Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Adventures in writing class instructions

I have always...and I mean ALWAYS wanted to try my hand at teaching beading classes.  Recently the opportunity presented itself and I immediately started thinking of ideas for a basic bead embroidery class.  I wanted something that would be basic but also give the class more than just a bezeled (why isn't 'bezeled' a verb?!) cab - something that at least touched on some of the other embellishments one can do.  So, as is the way of beading, I tore through all my bead-boxes making a holy terror of a mess.

My local beadstore doesn't have a large selection of cabochons so I chose to use a Luna Soft cab, since I knew they had a good number in stock, and got to work.  I decided I would write the instructions as I created in the hopes that it would make the process a bit easier.  Also, I usually don't really know how something is going to look until it is done.

Here are a few things I learned/am learning:
  • Explaining what to do in words is far more difficult than you would guess.  You end up with things like this: "Stitch back up through the Lacy’s in the same location you stitched in the hole closest to the bezeled cab and string another 2-hole Czech cab" ....WHAT? I wrote it and I'm not sure I know what I was saying.  LOL!
  • In order to adequetly explain you really need more than just good process photos, you need diagrams...lots of diagrams.
  • Instructions for even the simplest beaded thing get lengthy...really lengthy.  Most of this is due to all the pictures and diagrams.  I ended up with 19 pages for a small simple pendant!
  • Bead embroidery is technique heavy - there is a lot to learn as a newbie and therefore requires a good number of aside "notes".
  • It is a GOOD thing to be a little type A when you are creating class instructions.  Having clear, detailed instructions helps free you up as you teach - those who are adept with beading can move ahead easily while you work closer with the ones who aren't.
  • It's good to have someone who hasn't done beadwork to read your instructions after you have completed them.  This is helpful not only in the editing phase but also to get a feel for how clear the instructions are before you present them to a class.
  • Lastly, its actually quite a lot of fun!

I did find that I misjudged time quite a bit - the class went WAY over the set time - I told them I would stay as long as they wanted me to.  I felt that they might be able to complete the pendant within the 4 hours allotted, however, that was very much not the case.  Thankfully, having detailed instructions allowed many of them to go home and complete the piece without a problem!

I discovered I really enjoy the process of writing and creating instructions and this has opened doors for more classes in multiple locations as well as the option to sell my instructions by themselves.  I encourage those of you out there who have considered writing instructions or teaching to give it a go!  Ask for feedback from your students and learn to grow in the process - it is a huge step but definitely a rewarding one!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My ↑s Creed

Photo cred: Niky Sayers
The Art Elements Bloggers have really got it goin' on (if you didn't already know) - I consistently find it hard to pass up the opportunity to work with such a wonderful cast of artisans and once again I have been given that opportunity!  February's Component of the Month is hosted by the incredible Niky Sayers!  Niky made these super cool runes from copper metal clay - the moment I saw them I was chomping at the bit to have one.

Confession: I know NOTHING about runes except that I immediately think of Lord of the Rings - because LOTR is like my favorite thing.  As soon as I knew I was picked, ideas of hobbit holes, secret doors and trees began to swim in front of me.  I briefly looked up what some of them meant and then waited for 'Brown Santa' (USPS) to arrive.

It arrived!  And it is even more awesome in person...except...Warrior.  Hmmm.  So I hadn't considered that all my LOTR thoughts wouldn't necessarily suite this piece.  Now what?  After some consideration, I realized getting "Warrior" was more apropos than any other rune, as my first name has a similar meaning.  I have always believed that there is something to names.  I have an aggressive, bold, I-don't-put-up-with-crap personality which matches my name therefore this rune is like a symbol for who I am.  Inspiration for my piece didn't have to come from ancient Viking beliefs or a favorite fantasy - it can come from the simplest of things - my name.

