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Exciting (to me) Announcements

I am very excited to announce that my jewelry has juried into the Indiana Artisan program and will carry the Indiana Artisan brand logo. This is an awesome opportunity for Indiana Artisans to attend business development conferences, promote their business and to help educate people about the value of buying handmade and local. If you are an Indiana resident, they have two application dates in 2009. Check out the website for more info.
I am also excited to announce that my beads and jewelry juried into the Indiana State Museum's Indiana Art Fair February 21 & 22, 2009. I am very excited and nervous because this is the biggest show I will have done to date. I have tended to stay in small venues thus far because of my lack of confidence and experience. But after doing a few small shows, I am ready to branch out more. If you are in the area, you MUST come to this show. The art show is very well done and a great diversion in the middle of a long cold winter at the point it starts feeling like it will never end. 

Gallery Hop Featured Artist: Ena Langendijk

Today is the first post for a new series of weekly blogs called Gallery Hop that will feature a different artist each week. This is a series I've been considering for a while, but never got around to. However, once I saw the MonsterOpMaat shop on Etsy, I knew who I wanted as my first featured artist. I immediately fell in love with the personality of each of the monsters on the bowls and cups. Once I read the first line in Ena's bio on etsy, "Monster op Maat = Dutch for Monster on Size, or better said: Custom Made Monster" I was completely hooked and a huge fan. Please get to know the artist of MonsterOpMaat.
Name?
Ena Langendijk. I am originally from The Netherlands, but moved to the States over three years ago.Do you have a "day job"?
I have two part-time jobs. I work for a very small software company where I basically do everything except for the actual software development, from business administration to communication to explaining a new product through illustrations. I also work as a waitress in a pretty fancy restaurant. Both jobs combined make for a full-time job. In between jobs I try to get as much pottery in as possible, because that is what keeps me sane.What medium do you work in?Right now I mostly work in clay, I love how easy it is to mold shapes in it and I love the smell of clay. Getting your hands covered in wet clay is the best, it's like playing with mud. I also make a lot of pen drawings and like to combine those with collage.
Where can people find your work?
I have a shop on Etsy: http://www.monsteropmaat.etsy.com/ and some of my mugs are sold in a small shop at Hollands Family Cheese farm in Thorp Wisconsin.Tell us about your history, how you got started, how long ago, what inspires you, or anything else about your work you would like to share:I started drawing monsters about ten years ago when I was in college and have not stopped since. They are hardly ever mean or scary, more funny and cute looking. I can relate to the monsters and I think a lot of people can; don't we all have a little bit of monster in us?
Traveling in South America I met my American husband and I moved to the States over three years ago. I got started with pottery, because I did not have a work permit and felt a little lost. I had always wanted to learn. As I got more skilled, I started getting a little bored with plain mugs and bowls and attached my first monster to a mug. Combining the monsters with the pottery proved to be a winning combination: I love making them and others love using them.
I get inspired by real life. I look at people around me and see a monster in them. I see them behave in a certain way, work a certain job, practice a sport, and express that in a monster. I had too many dentist appointments last summer and made a monster with huge teeth. It started snowing last week and I made a monster on skis. The possibilities are endless.
Tell us about your studio:
I work at a studio near my house on campus. I have a permit to work there outside classes in the afternoons and some nights. It's fun to see other people's work evolve and get feedback on my monsters. I dream of having my own studio some day with a lot of windows, a potters wheel, kiln, and drawing table, but right now we live in a small apartment.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?That is hard to tell. My husband and I will either be in the States, back in the Netherlands, or in Latin-America. We have family and possible work opportunities in all those parts of the world. We might have kids, we recently started talking more about that. I will definitely still be making monsters and hope to make them more into a career.Do you have any advice for someone wanting to start selling their artwork?Love what you do. That is the most important thing, it will keep you creative. And be eager to learn more skills and improve your work. You can set up an online shop on a site like Etsy and you can approach shop owners directly and sent them a link to your online shop or bring in some of your work. I sell a lot to friends, and friends of friends. Word of mouth is a very big selling tool.Anything else you would like to share?I am always open for suggestions or ideas. I love it when people ask me to make a custom monster. That means they really get it, see the monster in people. Other than that, I eat a lot of chocolate, drink many pots of tea, love to sleep, and enjoy traveling.And because I love to read, what are a few of your favorite books?I like books that paint pictures with words. And books that tell a story with pictures:- Like water for chocolate - Laura Esquivel- The god of small things - Arundhati Roy- The kite runner - Khaled Hosseini- Persepolis, the story of a childhood - Marhane SatrapiI would like to thank Ena for taking time to answer my questions and see the studio where she works. Make sure you stop by her shop to see more fun pieces.
If you know of an artist that should be featured here, please leave a comment and contact info.

