Friday, August 4, 2017


Recently I caught a fascinating Facebook post/conversation instigated by Christi Friesen asking, "Why do you create or make things?" Such a seemingly simple question.  While I pondered how I would answer I realized that while most everyone has a good reason to create, it can be hard to express why - especially the deeper why.

In this post I want to explore a few of the reasons why *I* create but I want to also challenge you to ask yourself the same thing.  Be warned: This is a word-heavy post!  Art is not just a form of self expression but also a form of self exploration and when we dig deep to discover what makes us tick it can help us hone in on our journey and the future direction we want to take our work in.  This brings me to my first WHY:

1) Self-Expression/Exploration (Uniqueness)

I believe that every human being is unique and diversity is a great asset, however, looking at mainstream goods production would make you think otherwise.  For instance, the amount of mass produced every-one-looks-the-same jewelry out there is evidence that trends rule and that the masses flock to the same things.  This is why we have so many cheap jewelry stores with people's names in the title - I mean, who is Charlie anyway?

Personally, I enjoy having something no one else has.  This in part may be personality but I like big, you-can't-miss-me, you've-never-seen-anything-like-it jewelry.  I relish displaying my taste and if it is bold, funky and strange...fine by me!  But frankly, I generally can't afford one-of-a-kind jewelry for everyday life...leading me to my next reason:

2) Affordability

Okay so I realize that creating ISN'T cheap...and honestly if I spent as much money on unique jewelry as I did on beads I could probably afford some cool stuff.  However, there is a freedom in being able to take things in the world around us and create whatever our imagination concocts.  And even $150 in beads will create a necklace WORTH far more than that - time is money, people!

3) Boredom

Let's face it - we NEED to be doing things.  When I think back to how I began my beading journey boredom played a big part.  I was a high school freshman, I was bored, and had a cool beaded pansy necklace pattern for pony beads that I adjusted to suit seed bead bracelets, > plastic! Eek that was a long time ago!  I have found that beading fills and satisfies a certain area in my brain but I usually watch TV and bead because I need more than just 1 part "working".  I need things "going on" to get things done.  It's an extravert thing I guess.

4) Peace/Tranquility/Calm/Stress Relief

There are real physical benefits to creating.  Research has found that hobbies trigger Eustress (positive stress), lower blood pressure, help with depression, and even improve brain function!  There is a sense of peace, relaxation and happiness when you create - dopamine anyone?  So, the next time you have a horrid knot in your thread or a disastrous bead spill, don't throw in the towel - creating is good for you!  I call myself the idea girl - I can come up with ideas like crazy - more than I could ever create in my lifetime.  Actively creating focuses all your ideas on a single point - there may be many directions you can take but they are focused on the current project...and that can calm the storm raging in our heads.

5) Recognition

You might not want to admit it...but I will.  I take GREAT pleasure in being recognized for my work.  Sometimes this is a driving force, "I need to make something new so I can get more compliments". (Thought but never said!)  I will also throw in here that sometimes seeing other people's reaction to your strange necklace or weird design is amusing.  Either way, it's as if we wear our heart on our sleeve.  Art is deeply personal and in many cases reflects a part of who you are to others.  Humans love compliments and when you get one about something you made it helps validate what you spent valuable time on.

6) To Solve A Problem

I often need a necklace to compliment a particular outfit - how better to resolve this than to create something myself?  Almost like trying on jeans to find a pair that fits, finding the right jewelry can be a lengthy process.  When you make your own you don't have to go searching hoping to find the perfect thing.  For me, this is almost a lifestyle...when something breaks or a problem arises I often find alternative means of resolving the issue.  For instance, many years ago my car ran out of gas.  I had a gas can in my trunk so I walked to a gas station, filled it and returned...but then I had a bigger problem.  The gas can did not have a neck to extend into the would just pour gas down the side of my vehicle.  I looked around for help but all I had was an empty water bottle and a knife.  I cut the bottom out of the water bottle to create a funnel, stuck one end into the car and poured the gas in.  THIS is a creative solution to a problem.  Just call me McGuiver.

