Studio Musings

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Want to Join a UFO Support Group?

Are unfinished projects cluttering your work surface and filling your drawers?  Would you like to 'clear the decks' of some of the UFOs that seem to accumulate?  Then I invite you to join my new UFO Support Group. 

Making art is such a solitary endeavor - I envision this support group as a way for us to feel a little less alone as we tackle our 'problem' and 'neglected' children.  The group will be a place where members can ask for constructive feedback when they're stumped on how (or even whether) they should move forward on a project.  And where we can share the celebration when projects come to completion.

Towards that end, I plan to set up some sort of group forum where we can share 'insider' information during the month.  Once we have a core membership, I'll send out a survey to figure out what venue would fit us best (Google Groups, Facebook, etc). 

And to give us regular deadlines to work towards (and times for celebration) I plan to host regular FO (Finished Object) Blog Hops.  But no worries - you don't need to have a blog to join in!

this tea cozy from my crazy quilting days is crying for attention
Who can Join?  
Any artist or crafter working in any medium who would like to join a positive support group working to bring some unfinished projects to fruition.  As I've shared in private emails, some of my UFOs include a steampunk outfit that I cut out back in the Fall of 2015, and a crazy quilted tea cozy that dates back to around 2001.  And of course, I have plenty of beading projects that I hope to finish.

You simply need to commit to completing at least one UFO by the first reveal - where we will share our newly Finished Objects and pat our backs in congratulations. 

My hope is that this will be an ongoing support group, but members might not participate in all reveals.  Right now, my plan is to continue this through at least mid-summer, then see how it's going. 

When and Where?
Signups are open through January 31st, 2017

First Finished Object Blog Hop will be Saturday, March 11th.  That gives us enough time to work, but not so much time that we can lose focus.  Together, we'll decide whether to host additional Blog Hops on a monthly or every-other-month basis.  

How to Join
Comment on this blog, or send me a email (skunkhillstudio at gmail dot com) with your name, email address and blog address if you have one.  Feel free to also include information on your UFOs, but this isn't absolutely required up front. 

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cataloging UFOs

A recent email got me thinking about UFOs.  Those UnFinished Objects that collect in drawers and clutter up the work space.   Being that time of year, it got me to thinking about resolutions - new and old, and what I want (and hope) to accomplish this year. 

Sorting through some of my UFOs I realized that there are a number of reasons why different projects fell to the wayside.  I'm coming to think that the more I understand WHY a particular project got set aside, the better chance I have of determining which, if any might ever reach the coveted "Completed" state.

So I started cataloging my Reasons why particular projects end up as UFOs.  Here's my list to date:

Too Many Ideas, Too Little Time
 It's a fact: the larger a project is, the longer it takes to complete.  Not just in terms of the hours spent working on that particular project.  But also because of the times when the long-term project gets set aside in favor of smaller, quicker projects. 

The word "Done" has such a nice ring.  Done!  Bingo! Hurray!  There are some words that are just such fun to say.  That likely explains why I have more snowflakes than any other single beaded project.  They are incredibly fast - how many bead weaving projects can you finish in under an hour, and each one be unique?  So, big projects get interspersed with smaller ones, making the larger projects take even longer.

I've also found that the more time I've already invested in a project, the more risk adverse I become.  The worry about "what if I screw it up" that barely registers these days when stitching a beaded cuff, rears its head on a regular basis when working on my latest sculptural endeavors.  Bead sketching can help with this - doing little sample pieces to work out how I might move forward.

The best solution I've found is to set a concrete deadline for completion, and a reason for that deadline.  The deadline must be far enough in the future that I can reasonably finish the project.  And I need a reason for the deadline because my creative side is like a little kid, and will do it's best to find wiggle room and extensions.  Saying I want to finish it by September isn't enough.  Saying I want to finish by September so I can photograph it for a blog hop or submissions for "X" show.  Even simply telling people it will be done by a specific date is a much stronger motivator, because now someone is expecting it besides myself.

