Studio Musings

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lots of Possibilities for January

The new year is positively brimming with opportunities, including an earring challenge and the next Bead Soup Party.

Earring Challenge
The idea here is to make a new pair of earrings every day for an entire month. That's 31 different designs which will definitely be a challenge! Beading Daily has a Bead-Along page with a gallery especially for this, but I'll be chronicling my work on my blog as well.

My plan is to upload a photo of each day's design to Facebook and Twitter, and post weekly updates on my progress along with links to friends' blogs who are doing the same. If you're interested in joining in, let me know so I can be sure to include you in my blog rolls. I'd love to have enough people to have a blog hop celebration at the end! JJ over at Coming Abstractions has suggested an earring exchange as well, so I'll organize towards the middle of next month.

Almost Time for Bead Soup
Sign-ups for the next Bead Soup Blog Party are just around the corner, January 7-9th. I almost hesitate to share the dates, because if too many people sign-up, then Lori's going to choose participants by lottery.

Lori carefully pairs all of the participants, and then the partners swap 'bead soup' mixes, which are used to create new pieces, which we share in the blog hop reveal. I've participated twice - last winter and this past fall.

I've had such fun both times, I'll be quite sad if I don't make it in. But at the same time, I'd love for others to have a chance to play as well.

Bead Soup Blog Party

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Little Something for Boxing Day

Recently, several of my bead weaver friends have commented that right angle weave simply gives them fits. Since it happens to be one of my favorite stitches, I thought I'd put together my own take on the basic stitch, single needle style. I've got a quick overview here.  After the holidays, I'll put together a more in-depth look, including basic increases and decreases on my website, so be sure to check back in early January!

Add 4 beads 1st unit, 3 beads 2nd
The Basic Right Angle Weave Unit
String four beads onto your thread.  Stitch through your first two beads to create a loop (your stitching should form a spiraling loop and a half).  Congratulations!  You've just created the basic right angle weave (RAW) unit!  Each basic RAW unit is composed of exactly four beads.

Building our First Row 
Looking at a circle of right angle weave, you'll note that each unit has a top, bottom and two sides. We will build our next RAW unit off of one of those side beads. (I choose the right hand bead in my diagram).  Reposition your needle if necessary (diagram 2). 

Since we already have one of the beads we need, we will only pick up three beads this time. Stitch back through the side bead of unit one to finish the unit, and reposition your needle by stitching through two of your new beads.

Looping Figure 8 stitch pattern

The stitch pattern is a looping Figure Eight.  If you can see this, you're good to go. 

I'll keep working off of the right-most bead to build additional units.  One time I'll loop up from the bottom, the next I'll loop down from the top.  But in this row, each new right angle weave is built with three additional beads. 

Building Row Two
Building our Second Row
We will work off of the top or bottom beads to build our second row.  I've chosen to work off of the top beads in my diagrams at left.

To build your first unit of row two, pick up three beads, and complete the circle through the top bead of the last RAW unit from row one. 

The trick:  You already have two of the beads necessary to build the second RAW unit in this row.  Take a look a the diagram - you already have the bottom and right side beads, so you'll only need to add two beads this time.

Reposition your needle by stitching up through the side bead of your current unit.  Add two beads.  Complete the circle.

Following the stitch pattern, reposition your needle and add two more beads.  Keep going until you reach the end of your row! 

Three rows of RAW.  Secure thread by stitching
Additional Rows
Build Additional rows the same way you built your second row.  Always start a new row by adding three beads.  Continue building the row by adding two beads at a time for each new RAW unit after that.

Securing Your Thread
The best way to secure your thread ends is simply to stitch back into the main body of your bead work and stitch through several figure eights.  The direction changes in the stitch pattern will keep everything tight and secure. 

Do this with both your beginning and ending threads. 

And that's it.  That's basic Right Angle Weave (with a single needle). 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Spring Classes

Twined wire egg basket by Maryiln Moore
Signups for Fusion Beads' spring classes started Thursday. I stopped by Saturday to sign up for Marilyn Moore's Egg Basket: Oval Twined Wire Bowl, but got caught by their in-store sale. Most of their strands of shaped glass beads are 40-50% off through the end of the year, youza! I definitely failed my willpower roll and left the store with a lovely packet of beads, perfect for more lacework bracelets and accent beads in my freeform peyote. I did not sign up for the class - now I'll have to wait until after the holidays and hope there's still space. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Glacial Ice, lacework bracelet by Karen Williams
In the meantime, I do have three classes of my own on their spring schedule. I'll be teaching Freeform Peyote Ruffles again on Sunday, January 29th, where students can choose to make a pair of earrings or brooch, or start on a larger project such as a bracelet.  Then on Tuesday March 6th, it's my Lacework Bracelet working with random right angle weave. Both classes filled last fall, so we'll see how they do this time around.

