Studio Musings

Monday, January 31, 2011

Second, Third and Fourth Courses

Lampworked beads by JJ Jacobs
'Amphora' bead by JJ Jacobs
JJ Jacobs is the cat's pajamas!  She sent a second package of her lampworked beads as "additional courses" in our Bead Soup party exchange.  Aren't they beauties?

She says it's so that I could see more of her 'usual style', and she can see more of it incorporated into jewelry.

Guess I'd better get cracking!  Wonder if I can challenge myself to make something with each of these before the February 26th reveal?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Little Surprise

Work in Progress by Marcy McMillan
Towards the end of the Seadbeaders' meeting on Saturday, Marcy McMillan sought me out to show me this, her current project. 

Turns out her sister had given her a copy of my book for Christmas, and this piece (which is in progress) is her first experiment based upon the book.  I was tickled and delighted to say the least!  I just wish I'd managed to take better pictures.

While watching me struggle with my camera, Marcy recommended I invest in a small tripod. I think I may take her advice.

And it got me to thinking that it would be great to add an album on either my website or Facebook page for photos of others' freeform bead work.  But an album would look pretty skimpy with just one image.  So if you'd like me to post a picture, let me know and I'll start putting something together.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seed Beaders of the NW Bead Society

Two bracelets by Jennifer Porter
I had fun at the Seed Beaders' group of the NW Bead Society yesterday.  The topic of the day:   Freeform Peyote Seawead technique, taught by Jennifer Porter.

It's a very different take on sculptural or freeform peyote.  She starts with a base of standard peyote stitch in size 8 beads, 3/4 - 1" wide and however long you wanted for the project.  She works loose, arching bridges off of the surface, building them up in layers and twining them through each other until the base is completely obscured.

Brooches by Jennifer Porter
Here are several Jennifer's brooches. They remind me of roses, the way the seaweed ribbons circle around the center.
Brooch by Jennifer Porter

Above right, a brooch made from a satin covered button adorned with a freeform seaweed ribbon creates yet another look.

Beth McGowan works on a seaweed peyote brooch
 About half the group worked on the meetings topics.  I helped a couple of ladies build their peyote stitch base.  Then ended up working on a beaded bead, even though I'd stitched up a peyote stitched base ahead of time.  Just felt like I had too many irons in the fire at present, and decided to focus on finishing what I'd already started.

Upcoming Meeting Topics
Bead Embroidery by Georgia McMillan
February 27: Bead Embroidery by Georgia McMillan
Worked on a base of heavy-weight interfacing, Georgia's bead embroidered birds and 'Happy People' are too much fun.  The birds also have wire-worked feet, which will also be covered at the meeting.

Seadbeeders hard at work
March 27:  Advanced Viking Knit by Kathy Repp and Ann Wilkenson.  And for those of us who're completely new to the topic, several members have also offered to cover basic Viking knit. 

This is a huge group - I would guess upwards of 40-50 people at Sunday's meeting, with an incredible range of skills and knowledge! 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bead Soup Mix

Bead Soup Mix from JJ Jacobs

Lampworked glass by JJ Jacobs
Arrived home this evening to find a package waiting for me.  JJ Jacobs sent me an amazing assortment of beads for the Bead Soup Party and other goodies.

Many of the pieces are her own lampworked beads.  But they aren't your standard, round beads.  No, they're wonderful, amorphous shapes that remind me of fish and raindrops splatting into ponds and all sort of other watery things.  I love these beads!  While she designated this particular beauty as the focal for my challenge piece, the truth is I'd consider any of her freeform beads focal quality. 

Serenity Now by JJ Jacobs
I need to think about how to do them justice!

And in the meantime, I can also think about ways to use the two warm glass tiles she sent as well.  While she suggested in her note that they make great magnets or tiny paperweights, I want to incorporate them each into a piece.  I could trap her abstract piece, Serenity Now,  and use it as a cabochon.  Black or red beads in the border, maybe? 

Lone Raven by JJ Jacobs

The Lone Raven is trickier because I don't want to obscure the raven at lower left.  But that still leaves three corners for me to work with.

Or it may just find a home in my studio on one of my display shelves, where I can look at it and smile.