A Sneak Peek

For some strange reason I was on a total chainmaille kick last week. I have 2 bracelets almost complete. I need to make special lampwork beads for the Jen Pind's bracelet (not pictured). But here is the the Half Persian 4 in 1. It's not quite complete because I am not happy with the clasp and have been turning over ideas in my mind to fix it. I need it to look good AND make the last ring of the bracelet stable. This clasp looks GREAT, but I think it's too difficult to clasp onto the correct ring (the last silver one). I am also going to patina and tumble it. I don't like the shiny copper for this one.

The next photo is a very small chunk of a project I am working on. I love these little "flowers" but the last ring is a bugger to close and I keep mangling them. You will just have to wait and see what I've got planned for these, but if it turns out even close to how my mind imagines it, it is going to be a stunning piece!

I hope you all had a great weekend. My 10 year old guy was very sick with the flu all weekend and I spent most of the time nursing him back to health. Hopefully he feels much better tomorrow. The only good thing is he was cuddly and wanted his mom. I don't expect many more of those days in the future.

My New Favorite Tool...And it was only $4!!!

I was perusing the ISLAGA forum the other day and there was a discussion about a bead release tool and how effective it was. The thing with taking beads off the stainless steel mandrels is that you have to use pliers or vice grip in one hand using a death grip on the mandrel right next to the bead. The other hand is trying to pull and twist the bead at the same time. If you do this motion with any regularity, it will cause issues with your hands and wrists. Sometimes those buggers (I mean beads) are impossible to get off the mandrels.Anyway, a couple women have tried a new fancy (and pricey tool) that release the beads off the mandrels for you. A couple have had mixed results with it. Somebody else posted a link to a discussion on Lampwork Etc. about a much cheaper way to do the same thing with a riveting tool. When I saw that post, I just HAD to try it. My DS happened to have band practice down the block from Harbor Freight the same day, so while he was at band, I scurried to Harbor Freight and bought a riveting tool. Now, I've never actually heard of a riveting tool in the hardware store sense of the term. I've only heard of a riveting tool when referring to coring beads with silver tubing. There were a few choices at Harbor Freight, but I bought the cheapest one. The rubber part of the handles is yellow, it has 4 different sizes of those nut thingies and a wrench. It even comes with some kind of hardware stuff that I don't have a clue what it's used for. At $4, it was worth the gamble, you know? I also picked up some nitrile O rings for cushioning between the bead and the riveting tool. I had a bunch of beads on 1/16" mandrels waiting to be released and they were the first trial for this new tool. Let me tell you, those things came off like BUTTER!!!! Now I need to make some beads on 3/32" and 1/8" and try it on those. I will report if there are any problems with it, but I don't anticipate there will be.My only concern after getting all those beads off with very little effort was how to make sure I didn't lose the wrench that came with it for changing the size of the...I don't know what it's called... I'll refer to it as a collet I guess. I referred to it as a nut thingie above, but whatever. It's a fairly simple straightforward tool (even if I never heard of it before) so you'll figure it out if you get one. Anyway, back to the wrench. I was thinking I could tie a string to it, but the shape of it is not conducive to that. So, I got out one of those neodymium magnets and stuck them together. Voila! No lost wrench!In the Lampwork Etc. post, the long part of the mandrel was stuck into the collet portion. However, I had some mandrels that are flattened on that end and stamped with 316L. I tried sticking the shorter end into the collet and even with just a very small length of mandrel, it was able to grab the steel and push the bead enough to release it. VERY COOL!

Happy Halloween!

Even though there are only 38 minutes left of October as I write this, I hope you all had a fun and safe Halloween. Most important is that you got tons of candy-especially chocolate! I am chocolated out after tonight. I never thought that could actually happen...
I wanted to make an announcement about a special fundraiser of sorts sponsored by the Lampwork Etc. stree team called Beads for Food . For the entire month of November, I will donate a can of food to Community Harvest for every single sale (meaning each separate listing) from my etsy shop. If you buy 2 different listings, I will donate 2 cans, etc.
If you read my blog back in August when the LEST team did a fundraiser called Just Give and each member chose the organization, I chose Community Harvest. Their mission is to feed the hungry of Northeast Indiana. And let's face it, the economy sucks right now and more people than ever need this service. However, never has Community Harvest had such empty shelves. So during the month of November not only will you get some really cool beads, but you will be helping out an organization that does so much good for the community.
Here's a couple new ones I put in the shop tonight:
And here are a couple Halloween pictures from tonight for your entertainment. My daughter is obviously dressed as an angel. Any guesses as to who my son is dressed as? First person to comment with the correct answer wins a FREE BEAD!
Here is the reason our marriage is so wonderful. He makes me laugh every single day. He was jealous that DD was an angel and not him. So while she asked him to hold her wings and halo while she "powdered her nose", he thought he'd try them out. LOL! Luckily I had the camera in hand.

