Studio Musings

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Victorian Listening Device (aka a Bug)

"Victorian Listening Device" by Tamera Mickelson
Here's a piece by one of my favorite artists;  Tamera Mickelson of T.M. Originals.

I got to see this at Sunday's Seedbeader meeting and I begged to take some pictures.  It's tiny; smaller than a quarter all told, the body somewhere between a penny and a nickel in size.  The 'guts' are old clock workings that she salvaged and encased in resin.  The bead work is done with size 11 Delicas. 

Side view, "Victorian Listening Device" by Tamera Mickelson

Three of her pieces are featured in the recently published book 1,000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art and she'll have a booth at SteamCon here in Seattle in October.  But you don't have to be a steampunk aficionado to enjoy her work.  You can see more of her work, including some additional captured cabochons, at her Artfire site, Javagoth

Grabbed one of her postcards! 

And here's the other side

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Uptown Art Stroll

My corner of the booth
Leah and I definitely went for overkill.  Since this was the first festival for either of us, we wanted to make sure that our booth didn't look it.  We went as far as setting up everything in my backyard two days ahead of time, 'just in case' there was something we'd forgotten.

The trickiest part were the hanging display ladders - ended up making them out of dowel rods and ropes with wrapped wire to hold it all together.  And while they look great, the first one took me almost three hours to make. 

Leah setting up her workspace
I don't know how those of you who do festivals regularly manage!  True this was my first, so there was a lot of work tracking down or making displays and booth components, but even still there's an incredible amount of prep time involved. 

So yesterday morning we showed up bright and early, grabbed a prime spot and set up.  Even with the trial run in the backyard, setting up took longer than expected.  Amongst other things, my hands were shaking so badly I couldn't seem to thread my papers in between the little dowels.  With help from Joe, it was finally accomplished.

And then we settled in to work.  The Uptown Art Stroll was a little different from most festivals I've attended in that every artist participating was expected to be creating a piece of art work throughout the day with judging and an awards ceremony at the end.

My piece at the end of the day (nearing completion!)
I'd worried about this beforehand.  I could make little rings, which are quick, but not particularly judge-worthy.  Or I could work on a larger piece, but wouldn't get very far.  The festival organizer suggested that I bring a piece in progress.  Bless him!  My last post shows my piece going into the festival.

I didn't know what the judging would involve.  As it turns out, it was a lot of fun.  The judges, Susan Jane Russell and Jacqueline Barnett, were fascinating women who asked a number of questions about my background, how I got into beading, etc.  Jacqueline's last question threw me for a moment "what is the most technically difficult part of what you do?"

Staring at my piece I realized anew that none of the stitches, in and of themselves, are particularly difficult; in fact they're all rather simple.  Its the freeform combination, the willingness to step off that path and believe that it will work that adds the complexity.  So that was my answer, but it felt like a personal epiphany as well.  Reminding me of why I do what I do.

Wondering about customers?   Well, the attendance was light, as were sales, but it was a good chance to test out a number of things, including price points.  And I truly enjoyed the chance to talk with people in person, see what they liked, which colors and designs appealed, and why.  The light turn out gave me more time to talk with those who did come.  A number took the Fusion Bead class calendars, so maybe I'll see some of them in my classes this fall.

t-shirts for everyone, ribbon for me! 
To top the day off, to my surprise and amazement, Leah and I both placed in the 3D art category.  I took first!  Woo Hoo for jewelry!  So now I have a two-night stay at the Mediterranean Inn and a gift certifcate to TS McHugh's, a great Irish pub, just in time for our anniversary. 

Do I think festivals will become a regular thing for me?  No.  Do I think I'll do them again upon occasion.  Almost certainly.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coming Down to the Wire

Staging area and supplies
It's coming down to the wire for the Uptown Art Stroll and I put in a 10 hour day at the studio yesterday continuing to try to get stuff done. 

Last week, I was still trying to clean up after myself as I went along, but that meant I'd put things away just to have to drag them back out again the next day or even an hour later.  This week I've decided that my cutting table is my staging area.

It's actually a sort of organized chaos, with separate areas for wireworking tools, glazing cabochons, resin work, packing, and bead sorting.

I definitely need to rethink my bead storage.  My large plastic containers are great for storage, but it's a pain to keep hauling them out when I'm working on a number of smaller beading projects, with differing color schemes all at once.

I've ended up simply sorting the beads I've used by color group on top of my cutting table.  That way I can grab what I need for a particular project.  When I'm done, they get sorted back into the rainbow.  It's working surprisingly well.

As part of the Uptown Art Stroll, all of the artists are supposed to be actively creating a piece of work throughout the day.  The organizer, bless him, agreed that I could bring a work in progress.

