Studio Musings

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.