Store bought cabochons from Fusion Beads
And I'm teaching a new Beaded Bezel workshop, where we'll capture a cabochon shaped object using a combination of regular and random right angle weave and peyote stitch. This is a variation on my Captured Cabochon, with the back worked in random right angle weave, which leaves lots of room for artistic interpretation. The back becomes a special surprise for the wearer, or you can make the cabochon completely reversible, so you end up with two entirely different looks from one pendant. Or you can incorporate the captured cabochon into a larger piece, as I did with my Red Crest and Hunting Fae necklaces.  Enough possibilities?

My original samples for this class all used my handmade cabochons, but they suggested that I also make some samples using cabochons that Fusion Beads carry, so there are now a wealth of samples for this class. The catalog only shows two, and then only the fronts, so here's a little more:

Two backs: Lillypilly pendant and stone cabochon
Original samples, both cabochons & stitching are mine
Cabochon backs, @ bottom right to be used in larger project

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last Minute Book Ideas and Earring Challenge

While searching for a last minute gift idea for a couple of friends, I found myself thinking about some of my personal favorite books. I thought I'd share two of them here just for fun. Who knows, maybe one will be perfect for someone on your list.

The Deep, by Claire Nouvian
The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss is without a doubt one of my absolute favorite books for inspiration. If you've followed my blog at all, you'll know that the ocean is one of my major sources for inspiration.

The Deep is filled with images of some of the most beautiful and bizarre living forms from the ocean's twilight depths. It's one of those coffee table books that keeps you turning the page. Everyone I've ever shown the book to - male or female, adult or child, has found something to interest them. I just wish Amazon included a look inside feature so you could see how large and lovely the pictures truly are!

by Valerie Peterson & Janice Fryer

Growing up, every Christmas my siblings and I helped our mother make enough cookies to give away to the neighbors on our block. She'd start right after Thanksgiving, and we'd store the cookies in large tins (originally they were empty 10lb coffee cans) until we'd baked enough to give to everyone. A few years ago Mom confided that we made cookies because we couldn't afford to do anything else. But homemade cookies spells Christmas and community to me and I still follow the tradition she began (on a much smaller scale).

A couple of years ago I purchased  Cookie Craft: From Baking to Luster Dust, by Valerie Peterson & Janice Fryer, just before hosting a cookie cutout party.  Just in case my guests needed inspiration, of course! Cooke Craft covers the art of creating beautifully themed sugar cookie cut-outs year round, not just for Christmas, with a huge range of decorating techniques and beautiful gallery pages that tempt me to experiment every time I flip through their pages. And their sugar cookie recipes taste great, too!

I just noticed that they have a newer book out, Cookie Craft Christmas.  If I'd found this earlier in the season, it would definitely have been on my wish list! 

by Denise Peck
Which brings me to the last book on my list and the challenge I mentioned in the title of this post. Jennifer over at Beading Daily suggested taking a New Year's Challenge, instead of making a resolution, with the idea of making a pair of earrings a day, each and every day, for a month.

I'm thinking I just may have to try this in January.  Many of the pairs would be beaded, because that's what I do, but Jennifer also suggested 101 Wire Earrings for inspiration. Reviews mention that it includes instructions on how to make a variety of ear wires and hooks and it occurred to me that I could capture two birds with one net (I'm a catch and release sort of girl) by using the challenge to expand my wire working skills as well. But I wondered if there's an even better book out there.  Any suggestions? 

Anyone interested in joining me in this challenge?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Classwork Gallery

Today's the first day of signup's for Fusion Beads spring schedule of classes.   But before I write about what I will be teaching, I thought I'd focus on students' work from my fall classes.  I've been fortunate that a number of my students have either allowed me to photograph their work, or have sent me photos to share.   Thank you!   So here goes:

Freeform ruffled bracelets by Patricia Hayden
Since the class in early October, Patricia Hayden has been far more prolific than I, experimenting with freeform ruffled bracelets. Her pieces are so bright and sparkly, and her color schemes remind me of peacocks and mardi-gras.