Since there is going to be a judging, I wanted to do something more than little beaded rings, but there'd be no chance of finishing a larger piece in the time allotted.  So here's my jump-start.  This is two full days worth of beading - I'm thinking I might need to do a little more beforehand to insure that I can indeed finish the darned necklace on Saturday.

Starting to unfold the papers

And since my beading is so slow, and my hands needed a break, I dyed another batch of papers yesterday.

This entails folding each sheet of acid-free tissue paper into little tiny logs or triangles, then dipping them into little batches of dye.   I don't have any photos of these stages - note to self - take process photos.  The thing is, it's really messy; even with gloves several of my fingers ended up dyed a deep rosy color.  I hate to think what I could do to my camera with my hands coated with dye solution!

In this first photo, the papers have dried enough that I could start to unfold them.

The latest in studio floor coverings
The unfolding is one of the trickiest parts.  If I try to unfold them while they're still too wet, I rip the papers.  But if I wait until they're completely dry, then the dye seems to fuse the layers together and I rip the paper as I try to unfold it. Kind of a catch 22.

The key is to unfold them when they are at just the right stage of damp.  And I can't unfold them all the way at once.  Unfold one or two layers and the paper's too wet to unfold further.  So my studio became a giant drying rack as I slowly unfolded each sheet from my latest batch.

Ironing and sorting the dyed papers
Once they were unfolded and dry, it was time to iron them.  Each sheet had to be ironed individually.  Well, I suppose I didn't HAVE to, but the designs really pop out once the pages are ironed.

As I ironed, I sorted the papers into two stacks.  The second, thankfully smaller, stack was of those papers that tore during the process.  I'll have both available for sale on Saturday.

Ready and waiting for Saturday to arrive

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Waiting for Christmas

The Mix I sent as seen through Acorn's Distorted Glass filter
It feels like I'm waiting for Christmas, waiting for my Bead Soup mix to arrive from my trading partner, Kimberly Roberts of BahamaDawn

As the name of her blog implies, Kim lives and works in the Bahamas.  Inspired by her surroundings, her work features bright, bold colors and playful lines which capture the vibrancy of her surroundings and make me think of warm blue waters.  And of course, I love her fish!  A woman after my own heart; her work ranges from art quilts to mosaics, jewelry to furniture and more at her website

Bead Soup Treasury on Etsy
Since neither Kim nor I have received our packages yet, I'm living vicariously through others' blogs and enjoying some of the Etsy Treasuries people have put together featuring works by Bead Soup participants.  Like the one above, put together by Shirley, one of my best blogging friends.   Use the search term "beadsoup2011" to see the other treasuries as well.

And to finish out this post, here are a couple of macros from my garden that I just pulled off my camera:

Closeup of a bumble bee I found in the garden

Daylily bloom - a color scheme for summer!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Best Birthday Ever

Tomorrow's my 41st birthday.  I love birthdays - mine and anyone elses' - our own little mini-holidays!  And a reminder that we're still here, even if we are getting older, MUCH better than the alternative....

I've had some amazing birthdays in the past.  One I'll always remember is the hot air balloon ride my husband surprised me with when we still lived in Missouri.  It stormed on my birthday, so we had a quiet day and he took me to a nice dinner and after he told me the surprise we rescheduled for about a week later.  If you've never been up in a hot air balloon, I have to say it was one of the most magical experiences of my life.  We got to help lay out the basket and balloon, then watch as the balloon inflated, scramble over the sides of the basket and suddenly we were rising up into the air so fast!  And then we floated over our town, right over our own neighborhood, which looked like a forest from the air, with all of the old trees.  And except for the occasional wooshing gusts from the burner, it was silent and we were so low you could see everything and wave at neighbors and strangers and passerby as they noticed us, some rushing out of their houses to wave.  Then, landing in a field on the edge of a neighborhood, literally dozens of people - first kids then their parents came rushing out to see the balloon as we climbed out and I felt like I was suddenly in some sort of adventure movie.  Then a bottle of champagne appeared for a toast.  It couldn't have been more magical!

One of the funniest birthdays ever was one I hosted for my husband right before our move to Seattle.  While I hadn't started actively packing, I'd spent a fair bit of time cleaning and organizing and finding all sorts of items that either needed to be returned to friends, or simply seemed like they should belong to friends.  We had a big going away/birthday party combo and told everyone not to bring anything, but when they arrived guests found a long table piled with wrapped gifts.  More than a few of our guests looked very worried and I actually had to stop at least one from running out to 'get something' for the birthday boy.  Finally, I announced it was time to unwrap presents and when everyone assembled, we began handing them out.  We actually managed to have a 'gift' for every single person in attendance (and since my gregarious husband had lived in that town for over 15 years it was a large party).  It was so fun and it was delightful watching everyone's expressions as they got into the spirit!

