Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ten Things I Loved in 2011

  1. The book “The Anthologist” by Nicholson Baker. To say I enthused about this book is putting it mildly. I continue to press it on people in hopes of someday having someone to talk with about it.
  2. Getting and getting to know a terrific new sister-in-law and smart-as-a-whip stepniece. I think my family got the better end of this deal. (Sub-thing I loved in family: Three now, my preemie nephew has mostly caught up developmentally and is using his new verbal skills like a talk show host to often hilarious effect. I call him The Spanish Inquisition.)
  3. Watching and, just as enjoyably, mocking “The Walking Dead.” Plot mock: Why are the ravenous zombies so poor at actually eating the people they catch? To wit, 12-year-old Sophia was fully intact as a new walker; shouldn’t she at least have had her arm chewed off or something? Staging mock: Random cars still in line in a traffic jam are upside down. Don’t you hate it when you’re stuck in traffic and your car just flips over? Wardrobe mocks: Is an off-the-shoulder top really the best choice when you’re running from zombies? Rick complains about the psychic weight of being perceived by the group as an authority figure, yet he continues to wear his police uniform. Everyone else wears full-length blue jeans in the summer in the south; that must be cool and comfy. Why is Rick wearing a watch; does he have an appointment to get to during the zombie apocalypse? See -- don’t get me started. But no dissing the Redneck; him I love.
  4. Seeing the Lansdowne Farmers Market come fully into its own in its fifth year, weathering both a hurricane and a sleet storm and still setting sales records for many vendors. It’s so successful that I feel I’ve done most of what I can as committee co-chair and now can and should step back a bit and let other volunteers have a bigger impact. It’s time for new blood for Market management and a break for me. And that’s a good thing.
  5. The podcast “Books on the Nightstand.” The hosts find too many books and authors “amazing,” but their enthusiasm for the printed (or read-aloud) word is infectious and encouraging.
  6. Learning to live alone again. It appears that so long as I have pets to talk to, TV, books, phone Scrabble, Facebook, and a few friends nearby, I’m good. (Sub-thing: Being told repeatedly and finally accepting that I really was too [insert admirable characteristic] for him.)
  7. Without a heroic effort, losing the weight I gained after I hurt my back early last year and then consoled myself with too much food as my life got rocky.
  8. Being informed by a jewelry customer that she’d been cyberstalking me only a day after I got an email from a stranger who’d seen someone wearing a splash ring in a restaurant and then had tried to find me on the internet because she was desperate to have one too. I was too flattered by these ladies’ interest in my work to be concerned about the “stalking” aspect.
  9. Making a music playlist, putting it on my iPod, and then singing along loudly and so very badly in the comfort of my own home. And not really caring that anyone who happened to the door during this could never again listen to “Angel from Montgomery,” “Here Comes My Baby,”  “Over and Over Again,” or any Avett Brothers song without recoiling in horror at the memory. (Sub-thing in the music category: Mumford and Sons.)
  10. Miranda July’s movie “The Future” and her writings, which I consumed in quantity this year. I discovered her work at a difficult time, and it speaks to me in a rare way. It’s as though she knows where all my most tender and tense spots are, and she puts her finger there and presses. She’s a massage therapist for my soul.

Bonus thing:  Having my head and heart clear enough to find that while I’m walking Ruby I’m thinking of how many things I really enjoyed this past year instead of the crap parts of it, and being moved to make and share this list. (Sub-bonus thing: Knowing I could have done 20 Things I Loved in 2011 pretty easily.)

If you stopped in because you are interested in my jewelry, here are some recent pieces.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Over 50 Now

Well, not me, not really, just yet anyway. I'm pushing it pretty hard, but I still have a couple years to go. No, the 50 in the post title is referring to something else.

I have a little craft show this weekend (all day Saturday before I entertain my whole family all day Sunday; still curious about when the food prep is going to happen), so I've been trying to make a piece or two every day for the past several weeks. Since I do most of my shows in the little town where I live (a combination of my being lazy and popular here makes this less of a bad idea than it may seem initially), and have a pretty loyal following that I don't want to disappoint, my goal for each show is always to have at least 50 new pieces. Given my current self-employed status, this should be easy, but I still find myself doing other things when I could and should be producing jewelry. Also, the crazy price of silver has left me partially paralyzed, especially when it comes to fabricated pieces. I'm still a beginner, and the thought of melting a $50 piece of metal is daunting. The good news is that I took a small bag of scrap metal to my favorite supplier in Philadelphia last week and got $300 for it (which I promptly spent on more silver, as is only right). So I don't have as much to show this Saturday as I should, but I have more than hit my 50-new-pieces goal.

Let's have a look, shall we? (Just in case you're tempted to count to hold me to that claimed goal, this isn't everything. It's just the portion I hadn't carded and stored yet.)

First, some beady stuff.

A bunch of mostly Czech glass earrings. For some reason, as the price of silver rose,
I added more and more to these simple summer dangles.
Three headpins just seemed better than one all of a sudden.

A chunky green amethyst necklace with handmade hammered links up front.
Very simple, but this is surprisingly pretty on.

A funky lampwork glass lariat necklace with a
detachable dangle as the clasp.
(The glass slides and can be on either side.)
I tend to sell simple, colorful necklaces quickly.
And yet I don't make many.
I'll have to speak with my business manager.

Lampwork glass with pyrite on a double strand with scattered
freshwater pearl dangles.
Has a nice overall earthy greenish metallic look.

A lampworked glass bracelet with one chain of chalcedony links and
and one of peridot wired into sterling links, with some prasiolite
and peridot dangles at the glass.

The beaten-into-submission stuff.

I'm raising the prices on my handmade hoops. Not only has the material cost shot up,
they're kind of a pain to make, and once a customer has a pair, they wear them all the time,
so they're worth a bit more. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Finally, the fabricated.

I built these two rings using copper as the backplate. I think it shines so
prettily through both stones, especially the one on the left.
(I just had to run over to Etsy, where I bought it, to uncover that it is
an Indonesian manganese dendritic agate, apparently.
Better write that down. I'll never remember it Saturday.)
Though it looks green in this photo, the stone on the left
is lemon chalcedony, so with that copper background,
consider it pink lemonade.
Now the backs of these rings ain't so pretty, what with all that silver solder.
But I figure if there's one piece of jewelry you usually don't see from behind,
it's a ring. And that copper will save a buyer about $20 on the price of each piece.

On this ocean jasper and chalcedony necklace, I left a rim
of the copper backplate showing. Probably should have
trimmed it like the rings or used silver.

I used all sterling silver, which I finished matte and waxed, for this pendant
of ocean jasper, turquoise, and carnelian. Pearls connect the pendant and clasp
to the rolo chain. I think it sings of summer. It pleaseth me so well, this piece,
that I shamelessly Facebooked it for compliments.

