Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lampwork Bracelets

I didn't do my regular Thursday night Beadfx studio visit tonight. I decided to stay home and make a few more pieces for Sunday's jewellery show instead. I was making a few bracelets using lampwork beads.

The black and white bracelet features a focal bead I made myself. I'm quite fond of this bead for some reason, it's funny how one bead can capture your imagination. Something about the random black and white swirls appeals to me.

I also made this green bracelet using some beads I bought from Unicorn beads. The swirls of colour in these beads are quite attractive and I like the look mixed with the stone chips.

Here are the matching earrings:

Then I made this fun little bracelet with a turtle bead I bought from a TBS vendor, Dawn Masters of Silver Dawn Jewels - she always has wonderful beads for sale but these turtles were quite different from her usual fare - isn't it cute?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Midnight Blooms

This necklace is a variation of Jennifer Tough's "Midnight Blooms" design from the Beadfx Inspirations collection. While the smaller blooms are made with 4mm Swarovski crystals, I made a focal bead by combining a larger, clear crystal with the smaller crystals on each wire wrap. I like having the two different sizes of "blooms".

As Jen says in her description, it's a very dainty look for a bracelet but I think it works well as a necklace too. You can't tell from the photo but it hangs very nicely when it's on your neck. I just might have to keep this one for myself!

Of course, the look would not be complete without a couple more "blooms" hanging from your earlobes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Shaggy Drops

I am still totally in love with these shaggy drop beads. I really like the feel of them and the sound they make as they shake on the bracelet.

Last time I made a bracelet with them, I used silver jump rings but these blue and brown combo beads cried out for copper and they look fabulous together, if I do say so myself.

The bracelet itself is a jump ring design that I made up myself. I'm guessing it's not a new design as I would think there are only a limited number of ways you can attach rings together but if it is an official pattern, I put it together by accident. I really should write down what I did, so I can do it again and/or take a close up photo.

As always, there are also matching earrings:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes I see a bead or beads and instantly know I have to have it/them and what I'm going to do with it/them. Other times, I decide that I have to have it/them but I'm not sure what to use it for, so it or they wait until I get an idea.

In this case, I purchased a mixed bag of pink beads at a TBS meeting a few months ago for the whopping investment of $3 for the whole bag. This past weekend, I finally got around to opening the beads and checking out the beads, then putting some of the beads together.

Here's what came about: a necklace of random beads, linked together with 9 mm jump rings,

a matching bracelet,

and a funky pair of earrings.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another Busy Sunday

I've been busy making more jewellery today. Feeling a little panicked now that the weekend is over because I still have so many ideas of pieces I'd like to make and I've got a few evenings out this week and the TBS Spring Fair coming up next Saturday, so won't have much time to put too many more things together. Oh well, what gets done, gets done and everything else will have to wait until I can get back to making things.

Here are some pictures of what I have been making this weekend, I'm quite thrilled with them:

This necklace is a new design as far as hanging the focal bead is concerned. I had some left over beads from making the jumble ball and I had the idea of hanging them in a row along the chain above the ball. I really like the way it looks, it just adds a little something.

Of course, there are matching earrings. These came from the Bead Crazy Intermediate class I took last spring, they were designed by the teacher, Katherine. I like the way the two strands hang down and they look even better hanging on your earlobe, because one strand hangs in front and one behind the ear. It's quite different than anything I've seen before as far as dangly earrings go.

I also designed a necklace to go with a heart shaped lampwork bead I had made a few months ago. I really like the way the periwinkle blue, purple and green colours blend together, although I left out the purple when it came to putting beads on the strand - the look seemed to suit just the blue and green somehow.

