Studio Musings

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lacework Bracelet workshop moved to November 20th

Lacework Bracelets
An update to my Fusion Beads class schedule.  My Lacework Bracelet class has been moved from October 2nd to November 20th. 

This is the first time I've taught this particular workshop in a couple of years, and I'm really excited.  It's an afternoon workshop, with time to talk about different techniques and variations, color blending, and more. 

 The open stitching pattern of random right angle weave is extremely versatile.  I love how you can use the same technique to create a cuff that's softly romantic and feminine, or one that dreams of the ocean's reefs, or has a decidedly steam punk flair.  The choice is totally yours. 

Random right angle weave is one of my favorite beading techniques because it's so organic.  It also pairs beautifully with freeform peyote stitch. 

So, mark your calendars - November 20th, 2:00 - 5:00pm, Lacework Cuffs at Fusion Beads!

You can sign up at the store or via phone  206-782-4595

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Seattle Summer - Touring a Destroyer, Riding a T-Rex and more

August is absolutely my favorite month in Seattle!  Summer often gets a late start here in the Pacific Northwest.  Depending upon the year, it can take until early August for the season to really settle in, but August definitely equals Summer in Seattle.  Along with all sorts of fun.

from Komo TV's website, photo by David Remmem Photography
August kicks off with Seafair's hydroplane races and Fleet Week.  I've never been to the races, and this year I missed the Parade of Ships, but I couldn't miss the Blue Angles soaring overhead.  I got a fantastic view of the fighter jets as they filled the skies with their roar while I pressure washed a driveway.  Most fun I've ever had using a pressure washer!  It's amazing I didn't topple over backwards while craning my neck towards the sky. Since I didn't have my camera handy to take photos, I nabbed this one from one of the local tv station's website.

The Navy managed to make waiting in line fun!

This year, we made it down to the waterfront to tour the Destroyer the USS Gridley. The line was long, but we spent most of the wait chatting with a sailor about his day-to-day experiences living aboard an aircraft carrier.  They even had a band playing!

Before we could step foot on the dock, we had to go through an old-style airport metal detector, at which point Joe realized he'd forgotten to leave his pocket knife at home.  Turns out the Navy is far more accommodating than TSA.  They kept his knife while we toured the ship, and we reclaimed it as we left the secured area.

On the forward deck
Great lunch break listening to the Polecats
Middle of the month, we 'played hooky' the afternoon of my birthday.  Bright blue skies, warm (low 80s) with a cool breeze, it was a perfect day to catch one of Seattle's free, Out to Lunch (OTL) concerts.

The OTL program described the Polecats as a 'blue-grass, celtic fusion' band.  They describe themselves as "five mad scientists who aren’t afraid of rejecting predictability and conformism".  Both are accurate.  While the bluegrass/celtic roots of their music is very clear, it's layered with pop, rock, and at times even a hint of reggae. Most of their set was original work, but they performed a few covers - including a rollicking bluegrass meets calypso version of "Under the Sea", and a thoroughly entertaining "Walk of Life" a lá Dire Straits.

Riding the monorail towards home (sorta)

We finished the afternoon with a ride to the Seattle Center via the monorail.  Before heading home, we purchased mini-cheesecakes from Confectional.  Yum! 

Next followed a couple of quick trips.  First a weekend jaunt up to Bellingham for the wedding of two friends.  Then I got a call from Dawn, one of my best friends from college.  She and her family were visiting Portland from the midwest to drop their youngest daughter off at college.  Did I mention that Dawn and I met the first day of freshman orientation, oh so many years ago? 

Yeah for the Amtrak Cascades!  I was able to catch an early train down and spent the better part of the day wandering around downtown Portland with the two of them, including a leisurely tour of the Portland Art Museum and their Native Fashion exhibit that I'd been dying to see.  And as the sun started to set, they walked me back to the train station and we said goodbye. 

A late birthday present dinner cruise
As a late birthday present, Joe booked a dinner-cruise with a couple of our friends, touring Lake Union and Lake Washington.  I think it was the hottest day of the summer (which means about 90F).  We hadn't been out on the water all summer (unless you count standing on the USS Gridley while it was docked), so it was about time. 

A quiet corner of the expo hall - the screen's bigger than my living room wall
And then, there was PAX.  This year PAX fell over Labor Day weekend, but it's normally in August, so I'm extending August to include it.  What's a little 'month-creep' amongst friends?  We never manage to pick up PAX tickets when they go on sale.  Luckily, we have a number of friends who do.  So, while we were at our friends' wedding, I was able to find other friends with extra tickets to sell. 

