Studio Musings

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Tale of Two Tassels

This week has completely gotten away from me!  I'd contemplated on Monday.  So much for posting every day this week.  So, here's my quick and easy method for creating a pair of small tassels.
  1. Wrap embroidery floss and metallic embroidery threads around a plastic card (an old bus pass in this case).  Tie off the middle on both sides with additional embroidery floss (this is the top cord).
  2. Cut the threads away from the card along the two edges using a small pair of scissors or Xacto knife.
  3. Holding the top cord in one hand, comb the skirt threads into some semblance of order and wrap the neck a couple of time. Use an embroidery needle to stitch through the neck to make it more secure, then stitch down through the center.
  4. Wrap the tassel in paper like you're rolling a cigar, with the top cord sticking out one end and the tassel's skirt ends sticking out the other.  
  5. Pull the tassel until the shortest threads are just visible beyond the paper.  Trim the ends neat and tidy with a pair of sharp scissors.
Decorating the Neck

Here's where I admit to one of my faults - I'm great at taking pictures at the start of a project.  But the further into it I get, the more likely I am to be caught up and forget all about my camera.

So, using right angle weave and netting, I stitched up a beaded collar for each of the tassels.  Working around the tassel is frustratingly fussy as my beading thread likes to catch on the tassel, so I do as much as I can working flat - first two photos.
Then I join the two ends of right angle weave around the neck and finish the netted skirt.  It takes a lot less time this way.

And then I added them to my necklace, which is finally, at long last, finished!

And there was much rejoicing on the home front.  This piece was a lot different than my usual work and took a while to tell me what it needed.  But I really like the finished results. 

Oh, one more note with the tassels, I didn't want the top cord to show, so once I was done beading the necks, I threaded the top cords back onto my embroidery needle and stitched the ends down through the center.  Then covered the still visible cording with bead work. 

If people are interested, I could work up the pattern for the beaded collar; its really pretty simple.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

When is Done, Done?

Thought I was about done with this necklace almost two weeks ago.  It almost worked, but not quite.  I liked the idea of using the machine wrapped cording and the washers to suspend the cabochon.  But they felt too skimpy in comparison to the weight of the concrete and beading.  And the washers twisted more than I liked. 

So I hung it from my project board and thought about it for a little while. 

First change was to make another machine wrapped cord, red this time and braid it in with the black, with a few knots for texture.  Then I added a beaded tassel to weight the washer and help it lay straight.

This was better, but the right hand side still didn't work. Hmmm...

Time for lots of sampling - made several different beaded tapes or cords and tried them in place.
 Here's where it stands as of this evening.  Looks better on than laying here on the beading cloth.  But is it actually done?  I'm wondering if it needs a tassel or two hanging from the middle washer to the right to balance the one on the left.

Think I'll have to look at it again tomorrow before I decide.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I'm in the process of working up a tutorial for my website on a simple beaded bead project.  But it won't be done tonight.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some of my favorite books from my studio library.  (My studio mate and I combined libraries when we moved in - all of the books are tagged with color-coded electrical tape so that we can one day sort them back out by owner, but for now, they're all waiting for me!)

Beaded Tassels, Braids and Fringes by Valerie Campbell Harding.  My library is surprisingly slim on beading books, but this is my favorite.  It's a technique, inspiration and recipe book all rolled into one, with lots of great ideas that work in so many different situations, far beyond what the title might seem to indicate. 

Archipelago: Portraits of Life in the World's Most Remote Island Sanctuary by David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton.  I bought this book for my birthday several years ago paying full list price and it is still one of my favorite sources of inspiration.  The photography is simply amazing!  And if you like this book, you might also want to check out The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian.

Complex Cloth by Jane Dunnewold. This is an amazing technique book.  She also has a new book Art Cloth, which "picks up where Complex Cloth left off, showing how to layer processes with the latest products to create stunning cloth for use in a variety of fiber art" according to her website. Haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but it sounds like it may replace her earlier book. Not sure - will need to check it out.

The Art of Polymer Clay Creative Surface Effects: Techniques and Projects Featuring Transfers, Stamps, Stencils, Inks, Paints, Mediums, and More by Donna Kato. This one actually belongs to Leah, my studio mate.  Neither of us really works with polymer clay, though I have fun playing with it upon occasion.  But, this is a book I pull off the shelf quite often to look through over lunch.  Again, lots of ideas and techniques, and I really like her sense of design

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Feline Diabetes

Wormwood loves food, and is pretty sure we'll forget to feed him if he doesn't remind us.  Repeatedly.  Loudly.  Starting a couple of hours before his actual feeding times.  We're used to that.