So, what am I going to do this year?  My dear husband and I are going to play hooky from work for starters.  Likely head down to El Diablo's, our favorite coffee shop at some point during the morning.  And we're going to hang out at the beach at Golden Gardens tomorrow afternoon, followed by a little bonfire and hotdog roast with s'mores along with some of our closest friends.  

And if you leave a comment on this post before the week's end sharing a tidbit from your best birthday ever, I might just send you a gift, too.

Ta ta for now!  Time to go make some deviled eggs....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Some of this week's new inventory
Last weekend I sat down and wrote out a list of the items I'd like to have available at the Uptown Stroll art festival.  Then I divided the list into three week's worth of to-do lists.

This past week's list included:
  • 2 captured cabochon necklaces
  • 10 pairs freeform peyote earrings
  • 2 captured cabochon brooches
  • 12 pairs simple earrings (wire, stone & beads)
  • And start work on a new batch of concrete pendants
Work very much in progress
I have to wonder, what was I smoking? By Monday afternoon, I knew I was in trouble.  Heck, in truth I knew I was in trouble Monday morning.  I'm quick at what I do, but that's entirely relative.  Freeform peyote is not a fast stitch.  It's beautiful.  It's intricate, it's fun and challenge; it is not fast.  Besides, I can only do so much stitching before my wrist and arm start to burn.

  • My final new inventory for the week:
  • 7 pairs of freeform earrings
  • 2 bead rings
  • Started on a captured cabochon necklace
  • Poured a small batch of resin cabs
  • One little fishy

So far, my booth is looking pretty darned sparse!  But, I have some ideas.  I think I may supplement my booth with dyed papers.

And I am FINALLY finishing up the pattern for my little fishes.  With lots of variations.  I plan to have it available as an ebook/epattern and kit by August 27th.  But I may also have it printed through for those who want hard copies.  Printing through Createspace is less expensive than color photocopies at Kinkos if you're printing more than about 6 pages, and the final results are far nicer.  And I could even make a kindle version!  I wonder how that would work?  I may find out very shortly. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Signing on With Square Up

Swiping a card
In preparations for my first art festival (yes I always do things a little backwards), I've just signed on with Square Up so that I can accept credit cards.  I'd read about it before on several blogs, including Tari's very nice review last year.

I know from my own experiences when attending shows that I prefer to use my card for most purchases.  If a vendor doesn't accept credit cards, I have to really, really, really want what they're selling to use cash because I just don't like to carry a lot on me.

Square Up sounds almost too good to be true.  Besides turning my phone into a card reader (no extra equipment besides a little dongle), they charge a much lower rate (2.75%) when I physically swiping the card. 

If I choose to manually enter the number, they'll charge 3.5% plus a 15cent transaction fee.  Not bad.  And they pay out the next day! 

I'm still stuck in the account verification process, so I haven't been able to play with the ap yet, but hope to do so this week and will write an update with any new news.  But it looks like the receipt process is sweet - it can include my info, pictures of their signature, the actual item purchased, a written description and even geo-information for where they were when they purchased the item. 

If you are already using the Square, I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lots Going on this Month

Beaded Bezels and Captured Cabochons
August is shaping up to be a busy, busy month! 

I have several classes coming up at my studio.  First up is Capturing Cabochons, this Saturday, August 7.  Stitch a beaded bezel using right angle weave and peyote stitch.  I'll also show variations with random right angle weave.

Samples for Dyeing the Rainbow and Creative Play
August 22-24 I'm hosting a three-day Dye Camp, with a different focus each day.

Day 1 is Dyeing the Rainbow, focusing on careful measurements to create reproducible colors.

Day 2 focuses on a variety of surface design techniques including dye painting and simple shibori.

Day 3 is a completely freeform, open studio day if you simply want to play with dyes.

And today through Wednesday, swing by Pretty Things to sign up for Lori's Bead Soup Blog Party!

It's an amazing amount of fun and I highly recommend it!  My swap partner last time was the ever-so-talented JJ Jacobs, the package she sent was stunning, and I had a great time coming up with my design.  And the blog hop reveal was pure inspiration

Beyond that, I'm thinking about class submissions for Fusion Beads winter schedule, and an artist friend has almost talked me into participating in the Uptown Art Stroll at the end of August.

I've never had a booth at an art festival and am really not sure that I can make enough inventory between now and then.  But I'm considering....  Those of you who do art festivals, what sort of price ranges do best?