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Bead and Button Day 1

Bead and Button BABEEEEE! It's my first year and it's been awesome so far. I got into Milwaukee Monday and this is my view:
Cool, right? I can see the river and a cute gazebo in the other direction. I went wandering a little trying to find dinner and took lots of photos along the way. I uploaded some photos to Flickr and will add any new photos each evening. However, I find I don't take photos during classes because I am too busy taking notes or paying close attention to what's going on. Taking photos is too distracting to the class.
So today I got to take a class with Susan Lenart Kazmer teaching us enameling (on copper) and hollow forms. The class totally ROCKED. Here's what I made. I modeled it in the bathroom mirror so you can see size (it's kind of big...) and then got out my portable Ott Light to try to create some decent light.
I. love. this. thing. The necklace I WAS wearing with chainmaille and lampwork has been put away and I will be wearing this for the rest of the week. Or the rest of the year. I haven't decided yet.

Bead Soup Blog Party Sneak Peek

About a week ago I wrote about the frenzied activity before our early morning departure for the airport. One of those activities included finishing up a set of beads for my Bead Soup Blog Party Lori Anderson. There's nothing like waiting until the last minute to make me work quickly and efficiently. However, I wanted to get those sent out before we went on vacation. Unforunately, I also managed to overpack the week leading up to leaving with too many activities and errands.Typical.
Anyway, I took those beads out of the kiln at about 200 degrees, wrapped them still attached to the mandrels in a towel, placed in a bag along with the dremel, jewelry baggie, clasp and a bubble mailer into the suitcase. I cleaned the beads when we finally got to our hotel the following afternoon and mailed them from a post office close to my husband's grandma's house.
One small problem...I didn't have time to pick out some nice accent beads to go with them and with the silver foil I used, plus the reactive glass, the colors are....different. So I looked up the closest bead store to the hotel and it was an hour drive. Nope, not happening. So, I sent just lampwork and the super cool Green Girl Studios clasp I had picked out. I didn't even take pictures because I didn't have my "good" camera with me (too heavy).
Lori blogged yesterday about the beads I sent. She will be getting another package from me in the next day or two that has some other fun accent beads that may or may not look good with these.

The Art of Procrastination

...Or how this disaster:
became this:
The mess in the top photo? That is the current state of my jewelry bench. I have about a 2" strip at the edge in which to work. It is not particularly conducive to creativity, efficiency, or to completing any projects. So, Friday afternoon I decided to tackle the mess so I could work. I put away exactly 2 containers of beads when I noticed the baggie of charms.
These charms having been sitting in the same spot for nearly 2 1/2 years. Let's just say I am easily distracted. Perhaps it's procrastination, but that doesn't explain how I can take a list with 3 items into a store and spend 3 hours looking at bright shiny things that catch my eye. In this case, I saw the baggie and decided it would be fun to look at and fondle the charms.
What's the deal with the charms? Well...they are from a charm exchange I participated in on the Lampwork Etc. forum. The original thread is here (although, I am not sure non registered people can look at the thread).
Anyway, I laid all the charms out and wondered why I had never actually put them on a bracelet (oh WAIT! I don't like wearing charm bracelets. Too much fussiness getting in the way of what I am doing with my hands). So, at that exact moment, I started assembling a chain (chainmaille parallel chain to be exact) to attach the charms to and attached all the charms (including the 2 extras I had made).
I tried it on and the sides looked really nice, but the center looked so...bare. So, I started making tiny little charms with swarovski crystals and also some made super easy and cute spring shaped sterling wire charms. I ended up adding about 120 more tiny charms. The entire time I was thinking what kind of crazy person does this?
Here you can see the bracelet in progress. There is a huge difference between the left side where it's been filled in, and the right side waiting for its turn to get some sparkly stuff added too.
I had to work at the kitchen table because, you know, there was no space at the bench. The bracelet is finished and I wore it today. It's very fun, noisy, and heavy. I love it.
Tomorrow? I will start cleaning the studio.

Fire(works) and Paper

I love to play with fire and glass. My husband? He loves fireworks. Good thing he doesn't read my blog or he might want to try his hand at using fireworks on paper. The idea makes me shudder. I am already dreading out annual fireworks display because I'm pretty sure our neighbors hate us because the fallout of his annual playtime is really really bad. Like 2 lawn sized garbage bags bad.
I can't imagine what would happen if he decided to become the next David Sena, the famous tattoo artist who paints with fire(works). Go to his website and click on Other Projects. There you will find a super awesome video showing his process. Please do tell my husband about this website or it could be really really bad. Trust me.

