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.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: The Collections: The Rock Garden

Those of you who are familiar with my etsy shop know that you can shop by categories, using the Sections option, or by color, flipping through the shop home pages. But you may not know that I think of my jewelry in terms of "Collections." When I displayed my jewelry on boards for craft shows, the items were grouped according to Collections. Telling you about them may give you a chance to see the range of styles and an idea of how I think about style when I design. So I plan to include a series of posts describing each of the collections. Here's the first one.

The Rock Garden:  These are all earrings that have as their main feature a bead made of natural stone. I didn't know anything about different kinds of stones and minerals (and still don't know a lot) before I got involved in collecting beads, but I have learned a fair amount. There are many different kinds of stones that are cut, tumbled, polished, and drilled for use as beads. Some are carved, and some are faceted.

Here are some examples: The ones on the right include beads made of serpentine that has been carved into an interesting shape and that has a pattern etched onto the center of both sides.
The earrings below feature faceted beads of aqua quartz.
Some stone is made into beads because it has an especially interesting grouping of natural markings, swirls or stripes or different colored areas where various mineral inclusions and changes in conditions have created patterns in the stone over time. Crazy lace agate, for example, has some unique markings and takes dye well, so it is colored in various hues and cut in a wide range of shapes, like the beads in  these magenta crazy lace rectangle earrings. Stone can also be etched in a technique that is very ancient and that is similar to the "batik" technique used to create designs on fabric. These etched carnelian beads are a good example. Sometimes stone isn't the color you'd expect, even though it hasn't been dyed. Turquoise is usually the blue-green color that is associated with the name itself, but there is also a stone calle "yellow turquoise." The yellow turquoise ovals in the earrings below have a bit of black marking in them; this is called "matrix" and adds to the interest and uniqueness of the stone. Be sure to choose the Section called "Stone Earrings" in my etsy shop to see many of the unusual earrings made with stone beads and taken from my Collection called The Rock Garden. (This name is especially meaningful to me because, for many years, I grew rock garden and alpine plants from seed.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: The Big Transition

As you know, dear readers, from earlier posts in this blog, I've been collecting beads and designing jewelry for 18 years now. I didn't really intend in the beginning to have a business, but I started making pieces like crazy and the only way to justify making more and to pay for my newly discovered bead addiction was to share the fun by selling some of my creations. For a number of years, we did just that at regional craft shows, mainly outdoor affairs in the summertime. There's quite a bit of equipment involved if you want to do shows like that without collapsing from heat stroke or drowning in a torrent of rain (and that can happen anyway, to some degree). So, over time, we upgraded various homemade shelter and displays with more professional gear: a zip-up tent with vinyl sides and back flap; steel panels on which we hung foamcore boards with velcro cloth for attaching earrings and necklaces, a large heavy table with big display cases, and so on. We did indoor shows as well ,without the need to set up and take down the tent, but these still required display equipment, lighting, and so on.
     The shows were a lot of work, physical work in particular, and took a lot of time. Sometimes they didn't bring much financial return either. But they were fun. We traveled around our part of east central Illinois, we got outside in the summer, we met other artists and chatted face-to-face with our customers, and generally enjoyed the arts and crafts show atmosphere: art, food, people out with their kids and dogs, and so on.
    But it got to be too difficult during the past year or two, especially given some health issues for both me and my husband. We tried hiring a "roadie" to help set up and take down, but it was impossible for find someone reliable, so the process was extremely frustrating. Our final outdoor show was this past June in our hometown. After we had waited more than an hour for the "helper" to arrive, he showed up, almost immediately complaining about how hard the job was, how hot the weather was, how many other things he needed to go do.
     So he went home, and we worked to finish setting up ourselves, finding the tent zipper on the last side stuck just as the sky opened up and the rain came down in earnest. Huddled in the tent, we tried waiting out the initial storm that was soon followed by more rain, hail, and crashing thunder and then, terrifyingly, the sound of big branches breaking all around us (in the middle of a park with enormous trees). Somehow, the show sponsors hadn't realized we were there or told us the show was canceled! When the storm let up a little, we peeked out and saw everyone gone. Power lines and tree limbs were down all over town. A huge trunk had fallen near our tent, and there were big limbs near where our car was parked.
   I think you can understand why we decided to make the Big Transition to doing primarily online sales after that experience. There are two local indoor shows that we will still do, but we need to adjust the displays for easy-to-carry equipment. So the Big Transition involved trying to sell our tent and panels (not sold yet), buying small, lightweight revolving display stands to use on rented tables, and creating an etsy shop and then promoting it. As it turns out, I needed to learn so much -- computer stuff of all kinds (like starting a blog, tweeting, trying to figure out Facebook, as well as photography skills, using my newly acquired digital camera to photograph jewelry (still working on that).
     Of course, since we cancelled the rest of the summer's shows, we have a HUGE inventory of earrings (and quite a few necklaces) available. I'm dying to make more, but I'm still a long ways from getting all of the present pieces photographed and listed on etsy. And ... so far ... sales haven't been brisk. But my earrings are all beautiful and unique; they're in a wide range of styles, colors, and materials; they're all only twelve bucks (free shipping); and gift giving for the holidays is coming up soon, so I remain optimistic that we can and will make the Big Transition a success! Come by and see for yourself:

Feline Tails: Angus Wreaks Havoc

We spent part of our weekend searching for a used dining room table set, buying one, getting more than a little help from our friends in transporting it, bringing it in the house, taking out the old set, etc. All of this human activity was motivated by a split-second action on the part of a feline. Yes, Angus leapt, in all his huge black-and-white glory, from the kitchen counter to the extended side leaf of our former drop-leaf table.

    As you can see, he was once a normal, fairly small cat. We were looking for a black and white, and he was a foster with a local rescue organization. He was young, not full-grown, and he looked as though he might not be particularly robust. We had been reading Alexander McCall Smith and decided to name him after a Scottish character named Angus. A friend of ours provided his alternate or sometimes middle name "MacDuff."
We think that Angus is perhaps a Maine Coon mix. But part of him must be Scottish, like his name: he's a wild highland laddie, rough and tough and hardy. What we weren't ready for was his tremendous growth spurt.
    He is now the largest, by far, of the six cats. But sometimes he doesn't seem to know it. He leaps high, hangs down in odd positions, and is still a kitten in some ways. On the other hand, he's also a bit of a bully since it's so easy for him to push the other cats around because of his sheer bulk. He isn't really fat, though. He's muscular and strong and heavy enough to ... well ... wreak havoc and break a table!

DVDs: Planet Earth

Several years ago at Christmas time, I remember seeing some amazing wildlife and wilderness scenes on a flat screen (fairly novel at the time) at a chain bookstore in our town, demonstrating a BBC America series of DVDs called Planet Earth. I didn't purchase the set, partly because the price was not within my budget (always very modest) and partly because we don't usually buy DVDs as opposed to renting them. Our house is almost totally overwhelmed by books, and so we have finally decided to stick to library books only. We have quite a few CDs for music, but, again, we sample new ones from the library. Then recently, I was choosing DVDs from our online rental site and saw the Planet Earth series. We viewed the three discs over the past weekend, and I have to say that they blew us away. They are amazing, incredible, and phenomenal. They inspire highly emotional feelings about this planet, the creatures large and small that share it with us, and the courageous and immensely patient people who study and photograph it all. Top recommendations, dear readers. Don't miss the opportunity if you can to see things that you will most likely never see in person in your life, to gain an enhanced respect and awe (that is the right word) for the beauty of the Earth.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Felinte Tails: Wet vs. Dry

     When I had my first generation of cats, beginning in the early 1970s, they mostly ate canned cat food from the grocery store, supplemented by some choice morsels from the table. Twenty years later, with my second generation, the veterinarian's advice was to feed dry food only, better for their teeth, their weight, etc. We always bought premium dry food and put out lots of dishes of it for ad libitum (from the Latin) or "at will" feeding. They liked it and ate a lot of it, but they still needed expensive teeth cleaning from time to time and still enjoyed choice table scraps.
     We started out on dry with this third generation only to have an emergency urinary blockage with Sylvan, our Maine Coon (more on him later). He is doing fine, but he is eating prescription food, from now on, to prevent further problems. So we were trying to figure out how to feed the others without leaving out dishes of dry food any more and yet still feed Syl separately, in another room.

     Then I started doing some research online and found that many vets, including our own, as it turned out, are now recommending wet food only. Why? The dry food is too dry, thus causing urinary problems in some cats who don't drink enough to compensate, and the plant protein just isn't as good as animal protein for creatures who are such natural carnivores.

     Well, we ended up switching everyone (all six) to canned (wet) food. Six cans per day of premium high protein canned food from the petstore is expensive! Ouch! And feeding them three times a day and making sure nobody steals anybody else's food is a circus! But oh ... what results! Their coats are sleek and lustrous. Their bodies are muscular and solid. They are so happy! They missed their bowls of dry and looked around for them for about a day or two ... but then ... they never looked back!

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Glass Bead Primer, cont.

Here's another post in the glass bead primer series: millefiore beads. This term, sometimes spelled millefiori, means "a thousand flowers" in Italian. The technique for making millefiore beads and other objects is ancient, but it was most popular in Renaissance Italy, an important era in the history of beads in general. The glass furnaces were moved from Venice itself to the nearby island of Murano because of fear of fire. The Venetian beadmakers, at one time, were sworn to secrecy and not allowed to leave Murano. Beads were very powerful political and economic objects, as well as objects of beauty and ritual, because they served as currency in the massive slave trade.

Nevertheless, the technical knowledge for creating millefiore was lost by the eighteenth century, and the technique was not revived until the nineteenth century.Within several years of its rediscovery, factories in Italy, France, and England were manufacturing canes. Today, China also produces millefiore beads in many patterns, colors, and shapes.
     Millefiore beads are made from canes, rods of glass clustered together to form designs that look like flowers. The canes or rods, known as murrine, have multicolored patterns that are viewable from the cut ends. The  murrine rods are heated in a furnace, pulled until thin while still maintaining the cross section's design, and then cut into beads or discs when cooled. The beads may be large pendants or donuts, small rounds, flat discs, rectangles, squares, ovals, or even stars.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Feline Tails: Introducing Angel

Angel, currently also called Aunt Angel, is the oldest of our present generation of six cats. She and her brother Dickens came to us in 1999 as young kittens. Their mom cat, a sleek black shorthair, was scheduled to be spayed when she met a yellow tom in the neighborhood, and her human already had five children, two dogs, and her ... so she put an ad in the paper and we appeared. We were looking for a calico and Angel was orange and white and tabby and very cute. Her brother was black and white and adorable as well, so we adopted both of them.
   Sadly, I don't have any digital photos of Dickens, who passed away at the age of seven from a congenital kidney condition. But Angel has stayed with us and is now the "senior" cat in this new generation, which is why we refer to her sometimes as Aunt Angel. She doesn't like any of the five other cats, but most especially she dislikes Yang the Imperial. She screams when she sees him enter the room. They have had some scuffles, but mostly it's all noise. She spends a lot of time on the top of the chair, as you can see in the photo, and on the kitchen counter top to avoid running into other cats on the floor. She does love her humans, however, and is a sweetie to us just as much as she is a grump to felines.

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: My Jewelry on a Blog

Just a quick post to let you know that another friendly person from Etsy has put some photos of my jewelry and a link to my shop on her blog, The Creative Mixx. Scroll down a ways to see my work.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fiction Corner: Margot Livesey

I've had a lot going on in my personal life recently and so haven't gotten through as many novels as usual. But I am nearly finished with Banishing Verona by Margot Livesey and finding it quite engaging. Ms. Livesey is a Scottish writer, now living in Boston, I think, and I have read two other novels of hers, The Missing World and The House on Fortune Street, both of which were excellent. I enjoy writers from the United Kingdom, especially since I delight in finding "British-isms" in the novels. Of course, all Americans know about phrases like "ring me up" for "phone me" ... but here's a good one: "sleeping policeman" for those concrete speed bumps used to slow down traffic. Do you, dear readers, know of any good ones?
   Other favorite U.K. authors include Graham Swift, Ian McEwan, Susan Hill, Benjamin Black, Kate Atkinson, Penelope Lively, and Kazuo Ishiguro. What are you reading now? Love to get comments!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Featured on Ba Da Bling!

A friendly fellow Etsian has chosen to feature me on her Ba Da Bling blog today! It's a nice interview with some questions that overlap with those I posted here recently and some new and interesting ones as well. Hope you enjoy reading it!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Answers to Forum Questions

Etsy forums are a fun way to meet other crafters, get tips and ideas, and generally vent a bit and promote your shop. Reading and posting there can be addictive and time-consuming! Tonight someone was curious about other crafters and asked some questions. I thought I'd include my answers here for you, dear readers, as well as for the etsians reading the forum.

Why do you make what you do?  It's my passion. I adore collecting unique beads and then they just present themselves to me as gorgeous designs and I have to make them up!

How did you get started? When/why did you become a business?  A coworker was going to a bead store at lunch and I went with. It was a candy store without the calories. Took a beading class and was told it could be addictive. Eighteen years later it's history. I had to start a business because we didn't have enough ears in the family for all the earrings I was suddenly making like mad. Also wanted to pay for new beads!

What else do you do and how do you maintain balance and wholeness with the time suck that is etsy?
I'm a semi-retired teacher of college-level French and English and I do freelance book editing at home online. I have a lot of interests and not a lot of time and energy and some health issues, so I need to pace myself and rest as needed. My husband and my cats help a great deal, as do numerous writers of literary fiction.

Do you describe yourself as an artist?  Probably not most of the time, but this is certainly a creative side to me that comes out in various ways, including my jewelry work. I'd like to have time to do more "art" in terms of returning to painting and drawing some day.

Will you do this forever, or do you have different long-term plans? In your sixties, the word long-term gets tricky, I'm afraid. For now, I am happy beading and hope that mytsy shop will have some sales (only four so far) so I can continue to get new beads to inspire me.

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Glass Bead Primer (cont.)

Have you ever heard of chevron beads? Chevron beads are special glass beads, first created in Venice and Murano, Italy, toward the end of the 15th century. The beads are drawn into long molten rods made from glass canes with layers of alternating colors. The canes are formed in star-shaped molds and, when cool, are cut into short segments that reveal a star pattern in cross-section. Here's an example of some Chinese chevron beads used in a pair of earrings that I just listed on my Etsy site. The red, black, and white at both ends of the bead have points like a star.

Here's a link to the Green Chevron Glass Earrings:

Venetian chevron beads have been traded throughout the world, most heavily in West Africa, where they were first introduced by Dutch merchants in the late 15th century. Certain very small  seven-layer Venetian chevron beads, also made during the late 1400s, are found exclusively in the Americas, mainly in Peru, and attributed to having been introduced by Christopher Columbus.

Below is a necklace I made using blue chevron beads.

Chevron beads are very popular collectors items, and they are still highly valued in present-day West Africa, where they continue to be worn for prestige and ceremonial purposes; they are occasionally buried with the dead. Chevron and rosetta or star beads are now also being manufactured in India and in China.

I hope you are enjoying this series of posts about different kinds of glass beads. More to come soon!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: Renew Acquaintances

When items are listed in my Etsy jewelry shop, the listing is valid for four months at a time and then needs to be "renewed." This gives everyone who hasn't seem a particularly lovely piece a chance to, once again, view it and maybe even decide to purchase it. My shop is just starting to come into its time for "renewing acquaintances," with some of the first batch of beaded necklaces that I listed  -- while the summer breezes were still blowing and the trees still had all their green leaves. They are just as nice now as they were then, of course. For example, consider this Multi-Blue Multi-Strand Necklace that goes so well with everything in any shade of blue.

    If you've been reading the series of posts about how different kinds of glass beads are made, you know that hollow blown glass beads are included in the list to be described in upcoming posts. Here's an example of striking black-and-white hollow blown glass beads from Venice in this piece that was just renewed this morning.

I like to vary the style of my pieces quite a bit. That way I get to use a wide range of bead materials in my designs and it's just more fun to experiment. So I include some ethnic styles, such as this Bold and Sassy Cherry Red Necklace:

In the next few days, I'll be renewing a number of the first necklaces I listed when I opened the Etsy shop. If you missed them, come on by and have a look. The prices range a bit, but they make for very affordable holiday gifts or as personal treats to boost your own spirits as we enter the season of ice and snow.

Feline Tails: Yang the Imperial

Have you ever seen the excellent Bertolucci film The Last Emperor? It makes clear how anyone destined for an imperial role, even a small child (I would add, even a cat), has a specialized childhood in which one is often not trained very well to live in the real world. I suspect that this was indeed the case with our much beloved Balinese Siamese boy, Yang. He and his sister were offered through a rescue organization when their humans decided to move to NY city to an apartment where cats were not allowed. Unfortunately, they were farmed out separately (I would have loved to keep them together, and I think he missed her a lot in the beginning.) I have the idea that he was treated mainly as an "art object," living in the house but mainly ignored as a true cat. I came to this conclusion because when we first welcomed him into our cat family, he was totally clueless about how to play with people or other cats. He would watch a string toy for so long before daring to pounce that one of the five others always got there first. His first time out on the wire-enclosed "cat patio" (which my husband built for the sake of safety, fresh air, and exercise for our prior generation of felines) was a huge surprise to him, but one that he continues to enjoy. His imperial demeanor has also caused him to eat with a polite slowness. He exhibits table manners that I, as his human mom, appreciate -- eating slowly, stopping to clean his mouth periodically, etc. But all these niceties mean that we have to protect his dish from being stolen by his quick and voracious cat buddies.  Yang and Angel (who will soon be featured in these pages as well) have a love and hate relationship. She screams at the sight of him. He obsessively tries to come close to her and then sometimes attacks out of resentment at rejection. However, he gets along well with the others, especially his best friend the Maine Coon, Sylvan (more about him later, too). The two of them like to share a cat bed, a chair, or a place on our bed and just cuddle up and maybe do some mutual grooming.