Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Beginning of the Big Pics

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a friend took some photos of my jewelry with her camera and I have just started listing the new items with the BIG PICS! Hurray! I am also experimenting with cropping my current photos (when the Internet connection isn't so slow, maybe I'll figure out how to do it). Dear readers, go to my shop and see the first new Big Pic and let me know what you think. Javanese Lampglass Earrings

As you can see, they are nice and big. To view the difference, consider the photos below of the Japanese Red Decal Earrings -- the first is the cropped photo and the second is the original.

A bit smaller, huh?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Friendly Etsians

     I know it sounds a bit like the name of a group from another planet in a sci-fi movie, but "Friendly Etsians" is actually a very down-to-earth and appropriate phrase. I'm talking about people who have shops on Etsy and how friendly, helpful, and generous a number of them have been to me. In earlier posts, I've mentioned folks who featured me and my beaded jewelry on their blogs. Others have helped by offering advice based on Etsy experience that goes well beyond mine.

     Another Etsian who has an online shop where she sells her beautiful fiber beads (Ebrown2503) is local, and we've gotten together.

     She was generous enough to bring over her camera with its superior macro capabilities and take some photos of my jewelry recently. Soon I will be listing some new earrings using much bigger photos!
     This got me thinking about Etsians and the kinds of cameras they need to do photos for their shops, and I contacted Tim Adam (TimothyAdamDesigns), who does a lot of Etsy marketing tips on his blog. Tim decided to use my idea of finding out about Etsians' cameras and he's got a camera survey going right now. He was also kind enough to include a credit for the idea to me and a link to my Etsy shop. Hurray! Thanks, you friendly Etsians!  See the survey at



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fiction Corner: Some Time to Read

     Well, now that the Christmas tree (as predicted in the Tree post) has been taken down and placed in readiness for its return to the Earth as garden compost, the holiday festivities are almost over. We'll probably sit around the living room on Thursday night with a couple of friends, maybe drink a glass of wine or eggnog and eat a few snacks, and hold a somewhat nostalgic but desultory conversation about the ups and downs of 2009 -- ultimately wishing it goodbye at the stroke of midnight.
     Meanwhile, it's been kind of nice to have a break from copyediting work and even from working on the etsy shop. Next week I start up again with both. A friend has taken a bunch of great new BIG photos with her supermacro camera of lovely earrings that I'll be listing soon.
     But one of the true pleasures of some quiet time -- while that cold white stuff falls outside the cozy house  --  is reading books. I've enjoyed quite a few recently, and I want to share some favorites from times past as well, in the form of suggestions for your 2010 reading, dear readers. 

     An excellent novel that I just finished the other night is Simon Mawer's The Glass Room. Mawer is a British writer and this novel was long-listed for the prestigious Booker award.  

I've read many many Booker-award novels and quite a few of those that were short- or long-listed for it as well over the years, and they are almost always a very good bet. Mawer is a superb stylist, IMHO, and the content was fascinating.

It's the story of a family in what is now called the Czech Republic -- their personal saga and that of their amazing modern glass house -- from 1929 until the 1990s. The Landauer House in the novel is modeled after an actual house (Villa Tugendhat) in Brno created by Miese van der Rohe. The story details the family's emigration when the Nazis take over the town, their life in exile in Switzerland, Cuba, and finally the United States. In parallel, it traces the "life" of the house, an object of memory, art, and event in its own right, as it passes through various official hands (German, Soviet, Czech, etc.), survives bomb blasts, serves as a gymnasium for disabled children and ballet dancers, and finally becomes a museum. The beauty of the book is the way that a very personal and
engaging story of characters who suffer love, loss, and betrayal opens out to tell a broader tale of a country in conflict, a continent in the throes of a disastrous war, and a world of clashing ideals and turbulent cultures.

     Another novel of World War II from a totally American point of view is Four Freedoms by John Crowley. Crowley is not a new author for me, as Mawer was, having loved Little Big, first read decades ago. This novel is a tribute to the incredible women (and men) of the United States (my mother's generation, called "The Great Generation") who worked to support the home front of the war by building airplanes, knitting sweaters, saving scrap metal, and facing challenges of many kinds. The characters, in the usual Crowley mode, are eccentric to say the least. But they are also believable and poignantly sympathetic. Their story is the tale of a nation that can and did pull together (one hopes that could happen again without a world war) when it really counted. If you've ever been curious seeing old posters of Rosie the Riveter and so on, check out this book.

