Studio Musings

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Studio Wednesday

The problem with having too many ideas in my head is it's far too easy to jump from one project to the next, working on whatever seems like most fun in the present instead of what I ought to be working on.   Like my Lacework Bracelet pattern, which I plan to revise, adding in two new sections, then convert it to Kindle format as well as PDF.  Thought I'd use it as a test project to see what exactly is involved  in the conversion process.  (By the bye - when I revise/expand upon an e-pattern, I'll send the new revisions to anyone who has purchased the pattern within the past year, in the same format as their original purchase).

But have I worked on it this week?  No!  Instead, I keep finding myself working on the pattern for my Fancy Goldfish.  And since I don't have much else to share right now, I thought I'd share a couple pics of my work in progress.

Testing out my instructions and diagrams
All of the illustrations are designed in illustrator, and I start out typing the text into work because it's easiest to edit in that format.  Once I know that everything works, I'll start putting the two together, adding captions and designing page layouts.  But right now, we're very much in the pattern testing stage where I'm trying to follow my own instructions word for word.  Not the easiest thing for me!
Getting ready to add the dorsal fin
My test subjects
And tomorrow morning, I'll try to snap some good pics of my current school of fish.  But this is what I have for now.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Breaking Radio Silence

Aulani Resort
I apologize to everyone for being gone for so long.  I could claim it's because I was on vacation, but the truth is I scheduled the last two posts for while I was gone.  Vacation was wonderful. 

The hard part was returning - we've been home for a week now and other than an hour of sun yesterday, it's been cold, wet and rainy pretty much ever since our return.  The studio seems extra quiet now too, after a week of hanging out with my co-conspirator (aka my husband). 

So where did we go, you ask?  We went to the Aulani, the new Disney resort on Ohau and pretty much stayed right there, enjoying everything the resort area had to offer.

Snorkeling with sea turtles
Playing in the public lagoon in front of our resort, we saw a sea turtle, then later we went on a snorkel trip where we saw far more.  They are so large and it's fascinating watching them swim.  Though their flippers move in what seems like slow motion,  they cut through the water so fast!  It's easy to underestimate their speed when you're simply watching their flippers move. 

I also snorkeled in the private reserve in Aulani's water park area.  It's small, but stocked with fish from around the islands.  Far more than I've seen on many a snorkeling trip and great fun at feeding time, when I could swim through swarming schools of fish and feel their swift movements in the water all around me.
Feeding time at Aulani's Rainbow Reef

One of Aulani's major focuses is on traditional Hawaiian art and culture, which inspires the entire hotel.  Some of the touches are whimsical, like the Menehune hidden throughout the resort area. Like this little guy at left, hiding in plain site near the ceiling in one of the elevators. 

Other touches are simply beautiful.  The curtains and shower curtains in our room featured kapa style prints.  Kapa is the traditional Hawaiian bark paper.

And one day a week artisan Dalani Tanahy comes to Aulani to share her experiences and knowledge in this artform; it's history, the tools and materials and the challenges modern kapa makers faced helping to resurrect the knowledge from old accounts and extant artifacts as all of the original kapa makers were gone. 

Traditional tools for kapa making

Dalani Tanahy demonstrating the pounding process
Me playing with feathers and beads: Take 1
Throughout the week, Disney offered a wide range of arts and crafts classes on traditional Hawaiian classes.  Some free, some for a small fee.  My favorite by far was one I almost missed.  The day before our snorkeling trip, I discovered that Kuahiwi Lorenzo would be teaching traditional Hawaiian feather work at the same time we'd be out on the boat.  But, he'd be doing a presentation at the artisan's corner later that day, after we were back.  So I sought him out, and asked enough questions that he ended up offering to give me an impromptu feather working class.  I hadn't realized, but in ancient Hawaii, bird catching was a special occupation, where they learned to trap the birds without injuring then.  Once caught, they'd remove a few feathers from each bird, then release them so new feathers could grow.

The project he started me on was supposed to be a feather bracelet lei made from dyed turkey feathers.  I worked on it for a while with him, then later.  But then I started wondering what would happen if I added beads.  So you can guess where I went from there, working from my traveling bead box.  I got most of the way during vacation, but finished up the last of it after our return home.  Definitely room for exploration here!

