunner. He gave us a stylized, gorgeous view of the American southwest desert landscape that served as the backdrop for the Coyote’s never-ending pursuit of his prey. Chuck Jones taught us that, in the cartoon world, you could run across thin air for exactly as long as you didn’t look down.

An actual roadrunner looks very little like the purple, soft-edged Warner Brothers version. They look like this:

The Gruffalo and I enjoy spending leisure time in the desert, and roadrunners are a frequent sight. With their Mohawk-like crest, long legs, skinny frame and nervously peeved demeanor they resemble nothing so much as punk-rock chickens. They have a distinctive call which does not sound anything like ‘meep meep’.

This piece, a project-in-process, is called Roadrunner. I started it after a weekend walk with the dogs that included several roadrunner sightings. The shape is elongated and spiky, the colors are desert-like and the saturated orange tile beads are reminiscent of cartoon hues without being too extreme. I plan on adding long feather-shaped orange drops along the bottom of the necklace.


The colors and angles of this piece are a departure from my usual preferred hues and shapes. It is also woven in a set pattern of alternate opaque and translucent beads. This type of pattern is much easier to stitch than a random placement of colors. Whenever I am doing a random placement I have to think much harder than when I am following a pattern. Making a combination of colors look random is not as easy as it sounds; you have to pay attention to the way that the various rows & columns combine to avoid large blocks of a single color. Following a simple pattern like this allows my mind to wander while I bead. In fact, my mind wandered a bit too much and one side is longer than the other by two rows, so I have to unbead a little before I go on.

The translucent bead color in Roadrunner is called 'root beer' by Tila. Every time I read the side of the bead container I want a root beer float. Perhaps I will drive through A&W on the way home tonight--or maybe I'll use 'root beer float' as my next inspiration. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Czech It Out

This is Czech It Out, a necklace made of tile beads in light purple tones with a czech glass button as a focal.

I have a small box full of czech glass buttons in my workroom. Some of them were given to me by my Mom, others were purchased throughout the years on eBay. I have used them in sewing projects in the past but have never been fully satisfied that the button was getting all the attention that it deserves on a jacket or a dress. In Czech It Out, the button is front & center, as it should be. For my next piece of this size, I am thinking of using several glass buttons of various sizes on a single color bib necklace. The tile beads in this piece are the lighter weight Tila tiles so the large bib is not too heavy.

Like La Liz, the tile beads are a mix of 2/3 opaque and 1/3 translucent. This gives the surface of the necklace shine & movement. There are 7 gold drop beads at the bottom center of the piece and bronze seed beads at the top & bottom of each column. The necklace closure is made of gold tone chain with a little extra at the back so that the length can be customized.

This item was on display at the TACA show in early December 2012. There were several interested parties however it did not sell and so remains available. Contact me via email if you are interested in this necklace.It is not too late to have something delivered in time for Christmas...mention the blog and I will ship for free.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Good Luck Bunco Bracelet

Bunco is one of those things that was unknown one minute and was EVERYWHERE the next minute, sort of like salted caramel or the Kardashians. 

During the six years that bracketed the new millennium I worked for an extremely wealthy couple as a personal assistant. Whenever they entertained, Mrs. Riche would spend weeks shopping for decorations, linens & party favors. She was the first person to mention a Bunco party to me, and I thought she was confessing to some sort of illegal activity. Her Bunco group must have been the happiest group of women in the history of the game; her idea of a party favor was most people's idea of a very nice holiday gift. 

I have remained friends with Misty, a co-worker from my tenure with the Riches. Misty recently invited me to join her Bunco group. The game is very easy to learn and completely based on luck. Only the person keeping score needs to pay close attention to game play so it is perfect for socializing. My group meets once a month. Dinner is served first, we play two rounds, have dessert, play two more rounds and then distribute prizes so the evening is full of opportunities to chat and get to know each other. 

The group of women that I play with is so wonderful and welcoming that I wanted to make each of them a quilted Bunco-related fabric clutch bag. I searched online for Bunco fabric and came up with zilch. Then I searched for fabric printed with dice. Again, no luck--the results were all Vegas-themed with roulette wheels and decks of cards as well as dice. 

My search did turn up small dice beads, though, which lead to this design:


Bunco is played with three dice so the Good Luck Bunco Bracelet has three dice in the center portion of the design. The dice beads are three-dimensional with the stringing direction through the diagonal dimension of the bead. The bead mix that I purchased included black, white & red dice beads. I used all three colors in this design. The border is stitched with seed beads and bicone crystals to add some shine.  

This design is called the Good Luck Bunco Bracelet. The first time that I wore it, I ‘won’ the consolation prize for the most lost games in the evening. So, is that good luck?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

La Liz

Another piece that is made from the mosaic tile beads that I love sooooo much.

