Thursday, February 12, 2015

Back on (Am)Track

First of all, a bit of catching up: After I put up my last post, the Gruffalo and I became very occupied with downsizing. From our own experience and from listening to friends in our age group, it appears that we spent the first half of our lives acquiring stuff and are now engaged in the process of getting rid of most of it.

After nine years in a large, isolated house in an urban/wildland interface (yes, that really is a thing) we moved into a two-bedroom house in a gated community in central Orange County. It is actually very nice having a home and a yard that we can deal with ourselves. I was raised in the city that gives Orange County its name, so it feels like coming home.

One downside of our downsizing experience is that getting my studio set up was a low priority. There were so many other things to deal with, including unexpected plumbing issues in the new house, that my tools and supplies were the last thing to be unpacked.

Once the studio was in workable condition, however, I started on a new jewelry project at once. I started stringing this necklace at home and finished it while riding the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to Los Angeles Union Station earlier this week. I took the train to meet my sister KK and my friend EmmyK at FIDM for their Academy Award nominated costume exhibit. My first love was sewing, and this exhibit (and the Grammy exhibit later in the year) are total catnip for me. If you have a chance to visit this exhibit, prepare yourself to swoon over the costumes from Into the Woods. The level of artistry is amazing...I know who I will be rooting for on Oscar night.

I call this necklace & earring set Back on (Am)Track...

Materials for this are seed beads and labradorite beads (longest strand), glass pearls and labradorite shards (center strand), lapis lazuli round beads (shortest strand), silk stringing thread in sizes 0 (light blue), 3 (grey) & 6 (navy blue) and a purchased clasp.

Here is a close up of the lower portion of the longest & center strands:

Here are the matching earrings,using teardrop shaped labradorite drops, seed beads and lapis round beads:

And here is a close-up of the clasp, which I have had in my stash for years. I chose it because the ring has been wired with glass pearls, which tie in with the center strand:

The longest strand measures 36", which makes it a good necklace to wear with a high collar or a very deep v-neck.

While I have not been active in jewelry-making for a while, I have been taking watercolor painting classes...but that is a topic for another entry.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Peacock Colors, Celestial Shapes

No beads today. 

A few months ago I attended a quilt show with childhood friend EmmyK. Seeing all of the beautiful fabrics and artistic patterns made me switch gears from beading needles to sewing machine needles--for a while, anyway.

Currently I have a bedspread sized quilt top, a lap quilt sized top and four pillow fronts waiting to be layered, quilted and finished. 

I have completed two lap quilts. One of them was sort of a throat-clearing exercise and nothing terribly creative or special. The one shown below was just finished yesterday--I hand-stitched the binding while watching the last season of Face Off. The rest of the work on this quilt was done on my trusty Bernina.

The fabrics are the Lumina line by Peggy Toole for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. There are multiple colorways for this line. I chose the Peacock colorway, although the Dawn colorway is also calling to me. 

I mean, just LOOK at these fabrics! How could you not love looking at these gorgeous images and colors every day?

My machine quilting skills are rusty, to put it kindly. I practiced on a small quilt sandwich before I tackled the real thing. I need more practice, no doubt. Even with all of the right tools (special presser foot for the machine and Machingers gloves), this simple curved freehand quilting stitch got away from me frequently. 

By the way, a quilt sandwich is not lunch, it is the three layers of quilt top, batting (the fluffy stuff inside) and backing fabric that have been pinned or basted together prior to putting in the quilting stitches.

I used one of the Lumina fabrics, a scalloped design, for the quilt back. This photo shows the back turned over against the front of the quilt.

This same fabric, cut into strips, also appears in the quilt front along the upper edge.

It is always fun to see how a fabric changes its personality when it is cut into smaller pieces and combined with other patterns.

Since mixed media is very hot right now, and since it satisfies a deep-seated need to create mash-ups, I want to start making wall hangings that combine quilting, painting and beadwork techniques. The Gruffalo and I are planning a move within the next month or so. We are downsizing, and I am in the process of packing up my studio. I can't wait to get everything unpacked and arranged in the new space so that I can start on my mixed-media visions.

In the meantime I can enjoy the colors and swirls in this quilt. It has a prominent place at the end of the bed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Working Mother

This past Mother's Day weekend, I sold my jewelry at the Sunset Beach Arts Festival near the shore in Huntington Beach, California.

Besides being my first outdoor show, this was the first time that I had to do more than submit a vendor fee. To be able to participate, I had to submit photos of my work, apply for a special seller's permit and affirm that my work was of my own design and creation.