Atlantis Shuttle Launch

I am so glad I get to sleep in my own bed tonight! We are home after a WONDERFUL and VERY BUSY 9 day vacation. Like completely insane people, we booked a 7 am flight from Indianapolis to Orlando May 14th. Here's the thing, the Indy airport is a minimum 2.5 hour drive from where we live.
Why did we do this? A couple reasons. Technically, my husband was supposed to work Friday, but he actually found someone to cover for him. The thing is, he was on call until midnight the night before. Because we had to leave for Indy at 3am, (yes, I said 3 am) he rounded on his patients before we left for the airport. None of us actually went to bed that night. We spent the night packing. I made beads until about 10pm and took them out of the kiln and packed them still on the mandrels in the suitcase to ship to my bead soup blog party party partner from a post office in Florida (more about that another day).
The 2nd reason we did this was so we could watch the shuttle launch. Really, I couldn't have cared less about watching the shuttle blast off. However, I was willing to humor my husband because I really love that guy. So, after pretty much no sleep, we get to Orlando and drive to Titusville where there is total and complete chaos and wall to wall humanity. I was tired, I was cranky, I was hot (still in my cooler weather Indiana clothes!) and I did NOT think watching a shuttle was worth this type of aggravation.
After some adventures, we found a place to watch the launch. It was rather hilarious because we were standing on the other side of a fence which happened to be for a pool of a condo complex. Here's all these people, with their mega zoom cameras and camcorders, etc. looking over the fence and it looks like they are watching the people swimming at the pool. Talk about feeling weird!
It was about this time in my fog of exhaustion I remembered beads by some of my lampworking buddies were being launched into space aboard the Atlantis for Beads of Courage. When I told my family about it, they were excited, yet disappointed I didn't have any beads on the shuttle. The fact is when they put the call out for beads, I was getting exactly zero minutes of time to torch and there wasn't a chance I could've made the deadline. I love Beads of Courage and try to send beads and money every year, but the shuttle thing wasn't happening.
Anyway...the shuttle FINALLY blasted off. My husband recorded it on our tiny point and shoot camera. It was a whopping 2 min. video. All that aggravation for 2 stinkin' minutes. However, it was worth every second of it. The sound didn't reach us for like 30 seconds. Maybe longer. Enjoy the video. It has not been edited in any way and some of the conversations around us are hilarious.
I hope you all are having a great weekend! I am finally heading to bed and will post more about our adventures later.

Cynthia Tilker Class Show and Tell

It's been almost a MONTH since I took Cynthia Tilker's ISLAGA sponsored class at Inspired Fire in Lafayette, Indiana! I've been meaning to write about it, but just photographed my class beads a couple days ago.
Here's our end of class photo. See all the smiling happy faces of my lampworking buddies? They just learned to make Cynthia Tilker beads! WhooHOOO!
Something to keep in mind is that class beads usually suck. Really. They are usually the wonkiest ugliest things ever. The point isn't to have perfect beads at the end of a class, but to learn a technique to take home and perfect. However, I was pretty darn happy with my beads from this class. They are far from perfect, but better than the average class bead. Of course, even if I hated them, I'd probably show them anyway because I'm weird like that.
I am showing the last bead I made on day 2 first because I love this bead so MUCH! There is a ton of depth and interest and little mushrooms inside that aren't completely obvious in the photo. In fact, you get a second view of the bead from a different angle I love it so much. The only thing I don't like are my red flowers. I am not a flowery kinda girl. Plus, I pretty much stink at making flowers in glass.
Sometimes I surprise myself. I just wanted to learn the "pleated bead" technique of this style. I've tried making surface flowers like this before and they looked like ugly blobs so I didn't hold out much hope this would be different. However, these turned out pretty darn adequate.
Not the best one of the bunch, but the dichro is so sparkly. I didn't want to add the flowers over it because I just kept staring at the sparkly stuff as I turned the mandrel.
Here is my attempt at making a "keeper" style bead. He looks rather scary instead of cute. Also, he looks more like a girl than a boy.
This last bead (unfortunately) wasn't made by me. This was Cynthia's pleated demo bead that I won in the drawing. Lucky me! Aren't you all jealous?
Cynthia's class in one of my favorite classes ever. If you are a lampworker and you have the opportunity to take a class with her, DO IT!

Anatomy and Physiology of the Lampwork Bead

Don't let the title scare you off. This has to be way more interesting than that cat I had to dissect in college...right?
On every lampworker's table should be a cup/can/pot/non meltable container of some sort filled with water. This is basic safety (along with a fire extinguisher close by!) but also serves a practical purpose. Sometimes beads turn out so ugly, even my mother would hate them and there is no saving such ugliness. Why bother annealing the monstrosity? Dunk it into the water and listen to the satisfying sizzle and pop and all proof that I ever made an ugly bead shatter to pieces.
Over the weekend I decided to clean the cup of the 50 or so mandrels that had collected in there over the course of several months. Most were empty of beads. However, this bead clung onto the mandrel for dear life:
Just the day before, I had a long conversation about fat mandrels and bead release on my facebook page with beady friends and non beady friends. The non beady friends were confused as to what a fat mandrel was...a band? Another name to call someone driving like a jerk?

