Studio Musings

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Girls Rule, Especially at Geek Girl Con


This weekend I took a side trip out of the regular world into the wonderful, amazing, zany world of Geek Girl Con.  A world of games, science, imagination and fun where women took center stage for a change. 

Panels ran the gamut from sneak peaks and hosted play for upcoming games, to in-depth looks at the demographics of various genres fan bases and their actual representation therein, to DIY science and art projects, to a panel on building realistic fake languages and hardcore STEM panels such as Droid Building 101: Build Your Own Astromech and Build Your Own 2G Phone With that last one, the first 20 participants participated in the workshop, everyone else was welcome to simply listen in. 

For myself, I ended up skipping most of the hardcore panels this time and settled into a schedule of make-and-takes and games, including a group story building workshop. 

Saturday opened with a little Betrayal at Baldur's Gate
Betrayal at Baldur's Gate starts as a territory exploration game.  You and your fellow explorers build the board a tile at a time, gathering loot, battling monsters and uncovering periodic mysteries as you go.  Until the game suddenly turns into a pitched battle or adventure game, where your party must learn to work together to defeat the threat.  Worse, it may turn out that one of your party members is a betrayer, in which case you must defeat them to win the game. 

The designers at Avalon Hill have written 50 different scenarios for the second half of the game - circumstances within the game determine which one you will face.  As far as I could tell, every table in the room was faced with a different scenario, which makes for great replay value. 

I was the only one at our table who hadn't played the earlier version, Betrayal at House on the Hill (totally non-D&D). We encountered a pve (player vs environment) scenario.  We lost spectacularly, but it was still a lot of fun.   If you're a long-time D&D fan, the game has the right feel.  If you've never played D&D before, it's a fun adventure game (according to tablemates who fell into this category).

D&D Dinosaur Races with the Adventurers' League
My appetite whetted for some real D&D, I stuck around to play a new adventure from Wizard's of the CoastsTombs of Annihilation.  Wizard's hosted a hands-on game.  Totally unexpected, they gave each of us participating a dice bag with dice.  At the end of the game, they surprised us again with free minies - we each received a random 4pack!   

Sunday, I joined the local branch of the Adventurer's League for another scenario.  My fellow players were a mom who'd never played before and a passel of tween girls who'd played for the first time the day before.  This time we got to go to the Dinosaur Races!  Complete with cool maps and minis perched on dinosaurs. 

I've also learned there are sort of two different organized, drop-in D&D groups around here - the Adventurers' League and Pathfinders.  I'm such a geek!

But enough gaming, I did attend a few panels, too.

The Force is Female panel speakers
My favorite thing, hands down, about all of the panels I attended?  The speakers were predominantly women, unlike most other cons I've attended where at best there's a token female panelist.

a photo from a PAX 2017 panel for comparison
Back to the GeekGirl panel, I fear that I didn't stay through the full talk.  I discovered I was no where near a hard-core enough fan.  I hadn't watched any of the auxiliary series they referenced and couldn't begin to match their level of analysis of the source base as they referred to characters and scenarios with which I am wholly unfamiliar.   

Even still, much of what they said resonated with me.  One of the panelists also happened to be an engineer.  She noted that in one scene (I think from Rogue One), there's a call for engineers and a bunch of guys come running.  Her question, 'Where are the women engineers?'  I had noticed this too; that while the new movies were getting better about female leads, they still had a long way to go including women in bit roles outside of female stereotypes. 

Speaking of Star Wars, I happened upon these wandering the halls:

Daleks and Droids wandering the halls
And I learned a few new crafting techniques, including a great one for making quick, inexpensive masks.

My mask is lower left, but other participants let me photograph theirs

My mask, at the lower left, is unpainted.  The woman who made the black one in the upper left corner designed hers to fit over her glasses!  How cool is that?  These were all made using tinfoil and masking tape, that's all except for the paint.  

Moro and San from Princess Mononoke
I'd say at least half of the attendees showed up in costume.  Many were of their favorite characters, like this fantastic duo from Princess Mononoke, but just as many were their own original designs.  I  wish I'd taken a photo of the member of the Women's Badminton Protection League, dressed in slightly steampunk, but very proper Victorian attire complete with a spiked badmitton racket and shuttlecock 'grenade'.  Instead, I was focused on taking a photo of the band playing just outside the windows.