With all of these hoops to jump through, I was thrilled to be accepted as a vendor. Major thanks to Gayle of Las Damas (the event sponsor) who gave me lots of telephone support during the application process. She also placed us in a very good spot, especially so considering that I was a newbie.

The event was a lot of fun. When things were slow, the Gruffalo and I visited with our neighboring vendors, including a fellow fan of Breaking Bad who has the same name as a character on the show. Note: Major SPOILER ALERT for this link.

Some of my most recent work received the most attention, like this cuff and necklace, both embroidered on silk shibori ribbon and backed with Ultrasuede:

The ribbon is pleated and then dyed, giving it a watercolor look. I use the pleats as part of the design. The cuff has a turquoise cab and the necklace is completed with a spiral peyote rope made of coordinating seed beads. The two piece toggle clasp is also stitched from seed beads using variations of peyote stitch. The necklace was one of the items that I sold at the Sunset Beach event. The buyer was so thrilled with her purchase that she emailed me to gush about it.

Another recent piece that was sold at this event was a St Petersburg stitch necklace with jade dagger drops:

The woman who purchased this piece on Saturday liked it so much that she sent her friends to visit my booth on Sunday.

This next necklace did not sell, but several people tried it on and asked about having one custom made in a different color. I am waiting for email confirmation that these people actually want to place an order before I go ahead with additional work. Here is the necklace in two different colorways. This is a netting stitch with long magatama drops:

Because I was working on Mother's Day, I did not get to attend the family get-together. However, all of the fam dropped by my booth at one time or another to visit and, in the case of Smallest of All, to help out. Smallest and her boyfriend arrived just in time to help us take down the canopy, thereby robbing our fellow festival attendees of the inevitable slapstick spectacle had the Gruffalo and I taken it down by ourselves.

Thanks to my family for all the love and support, this past weekend and always. Special shout-out to the Gruffalo, whose admiration for my work makes him an excellent salesman. Dear Gruffalo also skipped his afternoon nap two days running, a huge sacrifice.

Happy Belated Mother's Day to all!  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bernie and Me

One of the signs of aging is that authority figures (police officers, teachers and the like) begin to look less like older, wiser people and more like impossibly young children.

I first noticed this during one of the Gruffalo's several lengthy hospital stays a few years ago. We were waiting in a pre-op area for The Gruffalo to be taken in for yet another procedure. Suddenly the curtain parted and a youngster appeared at the bedside. He was freckle-faced and bow-tied and pink-cheeked; we both stared at him while he spoke incomprehensible doc-speak to the nurse and fiddled with paperwork. When he left, I said "Do you suppose his mommy knows that he's wandering around the hospital playing with people's charts?"

Another sign of aging is that people you have known since they were children start to have babies. A young man, a playmate of son BeanBeanMoreBean when they were children, was married two years ago, and his first child is about to have her first birthday.

I am not versed in making jewelry for toddlers, so I returned to my first crafty skill to make a gift for this little one.

My Mom taught my sisters and me to sew as soon as we were old enough to ask to be taught. I spent a childhood and an adolescence sewing my own clothes and making gifts for friends. My fellow nerds may appreciate that I hand-sewed tribbles out of faux fur one holiday season long ago. Non-Star-Trek (TOS) fans, feel free to mock.

The first major purchase that I made as an adult was a Bernina sewing machine--Bernie--that cost $800 nearly 40 years ago, a number that still stuns me when I remember how long I had to save to buy it. It is completely manual, not a computer chip to be found in it, and it is a tank. Despite its weight and bulk, I would wrestle it into the car if the house were on fire (after The Gruffalo and the critters, of course.)

Daughter Smallest of All took a trip to Mood in Los Angeles to chose fabrics for the birthday dress. She picked a pink fabric with stripes and a green fabric with scattered dots, both in sherbet tones. From these fabrics I made this dress:

The heart on the bodice is an applique of the pink fabric with hand cross-stitching around the edges.

There is a diaper cover to match:

Ah, toddlerhood. The only time in life that a girl will wear ruffles on her butt and look cute doing it.

I also made a headband with an applique flower out of the same fabrics:

Finally, because I can't leave beads out of this completely, I made a necklace and wrap bracelet for the little one's Momma:

These pieces use bead crochet in the same colors as the dress.

Happy Birthday to this young lady, and much love to the little (growing) family.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

All in the Family

All of our kids (6 of them between The Gruffalo and myself) are artists.