I was particularly taken by how she ruffles around the outer edge of the button loop, creating a ruffled bezel or nest for her buttons.

Ruffled bead loop by Patricia Hayden

Two students snowflakes, right snowflake by Charlotte Carr

Snowflakes & stars by Charlotte Carr
The five-sided star to the left above, was a product of troubleshooting.  The bugle bead finials by themselves were deemed too 'floppy'.  So I suggested adding the seedbeads to either side to help stabilize them.  Turns out they also made its shape far more distinctive.  I truly love how this design turned out and have resolved to make some myself. 

Charlotte Carr incorporated crystals into her snowflakes, as seen in the sample above and to the right.  She brought her collection back during my Lacework class and allowed me to take pictures.
Too bad I definitely take better photos in my studio than at Fusion Beads!

Lacework bracelet & earrings by Patricia Hardway

Patricia Hardway created a very open, lacy bracelet and earring set just perfect for the holidays.  The red crystals offset her green lacework and makes me think of poinsettias, even though I know they should remind me of holly berries. 

A member of the NW Seedbeader's group, she wore the set to the December holiday meeting and allowed me to snag them off of her long enough to take a photo.  I just wish I'd snagged a photo of her wearing them, too! 

Double layered lacework bracelet
Sandi Mann sent me this last photo of her sister's lacework bracelet.  After completing her first pass, she decided it was too open, so she went back and added a second layer.  Isn't the effect stunning?

And for an extra bonus, check out this post by Christine over at One Kiss Creations.  Christine did not take my class, but I sent her the instructions for my Lacework bracelet, and this is what she came up with.  I love how different all of the designs turn out!

And I love posting pictures of other people's work.  So, if you've taken one of my classes, or have a love of freeform peyote or random right angle weave shoot me a picture or a link to a blog post and I'll include it in a later post, along with a link to your blog or website if you have one.  Cheers!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thinking about Snowflakes

Years ago, my mother-in-law was known for her Christmas decorating.  In more recent years, her decorating has become more and more minimal, not even including a Christmas tree.  Last year I decided she needed a tree, so I bought one of those table top trees and made a bunch of snowflake ornaments for it and sent it to her as a surprise.

I liked it so much, this year I decided to do something similar for myself. Found myself a little live tree at the hardware store (come spring I'll plant it in one of my large patio pots).  For ornament hooks I use the inexpensive, craft earring hooks - the type you can buy by the gross at Michaels or Joann's.  They're better suited in terms of size for these smaller trees.  And if you need a last minute gift and can't find anything else, you could snag a couple of snowflakes off of your tree and call them earrings! 

I've noticed that my freebie snowflake pattern is one of the most popular pages on my site right now.  Yesterday I received an email from Julia in the UK asking some questions about her snowflakes, because they were buckling.  Both from my pattern, and some other patterns she'd found online (though I'm pleased that mine gave her the least troubles).  I tried to help her do some trouble shooting, and thought I'd share some of that here.
Seven-sided snowflakes are most likely to buckle

This ring must lay flat before you go on!
In the picture above, the buckling in the snowflake to the lower right was caused by too tight of tension.  The snowflake at the top is the exact same stitch pattern, but I've avoided the rippling by keeping careful tabs on the tension, adjusting it as I go so each round lays nice and flat.

The tension in your first couple of circles is especially important, if it doesn't lay flat at this stage, it won't lay flat later.  So take some time to manipulate the beads until they're happily arranged in a flat circle.

Sideview of buckled snowflake with too tight tension
Side view of nice, perfectly flat snowflake - lower tension

And if you're looking for more on snowflakes: here's a pitch for my snowflake pattern for sale on Etsy - 10 full pages of instruction on 5, 6, and 7 sided snowflakes with as many variations as I could come up with, with carefully proofed color illustrations and photos.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pitch 2.0 - What is it? And how do I make it work for me?

Tomorrow I'll post about troubleshooting beaded snowflakes.

Today, I'm still buzzing from Pitch 2.0.  As dusk settled over Seattle last night, I headed to the Asian Art Museum for this workshop, presented by Createspace and Amazon as "a free event to help authors market their book in the modern age". 

I thought I'd been so clever, arriving early enough to visit the museum itself before the event.   Great idea turned a bit sour as we were all shuffled outside when the museum closed at 5:00, half an hour before the workshop was scheduled to begin.  Luckily, it wasn't raining.  And I wore a hat, and the night sky was a gorgeous shade of ultramarine with those odd silver clouds you sometimes get after dark. All good things.  But what really made the wait fun  was the conversation I struck up with two of the other souls also waiting for the doors to open.