Band busking just outside the conference center
Equally cool were the men who attended the con.  Men of all ages; fathers, brothers, sons, boyfriends and friends of women.  Having a blast.  I'd say the male to female ratio was the opposite of other cons I've attended such as PAX.  A refreshing change.  The con also seemed much more relaxed.   I kept finding myself wishing my sister and her boys were in Seattle - there were so many panels and workshops that seemed perfect for one or another of them. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Then End of An Era - Saying Goodbye to Fusion Bead's Seattle Store

After hours at Fusion Beads
Times, they are a'changing; last month I learned that Fusion Beads would be closing their Seattle store.   The end is almost here now; their final day will be this Saturday, September 30th. 

Talking with Mari, the founder and owner of Fusion Beads, it sounds like more and more customers, including locals, are simply shopping online, rather than visiting the store.  (The online store is going strong).

I remember discovering Fusion Beads soon after moving to Seattle in 2001.  I was simply a hobbyist beader at that point, and I'd never seen anything like it.  The colors, the beads, the possibilities.  I took my first ever 'beading' class there, on beginner wire wrapping.  I still have the bracelet I made in that class. 

Somewhere along the way, I began teaching for them - freeform peyote, my random right angle weave lacework cuffs, snowflakes, and every sort of fish design I came up with - in their fabulous classrooms.  I'm not even sure quite when I started, maybe 2011, maybe a little earlier?  I know that it's been at least five years, and that it's been a huge part of my life and my social community during that time.  As well as an amazing source for inspiration, and beads (did I mention beads?)

I stopped by Saturday and snapped a bunch of pictures, after the store closed for the day, which is why there are no people in my photos.   Because it's busy when it's open; everything in the store is half off, with deeper discounts for some items.  The walls are looking a little bare, but there's still so many amazing things, so much inspiration.  So many amazing, talented women working there.

Clearance items (last ofs) for 75% in these cardboard bins

still lots of beads hiding in their little white cubbies

Need any size 15s?  Still plenty of those left as of Saturday night!
I have to say that from my perspective, Mari has really been handling the closing process with class.  A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Trish, the store manager, offering all of their instructors first crack at the classroom tools and supplies before they went on sale for the general public.  I don't do a lot of metal working, but when I do I kind of make do in terms of tools.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity -  I now have a real set of metal working tools. 

My new-to-me tools!
But one of the coolest things Mari did was move their anniversary party up a little bit so that the store staff could participate, and included all of the instructors in the invitation list for a sunset cruise along Lake Union and Lake Washington.  Once last chance to glam up and hang out with the gang.

Sunset over the arboretum
A peak-a-boo view of Mt. Rainier from Lake Washington
Downtown Seattle from Lake Union - my camera had a little trouble with this night shot

a photo with our 'captain' while waiting to set sail
 Thank you Mari, for creating the go-to place in Seattle for beads, for encouraging me to experiment and grow as an artist in the medium, for so many wonderful memories.  I will definitely be visiting you online!

Do you have favorite memories of the Seattle store, or a class there?  If yes, please share below - I'd love to hear! 


Friday, September 22, 2017

Beading Again - Itty Bitty Little Fish

freeform bead embroidered fishes, stitched from left to right
This week I pulled out the beads for the first time in what seems like forever.  My goal was and is to make little fish pendants for some friends.  I pulled out a bunch of beads in blues, blacks and silvers, but from there I really didn't know where I wanted to go.  Instead, I simply started stitching. 

Which meant that each little fish was a complete surprise.  It was such fun watching them emerge, almost like it wasn't me holding the needle and taking the stitches.  It's interesting that even with these little guys - each one is less than three inches long - they all went through an ugly duckling stage where I really wondered if they would 'turn out'. 

I still need to trim the interfacing, sew on the backing and decide how exactly I want to hang them as pendants.  Need to figure that out quickly, too, as at least two of them are supposed to go to their new homes tomorrow evening.  But I thought I'd share them where they are right now, in this little in-between stage, with my slightly-less-than-stellar photos, because hey,  I'm beading! 