But last weekend, he began yowling randomly throughout the day, and night.  And the boy has quite the set of lungs on him.  We're talking the volume of an air raid siren with all the terrible sorrow of a wailing banshee.  Ouch! 

He was eating and drinking, and abdominal palpitations showed no signs of a UI tract infection, so we started to chalk it up to lack of attention.  There's no doubt he's lonelier, these days.
But I had a nagging worry that this just wasn't right, especially when he started eating a little less than normal.  He wasn't acting sick per say, just different.

So on Tuesday, I took him to the vets, who luckily didn't treat me like a total idiot for coming in saying "my cat's acting different", but gave him a full check-up with blood work (he's had some thyroid and kidney problems, so they're quite familiar with our boy).

Friday, we got the diagnosis - feline diabetes.  And I've now learned to give my cat insulin injections, which are surprisingly easy and he doesn't seem to mind at all.  They're harder on the humans than the cat, so far.

But the reason for this post is it could have been a lot worse.  If I had chalked his noise up to his being an old, cranky, lonely cat, his prognosis wouldn't be good (and we would have dealt with many more nights of poor sleep all around before the end). 

So, don't feel shy about calling your vet's for a consultation when your pet is acting "strange".  You know them far better than anyone else. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Negative Feedback

Sunday evening I swung by Amazon to check on the ranking for my book and noticed that I had another customer review.  Excited, I scrolled down the page, and discovered it was a one star review.  I felt like I'd been punched in the gut, except I think  that might have hurt less.  It's the second 1-star review I've received, offset by six 5-star reviews, so it seems people either love or hate it.

Here's the latest review in its entirety:
I couldn't wait for this book to arrive and I was really disappointed and returned it next day. May by good for beginners. I didn't find anything interesting in it....I also didn't like pictures. 

I hate disappointing people.  Hate it, hate it - makes me feel like a failure.  And since the book is self-published, it's all my responsibility:  text, photos, illustrations, layout, the whole bailiwick.  So I've been trying to look at this review and the earlier one to find ways to improve my book next time around.

My book is indeed an introduction to freeform peyote beading and I thought that was pretty clear.  That said, most beaders are already familiar with a number of basic beading stitches and have worked with beading for some time before deciding to try their hand at freeform beading, so from that standpoint it's an intermediate to advanced book, especially since the techniques will take you as far as you want to go and it's a technique book, not a project book.  So it's an introduction to a more advanced technique.

Original handout with b&w interior
To be clear, I wrote this book for a person with basic beading experience, someone who has at least a couple of basic peyote stitch projects under their belt who is interested in trying something a little different, moving away from pre-designed patterns to a more organic, design-as-you-go philosophy. But also hoped it would work for the ambitious newcomer.  Wonder if I should add that to the book description?

The book actually grew out of class handouts that I'd developed over several years of teaching freeform peyote.  As I worked on the book I visualized talking my students through the process.

She didn't find anything interesting in it?  What was she hoping for?  Did she peruse the Look Inside feature beforehand? Not all books have that, but mine does and I hoped it would help people make certain it was what they wanted before they ordered.  While I have no control over what Amazon selects to show, it does include my table of contents and a number of sample pages.  Do they not do a good enough job of setting expectations?  How could I do a better job of this?

And the pictures.  What was she expecting?  I'm continually trying to improve my photography, but something as vague as her statement leaves me nothing to work with.

I know my book is not inexpensive, with a retail price of $24.95.   I'm at the low end of a 30/70 split with Amazon and that did affect my book design.  Every additional page reduces my side of the payment equation, not Amazon's.  But with that, I worked to pack as much into each page, as clearly as possible, balancing pictures, text and white space to try and make it highly readable without any wasted space.  And I do listen to feedback:  I added 14 pages to the final draft before going to print based upon suggestions from early reviewers (whom I agreed with completely).

Criticism can be incredibly helpful in knowing where to improve.  But nebulous feedback simply hurts with little opportunity for correction.  Sigh.

So that said, anyone interested in being a reviewer for my latest effort?  As a reviewer, I'd ask for concrete suggestions (if you don't like my pictures tell me why - too small, not clear enough, missing a critical part of the technique, etc.) and in return you'd get your name in the thank you credits and a copy of the book.  And my sincere appreciation and thanks.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Touring by Slow Coach

Original Designs by Bead Soup Partiers
For the past two weeks (and a day) I've toured the Bead Soup party blogs on the slow coach.

