Studio Musings

Monday, April 30, 2012

Updating my Photography Set up

Earlier this month I decided it was time to upgrade my photography set up. While I still like
the stone and old wood backgrounds of my patio and studio floor, there are times when
I want something a little more polished. Specifically, I wanted to be able to take high quality photographs of my work on light colored backgrounds.  To take clear, color correct photos of my work where they weren't overwhelmed by the white background had become something of a holy grail for me.

Fotodiox light tent set up on my dining room table.  Doesn't it look huge?
Now that I've had some time to play with my new set up, I thought I'd do a bit of a review.  First what  I purchased was a Fotodiox 20 x 20" light tent

It is quite portable; folded up it looks like a square, mid-sized portfolio. It even has exterior pockets to hold the lights and camera stand that came along with it, although I recommend emptying the pockets before you set up the light tent, since the pockets end up upside down as you set up the tent.

Crocheted lace on top of the white velvet drape
I've found a couple of different ways to set it up -  including two white sides with a black back & white top, and three white sides with a black bottom & open top.  In both of the set ups above, I'm using the white velvet drape.  It's fairly thin cloth, so you can see the black background and tablecloth shadowing through it in the left photo.  I find it works best to use a sheet of poster board underneath to make it more opaque.  It also came with additional black, red and blue velvet backgrounds.  I've only used the black and white - the red and blue seem pretty garish. 

I also haven't used the lighting much, preferring to work with natural light.  It's nice having them, though.  And I tried to use the tripod, but it wasn't adjustable enough to work with what and where I wanted to photograph.  Maybe someone else could figure out how to make that work better.  That said, I have been quite pleased with the purchase and the quality of the photographs I've been able to achieve.

All in all, I am really, really pleased with this investment - still have more to learn, but I can already see a marked improvement in the range of my photography.

Acrylic display tables & some attempts to use them, still working on this!

I also purchased a set of black and white acrylic display tables.  They're a bit more of a mixed bag as far as what I think of them so far.  The black in particular can be difficult to work with - it attracts lint like a magnet and is difficult to keep clean, the surface already had a small scratch when I removed the protective paper, and it's hard to frame the picture so that unwanted reflections don't appear in your image.  But, when you can get it framed right, and if you can keep the lint away (this would be easier if I didn't have a cat), the results can be pretty darned cool.

And then there are the two books that were listed in the "Customers Also Bought" section.  I wasn't ready to buy either of them, but curious, I wrote them down and borrowed them from the library.

The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos by Heidi Adnum, is geared quite specifically towards
people interested in selling on Etsy or other online craft sites, though it's suggestions are also suited for print catalogs. While The Crafter's Guide includes a brief introduction to photography, its focus is on storytelling. How to use backgrounds, props and lighting to create an emotional response to your work with separate chapters for fashion fabrics, bags & purses, knitting & needlework, jewelry, dolls & toys, art, ceramics, home accessories and books & stationery. As an added bonus, each chapter ends with a case study of an artist working in the field.

older photo with very short depth of field

For me, this was the more engaging of the two books, despite its less interesting cover and some odd feeling that I 'ought' to be more interested in the other. Its sections on camera settings are deceptively thorough. I say deceptive, because the language is simple enough that even someone like me who has always shied away from the mechanics of camera settings felt reassured and capable of experimentation. 

I especially enjoyed the section on depth of field - what range of the photograph is brought into the strongest focus and how this can affect the feel of the photograph.  Heidi also showed a number of ways you can use black paper to reflect shadows just as you can use white paper to reflect light.  Definitely something I want to play with.  This is a book I plan to add to my library. 

At first glance, Photographing Arts Crafts & Collectibles by Steve Meltzer, is far more focused on the style of photography used for submission to shows, where the focus is entirely on showcasing the pieces itself, its details and workmanship with only minimal emphasis, at most, to storytelling.

Photographing Arts seems to be designed as a manual for those who really want to get to know their cameras, and goes into far more detail on specifics such as apertures, white balance and depth of field.  Since I'm mostly a point and shoot sort of girl, I found these details a little intimidating.

I did get some good ideas from the book and the photography featured in the book is excellent.  I f your primary focus is shooting jury shots, then this might be the book for you, but it I think this is one I'm happy checking out of the library. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm Gonna Teach in Texas

Corset & Stays beaded beads, Saturday October 27th
The class signups for Bead Fest Texas went live yesterday, including my two evening classes!  Woo hoo!  Time for a happy dance.  Even better, for today at least, my Lacework Bracelet is one of their featured workshops.  How cool is that?
Both of my classes are right angle weave, no peyote stitch.  I have to laugh a little at the irony in that.   Luckily right angle weave is my second most favorite stitch (and combines beautifully with peyote stitch).  Besides the Lacework Bracelet, I'll also be teaching my right angle weave Corset and Stays spoke beads on Saturday, October 27th.  Definitely one of those you-can't-stitch-just-one sorts of patterns.

It's likely just me, but ever since I got the news back in February that I'd be teaching in Texas this fall, I periodically find myself humming a certain tune....  

And for those looking for little freeform peyote, I'll be teaching my Freeform Ruffles class again here in Seattle on June 10th at Fusion Beads.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Wonderful Little Surprise

Mandala beaded earrings by Christine Altmiller
Came home yesterday to find a surprise package waiting, stuffed inside my mailbox.  I knew I hadn't ordered anything, so I assumed at first that it must be for my husband. Nope, it was addressed to me!    Inside, I found these little beauties from Christine over at One Kiss Creations.

Stunned and delighted, I immediately put them on and wore them for the rest of the day.  And let me tell you, they are fun to wear!  While they look substantial, they're actually really light and they have a great swing.  Every time I turned my head, I could feel them, doing a happy little dance on the end of their tethers. And they have to be one of the best uses of the little peanut beads I've seen.

Christine also included some fun, funky beads that reminded her of fish tails.  Hmmmm....

Thank you Christine!  You definitely made my day!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Finally Posted Some Earrings to Etsy

Infinity Spirals, freeform peyote earrings
I finally posted a number of my earrings to my Etsy shop, some from last summer and some from the January challenge.

The real key has been figuring out how to take better photos.  It's funny, but I've had more far trouble photographing earrings than any of my other jewelry, especially for Etsy.

To make it worse, the stone backgrounds which look fine for photos here on my blog just didn't look right in my Etsy store, where most of the more polished photos seem to have white-on-white backgrounds.  Something I've had terrible trouble with.

So here a few of my new shots that I took yesterday; what do you think?

Leaf Fringe earrings
I really like how the background dissappears in this shot.  You can just make out the white goblet from which they're hanging.  I took it as a partial side shot to show their dimensionality.

Quinacridone Rose, this is one of my favorite shots
Night Lanterns, freeform peyote beading
The backgrounds for the last two are hand crocheted doilies from my husband's grandmother, one made by her grandmother.  I don't bring them out very often, so it felt really good to use them here.

And here's a screenshot of my updated Etsy store.  I love how all of the backgrounds (except my two tutorials) match - a much cleaner look than I've had previously.  And the earrings actually show up reasonably well in the thumbnails!  I consider that in itself a breakthrough.  What do you think?

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Create Badge of Courage

Cabochon by Shelly Gillmann, beading by yours truly
Just finished up my taxes yesterday - woo hoo! Done for another year. The grand total came to 46 pages of forms and worksheets. Since that's now done, I headed back to my bead table to complete another, much more fun project, inspired by my Capturing Cabochons/Beaded Bezel class this Sunday.  I always like to have at least one completely fresh and new sample ready.  So here it is - the Create Badge of Courage.  All it needs is a pin back sewn to the beaded 'ribbon' above and it will be ready for service.

I shared the cabochon, made my friend and fellow artist Shelly Gillmann in an earlier blog post.  I ended up using only a subset of the beads selected for the project.  I like they way they echo the colors and even the textures in the cabachon itself.  One of the other ladies at my open studio brought the antique glass glitter, which Shelly made wonderful use of in this piece. 