The conversation was still fresh in my mind when I removed this bead from the mandrel (the steel rod the hot molton glass is wound around and leaves a hole. See below:

This particular bead wasn't a rejected fugly. It was actually a bead I was making for a friend to give to a friend and had almost completed when I let it get a little too cold. When I reintroduced it to the flame, all hell broke loose and it cracked in half. Sometimes you can save those. This one couldn't because the end popped off and took half the bead release.
Bead release is the white stuff you see on the steel mandrel. It is what keeps the bead from being permanently fused to the mandrel and a nice ornament for your plants. It is also the white stuff you see in what was supposed to be the hole in the cracked bead.

Lampwork beads generally crack for two reasons. The first is thermal cracking. It cools too quickly and the molecules are unable to align properly and it causes stress for the glass. The bead usually cracks in half. This is why it's important for you to buy beads that have been annealed (cooled very slowly in a controlled manner) in a kiln. If a bead has been properly annealed, it should bounce on tile or concrete, but not crack apart. It WILL have little chips of glass break off where it landed, because it IS glass after all...

The 2nd reason beads crack is because the glass in incompatible with another glass used. This results in spider web breaks where the incompatible glass meets. This is why lampworkers and fusers talk about using COE compatible tested glass.

So, back to the bead. I thought it might be interesting to all of you to see the middle. It's clear. Why? There are 3 main reasons lampworkers use clear in the middle and encase it with other colors. It just so happens I used clear as the core for all 3 of those reasons.

#1-the lampworker plans on using a premium (meaning expensive) color on the exterior. Making a clear core is a way to stretch the premium glass to last longer and cost less. The opaque pale yellow on this bead is the premium color. I don't want to waste any of it in the core where you won't even see it.

#2-the lampworker wants to use dense transparent colors and needs to lighten it up with a clear core. This bead I used a violet, intense blue and turquoise (not shown). If I had just done those colors solid, it would have looked black...or at least close to black

#3-opaque colors get very runny and soupy when super heated. Using a transparent core prevents the opaque color from dripping onto the table. The technique used in this bead to create the surface color requires a super hot flame.

Here was the second try bead where I made sure to pay better attention to keeping it nice and toasty.

Hope this was at least a little better than dissection a cat...

Inspiration

There are few things in the art world that get people's panties all twisted in a wad as much as the dreaded 4 letter "C" word. Yes, THAT naughty 4 letter swear word: COPY.
One of the cool things about the internet is even if you live in the middle of nowhere with a population of 5 and the other 4 people think you are insane, you can get online and find a community of like minded people to chat with, bounce ideas off of, problem solve with and show what projects you are currently working on. This is all great until someone thinks you have a splendid idea and decides to replicate that idea. Then, to add insult to injury, they decide to sell it. You do not want to be THAT person who copies and gets everyone mad.
I try to find my inspiration OUTSIDE of the lampworking world. I got to play around on the torch a bit this weekend and made two focals that were the direct result of inspiration from someone else, yet bear very little resemblance to the original.
First inspiration is this shank button by Lisa Peters, who is an incredibly talented ceramic artist.
After asking if she minded if I "copied" it in glass (she gave her permission), I came up with this:
Yeah, it pretty much doesn't look anything like the original. I had an idea when I sat down to make it, but it evolved as I worked. Her button was definitely the starting point of this bead. The other side of my bead has a turquoise colored murrini that you can see here: The Gorgons Focal Bead
The second inspiration source is a photo Carol Dean Sharpe took of the first sign of spring...a single dandelion coming up (in her part of the country...here the snow melting is the only sign I have personally witnessed)
Here's the bead I made from the photo. It doesn't really look much like it, but the photo was the starting point for this bead.
You can see more photos here: Dandelions in Spring
Some favorite sources of inspiration are coffee table books, National Geographic magazine, catalogs, fabric, scrapbook papers and pantone color charts. What are some of the things that inspire you?