I began to think about what kind of warrior I would want to be known for and 2 things came to mind - advocate & defensive.  More in my past than recently, I have lobbied for more strict and defined laws against human trafficking, educated the public on the issue, written senators and even lobbied at the White House.  I want to be a warrior who advocates for the freedom of others.  I also have a tendency to "mother".  I may not BE a mother but, whether my friends and family like it or not, I often find myself mothering them or giving counsel.  I want to be a warrior who takes up arms in defense of others - not one that seeks battle.

These thoughts led me to a relatively obvious inspiration - armor.  Armor is fascinating both in structure, history and workmanship.  (Random aside: check out my AWESOME finger armor ring!)
With this as inspiration, I began working on the details of the centerpiece for a necklace that may only be suited (pun!) for wear at a Ren Faire but has a deeper meaning.  I began sketching out a shape...

You know how sometimes things come together super easily?  Well this was one of those moments.  A beader friend of mine, Madleen Demaras, had given me a number of vintage nailheads just the day before - in that mix were some metal embellishments with a coppery tone that were PERFECT for rivet heads.

I traced out my sketched shape on a piece of Lacy's and got to work arranging and securing these little beauties.

The next step was to bead the border.  I decided to bead the inner and outer border with black and fill in with my favorite silver 15s.  Once again, I chose 15s.  Sometimes I don't know why I do things - I just do.  Though there is a part of me that does get satisfaction beading on such a small scale because you do have more control with fluid lines.

With the border complete, it was time to attach the rune and begin filling in the center!  The back of the rune actually had some unevenness so before I attached it to the center of my shield/breastplate, I used scrap pieces of Lacy's Stiff Stuff to even it out for a flat surface.  I also used a black Sharpie to darken the edges of the scrap Lacy's so that it wouldn't show in-between the beadwork  especially since I decided not to bezel it.

After securing the rune I looked at the beads I had chosen to use to fill in the center and realized I didn't like them for this after all.  I searched for something more appropriate and landed on a coppery bronze 11 and began the process of filling in.

As you can see from the photos above, I worked in diagonal from a center line.  I knew I could bead each row all the way across, however, it isn't always easy keeping each row completely diagonal so I decided to work each half separately.  This allowed me to concentrate on one angle at a time catching weird bendy issues early.  Finally, after a couple days of intense beading, I finished.

Because the Lacy's was heavy with beadwork, it was very curly and bendy so I needed to reinforce the piece with something - I chose a piece of plastic with an exceptionally chill cow on it.  Before gluing down this vacationing bovine, I took a picture of the back of the piece.  For some reason I keep doing this - I have mentioned it before but the back of beadwork is fascinating - a historical account of every artistic decision.  I think its beautiful and something worth documenting.

With the plastic sandwiched securely between the beadwork and Ultrasuede, I worked on the edging of the piece.  All along I had this cool idea of mimicking the articulated shoulders of armor for part of the strap.  I had a few ideas of how to accomplish this but I needed to make 4-6 pieces of separate beadwork for this.  I drew out my template, traced it to Lacey's and was about to start the process of beading all these thingies when....
The thingies - a technical term.




Boy do I ever keep you on your toes lol!!!  About 1/2 way through completing the edging I was showing my graphic designer mother the piece and she had a BRILLIANT idea that completely shifted my thinking.  She suggested that instead of turning the piece into a necklace, it was much more suited as a kind of "patch" on a book or purse.  She held up the beadwork next to a army green canvas purse and I was IMMEDIATELY sold.  I knew it would be a strange necklace - which I don't really mind...but the piece is far more suited to a bag embellishment!  I have never done this sort of thing before so I knew it would be an adventure.  I began to disassemble part of the work I did on the backing so that I could attach the shield/breastplate to a bag. (BTW, this is the day prior to the blog post that I began this process...I also keep myself on my toes apparently.)
Starting disassembling process
I removed the edging, the Ultrasuede and the plastic I used to support the piece.  Thankfully this was a very easy process just carefully peeling off the layers.
The 3 stooges of disassembly. (One of which is a fading vacationing bovine.)
With the beadwork detached from the backing pieces, I took a Sharpie and blackened all the edges of the Lacy's.  The edge doesn't really show, however, since there would be no bead edging on the canvas bag, I didn't want to take a chance that the white would show through.  Then I used a ruler and the seams of the purse to find the middle and tacked down the beadwork.

