Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review :: Wire Weaving

I recently wrote a book review on Lisa Lynn Barth's new Timeless Wire Weaving in the most recent issue of Bead Chat Magazine (page 120). I had been noticing her work on Facebook quite a bit over the last few months. The patterns had me in awe of the way she can wire weave around all kinds of rocks and stones, or into a piece of leather. 

Every time one of her pieces posted over on Facebook I would stop and study it. I decided I really had to try this technique, and I decided that one of the best ways to review her new book was to test the instruction on myself.

I ordered her book, and went through it front to back several times over the course of the next week. And by the following weekend I was ready to give this a try. I picked one of my favorite patterns in the book, and a rock gifted to me from Christine (who found this one on the shores of Lake Michigan) and then begun my project. 

Of course it took me a bit to get this started, and I did have a few places where I had to back up and rework things. But what was even more amazing (at least to me) was that this example here is truly my first time ever trying this technique. It took about 3 hours, which I'm sure is much longer than it is supposed to take. Lisa's instructions were so clear, and thorough that you really can use this book to teach yourself. 

Lisa regularly teaches classes, and you can see that in the way she's written this book. She is the kind of teacher you hope for when you sign up for classes. She is thoughtful, and attentive and you walk away feeling like you've really mastered a new technique. A wonderful thing to find in a teacher. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Happy Birthday Alenka

Today we are celebrating Alenka's birthday with a butterfly-inspired hop. She loves these beautiful little creatures that she calls METULJI!  

I do love the amazing colors these little guys can come in, along with lots of other small creatures in our world. For a bit of fun eye candy, check out my pinterest board for some inspiration.

Alenka is an amazing polymer artist who creates beautiful beads, cabachons and even something called 'inchies' out of polymer clay. She has such an eye for color, and I simply love her heavy use of vivid spring colors like yellows, oranges and sprout green. If you haven't seen some of her other work then check out the interview I wrote on Alenka a year ago right about this time in our March/ April issue of Bead Chat Magazine (Pages 86-89). Just look at those sweet flower earrings she made! And one of my all-time favorite pieces ever ... the zipper heart. Her creativity knows no limits.

Ok, so on with the hop. I confess that I love looking at butterflies out in the yard, on a hike or up at our cabin in the Adirondacks. We always get a large variety of admirals, and several with vivid reds and oranges. But when it comes to jewelry I don't usually use butterfly shapes. But I knew this hop was coming up, so I purchased a beautiful silver piece that slips on to a licorice leather band. So I created a simple, rustic bracelet for the hop.

Be sure to check out everyone else celebrating Alenka's special day: Alenka (our host), Monique, Beti, Kathy, Kepi, Christine, Amy, Dini, Alicia, Sheila, Therese, Rebecca, Rachel, Liz, Ana, Jasvanti, Carolyn and Nan. That makes 19 of us (including me) ... happy hopping!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Game of Thrones :: Hop with Humblebeads

When I saw that Heather over at Humblebeads was hosting a Game of Thrones hop, I was in. In fact she had me at hello on this one. 

What more can I say? It's a crazy show full of amazing costumes from another era, drama weaving across the kingdoms and plenty of plot twists. I didn't find out about the show until several seasons in. Well it isn't that I hadn't heard about it, I just hadn't watched it. But then my husband had read all the books and said 'you know, you might like this series.'  We watched one show, then two, followed by several more. It turned into a binge watching marathon until we had ran out of episodes. I've been hooked ever since. There are some real bad-ass characters in this show, and of my favorites is Danny, or Daenerys Targaryen. I'll spare you all some of the more gruesome scenes, but this innocent looking girl turns out to be anything but...
I decided to use Danny as my inspiration and went in search of some her costume designs. She wears some dramatic styles. But here's the weird thing ... I was pretty set on making a pair of earrings, and I was pretty sure I'd find some of the characters wearing earrings. But as I scrolled through page, after page in my google search I could not find a one? hmmmm. I decided instead to make a bracelet. And as I looked through Danny's costumes I realized she was a great choice as she does wear quite a lot of arm gear whether it is at the wrist or the upper arm. 

She also happens to be the mother of dragons. I suppose that would sound strange if you're not a fan, but makes for a clear theme when designing with her in mind. I decided to go with a braided, black leather for the band and used a a dragon-scale, hooked closure. I added some rough cut rubies for the eyes because those babies need to glow, for sure.