You never know what you'll find at PAX - it's a totally over the top gaming convention for everything from the latest console & computer games, to board games and role playing.  Walking though the crowd I spied this:

Yes, I really do see a Tyrannosaurus Rex looming above the crowd
I don't want to tell you how long I waited in line to get this photo
I was really waiting to take this photo. 

The T-Rex was there to promote a video game - I think it was ARK: Scorched Earth.  The huge video screens behind the T-Rex were filled with dinosaurs and other creatures.  If I were a video gamer, I'd probably be interested because the graphics were gorgeous.  Me, I just wanted to have my picture taken riding a T-Rex.  That was cool enough for me. 

Climbing the ladder to get up to the saddle, and swinging my leg over, lets just say that my acrophobia is still present.  But it wasn't going to stop me!   The dino pictures seemed to beg for some comic book styling courtesy of the Halftone ap, but here's one last pic, straight up.

I'm just a little speck, way up top! 

And that about sums up my 'August Summer Vacation' report.   (I did get a little beading in, too, but I'll talk about that in another post.)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

ZnetShows New Sea Glass Arrivals Blog Hop & Challenge

Late last month Hope Smitherman sent out invitations for a mini Blog Hop and Challenge using some of ZnetShows newest cultured sea glass styles.  I love sea glass, so saying yes was really easy.  We were invited to chose from three different styles - two were different types of 'nuggets', and the third were two-hole buttons.

I decided I HAD to work with the buttons, then debated my second choice before falling in love with the central drop pendant in this set.

This blue is one of the rarest colors in my collection of 'natural' sea glass
When the beads arrived, I discovered that the thread holes in the pendant set were large enough that a size 11 seed bead could slip right through.  I was  tempted to find some way to use them so that they laid flat in the design the way they do on my beading mat in this photos, but couldn't quite come up with a solution I liked this time around.  Which is kind of funny, because that's how I decided to use the buttons.

The flat, rounded shape of buttons, with their smooth surface, reminded me of skipping stones, so I decided to make a summer beach cuff where they'd act as the main focal.  Using size 8 seed beads to create a chunkier than normal base, I first stitched a Lacework Cuff using random right angle weave. 

Lacework Cuff Base with two sea glass buttons for closures

 Then it was time to add additional buttons for surface texture. 

Starting to decorate the surface
Adding one button at a time, I then worked several layers of sea-frond fringe around that button before moving on to the next.

The finished cuff, Skipping Stones
In the end, I decided I liked the way the cuff looked with only half of its length embellished.  It's designed for the buttons to be worn on the outside edge of the wrist.  This way, the underside of the wrist just has a flat band; less likely to catch on clothing and such.

It's hard to photograph on my own wrist, but here's the idea.

So I finished the cuff, time to do something with the drop pendant.   I wanted to use for a summer necklace of 'beach treasures' that looked nice enough to wear to a evening out.  I ended up doing some simple bead stringing with size 15 seed beads and a couple different styles of two-hole beads. 

Using the freeform nuggets and pendants as well as more buttons
I used the buttons as links as well as for the closure
Isn't the seaglass pendant pretty?  I wanted a very simple necklace that let it shine.

So that's what I came up with.  Now it's time to see what everyone else made!  Here's the full list of designers:

close-up:  adding fringe behind the buttons
ZnetShows Blog
Amy Severino
Andrea Trank
Becky Pancake
Blanca Medina
Christina Miles
Karen Williams
Karla Morgan
Kathy Lindemer
Shaiha Williams
Susan Bowie
Veralynne Malone

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Happy Fish + Fusion Beads = Very Fun Sunday

We had a full house this past Sunday at Fusion Beads. A couple of my students likely had more experience with bead embroidery than I, while several others simply wanted to give the technique a try.  Wondering why they all decided to take my class, I asked.  The resounding answer was 'because they're HAPPY fish; they're smiling'.  Guess I'm not the only one captivated by these little guys!  And the simple power of happiness.

There was certainly plenty of laughter as everyone worked to develop their own, unique Happy Fish. 
I was able to snap photos of almost everyone's work (I missed a few who managed to sneak out before I had my camera ready).  And they are graciously allowing me to share them here:

Bonnie's 'Turtle Taxi'
Bonnie started with some of the new two-hole cabochon beads; they look like pearls, but the flat backs make them perfect for bead embroidery.  I've not worked with them yet, but watching Bonnie, I've definitely put them on my 'wish list'.  She then added a flower bead for the eye, and finished with two little turtle beads so the fish could bring it's friends along.  Hence it's name, Turtle Taxi.   Bonnie says she's going to finish it as a pendant.  Can't wait to see it! 