The next step was to see how many needles I could sacrifice in the attempt to sew through the thick layers while still avoiding stitching through the lining.  If I was amazing I would have pulled stitches at the inside seam of the purse so that I could easily stitch the piece down before reattaching the lining...however, I hate fabric sewing AND am not particularly skilled at it so I decided to do the least hard way (for me) and stitch it down without ripping stitches and reattaching lining.  I also realized that the needles I used were NOT made for this, however, I am out of time and the only needles I have accessible are beading needles.  Lookie at all the fun shapes I made!
Tour de Force
It took some doing to properly attach the patch but now I have a snazzy new custom Warrior bag!  I might get around to doing some more detail work on it someday, but until then I will carry this with pride!

Want to see what others made with their runes?  Um...yes, of course you do!  Click below to see what others created!


Kelly Rodgers -↑s live here

Art Element Members:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Stash Has Been Used & Weirdness Insued

Today is the reveal for Art Elements' Use Your Stash Challenge hosted by my good friend, Lindsay Starr!  Today is also the day I am late to the party - I have had a crazy week and didn't get to write my lovely little blog post until the day of.  Not my normal style but it is what it is!

For this challenge I rummaged through my stash and pulled a ceramic piece I have had sitting in my box for years - I almost didn't want to make anything with it because I love it so much:  A trilobite by Diana Ptaszynski!  I knew I wanted to finally use the trilo and I had recently added a cool ring from Joan Miller to my stash, so I threw them into my project box. That day I had a bead-in at my local bead shop, Cindy's Crafts so I knew I would have plenty of time to work out my design.

I began by snipping off the wire loop connectors from the trilo and bezeling it like a cab.

At this point I really didn't know what I wanted this to end up looking like.  Often I get stuck on the shape of the piece.  It tends to work out better if you have a overall shape in mind when you are working but this time I had to do a little Pinteresting for shape inspiration.

I didn't find exactly what I was looking in my search on Pinterest, however, after a while a general shape and layout came to mind...I immediately sketched it and despite my poor skills with a pen, I was able to capture the shape and some of the design elements I wanted to include.

As is typical with the way I work, I let the beads do what they wanted, adding design elements as they came to me.  Sometimes this process gets me trapped in my own thoughts but if I consciously 'let go' I usually find that the end result is more pleasing than it would have been if I forced myself through the process.

The more I worked on this piece the more I loved it.  Sometimes you run into an 'ugly duckling' phase and then struggle to complete a piece because you aren't "feeling it".  This one never reached that point for me.  Somehow everything just flowed as I worked.

But...sometimes in art things kinda happen without you realizing it.  Sometimes you unintentionally create within your creation.  This apparently happened to me...and I am still not sure how I feel about it...

In a relatively short amount of time I had created a piece I truly loved without buying a single bead - all from my stash...and upon sharing the end result with others, found out that everyone thought it was a bird.  *laugh*  I just wanted to have a trilo and ammonite hanging out in a pool of beads...but weirdly - oh so weirdly I had created a trilo hanging out in the belly of a bird!  Do you see it???

I used a metal clay brass ring by Gail DeLuca and a metal clay brass toggle clasp by One Sweet Bead to finish it all off.  Intention or not, I love this piece, bird and all.  And because my graphic designer mother said, "It's an awesome bird, own it!"  I am officially calling this piece, "Oops, bird!"  *laugh*

Don't forget to check out what these other amazing artists did with their stash!
Kelly Rodgers
Sarajo Wentling
Samantha Wescott
Kathy Lindemer
Patty Miller
Linda Landig
Renetha Stanziano
Samantha Wescott

