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My Favorite Tools of the Trade

After cleaning up my torch space which was cluttered with a plethora of glass and tools and frit and murrini and metal leaf laying about, I went minimalist. If you look at the bottom right corner of the photo below, you can see a small peek of tools piled up. Yes, it's difficult to find the tool I want in this mess.

Jan 14 2012 messy studio

After cleaning and reorganizing the space, I laid out only the tools I use most frequently. The other tools in the pile above are hardly ever used.

Jan 14 2012 lampworking tools

Here's a tour of my 5 favorite lampworking tools (other than my hands, torch and kiln). Starting from the left side of the photo: 1. is a brass tool given to me by my friend Lisa Atchison several years ago. Her husband makes these and I cannot live without mine. I use it on at least 50% of the beads I make. The end you can see in the photo is perfect for shoving or spreading molten glass where you want it to go. The other end is a point and is what I use to poke holes in glass like the dots in my Nightmare Insomnia series beads below.

Nightmare Insomnia Series focal

2. brass stump shaper. I love this for shaping ends of beads I've squeezed into a flattish shape, for mashing the bead into a shape I want other than round, and especially for burnishing metal leaf to the surface of a bead 3. Osibin Lentil Shaper. I love these for getting nicely shaped curved ends, shaping bicone or egg shaped beads. 4. Osibin Curve Shaper. I love this for rolling beads on to try to get them centered and to shape out any lumpy bits I don't like. 5. Marble Mold. No, I don't make marbles. And I rarely use this for actual shaping of beads. I mostly like it for measuring the initial footprint of glass when I need to make more than one of a similar bead. It increases my chance of success of actually making the beads the same size. As a lampworker, it's very easy to get lured into thinking you need more tools and toys. I have bought lots of tools and then they collect dust because I prefer my simple tools and I prefer using the heat of the torch and gravity to do most of the work for me. The tools above just help me refine what I'm doing.

The Best Laid Plans

My plan the other day was to clean the entire studio. Well...my torch area was such a mess: Jan 14 2012 003 resized and: Jan 14 2012 001 resized and: Jan 14 2012 005 resized That I didn't get past cleaning just that area. People, there were LAYERS of stuff. I took it all apart, cleaned up all the short rods, frit, powders, etc that caked my torch area. Jan 14 2012 012 resized I also tried to organize the rods of glass laying all over my table into something a bit more user friendly (meaning I wouldn't spend 10 minutes trying to figure out where I laid the rod of clear). I did this by taking old jars and dividing the colors up by red. orange/yellow, green, blue, purple/pink, neutrals (white, clear, ivory, black) and then the glass that contains high concentration of silver and makes the really cool reactions. Jan 14 2012 013 resized Now that my table is so clean and organized, I am scared to use it. Not really. But after spending an entire Saturday on this one small section of my studio, I'm thinking I probably should be better about cleaning up after each torch session or at the very least once a week. Now I need to carve out some time to tackle the rest of the studio. Wish me luck. The rest is just as bad as the torch area.

Beaded Laughter

Pics of hot guys with "quotes" about all things beady...what could be better? I'll tell you what is better. Nothing. Sylvie Lansdowne started writing her Beaded Laughter blog a few weeks ago after being highly amused by Handmade Ryan Gosling. I love to take a Beaded Laughter break each day. When you visit, make sure to read the tags from each post. Some of them are hysterical. Here are some of my favorites:    

Even hubs got a kick out of this one with Johnny Depp (he doesn't seem to be as amused by hot guys talking about beady stuff as I am):

   

It leaves EVERYTHING to the imagination. hahaha! Love that.

If you would like to have one of these personalized for you, click here to get more details.