Fish collage  (just noticed - the middle fish on the right is upside down!)

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Magical Time visiting the Wizarding World

Our grand adventure started out with a flight to Orlando, really.  We hung out there for a couple of days recovering from the push to get ready for almost three months of travel.  While there, we decided to spend a day at Universal.  Neither of us had ever been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and everyone we knew who'd visited raved about it.  Checking Undercover Tourist's crowd planner calendars for the following day, the predicted crowds were about as low as low could be.  So, I grabbed a couple of print-at-home, one-day, park-hopper tickets for the next day. 

Walking through the turnstiles, Universal was empty.  Making our way to the back of the park towards the Wizarding World, we stopped to ride a few rides, because there were no lines.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit of a bad idea because one of the 3D rides made Joe decide he didn't want to ride any more 3D rides.  If you have troubles with motion sickness - be warned!

Continuing towards the back of the park, we finally spied the triple-decker Knight Bus - our first indication that we were almost there.  This was confirmed by the shrunken head hanging in the window that berated us for peaking in the windows.  Kind of cool - the entrance to Diagon Alley is sort of  hidden around a corner and up a little alleyway.  We walked through the break in a brick wall and then we were in! 


It really does feel like you've there - Universal's attention to detail is fantastic, with lots of props from the movies.  We spent the first half hour simply looking around.  Trying to play it cool, but really pointing and squealing like little kids (or in Joe's place, simply grinning like he couldn't stop because of course he doesn't squeal - that's all me).  One of the things I'd heard about were the spells you could 'cast' if you had an appropriate wand.  After watching a nearby family casting a set of spells, I decided that I just couldn't resist; I had to have a wand so we could play, too.  After all, that's the reason we were there, right? 

a busy day at Olivander's Wand Shop
Turns out Diagon Alley has a couple of different wand shops.  There's Gregorovitch's, an open-faced storefront with a small selection of wands (and smaller crowds), and then there's Olivanders!  Olivander's is literally packed floor to ceiling with wand boxes!  It's also packed with people - but that kind of made it fun.  The upper level is tilted and sagging from the 'weight' of all of those wands.  So much potential for fun and mischief! 

There were quite a few wands to choose from - Ivy, Holly, Oak, Ash - lots of different 'woods'.  Plaques on the wall depicted each of the wands and described their 'unique' properties.  Oh, and of course there were also the 'famous' wands - replicas of all the major characters' wands from the books (and movies).  We ended up going with Ivy - associated with tenacity, stamina and endless patience.  I figured those were all good qualities for a bead artist, and heh, I liked the design.  Joe and I then took turns casting spells for the rest of the day. 


wands, wands and more wands
Ivy wand and map in hand, we're ready to explore!

Each wand comes with a handy map of the magical hot spots in both Diagon Alley and the nearby Hogsmeade.   Universal has done a frightfully good job with merchandising - helped along by the fact that JK Rowling created Diagon Alley as the place where the wizarding world goes to shop.  You can buy wizarding robes and muggle tshirts at Madam Malkins or Quality Quiditch Supplies, fantastic stuffed animals at Magical Menagerie, visit Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, and far more.  I was quite proud that we made it out with only our wand and a stuffed Crookshanks that we were able to have shipped to our youngest niece for her birthday.  But I think the coolest theming was Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley.  Perfectly dark and creepy!   The spells you could cast in Knockturn alley were some of the coolest, too.  Here's a fun link to an article with lots of little 'insider' tips to enhance your visit. 

After spending the morning exploring, we stopped for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron.  Hands down, the Leaky Cauldron had some of the best counter-service amusement park food I've ever had.  All of the entries were traditional 'English pub' food, while the drinks were definitely Harry Potter.  Joe had a Fisherman's Pie with pumpkin beer, while I ordered bangers and mash, along with a fizzing orange drink with a cinnamon and brown sugar encrusted rim.  Yum!  We ate a little early, which was a good thing as we had no wait.  By noon, there was a line with a 45-minute wait (at least according to the sign)!