Art Elements:
Jenny Davies-Reazor
Jen Cameron
Claire Fabian
Sue Kennedy
Niky Sayers
Lindsay Starr

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Music to My Eyes Blog Hop

I am a huge fan of blog hops - I love how differently each artist takes the theme and creates something of their own.  They also challenge me to finish a piece (usually) within a limited time period which means I can't dwell in indecision for long.  So, for the first time in all of history, I hosted my first ever Blog Hop!  The theme: create something inspired by your favorite song (or at least one you like a lot).  I wanted to leave the hop open to all who create - from painting & drawing to beads & baubles.  We all have something in common and I wanted to bring that out by inviting all artisans.  I am SO excited to share with you what I created along with all the beautifully talented artists that joined me!  Please be sure to read all, as I am also posting the talented Vicky Sophon's work.

It didn't take me long to think of which musicians I could use...I was torn between two options:


Thing is...if I went with Queen, I would DEFINATELY be using a fossil (teehee - Another One Bites the Dust...get it?) but Starset is my favorite band as of late and there is this one line in Ricochet that I wanted to replicate: "We were one and the same, running like moths to a flame..."  It was decided...I would go for the harder option and create a MOTH...because MOTHS!  As a side note, all I could think about as I stitched this little fuzzy wonder of the night was Mon Mothma. For all you non-Star Wars geeks out there...here she is in all her glory:

Sometimes you can't escape your nerdom...just saying.

I started looking at moth pictures and drawings and picked this little guy as my model.  I really loved his fuzziness and thought that the brown and white coloration would provide some good contrast to the warm colors of a flame.
Then I started to do strange things (shocker).  I don't know if this happens to any of you, but I was so excited about this little guy, I forgot all my best practices for beading.  I cut out wings from Lacy's Stiff Stuff before I had even started beading.  This isn't really a WRONG tactic...just not best practice in my book - I am not even sure why I did it.  Anyway, I cut out the wing shapes and grabbed a small snippet of brown bunny fur I had picked up from Mood Fabrics in NYC (it was in the scrap bin and I couldn't help myself) and started beading.
Wings with floof!
For the second time in the last couple months I found myself beading...with 15s.  UGH!  I figured the only way to get the level of detail I wanted would be to use smaller beads.  I wanted to mimic the picture of the real moth's wing pattern as closely as possible so I chose 4 colors, brown, matte brown, matte cream & a bronze.  I knew the brown and bronze appear very subtly different, similar to the picture of the real moth's vein structure in the wing.  Its harder to tell the difference in the pics.
I began by beading the veins and the lighter coloration areas and then began to fill in with the matte brown color.  Once I completed this I realized that I didn't really account for the head of the moth so I snipped a tiny piece of fur and then trimmed the fuzz down just enough that I could make a distinction between the head and the...collar (?) of the bug, glued it to Lacy's, and added eyes.  I then attached the head with a few stitches hidden in the fur and began the process of backing and edging.
This is how the little guy turned out.  In all the beading I somehow missed I also needed a body - for some reason I didn't really account for this in my plans so I went digging around in my stash and found the PERFECT bead.  Every time this happens I am surprised...how is it that I only had one of this bead and it turned out perfect for this project? Who knows!
The next thing I had to create was the flame.  I had an idea for this in my head before I started...I was going to use soutache to create a flame.  *facepalm*  So...a few things to note:  1) I have only used soutache twice EVER 2) I was doing something I had never even seen done before 3) This wouldn't be a piece of mine if I didn't somehow get myself in a pickle.

I will be honest here...I really don't want to show you the awfulness that happened as a result of my ill planning.  Its sad.  It reminds me of a poor attempt at drawing flames as a 3 year old.  *sigh*  But...for the sake of being honest about how sometimes arting is an adventure that goes down the wrong path and then a bear chases you down that path and you run but get lost and then somehow you find yourself naked in the woods with no food...here is the pic of my horrid attempt at soutache flames...
So anyway...that was an epic failure.  After that debacle I kinda dropped the project for a week - I was irritated and unsure how to move forward.  I have a bad habit of getting stuck when things don't work out as planned.  I finally decided I just needed to go back to what I know.  So I picked up some Lacy's and drew out a shape.