But don't worry, blue and green aren't the only colours I've been working with. Stay tuned for more previews...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Productive Day

It's been a very productive day so far. I've been busy making jewellery for the spring show my cousin Catherine is hosting at her home next Sunday afternoon (email me for details if you'd like to attend, all are welcome! Lots of great ideas for Mother's Day gifts!!) I'll be posting photos over the next few days so you can see what I've been doing. Starting with this bracelet:

It was lovely and warm today, I tidied up my balcony (including vacumming the outdoor carpet, which seemed to confuse my cat Max, who couldn't understand why I was taking the scary noisy machine that sucks up bits of cat litter outside to use), set up a card table out there and did some of my beadwork while enjoying the balmy weather. Although it was a bit difficult to keep some of my bits and pieces in place, as the wind was really blowing about. Shortly afterwards, we had a terrific thunderstorm with sheets of rain blowing madly about and the power went off and on a few times before things settled down again.

I took advantage of the early dark to take a short nap - creating can be a very tiring process, mostly because when you do try to sleep, your brain is still busy churning out ideas and then it wakes you up early to get started, even though your eyes are burning and your body is still wanting to lie down. I suppose these are the sacrifices one must make for one's craft.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beachcombing, Urban Style

I am feeling quite virtuous, after taking part in the Toronto 20 Minute Makeover today (don't you just love the ad, with the people in suits vacuuming litter off the sidewalk?)

A bunch of us from my office headed out onto the section of our building's property than runs along a major highway and picked up trash. Let me tell you, there was a lot of interesting stuff on the side of that road!

Here's a photo of just a few of the treasures I found: Canadian Tire money (hey, these days, you never know when that extra 5 cents is going to come in handy), a wrench (9/16 size), some interesting bits of metal that might come in handy in Susan Lenart Kazmer's class in Milwaukee, a seat belt buckle, a light spongy bit of rubber that is probably from a car engine with a very George Jetson shape that might look good as a focal bead...and one half of a pair of dice.
Altogether, we picked up about 50 grocery bags full of garbage. Of course, the irony is that we used 50 brand new plastic garbage bags and at least 50 rubber gloves, so we weren't exactly being totally green about the whole thing but hey, it's better than nothing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Hour Torching

It feels really late, probably because I am so tired. I just got home from the new Thursday night "Happy Hour Torching" at Beadfx. For the next little while, they are offering one hour of free torching on Thursday nights for one hour of paid torch time. That's 2 hours for the price of 1, which seems like a good deal to me.

Although I wasn't really in the mood to make beads tonight. My brain felt all scrambled before I even left home (still worrying about my sick cat, which seems to be very distracting, as if part of my brain is always focused on that issue so that nothing else gets my full attention) and then traffic was rather unpleasant driving to the store, so I was late arriving and didn't actually start making beads until about 7:30 p.m. (which means for me, it was really only 1.5 hours for the price of 1 but that's okay, that was plenty!)

Driving home was equally bad. Some yahoo in front of me turned into oncoming traffic instead of the proper lane to access the highway, which I found to be quite alarming, I don't know what he thought he was doing. Luckily, he was able to drive onto the shoulder and get out of the way of oncoming traffic but geez, scary stuff for me and the person driving towards him in the meantime.

Then it seems we are now back in the season of highway construction which apparently means unannounced road closures, which meant both the exits off the highway I would normally take to get home were closed, traffic was slow and snarled while everyone tried to figure out the new lane closures and I ended up driving miles out of my way just to turn around and head back in the opposite direction. I had a really strong feeling of "I just want to go home!" and was almost in tears by the end of it, a sure sign I'm overtired and needing a little less stress in my life.

Okay, that's my rant for tonight, had to get it out of my system before I go to bed. In closing, I will leave you with a photo of my new favourite t-shirt slogan, which I found on the Internet today - it gave me a good laugh!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

Two things to celebrate today, the first being the fact that this is my 200th blog posting. Where does the time go?

It is also Earth Day. I'm a bit confused as to why Earth Week and Earth Day fall so far past the day we celebrated Earth Hour but presumably there is a good reason for this.