That first Saturday, I averaged 3-5 blogs an hour.  Then I did the math.  At 5 blogs per hour divided by 210 blogs, that would mean  42 hours.  Yikes!  So I tried to pick up the pace, but at this point, I have to simply accept the fact that I'm slow.  I start reading, get caught by links that lead to other blogs or posts, visit Etsy sites and older posts and generally like to poke and peek into all the corners along the way.  And I took notes.  Here's a compilation of my findings:

Favorite Designs (clockwise from top left)
Mistress Boleyn's Necklace by Christine Damm
Sea Anemone by Kristin Latimer
Tranquil Hideaway by Kim Hutchinson
Untitled by  Niky Sayers
Untitled by  Marian Hertzog 
Untitled by Laura Zeiner

Some unusual jewelry components
Most Unusual Components (clockwise from top left)
Wooden "pod" shapes used by Marie-Noel Voyer-Cramp. She made several pieces with various pod shapes sent by her trading partner Claire, who also used "woody" beads in her piece.
Rattlesnake vertebra used by Cathryn Brooks-Williams in her piece "Southwestern Influence"
Bars and discs used by Michelle Heim, sent by Serena Trent.  I would have found the striped polymer clay bars very intimidating to work with, but Michelle made it look easy.

Most Interesting Photographic Backgrounds
This interests me as I think about ways to improve my own photography

    •  Black book cloth with reverse embossed  letters
    • Stone tiles
    • Several bloggers photographed their work on manikins, but I really liked Janna’s, covered as it is with pages from old books.  
    • Book pages or music.  Several blogs used this; I found I liked it best when the work was photographed on a flat page (not an opened book), or several sheaves of paper.  
    • Collages could be very effective, but I preferred those with borders between images (so that's what I used in this post).

I also found it interesting how interconnected the various blogs were. Quite a number of the Bead Soup participants are also involved with the Color Palette blog walk, Art Bead Scene's monthly challenges, Maggie and Me's monthly challenges (run by one of the bead soup partiers), and Pay it Forward, amongst others.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, considering Art Bead Scene is how I first encountered Lori's blog, Pretty Things, and discovered Bead Soup.  It's a surprisingly small, close-knit community spread around the world and this blog tour on the slow coach was an amazing introduction.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A little bit crazy

Emerald City Trapeze
 It's been a rough week.  Doing some computer work last night, I took a break to check my email and found a Groupon coupon for half off Trapeze lessons.

Trapeze lessons!  (Seattle's home to not one, but three circus schools).  Imagine my surprise when I found myself clicking through and actually purchasing a ticket!

I think I must have gone a little bit crazy.  I have no where near the upper body strength to consider doing this, as my gym workouts remind me.  But the coupon's good for a year.  And maybe, just maybe I'll be ready to go for it before it expires.

And in the meantime, I get to dream of flying through the air with the greatest of ease. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Sampler Set

Cindy's setting up to do a Viking Knit demo
That's how I've come to regard Sunday's meeting of the NW Seed beaders.  Originally Georgia McMillan had been scheduled to demonstrate her lovely bead embroidery, but had to cancel last minute due to illness, so this month's presenters agreed to swap and suddenly the program was Viking knit.  And then it snowed in Snohomish county (only rained here) and the presenters were snowed in.  Oops!  So it looked like it was going to be a catch as catch can sort of meeting.  Still fun, just unscheduled.

Instead, we were treated to a series of mini-demos.  Another member, Cindy, gave several wonderful demos on Viking knit.  Since Ann and Kathy are supposed to be demoing "advanced Viking knit" at a later date, and I wasn't familiar with the basic version, this was really useful.   I thought the vice she used to hold her dowel was extremely clever.  Turns out there's a Harbor Freight in Bellevue, (just looked it up online) so I may have to make a field trip to go get one.  I can think of a number of places where it could be useful.

Lacy Scarf by Christy Bear - I really want one!
Georgia was able to make it despite feeling poorly, and though she wasn't up to teaching large groups, she was more than happy to go over the general idea with anyone who was interested.   I started a leaf, which I'll likely work on more later this month since it seems the bead embroidery has been rescheduled for March's meeting.

And I learned several tips on how to make a wire worked clasp from Shelly.    The collective knowledge and artistry of the group and their willingness to share both is almost overwhelming.

I just wish I hadn't come down with a migraine towards the end of the meeting.  It made it really hard to take anything in when I couldn't see out of my left eye and all I really wanted to do was curl up in a dark room.

Freeform Peyote bead by Marcy Kleckner
Other highlights.  Marcy had finished the beaded bead she'd been working on the previous month, and brought it along to show me.  I love how different it is from anything I would have done.
And I fell in love with a knitted scarf by Christy Bear.  It's made from this really cool yarn with a net-like construction, creating shimmery, open ruffles and she knits it into a scarf shape reminiscent of a lacy boa.  The yarn is incredibly soft and the pictures above just don't do it justice.  I should have tried to talk her into modeling it for me!  I'm hoping we might manage a trade.