2008 Pumpkin Party

Every October, usually the last weekend before Halloween, for the last 4 or 5 years, we host a pumpkin decorating party. We supply the place (a cleaned out garage), lots of decorating supplies, some food and drinks, and a craft table for the little ones once they are tired of pumpkin decorating.It's B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Pumpkin), a dish to share, and your creativity. I usually stay up almost the entire night the night before trying to make sure everything is done. I spend that that night thinking, "Why do I do this to myself?!?!" However, once everyone is here, having fun and making their creations, I remember. My favorite part of these parties is seeing what each pumpkin decorator comes up with using the supplies on hand and each year the creativity gets better and better. We have a little contest for some friendly competition and then give pumpkin themed prizes. Our categories are: scariest, silliest, most creative and best overall. We had our party this past Sunday and it was my favorite one we've hosted so far. What's funny is even though I question my sanity every single year, I am grateful for the motivation to get the garage cleaned out from the summer months where the toys, bikes, gardening equipment, etc. take over the area where we park our cars so that we are parking outside instead. So as I was cleaning the garage a week ago, I was thinking to myself that our party should be called the "Pumpkin Decorating and Park in the Garage Party". Or maybe "Prepare for Winter and Pumpkin Decorating Party" Or the "We Have to have a Pumpkin Decorating Party so we can park
in the Garage Party". You get the idea. However,
"Pumpkin Decorating Party" seems like a suitable name and the rest is implied.
We could barely walk through the garage 2 weeks ago, but I got it cleaned up while all the neighbor kids were in our yard and driveway playing and dancing to the music I had going on the iPod. (The next sentence starts a new paragraph, this blog will not let me create a new paragraph here for some weird reason!)
My dear sweet husband turned on the movie Apocalypto the Friday night before the party (which was held Sunday). I walked in, saw what was on the screen, asked if he was going to actually watch that crap, then left the room until it was over. I have to show you the pumpkin he did before I show the others because...well...it...is...ummm...twisted...scary...creative...and obviously watching the movie "inspired" him. He put the pumpkin on a tiki torch thing in our garage that we've never used. Thank GOODNESS I haven't gotten rid of them yet, or he wouldn't have been able to do this:
I am curious what our neighbors think of this...monstrosity in front of our house. Oh WAIT some of our neighbors were at the party. I think they shielded the eyes of their children. LOL!Here are most of the rest of the pumpkins during the judging phase of the party. Everyone votes for their favorite in each category. Check out the awesome creativity that came out of it. Note: I seem to have zero control over how these photos lay out on the page. Sorry if it looks like a jumbled mess!
Once again, I did not chat about my favorite subject (glass and/or lampwork beads) because I had to share this instead. Stay tuned though. I have some beads I want to share tomorrow!

Look What Disgusting Thing We Found Today!

Look what I found while walking the dogs this afternoon! It was just sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, probably close to frozen. Luckily I am very squeemish about bugs and I picked it up with a leaf-I wasn't about to actually TOUCH it. It was like no other bug I had ever seen before and I really wanted the kids to see it. Besides, my son is supposed to be collecting bugs in his newly built bug barn, observing them, then letting them go to earn his Arrow Of Light for Cub Scouts. So I carried this interesting creature home on a leaf and placed it on the front porch, told the kids to come out, grabbed my camera and started taking pictures. DS got his bug barn and we could barely cram this thing into it. Luckily we had the leaf so no touching was involved. We took it inside and proceeded to google, go to ask.com, etc. No luck figuring out what exactly we had found. I called DH and described it, but he didn't know either. We took a trip to the library and started looking through books about bugs and bug field guides. Voila! There it was...a Wheel Bug. I've never heard of a Wheel Bug. The filed guide didn't have much info about it, so again, we went home and did some online searching. HERE was one of the first sites we came across. I was a little freaked out when I saw it was number 2 on the list of Creepy Things that Bite or Sting.Then there was this site that describes the bite as hurting more than a bee and healing can take several months. YIKES!!! It does look rather dangerous...Anyway, we had a fun day researching out new pet. Yes, he is still in the bug barn. We will let him go tomorrow so he can kill all the other pests around here.