    Books can be old friends that you want to share, so also let me introduce you to a world of wonderful books to enjoy in 2010 if you haven't already had the opportunity: the four marvelous series of books by the Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith.

     Some of you may know the series set in Botswana from the HBO episodes telecast this summer (we don't own a TV but went to view those at a friend's place) based on the books starting with The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency. They have to do with a wonderful woman, Precious Ramotswe, who solves problems for ordinary people in Botswana and manages meanwhile to share with readers her profound wisdom and warm humor, great heart and traditional common sense, on questions of ethics and of honesty, love, and compassion. There are now many books in the series to go with a delightful set of characters you will end up feeling like you know personally.

     Check out McCall Smith's website for details and for information about his other series, including the Isabel Dalhousie books. As the website explains, Isabel also loves solving problems and is particularly fond of pondering and answering philosophical questions posed to her as editor of The Review of Applied Ethics. But, like McCall Smith's detective heroine, Precious Ramotswe, she often embroils herself in problems that are none of her business, including some that are best left to the police.

     And there's the 44 Scotland Street books that are being serialized (yes, just like Charles Dickens did long ago!) in the newspaper The Scotsman. All of McCall Smith's trademark warmth and wit come into play in this series chronicling the lives of the residents of a boardinghouse. Complete with colorful characters, love triangles, and plenty of light-hearted personal drama, this is an unforgettable portrait of Edinburgh society.

    For academic satire, try the Portuguese Irregular Verbs books: the insane and rarified world of Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of The Institute of Romance Philology, who is engaged in a never-ending quest to win the respect he feels certain is due him--a quest that has a way of going hilariously astray.

    Alexander McCall Smith has written more than 60 books, including specialist academic titles, short story collections, and a number of immensely popular children's books. The Botswana series has now been translated into 45 languages and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and was educated there and in Scotland. He became a law professor in Scotland, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa to work in Botswana, where he helped set up a new law school at the University of Botswana. For many years he was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and has been a visiting professor at a number of other universities. He was also the vice chairman of the Human Genetics Commission of the UK, the chairman of the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee, and a member of the International Bioethics Commission of UNESCO. He is the recipient of numerous awards.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Like to window shop online? IndieSpotting is a website with great pics of lots of handmade items.  You don't purchase from the site, but you can click on an item and go to where you can. Every week, I submit a "find" from my etsy shop, and guess what ... ? Tonight I discovered to my delight that my Bold and Sassy Cherry Red Necklace is featured on the FIRST PAGE of the IndieSpotting jewelry section! Check it out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The University of Illinois Veterinary Hospital is offering a cute website where you can upload a pet pic and then make "additions" and then use the result for e-mail or send to facebook or twitter. Here's our holiday greeting via Angus McDuff. Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Local Heroes: Desafinado

     When it comes to tomatoes -- the cherry ones from Mexico, the clusters all the way from Holland, and so on -- there's still nothing to compare with a homegrown tomato in the summertime in the Midwest, am I right? And, even though I love seeing exotic multicolored birds of paradise in New Guinea on the Planet Earth DVD (see my earlier post), it's still a thrill for me to spot a goldfinch in my back yard. We all recognize the importance of world leaders to bring us hope for change, but the softspoken woman whose office is across the street has been an excellent mayor for many years and her decisions affect me too. What this is all leading up to is the idea of "local heroes" -- the treasures right under our noses in our own domains.

     One of the musical treasures in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, is a group called Desafinado, a six piece ensemble that plays a combination of Samba, Bossa Nova, and MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira).

     Band members are Elis Artz on vocals (in Brazilian Portuguese); Connie Johnson on vibraphone and composer of originals; Greg Jahiel on guitar, vocals, and composer of originals; Tom Paynter on flute, melodica, various whistles (!), and composer of originals; Giraldo Rosales on congas; and Matt Plaskota on drums.

     My husband (see back of curly haired head and white beard) and I have been fans of this group for at least seven or eight years. We've heard them play at a pretty wide range of venues -- outdoors at festivals, at the public libraries, at jazz clubs, on campus, and so on. We have their second CD and are eagerly awaiting their new one.

Desafinado's second CD, entitled "Conhecimento," was released in late 2006. On this album, the band showcases many original compositions, along with a smattering of Brazilian favorites by Cartola, João Donato, and Caetano Veloso, among others.