Google has a beautiful picture for its logo today:

As part of the Earth Week celebrations, Toronto is holding its annual "20 minute makeover" on Friday. Everyone is encouraged to go outside and spend 20 minutes picking up garbage, starting at 2 p.m. Our company has asked everyone to pick up litter on our property. I figure it's just a good way to get free labour so they don't have to actually hire someone to do the job, but what the heck. Did I mention they are feeding us pizza for lunch beforehand? I'm so in!! :)

Lord knows, there is lots of litter about, after a long winter of stuff piling up in snowbanks and blowing in from who knows where. I'm going to volunteer to be the bag holder, as I'm pretty sure my back won't like all that bending. I'm wishing I had one of those sticks with a sharp pointy thing at the end that professional litter picker uppers have, that would be cool.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pink Courage

My cousin Catherine asked if I would donate a piece of jewellery for a silent auction that is being held this coming Saturday night as part of the "Retro Bash 2009" presented by the Lara Anne Hudson Foundation at the Regency Banquet Hall in Woodbridge. The evening features dinner and dancing, and money raised from the event supports the Southlake Regional Cancer Program.

Here's a picture of the necklace and earrings I made:

Catherine had suggested I make something pink, given the focus on raising money for cancer programs. I decided to combine the pink beads with black wire for a more dramatic look. I'm hoping it will help raise some money for this worthy cause.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays

What a combination. It's been raining most of today, with a grey, grey sky, the temperature dropping and the wind just a-howling. Not a good combination for a Monday.

Notwithstanding this wet weather, I've been making jewellery with a summer theme. I got a large package of a random assortment of white plastic beads from a vendor at a TBS meeting a few months ago. I didn't quite know what to do with them until a couple of days ago, when I started to get some ideas.

They are very mod looking - large, funky shapes. I made a bunch of earrings first and I'm just starting to think about matching bracelets and necklaces, because I always like to make sets. But these are so fun and funky as earrings, I might just keep going with that. I haven't quite decided.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thinking of my Dad Today

I am thinking about my dad today. It is the fourth anniversary of the day he died.

I can't quite bring myself to go to visit his grave on this day but I have found it to be comforting to visit other cemeteries. Last year, I went to the St. James Cemetery (which seemed especially appropriate because my dad's name was Jim) and had a walk around. It is one of the oldest cemeteries in Toronto and has some very cool monuments, including this unusual one which commemorates the lives of several young people who drowned on Balsam Lake in July 1926. He and my mom had found this monument one day a few years before when they were exploring this cemetery and had described it to me but I had never seen it, so I decided to go looking for it. Wouldn't you know, I walked around the entire place for an hour and was just coming down the very last roadway when I finally came across it, very near the main entrance! If I had turned left instead of right when I first arrived, I would have found it in the first 2 minutes! It didn't matter, it was a nice way to spend some time and it made me feel good to know he had once walked those same paths.

I read somewhere recently that we never really get over losing someone we love, we just learn to live without them. I believe that is true. Life carries on, it's just different without them in it, but who you are is forever changed by having had them in your life.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Looking for inspiration?

I woke up this morning ready to make some jewellery. I knew my darling Carly was coming home from the vet's today and her condition is much improved, so my brain had decided it was okay to move on from worrying to creating ideas for my "summer collection".

But there are those days when your creative juices just aren't flowing and you could use a little help. There are various sources on the Web for ideas - sometimes I just Google the name of a beading technique to see what comes up. Another idea is to check out the websites of the various beading magazines, one of which is I get their newsletter via email - guess how often? You got it, daily!! They have a lot of free projects available to download from their site and not just the ones they feature in the newsletters.

I also like to check out the suggestions on the Beadfx Inspirations page. As you may know from reading this blog, I am honoured to have three of my own designs posted there, but there are many others shown, designed by the Beadfx staff.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from work asked me to make a bracelet for her that she had seen there. The bracelet was designed by Dwyn Tomlinson and is called "Copper Cafe". It's made with three different shades of Swarovski crystals - Mocca, Crystal Copper and Crystal Golden Shadow. The picture doesn't really do it justice - it is so sparkly in person, I'm tempted to make one for myself!!