And for a little bonus. I recently re-worked a dragon pendant for my niece who is very into them. We found a pin that she really liked, but preferred a necklace for her dragon. So I pulled it all apart, added a back and a bail ... then strung it through some black leather cord. It was the perfect redesign for her. And the bonus touch to my dragon post.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

About Town :: Westport

We are not quite snow free yet, but very close. There are still some of the large snow piles left around town, and a bit out in our side yard that does not get as much sun. That patch of snow is still covering up what should be my crocus. 

However, that said it actually hit 60 degrees today and it felt like a heatwave! My snow drops are about to burst in the backyard. And the birds and squirrels are going a bit bonkers in the back. I guess we all just need a bit of sun and warmth already.  

I know I haven't posted much lately and that is because work has been busy, and I haven't had time to bead or make much jewelry. For those pieces I have made there hasn't been enough sun to take pictures. But today was perfect. I was able to get out and get a bit snap happy, so you'll see a few pieces coming up in the next week or two.

While we had the sun, we decided to head over to the library where the river walk is. This is my little New England town with the Saugatuck River that runs right through the middle of it. No it isn't very big, but there is more to it than what you see here. I just like the view down by the river.

It was crazy windy today as you can see from the water that is high and choppy. The river is tidal with tides that typically range from 7 to 10 feet, and flows directly into the Long Island Sound. We did manage to catch a few fine feathered friends who walked up the steps. There are steps that go down to the water for anyone deciding to row a boat along the river. You can see his friend popping his head up over that last step. Although the sight of me and the sound of my camera lens zooming in had these two off to the water quickly.

You can also see my photography assistant (aka The Bead Girl) who was out snapping pics with me. It was hard to get her to stand still or find an angle where her hair was whipping in front of her face! 

I also spotted a stone carving that for some reason I've never noticed before. I laughed to myself as I was wondering what kind of stone this was; I could hear the answer in my head from my BBF Christine who always defaults to agate if you're not sure. A good rule of thumb. So we'll go with agate that looks to have a bit of 'lace' in it. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Winter Blues Blog Hop

Liz of Bead Contagion decided that one way to fight the winter blues was to throw a blog party. She decided that her extra stash of navy blue goldstone beads would be the perfect thing to chase those blues away.

The deep color of these stones with their bit of sparkle does remind me a lot of van Gogh's Starry Night series. While I of course love the one that is so popular with the swirls in the sky, this quieter one of the bridge over the Rhone is my favorite. It has the balance of deep blue night and a touch of gold. I can almost feel the warm summer air. Almost. Boy am I done with this winter.

I am with Liz on this, this winter has had a continued oppression this year. I saw a great meme a few weeks back that went something like this ... "Is it just me, or does anyone else think we're stuck in a snow globe & some jerk keeps giving it a shake?!"

Yep. That pretty much sums it up for me. It just kept snowing, and snowing and snowing this year. In fact I woke up to snow yet again this morning. 

Liz sent quite a large stash of these deep blue beads. Not only did she send a large doughnut, and several small ones, she also sent some beautiful small rounds. So after finishing the necklace I decided to also make a bracelet, but this time with a touch of silver. Blue goes so well with either metal!

Liz certainly did chase the blues away, and now I can't wait to see what everyone else created. Check out all the other bloggers: Liz (our host), Therese, Bobbie, Christine, Amy, Jasvanti, JoJo

CC7A: Circle of Love

Last year a group of us were brought together by Alicia Marinache of All The Pretty Things. We named our group CC7A (Creative Continuum of 7 Artists). 

Once the year ended, we started to talk about a year two to the group, and this year Alicia is changing it up a bit. We are kicking off with these lovely stone doughnuts she shared with us all, and then for the rest of the year we are using color pallets as inspiration for our creations. Our kick off post to get us all back together Alicia called 'The Circle of Love' represented with this collection of doughnuts.

There is, of course, yet one more story of that wacky Canadian Post. Alicia sent out Christmas cards and within them she included one of the doughnuts pictured. However, the Canadian Post seemed to have removed doughnuts for any of the cards heading over the boarder. I have to say that I was curious why Alicia had sent me a Christmas card with a bit of wrapping paper included? Nothing else, just wrapping. But when she followed up in email we quickly discovered that all of us South of the boarder had our stones confiscated. 