Stages of work

Originally, I thought I'd turn the cab into either a pendant or a simple brooch.  By the time I finished the back, I knew I didn't want to cover any of it up with a pin back.  That would just disrupt the flow.  But I really liked the idea of it as a brooch. 

And with its stamped command/message/motto, it seemed almost too adamant for a pendant.  Then I had the idea of suspending it from a ribbon and turning it into a 'medal'.  Yes!

Originally I'd intended to use regular right angle weave for the ribbon, but as soon as I started filling the center, that fell by the wayside.  Regular raw increases would be much cleaner and symmetrical, as opposed to the slightly wonky ribbon I ended up with.  Since I stitched the ribbon on after, using entirely new thread, I can always cut it off and try again.  But I think I'll let it stand as is for now.  Creativity can be a little wonky.

Now all I need is a pin back and It will be done (that's why there's still a thread hanging - I thought of cutting it off for the picture, but then I'd just have to start a new one to finish the piece.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

What I've Been Working on

I haven't posted anything about my own work for a while, largely because I seem to be much better at starting than finishing things right now.  As I packed up my bead box for the day yesterday, I grabbed a snapshot and thought I'd share a few of the things that I'm working on right now.

I am always amazed at just how many projects can fit in one medium sized box.

Slowly shading towards magenta
The top row mostly holds the beads for my latest Lacework bracelet, which shades from Quinacridone Magenta to Pthalo Turquoise.  The bracelet itself is nearly half way along and is hiding under the beads.  It doesn't have a name yet, though the colors in their little baggies remind me of Mardi Gras. 

Extra thread wound on card to keep it from tangling
 I have supplies for two, maybe three projects in the next row.  There are my wedding fish, so named because they started life on the way to my cousin's wedding.  I'd selected the beads to make a bridal lacework bracelet, but somehow fish emerged again.  I still have enough beads left over for that bracelet, however.  And then I'd have a bracelet with matching fish! 

 I also have this awesome cabachon that my friend and fellow seed beader, Shelly Gillman made last summer during my open studio evenings, working with concrete and resin.  My captured cabochons class is coming up in just over a week, so I thought I'd make a new sample. 

The strand of beads on the side is my test strand - what I think I'll be using.  More than I'd normally use to simply capture a cabochon, so this may well turn out to be a complete necklace, not just a pendant.  We will see what happens as we stitch.

And that's just half of the box! But it seems I've run out of time for writing - Wormwood's shouting for his breakfast and it's time to get going. So there's a little look at what I have cooking. Soon I'll have more to share.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Freeform Peyote Bracelets by Two of my Friends

Freeform Peyote Ruffles by Jennifer Engstfeld
I always love to see what others come up with, working with freeform peyote.  The more freeform peyote the better.  I especially love it when they allow me to take pictures and share them.  Today I have two pieces from two very different artists to share with you.

The first is a wonderful freeform ruffles bracelet by Jennifer Engstfeld.  Her color scheme was inspired by my Spanish Dancer bracelet, but the ruffling is all her own.  Jennifer makes far greater use of size 8 seed beads than I typically do, and uses a lighter tension, both of which gives her bracelet a supple, cloth-like feeling that mine definitely does not have.

And I have to call out a special thanks to Jennifer for helping to round up students for my class as well - Thank you! 

Here are a couple more shots of her bracelet, to help you get a better feel. 

Jennifer Engstfeld's bracelet laid out flat - love the dimensionality!

I love the whimsy of Jennifer's button, too!

The colors in the next bracelet by Jennifer Porter were inspired by the subtle colors of early spring in either the Squamish Slough.  I love her subtle use of color - and some of the surprises, like the transparent peridot seed beads with the  blush pink center.  Gorgeous.

The first picture is so you can see the full length, then I tried to get closer to share the details.  Jennifer does a lot of what she calls "organized freeform"; starting with a band of standard peyote and then embellishing heavily over the top.  This is her first 'freeform from the get-go' piece.

Freeform Peyote bracelet by Jennifery Porter

Freeform Peyote bracelet by Jennifer Porter

So, do you have any freeform beading that you'd like to share? Let me know and send me a picture or a link and the story behind the piece.