Here's the link to the instructions:

So if you're stuck for ideas and your muse is taking a break, go online and have a look around - you'll be amazed what you might find!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mohawk on a Motorcycle

Yesterday, when I needed a smile, I was treated to this sight while driving on the Don Valley Parkway:

To that unknown motorcyclist, thank you!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Everybody's Got Stuff

I went to lampwork class tonight after debating with myself about whether or not to go. It's been an emotional week. The anniversary of my dad's death is approaching this week, which is always hard. On Monday, I found out a family friend has incurable abdominal cancer. Tuesday I realized my older cat, Carly, wasn't quite herself and by Wednesday, had to take her to the vet. She got to come home last night while they waited for the test results but based on the diagnosis of kidney disease, she had to go back in today, probably until Saturday, so they can give her IV fluids to rehydrate her and antibiotics and special food and hopefully make her feel better. Apparently this type of disease is common for older cats (she is 17) and manageable, although not curable.
I decided to go, because I find that working on the torch tends to calm my mind. It is almost meditative, because you really have to focus on what you are doing in order to get the beads to turn out reasonably round and, oh yeah, make sure you don't set anything on fire.

When I got to class, there were only 3 of us there tonight, Dwyn the teacher, myself and another student, Debbie. Dwyn started by telling us how she has been dealing with her sick dog, Abby, all week, as she developed a sudden problem with a disc in her back, temporarily lost the use of her back legs and ended up having surgery this week. So the two of us were commiserating with each other about vet costs and treatments options and how we worry about our beloved, aging furballs.

Then Debbie told us about her boss, who is going to be off work for the next 4 or 5 months battling a brain tumour. Whoa! Reality check. It appears to be treatable and I certainly hope so, both for her sake and the sake of her 6 year old child. But it really made me realize - most of the time, we've all got stuff going on and while it tends to be like comparing apples and oranges, there's usually somebody out there with worse stuff than yours.

Hopefully, for most of us, it's temporary stuff, possibly painful and expensive and generally worrisome and time consuming but if we're lucky, eventually things get sorted out and in the long term, you're left to fret about the credit card bills while cuddling a warm, furry, happy pet. For others, it's more serious stuff, the kind that leaves you lying awake at night wondering what is going to happen and who is going to look after you or your child or your pet if things get really bad, or wondering why bad things happen or wishing families didn't have to take that long trip along the Highway of Heroes. My heart goes out to those people.

Just for tonight though, I'm going to be selfish and thank my lucky stars that my situation isn't that bad. Then I'll say a prayer for all of us.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beaded Boxes

Jo-Ann Woolverton was sitting at one of the tables at the Toronto Bead Society's Techniques Night last week working on beaded boxes. I don't think she was actually teaching the technique, I think she was just working on a piece while listening to whomever was teaching at that table, but don't quote me.

The pieces she had are from a book called "Little Beaded Boxes" by Julia Pretl. They are the most exquisite little things. I believe they are mostly made out of seed beads and Fireline. They are only two or three inches in size.

I especially liked this little blue box. Check out the dragon detail on the side!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Techniques Night - April 2009

Last Wednesday night was Techniques Night at the April meeting of the Toronto Bead Society. The theme of this session was U.F.O.'s, as in "Unfinished Objects" - bead projects that you may have started but never finished for whatever reason. Maybe you lost interest, forgot how to do a stitch, or don't know how to finish it off. Various members volunteered to teach/share their knowledge and there were several tables of people learning different things.
Roxanne (see photo, above left) taught wire crochet to a very eager crowd.

I sat at a table where the topic was seed bead techniques and we discussed questions we had and problems we were having and Ronit, the table leader, gave us the benefit of her wisdom and vast experience in this area.

Stephanie (The Dixon Chick) sat at Sonya's table and learned how to use the curling gizmo (see photo, right), with very cool results. For more details, see her blog posting of April 10th.