The combination of bronze and green seems both natural and dramatic. The green beads are a mix of 2/3rds opaque and 1/3 transparent which gives the surface of the piece some shimmer and movement:

At the TACA benefit last weekend, this piece was one of the items for sale at my table. I originally had another name for it, but one of the women who tried it on said "This reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor!" so I changed the name to La Liz.

When I was younger I was obsessed with movie magazines, the trashier the better. Ms Taylor made frequent appearances in the pages of those magazines. The woman's life was nothing if not dramatic. Of course, now there are websites that cover celebrity news in much seamier detail than anything I read as a teenager. While I do confess to reading online gossip sites now & then, I do miss being able to cut out photos of my favorite actors (RIP, Chad Everett) to tape on my school notebook covers.

When I make something that I offer to sale to the general public, whenever feasible I leave some extra chain, which you can see at the top of the photo. I also carry a small set of tools with me. This way I can adjust the length of the necklace easily to suit the customer. For a bold collar-shaped piece like this it really needs to lay correctly to be shown off to its best advantage.

I will continue to post photos of other pieces that I were for sale at the show. If it did not sell I will make a note that the item is still available. If anyone is interested in the price of an unsold piece, send an email to (please do not use the comment section!) and I will respond as soon as possible with details. La Liz is still available to purchase. 

Mention my blog in the email and you will get free shipping on any items that you purchase.

It isn't diamonds, Liz, but I still think you would have rocked this necklace.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Puzzling Pieces

The Gruffalo and I attended a charity luncheon and fashion show in Del Mar this past weekend.

The event was for the benefit of TACA, which stands for “Talk About Curing Autism”. The speakers included one of the founders of the organization as well as a mother who talked about her family’s journey so far. I can’t begin to understand what people go through when they are living with a family member on the spectrum, but I deeply empathize with any parent who is struggling to provide his or her child with the type of life that every child deserves.

Before & after the luncheon various vendors had tables set up outside the ballroom. The Gruffalo was a huge help in setting up my table and adjusting the props so that everything was displayed beautifully. He also helped me chat up the shoppers who came by my table, which represents one of the many ways that our relationship is filled with wonderful synergy. I can produce jewelry designs all day long but I am pretty shy about promoting myself and not very much of a salesperson. The Gruffalo, on the other hand, is amazingly good at sales and very, very charming. He is not shy at all about telling a woman that she should buy the necklace that she has draped around her neck or helping someone try on a bracelet that they are admiring. 
We met some wonderful, hard-working women who have started their own companies and are using this sort of event to grow their business. Many of the women who were selling their products are raising children who are on the autism spectrum. Traditional 9-to-5 office jobs are mostly out of the question for caregivers in this situation so these women have built other ways to provide family income.
The fashion show was staged by representatives of Jockey Person to Person. Yes, it is the underwear company and, no, it was not a lingerie show. This line includes all types of clothing and the models included Jockey reps, mothers of kids with autism and a young woman who is herself on the spectrum. Everyone on the runway looked gorgeous and worked that catwalk like the sassy, amazing women they are . Plus I really, REALLY want the leather-look pencil skirt in the fall/winter line. (This last line is brought to you by blatant holiday gift hint-dropping directed at any family members who may be reading.)

I will post photos of other finshed pieces from this event in later blog posts, however I wanted to acknowledge TACA and salute the good work that they do in this post.

Once I confirmed my vendor registration for  this show I made three necklaces with a puzzle piece focal. The puzzle piece represents autism awareness (in the same way that various colored ribbons symbolize various causes). The way that this condition manifests is often a vast, confusing, shifting and interrelated array of symptoms with various degrees of associated impairment. Individuals on the spectrum can make great improvements in their cognitive and motor abilities, but there can also be mysterious and sudden declines. The medical community (and, for that matter, the public at large) has an ever-shifting understanding of the spectrum. Families often become frustrated in their efforts to seek answers and help. The purpose of TACA is for families with autism to support other families with autism.

The necklace is a single charm on a silver-tone chain that has been embroidered with seed beads and crystals.

Special thanks are due here to my daughter, Smallest of All, who designed my logo and helped me prepare signs and price tags before the show, samples of which you can see in this photo.
I donated one of the three necklaces to the raffle and sold the other two. If I had make 10 necklaces I could have sold all of them. A woman came to my table before the luncheon and told me “I put all of my tickets in your bag and I am going to win your necklace”. She was indeed the winner. Congratulations!

I now owe TACA a check for a portion of the money that I made from the charm necklaces that I sold, which I will gladly write and mail off to the event organizer later today.

One of the banners in the ballroom demonstrated to me the combination of hope and feisty determination that I witnessed again and again at the benefit: All of the professionals tell us to send our son to an institution. We’re hoping for Harvard.
To the organizers, vendors, family members and other attendees of the TACA event, my wish for you is recovery and that, one day, the final piece will slip into the puzzle.