And, finally, the piece I finished only last night, a bracelet made of flattish baroque
freshwater pearls and a Death Valley/Wingate Pass plume agate. This took forever,
but it looks great. However, I need to shorten it by about an inch or it'll never sell.
So close, and yet, so far.

After Saturday, my next show is July 16, so I'll need at least 50 new pieces for that too. I may have to downsize these self-imposed goals. 

In other news, I've been selected by supersweet (and dependably regular blogger) Bobbi at Beadsong Jewelry for a Pay It Forward, which means I'll be paying it forward here before too long also. I have to get clear on the details, but basically I think I'll be giving away some of my work to a few nice people just because, and then the recipients will pass on the just-because generosity through their own blogs. So keep an eye out for that if you think you could use a little something I've made.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

From One Thing to Another

In February I wrote about frantically making a last-minute necklace-bracelet-earrings set for my about-to-be sister-in-law here. (That was a whole lotta hyphenates in one sentence, wasn't it?) At the time, the set was considered a loan and I promised to put photos here when I got the pieces back, since they came out rather nicely, especially considering how little time I had to do them. The bride decided, however, that she couldn't stand the thought of my selling and then someone else's wearing her wedding jewelry (understandable), so my brother (her new husband) came and cut out (and cut up) a broken limb from high up in my maple tree and trimmed my cedar tree, which I considered a fair trade for the pieces. Bartering at its best.

Surprisingly, he remembered to bring all three pieces so I could photograph them, though I decided that only the pix of the bracelet were worth sharing, especially since it went on to inspire several more pieces, as I'll show you in a second.

Rows of three small button freshwater pears were threaded onto
two strands of fine oxidized sterling chain. I used a vintage MOP
button for the clasp and dangled two pearls from the chain ends
as a pretty little "special event" detail.
The other side of the clasp was a length of the doubled chain I left
"unpearled." I thought of this as I was doing it. It was a first for me.
After filing the inside of the button hasp a bit, I fed the chain ends
through it and affixed "holder" pearls to the chain as for the
rest of the bracelet. Another first that just happened to work great.

So that was the bracelet. Simple, pretty, modern with a vintage touch. I think it was my favorite of the three pieces and my sister-in-law's too. I considered making more to sell, but with very few exceptions I'm a one-off jewelry maker, plus I don't have anything like a bridal collection and I'm not really interested in starting one. I prefer to get orders 5 days before the wedding rather than keep appropriate stock, I guess. Who doesn't?

But keeping the bracelet in mind, I looked around my wreck of a jewelry table and saw a few things that made me think they might work for an adaptation of this piece to less formal wear: suede laces. (I know they're called thongs, but when I think "suede thongs," mega-wedgies come to mind, so let's go with "laces.") So I swapped suede laces for silver chain and larger, round, colored pearls for the small, button-shaped, white ones, and I alternated the number of pearls in a row, but I kept the same basic structure of the overall piece and of the clasp. And here's what I ended up with.


The tedious part was measuring and poking the holes for the wire. The learning part involved how far to space the holes (in fact, they might be a bit too far in the gold one shown above by itself; it's a little floppy). The surprising part was that I was able to find a vintage MOP or shell button in my fairly limited collection to match each bracelet. The fun part, as always for me, was watching the materials become a piece of jewelry that I had not been able to fully envision when I started. (While I'm pretty good at getting ideas, largely material driven, I have limited ability to picture how a piece based on those notions might look when it's done.) It's practically unheard of for me that I make five of virtually the same thing in a row, but this was a concept I was enjoying and I kept at it until I got it largely out of my system. It felt good to get an idea and go with it. And go. And go.

I will admit now that another thing that kept me from my jewelry table in March (besides my sciatica and the blues) was overload from the Bead Soup Blog Party. Looking at the designs of so many bead and jewelry artists -- not something I typically do, particularly in such glutinous fashion -- somehow took me away from my own work. While I enjoyed it while I was blog hopping, my head became clogged with the things other people were doing, and when I sat down and picked up my pliers, I had no ideas that weren't something I'd seen on someone else's blog. The party was too much inspiration for me, it seems. I needed some time to clear that out, and repeatedly adapting the bridal bracelet has helped considerably with that.

So, tell me, please: was I the only one who got a hangover from the Bead Soup Party, fun as it was, and ended up a bit blocked?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jeannie's Drawing Lab Blog Hop #1

Hi there, people. I apologize for the downer that was my last post, and I thank you sincerely for your kind thoughts and supportive comments. I actually don't know how to respond to your comments individually. I sometimes leave a comment at a blog then get an email that is in response to that from the blog owner, and I don't know how to do that. But know I appreciate it even though you may not get an individual note from me saying so.

I've been feeling better lately -- I think the sciatica is abating, so the nerve may in fact be healing, as the surgeon said it should. I was doubtful about this, but I'm down to no more than one painkiller a day, and none on some days, so that's a big improvement. I'm doing my little PT exercises and keeping my fingers crossed. That's my part of the bargain, I figure.

I've even returned to the jewelry table and made a couple of pieces, trying to get back in the groove of that. (The best thing about the jewelry making hiatus? Not having gunk under my fingernails all the time. At some point I noticed my nails were actually little white crescents for a change. So girly!) Later this week, the major league baseball season kicks in, and I'm a big Phillies fan, so that will mean a lot of jewelry making time as I "watch" games on TV. I'm looking forward to this concurrence of two of my favorite activities.

But I'm here today to share some of the drawings I've done in the Drawing Lab led by Jeannie of Jewelry by Jeannie and Jeannie's Blog as part of a little blog hop. I shared a few of my earliest drawings in this post, and now you'll get to see some more recent ones. The way the Drawing Lab works is that every Friday Jeannie sends out an assignment, we have until the Sunday a week later to do it, and then we post our work to a private Flickr group where we comment on each other's drawings. I used to draw all the time when I was younger and in fact won several art awards in high school, but I only lasted a year as an art major in college, and I was so burned out from that experience that I put away my supplies, threw away the key, and had barely drawn anything since. Recently I'd been wishing I were drawing again but found that just telling myself to pick up a pencil and get going wasn't working, so I signed right up when I found out about the Drawing Lab (via Erin Prais-Hintz's blog, I believe, so thanks, Erin). It's been fun and challenging and I recommend it to all, though you may need to wait until next year to sign up at this point.

For this blog hop, Jeannie suggested we show a progression or just a few of our favorites. I'm going to do a bit of both, showcasing my favorites in the order I did them, bearing in mind that I didn't complete a couple of labs because of my surgery (and one I basically forgot to do). Despite all the drawing I did in high school and my first year of college, Jeannie has managed to present some assignments that I never did before, and that's mostly what I'm sharing here.