A "snow" day for me and some new beads for you

Good morning! I cannot believe it's already Saturday. In some ways this week flew right past me...in others it felt like it drug on forEVER. However, this day is going to be AWESOME! My family is doing a day long ski trip. Out the door at 6:15 am, and not scheduled to be back until after 9pm. I have the entire day to myself to do whatever I want. Just the idea of it makes me downright giddy. Because I don't want to waste one second of this precious day, I got up at 5 am with the family and shoved them very lovingly out the door. Don't get me wrong, I adore my husband and children. I love spending time with them. And I will miss them while they are gone today. However, I am looking forward to the large chunk of uninterrupted time to myself. What are the plans? Well...they aren't particularly glamorous. But they are time consuming. I am one of those that once I start a project, I need to work on it until it is completed and have momentum on my side. Once I stop, all bets are off and the project will probably sit unfinished for weeks, months, years... Today (after I finish my morning coffee, eat some breakfast and workout) I would like to get my studio in order. All of it. Not just one little section. Not just enough to tolerate working in it. Whenever I try to clean my studio, I am interrupted by something the family needs or wants (dinner? Go eat a bag of chips!) I am also considering getting rid of stuff I never use and will probably never use in the future. I may offer some things here at deep discounts just to clear space and give someone else the opportunity to use and appreciate something I don't appreciate. I would also like to get started on my taxes for 2011. It shouldn't take very long. But I want it finished and in the format the accountant (my darling husband) wants it in early this year instead of last minute. And if there is time left over (which I doubt), I might make some new beads. Or maybe I'll read. Or knit. Or make jewelry. Or go see a movie. All I know is if I want to get any of this done, I need to wrap up this blog post. How about some eye candy first though? I actually listed a few new beads on etsy yesterday.    

Obligated to Dream

To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while. -- Josh Billings One day about 2 years ago, I was in the midst of homeschooling my kids, being a mom, a wife, a chauffeur, the accountant, the secretary, the cook, the maid and the zookeeper. Oh, and I was also trying to run a business where I was the CEO, creative director, creator, marketer, and accountant. I was stressed, overwhelmed, and felt like I was doing all of these things half-assed. Sound familiar? Even if you don't homeschool (which I am sure 99.9% of you reading my blog don't), being a woman is hard work and we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything, be everything, and to do it without chipping a nail or breaking a sweat.

Circus

Something had to give. I decided one of these things would be my business. When I nonchalantly mentioned to the kids I had decided to scale back, I was met with silence. This was not what I expected. At all. Then my son says "I would rather go back to school than to see you give up your dream." Um...what? I was floored. My daughter pipes in with a "me too!" Something you have to understand...they were not fans of their previous school and this was before we knew about the awesome place they go to school now existed. While I don't think they ever loved homeschooling, they did love the flexibility and the ability to change plans on a whim or travel during off seasons. There was further discussion which  basically boiled down to me telling them I wasn't "giving up a 'dream,'" but making a choice for my own sanity. And they held fast to their belief I was giving up something I desperately wanted just to homeschool them. I was completely flabbergasted by this exchange and really didn't know where it came from. However, I knew my choice was the right choice. Fast forward about one year. I was reading a homeschooling related book, when I came across something that smacked me upside the head. The gist of it was if we, as parents (and especially moms), are constantly telling our children they can do anything, be anything, and to follow their dreams, but then they see us sacrificing our dreams and goals and biggest desires, then they #1-won't believe us and #2 won't know how to do it and #3 won't see us happy and fulfilled. In order for our children (and grandchildren!) to learn to follow their dreams, they need to see us putting in the hard work, effort, blood, sweat, and tears to see how to make dreams a reality. They won't know that wishing upon a star doesn't actually make your dream a reality. Here's the thing...it doesn't have to be a big huge life altering dream. Maybe you've always wanted to learn how to do the tango. Or play the piano. Or see the Grand Canyon. These count as dreams. Give them importance, share some of them with your family and friends. Make a list. While some people call this list a bucket list, I find that term very depressing. I prefer to think of it as a list of goals or dreams. Try to think of at least 100 things to put on your list. These 100 things can be as small as "try a martini" (that was on my list) or as big as "take a year long cruise around the world". In fact, it's good to have a mix of easy to accomplish dreams and the sky is the limit dreams. Place at least one or two easy to accomplish goals at the top of the list. Post this list where you will see it every single day. It doesn't have to be in a place where everyone can see it...maybe in your closet or inside the cabinet door in your bathroom. Then focus on getting those one or two easy to accomplish goals checked off. Once you see and feel the sense of accomplishment, you can start tackling other goals and perhaps your family may help. I would encourage everyone in the family to do their own list (we did!). It's eye opening and a fun exercise to learn more about each other. The kids can then start on making their dreams a reality right away and have the skills built in for the future when they become adults and suddenly frozen by fear or the sense of obligation and the need to sacrifice their dreams for the sake of their children. Let's talk about it. Leave a comment below and answer the following questions: What are some ways you are following your dreams right now? If you aren't, why not?