Lost without a Map
Here, I started out with a grand idea, but partway in, the project morphed into something I don't recognize.  Good, bad, it's almost impossible to tell because it simply ISN'T what I expected.  And I therefore have no clue where to go next.  Into the box it goes.  I think this is one of the most common reasons freeform beadweaving projects get left behind. 

That's okay, sometimes projects simply need time to gel.  From my own experience, my Rattlesnake Necklace is a prime example.  I'd originally designed it as a choker, but somehow the length got away from me, and it was way, way too long.  What to do?  I liked the colors, I liked the stitching, but I had no idea what to do with it.  It was several years before I thought of finishing it as a sort of Western-kerchief style choker instead.  The key is to remember to pull it out every once in a while, and keep noodling on the question "what could it be?"  (It also helped that I decided to finish this piece for a blog hop).

Too Ugly to Live
This is the second most-common reason freeform beadweaving projects get left in the dust.  The big question is whether the poor dear is simply stuck in the dreaded Ugly Duckling stage or if it has truly deadly flaws.  A cool-down period may be in order before I can make that determination.

Put it away until the disgust has faded to something more akin to pity, then pull it back out. To evaluate it's potential rebirth, I first look at the piece's stitching - is it structurally sound?  If the stitching is a mess, then it's likely toast.  Stitching is sound?  Then how's the color balance?  A quick way to play with color is to take a photo (a white or light colored background works best), print it off my computer,  then draw over the top.  Quick simple lines will do, with markers, colored pencils, crayons - whatever I have to hand.  The goal here is to play with ways to improve the color balance.

If both the stitching and color seem good, and the pieces simply seems awkward, that's a really good sign it's in the Ugly Duckling stage and I simply need to keep stitching. 

Bored Now
For me, projects that require a lot of repeats are most likely to fall into this category.  It's one of the reasons I veer away from many traditional bead weaving projects.  I get bored and I start improvising to liven things up (often with 'interesting' results) or it gets shoved into a drawer for "later".

Personally, the best way for me to work through this particular problem is to have a rock-solid, clear-cut reason for wanting to finish the project.  "I am making this as ThisYear's birthday gift for my Mom" or "I will wear it at the formal dinner on our September Cruise with my 1940s-style dress" are much more compelling reasons than "it's beautiful and I'd love to make it".  The 'it's beautiful' might get me started, but is likely to leave me stranded mid-stream as boredom sets in. 

Got It!
This is a sort of variation on the Bored Now theme, but is a little different.  When I looked at my motivation for starting these projects, I find that my true goal was simply to master a technique or determine whether something was simply possible.  Once I have the answer (either way), there's little motivation to continue.

Almost ten years ago now, I took a workshop with the artist David Chatt.  He had two Large tables covered with beading samples, mostly unfinished pieces, and explained that they were his 'sketchbook'.  They were where he worked out ideas and problems, and kept the results as quick reminders and references.  These days, I have my own 'beaded sketchbook'.  It's not as extensive as his, and I have a feeling I'm far more likely to poach from my sketchbook than he tended to be, but that's okay.  Every artists' sketchbook is entirely their own. 

One thing I have found is that it's very freeing to realize that not all beaded objects are meant to be completed.  Some are simply meant to answer a question.  Little sketches, doodles and thoughts. 

So there's my UFO Roster
Now I'm curious. 
  • How many of these resonate with you?  
  • Do you have UFOs that fall into other categories that should be added to the list?  What are your categories?
  • Which types of UFOs are you most likely to complete, eventually?  
  • What do you think of the sketchbook idea?  Do you have UFOs that are really sketches; never intended to become completed objects?  
  • What would you think of joining a crafter's UFO Support Group?  A group where we challenge each other to identify, and complete one UFO at a time on a regular basis.  Say one UFO every two months?