Week 3. Blind contour drawing. The idea with here was not to look at the paper at all. Look only at the subject, letting your eye trail around the edges and having your pencil follow your eye without lifting it from the paper (since repositioning it would be impossible without looking). It's stupidly fun to do the drawing and then see what you did. Laughter often ensues. My classmates did some amazing self-portraits using this technique, but my pencil went off the paper while drawing my glasses, so my best result was the still life below.

Depiction of two terrariums (minus the plants, but showing the stones in one)
and an amaryllis bulb in a bowl (well, actually floating to the left of the bowl),
plus a sprig of pine keeping the amaryllis company.

Week 5. Negative space drawing. The two drawings below were done focusing on the space around the subject and filling in that space rather than outlining the subject (though I definitely did some outlining on the chair). Since doing this assignment, I will occasionally be woolgathering, staring off at something, when I come around a bit and prompt myself to consider that thing in terms of its negative space, which changes my perception some. So this was a valuable exercise for that alone, since anything that gives you a new perspective is useful, right?

A rocking chair in my living room. I liked how this image filled the page.

The faucet, soaps, dish drainer, and stuff on the windowsill in my kitchen.
I drew a little frame for this one before starting since it's a long counter,
and I needed some limits. 

Week 7. Nondominant hand drawing. For this assignment, we were to put the pencil in our nondominant hand and go to town. Jeannie said that these drawings would be more childlike and naive, but my left hand seemed to have a mind of its own and the pieces that emerged were a bit more sophisticated than I expected. I happened to be in Puerto Rico for my brother's wedding when I did these.

This is not actually what Troy looks like, but at least you can tell it's a person,
a man even, a bald one.
I'm not a big traveler, so Puerto Rico was the first place
I'd been that had palm trees, which I'm embarrassed to admit tickled me pink.
(Really, what's more touristy than pointing at a palm tree and squealing?)
I set out to draw one in the backyard of our rental with my left hand,
and I was pleasantly surprised with the result.
I think my left hand approached this in a different way than my right hand
would have, and I like this outcome better. Sorry, right hand.

Week 11. Continuous line drawing. The object here was to put your pencil down and draw your subject without lifting the pencil from the paper -- just one long line. We had done this previously with the blind contour drawing, but this time we at least got to look.

This is a pot rack that hangs above the sink in my kitchen. My home is very small,
and I've been trying to draw from life rather than from pictures when the assignment allows it,
so by the time we make it through 52 weeks of drawing labs, my whole house will probably be represented.

Some things I discovered through these exercises: (1) I really like drawing with my left hand and I'm not bad at it, much better than at writing with that hand, which seems strange to me. (2) Once I started doing contour drawing -- the single, unbroken line thing -- I found myself thinking about drawing a subject with a single line even when that wasn't the assignment. Sometimes I thought out drawing it with a single line with my left hand. (3) I don't care for Zentangles. I know they're all the rage, but that assignment rather annoyed me. I'm gonna try that again later, though I have a hunch it's just not my bag. (4) It helps to be told what to draw or how to draw, and it's getting me over the hump so that I'm more likely to just free draw than I have been in years. So thanks for that nudge, Jeannie. It's just what I needed.

Several of my Drawing Lab classmates have also blogs with some drawings up for you to see: Kokopelli Design, Marsha Neal Studio, Kim'z House, and Lutka and Co.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I have made zero jewelry in the past two weeks. Nothing. I haven't even finished a necklace I started when I was recovering from surgery and had to set aside because the combination of my aging eyes and the poor lighting where I was trying to work left me unable to count chain links, which was vital to a balanced piece. All I have to do is count some links, wire wrap a few more beads, and add a clasp and that piece will be done, but I haven't found the impetus to do it. I'm in the dumps.

I had back surgery about three weeks ago to fix a herniated disk and put an end to the disabling sciatica (nerve pain) I've been having in my right leg for close to a year. For the first three postoperative days, the sciatica was complete gone. Though there was discomfort at the surgical site, I knew that was temporary, so I was a happy camper. Then on the fourth postop day, the sciatica started to come back, and it got worse every day until it reached its presurgery level and I was back on the narcotic pain relievers. My surgeon says not to panic, that this can happen. Sometimes the nerve is so dinged up by the herniation and aggravated by the surgery that it takes six to eight weeks to heal, so it's too early to know whether the operation was a failure. He had no good reason for why I'd have had no sciatica for three days only to have it come back but said it's a pattern he'd seen before, and it doesn't mean that the sciatica is back for good. (When he said this, I leaned in, looked him right in the eye, and said, "You wouldn't lie to me about this, would you?," and because I selected this surgeon myself from many options in the Philly area, I will believe him when he said he would not.) He gave me some steroids and more painkillers to add to my extensive sciatica-related pharmacopoeia, wrote a prescription for physical therapy to strengthen my ailing core, set up another appointment, and sent me on my way with a firm, reassuring handshake.

It's taking everything I have not to freak out entirely about how this is going. Even though I was aware that there was a possibility the surgery wouldn't clear up the pain, I was convinced that it would, and it seemed to have done so. But then, no. It feels especially cruel that I was allowed to think I was fine only to be more greatly disabused of that notion every day as the numbness, tingling, and deeply bruised feeling returned to my leg and grew stronger. I'm trying very hard to believe that, indeed, the nerve may just need more time to heal, even though not a single soul I know of who's had the same surgery reported a recovery like this. They just woke up after the operation and the pain was gone for good. That's what I wanted, what I thought I had. That relief seems to have slipped through my fingertips is all I can think about -- that and what else I will have to do to fix this if the surgery did not (kinesiology, acupuncture, perhaps stabbing myself in the other leg with a steak knife as a distraction). Keeping my chin up is harder every day.

There's my little trauma, and then there's Japan. Japan, Japan, Japan. When I'm not thinking leg, leg, leg, it's Japan, Japan, Japan. I watched as much of the news yesterday as I could bear and saw a country swept away, crumbling, exploding. They said on NPR that a train was missing. A train, gone. How do you start to fathom the loss of life and culture and property? How and where do you start to clean up and where do you go with it all? (The practical side of me sees landfills the size of mountains.) I wish I could say that I'm someone who feels empowered by tragedies, who mobilizes resources and moves swiftly and firmly to make things better, taking matters into my own hands. I'm not though. I make some donations of money and clothing and goods, whatever they're asking for, and then I hope that other people are making things better. Katrina, Haiti, the Indonesian tsunami -- donations plus wishful thinking is my pattern, along with not delving too deeply into the stories about the misery. So, Japan, you'll be getting some money from me, via one avenue or another, and I will be keeping you in my thoughts and engaging in conversation about you when others bring you  up, and in exchange I ask you to forgive me for avoiding news stories about your dead and mangled citizens, your lost treasures, the seeming impossible feat of cleaning up and rebuilding that you face. I care, but I just can't watch.