     Desafinado is currently recording their new record, to be released in early 2010! Connie tells me it will be all originals!

     They just started a Fan Page on Facebook. I'm sure they will post on it when the new album is ready. Become a Fan!

   (You can also, of course, become a Fan or Beaded Jewelry by Susan on Facebook!)

     So what's the music like? Well, it's wonderful. It has that one-two one-two samba beat, with the congas making your toes tap the whole time you're listening. It's upbeat, friendly, fun, but mellow, laid-back, and thoroughly relaxing. I'm no music critic, but I know what I like!
     The songs are sung in Brazilian Portuguese, but you gotta know they are mostly about love and dancing and the like. They usually include in a performance some numbers by Antonio Carlos Jobim, a samba school favorite from Sao Paulo, and the well-known Girl from Ipanema.
     One of the great things about this group is that they really play together.  You never feel like anyone is hogging the stage or showing off his or her musical skills. You get across a sense of complete personal harmony (as well as the musical kind).

   Another marvel is that each and every one of the group members is really such an accomplished musician. Some of them play a range of different instruments; some compose; some just love making music. They all have "day jobs" and yet are happy to stay up late entertaining us.

     I have had so many evenings of pleasure listening to Desafinado play and chatting on break with the band members. Hurray for our local heroes!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh! Christmas Tree! Oh! Christmas Tree!

Every Christmas tree has a story to tell every Christmas. Here's this year's tree speaking:

Hi! First of all, you gotta know that I'm a "real" tree. However, I didn't actually grow up in a real forest. It was an agribusiness monoculture kind of place called a Christmas Tree Plantation -- up in the northern part of the Midwest. Okay, so I get cut down and loaded on a truck and shipped down to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Whew! Was I glad to get outta that truck! So I end up on a lot that's the parking area for a very popular frozen custard place from March to November. On December 8, it's raining like crazy -- chilly, damp, overcast -- pretty miserable for people coming out to select a Christmas tree, huh? Kinda early too, wouldn't you say?

     Well, turns out these folks thought they might not be able to handle getting a tree, setting it up, and so on this year totally on their own (age, health issues, etc. ... old age ain't for sissies, so say the Bristle Cone Pines and the Sequoias anyway). Their friend who's gonna help is going out of town soon though, so ... early tree selection. That's good. I'm fresh. I'm a balsam fir, by the way. Nice shape, soft needles that won't prick your fingers but hold up ornaments real good.
     Okay, it's pouring so they don't take long to choose me (besides, I'm so handsome I stand out, you know?) I'm paid for, netted, packed in the back of the

van, and driven to my Christmas "home" in Urbana.
Okay, nice enough place, decent tree stand, sugar water to help me from dehydrating ... so far, so good.
     Takes 'em all evening to get the lights up on me because some bulbs have burned out and they have to test each one. Hah! I love it when humans have to work hard to decorate us right ...
     So they've got six cats who are pretty interested in sniffing my branches, but none of them tries to climb me. And they give me a day to kind of "settle in" with just my lights on. Nice. I like to do it gradually.
     Now they bring out the ornaments in a day or two. The missus is the one doing the ornament hanging. She loves Christmas trees and Christmas ornaments. Every year she wraps each one carefully and puts it away in a compartment of a cardboard box. Some of the ornaments are really old. There are nice ones and some sort of shabby ones, but the main thing is that there are a heck of a lot of them! Also, she is slow (arthritis), so she puts up a few and then rests in between.
     Now the top is done with small glass ornaments (breakables) in the shape of fruits, musical instruments, animals, churches, and so on. Oh yeah, also some glass balls and icicles. Nice job. But it wore her out, so it's another day before my whole middle section gets finished. More glass balls and a mix of wooden, metal, and
other non-breakables. Good. I'm starting to feel proud now, looking festive and all, you know?  She's also put a "tree skirt" (I don't take it personally about the skirt part even though I'm a macho male tree) around my base. The husband checks me every day for water. Nice guy. So another day goes by before the bottom third gets decorated. Mostly cardboard and cloth ornaments this time because of the kitties. They do love to knock those off! It always tickles me!
I'm starting to shed some needles by now and they have to vacuum. Sorry, that's the down side compared to one of these artificial jobbies. They are planning to keep me up until the day after Christmas, so I can't really complain. I know my role, which is more than you can say for everybody on this planet. I've already helped out with carbon emission reductions. They say I'm going to be recycled for garden compost later on, which is a comforting thought. I think gardens are a good thing. Perennials are like distant relatives to me, sort of like cousins twice removed, you know?
     Well, the cats are enjoying the whole thing.
They like racing around underneath my bottom branches,
knocking off ornaments, maybe nibbling on the needles
a little bit. Like I say, I don't mind. They are pretty cute, in fact.