I'd love to hear from you!  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Boxing Day Lantern Ornaments with a Beaded Tassel

It's become something of a tradition to post a little something special for Boxing Day on my blog.  Last year it was a paper box pattern, the year before a limited-time free download of my Beaded Acorn earrings tutorial.  This year, I decided to combine two of my current favorite crafts:  paper crafting and beadwork into a little Lantern ornament.  Depending upon the colors you use, I've found this pattern works pretty much year round.  In this sample, I've optimized for the winter holidays. 

What you'll need: 
  • Index paper or cardstock (8 1/2 x 11")
  • utility knife, steel ruler & cutting mat OR paper cutting machine.
  • Bone folder & ruler
  • 2 skeins embroidery floss
  • Playing card
  • Assorted beads
  • Beading thread and needle
  • PVA glue

The Basic Lantern Pattern
Download and Cut out Design:  Save the image of the basic lantern pattern above and print it out so that each box equals one inch (1") square.  Refer to the rulers on the left and top edges of the image.  Use this as a guide for cutting out your paper pattern with an utility knife and steel edged razor. 

Or, if you have a paper cutting machine, you can download a copy of my design, which fits two lanterns on a single sheet of cardstock.  I designed the pattern in Cricut's DesignSpace.  And because I hate wasting paper, I filled the rest of the sheet with some little gift cards and tags. 

Lantern's cut out - time to fold
Score and Fold:  Once the pattern is cut out, it's time to fold the lantern along the scoring lines.  Refer back to the pattern above - the dotted lines indicate folds.  I find it's easiest to do this with a bone folder and a clear, quilting-grid-style ruler. 
  • Work from the inside/back of the paper.  
  • Score each fold-line first by lining up your ruler, then running the tip of the bone folder down the line along the edge of your ruler.
  • Then, without moving your ruler, slip the bone folder underneath the flap and use it to help fold the paper up along the edge of the ruler.  I couldn't get a good picture of this because it required more hands than I had available.
  • Remember to score and fold the little overlap flap at the left edge of the design, too.  Use the pattern photo above as reference.

Create the Tassel
Now, it's time to make the tassel.  A while back, I wrote a detailed blog post on how I make my little tassels, so I won't repeat the entire process here. 

A quick review from my 2011 post

This time around, I ended up using a couple of playing cards stacked together for stability, because I liked their size.   I wound the embroidery floss around the cards width-wise, using about 1 1/2 half skeins.  Once I had the thickness I wanted, I tied off the centers on both sides of the card, and cut the ends from the edges of the card using the utility knife (Exacto blade).

going for the look of candle flames

This method makes two tassels.  I decorated the tassels with a little beadwork, including some peyote stitch around the neck, and then a beaded 'chain'.  Adjust the length of the chain so the tassel hangs where you want it. 

testing the length & fit

Putting it all together:  Finish the chain with a larger bead that will hanging inside the lantern, and a larger bead above the lantern, then a little loop of beads.  You need a large bead inside, and a large bead outside to act as 'stop' beads so the tassel stays where you want it. Test the fit with the lantern to make sure this works.  Adjust your beading if necessary. 

Now it's time to glue it all together.

Gluing the bottom - fold in the back first
Gluing the Bottom.  Start by folding in the bottom flap of the back (solid) side.  Apply glue to the outer (under) side; then fold in the two side panels and make sure they adhere well to the back flap.  Apply more glue to the bottom of the side panels. 

Before you fold in the bottom front panel, make sure that you apply glue to the outer edge of the little side flap.  Take a look at the next photo below.

Glueing it all together
Adhere the side flap to the inside of the front panel, and fold the front bottom into place to complete the little lantern.  It can take some massaging to get the glue to adhere the little flap firmly to the front panel.  Take time to line up the edges for the cleanest finish. 

The finished ornament

Final Notes:  I used solid-colored paper for my lanterns, and decorated the outer side with designs 'drawn' with a metallic gold pen.  But you can change the look simply by changing the color palette or using patterned papers. 

