A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

These Things Just Make Themselves

Today was the day for my enamel cones from SueBeads to grow up! I didn't really have any beads to go with them when I got them, so I had to go shopping again. I ordered a slug of Czech glass teardrops from Fusion Beads, just two each in each color I wanted, in two different sizes. The larger size, 20x9mm, fit perfectly. I had an idea for how I could use the smaller teardrops, but didn't have the patience today. Next time! First time around I wanted to do something more basic.

I've paired the raspberry cones with teardrops in "carnelian"--it's a nice translucent but milky glass, it really does remind me of carnelian. Some of my purple glass tile beads matched the cones exactly (three colors seemed a little bit too busy). I did these with antiqued brass.

I thought the lemon lime (it makes me think of tree lichen) cones looked nice with the capri blue, and I had some matte finish seed beads in lime as well, so that got all put together with sterling silver.

Lastly, I had to pair the denim blue cones with amber teardrops--I seem to be into that combination. Whiskey and faded jeans by the fire? With sterling silver again. I have these ultra cool Delica seed beads in a matte metallic blue-green finish--they remind me of faded denim. (I want to make an entire necklace with them).

Any of these cones would have been fabulous with any of the beads I got--the enamel colors are so rich and vibrant you can do virtually anything with them. The only thing I found was that I needed to put some kind of smaller spacer bead over the opening at the top of the cone--the holes are fairly large and I was paranoid about mangling them as I finished my wrap. A little round bead would work well too.

I have lots of big teardrops left over so I guess that means I need more cones.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Harness Your Frog Energy.

"Frog's song calls down the cleansing power of the rain. Frog is a reminder of the sacred power of tears to transform and cleanse away sorrow. Frogs will die if away from moisture for too long, and thus Frog reminds us to refresh ourselves, and allow joy to moisten our lives and our hearts. If you are feeling "muddied" by the world, take a moment to dream, to laugh and cry and renew yourself. Frog also reminds us to cleanse our bodies, our environments and our auric fields. People with Frog energy should learn and utilize methods of psychic cleansing."


I made this today with a pewter frog totem from most fabulous Happy Mango Beads, combined with lampwork from Pat Redinger at Beingbeads, and a stash of moss agate in a couple different sizes I completely forgot I had and obviously never really looked at closely because if I had I would have been OBSESSED with it and ordered 10 more strands and 80% of the stuff in my shop would be made with moss agate. It ranges from translucent, pale iceberg blue (even sometimes approaching periwinkle) through teal blue to vivid viridian and even towards a yellow-green, all of it with a delicate, glassy translucency, and fascinating veining that really does look like moss.

I added some little rice pearls in iris green. I've been meaning to use this totem with some of my blue-green lampwork from Pat and decided today was the day. And it wasn't even something I started two weeks ago and then stared at! I started it late this morning, and finished it the same day. Frigging amazing. I had to periodically LOS-ize more sterling wire, and melt more headpins in my torch, but it went pretty smoothly. My owl totem bracelet was very similar so I kind of knew how to go about it. This time, though, I looped the leather through a jumpring and wrapped it securely with a coil of silver wire, instead of using the crimp ends like I did with the owl bracelet. That was easier than I expected it to be.

I really do like frogs, actually (if I start collecting figurines in my 80s it will definitely be frogs--in fact my favorite is the poison dart frog). And I have been known to periodically sob in the restroom (public or private), after which time I generally do feel better although I look like crap. I had always thought I was just having a breakdown, but it's such a relief to know I was only instinctively cleansing my auric field. Moistening my, ah, life. Getting my Frog energy on.

What is Frog telling you?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Some Custom Work Finished Last Night

This is one of those requests by a customer that makes you think, "Ick." I didn't think combining the brass and copper was going to work, but once I got it strung I really liked it. Might even have to make another one! Freshwater pearls, copper and brass accent beads, and some little glass tile beads in a smoky color.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Some New Stuff

Amazing what you can accomplish when you give yourself permission to stop trying to make Something No One Has Ever Made Before.

Here's some stuff from the last couple weeks:

Bracelet with lampwork by Kelley's Beads and Studio Rent
Pewter Orca totem with Czech faceted glass and denim lapis
Soochow jade in palest rosewater with copper.
Golden jade roundels and brass
Pendant with bronze and steel lock washers and pearls
Bronze lock washers and freshwater pearls
Bracelet with bronze and steel lock washers and pearls
Veterans of this blog will recognize the "hardware" pieces, I've done them before. Been intending for several months to make another set and finally got around to it. (I've been trying to embrace the Nike philosophy of "just do it". One piece at a time. It doesn't need to be revolutionary, just done. And while I'm churning out stuff that is familiar and comfortable to me something a little different will probably squeeze through now and then.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Delicious Coffee and Cream Treasury

I desperately want a coffee now. Preferably something with whipped cream and chocolate too. (I'm in the upper left). Check it out! Some really lovely items. I want them all. Except the baby.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Easy Tutorial to Organize Your Workspace

Are you overwhelmed by a messy bead board? Just don't have the time to clean up those odds and ends? This was my problem. I even contemplated buying another bead board! But then I discovered the solution, and my workspace went from this:

So messy! Argh!
 To this:

How did I do it? I'm going to tell you, 'cause I'm like that. It was so simple and easy!