7) Financial Gain

This might be a reason you create - for the extra income...or it may be an outcome - because you have too many necklaces to wear yourself.  Either way, being creative can afford you anything from supplemental income to your entire income.  Thinking out of the box gives us the ability to address problems in a new innovative ways and that is a marketable skill!  This is why pricing is important...paying yourself a fair wage that still is a competitive.

8) Unexplainable Internal Drive

I think almost all of us would say that we create because "we have to".  I do think that we are made for a purpose and sometimes our purpose is this.  Artists are the color in between (and outside of) the lines of life.  There is something within us that urges us to make things and to color outside the be different and pay no attention to the rules.

While this is far from an exhaustive list, I hope this helps jumpstart your self-exploration into WHY you create.  Some of these may be a reason and some of them may be an outcome. out those reasons, find the direction they lead and pursue them!  And let me know...what other reasons are why you create?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Beading of the Minds

Now THAT is a rotund robin!
It seems beading artists, bead shops and bloggers alike are on the search for ways to engage and expand.  It's not always about growth, though, sometimes it's just a way for people to gather with other like-minds and create something without feeling like they have to invest loads of energy and time into a project.  Here, I want to show you one way a local-ish beadstore in my area is doing this!

White Fox Beads in Knoxville, TN has held a beading round robin for the past 3 years.  I have participated in the last 2 and it has been a fun and interesting way to work with items and color combos I wouldn't normally choose. I have learned a lot during these events and I wanted to share with you how this community of beaders comes together to create in this unique way.

Example of my UFOs...I had 3:
3 green & 2 white bead circles
The concept is relatively simple.  On a set date participants bring in a UFO (Unfinished project) - it could be a component or a bead swatch - just some piece of work that wasn't finished.  Each item is put in a bag with your name on it as the original creator.  Every week the items go to a different beader who would add a little something to the item and passes it on.  Sometimes a beader will keep an item a couple weeks (life, ya know?).  However, on the final date you receive your contribution back, finished into a beautiful piece that several artists had a hand creating. There is a freedom in the process - because you only add a little bit of yourself into the piece and pass it on.

This year, the first piece I received I forgot to take a picture of before I started and somehow also forgot to record the original creator (oops!).  It was a piece of soutache that was glued to a large piece of red ultra suede.  I decided to go ahead and finish the backing and edging to make the next beader's contributions easier.  In the pictures below I had already cut out soutache shape and begun the edging.  This is all I contributed for this piece before passing it on to the next artist.

The back with the beginnings of the edging.

The next piece I received ended up being two different components.  Since two different artists worked on these I am not sure what is original and what isn't.  The original artist is Judy Woodson and the second was Judi Talley.

Totally going to have to recreate this
awesome square rulla component!
When I received these I was inspired by the teal and copper beaded square and wanted to riff off the colors from it (they were ME colors).  I also knew I wanted to create a focal so I decided to play with shibori silk ribbon and a new Czech cab from my stash.  Experimentation was in order - it had been a while since I used a fiber in my work!  Here is what I created:

I really didn't intend for the piece to look like an eye, however, maybe I was subconsciously heading that direction because I have been a bit eye-obsessed as of late.  *shrugs*  Either way, I created this shibori piece and attached it to the square.  I left the other ring component for the next person to figure out.  Here is the back of the piece:

The next piece I received looked like a completed pendant with an extra component in the bag.  The original creator was Judy Tally.  Other contributors to this piece were Judy Woodson, Stephanie Pettiford, Phyllis Dermer, and Gail Deluca.

Check out that cool wire flower and vase.
I really didn't want to add anything to the pendant itself so I decided to create the strap.  After what was a surprisingly brief stash raid (this normally takes me a long time...distraction usually plays a role) I found the perfect beads to create the necklace for this pendant.  I used soft flex, size 8 beads, some small glass rounds and some large square glass beads I think have been in my stash since the beginning of time.  I decided again to leave the extra component for someone else to figure out how to incorporate.  Please pardon the following was taken in haste.

The shadowy final results.
The final piece I received to work on was a big challenge for me.  The color scheme was far from my comfort zone.  It took me a long time to consider what to do.  It wasn't the individual colors that threw me but rather the combination.  Unfortunately, I forgot to record the creator and the others that worked on this piece.

Apparently I can't take pictures...yeesh!
After much indecision I decided that the bracelet really needed to have something of more interest for the center.  I considered the option of putting some art beads in the center but decided against it...especially since I didn't have anything in particular that would go with the colors.  I finally landed on the idea of making 3 flowers to jumble into the center.  I gathered my supplies and then considered the make of the flowers themselves.  I finally landed on a particular style and gathered the center with them.

Here is a close-up of the flowers I added:
During the finale party we ate pie (it was on 3/14) and discussed our process and what each of us contributed.  We oogled the final pieces we all contributed toward and generally just had a good time, it was truly a beading of the minds.

Now you get to see the final product from my UFO!  The artists that helped pull this piece together were: Phyllis Dermer, Judy Talley, Stefanie Pettiford, Judy Woodson, Gail Deluca and of course myself.
What started as a few little beaded circles ended up in this gorgeous piece!  You can see a circle used in the center of the pendant and then 2 more on either side at the straps.  Here is a close-up:

I hope this inspires you to look for new and exciting ways to expand your beaded horizons and get out of your comfort zone!  For me, this is a never-ending process that continues to grow my work.  Maybe you can even suggest for your local bead shop to start their own round robin!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I'm Jellin'...Are You Jellin'?

I often consider myself the "idea girl".  I have always had the gift of being able to spout off a storm of ideas until something sticks.  I actually pride myself on it - I think it comes from the same place in me that allows me to have a never-ending excitement about the next project. I am NEVER out of ideas for what to do next.  It is this ability that has my creative friends calling me when in crisis.  I may not give them the idea they run with but its a great springboard for other ideas and can be a lending hand to their "lightbulb" moment.  This is what happened when my lovely PIB, Lindsay Starr called to gather ideas for her Component of the Month Challenge for AE!  Whatever idea lead her to these beautiful cabs, I do not know...but she was kind enough to send one made especially for me as a thank you.

I have been a bit obsessed with jellyfish for quite a long time.  Early in my beadwork I made netted bead jellyfish with clear AB 15s and they have been an obsession since.  They are elegant, dangerous, and come in such astounding variations in shape, color and size that I can't help but be fascinated by them.

It had been a long time since I made those silly little beaded jellies - then, one afternoon while I was attending a Gem & Mineral show in North Carolina I came across a pricey dendritic agate that I could NOT stop thinking about.  It was PERFECT for a jellyfish and it was beautiful.  Since that necklace I have made several others - my jelly obsession complete.

My Jellyfish masterpiece & my favorite!

Jellyfish made from bowlerite
for a beady friend.
This is the story of my psychedelic/ aboriginal leather jellyfish.  (whoa....)

This beautiful cab created by Lindsay is made of domed leather that has been painted and sealed.  The edges are thick and while the inside is hollow it is stiff enough to hold up and did not need to be filled in-between it and the backing.  I wasn't sure how all this was going to play out but I decided to use beads that matched the swaths of color to bezel the cab.

After completing the bezel I needed to add a round of beads at the outter rim of the cab.  I opted for opaque white 8s in order to add back more of the white that had been covered up by the bezel.  I ended up with this:

So...I actually hate what I did with it.  *laugh*  This happens from time to time.  All I could do was hope that it was just in that "ugly duckling" phase and that once the tentacles are added that I would fall back in love with it.  Sometimes you have to bead beyond your dislike and you end up discovering it all came together in the end.