J.L. Oakley, published through Createspace
Janet was there to work on pitching her book, Tree Soldier, available in both paperback and kindle.  The blurb on the beautiful bookmark she handed me reads "A government forestry camp set deep in the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest might not seem the likely place to find redemption, but in 1935, Park Hardesty hopes for just that".

Between her eloquence and passion in speaking about her story, set in a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp and the fact that my grandfather was a CCC boy, this book has definitely earned a place on my must read list.  Perfect for holiday travels.  I can't wait for enough time to curl up and read it. 

available in kindle & ppbk
Joel Friedlander is one of those people who is excellent at getting other people to talk.  (Not that I need much help, especially when I'm nervous!)  He looked strangely familiar, but it wasn't until well into our conversation that I realized he writes, one of my favorite blogs, which describes itself quite accurately as "practical advice to help build better books". 

If you are at all interested in self-publishing, you need to check out his blog.  It is an incredible resource.  He's also the author of A Self Publisher's Companion, a compilation and expansion upon many of the themes from his blog.  Turns out he was at Pitch 2.0 as one of the speakers.  Good call Createspace!

And this was all before the doors even opened!

So, what did I learn from the event itself?

Pitch 2.0 refers to the new era of marketing in light of the social media explosion.  You no longer have to have a proven track record, a major tv show, or have starred in the latest hit reality show to build a following.  The internet can level the playing field; if you know how to use it.  

Twitter seems to be the golden child in this arena.  Too bad I'm still fumbling with how to use Twitter correctly.  I'm always afraid my tweets will seem boring or pushy.  If you happen to know of a beader who tweets, let me know.  I'd love to follow them and learn from their example. I'd really love to feel like I've groked the media.  (I may not be able to tweet, but I can at least use geeky slang!)

Blogs and Facebook are also important.  I found it interesting that they seemed to generally place blogs on a slightly lower rung than Tweeting in terms of marketing oneself and one's book.  Good thing I blog primarily because I enjoy it!

Metadata matters.  This is pertinent to all of us who have a presence on the web.  Simply put, people might search forever for the exact information on your blog, web site, in your book, or in your Etsy shop, but never find you if you don't provide the keywords they're looking for.  So don't overlook the tags, blog labels, etc.  (I'm guilty here as well at times.)

Createspace has an ever increasing number of tools to help the independent author publish their book.  Their goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to publish, because when you publish, and they sell your book, they make money.  It's a win-win situation, since there are no set-up fees except the cost for a single proof copy of your book.

If you are published, make use of Amazon's Author Central, available to all authors including those who publish through Createspace.  This reminded me to update (read add) my biography.  Things like that are really hard for me to do - just feels weird writing about myself in the third person.    But I made a stab at it this morning.   I could also choose to link my blog or twitter account so it shows up on my Amazon author page, but I'm hesitant to do so. I think my blog is too wide-ranging. 

And perhaps of even more long term importance, I am starting to gain a wider understanding of the differing roles an editor can play throughout the plotting, design, writing and revision process.

Help with Actual Pitching

Informally, I pitched Freeform Peyote Beading to anyone who asked.  It's an easy way to introduce myself as an author.  But I had also signed up for two rounds of five-minute pitches.  Eight of us had exactly five minutes each (timed) to pitch to one editor, then the editors switched places and we all pitched to a second.  For these, I pitched my fiction; far more of a personal stretch.  The way I see it; if I never try, I'll never learn.

Alan Rinzler, our editor in the first round, asked some great, pointed questions and recommended I visit a developmental editor to firm up my plot ideas.  If only he knew.  Listening to him critique the other presenters was almost more useful than pitching myself.  While he wanted to know how the story ended, and major character development and plot points, he also wanted a clear idea of the underlying message of the book.

It was interesting listening to how much the other presenters improved in the second round of pitches, to author and editor Nathan Everett.  What he wanted was a short blurb telling him who you were, why you wrote this book, the genre, and no more than a two-sentence description summing up the major characters, plot and underlying theme.   Have you ever tried to take a book you've read and condense it down to two sentences?  One you wrote is even worse!

Nathan gave me the clearest idea of the differences between a pitch (stick with the over-arching theme, don't get bogged down in the plot, and don't give away the resolution), a synopsis (a short summary of the entire book, including major plot points and resolution) and the blurb on the back of a book (somewhere between the above two, ending where the conflict begins).  And on a fun note, it turns out I'd met him about a year ago at another author event. 

Curious what I pitched?  Here's what it looked like going into the workshop:

In my retelling of the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, Beauregard Lyall Harrison, called Beau by family and close friends, is the youngest son of one of the city’s premiere merchants.  Surrounded by older siblings intent upon their own lives and estranged from his father who blames him for the long ago death of his mother, Beau often feels like an outsider in his otherwise close-knit family.
When a series of disasters strikes his father’s merchant fleet and the family fortune lies in ruins, Beau reluctantly offers the use of the home he’d inherited from his foster parents.  For he’d sworn never to return to the little cottage, nestled in the shadow of a haunted wood ruled by the legendary Beast.
Drawn to the Beast’s castle in a bid to save his father's life, Beau must learn to trust the Beast though he considers her his jailor.  The situation is far more complex than he realizes and only together will they be able to find the means to break the enchantment that holds them both captive.
This morning's rewrite:
For as long as I can remember, I've loved reading fairy tales. But I always find myself asking 'what if'? In my retelling of the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast, I ask what if Beauty was actually Beau?  At the age of nineteen, Beau has already learned that love always comes with a price.  One he is willing to pay when he's forced to seek out the legendary Beast in her haunted wood in a desperate gamble to save his father's life.  Though he considers her his jailor, Beau and the Beast must learn to trust in each other in order to break the enchantment holding them both captive.
What do you think?

As for what am I actually going to do with this story (besides finish it); that's a good question.  Right now my goal is to finish the first draft before the new year, working on it early morning, evenings and weekends as available.  Come January, I plan to tear it apart and put it back together, ripping out anything that doesn't actually add to the story and clean it up enough that I might feel comfortable showing it to critique groups.  Then, we'll see.  

Many kudos to Createspace and Amazon for envisioning this event!

YA steampunk by Ren Cummins
And before I let you go, if you happen to be looking for a book for the teenage girl in your family, you might want to check out Reaper's Return by Ren Cummins, another independent author I had the good fortune to meet last night.

He shared that he wrote the story for his daughter who complained that while she liked Harry Potter, it was all about boys, and Hermoine was just the 'friend'.  So he wrote this for her.   It's described as the start of a Young Adult Steampunk series.  I'll tell you more after I read it (think holidays here).

His kindle editions are priced beautifully- you could buy the whole set for about the same price as one trade paperback volume (fyi you can read kindle on almost any computer; just download the free kindle software.)  But of course, the print book is more fun to hold.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2012 Programs for the NW Seedbeaders

If you live anywhere in the greater Puget Sound area and are interested in working with seedsbeads, I highly recommend you check out the NW Seedbeaders, a focus group of the NW Bead Society.  I've mentioned them before, but Sunday was our planning meeting for 2012 and all I can say is Wow! The upcoming schedule of programs is phenomenal.  Here's a sneak peak:

January 22:  Pearl/Crystal Bangle-- Debbie Johnson
February 26:  Fingerknotting-- Georgia McMillan
I'm afraid I don't have any pictures of the two above.  (Bad me - since I was responsible for taking all of the sample photos on Sunday.)  Then:

March 25:  Bohemian Wrap with Kate Parsons (Sample by Ann Wilkinson) 

April 22:  Huichol Baskets with Debby Zook
May 20:  Ribbon Pouch with Shirley Pauls
June 24:  "Corset & Stays" Right Angle Beaded Bead with yours truly
July 22:  N'debele Tube with Deanna Raabe, Aug. 26: Russian Leaves with Jennifer Brown
September 23:  African Helix-- Janet Thompson (no picture yet)

October 21:  Snowflakes with Debby Zook
We even have programs planned into 2013, including a workshop on Kumihimo in March of 2013.  We generally meet on the fourth Sunday of the month from 10:30am - 3:00pm at the Maplewood Rock and Gem Club in Edmonds, just a little bit north of Seattle. 

And even if you don't live nearby, if you should happen to visit the area on one of these days, come join us for a fun day of beading and camaraderie.  About half the time is devoted to the program, though you're welcome to bring and work on your own project as well.  The women are all so talented, fun and welcoming its become one of the highlights of my month.  Oh, and lunch is potluck.  (And someone, I'm not sure whom, brings the best deviled eggs. Yum!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday again, funny how that works...