A word about that number: I did not give birth six times. From prior marriages we each have 3, making a total of 6 in our blended family. When The Gruffalo and I got serious about our relationship, I watched how our children handled the Brady Bunching initiated by their parents. One thing that I noticed right away was a nearly universal lack of using 'step' when introducing or talking about their new siblings. Following their lead, I refer to all six of these terrific people as 'the kids' without a modifier (except in situations where there is the possibility of creating confusion).

Two of our daughters, Kage and The Mogul, also make jewelry. All of the kids have some (or lots) of their stuff stored at our house, and The Mogul came over last week to sort through some of her boxes of belongings.

Besides getting some free space in the garage, I had a bit of a bead swap with The Mogul. She browsed through my stash for things that she needed and, in turn, gave me some beads that I normally would not have chosen on my own.

This necklace is made up of some of the beads that The Mogul gave me, along with some copper barrel-shaped beads that I was trying to figure out how to use. All of the beads are knotted on beige colored silk cord, except for the large central bead which is wire wrapped on a decorative head pin:

And a close up of the focal piece of the necklace, which is really pretty and unusual:

I am working on another necklace using The Mogul's beads, and I'll post photos when it is done. All of the beads that she gave me are heavy marble or quartz or glass...not quite sure what I'm working with here but I appreciate the chance to use something besides aquamarine seed beads (my default color and size mode).

And I appreciate the extra space in the garage.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Most Important Meal of the Day

I am writing this in the aftermath of a migraine.

It was my own silly fault. One of my triggers is low blood sugar, and I did not eat today until lunchtime. No good reason for that, I just got caught up in doing things and did not take in any calories until mid-day.

By the time I had food in front of me, I felt the first warnings of an attack brewing deep inside. Those unique sensations are not pain, they are more like an electric irritation in the blood. Once I felt those odd, unmistakable twitches I gave myself an injection of a medication that can stave off an attack. And I ate lunch.

The medication did not work with that first dose. Within an hour of lunch I had a full blown migraine.

It is not just a headache, although the pain and pressure inside the skull are so intense that I always feel it must leave scars. A migraine is a profound scrambling of all sensations. In the tiny, beset part of my brain that is not devoted to riding out the attack I imagine that every bit of my skin is coated with a thick, yellow-grey slime that poisons and distorts every bit of input that comes my way.

Light slices. Sound is too heavy. A sip of water burns. Touch is too loud. Only a very narrow range of temperature is bearable, and the parameters of that range fluctuate constantly. Any instructions sent from my brain are spitefully ignored by my muscles and nerves making my hands and arms and legs useless. Rolling over in bed becomes a prolonged negotiation between my head and the rest of my body.

A second injection did stop the attack today. When it works, the medication intensifies the pain for about five minutes and then *poof*. Migraine gone. The medication is not an opiate so there is no grogginess or hangover after the attack goes away, and I am grateful for that. Meds that were available earlier in my life were at least as debilitating as the migraine attack. Thanks to the medication I will lose a few hours to an attack instead of an entire day or two.

So this attack has cut into my long weekend for a little bit, but it could have been worse. It has been worse. There is a genetic component to this condition--my mother's father had it, my Mom has it, at least two of my kids have had attacks. But, again, the migraine today was completely preventable. A granola bar in the morning would have made all the difference.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cup Chain Bracelet

My Mom has a great talent: she can recreate anything in the kitchen after tasting it once. I wrote about her ability to deconstruct & reconstruct recipes in a prior post.

I do not share this culinary talent, however I have a similar ability with jewelry. I will see something beautiful at the accessory counter at Nordstrom and can (usually) figure out how to recreate it at home. Even when shiny things are on deep discount, I think to myself I can make that for sooooo much less...

Case in point: I have seen variations of cup chain bracelets all over the place. Here are some that I made in my studio after studying the ones at Bloomingdale's:

I made six of these in various color combinations and wore several at once on our recent vacation. With the button closures staggered it creates an interesting look--stacked bracelets are so hot right now.

The purpose of this post is two-fold; to show you new finished work and to blow my own horn. In late July I will be teaching a workshop in which I teach this technique at Artside Studio in Fullerton. Carol & Steffi of Artside have created a wonderful gallery, studio and workshop space and I'm sure they would appreciate it if you like them on Facebook. I am terribly excited about the opportunity to teach at Artside, and I am grateful to Steffi for taking this gorgeous photo of my work.

If you are in the Orange County area and would like to take this class, you can get more information on the Artside website page for the workshop.

Art is fun!