So that's my story. Christmas 2009. Proud to be here! Merry Christmas, Dear Readers!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Bazaar Show

Last week, University of Illinois students put on their annual Holiday Bazaar Arts and Crafts show in the student union, and Beaded Jewelry by Susan was there! This was our first time to do the show with our new equipment set-up (see earlier posts on The Big Transition). We had rented three tables for our displays of earrings and necklaces.

Instead of our panels with foam core display boards, we used eight lightweight (easy to carry) rotating display units. Each unit fit into a cardboard box (apple boxes, actually) for being transported in our van. Some of the displays were up on wooden stands my husband had made, and some were just on the tables.

I had to put some necklaces on the table among the earrings displays because they were too many to fit on the one table reserved for necklaces!

One of the display units holds special earrings on sterling silver and gold-filled wires, mainly earrings designed with vintage or expensive handmade beads that are priced from $20 to $30. The other seven display units hold $12 earrings in a wide range of styles, colors, and materials. Two of the displays (only two so far, that is) hold earrings that have been listed on the etsy site.

I took about two hours to set up shop for the two-day show. It was a chilly, windy day, and carrying in all of the boxes and totes wasn't really much fun, but it was a good deal easier than when we used to carry in heavy steel display panels, boards to hang, and a heavy table of our own.

I use Indian-style bedspreads as table covers, with black felt pieces on the top. One table was reserved for necklaces -- on velvet necks and laid out in rows. The middle table included a bargain bin, two T-bars with pendants, the display unit with the SS/GF earrings, and room for our sales equipment. The third table was filled with rotator displays of earrings and some additional necklaces.

Fortunately, we were able to set up the displays and then leave everything in place overnight for the second day of the show. I have to say that the first day of the show was very very slow in terms of sales, but things got better on the second day. Meanwhile, we chatted with each other and various shoppers, and I went around and greeted the other vendors. I passed out fliers about the outdoor show equipment we are trying to sell. No takers yet, but I have high hopes for getting our LightDome tent and Graphics Systems panels into hands that can use them.

Last year, the students had arranged for holiday music to be playing in the background during the show, and it was a nice touch for putting people in a holiday mood. Of course, for the vendors there for the whole two days, the fifteenth time "Rudolph the Red-Nosed ... " came on, there was a group sigh. But still, it was nice. So we asked why they weren't doing it this year. It turns out that they were waiting for a "technical person" to get out of a meeting and set things up. Okay, so when the music finally came on, it wasn't really holiday music per se. It was sort of new age type acoustic guitar. Very laid back and pleasant in its own way, but the kind of music that can have a lot of repetitive sections to it. As a result,
it took a while before everyone realized that the CD was evidently STUCK! It soon became not only obvious but excruciating. When we told the students that they needed to do something about it (before we all went crazy), they said they were working on it. We wondered how much work it could take to operate an OFF button. Oh well. When it finally stopped, there was immediate spontaneous applause and hooting!

As for other highlights of the show, I suppose I could include the chicken sandwich my husband obtained for me in the downstairs snack bar. Most of the shoppers were students on break between classes and the occasional faculty or staff member. It's always fun to observe the campus community (of which both my husband and I were a part for so many years!). David watches the booth for me when I need to take a break, but he isn't so comfortable trying to "talk the bead language" to the shoppers and always hopes I'll return soon.

Of course, I thoroughly enjoy talking the "bead language" and will gladly bend the ear of any shopper who is interested in questions such as the following: What kind of stone is that anyway? Where are those beads from? How do they get the colors inside the glass? Is that carved wood? And so on.

I'm crazy about collecting beads, of course, and many folks ask about where I get them. The answer is everywhere and anywhere. When I can, I go to trade shows where importers bring beads from places near and far. I use mail-order, especially for findings such as earwires and headpins and beading wire. I occasionally buy antique pieces and take them apart to re-use some of the beads. Sometimes my friends travel and bring back beads for me. And I shop online for beads as well. The collection has grown over 18 years. Sometimes old beads that I hadn't used in a long time wind up being the perfect match with new beads that I just found! It's like stamps or other kinds of collecting, I guess, there's history and information of all kinds ... beads are works of art, but they are also stories worth telling.

