Studio Musings

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Six Month Overhaul

It's amazing the things one ends up doing as a working artist.  This past week it's been website redesign.  Turns out the last time I sat down and really worked on my website,, was back in January, so it was definitely about time. 

A screenshot of TextWrangler in action
A screenshot of TextWrangler in action
I've been neck-deep in HTML and CSS (cascading style sheets) and even poked my toes at a little PHP.  Love the alphabet soup!  I always forget just how long it takes to make simple changes.  I spent three hours making little thumbnails for each of my classes and trying to get the markup and CSS to look right for my Classes & Workshops page.  Then I had to check on it in several browsers, to hopefully make sure there aren't any huge surprises. 

If you happen to have a Mac and are looking for some free text-editing software to work on web pages, I highly recommend TextWrangler by Bare Bones Sofware.   It does a beautiful job of contextual mark-up; color coding the code automatically so it's easier to read.  Looking at their website, it looks like I'm just barely touching the surface of its capabilities.  But back to my web redesign. 

My main goals for this overhaul were to:

Screenshot of Classes & Workshops page for
my new Classes & Workshops main page
Update Workshop pages - for some reason only a handful of the bead classes I've prepped to teach were actually listed.  Now I think I have them all there, divided into three sections that at least made sense to me - Freeform Peyote, Mixed Stitches and Right Angle Weave.  Also now have my current teaching schedule on the same page, rather than a separate calendar page. 

Update my Gallery pages, adding new work from 2012 and dividing my bead work into similar categories as the single page was growing too long.  Also, put my older fabric pieces into gallery archives (they say never delete anything from your website - along these lines one of my most popular pages is on how to set up for freemotion embroidery with your sewing machine).  The main Gallery page is still a little stark - I expect I'll add something to it, just not quite sure what at this point.  Suggestions are welcome!

Make it easier to find my Kit & Tutorial listings. This was mainly a matter of playing with different names for the navigation link, and adding a few more pages to my website detailing out what I have available.  Right now, I have detailed information about my tutorials and kits on my website, but I'm only selling them through Etsy.  I have a Paypal account, so hope to sell through shortly, but I want to make sure I have all the various issues sorted out first.

If you do direct sales through Paypal via your website, I'd love to talk to you about your experiences. 

Redo my Home Page.  The main page is far and away the most difficult to design, at least for me.   Other pages have a specific purpose:  Galleries, Classes, etc.  The main page needs to be a little bit of everything to everyone, an introduction page and an easy path deeper into the site.  So I ended up trying several different home pages.

Screenshot of old home page for
The old homepage for Skunk Hill Studio

Screenshot of trial home page for
Take one on the new homepage for Skunk Hill Studio - too much text?
Screenshot of new home page for
New Home Page, less text, blog feed & gallery links above the fold

So there it is, my new home page.  I now have the RSS feed for my blog above the fold (and discovered that RSSinclude (the service I used to add my blog's RSS feed to my website) now offers additional styling options, so I took advantage of that as well.  Also moved the gallery page links to fill the space to the right of my Fall class schedule.  Reminds me a little of the front page of the newspaper, with a headline image, then lots of smaller links to other places on the site (Lacework Leaves, read more on page 3).  :)

I've tested it in a number of different browsers, but if you happen to stop by and notice anything really wonky, would you let me know?  It's amazing the differences that can happen when CSS is involved!  And thanks for letting me share!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday - The Thursday Edition

I actually finished something for a change!  Lately it feels like everything's a work in progress, but yesterday I put the finishing touches on this beauty.

The seed beads are Czech glass with that rainbow finish I love as it reminds me of copper patinas on metal.  I paired the seed beads with some lovely, deep purple Chinese crystals with flashes of the same orange/pink/golds. 

 One of the biggest challenges was deciding on what button I wanted to use to finish off the piece.  I could have gone one of three ways:

The colors couldn't have matched more perfectly

The purples in the Czech glass compliment the crystals

Two little tropical fish - metal enameled buttons

 So what did I end up going with you ask? 

Swimming in their own coral reef garden

The tropical fish won the day!  The blue Czech glass might be a more elegant finish - better suited perhaps to a formal dinner out.  The butterfly would have been simply beautiful.  But I loved the fun and sass of these little guys. 

I just added it to Etsy this morning: this is my first bracelet I've actually added for sale there.  Several friends have been pushing me to list some of my larger pieces (besides just earrings) on the site.  Their suggestion is to think of it as a portfolio of my work.  I'm hoping/planning to add additional larger pieces over the next several weeks.  We'll see how it goes. 

I've also added a listing for kits in this color way, so you could make your own private coral reef.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two and a Half Months - NW Seedbeaders

This past Sunday was the NW Seedbeader's Group; one of my absolute favorite days of the month.  Last month I taught my Corset Beads, and this month several people brought their finished beads back for me to see and share.  I just love seeing what other people do!

Corset & Stays Beaded Bead by Ellen Lambright
Ellen Lambright added an extra row of triangle beads to each edge

I find these little beauties hard to photograph because it always seems like the eye can see so much more of the whole than the camera can capture.  I tried to compensate with multiple camera angles and shots!

Corset & Stays beaded bead by Constance Miteo-Johnson
Constance Miteo-Johnson's reminds me of a 4th of July UFO

Connie's triple rows of drop beads created a fun, elliptical effect which reminded me of UFOs and pinwheels. 

Corset & Stays beaded bead by Bonita Kroon
Aren't Bonita Kroon's colors striking? 

Bonnie plans to combine her corset bead with the N'debele rope Deanna Raabe shared for this month's program into a larger piece.  She was playing with different ideas for adding splashes of the brighter orange and gold into her rope. 

N'debele necklace by Tamera Mickelson
N'debele rope by Tamera Mickelson with lamworked focal
Tamera Mickelson brought this necklace as another sample of N'debele rope, made with size 11 triangle beads.  One of the keys seems to be making sure you get the triangle beads with the sharp, rather than rounded, edges.

And since I didn't have time to do any photography last week, I invited people to bring back their completed amulet bags from June.

Vicki Nelson's amulet bag
Vicki Nelson's amulet bag

Bonita Kroon's "Geek" bag (amulet bag)
Bonita Kroon's "Geek" bag
Bonnie called hers a "Geek" bag because she discovered it's perfectly sized to hold a thumb drive.  How cool it that?

So there you have it; three month's of Seedbeaders' meetings. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kreativ Bloggers

While I don't have nearly as much time to read blogs as I'd like, I could easily name a couple dozen bloggers who have inspired me since I first truly discovered the blogging community.  Here are a few of my favorites:

detail of Shirley's take on Helena Tang-Lim's Nefertiti necklace
detail of Shirley's take on Helena Tang-Lim's Nefertiti necklace
First up is Shirley Moore over at Beads and Bread.  She was the first person (besides my very dear husband) to hit the little "Follow" button on the side of my blog.  That nearly blew me away - someone I didn't know and had never met had actually found my blog interesting enough to want to return!  Following her profile back to her blog, I found an amazing woman and a great friend.  What strikes me most about Shirley is her enthusiasm and determination to try totally new techniques and make them her own.  And every once in a while she shares pictures of her amazing baking.  Really makes me wish we lived closer!

The next three have already received Kreativ Blogger awards from other bloggers, but they're at the top of my list too.

Sarah's beaded/sequined cuff
Sarah's beaded/sequined cuff
I am in awe of Sarah 'Sequin's' bead embroidery over at Saturday Sequins.  She's also gotten into freeform peyote, which catches me every time, and of course, there's the sequins!  Her blog truly is my regular dose of "sparkle and shine".

Beyond her beading, Sarah's incredibly articulate posts about the nature of creativity - including it's pitfalls and hurdles - remind me that while I might work by myself, I'm not alone.

From Bobbie's post "Packing Daggers"
Bobbie Rafferty at Beadsong Jewelry never fails to make me smile, and often makes me laugh outright with her warm humor and incredible story telling.  Wonder what I'm talking about?  Check out her response to receiving a Kreativ Blogger award.  And I can't end a paragraph about Bobbie with out mentioning hats - big, bold, lovely, Derby hats.  At least once a year, she feeds my hunger for all things millinery. 

Christine Altmiller's the one who gave me the Kreativ Blogger award (and handed me this challenge).  Even if she hadn't, she'd definitely be on my list.  Check her blog out at One Kiss Creations

Binary Dreams by Jim Downey
Binary Dreams by Jim Downey

Taking a swing in an entirely different direction, there's Jim Downey's blog, Communion of Dreams.  As the author and co-author of two very different books (science fiction & a caregiver's memoir/guidebook for caring for family members with dementia), and a professionally trained book and document conservator,  Jim brings his unique perspective to his blog, sharing candid looks into his life as a writer, craftsperson, artist and independent author. 

If you've ever considered self-publishing, then I highly recommend Joel's Friedlander's blog, The Book Designer.  His extremely popular blog covers everything from the art and craft of book design, to publishing, marketing, promotions - you name it!  His archives are an incredible resource.

City Celebration by JJ Jacobs
City Celebration by JJ Jacobs
I met JJ Jacob's a little over a year ago, when we were paired for Lori Anderson's Bead Soup blog party and we've been friends ever since.  Equally talented as both a painter focusing in abstract acrylics and as a glass artist, what I think I love most about her blog, Coming Abstractions, (besides the wonderful photos of her work) is her down-to-earth practicality.  Last year, she left her successful business career to launch her career as an artist, using every skill, contact and strength she developed over her years in the corporate world.  I am in awe of her drive and her ability to make her career a success. 

Since I just mentioned her above, now's a good time to name Lori Anderson.  As the instigator and coordinator for the Bead Soup Challenge and Blog Parties, Lori's responsible for introducing me to more beading bloggers than anyone else I can name.  Her blog, Pretty Things, has to be one of the most popular beading blogs out there, for good reason.  The generosity of Lori's spirit knows no bounds.  Neither does her creativity!

Andrea Donnelly

And last on my list is Andrea Donnelly over at Little Fool: (a small business romance).  I met Andrea at Penland School of Crafts back in 2008, where she took an 8-week Iron Working class.   Here's a blog post from my archives with her decked out in protective gear for an Iron Pour (there's also video of the pour).

Outside of Penland, Andrea is an incredible fiber artist, dyer and weaver and her blog follows her studio and business.  Her latest post, entitled Studio Textures, is a lush photo essay of fibers, textures and color.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Okay, I'll bite

Years before I started Baublicious, my husband blogged. He was one of that first wave of bloggers, and even attended regular meetups here in the Seattle area. I thought that was one of the weirdest things I'd ever heard - lots of people who wrote about totally different things getting together to what? Type together? Well, the last laugh is definitely on me as I've now taken over the role of active blogger in our household, and have attended my own share of various types of meetups.

Unfortunately, most of my blogging friends live no where nearby, but are scattered around the country and around the globe. Wish I were rich enough to travel around and visit them all! In the meantime, seeing my name pop up on a friend's blog is almost as exciting as an actual visit. I do a happy dance, drag my husband over to the computer to show him, smile like a loon and generally carry on. Now that you have that visual, you can imagine my delight when Christine over at One Kiss Creations named me (and nine others) a Kreative Blogger. Woo hoo! Thank you Christine - you are truly the best! And I absolutely love that you thought of me. 

The thing is, it's a little like one of those chain letters - where I'm supposed to  name ten bloggers who inspire me and they're each supposed to name ten who inspire them, and so on. You're also supposed to write seven things about yourself that people might not already know.  (See how I tried to distance myself from that with the third person?  Hmm)

And I found myself with a conundrum: this reminds me a bit too closely of one of those chain letters that I make a point of not forwarding.  But I think the idea is cool; an interesting challenge.  With hardly a thought I came up with ten people I'd love to name, so I decided to give it a go.  If you're on my list, you can perpetuate this thread or not as you wish, but know that I think you truly rock!

The harder part was coming up with seven odd facts about myself (besides the one's I already listed above), so I started there.  Here goes:

1) I'm a Valley Girl. Literally. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley when Valley Girls were the rage. But I never could talk like a proper valley girl. Very sad at the time. Much rejoicing in retrospect.

2) While I dearly love my family, I hated LA and escaped the day after I turned 18, running away to college. Where'd I go? To a teeny tiny college in Iowa called Grinnell in an equally tiny town of the same name. It's an amazing school, and several of the people I met on my very first day of college are still my friends today.

3) I majored in Russian - language, literature, culture and history. I spent the first semester of my senior year in Moscow. I thought I was headed to the Soviet Union, but my flight was delayed by a little politcal unrest called the coup. I flew out three days later instead and arrived in Russia. The tanks were gone, but there were still baracades in the streets that first week. So I got to watch the transition first hand from my dorm on Octoberskaya Ploshad (October Square) in the heart of the city.

4) When I was a child, the doctors feared I'd be blind by the time I was an adult because my vision was failing so rapidly. I needed a new prescription every six months or so. For most of my life, my nightmares revolved around just that - I'd dream that I was trying to read a book and all the text would disappear from the page. Or that while hiking on a mountain I'd lose my glasses, not be able to see them to find them, get dizzy, and fall off the mountain.

By my late 20s, I was nearly legally blind even with my glasses. I started beading (with seed beads) during that time because my mother-in-law was a beader, I loved the colors, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could. I still thread my needle more by feel than by sight.

5) A little over ten years ago, I had my own personal miracle in the shape of a series of eye surgeries, which restored my vision. I am still almost completely night blind, and I have crazy, fluctuating depth perception. But I can SEE! I can SEE! And just typing that makes me so happy I could cry.

Thank you Mom and Dad for pushing me to have the surgery, even when it scared me half to death!

6) I love Disney. I know a lot of people have a lot of issues with the company, and I can agree with many of them. But I have a different sort of relationship with Disney. Growing up in LA, my Dad worked for Imagineering - the division that designs the Parks. Going to work with him meant peeking into the costume shops, seeing animatronics put through their paces in the warehouse, visiting the model shop, looking through pages and pages of story boards. It was like drinking from the fire hose of creativity. And when I visit the parks that's what I see - all those amazing, wonderful artists and craftspeople and the magic they create. Anything seems possible.

7)  Leaving LA, I swore I'd never live in a big city again. Well, it's been almost eleven years since our move to Seattle, and I can't imagine another place I'd rather be. Guess not all big cities are the same. I especially love our summers. It's supposed to be HOT today - all the way up to 81F! But it's 64 right now, as I sit typing this at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop and that feels about perfect. Yes, we're all heat wimps here. :)

This post is already too long and I've run out of time, so I'm going to break it into two parts and give you my honor roll list tomorrow so that I can do it up right.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday - Hooray! Tomorrow I'll be Listing my New Bead Tutorial on Etsy

Corset & Stays Beaded Bead Tutorial, page sample
Sample page from Corset & Stays tutorial
At long last, it's almost done!  Tomorrow morning I'll finally be able to list my Corset, Caps & Stays beaded bead pattern on Etsy.  This pattern underwent considerable scope creep, from covering just my Corset & Stays beaded beads, to also including a basic right angle weave beaded bead and my Caps & Stays beaded beads.  They're all variations on the same riff, so it made sense in my mind.

Then I thought I'd add an 'idea gallery' page of ways to dress up the simple beaded bead.  Which meant stitching more beads as I found I'd given away or sold most of my inventory without photographing them, or didn't have the 'right' photos.  Ouch!

The idea gallery expanded from one page to three, each showcasing a different bead pattern with project notes and diagrams.

Sample page - right angle weave
Sample page - right angle weave
And of course I included a primer on right angle weave - the basic stitch, a simple decrease, two different increases and how to join two separate sections.  While I have a free primer on my website, I went through and added additional diagrams, and completely reworked the text based upon feedback I'd received.  My goal was to cram as much information and tips as possible into each page while still making it appealing to look at and easy to read. 

Sample pages from Corset & Stays Beaded Bead Tutorial
My own little 'Look Inside' sneak peaks
The final pattern's 25 pages, designed very similarly to my book, with over ninety full color photographs and diagrams.  I'm currently going through one final proof, checking for consistency and any glaring typos.

I've worked on it at the studio and at home, at several different coffee shops, the library and even the local donut shop.  Anywhere that had power and would let me sit for a few hours to work.  I haven't added up all my time yet, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to as that's always a little daunting.  I know I am ready to put this project aside for a while and move on to something else.  But at the same time, I'm so pleased with how it's turning out!  And it's interesting just how much I've learned in the process.  Trying to explain it to someone else, really makes you codify your knowledge.

One last push to go!  Tomorrow morning, I'll finish up this round of proofing (there's always more possible to do) and then I can list this puppy on Etsy!  Followed shortly thereafter by kits.  Almost there....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Ingredients for Bead Soup

Bead Soup package from Judy Riley
Have ingredients, time to start working on the recipe
I absolutely adore receiving packages in the mail!  And yesterday's package from my Bead Soup partner Judy Riley was one of the best! 

I loved the way she packaged it - all done up in a bright summery party bag.  It even matched my summer table cloth!  And inside what did I find but over a half dozen individually wrapped packages.  The little kid in my scrambled forward and began tearing into the little guys.  It was a feeding frenzy at my house.  Luckily no one was there to see me as paper went flying and I chortled and crowed with each package I unwrapped.

So pretty!  You absolutely rock Judy!  Thank you!  Isn't that stone focal gorgeous?  I love the deep blues, and how they're offset by the cream and red/browns.

This is going to be so much fun!  Now I have a little over a month to come up with something (and to finish out several extant projects as well).

Lori Anderson is giving this Bead Soup mix away to one lucky person
In the meantime, Lori Anderson, our amazing Bead Soup hostess, has posted a giveaway to her blog.  The thing is, the giveaway is actually FIVE separate give-aways rolled into one.  First there's this lovely Bead Soup mix, with items from her stash and donated by several other amazing artists.

Four more give-aways from Lori Anderson
Four more give-aways from Lori Anderson
Then she's giving away copies of her two books - her upcoming book on Bead Soup published by Kalmbach Books, and her ebook on the art and craft of blogging, Follow the Path.  Lori's is one of my favorite blogs, with it's mix of humor, beads, and peaks into her life, mind and heart.  I know that there's a lot I could learn from her to improve my own blog and will definitely be picking up a copy of her ebook if I don't happen to win it on Friday. She's also giving away a Bead Soup tote bag and a Mystery Soup of her own creation. 

The drawing's this Friday, July 13th.  Hop on over to her blog if you'd like a chance to win.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Bead Soup Co-Chef

Lori Anderson's Bead Soup Blog Party: Our Reveal Date is August 25th
It's that time again.  Earlier this month I signed up for my third Bead Soup party.  For those of you just joining in, two to three times a year Lori over at Pretty Things, our hostess with the mostess, pairs participants from all over the world to participate in this challenge.  Then each pair exchanges a package of beads which we then must use to create a new piece.  The goal is to work outside your comfort zone with components you did not choose for yourself.  And to share in the fun of watching others do the same. 

This time around, I am fortunate enough to be paired with Judy Riley of Three Red Beads.  Judy's work has a wonderful, organic nature that appeals to me greatly, inspired as it is by the natural world.  A woman after my own heart! 

Mystery by Judy Riley with her paper beads
Mystery by Judy Riley with her paper beads
Absent from the designing and blogging community while she worked on her Masters degree, Judy's now back and ready to roll. 

Doing a little searching on her blog, I found this lovely piece at right.  Inspired by the song Mystery by the Indigo Girls, it includes her handmade paper beads; blue for the moon clouded, red for the sun, and yellow for the colors of summer. 

 When I asked how she'd gotten into beading, she replied, "I started out when I was young doing a lot of crafts like many other people, found and loved beads and have worked with them since."  Sound familiar?  It's interesting how for so many of us, an early introduction to crafts by a friend or family member made all the difference. 

Now we're both waiting (impatiently at least on my part) to receive our Bead Soup ingredients.  While we're not supposed to show what we've sent until our partner receives her package, we're encouraged to share teasers.  Just to whet the appetite you see. 

I fear that my teaser shows a bit more than it's supposed to, but I had so much fun working with my new filters and photo frames from Photoshop Express, I just had to share.  Don't look too closely Judy!  :)

In previous parties, I was paired with the amazing JJ Jacobs (an extremely talented abstract painter as well as glass worker and now one of my favorite online friends) and the lovely Kimberly Roberts.  If you're curious what I made back then, I suggest:

Stitch Until Done: my collaborative effort using JJ's lampwork beads.

A Little Underdone: a totally different look for my work, inspired entirely by Kimberly's fused glass focal. 

A Month and a Day:  When I finally finished the piece (story of my life - at least that time I could blame it partially on a hurricane!)

Working with both artists really made me stretch, finding ways to stay true to both of our artistic visions.  And that I think, sums up one of the major reasons I'm back yet again, for yet another cup of soup.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Performance, Feedback, Revision

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I attended a Science Luminaries series lecture featuring a number of big names in the field.  I'd bought the tickets for his birthday, and even managed to snag my husband the last of the VIP tickets which included a reception beforehand (I sat way up in the nosebleed seats with another friend).  So now he can say he's met Stephen Hawking.  Dr. Jack Horner had a fun lecture on his work to create a dinosaur (from a chicken) and Hawking's lecture was intriguing, but they're not what I'm going to talk about here today.

Baba Brinkman performing "Performance, Feedback, Revision"
Instead, my brain keeps returning to the artist, Baba Brinkman, and his Rap Guide to Evolution.  He performed twice during the evening, effectively opening and closing the show.  His opening act(song, lecture - what do you call it?) was his Rap Guide to Evolution, which was surprisingly fun.  Who knew I liked rap?  But it's his last rap of the evening "Performance, Feedback, Revision" that caught me; where he links evolution to performance art to every day life.

It made me feel better to think that not only am I not the only artist whose craft is a constant work in progress, but that maybe that's actually a wholly desirable trait.  I know these things, but I tend to spend so much time with revision, that sometimes it feels like that's the only thing I ever do.  Especially in my written work; I'm constantly looking for better ways to describe, illustrate or photograph key ideas or techniques.  When is enough enough?

Corset, Caps & Stays beaded beads with right angle weave by Karen Williams
there's a cap bead hiding in the right back corner
And right now, I'm heavily into the revision stage.  After the Seedbeader's meeting in June, I have lots of great feedback, and now I'm continuing to edit and produce my Corset & Stays Beaded bead tutorial.  It currently stands at twenty pages, the title is now, Corset, Caps & Stays, and includes stub pages for a basic beaded bead using right angle weave, my Corset beads, and their evil (or not so evil) twin the Cap bead.  All three are tied together so closely design & construction-wise that it seems to make sense to include them in one tutorial.  I think. 

Once I have a finished-looking product (see I don't say it's actually finished!) it will be time to seek more feedback by posting it for sale. My hope is to have version two done by the end of this week.  Keep your fingers crossed for me! 

Oh, and at the Seedbeader's meeting I discovered that many people didn't know why I called it a corset bead - it's because I stitch the middle band off of the base bead, then lace it on, just like you'd cinch a lady into her corset.  So much easier than trying to stitch on the base bead itself.