It's Saturday again, and I'm sitting here trying to think of what exactly I've accomplished this week.  Despite running full tilt most of the week, I cannot honestly recall a single thing I've actually accomplished.  Which makes it really hard to write a blog post. 

Now I remember, it's been a maintenance sort of week, including rehanging the door to a refrigerator so it would seal correctly, adjusting a storm door's pistons, raking more leaves than one yard should truly have and replacing all of a toilet's inner parts (the toilet was clean; it just wouldn't stop running) amongst other things.  The last is something that I'm pretty sure you're never supposed to mention on a blog; toilets being about as non-sexy a subject as I think you can get.  But I have to say that I was as proud of that toilet when it actually flushed without leaking as any bead work I've completed in the past several years.

 I had my fair share of mishaps - including a column of water hitting the ceiling at one point.  Who knew toilets had so much water pressure?  The instructions told me to take off a valve cap, hold a cup over the top to prevent splashing and turn the water on to clear the pipe of debris.  I read it as 'set' a cup over the top, especially since I had to reach down and around to turn the shut-off valve.  As soon as I turned on the water said plastic cup shot to the ceiling.  Oops! 

Turn the water back off, fast while trying not to panic and trying to stem the column of water with my other hand.  Fast forward a little - the bathroom's mopped, I'm still soaked as are my instructions, but I've made it all the way to the last step.  I put the valve cap back in place and prepared to turn the water on, cringing.  Waters on.  Nothing happened.  Huh.  Good on the one hand; no new fountains or leaks is generally a good thing.  But bad because at this point, the tank was supposed to start filling.  Nope, no water.  Turn the water off, take the cap off, put it back on, turn the water on; still nothing.

Breaking down, I called the 1-800 number on the repair kit I purchased.  I ended up speaking to an amazingly personable tech who 1) was impressed that I'd read the instructions, 2) never talked down to me like I was an imbecile for not being able to figure it out myself, 3) provided the solution and 4) was willing to stay on the line until we'd flushed the toilet several times, insuring it actually worked. Kudos to Fluidmaster - you have great employees!  And I'm pleased to report that a day later, it still works! 

In other news, I finished out Nanowrimo at 56,077 words, but my poor characters are still languishing in the final two thirds of the book.  More early morning writing sessions for me.  Just got back from the TGIO (thank goodness its over) party down at the Seattle Center happy to know I'm not the only one still writing.  Though I've only written 1,000 words since November 30. 

And for those of you who have made it this far, I promise that my next blog post will actually be about beads, beaders and other bead related subjects.  Tomorrow is the NW Seedbeaders meeting and I've been tagged as responsible for photographing the challenge pieces and project ideas for next year.  So I'll have lots of fun stuff to share very shortly. 

And I still have several personal UFOs I need to finish before the new year as well.   So I promise, no more weirdness for a while (at least I sure hope so!)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

45,042 words

Just caught up with my word count this afternoon!
That's my total word count so far this month for my annual attempt to write a novel, a la Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month).  The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. No holds barred, damn the torpedos, just get the story on paper as a first draft that can be edited later sort of writing.  This is my third year and like both previous attempts, I'm coming from behind for my win.

The last several months have been crazy busy; putting together samples and handouts for new classes, working on several beading patterns, dealing with unexpected vacancies at my rentals, and just life in general.  You know how it goes.  There was an entire week early this month that I literally could not find the time to write despite my intentions to write a little every day.  At my worst, the Nano stats helpfully informed me that "at this rate" I'd be finished by December 20th!  Ouch! 

Today's stats
But life has started to calm down, and as of last week I've managed to carve time in the early mornings and late evenings to write. And since we stayed home for Thanksgiving, I've dedicated this weekend almost entirely to my novel (No Black Friday shopping for me - I'm writing!) 

Are there other uses I could make of my time?  Most certainly - I've been putting in 60+ hour work weeks for over a month now, trying to catch up. My to-do list is still about a half-mile long.  Which is exactly why I'm set on carving out this time for myself.  One month.  Early mornings.  Evenings.  Weekends. Mine.

While I "won" in both 2009 and 2010, I have never actually finished a novel.  In fact this is the first time I've made it past the half way point in my plot.  So beyond the 50,000 goal set by Nanowrimo, I have my personal goal of finishing my entire story.  Will I finish it by November 30th?  Considering how much of the story is still left to tell, the jury is definitely out.