Next I want to make one using dark blue paper and silver ink, then make an 'icy' tassel to go inside the lantern.   Then I'd have Fire and Ice! 

So there's my quick little "Lantern" ornament idea. 

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas

It's 4:30pm on Christmas Eve.  My husband and I have both finally finished running around like crazy people and are settled in for the holiday.  The Christmas tree lights shine bright, a 'fire' crackles on the tv (closest we want to get to a live fire without a fireplace), Christmas carols fill the room.  I'm curled up on the couch alternating typing on my laptop and playing with my snowflake pattern while day-dreaming about snow.  At this precise moment, life is very very good.

Here's wishing you a the happiest Hanukkah and a very Merry Christmas.  May the holiday bring you peace, joy and love, however you choose to spend it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Adapting Traditions to Christmas Present

As a child, December was filled with holiday baking.  Come December 1st, we began baking cookies.  Mom directed the baking, but my siblings and I all played our part; mixing dough, 'spritzing' cookies onto the baking sheets from the cookie press, adding sprinkles (lots and lots of sprinkles), rolling and cutting out.  We made spritz and pfeffernusse, chocolate chip and oatmeal, macaroons and almond spice cookies, and more.  

My memory says we baked almost every evening leading up to Christmas - dozens and dozens of cookies, amid lots of laughter, great smells, snitched cookies and family camaraderie.  In those moments, everything seemed just as it ought.  And then, right before Christmas, we'd package up plate after plate of cookies and take them to our teachers and all of our neighbors.  That became another event; parading up and down our street delivering Christmas goodies. 

As a newly married adult, I tried to continue the tradition.  I baked loads of cookies and delivered them to friends and neighbors.  That continued for several years, but each year it got a little harder, until finally it became a sort of hit-or-miss thing, whether I'd make cookies that year.  It simply wasn't as fun, making the cookies by myself.  Too much alone time.  Through all these years, I continued to collect cookie cutters.  I've come to realize that they were tangible reminders of some of my very best childhood memories.   And so the cookie cutters piled up - each one a little promise of magical fun, just waiting for their chance.

And then a couple of years ago, I hit upon the perfect solution:  The Cookie Decorating Party!  Instead of the loneliness of solitary baking.  I invite my friends to come and share the adventure.  When they're done, they have a plate (or 2 or 3) of decorated cookies to take home with them.  At this point, it's become our own annual tradition. 

The week before the party is spent making sure the house is fully decorated, and the day before I make up lots and LOTS of sugar cookie and gingerbread cookie dough, then stick it in the freezer wrapped in waxed paper.  The day of, we put all of the extensions in our dining room table, and set up an extra card table in the living room by the Christmas tree, swathing both tables in vinyl table cloths.  Then pull out my entire collection.

We encourage everyone to bring a rolling pin and baking sheets, but we have everything else.  And for the day, my house is filled with laughter and cheer, amazing creativity and camraderie.  This year, many wonderful cookies were made, including if I remember correctly, a 'Sharkaroo' (what happens when you combine a shark and kangaroo cutout), several pairs of Christmas pliers (our youngest guest at 9 years old thought the pliers where 'the best'), and a tray of water molecules in the shape of mickey heads, along with the rest of the more 'traditional' Christmas gingerbread men and sundry.

On party day, I normally don't do any cookie making myself.  I'm far too busy visiting and making sure everyone else has what they need.  It's such fun to watch, I just want to drink it all in!  But afterwards, I continue baking and decorating, using the 'leftover' dough.  And it's fun, because I can relive memories from the party, steal some of my friends best ideas (yes, that whale cookie cutter makes a fine llama if you turn it on it's side), and it feels like Christmas. 

I never seem to remember to pull out my camera while the party's in full swing.  But here are a few pics I caught towards the end.

The aftermath of lots of cookie decorating fun

I swear I offered her a chair.  Such detailed designs!