Finally, my blue mood is deepened by the knowledge that in two weeks, H would have turned 50. There would have been a righteous celebration of this to which I would not have been invited, but that's okay. I'd have called him a day or two before and wished him well and dropped off a gift on the back porch, as I have practically every year since we split, since that's the kind of exes we were. In the past month or so, I've seen several things, mostly artwork, that made me think "H's birthday present," a thought that isn't fully through my mind before it's headed off by "H is gone." A happy thought gone wrong before it's fully thunk.

The hits are getting harder to take, but there are happy things too. Last evening I went to an opening reception for a gallery show of my friend Alyce's paintings, which can be seen here. She is as genuine a person as I know, is a terrific artist and teacher, and is always wearing at least one piece of jewelry I made, so just seeing her cheers me up. Here we are last fall standing in front of a localish tree in a localish park that won some kind of statewide award. (Yeah, who knew that trees competed?) We followed signs leading into the woods to the state champion tree and frankly found it to be pretty average when got to it, so we took a picture of ourselves standing in front of it to make the occasion more memorable.

Glad I dug up this picture, since seeing Alyce's smiling face is again making me feel a bit better. Thanks, Alyce.

Hang in in there, Japan; help is coming. Wish you were here, H. And get over your bad self and fly right, sciatic nerve. I've had about enough of you.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Although I started this blog for my own nefarious purposes (sorting through the crap of 2010 and trying to salvage some going-forward-type stuff from it), now that the Bead Soup Blog Party has brought some unwitting bead lovers to the door, I feel like I need to share some things that aren't related purely to my nefarious purposes. So, for your consideration, a few sites you might want to know about.

First up, a site I'm going to try to avoid but that seems like it will be BigBigBig: Pinterest. (It may already be huge and I'm just late to the party; it's happened before.) Think Etsy treasury taken far, far beyond Etsy. Adding a couple of buttons to your toolbar allows you to identify images from virtually anywhere in the weberness and "pin" them to a board at Pinterest so the whole wide web can see what you find [p]interesting. In short, you curate, a verb that makes folks giddy with choices and self-importance. Whereas Etsy treasuries have, what, 12 or 16 spots (I've never made one, too impatient to wait for them to come available or construct the thing if I did nab one), the boards at Pinterest seem virtually unlimited. The images link back to the original site, so they're portals to places you might never have found otherwise. I spent a little time yesterday following out some of the compelling images of stairs (of all things) from this board (I could peek in windows all day and be perfectly happy), and realized pretty quickly how this site could become the biggest timesuck in internet history, since the possibilities are literally limitless. Thus, I'm largely going to try to steer clear, but I hope you enjoy it. (Leave a comment and your user name if you ask to be invited and sign up, and I'll bend that ironclad rule I just declared and go see what you made.)

Pilfered from here via Pinterest.

Second, I found out about Pinterest by following the writer of the blog Fresh Vintage on Facebook. I'm a sucker for stuff that used to belong to someone else, and this woman writes a very amusing blog about buying and reselling exactly the kind of thing I'm most suckery for (ie, "anything green and beat to crap," to quote H). I stumbled into her blog a year or two ago and was tickled by her taste, her no-nonsense manner, and her slightly bawdy sense of humor. (She swears and finds more sex-related antiques than you might expect.) When I read through her earlier posts, I came to learn that she had lived in the little town right next to where I currently live for a few years, until she picked up and moved to the town right next to the town that I grew up in. Now there's a coincidence. So I sent her an email and said hey and she said hey back and now we're best buds. Not at all, but I've made the 45-minute drive a couple of times to the space she rents in an antique mall to check out here wares, which are always nicely displayed in a tidy but not-too-precious way and very fairly priced. She doesn't deal much in jewelry, but that's a-okay with me. Jewelry I got.

From this post at Fresh Vintage.

Finally, I want to share that I won a blog giveaway more than a week ago, and I'm so new to this "online presence" thing that I forgot to shout about it here. (Add in surgery and the Bead Soup Party and forget it.) How rude of me! The two polymer clay pendants I won are from Jeannie of Jewelry by Jeannie and Jeannie's Blog. She wrote about the pendants here, which are much cooler in your hand than in the photo -- they're deep and rounded and sit in the palm of your hand -- and then I left a comment and won them. Thanks, Jeannie! I happen to be taking Jeannie's Drawing Lab (see button in right column), which is simultaneously fun and somewhat grueling. Looks like we're going to be having a blog hop in a few weeks, so if you come back, you might see a portrait of T done with my nondominant hand or my forgery of the Mormon prophets' signatures. (See what I mean about fun and grueling?)

Polymer clay pendants from Jeannie's Blog.

(If you're wondering if all my posts will be long and reading intensive, the answer is a likely yes, yes, they will be. I'm not into photography, and I have some stuff to say here, so it'll probably always be more words than pictures. At least I'm not forcing you to listen to the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons though, right?)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Brothers and Sons

It's a few days after the Bead Soup Blog Party, and I'm still slowly, slowly making the rounds. Thanks to anyone who stopped by and took a peek, maybe left a comment. I'm trying to go view and leave feedback on pieces made by everyone who commented on my pieces, which seems only fair, but it's taking forever because I have to be in a recumbent or lying-down position as part of my spine surgery recovery, and my laptop is 8 years old and dreadfully slow.

What inspired this post was that my most enjoyable hour or two lately was spent watching music videos at You Tube. I'd call myself an above-average music fan who in adulthood has always had musicians and musically inclined folks nearby, from my very first post-college boyfriend to my very last coworker. But for a long time I hadn't had a favorite band -- one that I'd go out of my way to see -- until I heard a song by The Avett Brothers on the radio 5 or 6 years ago. The song was "Swept Away" and I tracked it down within days and ordered the CD, called Mignonette, which is in my all-time-top-10 records and which had a profound impact on my life that I won't go into here. I became a one-woman Avett Brothers publicity team, buying their CDs for myself and stocking up on them to give to others. I forced them on people, and still have a couple stashed away for the uninitiated. I saw as many of their shows as possible, as they went from playing (and I'm not kidding) the living room of a guy's house on my block -- a show I MISSED, something I'm still trying to get over -- to big venues in New York and Philly.

Talking with Seth Avett after a Sunday afternoon show at a wine festival in Maryland 
(the worst wine you'll ever taste) on my birthday in 2006.
(If you're here for the jewelry, I made the nonbeaded earrings in this photo.)