Inside the Three Broomsticks
Our only ride during our exploration of the Wizarding World was the Hogwarts' Express, between the two parks.  (Something to note about the Hogwarts Express - it's a different ride in each direction, so make sure to take it both ways between the parks).  They've done a great job with the line, too - it twists and turns around corners, with interesting things to see along the way.  We pretty much walked straight through, but it was fun to stop and gawk at things like Harry and Ron's tipped luggage cart with luggage spilled all around and other such sights. 

Hogsmeade, in Islands of Adventure, was fun, but not as fully-fleshed as Diagon Alley.  It's always winter in Hogsmeade, which can seem a little strange in the 90+ degree heat of May in Orlando.  Many of the 'shops' here were simply window fronts that you could peer into.   I wanted more room to explore.   I did manage to poke my head into the Three Broomsticks to take a peek.  The line here was even longer than the one at the Leaky Cauldron, but I was able to convince people I just wanted to take a picture, so they let me through far enough to snap this shot. 

As you can tell, we had a great time.  Not sure if I'd go back if it were just the two of us - the park tickets are a bit pricey, especially if all you're doing is the Wizarding world.  Joe's not really into roller coasters and right now it's best that I avoid them as well, and I think I already mentioned that 3D rides turned out to be not our thing; so there were very few rides we could or wanted to actually ride.  That said, we had a thoroughly delightful time, and I wouldn't mind going again with friends or family who wanted to check it out.   

And that was our little adventure in Orlando, while we waited for our larger adventure to begin...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hello World, have you missed me?

Iceland in July
Wondering where I've been?  Me too!  This summer was a one-of-a-kind adventure for us.  All told, we spent over three months traveling - most of it out of the country.

Originally I'd hoped to blog along the way.  However, I discovered it's amazingly difficult to post pictures to this blog using an iPad!   You wouldn't believe the hoops I went through trying to get that sorted, with very limited success.  I even tried starting a Wordpress blog (more on that later).  Then we received word of attempted burglaries from two different neighbors on our block.  Aack!


Almost home
Worries about the security of my empty home quashed my dreams of travel blogging.  I promised myself I'd start writing as soon as I got home.  Yeah right - home to the whirlwind of catching up with regular life that did not stop while we were gone (what's with that?)  So I told myself I'd start 'as soon as I caught up', with three months worth of mail, work, work in the yard, etc.

We had someone mowing the lawns while we were gone, but the wisteria on our front deck had nearly devoured our house by the time we got back.  All I could think was "Feed me Seymour".  Luckily our wisteria hadn't quite achieved Audrey's sentience!  I should have taken a photo of the house before we started trimming it back.  Except I was more than a little embarrassed that ours was 'that house' - the one all the neighbors shake their heads at.

mid-Missouri wetlands, mid-August
Then it was time for a shorter trip to visit family in mid-Missouri, meet our newest nephew and experience a total solar eclipse.  And more time passed without writing.  Over time, the not writing takes on a weight of its own, making it harder and harder to figure out where to start.  I have a feeling many of my blogging friends will know just what I'm talking about.  Where to start?  Is it old news now, if I haven't been there since July, or June, or May?  It's not beading; would people be interested?

I don't know.  But I'm going to write anyways.  Mondays and Fridays, from now until I've caught up.  Lots of travels, some 'local' news, and even some occasional beading (maybe?).  I hope you'll join me.  Because whether or not you've missed me, I've definitely missed all of you.

Monday, May 1, 2017

It's Done! Just in time for the UnFinished Object Blog Hop!

I trimmed the last beading thread Sunday afternoon and there was much rejoicing!  Thanks to two back-to-back UnFinished Objects Challenges, one of my oldest UFOs is finally complete.  I started work on this collar back in 2012 - and picked it up now and then through the years.  The collar just kept growing, without ever nearing completion.  It reminded me of an explanation one of my early teachers used about approaching infinity numerically - that you could get closer and closer to infinity, but by it's very nature, you could never actually reach infinity by counting. 

Thank goodness that wasn't truly the case here, as the picture shows!  And thank you to everyone who helped make this possible by agreeing to participate in another blog hop.  This blog hop up was just the push I needed.  Without you, it likely remained an UFO another five years!  I'm hoping those of you who joined int found the challenge useful, too. 