SO much better!  This time I was not ABOUT to use size 15 beads - not only did I not have time, it was completely unnecessary....thank heavens!

I didn't take many pics of the process...but here is the end result of the flame beading:
What you don't see here is that cutting out a shape like this is...uh...so delightful *glowers*.  And then I had to do it again with the backing material...yay!  Here is the pic I took before the worst part.  I think I felt like I needed to document the fact that this was my favoritest thing ever...*drips with sarcasm*
I am realizing that while I didn't really bite off more than I could chew...I really didn't plan well.  The end result isn't my favorite thing...but it did what it was supposed to do.  I have a few things I need to correct - like the crazy strap wire (the stuff I used was WAY too thin and it ended up curling a bunch).  It also needs a bit more weight in the middle.
I wouldn't' say this was a success...but I don't think it was a complete failure either.  This really is just the nature of art - sometimes you have a direction...and sometimes you don't.  The bright part is that no matter where that journey leads you (yes...even naked in the woods without food LOL), you always learn something in the process.

Now I'm off to see if I can get some concert tickets so that I can show off my music inspired necklace (maybe I will get to meet the band?!)

Don't forget to check out what the other artists in this hop created!

Here is Vicky Sophon:

I have to admit that when I decided to join this blog hop, I was primarily trying not to be "booted" from the group. I hadn't really done much beading in months and my musical taste runs somewhat towards the eclectic. I figured the challenge would be good for me.

Classical music has always had a special place in my heart. The nuns exposed us to it beginning in the first grade. In fact, my first concert was by the local symphony orchestra. Later, in college, I worked in a local gift/stained glass shop called, "Classical Glass." Classical music played all day.

The first time I remember hearing Gymnopedie No. 1 by Erik SATIE was on a holiday tape I had picked up at Victoria's Secret.  It felt so familiar. It's lyrical and sweet -- romantic, yet innocent.

In my research into Satie's piece, a certain image kept popping up - dancing naked youth. Eureka! I had my focal point.

For years, my go-to technique has been bead embroidery. I find it affords me a degree of freedom to draw in a variety of colors, texture, sizes and materials. I hope you enjoy it.

Gymnopedie No. 1 - Erik Satie

Kelly Rodgers - You are here!
Vicky Sophon - and here!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Not so long ago in a Galaxy far, far away...

...I won a spot to participate in the August Art Elements blog hop!  Caroline Dewison, ceramic artist extraordinaire created awesome little iridescent blue & gold "galaxy beads" and shipped them over the big pond for me!  (Thank you!)

Even before I received the beads my creative cogs began turning.  First, I thought about using a donut focal for a simple necklace...but simple isn't really my M.O.  My next thought was to create a "Space Siren"...a come-hither beauty calling all astronauts into meteor belts only to crash their spaceships...or some such. As per usual I pulled a whole load of things that were good options and then obsessively checked my mailbox on the daily.

My poor empty mailbox...
Once the beads arrived I realized the face cab I originally pulled was definitely not the right style...so I began searching again. Eventually I came across a polymer clay face Lindsay Starr gave me AGES ago...and it was PERFECT.  Now I will be honest here...It is not easy to change direction on a dime when you have this great idea you sold yourself on.  However, sometimes you have to let go and let the muse take you where it travels...even if in the midst of that journey you are lead off the main path.  That is pretty much what I did with this piece...I let go.

I immediately knew I wanted a stripy bezel but when I pulled gold Delica beads for this project I noticed that the gold used in Caroline's beads were a more realistic gold tone that your typical "gold color" beads.  So back into my stash o' awesomeness I went and pulled out a tube of Delicas I have had for pretty much as long as I can remember.  They are gold...REAL gold...24K gold to be exact and at the time I bought the wee tube (seriously wee tube), it was $8.00....I don't EVEN want to know how much they would be now.