Well, that's it for the holiday show. We won't be doing another show until the next indoor show at the student union for U of I Mom's Day the second week in April. Between now and then, I plan to add lots more items to the etsy site.

Delivering the Art

About an hour from my home in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, is a town named Decatur. It's not what you'd call an "arty" town; the main industries there are soy bean processing and the manufacturing of heavy equipment. But, as in many such towns, there is a loyal group of individuals who are dedicated to the arts (and crafts) and to providing art-related activities for the community.

     On a sunny, crisp day, a few days after Thanksgiving, we made a trip with a friend to "deliver the art." We were bringing a display board with earrings from Beaded Jewelry by Susan to be included in the Xmas ARTicles show that takes place during the month of December at the Madden Arts Center.

     For many years, we participated in the Arts in Central Park show sponsored by this same group, the Decatur Area Arts Council, as well as the holiday show. Since we have retired from doing outdoor shows, this is our continuing link to the folks in Decatur and we were happy to be able to bring something to the gallery.

     I took my camera with so I could share the trip with you, dear readers, and so here are pictures of David, my husband, in front of the Arts Center, and our friend Bob, who kindly drove.

     The display board was dropped off quickly and welcomed by the Arts Center staff. We will pick it up again at the beginning of the year. We sent along 25 pairs of earrings for holiday shoppers in Decatur. If you don't live near there and still want to shop for earrings for the holidays, just drop by the etsy shop online and select a pair from more than 250 unique, one-of-a-kind designs in a wide range of styles, colors, and materials.

  After dropping off the display, we decided to take advantage of being in Decatur to take a tour around Lake Decatur. Sadly, we don't have a lake in Champaign-Urbana.
It was almost sunset, but there was still enough light to take in the sight of gulls, mallards, some white domestic geese (duck/goose hybrids?), and some adorable coots (the black-and-white rails).

As the sun set, we decided to have a nice meal in the restaurant overlooking the lake before heading for home. The place was decorated for the holidays and featured an excellent pretzel-crusted chicken breast. And so we "delivered the art" and a good time was had by all.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Bazaar: Ready to Roll!

We just put the finishing touches on the Big Transition (see earlier posts) tonight, and now we're ready to roll for the Holiday Bazaar at the Illini Union on the University of Illinois campus: Wednesday and Thursday, 10-5 pm. So, all you local followers, come on out. For those of you who can't make it to Champaign-Urbana on short notice, take heart. You too can enjoy unique, affordable beaded jewelry at my Etsy shop. You'll find nearly 300 items for sale. I just renewed some cool necklaces and there are TONS of earrings to choose from. Shop by category, by color, by listing date, or by price.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Shopping: Cyber Monday

Well, so-called Black Friday is now behind us. All those who camped out in cold weather to get in stores early that morning are either home (warming up), out doing more shopping, or getting ready to shop online. It's said that this coming Monday, "Cyber Monday," is the biggest online shopping day.

     I would love for folks to shop for gifts this year at my etsy shop Why?

     Mostly because I love to create the jewelry and so selling some makes that more possible, but also because I honestly think my creations would make really lovely gifts. I crafted them all carefully by hand with unusual and beautiful beads. I deliberately used a wide range of styles, colors, and materials, so that there is something for everyone. And I have kept the prices affordable so that a little beauty is possible for most people without spending a lot of money (note: free domestic shipping).
     I made earrings and necklaces that can be worn every day, so there aren't any special holiday styles such as Xmas trees or Santa beads in the collections, but there are some choices that would be nice for wearing to holiday parties. For example, here's the perfect little green necklace. Emerald Crystal and Pearl Necklace.

     Earrings and necklaces are small enough for "stocking stuffers." This Flower Beads on a Chain Necklace would be great for a young girl -- it's short, simple, lightweight, and the multicolored flower beads are so charming.

     Holiday getogethers and events often call for dressy outfits in red or green to match the colors of the season. Here's a pair of Gold Foil and Red Crystal Earrings that would be very elegant with a red party dress.