Happy 2012...may it be better than 2011

Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die tomorrow.  -Author Unknown The beginning of my addiction to the pretty color and sparkle of glass was actually stained glass panel construction. It was about 11 years ago, before I found out I was pregnant with my youngest. The path from taking my first class to seeking out forums and others in the stained glass community was short. One particular member of the community was not only incredibly helpful to us "newbies", but as a person and artist, he was also innovative, a zest for life, and a wonderful sense of humor. He didn't take himself too seriously which is so easy to do. He often used the quote above and really believed and lived it. He died a couple years ago and I miss Tony's writing and artwork even though I no longer do stained glass. Why am I telling you this? I thought of this quote the other day and of Tony. Rather than making resolutions (because really? if there's something we need or want to change, we shouldn't wait until Jan. 1), I am going to post this quote so I can read it every day. When I say "read it", I am not talking about reading in a haphazard barely paying attention way. I am going to read it with intention and ask myself "am I living like this is my last day? What are my dreams for today and the future?" I try to do this anyway, but it's so easy to lose sight and get mired in the mucky details of life, work, family without taking the time to enjoy life and love fully. Because if today was my last day, I would not want my kids or husband to remember me as the constant nag who always cleans (Ok, I admit I am just trying to make excuses to not clean...), and constantly puts other unimportant things before them. I want them to remember me as laughing, loving, and with a zest for life and so many dreams that I would need several lifetimes to fulfill all of them. By posting the quote and reading it with intention, it will be my daily "kick in the pants" to remember to live a full life and stop the unintentional wasting of time.  

Fire Dancer

We just got home from vacation yesterday and I think my newest "dream" is to be a fire dancer, which seems like a completely natural progression from playing with fire to make beads. We try to go to Copper Mountain, Colorado for the New Year's festivities when the work and school schedule allow for it. Not only do they do two fireworks displays, but they have fire dancers that are so fun to watch. Hubs loves the fireworks (the link takes you to video of a display he did for a friend's wedding reception. It's only 4 minutes). The love of pretty fire seems to be a common theme in this family...

Fireworks and fire dancer

  You guys, I LOVE the holidays with the pretty decorations and lights and distractions. But I am so happy when they are over too. I like the decorations being put away, the simplicity of decor, the return to a routine. Often, it's a return to routine with renewed energy after a break from real life for a couple weeks. Maybe that's what brings people to make resolutions... the feeling of a burst of energy. If only we could harness that energy to last all year. Did you get any goodies for your jewelry and/or crafting this holiday season? I usually don't, but my 10 year old daughter got me a mirror for my studio for Christmas after listening to me complain so many times about having to leave the studio to see how a necklace design lays on an actual neck. I love it. In fact, I set it on the counter right next to where I do the majority of my jewelry making Christmas morning and immediately got to work designing some new pieces (which I'll show tomorrow). It makes it feel even lighter and more spacious in my studio, which I love. (Yes, I know my space is a disaster)

New Studio Mirror

Now it's your turn. What is a quote that inspires you? How does it inspire you? 