Thank you JJ!  You make amazing soup (and beads, too!)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good - earrings to coordinate with my Hunting Fae necklace.  Like most of my earrings they're a coordinating rather than matching set.  I wasn't sure how the left hand earring would look without the tablet bead, but I think it turned out well and I really like its curves.  In truth, I think I prefer it. 

The Bad - yesterday's experiments with resin.  I just don't work with resin often enough, and in between times I forget things I know.  Even as I poured the resin into the copper frames, I berated myself for thinking that a single sheet of paper was enough to keep the resin in the frames.  And I was right.  I'm more amazed that one didn't leak than that three did.

Resin's also likely to stick to whatever barriers you erect to attempt to corral it.  Most of these will require so much work to try to save them I'm not sure if it's worth it. We'll see once I get my belt sander set up.  The resin disks in the trays turned out better, no pics of them, though.

The Ugly - my poor studio!  I didn't make it to the studio until early afternoon yesterday due to other commitments, but I had a full day's worth of work lined up.  Normally I straighten at least a little as I work.

Yesterday I just kept piling things and shifting piles so I could keep working.  Between tearing through my beads looking for what I wanted to send for the Bead Soup, searching through and cutting my decorated papers and setting everything up to do the resin work, the studio was in shambles by the time I noticed it was getting dark and ran out, locking the door and the mess behind me.  So here's where I started this morning.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Trading Partners

Dancing Towards the Light by JJ Jacobs
The news is in:  my trading partner for the Bead Soup Party is JJ Jacobs of Coming Abstractions.  We've exchanged emails, and I'm very excited.  While the primary focus of her blog seems to be her abstract, organic acrylic paintings, to which I'm drawn quite strongly, she's also a lampworker.  I need to ask her if the beads in her bead soup picture are her work - they're fantastic!

To the left is one of my favorites of her paintings, Dancing Towards the Light.  Acrylic on Canvas, 36x24.  And oddly enough, I swear didn't notice this until just now, when I went to add the link to her blogsite, but she posted this picture on the day my book was published.  

I have to wonder a little why Lori thought the two of us were opposites, as we both work primarily with color and freeform, organic designs.  But I'm not complaining.  Nuh uh!  Lucky me!

Now to put together her packet of goodies.  Hmmm......

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In for a Penny....

Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the time of year, more likely it's my propensity to jump in with both feet when I get excited about something.

Having left the walled garden of my blog to explore the larger world of the online beading community, I just can't quite seem to control myself.  I seem to be joining things left and right, and enjoying it immensely.

The latest - Lori's Bead Soup Party - a bead exchange and an virtual studio tour.  We'll all be paired up with another party goer and send each other bead packets, with specialty beads, a focal "bead" and a special clasp.  The Flickr feed from previous Bead Soup Party's is really impressive. 

We then have until Party Date, February 26th to make something with the beads and post what we've made on our blogs.  Then it's party time where we all zoom around looking at eachother's blogs.  

210 people have signed up for the party.  I'm both excited and nervous.  Wondering who my partner will be and hoping she'll enjoy my selections.

We were all asked to describe our beading style when we signed up, and I've just discovered via the latest email update that we're being paired with people whose style is the opposite, to move outside of our normal comfort zones by working with a set of beads put together by someone else. Oh boy....

Friday, January 14, 2011

Craft it Forward

A couple days ago, I replied to a friend's 'Create it Forward' post on Facebook.  Her challenge:  in exchange for a handcrafted item from her, I'd pledge to make something handmade for another five people as well.  And those who accept my invitation agree to make something for another five people.  And so on and so forth...  Hence "Creating it Forward".

Naturally, I responded immediately!  A handmade item from someone I know does gorgeous work?  Yeah, I'm there.  And then I started getting excited about what I, in turn, could make.  Lots of ideas running through my head.