But I'll be writing fast and furiously again tomorrow, and for the next few days.  The word count graph turns off at midnight on Wednesday.  Just how far can I get between now and then?  And if I still haven't finished my story, I'll let myself keep writing through next Sunday, because I will finish the story, as trite and ungainly and misshapen as it might be.  There's something powerful about finishing a project, especially one on this scale. 

To add a little pressure, I was crazy enough to sign myself up for a pitch workshop on December 7th sponsored by Createspace.  And now I've told you to make it harder to back out.  I'm supposed to pitch my novel to two separate editors as "part of a round table format" for new authors.  Why?  Because I want the experience.  My fiction writing may never be publishable, but I want to know just how far I can go.  And it's never a bad idea to practise presenting my ideas. 

Today I wrote 6,243 words.  I think that might be a personal record.  My brain is pooped, so I thought I'd write a blog post.  Go figure!

So my question to to you is this: what crazy artistic endeavors have you always wanted to try?  And what would you need to have happen to let yourself go for it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Little Something Special

I recently received a wonderful little package from JJ Jacobs, my bead soup partner from last winter.  According to her most recent blog post, she creates a new fused-glass ornament design each year.  And this year I was lucky enough to receive one in the mail!  Don't you just love my little penguin?  I know I do.   

I don't yet have a tree to display him on, so I took him outside and photographed him with some fall leaves. As you can see, it's a bit damp out, but penguins don't mind the rain.  And later on, I'm sure he'll look equally wonderful on our tree. 

Thank you JJ! He makes me smile.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And the winner is....

one of my favorite widgets!
Bobbie of Beadsong Jewelry is the winner from last week's blog post celebrating my 500th book sale on Amazon.  Popping by her blog to drop her the note,  I discovered her latest post.  Her title summed up my last few weeks brilliantly: "Why Yes, I Have Been Living Under a Rock...". 

I keep hoping that life will settle back down into a more normal commitment load.  But considering the season, I think I'm pretty much along for the ride. 

I've also decided to send smaller goodie packets out to the all the other lovely souls who helped me celebrate.   I've sent private messages to all of you except for KipperCat, whose profile doesn't include an email link.  If you happen to see this - drop me a private message with how to reach you!  ;)

Genericity Generosity, *photo copyright Teresa Sullivan
And on an entirely different note, if you happen to be in Seattle tomorrow evening, you might want to attend the NW Bead Society's monthly meeting.  Teresa Sullivan, "putting beads where they don't belong since 1994," will be the speaker.  She is a storyteller with her work, incorporating a wide variety of bead weaving techniques to match her visions.

To see more of Teresa's work, visit her website or her blog, Rock n Roll Bead Patrol.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I've Crept onto Etsy

My very first Etsy listing!  
A new first for me:  I'm on Etsy!  With exactly one (yes 1) item.  Off to a grand start! 
So what's my first listing?  My lovely Snowflakes and Stars tutorial, available as a pdf download. 

I took the free instructions from my website, and reworked, expanded, polished, cleaned and added a whole slew of new diagrams and turned it into a 7-page handout for the class I taught last week at Fusion Beads.

While teaching, I watched how my students used my handouts,  I took their feedback and reworked the tutorial yet again, expanding it out to 10 pages, which is the iteration available here. 

Unlike with freeform peyote, I actually give step-by-step instructions (including bead counts!) for the basic snowflake.  From there my true nature reasserts itself and I include lots of ideas and diagrams for what you might do to make your snowflakes truly your own. 

sample interior spread

Now it's time to work on the class handout for my Lacework Bracelet before my class next week, which is what I should have been doing instead of editing this one more time and posting it to Etsy.  But snowflakes are so Seasonal!  And now I have something to blog about.   :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Five Hundred

At the end of October, I discovered that's how many copies of Freeform Peyote Beading have sold through Amazon!

There aren't enough adjectives to describe my excitement at discovering that I had indeed broken the five hundred mark on sales.  A happy dance was definitely in order.

Seems that it's definitely time for a celebration! I thought about breaking out the champagne, but that's kind of hard to share over the web.  My next thought was to do a give away on my blog (I love the anticipation of signing up for them on other people's blogs, even if I never win).  My husband disagreed, and said I should just share how excited I am.  But posting a u-tube video of me bouncing around the room seemed a bit much, so instead, I'm doing a give-away.

Since I'm celebrating my book, I thought I'd give away a goodie bag filled with beads - seed beads, accent beads and at least one focal as well as a button clasp - enough to make a freeform peyote bracelet.  I'll even throw in a copy of my book if you don't already have one.