Bob Crawford, the bassist, about to hug me.

Video I shot at an outdoor show of a wonderfully ebullient song about dying.

You may have just seen them on the Grammys, first playing solo and then backing Bob Dylan. I never even watch the Grammys but I tuned in just to see them. I was so proud of them -- these truly good guys making good -- but I was more than a little disappointed that they didn't come off better that night. You may not even remember seeing them if you watched the Grammys. And I blame that on (1) Rick Rubin, the hotshot producer who backed their last album, which was only a shadow of their previous efforts to my "old fan" ears; and (2) Mumford and Sons, who played immediately before them and knocked the alt-folk/rock/whatever ball out of the park. While M&S were playing, I just kept saying (much to T's annoyance), "This is an awesome performance! They're having such a great time! They're out-Avetting the Avetts!" (This is fitting since the first time I heard them on the radio, I thought they were the Avetts. Musta been the banjo.)

And then Mumford and Sons finished playing as the audience went crazy, and a different curtain opened and there was the beautiful (but itsy; the man is pocket-sized) Scott Avett sitting at a keyboard (he's a banjo player, Rick Rubin, banjo!); Bob Crawford, on electric, not upright, bass (another flaw); and some random dude on a full drum kit (the Avetts don't have a drummer; they use their feet to play a kick drum and a high-hat cymbal). Whaaa? They looked like the Doobie Brothers, not the Avett Brothers, and proceeded to sing one of their pretty but forgettable songs off the latest album while viewers at home went online and started downloading Mumford and Sons songs or ordering the M&S Sigh No More album,  which I'd have done myself if I hadn't had it already. They put on the most fantastic live shows, but at the Grammys they were more forgettable than I've ever seen them, by miles.

So this post has two assignments for you:

1. Go over to You Tube and pull up some Avett Brothers videos. There's plenty because they're cool and generous about taping at their shows. Here's a good place to start. It's one of NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts, and if you're not interested in seeing more Avett Brothers after that, fine, you're off the hook, they're not for you. (I picked that one because it's nicely done and not too raucous but you still get the gist of the guys.) But if you are interested, I also recommend this professional video of them performing another artist's song, and this amateur video of what may be my favorite Avett song. Try them out; they're way better than what you saw at the Grammys (damn you, Rick Rubin!). I keep hoping they'll find their way back to what they do best, which is powerful, banjo-driven alt-something.

2. Get on the Mumford and Sons bandwagon too. I visited the Avett Brothers message boards today for the first time in a long time, and there seems to be some animosity toward M&S, but I say, why's that necessary? If the Avetts ain't bringing it no more, and Marcus Mumford and his peeps are, then more power to them. And it bears repeating how hard they rocked the house at the Grammys (the buoyant moment in the 1:50 region in that video when they exalt in knowing they're kicking it and taking names is worth the watch alone). Plus every other live video of theirs I've seen is so good it pains me a little. When I mentioned how impressed I was by the Mumford and Sons performance to a friend who's a CD dealer, he said Sigh No More has been his best seller ("Well, next to stuff like Rhianna") for the past several months, largely on word of mouth. So maybe you're already on the bandwagon. If not, I'm the mouth, spreading the word. Join us.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I'm guessing that will be the title of many blog posts today as we reveal our Bead Soup Blog Party pieces. I'm actually writing this on Monday, February 21, days before the party itself because tomorrow is my back surgery, and I don't know if I'll be able to sit up and type come the end of the week. I figure I'll get the post ready now and set it to upload later. That's the plan anyway. (If you're reading this on Saturday, February 26, 2011, you'll know my plan worked!)

My date for this event was Jenni C of Jenni's Beads, and she sent me the most amazing collection of beads all the way from Australia. I know many readers and Flickr viewers were envious. I surely would have been if they had gone to someone else. (Hop over to her blog and leave a comment begging her to sell her glass beads. She doesn't now, so the only way to get them is how I did -- from the goodness of her very big heart!)

I will admit up front that I kept those glowing pinky-purple glass beads and the chunky mookaite in the back for myself. They are not part of my Bead Soup set, which I've already donated to a charity auction for this group. Nearly all the other beads that Jenni provided went into the two pieces that follow, however -- (1) a long, long funky necklace with lots of moving parts that can be worn at various lengths or even doubled, and (2) a chunky bracelet, also with motion, composed of many of the same beads but a regular pattern. To Jenni's fabulous selection, I added only a few lampwork rondelles from Beadabundant and Firelily on Etsy, some tiny faceted tundra sapphires that I wired into some of the links, and dull plum and cranberry freshwater pearls, since I've hardly made any jewelry in the past 10 years that didn't have a pearl somewhere or other.

I loved what Jenni sent me because they were the sort of muted palette that I'm most comfortable with, plus some of my favorite stones (citrine and smoky quartz), PLUS that focal was just killer. I'm not one of those enviable people who sees a great bead and knows exactly what they're going to do with it; never have been. I tend to play around and see what happens. But as soon as I held that focal tab -- a perfect mix of colorful foreground and crackled background, of modern and old-looking -- I knew that I wanted it to slide on some chain. It needed to be something you could play with as you were wearing the piece. I took four pieces of one of my favorite chains -- which is very fine and loves to tangle, so you have to use multiple strands for presence but only short lengths -- and placed them through the focal and then added one free-swinging freshwater pearl to each chain. Both the pearls and the focal move up and down the chain, and the focal can get stopped mid-slide when it "runs over" a pearl. You can see this best in the second photo below, but I'd need a video to really show you.

I made an unusual clasping system by wire wrapping a longish thin but strong piece of chain to the handmade clasp and feeding the chain through a ring to act as a sort of pulley, so that the hook could be doubled back and attached to any of a number of large rings to vary the length of the piece. The necklace could even be worn as a single strand at several very long lengths or doubled at several more different lengths using this system (and not change lengths itself), which becomes obvious when you play with it but is hard to explain.

I had a devil of a time getting a decent picture of the necklace, but here are some individual shots and then a collage-style collection, showing some details and the piece clasped at various lengths.

Some of the variety of beads used in the piece.
Handmade clasp and two of the several possible closure points (rings).
Sliding focal "caught" on sliding pearl.
Tundra sapphires wired into chain links.
The large bronze pearls are static, the smaller purplish pearls move.

Some of the various lengths that are possible.

It's a fun and funky piece with lots of movement and doodads to fiddle with (a few other pieces beside Jenni's beautiful spotty focal tab slide along a short length of chain), but I think the focal lost its "focality" (?) because of all the other stuff going on. That's a drawback and something I'd do differently if I were starting over.

Here's the bracelet, which features the fantastic sterling box clasp Jenni sent and which is considerably more straightforward.