Then I started to wonder what other people have done, so I turned to google and did a web search.  The more interesting posts I found include:

  • Draw it Forward, where participants create cartoons from templates provided and other participants' cartoons.  Seems rather tangled, and some of the submissions seemed to be purely random, but it was kinda fun.
  •  Unleash: A Wandering Journal Back in 2009, an all-female group of students at Zayed University started this project by printing and distributing 1000 blank journals with 10 pages each.  The idea was for each recipient to fill one page of the book any way they pleased, then pass it on.  When the book was full, it was to be returned to the project organizers.  While the link from the blog article didn't work, I found a short video about the project, and a Facebook page indicating the project is still alive and well.
  • Craft it Forward, a  Facebook page.  Recent posts promise everything from handcrafted gift tags and cards to baby tutus to be sent to the first x people who respond to each post.   Baby tutus?  Huh.  Wouldn't have thought of that...

My strengths tend to circle around beading, stitch and surface design.  So if you respond to my Facebook post, you're likely to get something along those lines. I've set the deadline to post as January 21st, and will select five people randomly (assuming I have more posts than that) for whom to make something.  I'm thinking a beaded bead, beaded ring or a hand-stenciled t-shirt.   Just don't expect any baby tutus!  We're not going there. 

And since I'd love to know who's reading my blog, anyone who comments on this post by January 21st will be entered into a random drawing to win either a surprise package of beads sufficient to make a freeform beaded bracelet - the package will contain a mix of seed beads, accent beads and at least one focal "bead" - or a signed copy of my book, Freeform Peyote Beading.  Their choice (yes, shameless self-promotion, I know).  

I'd love to know if you've ever participated in a similar endeavor, and what your experiences were!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Down, Three to Go - Last Year's UFOs

No matter how hard I try, I never manage to finish all of my projects before the end of the year. Last year was actually better than most, but here in January I am still left with four projects that were begun in 2010, all of them projects that I actively want to complete.

The problem?  I've started several new projects as well.  And it's so hard to go back to old projects when new one's are clammering for attention.  So I'm hoping this post will help me refocus on these, my neglected children.

 The first is my Crow Jacket.  Surface design with oil sticks and hand-cut stencils on a ready-made jean jacket.  Based on the photo evidence and my notes, it appears I began actively working on this in June, and shelved it for other projects in July.  The jacket's back is pretty much finished.  The front, uh, not so much.

 Next up: a necklace to coordinate with my Spanish Dancer bracelet, also begun in June while I was waiting for my first proof to come back from the printers.  I set it aside when I decided I to make additional samples for the book.  Finishing this in time to include would have delayed the entire book a lot (obviously, since it's not done yet.)

I'm half tempted to cut line and turn it into another bracelet.  

Exhibit Three:  a choker to match my Leopard Jasper bracelet.  It is actually pretty close to completion.  My goal is to wrap it up in January.

The last UFO from 2010 I finished earlier this week, but don't actually have a picture of the final results.  My December challenge necklace lacked a closure and a name as it entered the new year.  It now has new name, Hunting Fae (since it was inspired by the fairy paintings of John Anster Fitzgerald), and a brass, wireworked closure.

In the photo, I'm still trying to decide which closure I want to use.  I went with the wirework set instead of the button.

So what UFO projects do you still hope to complete?  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ice Breakers

I just found this little gem of a book in a box of photo albums from Joe's grandmother.  Originally published in 1918, our copy's a seventh edition, published in 1920.   Ice-Breakers:  Games and Stunts by Edna Geister appears to have been quite popular in its day.

The forward is so sincere as to appear almost trite today, giving the party planner an almost holy mission:  "To draw from the myriad homes of every State in the Union millions of young men and women, enlisting in the service of Uncle Sam, and to surround them with wholesome environment, socially and otherwise, is one of the prodigious tasks now being assumed by our nation .....Wanted:  the most advantageous methods of mixing the sexes in social amusements giving relaxation and rightful pleasure. "

Wow!  That's quite the mission statement.   To have the country so focused around a common cause; it's hard to imagine.  And to believe that your little book of party games is actively helping fight the good fight.  What would it be like to have that sort of clarity of belief?

Flipping through the pages it's full of little skits, party games and 'tricks', which are usually memory or observation games.   I wonder how often these games, or others like them, were actually used for parties back then?  If so, their guests definitely put more work into the party than we do today.   How about participating in shadow pictures; acting out poems in pantomime as the words are read aloud? 