So if you want a chance to win, just post a comment (and make sure I have a way to reach you).  And if you have a favorite color/colors, let me know that too.  For extra credit (and an extra chance to win) if you already have a copy of my book, tell me which is your favorite piece in the book and what you like best about it.  Or I'll even let you visit my project gallery and tell me your favorite there to get that extra chance. 

I'll draw a name on Wednesday the 16th.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hedgehogs and Oak Leaves

Art Bead Scene caught me with their challenge this month.  How could I resist an illustrated still life entitled "A Hedgehog in a Landscape"?  Painted by Giovanna Garzoni (1643-51), one of the first woman artists in her field, this piece is a collection of some of my very favorite things.  This time of year, every trip outside my door is a chance to collect (or photograph) brightly colored leaves, mahogany colored buckeyes, and the prickly outer hulls of chestnuts.  A hedgehog in the garden would be just perfect. 

Since I'm unlikely to find a hedgehog in my garden, I thought I'd create my own little critter, and treat myself to an artist play date in the process.  So I broke out the polymer clay supplies and set to. 
wood & aluminum forms, cooked poly clay, painted & waxed

I'm a poly clay dabbler at best, so wasn't trying for anything fancy here, though I did manage a couple of nice Skinner blends. Started with aluminum foil crunched into the approximate shapes I wanted (I used my cat's toy mice as a reference), then pulled out some wooden beads, too.  If I was going to the trouble of pulling out all the supplies, might as well make a few different things.

While they cooked, I played with some wire, creating oak leaf charms.  They got better as I worked - my first wraps were pretty 'rustic'.  (Kinder word than 'crude').

Once they were out of the oven, I had a little fun with acrylics and finished them with a wax varnish.  I'd carved oak leaves into one of my beads, which left little clay burrs around the edges.  400 and 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper took care of the burrs without disturbing my design,but left the surface looking rather dull.  The acrylics and varnish took care of that  beautifully, giving the bead a deep lustre. 

Then it was time to stitch my hedgehog his coat. 

A right angle weave 'coat' with a pink underbelly
Stitched the belly flat using right angle weave, then tied it onto the hedgehog with bead 'ropes'.  The bottom-left photo above shows my "bondage" hedgehog.  :)  Then I filled in between the rows, using increases and decreases as necessary to fit the curves.

 And here's my little guy with his new coat!  I'd originally thought of adding an extra layer of bead work on top to give him a really spiky look, even started in on it, but decided I liked this better.

I glued his eyes in last - they're size 6 seed beads.  With the addition of a pin back on his belly, he's ready to travel.  Though he'd make a great pocket pet as well. 

And what did I do with the rest of the beads, and the leaf charms?

Oak Leaf lariat with poly clay beads & freemotion leaf

I used a couple of my beads in this lariat, along with some machine wrapped cords and an oak leaf I'd made with free motion embroidery ages ago.   Fun to see how my different areas of work can come together. 

I also have plans to turn the rest of my wire leaf charms into earrings, next play day. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How Many Times?

original pattern layout
I'm really starting to wonder exactly how many times I'm going to have to make and photograph this particular set of earrings in order to create a great pattern. 

In the first example, at right, the color's good, but the pattern isn't precise because when I made this pair, I wasn't worried about reproduction and was simply designing as I stitched. 

So I thought I'd try again.  Two pairs later, and I had one earring from each pair which fit the pattern, nicely photographed and documented.  Yeah! 

Back to my page layout....

2-page spread with new samples

But as I worked, I discovered several things.  1) I was missing one of the photographs I needed for my flat spiral earring.  2) I tended to flip the pieces back and forth in the photographs which confused me several times.  If it confuses me, I count it as a definite flaw in the instructions.  And 3) I didn't like having earrings from two different pairs - it seemed the patterns should be for a 'matched' set.

So, back to the drawing board...

2-page spread for one earring now - pattern's growing
I now have all the pictures I need for a matched set of earrings, the pieces are all facing the same direction in the photos.  And after restitching this pattern several times, I've proofed the text to within an inch of its life.  I've even added diagrams to my layout!

I showed the spread to my husband, triumphant to be making forward progress.  His comment?  The yellow is too similar to the background grey.  So, now I have to decide - do I leave it as is?  (I would agree that the yellow/blue/green color combination of these earrings isn't as visually interesting as the other combos).  Are they good enough?  Or do I try one more time? 

One of the photos in question - sufficient contrast or no?