Anne Choi Bead Inspired Necklace

I love Anne Choi beads and have bought a few in the last year or two. However, I've never used one until now. This particular bead wanted to be a pendant and after getting some gorgeous hand-dyed silk ribbon from Heidi of Jamn Glass, I took a few of my orphan lampwork beads that I used beautiful high silver content glass that looks like mother of pearl at certain angles and 3 different colors of swarovski bicone crystals and made this necklace. I saw my friend Lisa Atchison of Touch of Glass Designs make a coiled clasp like this one and I loved the it so much I borrowed the idea. Because of that coil, the necklace is adjustable to just about any length and you don't have to tie and untie over and over. Then there are two coordinating beads on the each end of the ribbon for a little sassiness. I think those beads dangling in the back looks totally hot. I will defintely be making more of these!

New Tuff Enough listings and a story of a camping trip and why you should watch the Discovery Channel

This is the shock of the century! I managed to get 3 new listings up today. The first two are part of the Tuff Enough to Wear Pink Campaign. I will be donating 100% of the purchase price of these beads to the Susan Komen for the Cure:
The third listing today was another Nightmare Series bead. However, what's "special" about this one is its so called pedigree. This was the bead I had started when the photographer was here taking pictures for the newspaper article. I only started it while he was here and then finished it after he left. Anyway, this bead's baby picture was in the newspaper and online.
On a completely unrelated to anything else I've ever posted before, I want to make sure everyone tunes into the Discovery Channel Mini Series about the Iditarod. My DS has become obsessed with dog sledding since doing the Iditarod unit during the 2008 race in 4th grade. He has been a frustrated musher ever since. Living in a suburban neighborhood in Indiana is not particularly condusive to a budding musher who dreams of racing in the Junior Iditarod and then the Iditarod. I tell him he can do the Junior Iditarod if a miniature labradoodle and a Golden Retriever will be enough to pull the sled...
Anyway, about a month ago, Lance Mackey (the winner of the last 2 Iditarods and my son's hero) went to Mancelona, Michigan to the Last Chance Kennel as a guest speaker. My DS found out about this from Lance's website. So, like the dog sledding/Lance Mackey obsessed kid that he is, he nagged me about getting more info. The site only promoted a talk he was giving. But when I emailed for info from the folks hosting this event, they said it was actually a 4 day event and invited us to join. WOW!
The thing is, we would have to camp with no running water and my dear sweet husband was on call all that particular weekend. I hate camping. I hate using a port-a-potty. I'm far from a high maintenance glamour girl, but I do like my comforts. However, I have the sweetest, most gentle kid a mom could ask for. His hero isn't some NBA or NFL thug, and he had the chance to meet him, talk to him, and go camping. I signed us up for the one night camp.
So here was me who knows practically nothing about dog sledding, my frustrated wannabe musher and then a group of very dedicated mushers. I mean, I can barely get my dogs to pee outside let alone train them to pull a sled and listen to commands...I didn't really fit in so well. That didn't matter a bit because these were all very down to earth, generous people. They made us feel very comfortable and gave DS suggestions on how he can train to be a musher and participate in a limited way until he can fullfil his dreams.
When we got to Mancelona, I didn't know a single thing about Lance Mackey except he won a couple Iditarods and is missing a finger. Weird thing to know, but DS had mentioned it a few times. But after that weekend, I am a fan of Lance too. Not because I think dog sledding is cool, but because he is an incredible individual for what he has been through (cancer that he was not supposed to survive, let alone ever race again) and achieved and accomplished it with so much humility, determination, and love for his dogs. He is very down to earth, approachable, will answer any question asked (including trade secrets from what I, the non-musher person, can tell), and signs all autographs. His wife Tonya was also lots of fun to talk to and hear her perspective on things. The thing that struck me is they have no bathroom and so they all have to shower at the laundromat! It costs a whopping $5 for a 10 minute shower. YIKES!
I was going to post about this earlier, but time just slipped away and then it seemed irrelevant. But with this special on the Discovery Channel, it's fun to watch what we only heard about from Lance. I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode last night. Knowing the Discovery Channel (it's our favorite channel), they will run each episode several times. Check your local listings and don't miss any of them.

Brown County State Park Photos

Do you know one of those people who have parties so that they have a captive audience to view a slideshow of their vacation photos? I could potentially be one of those people if I had a projector or a really big computer monitor.We got our first digital camera six years ago (back in the dinosaur age for digital cameras) and I never looked back to the old way of taking pictures. It's almost to the point of obsessive compulsive behavior. I *must* take about 15 shots of the exact same thing to make sure I got at least one decent shot. Gone are the days of paying for film and processing that used to hold me back from taking approximately 5 billion photos a year. Now the only thing holding me back is the size of my hard drive. I recently upgraded, so I should be good to go for at least another year.
It should come as little shock that I took approximately 350 pictures during our 3 days at Brown County State Park. The shocking part is I pared down the number of photos to share to 7. I try not to bore people with too many details. However, if you beg enough, I might be able to find a couple more to share. LOL!
The first photo is just a generic shot of one of the several scenic overlooks in the park. This one is located behind the Nature Center. Just beyond that little deck is a fairly steep drop off. I took this photo just before we went on a hike guided by a park employee. It was the first time we went on a guided hike in the six years we've been taking our annual autumn trip. I figured doing it was educational and we could count it as a field trip and therefore a school day. The guided tour was so much more than I could have hoped for. We learned a tremendous amount about identifying trees and plants and about the history of the park. It was defintely worth every second of our time.
When we got back from the guided tour, the kids needed to use the facilities. As I sat waiting for them, I noticed the wedding party at this same scenic overlook getting photos taken. I thought "oh, how sweet!" and snapped a couple pictures:
Then, to my amazement (mostly at his stupidity...I mean daring), the photographer gets up on the railing of the deck overlooking the steep drop-off and starts pointing, and giving directions and taking photos. It was definitely a highlight of the trip. I took several pictures of him (and if I knew the people getting married, I would send them copies):
After the guided hike and watching the crazy photographer, the kids and I went for a 2 mile hike on a trail we've never taken. It had some really neat topography and in one section the trees were completely different than the rest of the park. DD (who is 7) mostly whined, complained, and gave me lots of grumpy faces (which I love to photograph-just wait until she has kids...Bwahahaha)
However, I happened to notice these most unusual tree roots. They reminded me of dino jaws. It was almost like the soil and rock was eroding away to show a portion of a T-Rex jaw. Miracle of all miracles, it was a big hit and there were smiles all around while we discussed renaming the trail from Trail 6 to something more clever like...Dinosaur Jaws. LOL!
The next day we did our annual 2 mile hike on Trail 2. There are certain things we do every single year. We cannot veer off course, or there will be major rebellion on our hands. Hiking Trail 2 is one of those things. The other traditions include going into Nashville for a few hours to buy an ornament from the Holly Shop. We always get something that somehow signifies a theme for that particular year. When we get home, we write Brown County and the year we got it.
Once we get our ornament, we get lunch at HobNob Corner Restaurant , then walk down the block and get some fudge. Occassionally we will walk around and look at galleries, but usually not. We go to Brown County every year for the park, family togetherness, and the traditions we've created, not to go shopping in Nashville the entire time. However, this year we skipped lunch and fudge. That went over like a bunch of lead balloons, but we got an ornament and hiked trail 2. Mission almost accomplished.
This photo is part of the tradition of Trail 2. Called the North Lookout Tower, Trail 2 goes right past it. We always climb the 100 or so stairs (or maybe it just feels like 100 after hiking for a mile or so?) to get to the tower and "lookout" over the view. The kids and DH always sit on the stone wall of the lower level of the tower and I always take their picture. I try to avoid getting my picture taken.
The most important part of our Trail 2 experience is getting the family photo sitting on this particular stone bridge. We've done it every single year. You would think that this being our 6th year I would remember to take a tripod. But nooooooo....I guess trying to hang the camera at the correct angle from a tree, setting the timer and then DH running back to get in the picture just in time is part of the tradition. However, after about the 5th time of doing this, a couple came up to us on the trail and (thankfully) offered to take our picture. It is the best one yet. They even took two of them in case one didn't turn out so good. It's not quite up to my standard of 15, but it turned out great. This is us. We aren't glamorous (I wasn't even wearing make-up!), but that's the way I like it. I'm even wearing a Beads of Courage t-shirt!
This is just a fun picture I took of a Timber Rattlesnake in the Nature Center. These are endangered in the state of Indiana. If you see one in Indiana, let the state or county park system closest to its location know where you saw it.
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