Thanks to everyone who helped out, we newbies really appreciate the fact that you are willing and eager to share what you have learned with us.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board

As you may recall, in last Friday's blog entry, I told you about the birds nest rings I had been making. On Saturday, I wore one of them out to lunch with my mom and my sister and then did a little shopping. As I was leaving the second store, I glanced down at my hand and realized that the focal bead was missing from the ring! All that was left was the bird's nest part (which did still look very nice on its own, I thought), the bead had snapped very cleanly off at each end of the wire that had been holding it attached to the body of the ring, I had to look very closely to even see where the breaks in the wire were.

I had thought I had lost the bead itself in a store or on the sidewalk somewhere and would never see it again but luckily, I found it at the bottom of my shopping bag when I got home.

So it is back to the drawing board for me, to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. It could be that I need to pass through the bead more than once, in order for the wire to successfully support the weight of the glass bead. It's also possible that I might have snagged the bead on something as I shopping and pulled it off without realizing.
I must also ask Jen and Stephanie if they have had similar problems with their creations.
Clearly, more research is required...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Signs of Spring

Last week's snow is slowly melting, all that is left are these random chunks which I call Snowhenge, as they remind me of the stone circles found here and there in the British Isles...

Yesterday, I was looking at a little book that my Mom has called "Flower Guide - Wild Flowers East of the Rockies" by Chester A. Reed from 1907. The preface begins like this: "Whose heart is not gladdened at the sight of the first Mayflower or Arbutus in the spring?

I confess I don't even know if Mayflowers (also known as trailing Arbutus) bloom in Ontario (perhaps the book is speaking of east of the American Rockies?) but for me, besides the sight of the first robin, the sure sign that spring is on its way is the arrival of the crocuses. Just when you think you can't wait another day for spring to arrive, you notice these hardy little blooms poking out of the ground and you realize there is hope.

Of course, they have to share space on the lawn with melting snow but they don't seem to mind, soaking up whatever sun they can and spreading their cheer to all. A reassuring sign that the earth is thawing and seeds and bulbs are waking up and ready to share their beauty with us once again. My heart is indeed gladdened by this sight.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Art of Patience

I am writing tonight's entry on my mother's computer in Small Town, Ontario. I grew up in this town, population 17,000 according to the sign (but really, they just stopped counting and don't want to be officially known as big enough to be called a city, so in reality there are probably thousands and thousands more who don't get official recognition on the "Welcome to..." sign at the edge of town). I like coming back to visit, not just to visit my mom, but also because my favourite clothing store in the whole world is here with Cheryl my personal stylist ready to help me with the perfect wardrobe. (Of course, I can't tell you the name of the store because if everyone knew how great it was, there'd be no clothes left for me to buy and as it is already, I'm always just a little bit out of luck getting the full selection of sizes, styles and colours whenever I go. Clothes fly off the shelves at this place and they can't get any more, even though it's February and you're buying a swim suit that you won't be able to wear for at least another four months.)

There is a dark side to this town though. A dirty secret that people are reluctant to talk about. But I must reveal it here and bring it out into the open.

Sadly, unfortunately, shamefully, it must be noted that high speed Internet service has not yet arrived in this town, which is situated about 1.5 hours drive from Toronto. Or maybe it's available and my mother has simply chosen not to get it. For whatever reason, she only has dial up service.

The horror. The horror.

I have always considered myself to be a patient person. It is only when one is faced with the trauma of waiting...waiting...waiting for the phone number to connect (why on earth does it make that annoying sound???) and then waiting...waiting...waiting for each page to load that I realize I'm not as patient as I think I am. Somehow I have become so used to the instant gratification of high speed Internet that my brain simply doesn't know what to do with itself for the long, long periods of time it takes for this computer to search out the information or talk to the satellites or run interference with the groundhogs that control the underground cables or whatever it is that it needs to do in order to give me access to the Google page I want or log in to the Blogger website.