Brenda's Fish, playing with different bead sizes and some leaf beads
Patty R's fish, sporting stylish dragonscale beads

Cathy's fish, experimenting with lentil beads
After capturing the large cabochon bead with peyote stitch, Cathy experimented with the possibilities of lentil beads as fish scales.  They seemed to work best if they weren't packed too tightly together.

Doris, Patty H's best dressed fish
We had some fun discussing how Patty could transition her vertical lines of beading into Doris' tail.

Cynthia's fish - inspired by paisley designs

Thank you all!  I had a blast and hope you did too.  And many thanks again to Fusion Beads for providing such a wonderful place to teach (and take) beading workshops!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Happy Fish at Fusion Beads

Forget about Shark Week!  It's Happy Fish Week around here, with lots of fishy doodles, beads strewn everywhere and fun.  All in preparation for my newest workshop this Thursday at Fusion Beads

In between tide pooling, going to the movies to watch space aliens try to take over the world, and eating too much watermelon, I spent the weekend putting the finishing touches on the tutorial for my newest workshop on freeform bead embroidery.

I also had some fun playing with sketches for Patriot Fish - how could I not on the 4th!  Yankee Doodle reminds me of a super-hero fish, with his blue mask & star design.  Feels like he needs his own comic book adventure!

he's a surfer fish, almost ready to ride the waves

I've also started an ocean camouflage fish, though he's really my Deep-sea camo, or my Carribbean Waves camo fish, because he really doesn't blend with the local waters.  Really, he's my Surfer fish, because he's designed to blend right in the the waves, or will be once he's done.  Maybe I'll need to create a local fish as well, one set to hide in the local kelp beds?  Guess we'll have to see. 

If you're in town and looking for something to do this week, come join me for some bead embroidery fun.  (You can see some of my earlier Happy Fish here and here). 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A New-to-me Option for Bead Illustration Software

Graphic - vector illustration and design by Indeeo, Inc.
Every few months I receive an email from someone asking what software I use to create my bead diagrams and illustrations.  To date, I've used Adobe Illustrator, but that may soon change as I continue to explore a new iOS ap called Graphic.

I love Adobe Illustrator. It's been the gold standard for vector-based graphic design and illustration for years, for good reasons.  But it also costs a pretty penny.  I'm lucky enough to own an old copy of Adobe Creative Suite 6 (CS6), purchased right before they moved to a subscription model.  These days, the single-app license for Illustrator is $19.99/month if you don't happen to be a student or teacher.  The price makes it really hard for me to recommend it to other indie designers.  I also worry about what I'll do when my current version of CS6 gets too old and glitchy to work with the latest operating systems on my computer.  Sooner or later, it's bound to happen.

This means I'm always on the look out for a solid, low-cost alternative.  Last night, I think I may have found one, designed for the iPhone or iPad.  Searching for 'vector-based illustration software', I came across a review for Autodesk Graphic, by Indeeo, Inc for iOS.  Comparing the feature set from the reviews to the latest feature set in the product description in the App store, I decided it was worth the $8.99 pricetag to give it a test drive.  Doing research for this blog post this morning, I found that different links have different pricing, from $2.99 - $29.99.  One thing to note - the link for $2.99 seems to be for an earlier version of the program (version 1.01, as opposed to 3.1) - so I wouldn't recommend it.

Why do I like Graphic, besides the pricetag?

Bead Sample page: trying out the shape tools and gradient fills
It's easy to use
The interface is very intuitive for anyone who's familiar with Illustrator or other drawing software.  They also have a really nice series of tutorial pages to quickly bring you up to speed on the tools and workspace.

It's quick
I worked up this little beading sample page within about 20 minutes of downloading the program, that includes reading through the tutorial pages.

It has the tools I need
I have very specific things I want to accomplish.  Can I make pretty looking 'beads' quickly?  Can I easily add a radiant fill, and change line and fill colors?  How about adding in the thread paths?  Does it have layers for additional control?  Early experimentation indicates that Graphic meets all of these needs, hands down.

It's vector-based 
This last one may need a little more explanation.  In a nutshell, the question is whether lines are rendered as a series of little dots that all happen to connect, or as a continuous line described by a mathematical algorithm.  The later creates smooth, beautiful curves no matter how much you scale the original image.  Here's an example to show the difference:

Zooming in on a .JPG and a .SVG file

For this, I exported my Bead Sample page in two separate formats, first as a .JPEG, then as a .SVG (which is a vector-based file format).  I opened the .JPEG in Photoshop, then zoomed in to 500% on one of the beads.  This is the left-hand sample, and you can already see the pixellation along the outer edges of the shape.  I then opened the .SVG file in Illustrator, and zoomed in 800% on the same bead.  This is the right-hand sample; see how nice and smooth the edge looks?  The very slight pixellation you may notice is because I combined the two samples and text in Photoshop, then reduced the size and saved them as a .jpg so that they'd download more quickly over the Internet.  