Surrender, Faith, Believe

I love working with clients on custom orders. This particular repeat client wanted something meaningful for his teenage daughter. He set me loose with just a few requirements: use a mixture of copper, glass, and leather, and gave me a list of with some of her favorite words and phrases. Here is what I came up with:

Surrender Faith Believe lampwork, copper, brass and leather bracelet 

I hope she loves it. 

I listed a necklace on etsy last night that I've never shown online before. It's one I considered keeping because I know it's something I could comfortably wear every day. I've mentioned before I am not a big jewelry wearing kinda girl. But I love this and it's affordable AND durable.

Midnight Flower Bouquet Necklace

FYI~if you've had your eye on something and you want to receive it before 2012, Christmas Eve is the last day I will be shipping in 2011. Then I will be taking a vacation and spending lots of time with the family.

Ornaments, a Lake House, and a cool endorsement for buying handmade jewelry

Who out there is in total denial that it's December 19th? Yeah, me too. Wow. The last couple weeks have been such a whirlwind and none of it having to do with the holidays...traveling to visit a boarding school my son desperately wants to attend (he received a grant to make it possible. All he has to do is get accepted to this school), we have been negotiating for a lake property for what feels like forever (about 3 or 4 weeks) and found out Friday we got it and meet with a builder later today. Here's a photo taken by the seller of a portion of the property:

Lake PropertyWe had to travel for hubs' one year post op check up with the cardic surgeon, the cardiologist and also had to have a scan. Plus end of semester school stuff, I spent 2 days teaching middle school students to make jewelry, we went tobaggoning at a state park. We went to a local production of the Nutcracker.

All in the last 1.5 weeks. Whew! Remember the Virtual Craft Show that started the end of November? Part of it was each advertising crafter did a giveaway. I won a GORGEOUS ornament from Sally Russick of Wireworked

ornament from Sally Rusick of Wireworked

People, that ornament is too pretty to be hanging on a tree for a few weeks a year! It's all sparkly should be seen all the time. So when we take our tree down, I will probably hang it somewhere to be enjoyed year around. I'm not sure where though. Suggestions?  How do you decorate your tree? I love the themed ones at Festival of Trees or shopping departments or hotels. They are just gorgeous. Our tree is nothing like that. Actually, I guess it does have a theme, it's just not a visual theme recognizable to anyone but us. It's a "memory tree". If I could only save 2 "things" in a fire, it would be photos 1st, Christmas ornaments 2nd because it's a yearly walk down memory lane. We have the handprint trees the kids made when they were small, photo ornaments of the kids and pets. Ornaments given to us by special people, ornaments marking special occasions, ornaments from special places. Today I thought I would show one of my favorites, then a couple new ones we got this year. We got this 1st set of ornaments at my senior high school Christmas dance 20 years ago. Both ornaments have both our names on them. We always hang them facing each other with each name displayed.

our 1st ornaments from my hs senior Christmas dance

 The very first vacation my husband and I took together after we got married was to a B&B in Maine. That vacation he suggested a tradition that we have followed ever since...to buy an ornament that represents the trip in some way. If there are no ornaments to be found, we will try to use found objects to make our own. We date the ornament and if it isn't obvious where it's from, we write the location of the vacation. We got a star with a puffin painted on it for that particular vacation. This year we went to Ireland (all over), London and Paris. The only ornament we bought while we were there was from Paris:

Ornament from Paris 2011

We thought this particular ornament was beautiful, but also loved that it was made up entirely of shades of gray since it was freezing cold and rained almost the entire 2 days we were there. The final Harry Potter movie opened the day we arrived in London. I mean, how AWESOME is THAT?!?! We got lucky and managed to snag the last 4 tickets at an IMAX a couple blocks from our hotel  (and for the record, I LOVED the hotel! Gorgeous, amazing views of the city) for the day after opening night. It was a huge highlight of our trip for me. So when I saw this ornament at Hallmark of a scene from the movie, I snagged the last one. Ornament reminder of 2011 trip to London  Here's the 2011 Christmas tree. 2011 Christmas tree Although you can't see it very well, our tree topper is an angel wearing a dress with gold stars and holding a gold star and was a compromise hubs and I had to make our first year as a married couple. I firmly believed a star should be the topper, he firmly believed it should be an angel. When I found this particular angel, it saved our marriage. Speaking of saving marriages, I came across this article titled "7 Gifts to Avoid This Holiday" and was pleasantly surprised to see tip #3 on giving jewelry. After telling the gift giver to avoid giving jewelry show on commercials or purchased from national chain jewelry stores, it says: " If your loved one is an accessory lover, opt for something special and one-of-a-kind from an independent jewelry designer on Etsy." I love that! Not just because I sell jewelry on etsy, but because I also love to buy one of a kind jewelry from other jewelry designers on etsy. I don't want mass produced jewelry. My husband is thankful for this, of course, because it gets him off the hook... If you would like to buy something one of a kind for a special someone from my shop and have it in time for Christmas, I will do a free priority shipping upgrade on purchases $70 and up for addresses in the United States. No code needed. However, you must complete your purchase by noon EST, Wednesday (December 21st) to make sure it gets to you in time for Christmas.

There's no crying in Lampworking...

What do you think of these beads?

I personally love these. That's why I was extremely disappointed when I accidently knocked them together when putting the 2nd one in the kiln. Usually when that happens, it leaves a small mark. However, this time they stuck together. Sighing, I decided to try to "save" them. How? Theoretically they shouldn't have fused together, I could take them out of the kiln and gently focus the heat of the torch on the join. Because they had cooled so much in the kiln (from 1800 degrees F to much lower around 1000 degrees F), the introduction of the flame should shock them apart. Then I could "heal the scars" with the flame. Of course, I knew this could go horribly wrong and I would just shatter both beads. Imagine my surprise when neither of the above scenarios happened. Instead, I got this:

Two very fused together beads. Oops. I was about to get mad, dunk them and listen to the satisfying sizzle when I realized the beads were still pretty and maybe I could just keep the monstrosity for the entertainment value and shoved them back in the kiln to anneal completely. When they came out, I cleaned them and decided to challenge myself to make lemonade out of lemons. Fast forward a few weeks. I have to get my picture taken. I want to wear a necklace. I looked through my collection, the jewelry I have listed for sale, the jewelry I have sitting on my desk waiting to be listed. Nothing I have felt "right". So. 3 hours before the photo shoot I am trying to make something new when I spy my fused bead. The color is perfect for my sweater and my eyes. So I came up with a really cool method for using them. The biggest part of the challenge was that the holes are pretty much parallel to each other. I took pieces of scrap wire and tried various configurations until I decided on what worked best. I assembled it then decided it needed "more". That's when I went a little bit crazy with the black swarovski crystals. However, without those, it would not have been very flat and boring.

Here's the pic I had taken. I hate having my picture taken...but Ken Rieves did a great job considering the subject... Plus he's getting so famous and in demand that he's always working. He still managed to squeeze me into his schedule last minute. Thanks Ken! Jen Cameron If you would love to own this one of a kind necklace, I've listed it here on my website.

Torch Fired Food

Cool Hunting Daily is a newsletter that arrives in my Inbox every day. There is always something interesting, but it really has to catch my eye for me to click through. Yesterday, right there in the newsletter, was a photo like this:

Torch Fired Food

People! LOOK at that! A torch, holding food bits on a stick...it's so much like making beads it makes my heart do a little dance. How freaking brilliant. If I made our meals like this, maybe I might actually enjoy cooking. That would be weird. Or maybe it could be kind of fondue. Everyone puts bits on the stick and fires their own food. We are totally eating like this at least once a week from now on.

If you want more information about this interesting event involving artists, food diaries, and creating art (aka F'artwork...no, I'm not making this up) called Something I Ate, visit Cool Hunting.

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