I'm actually not sure which one of the doughnuts was sent to me, but I picked up this lovely cherry quartz one to create my piece. While this looks like a simple pattern, I actually broke (ok snapped in half) the bail and had to start again. The wire loop just did not want to cooperate. But once I got it to behave I added just a bit of leather for the necklace as I did not want to overwhelm the 'rustic gate' feel to that bail.

I'm looking forward to another year with my CC7A group, and can't wait to see what everyone else created. Please stop by the rest of the team's blogs: Alicia (our host), Christine, Emma, Monique, Sally and Therese.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Make Your Own Sushi

I know, this isn't my typical blog topic, but the sun came out on Sunday this weekend and made me hopeful that Spring is nearly here. 

When the weather warms up, I love to have more fresh veggies in the diet. And one thing that my family loves is some simple sushi.

In fact, The Bead Girl is kind of obsessed with sushi. If it is her turn to pick where we go for dinner, she picks sushi. If it is her birthday and she chooses the destination, she will pick sushi. If she is at the grocery store with me she beelines over to the sushi counter and raises a hopeful eyebrow. So last Fall for her birthday one of the things we gave her was a sushi maker thingy called Sushezi. I know it is a strange thing to give a 12 year old, but considering her love of this stuff ... it just seemed right. She was pretty excited when she saw it. So when the sun popped out yesterday we pulled out a few key ingredients and got cooking. It is actually really easy:

Pot of rice (2 cups rice, 4 cups water, 1 pat butter) bring to a boil, then simmer until done
Rice vinegar solution (1/3 cup vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, dash salt) boil until sugar is dissolved
Mix the vinegar solution into the rice until it holds together

Steam any root vegetable until just tender (boil for 3-4 minutes) slice in matchsticks
Remove the outside of cucumber, slice in quarters, carve out seeds, slice in matchsticks
Half an avocado and slice 
Add any seafood (lump crab, grilled shrimp, grilled or steamed salmon)

We used the sushi maker and packed in some rice on either side, then add the slices of veggies, or pieces of seafood. Mix and match and add whatever sounds good to you. Fold the top over (the side with just rice), latch then push down using the inside press. This last step compresses all the ingredients, and presto ... a perfect sushi log every time! Just place the sushi log on some nori (the seaweed typically around the outside of sushi). I use a bamboo mat that helps to roll and lock the seaweed in place, and then just slice it into pieces about an inch thick. 

Our sushi might not be exactly perfectly round by the time we plate it up, but it is fun to make and tastes amazing. Since everything was just cooked and sliced, the sushi was still slightly warm. It doesn't have that refrigerated, dense rice ball flavor or feel you get from sushi bought in the store or at a deli. The rice is soft and the flavors are fresh, and makes me feel like spring is just around the corner. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Have to Ask One More Time, Will It Ever Stop Snowing?

If you are anywhere in the US Northeast then you are in my snow-globe world. Someone keeps picking it up and shaking it. What's a girl to do on yet one more snowy day? Pull out my beads and wait for the snow to stop long enough for me to break out the shovel at get to it (again). 

You see we will need to shovel today because it will turn to rain at some point later in the day. And since there is roughly a new 12 inches of snow (yes there really is since it has been snowing for 24 hours) all the rain will do it turn it to slush. 

And here is the fun part. By Sunday the temperature will drop below freezing until Weds which means a whole new layer of ice out there to slip on as I navigate the front walk and driveway each day to get on my way to work. 

And so I ask one more time, will it ever stop snowing? Because from where I stand in the snow globe it does not appear to be anytime soon. I might sound just a tad crabby about all this because I am. If any of you see the guy that is shaking my snow globe can you ask him to put it the _!#@%__ down already.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Desk With a View

Seems several of you guys were curious about my office space, so I'll show you a bit more. There are lots of interesting corners in my office, so it might take several blog posts to get through this. But let's start with the actually desks themselves. 

We have enough desks for roughly 80-85% of the people in the office because on any given day there tends to be about 15-20% of the people out whether that is traveling, at meetings cross town or home sick. There are plenty of places to 'plug in' even if for some reason you can't find a desk. After 6 months in this office, I haven't heard one person complain that they could not find a place to sit and work. I usually do sit at a desk with a monitor (you can see my set up here in the pic). I am always the first one in to the office as I get in at 7am each morning. 