     Green is great for reminding us of the evergreens, the holly, and so on. But it's also nice to have something that you can wear AFTER the holidays as well. These Classic Jade Earrings fill the bill beautifully -- rich green, but always in style for wear every day of the year.
     I plan to do my modest amount of holiday shopping online for the most part. I can avoid cold weather, traffic jams, parking problems, crowded stores, uninformed salespeople (not their fault, of course), and waiting in line.
     Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Armchair Philosophy: Assumptions

Assumptions are what we make when it's looks as though there's clear evidence about something. Sometimes they can be trusted, sometimes not. Can we assume, for example, that the Congress always acts in the best interests of the citizens it purports to represent? Can we assume that there is no water on the moon or on Mars? Can we assume that life requires water and sunlight to exist? Everywhere you turn these days, there are surprises about what assumptions need to be re-examined.
     In viewing again the DVDs of the excellent BBC Planet Earth series (see my earlier post), I am amazed to see the weird and intriguing creatures that manage to live in super hot blasts at the bottom of the ocean, thriving because of the opening of the very earth itself, the extremophile bacteria clinging to the sides of gypsum crystals in limestone caves carved by sulfuric acid, the emperor penguins huddled in Antarctica for four dark months with no food and incredible cold, holding eggs under their bellies. The assumptions -- about where life can take hold, what undiscovered creatures exist, and what harm we humans are doing to our planet -- all these "truths" are coming up for grabs, so to speak, every day.
     What does this mean? I think it means we need to be open to what is happening around us, curious about the world we live in, awake and aware enough in the present tense to take in all that we can. Here's a nice, small-scale surprise from this past weekend that gently makes the point. We had taken a drive with a friend to a county park a half-hour away. This is November in Illinois, so the days are short and not very warm. We didn't leave until after three in the afternoon. So we assumed that we wouldn't see any wildlife in the park, but just have a nice drive. We stopped to walk a bit around a small still pond. Nothing but unmoving water and reeds. Calm, quiet, empty. Just as we were about to get back in the car -- practically right in front of us -- up pops a pied billed grebe, a cute little duck-like bird who dives under the water for food, staying down quite a while. Hah! So the pond wasn't devoid of life (not to mention life in the murky water, insects, nocturnal residents, such as frogs, who weren't running around in the afternoon, and, of course, the microscopic millions). Later, in the assumed-to-be deserted woods, we had the great fortune to see, again up close and suddenly emerging out of "nowhere," a beautiful male deer with a rack of antlers, three on each side, and several does.
     Life, beauty, knowledge, understanding -- all can be waiting to show themselves if we are open, if we question our assumptions, if we live in the present moment.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: The Collections (cont.)

In an earlier post, I talked about The Rock Garden as an earring collection. Today I want to describe a category I call The Orient Express. The name comes from an old movie, Murder on the Orient Express, based on the Agatha Christie novel. In the movie and in real life, the Orient Express is a famous transcontinental train from the turn of the century; Paris and Istanbul were famous stopping points, although the routes have changed over the years. The name brings with it the exotic flavor of the East, of the cultures of Asia.

     So some of the earrings in the collection are made with cloisonne or Chinese enamel beads. In both cases, the technique is ancient and has been used not only for beads, but for vases, cups, and elaborate and ornate objects of all kinds.
      Basically, a design is set out in wires filled with colored powdered glass; then the bead is fired at high termperatures. The result is a combination of brilliant glossy color and intricate and elegant design.
      Enamel beads are extremely lightweight because the enameling is done on hollow copper beads. Cloisonne is very similar, but the core bead is a slightly heavier metal.

     In addition to these kinds of beads, the Orient Express collection includes carved stone beads with Asian designs or beads with Asian coins as dangles. Some of the coins include Ying and Yang symbols, representations of the two life forces -- male and female -- in the universe. They usually appear together and entwined in some way to indicate the need for balance and to show how each is part of the other. It's a powerful concept. In the earrings shown below, inside the blue diamond shape is the circle of the Tao, with the Ying and Yang symbols inside of it. Notice there is a dot of black inside the white and white inside the black.

    Carvings in both stone and wood can be very detailed. They sometimes incorporate designs that resemble the characters for wishing someone great longevity and other good luck.
    Porcelain beads, especially with Chinese characters on them, also are good examples of this category. Porcelain is a special type of ceramic pottery that is very fine and the glazing can be as intricate as stone carving. Blue and white is probably the most

 popular color combination in porcelain, but black and white or black with floral designs featuring pink flowers are also very common.

     Red is an important color as well. Carved cinnabar was famous in ancient times, but cinnabar is toxic, so what is still sometimes called cinnabar is actually carved wood. In the necklace shown below, carved "cinnabar" wood is combined with other materials, such as porcelain and dangles, that are familiar materials in the Orient Express collection.