Here's what you will need:
1. Large plastic bag.
2. Plastic container with a lid. Or two, depending.
3. Storage cupboard or shelf, preferably with a door on it.

The first thing you need to do is so easy! You can do it in a jiff. Go over your bead board and pick out the really good stuff--pendants, focals, finished items, pharmaceuticals, cash, anything precious metal, art beads. Put them in a safe place where you'll remember where they are. Maybe write down where you put them. And put that note in a safe place where you'll remember where it is.

Once you've picked out the expensive or important stuff, it's time for your plastic bag. A big one is best, one that is big enough that you can fit the board all the way in it. There should be no holes. (Stiffer plastic bags work better, like really big plastic shopping bags like if you bought a duvet or something at Bed Bath & Beyond. But check for holes).
The bag.
Carefully slip the board all the way into the bag.
The board going in the bag.
Once you have the bag safely enveloping the board, gently tip the board up and keep tipping until everything from the board is in the bag.
Tipping the board.
  Everything should then look like this:
The board.

The bag.

Now take your plastic bag and your plastic container (or whatever kind of container you like, it should just be fairly deep to keep things from bouncing out when you make the transfer), and carefully make a little pouring spout with the bag into the container. Carefully tip the bag up (see below)

Pouring the bag.

so that the contents of the bag pour into the container. When all the contents of the bag are in the container, put the lid on the container. It should look like this:

Container with the lid on.

Put the container in a storage area:
Storage cupboard.

Close the door.
And the beauty of this technique is that you can do it as many times as you need to! You could even do it with your whole work bench if you had a big enough bag. And container.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Fickle Muse, or, as She is Known in Clinical Circles, Cyclothymia

Every other "Etsy Success" article is about quitting your day job to make your art/craft full time, as your sole means of financial support. This is put forward as some sort of universal human goal we are all to strive for. I have been examining the feasibility of this scenario in my life, more out of intellectual curiosity than actual intent. I do think it is possible, for example, to support yourself decently by designing, making and selling jewelry. Going the one-woman-shop-handmade route might make it a stretch to actually have a retirement nest egg, or good health insurance, if you're going it alone, but you could probably keep a roof over your head if you did it right. The right target market, right mix of products/price points, right mix of selling venues, good marketing, shrewd money decisions. And I actually think that I would probably be shrewd and clever enough to figure out, on paper, how to make that work.

The kicker, however, is actually managing to do it. Day after day after day.

A regular customer said to me once, kind of wistfully,"Oh I envy you! It must be so relaxing to sit down and make a piece of jewelry at the end of the day." Are you shitting me? Relaxing? Not in a million years. It's effing exhausting. For me, anyway. There is a significant amount of anxiety surrounding every single project I do (never have figured out quite what I'm afraid of), and every time I start something, I have to climb over a little ball of anxiety in my gut and that requires energy. That's why so much of every weekend is frittered away in aimless pottering--I'm procrastinating, I'm psyching myself up, I'm circling. I have to spend a few hours circling the project, trying to get the anxiety under control, before I start on it. (I also find it a rather lonely thing to do, and I don't like that feeling of isolation--maybe I'm having an existential crisis every time I start a piece...) And in the end, I just have to say, ENOUGH of this, just do it, you know how, you've done it before. And I make myself sit down and get started. Once I start on it, it's better, and I can generally get it finished (unless I hate it), even if it takes a few days. But I am utterly FRIED by the time I'm done. It's physically and mentally exhausting to me. (I guess I do it more out of a need to vent a creative urge, than for actual fun; I find dammed up creativity makes me feel sick). I have constant neck and back pain, and usually a low grade headache from neck strain. My posture while I'm working on stuff is execrable and I could definitely improve on that (like trade in the coffee table for an actual Big Girl Table), but sitting in one place/one position, for hours at a time, working on some minute little thing, is the most tiring thing I've ever done. My eyes get tired. My brain gets tired. I feel like I've been hit by a truck. Five hours in a day (not counting circling) actually making stuff is the most I can do (and I can't make more than two things, tops, in five hours, unless it's all earrings and then it's maybe three or four pair b/c I make so many of my own components and I agonize over every stupid element in the design), and then I have to switch to something else--photographing it or listing it or posting it on this or that site or whatever. But eight hours of jewelry related stuff in a day is all I can tolerate and then I'm a wreck. And that's on a good day.

My ability to do creative work fluctuates wildly. I have a mild but annoying mood disorder I have to work around, and unfortunately during certain portions of that mood cycle I cannot produce anything, and have difficulty even thinking about producing anything. (I'm there right now, for I'm sure the next several days at least). Fortunately, since I met Tom, the periods of anxiety/depression and/or irritability/agitation/depression (the permutations are a real joy) have become less frequent, milder, and of shorter duration, but while they last I am creatively debilitated or even incapacitated. I feel flat and unfocused at the same time, and every idea I have is utter crap. Jewelery irritates me. And I just don't have the energy to care about it. And all I can do when I'm in the middle of that is walk away from it. For as long as I need to. That would not be an option if my jewelry was paying the rent. Having to force myself to churn out new pieces when my emotional landscape is a chaotic wasteland would be a hellish existence I cannot imagine willfully choosing for myself. Happily, I can continue to do my day job with only a slight decrease in effectiveness when I'm going through a bad patch like this; low or agitated mood only seems to have a modest effect on my intellect/organizational ability, but it puts the hammer on my creativity. And of course my joy, because it's, well, depression.