When you get in, you decide where you want to sit. It is a first come, first served situation. Which means you likely won't get the same seat day after day. Although several people try. You could if you get in as early as I do, but what fun would that be to always sit in the exact same place when you don't have to?

I do, however, like to sit up front by the big windows where there is a ton of sunlight. After nearly 30 years in an office (oh god did I just admit that?) I have a vitamin D deficiency. My doc told me I will have to take 1000mg a day for the rest of my life. So I try to find ways to get a bit of sun into my day when I can.

I love these windows. They are floor to ceiling and overlook Herald Square. Across the street are wonderful old prewar buildings, one of which is a mini flat iron shape. I love the architecture in NYC; it is one of the things I enjoy most about this city. I could spend weeks wondering around with my camera just taking pictures of buildings and looking up their history.

The 'corner office' is actually a lounge area (on both sides of the the office). So that anyone can enjoy the view during a meeting. I do love the democracy of that. You can see a few of the lockers I mentioned yesterday behind the lounge. Those are double stacked, so you need to be selective with what you absolutely need to keep in the office. Also notice that the desk is clean as you are expected to pick up everything each night. Well everything, except the monitor and the cords. 

The open campus, as they call it here, is an interesting concept and has taken a bit of time to get used to. But I actually do enjoy it most days. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick

Much of my day is spent in Manhattan at the office. But I rarely show you what goes on there. And while I won't bore you with the 'work' part of that ... I can show you some of our new digs. 

About 6 months ago we changed our building location and moved into a a new style of floor plan. It's what's called an 'open floor plan.' Sounds nice, right? Plenty of space, big windows, lots of lounge-like areas. So what's the catch? The catch is that in order to get lots of cool fun common area, you have to give up offices. Wholesale. There are no doors in this place expect those on the bathroom stalls, a handful of conference rooms and the front door to the office. We sit in rows of desks. In fact, we don't have assigned seating. Instead we all were issued a locker (the size of which you'd get at the bowling alley to keep your shoes and jacket in). Seriously, no kidding.

But there are fun things about this open floor plan. Lots of collaboration (aka noise) and people leaning in to impromptu meetings. The entire floor is the length of a New York City block, which makes for a lot of walking in a day. It is really common for people to wear the biometric bracelets to keep track of steps, heartrate, etc. I've heard from several people that they'd made their 'step goal' by noon. 

With this week being St. Patrick's the office threw a little party in our beer garden. Yes, we have a beer garden. It is fully stocked with one of our client's products --- beer (from Miller Coors). It is always stocked with beer, so if you feel like grabbing one after work with a co-worker then it is only a few steps away. I especially love the gnome side tables. They make me giggle every time I see them, and they make me think of Christine and Bobbie who seem to have an affinity for them. 

To date my blog has been mostly about beads, various travel and history. But I've been doing so much lately at the office, including business travel, that I thought I'd share some of these stories. This part of my life seems to be eating into my beady life, so I might as well show you what is consuming my time lately. Hope you all have a happy (and safe!) St. Patrick's celebration!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Old Turquoise and Gifting

I posted earlier in the week some beautiful old carnelian from my mother-in-law, and I promised to show you the old Indian turquoise as well. These are simple. Just baubles really, but they were designed for the wearer. 

My sister-in-law is notorious in the family. She is the one that when you've gifted her something that she knows instantly she isn't fond of, you will know it shortly there after. I've learned over the years that she really just wants a little something simple, that dangles from her ear. She isn't big on bracelets, although she has a few. She doesn't prefer necklaces as she only wears a handful if she wears one at all. It is earrings that she enjoys.

But here is the thing. She has MS, and earrings are not easy for her. She doesn't want anything fussy. She just wants a natural stone. So when my mother-in-law handed me the strand of old Indian stones at Thanksgiving, I instinctively handed it to my sister-in-law to ask which stones she liked. She said turquoise. But I knew she'd say that. 