I don't mind waiting in line. I waited in traffic in this town today without complaint while four separate cars tried to get in or out of the parking lot of the liquor store - I was only driving by the liquor store, you understand, I just wanted to get past it but two cars wanted to go in and two cars were trying to get out - one by reversing out and almost hitting the person beside them who was driving forward but turning left so they ended up behind the reversing car...yes, tragedy was narrowly averted here today as I was to witness. I have been waiting 47 years now for the love of my life to show up and apparently I'm going to have to be patient a little while longer in that regard as well.

But there is a limit to my patience and I now know it has to do with Internet speed. Dammit, I want my Google ready and waiting whenever I want it. These poor souls don't even know it doesn't have to be this way, they think this is "normal". Of course, they also think the way they drive is normal too, so maybe that explains a few things, now that I think about it...

In the meantime, I'll just keep waiting...and waiting...and waiting...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Birds Nest or Bling, Very Pretty Rings

I spent part of today making rings. Dwyn showed us how to wrap them last night at lampwork class. The Birds Nest ring is one that Jen has been teaching at Beadfx. It's called that because the way you wrap the wire creates something that looks like a birds nest, with the bead like the egg sitting in the nest. It's very simple and Jen has been talking about making a video and posting it on the Beadfx website, so stay tuned for that - it will be worth the wait.

Today I tried it with both lampwork beads and a jumble of other beads, which The Dixon Chick calls Bling Rings. The ones I made weren't too fancy in the bling department but I did make two rings that will go nicely with my new glasses, with blue and green beads and silver wire. Then I made a couple with gold wire, which I also liked. Stephanie recommended 22 gauge and that seems to work really well. Dwyn tried it with 24 gauge last night and found that she preferred the 22 overall. I was having a lot of fun experimenting with different colours and types of beads and varying the wrapping method. I ran out of time before I ran out of ideas.
Funny thing though - so far, all of the rings seemed to turn out just the right size to fit my own fingers. I have a ring mandrell and I did try to make them larger but they all just seemed to end up a size 7, no matter what I did. Wonder if that means I get to keep all of them??

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spiral Sparkle

Check out this week's Inspiration Challenge on the Beadfx website. Stephanie and I were given a Swarovski square, some 8 mm crystals and a beautiful 11/0 seed bead mix called "Samba" to work with.

As usual, we crafted two totally different pieces. Stephanie isn't keen on seed beads, so she ended up making a wirework piece and embellished it with the beads we were given. I, on the other hand, love the seed beads. Made a spiral rope with some lilac delicas and added a couple of embellishments at each end, what we called "chicken feet" when Kate McKinnon taught us how to make them in Mexico. (In this case, I think they look a little prettier than actual chicken feet but that could just be because of the jewel tone colours and the 4 mm crystal accents!)
I used the crystal square as one half of the toggle and made the toggle bar from a headpin and eye pin combination. It feels a bit flimsy but I'll see how it works out. Hopefully it will stand up to use. If not, I shall use a heavier gauge wire.

I've only made part of a spiral rope before, so I was pleased to finish one, even if it is only choker length. I really liked making it though, will have to get busy and make some more!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New Specs

I recently treated myself to a new pair of glasses. I have been wearing the same pair for the past four years and while they are of a style that doesn't really go out of fashion, when I was trying on new ones and ended up selecting one that is almost identical to the ones I was planning to replace, I figured it was time for a change.

Since I prefer to have clip on sunglasses, my choice of styles is limited. The alternative is to have two pairs of glasses made - one with regular lenses and one with tinted lenses. At close to $500 a pair, the second option is rather an expensive one. As my prescription had not changed for distance, only for reading purposes, I chose instead to keep my original pair to use when I need sunglasses and bought a funky new pair to wear every day.

They are navy and green in colour and have very cool circles decorating the arm bands. I feel very artsy when I wear them.

Of course, new glasses in such colours meant that I simply had to make jewellery to go with them. Here's a picture of the wire crochet necklace I made, using a variety of green beads and some vintage lucite navy blue hearts: