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.