My next challenge was that neither my stash nor my local bead store had the beads I wanted to use for the tentacles.  This became a bit frustrating because, as it turns out, they don't MAKE what I was hoping for.  I usually use peanuts to make curly lengths of tentacley goodness but nothing I could find was the right color.  I had to get creative (who woulda thought?!).  I finally decided to try opaque white drops and mix them with seed bead colors to get the effect I was looking for.

While I didn't quite finish this necklace, all I need to add is the strap and I will have another jelly to add to my little smack of jellyfish.  (A group of jellyfish is called a smack. *giggle*)  Don't forget to check out the other artisan's take on their leather cab!

Kelly --- You are here!

AE Writers:

Update (2/7/17)
I figured I would post the finished product.  I spend quite a lot of time stringing and restringing beads and trying different combos before I finally landed on the strap I thought best suited for my newest Jelly.  Interestingly enough, while working thru this I ended up realizing that the green beads I was trying to use in the strap originally were just NOT working.  I happened to be going to Asheville, NC the next day so I stopped in at the local bead store and found these awesome matte saucer beads.  I also found....*duh duh dum!* the beads I didn't think existed!  Those darn opaque white peanuts had just been elusive.  It was too late to use them in this project but I grabbed a tube for my stash.  All that to she is!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mother of Nothing Really - AE Dragon Challenge

Dragons.  Beast of fantasy and fire.  They have been central to popular fiction in novels, film and more recently, television (OMG...Game of Thrones!!!) and lets not forget mythology!  I have been fascinated by dragons since I read The Hobbit as a child.  Smaug, in all his sinister glory, is fantastic character.  And who could forget Dragolin?  Our fascination doesn't stop we have everything from How to Train a Dragon, Eragon all the way to the upcoming Pete the Magic Dragon.  I was even given an AWESOME dragon bottle holder for Christmas!

For the month of December Art Elements blog challenged its members and readers to create a piece inspired by dragons.

Initially I had intended to use one of my 2 phenomenal dragon beads by Mary Lockwood, however, that is going to take me some serious time to create the perfect beady environment for them.  So, I opted to use one of my reptile-esque cabs by Jo Hoffacker.  I did not get before pics, of course, but I have a couple other cabs of hers so I have posted a picture of them below.

Mary Lockwood's Dragon Beads
Jo Hoffacker's Eye cabs
I recently purchased a really nice maroon blazer and have been thinking I needed a lapel pin so, I decided to make this cab into one.  This is the first time I have made one of my embroidery pieces into a pin but I figured it would be a perfect project during the holiday season.  This means I can sport my artwork, be quirky and freak people out during my “day-job”…all things I enjoy the thought of.  Even my macabre mother shuttered at the thought of an eyeball lapel pin.  *giggle*

The first thing was to bezel the cab.  I opted for a double bezel – an inner white bezel and an outer green bezel.  I actually haven't done this before either.  One thing to note - for whatever reason I could not tighten the thread enough at the rim on the outer bezel.  I am not sure if this is because I ended with a jagged edge or not.  More experimenting is needed here.
Double Bezel
 I played around with the idea of using jewel beetle wings for the scales, however, to get the look I would have wanted with those I would have ended up with one honkin’ big pin.  Big, in my book, is never an issue...UNLESS your lapel just won't hold it all up!  I opted to go with some long magnatamas instead.

While attaching the backing I nearly screwed completely up – I forgot to cut the holes and attach the pin!  Thankfully, I remembered in time to rescue it and get the pin back on appropriately.  Panic averted!  Unfortunately, I did end up getting a little bit of the glue onto the outside of the ultrasuede but I am hoping I will be able to get that off once it dries a bit.  I went ahead and finished the edges and tada!  I may end up adding something more to the scale aspect of the piece but for now it will rest on my lapel.  I may be a mother of nothing really...but I have a cool dragon eye!  #whatwhat!

Please don't forget to visit all the other artisan's blogs!

Shai Williams
Kathy Lindemer
Anita Rao
Kelly Rodgers  <-----you are here!
Tammy Adams

AJE Team: