Studio Musings

Monday, January 30, 2012

Latest Works in Progress

Bracelet started in yesterdays class
Had a smaller class yesterday teaching Freeform Ruffles at Fusion Beads with only six students.  One of the things I love about the store is that as long as a class has four students, they let it run (at least for their local classes - not sure what they do with out of town intructors).  The smaller class size is really nice because I feel like I have more time to give each student individual attention.  

Since it's a freeform class, everyone gets to decide what type of project they want to make; they all chose to start on bracelets.  With six hours of class time, I warned that they'd likely be able to complete a smaller project like a pair of earrings or pendant, but would only get a good start on a larger project like a bracelet. My dream is to one day teach this as a two-day workshop.  The first day we'd cover the basic technique and structure, the second would give us time to look at all the various nuances of finishing a piece.  The design work that you don't really get to until you're well into the project.

Lamp worked bead by StudioJuls
Since I only had one day, I had to cram it all in to the time available.  Hopefully in an organized fashion.  I can only stitch so fast in a class setting, so right now I have several different works in progress I put together to show various stages of construction (in addition to the samples that will never be more than samples).  

Besides the bracelet I started in class, I have a pendant/brooch that's somewhere in the mid-stage of construction.  It's designed to show adding a focal bead, building alternate bead paths with bridges, and softening the blunt ends of the peyote stitch.  The focal bead is by Julianna Cannon of StudioJuls. I stung it with size 8 beads to either side, solving one of the potential problems of incorporating lampworked beads into seed beading.  Their larger center holes tend to swallow the smaller size 11s whole. The colors for this piece are drawn entirely from the focal.  While in the final design the blue/green/lavender will dominate, I'm drawing some darker lines first with the dark chocolaty, matte beads for contrast, though for some reason they look much lighter in the photograph.  Hmm...

Nearly finished
And I have this bracelet that's just a hair's breath away from completion.  I need to add the button, but before I do that, I need to decide if it is really and truly done.  Do any of the sections need more ruffling?  Do I want to add an accent edge of the shiny red rust beads to the central red ruffle?  Do I want to add a new bead bridge and potentially a whole new ruffle to the narrow edge (at the left of the square beads in the photo below)?  Or do I like the contrasting widths along the length of the bracelet?  It's the perpetual question of when exactly is an abstract piece 'done' and there's no definite right or wrong answer to any of them except that a paper clip is not an acceptable closure.

Trying to decide if the ruffles need more ruffling

Today and tomorrow, I'm focusing on earrings - two more days of my earring challenge and I'm so far behind it's just sad.  Can I complete 31 designs in 31 days?  It's not looking good, but we'll give it a shot.   Then, come February, I think it will be time for focus on several UFOs, including these three.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ongoing Inspiration

Elaine's bracelet almost complete
I'm terribly behind with almost everything at the moment, including my blogging, having lost the better part of this past week to a series of migraine level headaches.  Now that I have a functioning brain again, it's time to play catch up!  

The monthly Seedbeader's meeting last Sunday was packed - everyone so happy to actually be able to make it out of their own driveways after the weird week of snow and ice and snow and well, you get it.  Debbie Johnson shared the pattern for a beautiful bangle bracelet made with seed beads, pearls and crystals.  She was incredibly well organized and a fantastic presenter.  

Jody McGrath's Treasure Pouch, taught by Mary Irvine
Despite the festive atmosphere, there was a bittersweet flavor to the day, as this was the first meeting without one of our long time members, Mary Irvine.  I regret that I had just barely begun to get to know Mary personally, but I know that she was a woman of incredible talent and energy.  She was so incredibly involved with the Bead Society, and I've heard with the local basketry guild as well.  In early October she was busy with the Bead Society's annual Bazaar (which is much bigger than the name might imply) and in late October she taught at the annual Beaders' Retreat.  Few there knew that she was feeling poorly.  In November, she was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer and she was gone before Christmas.

Georgia McMillan's creations inspired by Mary's class
Her inspiration still remains, just listening to the women who knew her.  And more tangibly, in the pieces that have developed from the inspiration of her last class, making a beaded treasure pouch with waxed linen thread.  Many of the women who had taken her workshop brought their finished pieces to our December meeting.  Unfortunately, I was so busy photographing examples for upcoming meetings and the challenge entries, I didn't get a chance to photograph any of the pieces on the general display table before people packed up to go home.  