These arrived in the mail from Bobbie
So what finally prompted me to break through the silence that's been stifling me since our return?  A wonderful little package from Bobbie over at Beadsong Jewelry

She'd hosted a giveaway to celebrate her 100th blog post and I won these wonderful swirl beads from Thornburg Bead Studio.  They just arrived in the mail yesterday, bringing with them the promise of spring.  Thank you again Bobbie! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Photographing Bead Work Outside the studio

Faux-stone vinyl floor tiles
The past couple of months I've started volunteering again as the meeting photographer for the Seedbeaders' group.  I'd done some photography for them last spring, but wasn't happy with the results.  It was pretty ad hoc; I had my camera, but the indoor lighting is poor for photography - my OTT light too bright, the overhead lights too dim.  Worse, the shiny green and brown folding tables simply don't make good backgrounds, and the grey of my beading mat wasn't much better.  
Looking for a better solution for the December meeting, I brought two thin slabs of stone and set up right outside the door.  I've discovered that Seattle winter weather tends to provide almost perfect photography conditions when it's not actively raining - bright, diffused light - just like a photographers light box!  Chilly, but surprisingly bright.  

While the photos pleased me, the idea of dragging the heavy stones to and from each meeting didn't.  Sorting through the random stuff in my basement in a recent stab at spring cleaning, I happened upon several faux-stone, matte-finish vinyl floor tiles.  I have no idea why I bought them originally, but I brought them with me to January's meeting along with the stones and used them as my new backgrounds. 

Octopus pendant by Tammy Mickelson with faux stone background
Freeform Bracelet by Jennifer Porter with faux stone background
The images in my earlier post, Ongoing Inspiration, also use these faux-stone backgrounds.  Needless to say, I will be using them again.  And I'm tempted to see what other options they might have in faux-stone vinyl the next time I swing by the hardware store.  Only downside - the flat tiles don't work well for photographing pieces on a display.   

Red Beaded necklace by Theresa Cleary - flat definitely works better

Then there's the camera.  Last fall I splurged and upgraded to the latest iPhone (4S).  One of my reasons/excuses I used to justify the purchase was the phone's camera.  And I have to say, I am impressed.  More and more of the photos I've included on my blog over the past few months I took with my iPhone, including the macros.  With 8 megapixels, the camera has more than enough resolution for at least 90% of my needs.  I'm not getting rid of my Olympus, but my iPhone has definitely become my best friend for blogging photos.  Arstechnica did an interesting four-part article comparing the 4S to several DSLRs with shots in several different lighting situations.

I did my own comparison in December, using both of my cameras to photograph the pieces for the Bello Modo challenge (fyi - I sent them three images for each entry, one with numbers for the judging and they chose which to post for each piece).  Which images I liked best turned out to be far more a question of composition than anything else, though color can differ between the two based on lighting.  For the January meeting, I just brought my iPhone (which is what I used for the pictures above).

Comparing Cameras. left: iPhone, right: Olympus. Points Unknown by Karen Williams
Its camera is quite forgiving with less than ideal lighting and unsteady hands (or earrings swaying slightly in the breeze).  And the tap focus is a wonderful advantage with macro photography, giving me incredible flexibility.  The only time I've had trouble is in trying to photograph lacy or very small objects against an open background, such as when I tried hanging my lacework leaf earrings from a tree branch with empty space as the background.  The phone's lens couldn't seem to focus on the earrings and instead focused on random objects in the background instead, no matter how often I tapped on the earrings in the screen.  It focused through the openings in the earrings like looking through a chain link fence.  The same earrings laid against as solid stone background photographed without any problems.  

My favorite part, though?  It means it's one less thing I need to carry around with me every day. Which is particularly helpful as my best friend teases me about carrying the world around in my backpack.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Little Inspiration - Book Reviews

I haven't come to any conclusions yet regarding taking Freeform Peyote to a digital format and would still love your feedback whether you've used craft books in a digital format, what you're looking for in a digital craft book, and what formats its usually in (epub, pdf, kindle, etc).  There are so many options out there, it's a bit hard to know where to start (or if it even makes sense to do so).

In the meantime, I thought I'd share three more inspiration books from my library.  The first, simply titled "Karl Blossfeldt",   features his black and white plant photography.  His close-up photographs take on abstracted, sometimes alien shapes and often resemble wrought iron.  Which is funny, since it's actually the other way around; his forms have inspired generations of artists, including metal workers - Blossfeldt lived from 1865-1932.  My copy came from a used book store and I think I picked it up for $5.00.  It's a lot more on Amazon, but it's definitely one I'd recommend keeping an eye out for, and definitely worth checking out from the library if it's there.