I had to provide values and minimum opening bids for both pieces for the charity auction. I valued the necklace at $240 with a minimum bid of $50, and the bracelet at $80 with a minimum bid of $20. Given the value of the semiprecious stones, pearls, wire, and chain, the work that Jenni put into the glass beads, and the work I put into construction, I figure even if they auction off at full retail value, the buyers are getting a pretty good deal and can feel like it's money well spent.

Meeting Jenni and participating in the Bead Soup Blog Party was my absolute pleasure. Thanks again, Lori Anderson, for all you do for the beading community. And thanks, Jenni, for a soup that will be very hard to follow!

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's a Blur

This teaser photo of my finished Bead Soup Blog party piece, that is!

Come back Saturday, when it'll all be much clearer. Now go see Jenni, my partner!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Last Summer, Part 3: The Worst of It

I sure didn't plan or expect to have two posts in one day, but this seems to be almost beyond my control. I titled this blog Suddenly Last Summer because over the course of several months in 2010 a number of things happened that affected me deeply, some probably permanently, and I needed a place to talk about those things and myself. Because of my interest in jewelry making, I'm trying to cover that aspect of my life too, so I apologize if you're only interested in that and I keep blathering on about other things in long, dense posts. But I need this. Feel free to skip what you're not interested in. I won't even know.

So, about last summer. I've already written about hurting my back, a problem I hope to correct with surgery early next week. (And the fallout of which -- the limited mobility, the weight gain, the bad moodiness -- I hope to give the boot to soon afterward too.) I've also addressed how an old friend of mine was arrested for sexually abusing minors. That event didn't affect me per se except that it was very upsetting, as I described in this post, and felt a bit like bad things piling on after the whole back thing. You may also have already figured out that I lost my job early last fall when the small company I worked for was closed by the larger corporation that owned it. That was pretty bad news for sure, but we'd been expecting it for a while and in some ways it couldn't have come at a better a time. I say that because when the news came I was already so deranged by something else that finding out my job was going away was minor in comparison. I've been putting off going into this here because it's a complicated matter likely to inspire complicated reactions. But I just came across a photo (as I was trying and failing to create a collage of my Bead Soup pieces) that flattened me, and I figured now was the time. This is the picture.

I'll make a complicated story as brief as I can. This photo is of my ex-boyfriend, who I will here call H, as I often did in real life. We were together for almost 13 years. I met him a few weeks before I turned 30 and left him for another man a few months before I turned 43. We had a house together, a dog, several cats, all the stuff you have when you're decently employed middle-aged professionals. We didn't have children and we never married. But for a long time both of us believed that we would always be together. Probably because of that belief combined with a lot of other things, we didn't tend our relationship the way we should have. We spent less and less time together in our large old home, as I made jewelry in my workroom and he watched TV or played computer games in another part of the house. We took less and less care to be kind to each other in little ways. We both seemed to assume that the other person was being critical when that most likely wasn't the case. We were impatient with each other. We just drifted along together without really paying attention to where we were going. We were not happy and we weren't talking about that. We certainly loved each other but we might have no longer been in love, as people so often say. We weren't acknowledging it and we weren't doing anything to improve the situation.

And then I met T. I wasn't looking for anyone else, but he came into my life in a dramatic way, and without meaning to be, I was in love with someone other than H. And for a year, a solid year, I saw T whenever I could without H's knowledge. This is the biggest shame of my life, and 5 years later it's nearly impossible for me to understand how I could do that, but I did, unflinchingly. I was evasive and conniving, and I flat out lied when I had to. I know that the sneaking around went on for so long because T and I were both trying to figure out what to do, to be sure that we had to be together (as we now in fact are) before we did anything irrevocable, but that's still no excuse. After almost exactly a year, as some of my friends were getting wise that something was up with me but H continued to trust me as he always had, I finally told him about T. I moved out of the house that afternoon, and that was effectively the end of H and me. That was January 2006.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010. I'm living with T on one side of town, while H is living with his new girlfriend on the other side of the same town (he kept the house we shared, having bought me out in what were very easy and fair negotiations for us both). Two years after we split, H -- who was a tall, handsome, athletic chemist -- had met a woman who made him very happy -- she was also very athletic and outdoorsy, also working in the sciences -- and she'd moved in and now they were planning an early August wedding at Lake Placid, where she owned a vacation home. In the intervening years, H had moved through his anger and hurt, we've split up everything (including sharing a dog by passing her back and forth every week or so for a couple of years), and he and I have become pretty comfortable with each other. He still loathed T, but T was okay with that and I was willing to let him take the fall if it meant I could have something of a relationship with H, about whom I cared deeply. I would often see H and his fiancĂ©e at the weekly farmers market or around our little town, and I was grateful beyond words that we'd reached a place where we could talk easily and share a laugh. We had so much history.

A few weeks before his wedding, H's family was much on my mind. They'd always been so kind to me, and I knew I had treated them as shabilly as I'd treated him, so I had not spoken to them since we split. I called him and asked if it would be okay if I sent notes to his family -- his parents, his brother and sister-in-law, and his sister and brother-in-law -- to let them know how happy I was for him, to say that this was what I had been hoping for. H said it would be fine to do that, and I did. It was the last time I talked with him.

He was married the first weekend in August in what by all accounts was a beautiful ceremony that capped off a multiday celebration in Lake Placid. A mutual friend posted a photo on Facebook that both surprised me (I just wasn't expecting to see photos) and brought a lump of emotion to my throat. I was so glad, so very glad, for him.

Then, three weeks later, I was leaving a party when a friend approached my car and asked me to pull over for a minute. I was confused but I did it. The friend told me that H had collapsed while exercising that evening and though paramedics had worked on him for a long time, they had not been able to resuscitate him, and he had died. He was 49 years old, in what seemed to be perfect shape, and he'd been married 20 days. I'm still trying to get my head around that.

So the gist of this post is that a man I had loved and left for someone else found happiness and then died suddenly and much too young, and I feel devastated by that. As I've told T many times through my tears since it happened, I don't wish I were still with him, I just wish he were still alive. I've left out a great deal about how H and I worked through some things after we split -- about how consumed with guilt I was, how apologetic even when there was no going back for either of us -- and about how he said that he knew it hadn't been all me, that it was both of us (H and I). It was a great comfort to me that he decided to keep the house and stay in the same town as I. It was an even greater comfort a few months later when I asked him "how we were doing," and he said that he had realized that he missed me even as a friend when he didn't see me, so he thought we were going to be okay. And we were. Despite some friends who turned on me with a vitriol that I understood but still thought extreme, after the initial hurt passed, H opted to still love me, just in a different way, as I loved him. I felt it, and I'm sure he did too.