I threw in some Eggplant and Navy Iris Delicas to match the little moon-girl's face and quickly had her ready to go!
I had also pulled some sweet little star cabs by Sue Kennedy that I just HAD to incorporate.  I didn't even intend to do it but 3 Art Elements blog contributors' work is incorporated in this piece!  After gluing and re-gluing said stars (insert incorrect glue mishap here) I traced around their shape with more of the stupidly expensive gold Delicas.

I took great amusement in the next series of pictures...they may not be great pictures but they definitely tell the story as I beaded...and beaded...and beaded...and beaded some more with Navy Iris size 15s.  (What was I thinking?!)  At one point I had these pics cropped and lined up in a row on my computer and could click thru them really fast and see the design grow! (It's all about the simple pleasures!)  I probably stabbed myself more times in the beading of this piece than I have in all my beading years...apparently working on this scale with 15s is a bit more hazardous than the norm!

The next step was to 'help' the empty space of the piece...I fretted over this some but finally decided to try rays of the gold beads and ended up with this:

When it came to backing this piece, I wanted to give it a little extra support since it is a bit floppy so I decided to put a piece of cardboard in-between the beadwork and the Ultra Suede.  I have to admit there is a part of me that finds the back of a beadwork piece beautiful (particularly on this one) - all that stitching...there is something more personal about that side...it might be hidden to have a more finished look but there is beauty there...even on the "ugly" side.
When I glued down the moon-face cab, it was to the left of a large piece of Lacy's.  I thought I knew what I was going to do. Well, I ended up not giving myself a whole lot of room to work with on the left which mean that the piece was more elongated than cloud shaped.  Sometimes following the muse means you also have to adjust for limitations you might not have realized you put on yourself.  I also ran into strangeness after adding the fringe - the fringe distracted from the piece itself.  All the sudden there was a strange imbalance to the piece.  I loved everything about the fringe by itself...but it took away from all the work in the embroidered portion.
This is definitely the ugly duckling phase - though I am pretty sure that without starting entirely over on the fringe, it won't escape this phase.  All I can do is learn where I 'went wrong' and move on.

I think the biggest issue is that I added such large lampwork that it took over...I also think that the messier style of the fringe exacerbated the problem.  Had I left the messy fringe but eliminated the lampwork it would have worked far better. Now I have some hardcore decisions to make...either rip out the fringe and start over entirely (with very little time on the clock) or leave it as is.  Rip it, it is!  So...with only about 24 hours to go I removed the fringe putting me back to square 1ish.

Post ripping of fringe..."squid tails"!
Artists tend to surround themselves with other artists...they may not work in the same medium but they are "my people" and typically have a similar way of thinking.  I find that the more I surround myself with other artisans the more they influence my work.  In this case a good friend of mine, Kara Clouse of Iridescent Eye, was the one that prompted me to use the little gold stars.  She had some in silver for using in resin and they were PERFECT so I ran to the store and snapped up some gold stars and quickly reworked the fringe.

YAY!  I like this much better - I feel like the new fringe suits the piece and isn't so distracting.  Last but not least come the straps.  I felt like even though this piece was smooth in its creation - I didn't get too hung up on indecision like I have in the past, it was fraught with challenges.  I believe it turned out really well in the end, which I guess is the important thing.  I do find it rather interesting that stars have played such a role in life this month...including but not limited to seeing my first solar eclipse on the 21st. I hope you have enjoyed this journey with me - please make sure to hop to the other amazing artist's blogs to see what they created with these amazing galaxy beads!  And without further ado, here is my final completed piece:


Cheryl Zink
Kelly Rodgers -- Chewie, we're home!

Art Elements Team:

Diana Ptazynski

Cathy Spivey Mendola

Niky Sayers

Laney Mead

Susan Kennedy

Claire Fabian

Lesley Watt

Lindsay Starr

Caroline Dewison