Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beadwork Pause for Harvest frenzy

I'm working up a bunch of plums and apples I bought from a co-worker who has a little orchard in Mora, about 20 miles away. I've been happily pitting and halving the batch of prune plums I bought, as well as making some stewed plums and freezing a few batches (I had a batch drying on a cookie sheet on the porch, covered with a muslin cloth, and my dog at half of them!). Then there's the big box of apples to deal with. Yesterday I peeled and cooked up some nice rustic applesauce, and froze four quarts, and that's just about a third of the apples I bought, so I'll be working the rest up in the next week or so. It's back to work tomorrow and off to Socorro on Saturday to spend the afternoon with my son who turns 25 on Sunday. We're planning to go out to the Bosque del Apache and gawk at the birds, then share a pizza and dessert. There's nothing like fall in New Mexico! The smell of roasting chiles in the air, cool mornings and warm afternoons, it's the best time of year!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to Make a Funky Halloween Charm Bracelet

If you're into beads at all, you probably have a fairly large jar or box or gasp! boxes of beads you've bought that you haven't found a use for yet. I'm guilty of this and have started using my stashes of interesting beads for things like cell phone charms, charms that people like to dangle from their ID badges, or key rings, and charm bracelets. If you've got sterling silver or plated chain, you have a head start, but I don't always have chain on hand, so I occasionally make myself a bracelet from jumprings, preferably sterling, but plated will do too. The simplest bracelet is just a string of jumprings, but I often make a strand of doubled jumprings (just attatch two jumprings to two others and make a long strand in the same manner). But for this project, I just went with the one ring strand of sterling jumprings type bracelet.

Jumprings can be frustrating. You think they're well and truly 'closed' and they pop open at the most inopportune times. The purist might decide to solder them closed after making the bracelet, and I've just invested in a mini torch and plan to try just that, but for today, my bracelet is hanging together nicely with just manual closure of the jumprings. Try to close the rings so you feel the 'click' as the two ends pass across each other when closing.

Once you have the length of homemade chain you want (I tend to make bracelets about 6 1/2 inches long, including the clasp), it's time to start making charms. I like to mix commercial cast charms with charms I make from my mega stash of 'interesting' beads. It wasn't hard to find enough Halloween type themed beads for this bracelet, since I'm drawn to this sort of thing.

Making headpin charms is fairly straightforward, you just mount your bead on a headpin (I don't limit myself to silver headpins for what I call funky charm bracelets...I like mixing my metals for a bit of interest). I like to put a small bottom bead on next to the 'head' of the headpin, then my focal bead, then another small bead. Then just grasp the headpin with your needlenose pliers, right up against the last small bead added, and bend the headpin at a 90 degree angle. Then shift the needlenose pliers so you have the bend under the bottom 'needle' and bend the headpin up and over the top 'needle', making the loop. Then I like to re grasp the loop so that the bit of headpin that forms the neck of the loop is visible, and wrap the headpin end around the neck of the headpin to make the nice coiled look under the loop. Clip the end close to the headpin and snug the clipped end down so it's not too obvious.

I like to do a bit of an assembly line approach and just work up a bunch of charms at once, especially if I'm making a themed type bracelet. Here's my original collection of basic charms for this bracelet.

Once I have my charms made and gathered, I attach them to the charm bracelet with smaller jumprings, attach a clasp and I'm done! On this bracelet you'll see commercial charms, interesting lampwork beads, the skulls and bones are ceramic beads from Peru, the eye beads are, I believe, from India.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another Swarovski Project Finished

I worked up my second crystal red magma fancy pear into another elegant, evening wear type necklace. This one is choker length, at just 16 inches, with gold plated charlottes and dark gold Swarovski bicones, I think they're medium vitrail, accented with translucent deep red seed beads. The necklace is a modified 'vines' pattern, originated by Chris Prussing of Alaska (she sells patterns on bead-patterns.com). The clasp is a tiny S clasp, gold toned. This Swarovski adventure has been a blast, and I think I'll be using a lot more of these shiny darlings in the future. Now, if I could just find a reliable outlet for all this bling, but that's an issue for most beadworkers.

Again, a special thanks to Artbeads.com for supplying these fantastic crystals!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Swarovski project, part deux





This week I've been working on the second of my three Swarovski Fancy Pear Shaped cabs. This one is a bit smaller than the previous one, at 30x20mm and a nice deep red they called crystal magma. I decided to make a cuff bracelet, something that IS in my comfort zone. I love the way this bracelet flows and looks like it's encrusted with jewels. I used flat bronze cubes, vintage ruby colored rose montees, rose gold charlottes, and ruby/black lined translucent size 11 Czech beads, mounted on a brass cuff with some nice commercial braintanned deer hide.
My love affair with Swarovskis is really heating up. I was interested to see that the old 5301 bicone bead has been improved and Swarovski has come out with a bicone bead with more cuts, called 5328 XILION cut- WOW-check out the Fire Opal color. OK, gotta definitely get some of those!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

WOW! Swarovskis!



I've worked with Swarovski crystals off and on for over a decade. Mostly I have used bicones for hugs and kisses type jewelry. So when I was contacted by Artbeads.com with an offer to sample some of their Swarovski products in return for blogging about them, I decided to use something outside of my usual comfort area. I decided to try my hand at working with some fancy pear shaped crystals. I got one Montana Sapphire, and two Crystal Red Magma crystals. When they arrived yesterday I was amazed. I've seen Swarovski flatbacks before, but I'd never really noticed the pear shaped crystals, and the depth and faceting in them is indescribable. I was stoked enough to work up the Montana Sapphire, starting yesterday evening and finishing the piece this afternoon. I bezeled the crystal with some of my hoard of sterling silver clad charlottes, and made a necklace of bicones, charlottes and larger silver plated seed beads. The necklace is about 18 inches long, and the pattern is called RAW vines, invented by my buddy Chris Prussing in Alaska. I'm including a picture here, but the picture doesn't do it justice. It's too cloudy today to get a picture that shows the depth and glow of the crystal. I'll try again next time the sun comes out and see if that makes a difference. I'm thinking I'll use the two Red Magmas on a cuff bracelet, but that will have to wait til next week. I haven't decided what to name this beauty...I'm toying with the name Montana Silver, or Montana Nights.
I want to say a special thank you to the folks at Artbeads for giving me the opportunity to use a product I wouldn't normally have bought for myself. Now I have to figure out how to restrain myself from buying all of the other fancy shaped Swarovski components that I've never considered using before. Well, maybe I'll just get one or two.....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Learning Photoshop

I've been working through an old Creative Suite Bible that I picked up used on Amazon. Finally I'm beginning to learn how to use the programs (slowly-I'm still in the early chapters). I'm gaining a lot of respect for the power of photoshop. I don't find it to be an intuitive program at all, although my son differs with me on that. I'm having to go through each of the tools, one at a time and try to figure out what they really do and how the different programs in the suite work together. (My CS program is the first rendition-and an educational release at that. No way could I afford the real thing, unless I learn to use it and can justify to myself that it's a reasonable expense.) Anyway, here's that tall ship pic I took in San Francisco,manipulated a bit with Photoshop.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Practice really DOES improve performance





For the past year or so, I've been attempting to learn how to spin yarn on a drop spindle. My first attempts were so pathetic that I put my spindles away for months at a time before attempting the process again. This past winter, I decided to really give it a try and ended up making many balls of lumpy, misshapen messes-decidedly NOT yarn. This spring and summer I started to improve a bit, and after some youTube searches, and watching several different gals spinning with different methods, I decided to try again and to work at it for at least twenty minutes a day. Sometime this summer everything seemed to snap into place, and my hands began to know what do when the wool was too thick or too thin, and how to draft out long light strands of stuff that really does look like yarn. This winter, I'm going to take all my different grades of "yarn" and make myself some sort of knitted, or maybe crocheted scarf that shows off the progress of the process. I love spinning now, and intend to keep going until I'm really good at it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Miscellaneous beadwork being done!

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, I've been making all sorts of dangly, shiny things. Charm bracelets, cell phone charms, beaded collars for DOGS! Having been around in those days (no, I didn't make it to woodstock, I was most likely 'on the road' when it happened, but I do remember seeing Jimi Hendrix in Denver-that concert happened a bit before Woodstock, and I remember the Denver police coming at the crowds of us hippies who had come for the music, with riot gear and tear-gas). Anyway, I find I've never really given up the habit of attaching beads to all sorts of my gear, and love that the trend seems to be resurging. Also, loomwork has begun to find popularity again, and I'm happy enough about that, especially since I have a Versa loom and don't have to worry about all those pesky warp threads. I've added a few pics of my latest dabblings here, but will put most of them up on my Flickr site. The cell phone charms and charm bracelets are a great way to use up the many odd beads I've collected over the years. The earrings on chain are easy and fun to make (I scored about 2 feet of lovely sterling chain from Madeline at Beauty and the Beads during her closing sale). The loomed dog collars seem to be pretty popular with the middle aged dog lovers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Test for facebook page

I'm trying to see if this new app will post my blog post to my facebook page. Will upload a gratuitous vacation picture to see if pics go through, too. So here's a lovely tall ship in San Francisco Bay.

Friday, August 14, 2009

RIP Ronald!

The major trauma room in our ER after we coded Ronald McDonald. Well, not really, but that's what it looked like after a minor food explosion occurred. Guess the guy didn't WANT a hamburger.....

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor Commemorative Tarot Card!

My BFF Mary made this cool commemorative tarot card to celebrate this auspicious occasion. She said feel free to share, so I'm hoping she meant the image could be reproduced on other blogs, etc. (I'll check with her when I see her, hopefully, today).
With all the craziness happening in our country right now, at least we have this one little island of progress.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe

My friend Mary and I met up on Saturday night in Santa Fe, to get a bit of an early start on getting to the Market. (See Mary's take on our motel room here.) We were also spending some time going through a bonanza of beads my friend Steve sent me from the Pacific NW. I wanted to share some of the bounty with Mary (and will share more of it with my bead retreat group this fall), and we also picked out a fairly large bag of beads to donate to OffCenter Community Arts Project in Albuquerque. That done,after a good night's rest for me (Mary said the running toilet woke her up and she couldn't get back to sleep-I'm still in the sleep anytime/anywhere mode of the long time night worker) we made our way up Museum Hill in Santa Fe and were promptly turned back to go down the hill to the park and shuttle area. When we made it back by shuttle to Museum hill, we saw why. All available parking lots had been turned into an enormous bazaar of artists, craftspeople and their wares. Many of the artists had set up little areas where they showed how they made their beautiful goods. It was sensory overload from the first step, extremely well attended (translate that to WAY CROWDED!). We probably didn't see more than a third of all the vendors before we'd had enough of the crowds and made our ways home. I stupidly forgot my camera in my car, but Mary took tons of pictures of many of the artists, and I'm betting she'll be posting them to her blog. We saw a metal worker from Haiti making cunning metal decorative hangings, weavers and basketmakers from different countries, textile artists of all sorts, carvers, potters, leather workers. You name it, they had it. A gamelon group played, there were Balinese dancers, an Andean flautist. We brunched on gyros and dolmas. I bought a clever little Day of the Dead guitarrista from Peru for myself and an Blessed Virgin retablo for a friend. All in all a wonderful little mini vacation.