And now I miss him. It's been nearly 5 months, and I'm still blown apart. But my position is rather awkward as the-ex-who-left-him-for-someone-else, and there are those who clearly think I have no right. I go to see a grief counselor when I'm feeling really low. I cry in the shower. I avoid driving past his house. I talk with T about it. I'll be fine for a while and then I'll stumble across a photo like the one above and I'm done for. I feel tremendous sympathy for his widow, who should have had so much future with him and who was robbed of that, and for his parents, who are in their 80s and who have outlived their youngest child, which has devastated them. I feel for the friends he left, who had not finished celebrating his marriage when they had to gather for his memorial service, and even for his cats, who were farmed out to new homes (including mine) when he was no longer there to provide lap space and supportive petting.

But I'm human and selfish, and mostly I feel for me right now. Even though I set this part of my life up to be mostly without him, I literally don't know what to do completely without him, as that didn't seem to be part of the deal. I'm flailing.

Ready as I'll Ever Be

Mostly by neglecting the earns-real-money work I should be doing, I've managed to finish both of my Bead Soup Blog Party pieces a full week before the reveal. I say "both" because the focal went on a necklace and the clasp when on a bracelet, and even though each is chockful of beads sent to me by my soup partner, Jenni C, I still have beads left over, so generous was that sweet Aussie. I've even taken the photos because tomorrow I'll be donating them to an upcoming charitable auction to benefit a local organization that prevents and treats sexual abuse of children. That's a pretty easy and safe cause to get behind (reminds me of celebrities' standing up in opposition to land mines; is anyone really in favor of land mines?), so I don't think I'm going out on a limb here with this donation, especially because I got Jenni's blessing. (I didn't want to sell these pieces since all the best beads were freebies Jenni sent me, and believe it or not, I wear very little jewelry myself, so donation to a good cause seemed the way to go.) I'm not at all happy with the photos I took, but they'll have to do. I'm out of time and patience (blast you, photography!!!).

The only other news is that I go for my back surgery on Tuesday. I selected from the ala carte menu -- I'll have the laminotomy and diskectomy, please, hold the spinal fusion -- which means the surgeon will make a small incision in the skin of my back, then another small incision in the lamina around my spine (the -otomy) to cut out and remove
(-ectomize) the piece or pieces of disk that are bulging between my L4 and L5 vertebrae, hopefully bringing relief to the nerve that has been compromised for nearly a year. (The sad thing is that I was able to type that sentence without looking a thing up. I'm a medical editor, so that's the sort of dry, prefix- and suffix-heavy language I deal with all day. Pity me for more than my hurt back!) The procedure is both common and not high risk, so I should be home the next day. The CT scan I had the other week unfortunately confirmed that I have stress fractures on both sides in exactly the same spot as my herniation, so it's possible that the fractures are what's bothering the nerve rather than the ruptured disk. Hence the option of a spinal fusion. However, the doc can tell that I've had the stress fractures for decades, so I'm assuming that they're old friends who wouldn't stoop to hurt me in this way, and I'm going to leave them alone (and keep my fingers crossed). It helped my decision to know that recovery from a spinal fusion is 3 to 6 months as opposed to 2 to 4 weeks for a diskectomy. Easy choice, huh? Being operated on and then being "postsurgical" was another reason I needed to finish up my Bead Soup pieces a bit earlier than I typically would have.

Hmm, wish I had some fun photos for this post. How about this mental image instead? Two days ago as I was leaving the post office, I trotted down the three steps that precede the exit door and somehow caught the toe of my shoe in the rubber mat at the bottom, leading me to pitch forward with no hands to break my fall (since I was holding the package I'd just picked up), which bashed my head into the glass on the lower portion of the door with such force that the door swung open. So for a moment I was sprawled just inside the post office with my head basically outside, holding open the door. Can you envision it? A couple of fellows who'd just passed me on their way in heard the crash and came hurrying back to check on me. I had to sit on the floor for about 30 seconds gathering myself before I was able to move up and sit on a step for a few more minutes to make sure I was all in one piece. I was, though bruised and sore and even a little skinned up on my left side from what really was a fairly spectacular T&F, as my lawyer friend tells me trip-and-falls are known in the business (the business of suing when one has hurt oneself, that is). I'm still a bit tender on that side and am sporting some vivid blue-green patches, but I'm okay, and there will certainly be no lawsuits related to my inability to navigate three steps, a landing, and a door like a normal person. I'm only glad this happened the week before my surgery and not the week after. For once, I had excellent timing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Get It to the Church on Time!

Well, I'm surely overdue for a blog post as well as way behind in reading blogs. My brother got married in Puerto Rico on Valentine's Day, so my beau and I spent several days with family on that sunny island of the very tasty food. Had I not had an unexpected allergy attack (note to self: you're allergic to blooming things, not just things that bloom where you live; take your Allegra when you travel), which gave me a seriously runny nose, it would have been a nearly perfect vacation for the middle of a long, cold winter. I mean, it's not every day here in Pennsylvania that I see something like this literally in my backyard:

Getting ready to leave the States for nearly a week was a bit stressful though because I'm now self-employed, meaning that there's no one here to pick up the slack when I'm away. Moreover, two days before I left, I found out my back surgery had been scheduled for February 22, a week after I returned from Puerto Rico, which added even more pressure to getting things done ASAP, plus I had to run have a blood test. (The surgery is now only 5 days away, and I just had a call from the hospital that involved a nurse reading off a long list of ailments and asking if I'd ever had any of them. After a few minutes of my saying "No" to everything, I said, "Aside from the herniated disk, I'm completely healthy. There's nothing else wrong with me." I guess they're required to just follow the script though, as she went on to ask me whether I was on dialysis, had a pacemaker, or had AIDS, among other things. Oh well, I tried to make her job easier.)

A week before we left, as I was in the midst of trying to get my ducks on a row so I'd be ready to fly out on Thursday the 11th, my beau's brother called and announced that he and his girlfriend were going to come stay with us the Thursday to Sunday before we left, even though my beau was working all day Friday to Sunday (he's a nurse who works 12-hour shifts). Talk about an inconvenient time for someone else to take their vacation at our not-at-all-vacation-worthy house. The day they left, I actually started a rather unkind blog post about their visit -- in truth it was a rant -- but I deleted it because, though it was true that they were rather inconsiderate, possibly even rude guests, detailing their transgressions here would have been equally inconsiderate. I think it helped me recover just to type out the story even though I ultimately scrapped it. So they came and made a mess, and I had to deal with unexpected guests when I thought I could be powering through work, but we made it through and they finally left. Whew.