A friends cookies - notice the plaid!  Drawn with food-safe markers
Carrie, my Ornament Swap partner from last year, sent me these as a surprise

My 'Aloha' cookies - playing with the cutters
Turns out the palm tree is one of those designs that just doesn't work as a cookie - every single trunk fell off it's palms.  So I turned the palms into a "wave".  I'm definitely better with beads - my decorating skills are best described as 'enthusiastic'.  But it's such fun (rather on par with finger painting)  :)

Decorating my 'after party' cookies
This year I bought really soft squirt bottles for the frosting, and that worked quite well.  Except I need to make the frosting a little thicker next time.  Some of the colors, the black in particular, were a bit too runny. 

It's funny.  Everyone kept thanking me for holding the party, but I really felt like I should keep thanking them.  Because they came and joined in on the spirit of fun.  And they make one of my favorite holiday traditions come back to life in an entirely new and wonderful way. 

So Merry Christmas everyone! 

I hope that your days are filled with traditions new, old or adapted, that bring you joy and laughter this holiday season. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Happy Fish and Freeform Rings - Winter Classes at Fusion Beads

Signups are now open for Winter classes at Fusion Beads. I'm excited to teach two workshops.

Freeform Peyote Rings
Saturday, January 28th
Interested in trying your hand at freeform peyote? These quick little rings are a great foray into freeform beading, using peyote stitch in creative ways to create fanciful organic designs incorporating crystals, spiked, or other novelty beads.  Each ring is a unique creation- no two designs turn out exactly the same! 

Happy Fish Bead Embroidery
Sunday, March 26th
Add a touch of whimsy to your day with these playful bead embroidery Happy Fish.  Enjoy a play day with a more freeform approach to bead emboidery while creating a fun fish brooch, pendant, hair ornament or applique.  Work with a variety of bead embroidery stitched to create your own unique design.    

One of the things I love best about both of these classes is that everyone's work will be entirely their own.  I think of these a supported creativity classes.  I'll be sharing techniques, tips, and lots and lots of design ideas, but there's so much room for the creative play and exploration.

Mine are only two of nearly seventy classes and workshops in Fusion Bead's new schedule.  As always, they have an amazing schedule of classes in bead weaving, metal work, kumihimo, resin work and more.  You can check out their full schedule here

Monday, December 12, 2016

Blow-Out Kit Sale - Three for Two Sale

Update:  I'm not going to have time to remove my beading kits from my Etsy store over the weekend, so I've decided to extend the kits sale through Sunday.  Last shipping day is still Monday, December 19th.

This is the last week that I'll be offering my beading kits for sale.  Then they'll be gone for good.  Next week, I'll be scavenging kits for beads and component parts.  But I'd rather the kits go to good homes instead.  So, now through Friday, I'm offering a Buy Two, Get a Third for Free special in my Etsy Store.

Etsy doesn't allow me to set this up with their coupon codes, so I've had to come up with two different work arounds that you can use for this.  Especially since I have very limited quantities left for many of the kits.

Option 1) Go onto my shop and purchase any three kits.  I will then refund you the cost of the third kit within 24 hours.  This has the advantage that it keeps the best track of available inventory, so that you know your third kit is definitely still available.  But has the disadvantage that you have to pay for all three up front and wait for the refund.  Not ideal, I know.

Option 2) Purchase two kits of your choice.  Then let me know what you'd like as your free kit in the notes to seller.  If it's still available, I'll take it out of my Etsy inventory and include it in your order.  It would probably be a good idea if you give me your top two choices for your free kit, as quantities of each type are quite limited. Otherwise I'll have to email or convo you to figure out what your next choice is. 

I wish there was an easier way to do this!  But I can't think of one.  If you have any questions, let me know.

This special is only for my kits (including kits in my Holiday Collection), and doesn't apply to my beading tutorials or books, which I will continue to carry in my Etsy store.