Random Sunday

I am having a random kind of day and wanted to share random things over the last week or so. Some of these may have been a post by themselves. But let's face it. I stink at blogging every day due to time constraints. So, you lucky people get it all. at. once. Commentary will be short because I have things I want to get done before the big game the Colts are going to win tonight.
This sign was created by my 8 year old daughter because she noticed blue card stock in the pile while we made Valentines the other day and it is impossible for her to leave craft supplies alone. Oh, and because if she wasn't rooting for the Colts, we would probably have to disown her.
Arts United in Fort Wayne kicked off a fund drive by having a community mosaic. Meaning, people in the community could sign up for a 3'x3' wall space and create a piece of art with the theme of Arts Unite Us. It was free to participate and the kids did this for Art class. My son...he is very technical. He complained about having to do this because he claims he is not creative or artsy. This resulted in a pep talk about how map making is very artistic, his idea for Ft. Wayne having a subway is a way to unite the community due to ease of transportation, and probably the mayor (and possibly even the city council) would see it on display. He was on board after that.
Here they are at the Opening in front of their creations:
Jennifer Ledford of Tocadora Leather is a friend I met online and featured on Open Studio Friday. We did a trade. I sent her some beads, she made a cuff with one of my beads. Isn't it super awesome?
I've been working on knitting a pouch for my Kindle this week. I got the idea when my friend Carol Dean Sharpe mentioned she was sewing a pouch for hers. I loved the idea, but don't sew. I pretty much winged the design. It's mostly done now except for weaving in the the 5000 ends. Ugh! I am going to then felt it and sew a Lisa Peters button to it-assuming it shrinks to the right size because I didn't actually do a test swatch. If my engineer brother is reading this, he's probably about to have a fit. haha!
I finally added the button eyes to my the frog bag I knitted for my daughter. I started this bag December 30, and finished knitting it about two weeks ago. This is the most difficult thing I've ever knitted. Actually, it's the ONLY difficult thing I've ever knitted.
One day, I got a package from UPS I wasn't expecting, and this was in it! WhooHOOO! I won GLITTER!!!!
We got sproutage! We should be eating corn, peas, and sunflower seeds in no time! haha! See the puzzle pieces peeking out? They are growing these on top of the puzzle we've been working on. Guess that's put on hold for a while.
Making valentines for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We got the addresses from the Any Soldier website. See the large pink heart? It is actually a scratch off made with 2 parts acrylic paint to 1 part liquid dish soap on the non sticky side of clear contact paper. Cool, right? You can find the project here.
Nothing says "let's go ride our scooters" like blowing snow!
I got a new lens Friday night that my sister in law recommended. I took a bunch of random photos trying to figure it out. I liked this one of my favorite child (yes, I have favorites. Whichever one lets me sleep the latest, talks back the least, and chews up less stuff. Oscar wins.)
Yesterday my husband got called in at 4am and didn't get home until 9pm. I got to shovel the driveway. Actually, I don't even care if our driveway gets shoveled because I drive a Suburban. A little bit of snow doesn't bother me! But I think it might be frowned upon by everyone else. So, while I shoveled about 3 tons of snow, all the male neighbors were out with their snowblowers. Hey! Thanks for the help, guys!
Here was the bright spot in all that. My daughter wrote "MOM" with her feet. I took a break to get the camera and take a photo.
I took some other snow day photos, and when I turned around, she was working on "I love you" awww!
Here's my least favorite child. She's as sweet as can be, but dumber than a box of rocks. Plus she's a kleptomaniac-she steals all our dirty clothes. The good news is we can find them easily because she piles them in the great room. The bad news is it's the great room, and the first room you see when you walk into our house. I took some pictures of her looking really pretty and regal. But this one is my favorite from yesterday:
The frog prince is buried!
While my son was skiing with the boys scouts yesterday in Michigan, the girl child and I went to my favorite place in Fort Wayne. DeBrand. Best chocolate in the entire world. Really. I should know because I eat a lot of it ;o)
The family wants to get me the "I Have OCD" shirt. OCD stands for Obsessive Chocolate Desire.
The look I get about 500 times a day. This time I got it because I took a camera out of my bag. bwahahaha!
This is why we had a mother daughter trip to DeBrand-vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate fudge, raspberry sauce, dark chocolate bowl and pure bliss:
Hope you all have a great week!

Birds and Nests and Eggs, Oh My!

Fact: birds and bird nests are all the rage for crafters and being used on just about 50% of online banners. I don't know why the obsession with birds and nests, but I admit to liking the trend too.I have seen a few bird nest pendants made out of wire while perusing Etsy and thought about trying a nest myself. I mean, how hard can it be, right? In December, Stampington posted a how to project similar to designs I've seen on Etsy. The one thing I loved about the project on Stampington is the two birds flying in opposite directions away from the nest.The big difference between other designs and my own is I used lampwork beads instead of pearls most everyone else uses. In fact, I sat down to torch specifically to create beads for this design. That pretty much never happens. Usually I make whatever beads I feel like making and leave it up to other designers or my own whims for how to use the beads.I did change a few other minor things, but the design is basically the same with a few personal touches and preferences. I am keeping this one for myself. But I see all kinds of lampwork "eggs" in my future (when it isn't so cold outside!).
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