She then reached into her purse and said, "oh I've been meaning to ask you," which usually means a jewelry project is imminent in my future. I had made a pair of simple sodalite earrings for her years ago. Apparently she had worn them so much that they were both missing earring backs, and one the jump rings to the earring post had long since broken lose. To know my sister-in-law is to know that this is a sign of love. She had worn these to death. I smiled, and said I'd fix them and send them back. I only kept the stones, and gave the rest of the setting a face lift with new silver findings. These two pair went out to her for Christmas. And I got a very sweet card back. It's funny, I've never encountered that look from her. The one when you know she doesn't like the gift.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Old Carnelian

I've talked about my Mother-in-Law before and the fact that she grew up in India. Through the years, she collected many pieces of jewelry. Mostly from local vendors selling bits and pieces, polished stones or hand knotted jewelry. Some are simply strands of beautiful stones. This past Thanksgiving she pulled out another strand from the jewelry box to give me, and simply said "I figured you could pull this apart and create something new and pretty." She knows me well. That is for sure.

There were several types of stones in this recent strand including carnelian and a green turquoise. Typically people do not associate turquoise with India, but actually it has been mined there for centuries and there are some beautiful colors of this stone across the foothills of the Himalayas from Northern India, into Pakistan and beyond.  

As for carnelian, I have such a weakness for the rich, honey color of these stones. Especially some that have been weathered from the years like these. This pair has already become some of my favorite new earrings that I'll be wearing for years to come.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ra & Riddle of the Sphinx

My Ra necklace was inspired by the story of the Sphinx. There seems to be two riddles of this Sphinx: the first is why it was built. The second the legendary question the Sphinx is said to ask travelers. 

Egyptologists believe the 'travelers' question came about centuries after the original Sphinx was built and bears no meaning to why it was created. Actually, the Sphinx has been around for 45 centuries according to a NOVA special I found (which I highly recommend if you're interested in the subject). The Sphinx is the biggest and oldest statue in a land of colossal ancient monuments (according to Nova). The head alone is the size of the White House, and the body is nearly the length of a football field. And research done on the statue reveal that it was carved out of one massive piece of limestone. Truly amazing.

The riddle is mentioned in early written works like the Odyssey where the Sphinx is described as a monster terrorizing the people of Thebes. It is said that the Sphinx asked travelers a riddle that if they failed to answer correctly; they were killed. Oedipus is one of the travelers and is asked:

What goes on four legs at dawn, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?

Oedipus answers "man, who as a  baby crawls on four legs, then walks on two legs as an adult and in old age walks with a cane as his third leg.'

But this riddle has nothing to do with the origin of the great Sphinx. The statue itself is quite unusual with its 'part man-part animal' structure that seems to be guarding two of the pyramids. Typically deities had a human body with an animal head, but the Sphinx is the opposite. It has a man's head on the body of a lion. Which experts believe symbolizes the intelligence of man with the power of a lion; or power in control. This would likely be ascribed to a pharaoh. Experts conclude that the Sphinx represents both a god, and a pharaoh.

Unlike pyramids (or tombs) where we know who is buried inside them, and thus who likely built them, the Sphinx is more of a mystery as to who built it and why. Given its size and stature, only a pharaoh is likely to have built it. And probably it was a pharaoh who was buried in one of the two pyramids behind the statue, which were built by a father and son: Khufu and his son Khafra. But which one built the Sphinx? And why? 

One of the clues are hieroglyphs at the base of the statue. An important set identify the Sphinx as the guardian to the after life using a combined symbol of the falcon (Horus) which is positioned just above the symbol for the horizon (Akhet). These two together means "Horus on the horizon" or the name of a deity that guards the entrance to the after life. Not to be confused with Ra (the sun God) with the head of a falcon but the sun disc overhead. Ra was thought to travel among the living during the day, and passed over the horizon to the underworld at night. Only to then appear on the opposite horizon the following day for rebirth.

To ancient Egyptians, the horizon had great significance. We see it throughout their symbolism. Another hieroglyph has two lions back to back. The curve of the lions' backs represent the horizon with the sun disc held between them. This represents the deity Aker, the god who guards the gates to the after life. 

So why are all these symbols of the sun, lions and horizon important to the Sphinx? The answer is found in the sun temple directly in front of the Sphinx. When the setting sun hits just right (the spring and the fall equinox) it creates a line right over the shoulder of the Sphinx, past the pyramid of Khafra and marking the journey over the horizon to the after life. So likely the Sphinx was designed and built as the guardian to the after life for the son Khafra who wanted to ensure a safe journey. Mystery solved.

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