Curious about what everyone else worked on?  I know I am!  Here's the complete list of participants to see their progress:

Karen Williams, Baublicious
Francie Broadie,  FAB
Christine Van Dyke Altmiller, One Kiss Creations
Kim Dworak, CianciBlue
Liz Hart, Treetop Life
Amy Severino, Amy Beads
Cynthia Machata, Antiquity Travelers
Hope Smitherman, Crafty Hope
Christi Carter, Sweetpea Path
Bobbie Rafferty, Beadsong Jewelry
Margo Lynn Hablutzel, My World and It's Full of Books

And here are a few additional photos of my Starry Night Collar. 

where I was on Friday as I tested the collar against my template
The shawl-like shape was different from any other necklace or collar I've made, and presented some unique challenges in getting everything to lay properly when worn.  The final connection I needed to make was at the back, just behind my right shoulder.  I couldn't get the shape right working flat, and I didn't have any handy person waiting around to be my model.  (I could have likely talked my husband into doing it, but he's simply not the right size!)  I ended up doing a little beading, then adding a thread guide, and put it on and had him snap a picture, so I could at least see how the connection should look.  It let me see the shape I was working with. 

my thread guides show just how far off I would have been - I thought they'd be straight
Shortly thereafter, I did manage to find a friend willing to stop by and let me do a final fitting on them before doing the last few lines of stitching.

Laid out 'flat' (or flatish) to see the whole collar
Because it's designed to drape over the shoulders, it doesn't lay completely flat when the clasp is fastened.  You can see it buckling over on the right hand side if the photo. 

Several people had asked to see the collar on a human.  Unfortunately, I once again had no one but myself as a model.  This was the best collar selfie I managed to take:

It's really hard when you're both the model and the photographer!
One more photo with a black background.


And there you have it!  Truth is, I don't quite believe it's really done! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

More Happy Fish from Fusion Beads Workshop

Sometimes, it's important to work on projects simply because they make you happy.  No worries about whether you're creating 'fine art' or even 'fine craft', just crafting, stitching, drawing - whatever - because it's fun.  That's what my Happy Fish are for me.  And that joy in creation fueled my Happy Fish workshop at Fusion Beads late last month. 

My students ran the gamut: one had far more experience with bead embroidery than myself, while others were just getting into the idea of working with seed beads at all.  When asked - everyone's primary reason for joining the class was 'because it looked fun'. 

I snapped photos towards the end of class, and my students said I could share.  I love how different they all are. 

Love the outline variations here!

starting with the glass cabochon

I really liked her use of the O-beads

crescent beads and daggers were very popular this workshop

the whole class had fun coming up with ideas for her 'bait line'

crystal rivoli button for they eye

Vala's fish, starting to take shape - just starting to add some half-round pearls
And here are some photos that I received later:
Vala sent me this picture of her finished fish

Debbie made great use of the new shaped beads

I would have never considered adding the crystal 'bells' for fins!

Lesley's fish, jumping over a candle

Monday, March 20, 2017

Let's do it again! Another (Un)Finished Objects Blog Hop

We had such fun with the last one - I'm hosting another UnFinished Objects (UFO) Blog Hop!  I put it up for a vote amongst the group, and almost everyone from the first hop has already signed on.  

UnFinished Objects (UFO) Blog Hop
Signups through March 26
Blog Hop May 1st, 2017

And as promised, I'm opening this up to new additions.  If you missed the last one and want to join; here's your chance.  Once again, you don't even have to have a blog.  I've set up a closed, members-only Facebook Group, and we'll be doing a simultaneous reveal there.  Or I'm happy to host you on my blog as well.  The choice is totally yours.

Again, the group is open to people working in all mediums.  Right now, there are a lot of beaders, but you don't have to work with beads!!!!!  For myself, I've decided to do a 1-for-1. I'm allowing myself to pick one non-beading UFO (projects that are unlikely to ever appear in a tutorial) for every beady UFO I tackle.  I'm enjoying the permission to work on some purely 'for fun' projects.