Georgia McMillan
This time around, I snapped shots of the works by two of our members, Georgia McMillan and Jody McGrath.  Jody's piece is a direct interpretation from the class, while Georgia McMillan combined Mary's inspiration with her own finger knotting techniques, using the class as an ongoing source of inspiration for an entire body of work.  

Georgia McMillan's finger knotting

And next month, Georgia will be sharing her finger knotting technique with the group focusing on the basic techniques - the knots, how to add beads, how to create the loop. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Updating my Website

Screenshot from my updated gallery page
One of my 2012 resolutions is to update my website more regularly.  In the past, it has sometimes been pretty hit or miss.  Since I've been stuck inside the past few days - it seemed like the perfect time to make a stab at this project.  Since Sunday we've had snow, rain, more snow followed by freezing rain,  then more snow and they're predicting more ice tonight.  This is definitely not typical Seattle weather!

So, what did I update?  Thanks for asking!

I added six new pieces to my Beadwork Gallery.   If you frequent my blog you've likely seen most of these pieces before, but there are brand new pictures for several of them.  And to delight the techie in me,  if you resize your monitor, the page should seamlessly adjust so that there are anywhere from two to four images per row to fit the width of your window.  (At least this works on Internet Explorer and Firefox - I'll need to check other browsers later, when I'm not pooped!)

Screenshot from my new project page
Under Projects, I added detailed instructions for right angle weave.  I started with my earlier blog post, but edited text, added an extra diagram for Row 1, and included information on increases and decreases. 

I consider all of the project pages on my website working drafts, but I think this one's in pretty good shape.

Then I figured out how to do something I've wanted to do for ages.  Thanks to, I finally figured out how to add an RSS feed of my blog posts to my website.  Up until now, I've hand-coded these links, which meant they could get quite out of date very quickly.

I also added Facebook "like" links to all of my project and gallery pages.  Right now most of them say "Be the first of your friends to like this", except for my Right Angle Weave page, which I clicked, just to see what it would do.  Beyond that, I tried to generally clean things up and make it easier to navigate through the site.  If you decide to check it out, let me know what you think!  

And to close out, here's the little guardian I made earlier this week, with the snow from our porch stairs. 

Cheers from snowy, icy Seattle!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Trusting the Process (when inspiration does not strike)

My travel box this time around
Right about now I'm wondering what I was thinking when I decided to create thirty one pairs of earrings in thirty one days.  Each day that I manage to sit down at the beading table, I find my mind a blank.  Reading through many of my fellow artists' recent blog posts, I know I'm not alone.  In fact, Sarah over at Saturday Sequins just finished a two-part post on her solutions to this problem

I started the month in another state, with grand plans and a very compact travel box stocked with a small selection of beads.  Working with what I had while trying to come up with designs, I could console myself that it would get easier when I got home. 

Once home, I lost that excuse.  Plenty of others I could use - trying to get the house back in order after the trip, year end accounting, the cold that has plagued my husband for nearly a month and seems to be revisiting me.  However I want to couch it, inspiration keeps slipping out the door and around the corner.  I can catch glimpses out of the corners of my eyes, but as soon as I turn to look at it face on, I lose it.

One of my favorite complimentary combinations
So I'm having to relearn to trust the process.  I'm good with color; that's one of my strengths.  I'm not afraid of it, and have always been willing to take chances.  And if I'm truly at a loss, like I have been lately, I can always refer back to my book of painted pages.  Hours and hours of work, painting out tints and shades, analogous and complimentary colors using acrylic paints - another one of those projects I used to fill time while waiting for inspiration.  An amazing resource for days like these.   

My hands know what to do, once I settle on a stitch.  Perhaps we'll use peyote stitch this time I tell myself (yes, I talk to myself - too many hours alone in the studio ;-)  ).  We'll work around a couple of larger beads, with graduated sizes of seed beads.  That could work.   I thread the needle, pick up my first line of beads.  Doesn't look like much.  But I keep stitching, employing technique where inspiration fails.  But the interesting thing is, inspiration seems to back flow in as I work. Maybe, just a little.  Time to keep stitching. 
Process photos - mix of freeform peyote and right angle weave
More process photos - freeform peyote stitch from Day 10
I wonder what will appear tomorrow....

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guest Post on The Book Designer

Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer, whom I met at Pitch 2.0 back in December, asked me to write about my experiences self-publishing a craft book through Createspace.  

He wanted to know why I decided to do it myself, the kinds of obstacles I encountered, and what role the book plays in my overall marketing of myself as an artist and artisan.  The first question I'd touched on before, but the last made me really think about both what I'd hoped to achieve when I wrote embarked upon the project and how that has changed in the year since its publication.