Monday, July 6, 2009

graphics manipulation

Ok...I'm trying to learn how to a) work with pictures on my new macbook and b) find the pictures to link to them when blogging. It's confusing, having been a PC user for so many years. For one thing, I'm so used to using Paintshop Pro to edit and manipulate my pictures. On the macbook, I've been trying to learn the open source program GIMP to play with my pictures. I think I'll learn this program eventually, but the learning curve seems a bit steep. Then finding the picture after I stash it away seems a bit cumbersome. Probably I'll get used to it, too. Anyway, I'm attempting to upload a couple of simple pics of earrings I just played with for a bit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Actual beadwork being done

I've been working on some loomed strips for fancy dog collars, and should have some pics in a few days. Love using the versa loom! No pesky warp threads to contend with. Also acclimating myself to a new laptop, an apple macbook pro, my first apple and it's a bit of a transition, but so far very, very nice. Luckily BeadTool is available for macs, so I'll be buying that after the sting of the cost of the mac recedes a bit. Also working on a commissioned piece, beaded bead necklace-little tube beads in olivine and yellow 15's, with Swarovski and bali bead accents. I just finished a bracelet in the same style and sold it before I thought to take a pic. Will get a snap of the necklace before it leaves the house. Summer is in full swing here and I've been doing yardwork, trying to clear out some of the overgrowth in the back yard and am planning to trim some of the massive shrubbery in the front yard. Off to Santa Fe today for an oil change and some grocery shopping, and then home for more looming and maybe trimming. Ah, the excitement!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One Million Can Drive

This sounds like a wonderfully positive thing to do to celebrate the 4th this year. It's an unruly disorganized sort of thing and everyone (liberals, conservatives and others) can play. Let's all work together to get the food banks filled! Yes we Can!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yellowstone and home








We woke at 6 in Bozeman, and hit the road before 7. Made it to Yellowstone around 9AM and made our way through the Park, stopping to gawk at beautiful sights, animals, fumeroles and boiling sulfer springs. Someday I'd love to go and spend several days exploring Yellowstone, so I'm considering this just a scouting trip. We decided to try and make it home and grabbed a sandwich for the road in Thermopolis, then headed for Casper. At Casper we just hopped onto I-25 and headed for home. We were both tired, and I wasn't sure we'd make it, but I grabbed a couple of bottles of Dr. Pepper and some snacks and we did the long drive, making it home around 2AM. Got the pup from the vet's shortly after they opened this morning and now I'm trying to unwind and relax a bit. What a wonderful journey. The mother/son bonding has been fantastic. I highly recommend travel with a grown child.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bozeman, MT

We drove out of Washington state this morning and into Idaho. First thing we noticed was billboards. Not a one to be seen in Washington, and blam, 20 yards over the state line in Idaho, there they were again. The roadways are quite pretty in Washington, without the billboards, but we also noticed it was harder to find resources and services without them, but by the time we got through Washington we were quite used to the new way of looking for things. The second thing we noticed was an almost instant change in terrain, from the rolling hills and plains of Eastern Washington to trees and little hills. Across the narrow part of Idaho on US90, we entered Montana's foothill country and then on up, up and up to the Continental divide, then down, down, down again. Fun watching the battery gauge on the Prius gong up and down, emptying and filling. Mileage went from a steady low 50's to mid to high 40's. No pics today, even though the scenery was gorgeous and awe inspiring. I kept saying "this is exactly what I expected Montana to look like". We were mostly interested in making the miles today. We're planning on getting an early start tomorrow and going through Yellowstone, then on towards home. My goal is to make it home before noon on Saturday so I can pick up my dog from the vets. Otherwise I'll have to wait til Monday to get her, and I miss her, so we're going to make the attempt to get home on time to spring her from the kennel.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Cascades to Spokane

Well, I don't think I shut my mouth once on the way through the Cascades on the North Cascades Highway, either ooohing and aahing, or just plain open mouthed in amazement. It was pure enchantment almost the entire way. I did catch a couple of pictures of old clear cutting on mountain sides, but nothing as horrid as the Western part of the state with acres of tree rubble that looked like it had either been chained or chomped by tree harvesters. The Cascades appear pristine and gorgeous, and oh, so much water! There was still snow at the higher points of the pass, and even some blue glacier snow that I hadn't seen since I was in Alaska. After the Cascades, we lunched in Chelan and then headed due east on state road 2 across apple producing country and then miles and miles of rolling hills that looked like they were being farmed for wheat and hay. We're overnighting outside of Spokane and plan to make a big push for Livingston, Montana tomorrow, Yellostone the next day and then dash for home Saturday.