What you're committing to:
  • Sorting through your desktop, drawer, pile of unfinished objects (this can be scary, but can also be like searching for buried treasure). 
  • Choosing one or more to finish, then getting started!
  • Sharing your (hopefully) newly finished object with the group on May 1st.  (If it's not quite done, simply share where it is as of that point - any progress is forward movement)
  • Additional fun - share a little of the story of the project; why you started, how it got stuck in the UFO pile, why you decided to finish that particular item. 
 You can also use the Facebook Group as a support network if you need ideas or suggestions for moving forward, or simply as a joint cheering squad as we all move towards our goals.  (Unless you request otherwise, I'll add you to the Facebook Group when you sign up).

Want to join in?

Leave a comment, or send me an email: (skunkhillstudio at gmail dot com) with your name, email address and blog address if you have one.  Feel free to also include information on your UFOs, but this isn't absolutely required up front.


I'm looking forward to hearing from you!




Saturday, March 11, 2017

(Un)Finished Objects Blog Hop

Just over a month ago, I invited friends and fellow artists to join me in founding an UnFinished Objects support group, and participate in a Blog Hop Challenge. The time has come to see how everyone has done with finishing some of their UFOs.  Here's the full list of blogging participants:

Karen Williams, Baublicious (you're here)
Francie Broadie, Francie Broadie Custom Jewelry
Christine Van Dyke Altmiller, One Kiss Creations
Amy Severino, Amy Beads
Therese, Therese's Treasures
Kim Dworak, CianciBlue
Liz E, Bead Contagion
Margo Lynn Hablutzel, My World and It's Full of Books
Cynthia Machata, Antiquity Travelers
Cathi Salzarulo Kent, The Cat's Meow
Liz Hart, Treetop Life


Personally, I'd hoped to finish two of my longest-standing UFOs.  I didn't quite hit the mark, but one is complete, and the other is much farther along than it was at the start of the year. 

UFO #1:  My Orange Blossom Tea Cozy definitely held the record for my oldest UFO.  One that I'd always planned to finish.  I started the cozy for an embellishment round robin for a sewing group in my old hometown of Columbia, Missouri back in 2001, right as I prepared to move from Missouri to Seattle.  I crazy-patched the cozy, then started its travels through the group - it spent a month with each friend while I worked on their pieces.  All of the machine embroideries are their work.  I moved before the Round Robin was quite complete, and I finished the last few turns with a little help from the post office.

Before: this is where it sat for the better part of 15 years!
After the cozy returned to me, I did a fair bit of hand embroidery, but at some point I put it away.  I'd say it was out of sight, out of mind, but I'd pull it out every now and then and think 'I really ought to finish this', before putting it back away for another day.  Pulling it out for this challenge, I made sure to photograph the back side because several of my friends signed their contributions. 

I haven't done any embroidery work (except bead embroidery) in years, so this was a fun project to pick back up.  Some of my stitches were a little shaky, but I still love french knots! And here it is finished:

I continued layering the embroidery, and added sequins

And the other side
closeups of more recent stitching

I first added french knots to the feather stitch.  Then, I had a great time 'enhancing' the boquet just above it with both french knots and tiny sequins.  The machine embroidery made a fun background for further embellishments.  One of my favorite early embroideries is the away I 'completed' the orange slice stitching it's outlines into the blue fabric.  It was tempting to keep going and keep adding additional embellishments - but down that path lays a continued UFO.  

Wondering where I left off with UFO #2:  Starry Night Collar?  It's the one that's not quite done.  Truthfully, I figure I need another ten hours or so (don't ask how many hours I've already put in).  For some reason, this piece reminds me of beaded crochet - I think because of the texture.  Although my sister recently reminded me just how different beadweaving and crochet really are. 

comparing the stitching and components to my original mockup 'pattern'

combines snowflakes, random RAW and freeform beadweaving

On the plus side, I've finally figured out how I'm going to manage the clasp.  If you compare the photos above to the one from this post, you'll see just how much further along it is.

So, I didn't meet all of my goals, but I was pleased to make progress.  And it makes it quite easy to decide what to work on for the next month's UFO project!