Many of the games have little tricks - like the game "Slang", where all the party goers write down a list of the slang words they know.  The hostess then reads all the lists.  The prize is given to the person with the shortest list.

Oh, and I learned a new word.  Under 'Grouping People for Stunts' they suggested several ways of organizing people:  birth month, birth place, hair color, profession, height (choices:  short, long, indifferent), and avoirdupois.  Avoirdupois? Context helps clarify:  their choices:  fat, lean, middling.  Sounds like they're choosing a cut of meat. 

And I now have a 126 page book full of ideas.  I've always wanted to give a roaring 20s party.  Maybe I'll incorporate a few ideas from my new friend.  Shadow pictures anyone?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Heartbeat of Book Rankings

A month after I set up several different free services to track the Amazon rankings for my book FreeForm Peyote Beading,, I have determined several things.

1) There are HUGE differences in granularity between the various free services.

is still my favorite. It's the only free service I've found that graphs from Amazon's hourly updates. I can't see the graphs on my iPhone (they're rendered in Flash), but I can check out my ranking and sales stats. It's the top example to the left.

Next up is TitleZ. They pull what sounds like the entire Booksellers Ranking from Amazon once per night. Their service seems designed primarily for tracking industry trends. Perhaps it would be of more use if I were trying to compare several books' sales,such as competitors. (I may try that next).

I'd actually forgotten I'd signed up for RankForest until they sent me an email reminder that 30 days' worth of data were ready for viewing. Score one for them. They have several different account levels from free which updates every 8 hours (my account). All of the paid accounts update hourly starting at $2.99/month to track one book. More books tracked equals more $.

The most interesting thing they offer is a 'clipping service' - What Blogs Are Saying, which includes links to blogs using search terms related to the book. In my case, they listed "freeform peyote beading" and "Karen Williams". I was happy to note my blog came up under both entries, as did some others I want to check out more closely.

And most recently, I've signed up for Author Central with Amazon. It's nice in that I can upload a picture (need to find a better one) and biography.

But, according to Amazon "authors can see weekly sales trends of their print books as reported by Nielsen BookScan" This is supposed to give me some lovely information about where in the country my book is actually selling (wouldn't that be nice to know!?) - unfortunately, it thinks I've sold no books, so it's useless.

2) Amazon book rankings are incredibly volatile if you're not in the top 10-20,000. A quick look at the NovelRank graph back at the top of this post and you can see what I mean. It reminds me of an EKG from some medical drama: all spikes.

Looking at the graphs, my worst ranking since I began tracking was 437,354. A single sale and my ranking was suddenly 136,784. Wow, what a difference a sale made!

However, that only works so far. The lower (better) one's current ranking, the less difference a single sale makes. The higher the general sales volume, the more this is true. Take yesterday as an example. It was an absolute record day for me, with seven books sold in 24 hours. (Yippee!) However, my best ranking the entire day was #38,200 (which at that point translated into #20 in the category Beadwork). In late November, when sales seemed to be slower generally, the sale of three books in 24 hours garnered an overall rating of #34,059 in books (and #34 in Beadwork).

Other items of note -

Sales Fluctuations and Rankings. I had absolutely no sales December 23-26, but apparently wasn't alone, as my book's rankings worsened very slowly during that time frame. Then the last five days of December more than made up for that dip; December 27-31st accounted for fully a third of my entire December sales. Judging by the volatility of the rankings, I'd say other books were selling briskly too.

Overall Rankings vs. Category Rankings. Until the past couple of days, I could pretty reliably divide my overall ranking by 1000 and come up with its ranking in Beadwork. But the past couple of days, it would seem books in the Beadwork category aren't selling as fast as some others, as my category ranking is much better than my overall ranking would lead me to expect.

3) Amazon's 'in-house' tracking offered through Author Central sounds great, but is absolutely abysmal. I've already noted this above, but thought it worth repeating. I would love to have access to some very basic geographic information - where in the country or the world do the people who purchase my book live? I'd love to know if my book were particularly popular in Texas, or Massachusetts, or Great Britain, for instance. No such luck! I think because my book is print on demand, rather than from a major publisher. But if you've managed to pry this information from Amazon, I'd love to hear how you did it!

How does this all help? I'm not sure yet, but it's fascinating.