This has happened numerous times over the last year and a half I've been doing this (that I've walked away for a while), and I'm accustomed enough to my mood cycles to know that they will end--both high mood (which is actually very nice and helpful and sometimes alleviates the anxiety) and low mood will run their course (in my case those cycles tend to be short), and I'll settle again soon enough into something approaching "normal" and I'll be able to work again. It is a wonderful freedom to be able to do that--to let myself off the hook for my creative goals until further notice, and not have to worry about the rent.

I have been more tired in the last several months than I have ever been in my life. I think it's partly that I'm getting older, partly that the day job was very busy and rather stressful earlier this summer, and probably that I'm not taking enough time for myself. Because I spend so much time aimlessly pottering and "circling" anyway, it doesn't seem to affect how much I accomplish if I take an hour to go to the gym, or spend an evening with a friend. I can spend an hour picking at that ball of anxiety at home, or I can leave and go do something else entirely and not even think about it and still probably create the same amount of jewelry. And maybe have a better time doing it. Sometimes I resent that my "hobby" gobbles up so much time, but if I quit I would eventually have to find some other creative outlet anyway so I might as well keep doing it since I suck at painting and sewing.

I'm sure not having a day job would free up a lot of energy for creativity--I have to keep reminding myself, in the evening when I sit down to make something and just want to vegetate in front of the tube instead and feel like a slacker because of it, that I just worked all day. And just maybe that's why I'm tired and want some down time. Being tied up 50 hours a week between work/commuting is going to limit my other pursuits, whatever they are. But those 50 hours are doable. I can't honestly imagine having to do jewelry 50 hours a week. I just don't have it in me. Let alone the 80 hours I hear many jewelry artists work. (Yes, I would love to not have to go to a job every day. But I would want it to be because I was stinking rich.)

Quit my day job? Certainly not.

How about you? Do you ever feel anxiety about starting a new piece? Does making a piece of jewelry energize you? Relax you? Or tire you? Do you struggle with fatigue? How do you address that? Is your muse a constant thing, or does she sometimes desert you? What do you do when you "just aren't in the mood?" If you support yourself with your jewelry, how many hours a day do you spend actually fabricating your pieces? What do you do when you're burnt out? What's your ideal work week, in terms of hours per day? (Feel free to answer none, some or all of these questions as appropriate!)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Little Bit Different, Not So Different, and Exactly the Same

I'm still waiting for all my vibrantly colored leather and waxed cotton cord that I ordered so I'm still handicapped in the Doing Something Completely Different department. And then all these custom requests (can you make me a thing like that other thing you did) and alterations came up and I had to go back to the Same Ol' Same Ol' for a while. But I managed to sneak in something slightly different, something similar to what I've done before, and another thing that is exactly like I've done before but I had already started it when I decided I was bored with that so I had to finish it. Here they are:

Something slightly different:

Green magnesite cross, dyed limestone, lampwork and deerksin.
Brown beads are metallic brown seed beads in two different sizes, lampwork from BeingBeads. All hand-knotted on brown silk cord and waxed linen. I was going to use silk ribbon but the color I had just didn't work. So I used three strands of knotted beads instead. Magnesite cross and deerskin lacing from Magpie Gemstones.

These are sort of like I've done before, but smaller with different stones. These are copper. I've also made the same things in brass, and antiqued them to a dark brown. I have some ideas for those that I didn't get to this weekend. I finished up some brass ball headpins finally and got those all antiqued--not having as much luck as I'd like getting the pink fire scale off with the Sparex. It's just not that effective on brass. I tried a homemade brew of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar that actually did a better job of getting the red out of the brass, but it etched it too and I didn't like that (probably left it in there too long). Back to the cauldron.

Magnesite and, I think, dyed quartz.

Red glass, carnelian, and Tibetan-style etched red agate.
And lastly, something Exactly the Same--I was dying to use these "Stormy" Macarroll beads and didn't know what else to do with them. I loved them with the burnt horn and leather so I just decided to embrace my rut and hold my head high:

I have two of these beads left (yay!) but they're not the same size, so clearly they're going into a bracelet or an asymmetrical necklace. I love the soft clickety-clackety feel of these porcelain beads! Can't wait to get more!

I sure don't feel like I accomplished much this weekend, although I worked my tail off the whole time. What with making components, communicating with customers, online promoting, photography (sometimes you just can't get it right) and altering existing items, I don't feel like I have much in the way of new, completed items to show for the weekend. I actually started all these items much earlier in the week (like LAST week) and it took me forever to get back to them. Sometimes multi-tasking has its drawbacks.