That's the key with bead illustrations - drawn them in a vector-based program, then export them in the size and format you need for your particular purpose.  While, of course maintaining your original, vector-based files as your originals.

It Exports into Multiple Formats
I touched on this above, but it's worth pointing out again.  Besides JPEG and SVG, you can also export into PDF, PSD and PNG, as well as a Graphic source file (useful if you're moving between devices).  

It supports the iPad Pro and iPencil
All the experimenting I did last night was curled up on my couch.  Drawing with the iPencil on my iPad, is a night-and-day experience compared to working with a mouse.  But even if you don't have an iPencil, I had a lot of success with simple touch gestures, and still found it much easier than working with a mouse.  

Could be used to Layout Single-Page Tutorials
Graphic, like Illustrator, is designed for single-page designs, not multi-page books.  However, within those limitations, it offers a lot of control for page layouts combining illustrations and text.  In fact, their beautifully-done Intro Guides were all created using the program.  


So, will Graphic replace Illustrator in my workflow?  I'll have to see as I do more experimentation.  At this point, I'm guessing that I'm going to use it to augment how I use Illustrator.  At the very least, it's fun to use and will allow me to work in situations where dragging along a laptop simply practical.  If you decide to check out Graphic for yourself, I'd love to hear what you think!  

In the meantime, I'm still looking for a viable, lower-cost alternative to Adobe's InDesign for page layout and design. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Visiting the Portland Bead Society

I love the views from the train between Seattle & Portland
Last month, a friend emailed to ask if I'd be interested in doing a talk for the Portland Bead Society.  Her email was a total surprise, as I've been pretty quiet in the beading world of late.   It seems she still remembered a talk I'd given for our local group, the ages ago.   Feeling like a bit of a fraud, I found myself saying I would, then went searching for my old slide deck.  There's nothing like a quick kick from the universe to get one going again!

view from the train platform, arriving in Portland
Which is how I found myself on the Cascades train Tuesday morning bright and early, headed for Portland.  Before the meeting, I had the chance to spend the day with Janis VanWyhe, the current president of PBS.  Janis met me at the station and whisked me away to grab some lunch.

Going for a quintessentially Portland experience, we stopped at a food-truck court.  It was a full city block, ringed on all four sides by food-trucks, literally.  Food truck after food truck, lined up along the sidewalk in the place of buildings.  I discovered that there are so many food-trucks in Portland, there's a website devoted to tracking them, and they even gives tours.  We skipped the tour, grabbed our food and headed for a nearby park for lunch.

Better yet, the park was only a block away from Powells Books, where I can easily get lost for hours (maybe days) in bibliophile heaven, wandering from room to room.   It's been year's since I had a chance to visit this amazing bookstore, which also fills an entire city block.  Our browsing was limited by our 90 minute metered parking, which was likely a good thing as anything I purchased had to fit into my already full suitcase for the return trip.

Crystal Springs Rhodendron Garden (photo from their website)
Since the weather was about as perfect as could possibly be, we decided to head for the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden next.  In all of my previous visits to Portland, I'd never ventured much beyond the core, so this was a real treat.  I found it interesting how wooded the city seems, even driving along some of its main corridors outside of the city.

The garden itself is so beautiful.  Though it's already a little past prime blooming season, a number of the rhodies were still in bloom.  Interestingly, it it was primarily the taller, tree-sized rhodies that were still blooming.  Even if none of the rhododendrons had been in bloom, the garden would still have been lovely.

The garden is perched on the side of a valley,  with winding paths through open, wood-like gardens that periodically open onto water views of ponds with a lively population of mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese, all with offspring.  We even spotted a bald eagle circling above one of the larger ponds.  The picture is from their website, because all of mine turned out too dark, though I did get a couple fun pictures of a dogwood in bloom.

Finally, it was about time to head to the meeting.  I can see why so many of the members of our local bead society also belong to the Portland group.  During the business portion of the meeting, they discussed an upcoming exhibit that will travel to all eight of the local libraries, several different community outreach possibilities, their upcoming annual potluck, and more.  I am definitely going to see if I can make it back down for their annual Bead Retreat, if not before. 

In case you happen to see this, many, many thanks to Jennifer Engstfeld who suggested my name, to Carol Perrenoud (Beadcats) who took care of all of the arrangements, to Janis for an absolutely wonderful day, and to all of the members of the Portland Bead Society.  You were all so wonderfully welcoming.  I was truly honored by your invitation to speak, and hope that you enjoyed my presentation.