Then, on the Monday before we left for Puerto Rico, I got The Call. If you're reading this blog because you're a beader, I'm sure you've gotten The Call yourself. It's that last-minute plea for the perfect piece of jewelry that comes from someone you cannot refuse -- your mother, your boss, that gal you just met but think would be a great pal and would like to impress, or, in this case, the bride-to-be. Yes, one week before the wedding itself and only three days before my flight (two before hers), my future sister-in-law called me for the first time ever to explain that though she'd been looking for some time, she'd had no luck finding just the right necklace for with her ivory dress and she wondered if maybe I might have something she could buy. Or borrow. . . .  She's thinking pearls . . . She's thinking very thin chain .  . . She's thinking a pendant for the V neck of the dress . . . Cleavage length . . . Not too white . . . Hold on, honey, I have that right here! Not really. I don't make bridal jewelry to just have around, so I knew there was no way I had what she was looking for. It would have to be made. Okay, I have three days, I can do it. So I start writing notes: pearls, cleavage, ivory, pendant, antiqued, 18-20 inches, maybe adjustable. And as soon as I get done with my notes and confirm that I'll do my best in the short time I have, she adds in a request for a bracelet and some earrings. Right. Of course. Really, what else can you say? (Have you ever been able to refuse The Call? If you have, for goodness sake, leave a comment and tell me how it's done.) I won't even go into how she went on to describe the dress she was wearing for the party the night before the wedding and how she needed a necklace for that too, since the selection of jewelry I took for that I got from my stash and she didn't wear any of it (though it did mean schlepping over $500 worth of jewelry to Puerto Rico and back for no good reason). Suffice it to say that when I hung up the phone, I was wishing I'd never answered it.

The task: one perfect bridal necklace, one perfect bridal bracelet, and one perfect pair of bridal earrings. The timeline: two and a half days. The mental trauma: immeasurable.

Although she had said that she thought a pendant-type necklace would be best because the dress had a low V neck, she said to do whatever I thought was best. So I did. I was thinking about the potential for all that boring empty chain leading down to a low pendant and how I wanted to avoid that. So I constructed a necklace that had a grape-like cluster of very small, slightly off-white freshwater pearls hanging at the lowest point with individual pearls spaced farther and farther apart along the chain as they moved away from the pendant. It was the first idea (and only) I had, and I loved the necklace the minute it was done. I put it on and took a crappy cell phone photo of it that I sent off to her for approval. She also loved it immediately. Okay, one down.

For the bracelet, I fell back on an old design of mine that involves three rows of beads connected along two strands of chain. (I say "design of mine" because I honestly had never seen anything like it before when I made my first piece like this, and I'm not sure I've seen anything constructed similarly since. It's definitely not something I learned from a magazine or tutorial, so for the extent of this post, I'm claiming this design even if you know it as "belonging" to someone else.) I used the same pearls and the same chain as for the necklace but to completely different effect. My favorite part of the bracelet was the closure, for which I used an old off-white MOP button, around which a loop of chain fit, and from which dangled two more short pieces of chain, each ending with a pearl. It's a simple design but elegant and very bridal feeling when made with white pearls. When I showed the bride-to-be this piece (not until I got to Puerto Rico), she dropped her head back, closed her eyes, and said it was exactly -- exactly -- what she'd been thinking of. Two down.

The earring story isn't very interesting. I just put together three pairs of earrings from off-white pearls and let her pick. She went with the simplest drops. They looked great on her.

In fact, it all looked great on her. And when I saw her in her dress and in my jewelry, all my stress and annoyance at having had to do something so unexpected but in some ways really important in such a rush at the last minute just fell away. She looked gorgeous and the jewelry was just perfect. Perfect. That was the word I heard time and again the rest of the evening as people complimented her on how lovely she looked and she told them I'd made the jewelry. They came to tell me how perfect it was. And it was. Here's documentation.

(Did I fail to mention they were married on a beach just before sunset? They were, the crazy romantics.)

It really didn't hurt my pieces that my new sister-in-law is a knockout with the best set of teeth I've ever seen. I was really proud of what I'd made for her, and I wished that I had done it a bit more uncomplainingly (though I never complained to her, of course, I mentioned my stress to everyone I talked to while I was working on the pieces and I'm still whining about it here obviously). When she returns the pieces, I'll try to take better photos, at least of the bracelet so you can see my clasp, since I think it's worth sharing (so you can do it too!).

The part of the story I left out until now: I was in a mild panic that my off-white pearls were not off-white enough to go with a dress she described as ivory. So when a run to my favorite bead shop did not produce, um, offer-white pearls (but did lead to more than $200 in other purchases), I went to a closer, smaller bead store to see if they had anything better. The didn't, but I still spent $28 on other stuff. Plus, and this is the best part, I got a $25 ticket for parking in a driveway even though there was nothing to indicate it was a driveway (no sign, no big X in the spot) except a lack of parking meter and some garage doors on a building that was on the other side of a two-foot bank of snow, meaning that the garage and driveway are in fact unused except as a means of generating parking fines by this neighboring borough. (My own sweet borough would never resort to such underhandedness.) So, final cost for me to make these loaner pieces: just over $260, not including any of the supplies I used or my time. Value to the bride: you got it -- priceless.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

At Long Last, Bead Love

The weather in the US northeast has been pretty rugged the past week, not at all the time when you want to be eagerly awaiting a package coming all the way from sunny Australia, where my Bead Soup Blog Party dance partner lives. We both mailed our parcels well over a week ago, and I started hopefully checking the mail about Wednesday. Not actually expectantly, as I was not really expecting it to arrive when the post office said it would, but with great hope that it would show up soon. Yesterday, at last, it did. It was worth the wait and then some!

First, the tasteful and rather large box. Very Martha Stewartish, in a good way. (So glad I hadn't just sent mine in a sandwich bag.)

And now the reveal:

Look at that sterling box clasp. It weighs about a pound. I'm not kidding. That's chunky faceted mooakite "from Cattle Station in Carnavon, Western Australia" in the back right, looking rather like ivory.

Want a closer look?

The large spotted focal bead, the two GLOWING purplish beads, and the ivory glass and fine silver "spacers" (these are pretty enough to be small focals in my book) were all made by my partner, Jenni C, and that focal in particular is the one I was lightly hinting I wanted by picturing it (oh how subtle) in this post. The rest of the haul includes two of my favorites, chunky smoky quartz and just beautifully cut faceted citrine (also Australian), plus some weighty Bali silver spacers. The bounty here is mind-blowing.

So overwhelming, in fact, that I'm totally stumped on what to do with it. The way I work, there enough beads here for half a dozen pieces easily. But the clasp and the focal and as many of the other wondrous beads you see here as possible will make it into my Bead Soup piece. This is going to be fun.