I hope this gives you an idea of the range of materials and styles that are in my Orient Express Collection. Many earrings from this collection are available already (and more to come!) on my Etsy website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Armchair Philosophy: It's So Easy

So many of the vital problems facing our society and our world today are enormously complex, interconnected, and in need of solutions of unknown magnitude. It's easy to feel helpless, voiceless, unable to affect any changes as single individuals. Sometimes it seems easy to just give up and give in, to become apathetic about injustices, to ignore warning signs, to become resigned to the ways things are -- when you know deep down that things are not as they need to be for a healthy job or home or society or planet.
   But here's something that makes a difference and that is sooo easy: online activism. Here's all it takes: a few seconds, when you're online already, signing petitions for environmental and human rights concerns that matter to you and clicking on websites that support charities helping to make a difference.
     Here's one of my favorites, a website that allows you -- very very quickly and easily -- to help animals in need, children in need, hungry people, people who need books and help with literacy, people with breast cancer, and our threatened environment -- all in a matter of seconds! Do it today! Rescue Site.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: The Big Transition (cont.)

If you read the prior post about the Big Transition, you know I'm talking about the switch -- away from a busy schedule of exhausting outdoor arts and crafts shows and lugging heavy equipment -- to an easy-to-carry setup for doing just two indoor shows and mostly selling online through etsy. This weekend I moved the rest of the earring inventory off the velcro-covered boards that hung on the steel display panels. Now they are empty for the first time in many years!

   What do we have instead, you may ask. Well, the necklaces that hung from four of the boards are each tucked into a plastic bag and resting comfortably in a tote, ready to be laid out on rented tables (that we don't have to lug!) at my Holiday Bazaar Show week after next.
     The earring inventory is huge, so it takes too long to put it out each time. Solution? Lightweight plastic displays stands, filled with earrings, transported in apple boxes (that's right, the guy at the produce department saved them special for us).

     As it turned out, we needed to have eight display units to handle the whole earring inventory. (I told you before, it's an addiction!) And it wasn't easy assembling the units. Of course, they were made in a developing country by some company that most likely pays the employees almost nothing and gives them no tools. So the holes in the lucite were not lined up right, and much painful adjustment had to be made over a couple of weekends by husband David and friend Bob (thanks, guys!). Then, because the bottom rows of the units are shorter than the others, short earrings had to saved out for those locations. But it gets more complicated. We needed to purchase a big bag of the 2x2 inch grey earring cards for all these sweet little beauties to hang on. And, of course, the new cards have the holes punched a quarter-inch lower than the old cards did, so that even the shortest earrings don't hang free on the bottom rung. Time to change old cards for new for all bottom row displays (sigh). Fortunately, we keep the grey cards and just transfer earrings to a cardboard card (my hubby makes them) when they are sold.

     It's quite a sight to see the rotating units all lined up on the table, and it's awesome to realize that I actually made all of these earrings (including the tote full of ones that didn't fit on the displays)! Also, I noted that only two of the eight displays have been photographed and added to my etsy website so far. Hmm ... did anyone warn me that all of this would be work as well as delightful beading fun?
     One of the chrome and plastic stands is devoted to SS/GF (sterling silver and goldfilled) earrings. These tend to be earrings (on precious metal earwires) designed using special handmade or vintage beads that were more costly and hard to find. The other seven displays contain a complete mix of twelve dollar earrings from the "collections" that I've been describing in blog posts.
     Eventually, I hope to get everything online and to see sales coming along regularly (she said optimistically but not, hopefully, delusionally). So keeping the displays out will make it easier for me to find the pair in question when a sale comes through.

For VERY obvious reasons, the six cats are NOT allowed to go in the room with the display units --LOL! They like to help, of course, but that kind of help can be disasterous!
      In a way, it's been kind of sad making the Big Transition. We've enjoyed the outdoor shows and the overall craft show atmosphere -- meeting other artists, getting outdoors, being around local people when they're in a good mood as they stroll around with kids and dogs, listening to music, looking at crafts, and running into friends. But things change, and it's best to make the best of changes whenever you can. I'm looking forward to the next, physically easier phase -- even though all the online work -- photographing, listing, promoting, etc. -- is pretty time-consuming. But it's all about my passion: the beads and the designs I can make with them, making something beautiful. It's magic.