Thank you Joel for the opportunity, and for making me think through these questions.  Working on the answers helped me to focus on what I hope to achieve in 2012 as well. 

The post went live yesterday!  If you're interested, click here to check it out! 

Earrings from Freeform Peyote Beading - not part of this month's challenge

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blogging Away from Home

Screenshot - Blogger iPad interface
I have this dream of blogging while traveling using only my iPad2, rather than having to lug around my antiquated and heavy laptop.

It seems like it -should- be a simple dream, but Blogger's web interface for the iPad leaves much to be desired. I'm forced to work in HTML mode to type my posts (no visual editing) and in many cases I'm forced to add coding by hand.   Even where I don't have to add the code myself, I find that all the markup makes it difficult to see what I've actually written.

The image at left is a screenshot of the Blogger interface on the iPad. 

But worse than dealing with the HTML mode has been finding an easy way to upload and place photos from my iPad. This is impossible through Blogger.  The screen looks like it should work, but doesn't.  Back in the spring, before our Alaskan cruise, I purchased a camera connection kit to easily load photos from my camera and iPhone to my iPad. That worked, but Blogger on the Internet could not find my camera roll. It simply didn't work like a laptop. I finally figured out that I could upload the photo to Flickr, then link to it from there, if I could figure out the exact web address for the image (not the page), but that's too complex to be easy!

Last week I used the iPhone app 'Blogger' in writing my last post for 2011.  It allowed me to add an image directly to Blogger from my iPad or iPhone, but with only the most basic formatting, and no control over placement. Once it was placed with the Blogger app, I could bring it up in the Blogger web interface on my iPad.  There I could at least move it to where I wanted it in the text by copying and pasting the code, but I couldn't change its alignment (default is centered, with text above and below).  Nor could I add a caption without doing a lot more coding or copying and pasting from other blog posts (more than I was comfortable doing).  

So then I tried out Blogsy, a $5 app for the IPad. It does have a visual editor, as seen in my screenshot at left, though it's quite quirky when you start adding images. This paragraph ended up embedded in the image link and I had to go into the HTML code and copy, cut and paste to dig it back out, for instance.

I'm supposed to be able to able to drag and drop images around once their placed in the post, but that seems to do terrible, terrible things to the code, which I then have to fix.   Also I can align photos to the left, but when I try to align them to the right, the surrounding text follows suit. Not so good.  And I still can't add captions. (I added the right alignments in Blogger borrowing my parents' computer - cheating a little.)
Screenshot uploading photo so I can use it in my post.
Blogsy does indeed link to my camera roll as promised. Sort of. Turns out you have to set up a Flickr, Wordpress or Picasa account, then when I open my camera roll I can drag the photos I want over to Flickr. Not ideal, as I don't necessarily want these screenshots in my Flickrstream. Why can't it simply upload to Blogger?

On the plus side, I have figured out how to transfer photos between my iPad and iPhone using iCloud, so that's a win.  But blogging on the go using my iPad is still not an easy prospect! 

So I'm still hunting for a better solution.  

A silly, but fun addition to the plus side: during the search for blogging software, I've found FrameMagic Lite, a fun photo app which lets me put together photo collages very quickly and very easily.  It took me a minute tops to make this collage of photos my niece Emme took of herself using Photobooth.  The longest part was choosing between the slew of images! 

FrameMagic Lite is free.  Their paid version would give me more layout options. 

So now, do any of you have favorite blogging software for the iPad or iPad2?  One's that let you add and manipulate images from your camera roll without uploading them first to Flickr or another online site?  Especially for Blogger?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

Book cover, Freeform Peyote Beading
2011 was an amazing year for me personally and professionally!  For the first six months Freeform Peyote Beading seemed to spend more time than not  in the top 100,000 books on Amazon (out of 8 million plus books). It even made the top 10,000 on two memorable occasions (accompanied by much celebrating once I stopped hyperventilating).

My blog which had come out of hibernation in the fall of 2010, took on a life of its own in 2011.  I discovered the amazing online community of beaders, with more opportunities for participation than I could take advantage of in several lifetimes.  But I had great fun with a couple of Art Bead Scene's monthly challenges and Lori Anderson's Bead Soup Party.  And I met some truly incredible people along the way.

Thank you all - you are what made 2011 so great!  

So now it's on to 2012. Can't wait to see what happens next.