I picked Reptiles up from one of the bargain tables at Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago.  Even if you don't like snakes and reptiles, it's worth looking through this book.   I don't have it in front of me, but I'd guess the book is at least 14" tall, and most of the photographs take up the full page, with a number of two-page spreads.  The colors and patterns are exquisite, and reptile scales look so much like bead work, the translation is almost automatic.  Searching through Amazon for the book, I came across a number of other titles by the same photographer, Paul Sarosta that look equally interesting. 

The last, Ocean Soul by Brian Skerry, is a brand-new book that I picked up last week after his National Geographic lecture by the same name.  I'm a sucker for fish books with great photos, and this coffee table book definitely lives up to that requirement.  Unlike Archipelago or The Deep, two of my favorite sea-creature inspiration books, most of the photographs in Ocean Soul show the animals in their natural environment as one of Brian's self-proclaimed goals it to act as an underwater journalist for the denizens of the sea.  The book is also wider ranging than most of my collection, both in creatures featured, and in geographic locations, which makes sense as Brian has more than 20 National Geo articles to his name. 

And here's my reader question:  what are some of your favorite inspiration books, and why?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Time to take Freeform Peyote Beading Digital?

In the past couple of months I've had several people ask if I planned to release an ebook version of Freeform Peyote Beading. Originally I had resisted for two reasons.  One, the interior PDF for the print version, at 100.6MB, is far too large for easy download.  Recently it occurred to me that I could go back and resize all of the images for the web to 72dpi instead of 300.  Between that and the formatting differences between ePub and PDF, (I think I'll  have to manually pull everything out off InDesign) I could reduce the file size considerably, so that's less of a concern.  

My larger question is do people purchase books of this nature in a digital format?  I've always preferred the hardcopy myself for craft books.  Last month I purchased my first digital craft book 'The Complete Photo Guide to Jewelry Making' so I could see how someone else handled the transition. They seem to include only one or two photos per page.  I really ought to track down a print copy so I can compare the two versions. 

This would be my first time converting a book for e-publication, but I'm guessing it will take a fair bit of concerted effort. So I thought I'd try and tap into the collective wisdom of the Internet and ask for general feedback before committing to the project

  • Have you purchased ebook versions of any craft books (and if you haven't, would you consider it)?  
  • What do you expect from a digital book of this nature?  
  • Do you have a favorite craft ebook?   What in particular do you love about it?
  • What Ebook readers do you use most often? Why do you prefer that reader/format?
  • Any other suggestions, advice or things I should consider?
Thanks in advance!  And I will definitely let you know what I decide. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

30 Pairs of Earrings in 31 days, plus 2 pendants

So that's my final total for my January Earring Challenge.  I thought I had made 31 pairs, but when I counted yesterday morning, I discovered that either a set had disappeared over night, or I'd miscounted.  I'd love to think that it was the former, but I'm guessing it was actually the later.

First two weeks of the Earring Challenge
I've posted an number of the pieces to Facebook, but I'll do a recap here.  The collage above includes pretty much all of the earrings I created in the first two weeks of January.  I stuck with freeform peyote and random right angle weave for all of these. 

I found myself working in series as often as not, creating a couple of pairs of earrings from the same basic design.  The flames to the lower right were the start of my largest series.   I couldn't seem to stop stitching them.  I think it had something to do with their warmth and the snow falling outside during that particular point.  A friend wondered what they'd look like if I reversed the colors, so I made one of those too, with an orange heart instead of the ultramarine blue.

I love the warmth of these!
In the second half of the month, I branched out, with a little tassle-making and some wire working.  I made two pairs of oak leaves - one with green stone hearts, the other with smoky crystals - as well as the more abstracted oak leaf pendant.   The heart beads came from the Seedbeaders' meeting and there's a definite valentine's flair to a number of these (valentines a la me - no pinks here!)

Second half of January

But at the very end, I went created two more pairs of earrings combining peyote stitch and random right angle weave.

These remind me of green pinecones

So there you have it - I think that's the lot of them!  In case it isn't, here's a photo of them sitting in their tray. 

And if you'd like to see more earrings, go check out Backstory Beads, who's also participating in the challenge; her work is gorgeous!  And of course, there's the Bead Along gallery at Beading Daily.