Friday, October 31, 2008

Off to Santa Fe

. . . for our annual Fall bead phreak retreat. We always do a little bead swap. This year we're calling it "trick or treating." As usual, there will be informal classes. Jan always does a polymer clay thing, Sally has come kind of surprise cooked up and I will be showing how to make a few varieties of earring wires. Since I'm bringing my hammers and a bench block, I packed a bag of bottle caps and my beloved metal hole punching pliers in case somebody wants/needs to smash them, punch a hangin' hole and make a pair of earrings with their fancy earring wires. Beadnik will bring her digital camera, so hopefully, project pictures to come!!!

Onward with my trusty orange global positioning system!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cultures of Devotion

Today in my online course on Adult Learning, my professor posted that in some ways, learning requires dissonance (too comfortable, we aren't motivated to learn; too uncomfortable and it's too overwhelming to learn). Into my head popped a line from a poem by Alejandra Pizarnik, that reminded me of dissonance:

"...the distance between thirst and the hand that reaches for the glass."

Huh? Where did that come from?

Years ago I worked as a typesetter and there was a man named Frank Graziano in town, working on his Ph.D. He published interesting profiles of poets, including Pizarnik, whose works I don't think had previously been translated into English. His profiles typically included the poet's work, as well as letters, images, and scholarly commentary.

Well, I typeset a couple of his books. (The other was a profile of American poet James Wright. The introduction was written -- over and over and over again, I might add, right up until the publication deadline -- by Robert Bly). I guess when you type something it gets tucked into a little drawer in your head, which must have been where that snippet of Pizarnik came from. Frank must have noticed I was really into her poetry, so he gave me a copy of the book.

Thinking of Frank and Alejandra, I Googled and found that he is now a professor, and still writing -- most recently this book called Cultures of Devotion: Folk Saints of Spanish America. Wow! There is an accompanying website chock full of images of popular saints and their devotees (doing what devotees do...devoting?) Check out the website:

I love the colors and the clothing. I can almost hear the sounds and smell the smells in these images. And it's good to know Frank is still in love with his work.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sequins in Action: Back Stitch

Here's a closeup from my Unity Mandala showing how yesterday's version of backstitch looks in action. I used tiny platinum colored flat sequins and tan thread:

And here's a recap of yesterday's thread path, showing the side view:


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stitching with Sequins: Backstitch

NOTE: Sorry folks, I had grabbed the wrong illustrations for the image yesterday (10/25/08). Below is the corrected post...
Ok, next lesson. 8-)

I guess this is called backstitch. Because you're stitching backwards on the top. As opposed to running stitch, where you'd be stitching forward. Whatever it's called, this is the trick for getting perfect spacing and overlap when stitching a line of sequins. I learned it from Al from South Beach. 8-)

  • flat sequins
  • thread
  • needle
  • fabric
  • scissors

You won't need any seed beads for this stitch. And, these instructions assume you'll be beading a line from left to right.


1. Knot the end of the thread, slip the needle onto the other end, and come up from the back of the fabric where you want your line of sequins to start.

2. Slip on a sequin, and then stitch down to the left, coming back down through the fabric just at the left edge of the first sequin.

3. Come up just at the right edge of the sequin, slip on another sequin, and then stitch down through the center of the first sequin.

4. Come up just at the right edge of the second sequin, slip on a sequin, and stitch down through the center of the previous sequin. Get it? Keep doing that. 8-)

5. When you get to the end of the line of sequins, tack down the outer edge of the final sequin, then knot on the back of the fabric and snip the thread.

TIP: To get straight and/or smooth flowing lines, draw guidelines onto the fabric, or practice on a swatch of patterned fabric and follow the designs.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Get to know your trade beads

african trade beadsI listed a couple of destash strands of African trade beads in my Etsy shop and as usual I did a little refresher research first, starting at Picard's.

Picard's website contains page after page of trade bead images, with titles and prices, but not much in the way of describing how the beads were made.

I would suggest focusing on the Antique Beads and Trade Beads sections to locate beads you're trying to identify, then doing a Google search for more information about that particular bead style.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Captured for an Ivy-themed Treasury

Many thanks to Etsy artist EderaJewelry for including my Tendrils Earrings in her ivy-themed gallery at Etsy's Treasury West. What a magical quality to the page, and such diversity in materials, eh? Check it out (click the image to visit the treasury):


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sequins in Action: Spot Stitch

sequins, artist trading card, mano, hand"Magic Hand"A simple application of spot-stitched sequins.
I used large cupped dark green iris sequins
attached with glass seed beads of the same color,
and scattered them around this Artist Trading
Card, overlapping the stitches in some places.
One of my favorite applications of spot stitching with sequins is found in those colorful Haitian Voudou Flags. There are books devoted to them, and many websites with flags for sale, though closeups showing the stitching were hard to find for this post. Here's an awesome fully covered flag, held up by its maker:
Erzulie, the Virgin Mary
from Niger Bend, an online gift shop
  • The flags typically are divided into color areas that are either completely filled with overlapping, spot stitched sequins, or partially filled in with sequins that match the fabric color behind it.
  • Sometimes the key imagery is completely filled with sequins but in the background, spaces are left between the sequins (which takes a lot less time but still looks cool!).
  • Usually, the seed beads are the same color as the sequins, but not always. Sometimes a contrasting color is used.
  • Sometimes, seed beads are embroidered (running or back stitch) in lines around the borders of things, with the sequins filling up the shapes. Or vice versa. In any case, total coverage takes time!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Spot Stitching Sequins

Crystal's comment got my mind a-workin' (did you feel the storm???) on breaking down my sequin tutorials into smaller, bloggable pieces.


The easiest thing to do with sequins is to string them in your beadwork and jewelry.

Stack them for a long chunk of color (but be aware that some sequins have very little color on the edges, like Oreo cookies the best part is always in the centers!)

You can also add sequins just one or two at a time to earrings or in beaded fringe. I've seen subtle floral effects created this way.


Spot stitching is the easiest stitch when working with sequins. You can use a heavy or light fabric, but if you use a light fabric, you might want to put it in a hoop or frame while sewing, and/or back it with an iron-on interfacing to strengthen it a bit. And, if you plan to wash the fabric, you should take the time to knot frequently.


You'll need a few sequins -- cupped or flat will work fine -- and a few seed beads, size 10, 11 or smaller. Make sure your beading needle will pass through the seed beads.

You'll also need:
  • for practice, a small piece of fabric (cloth, ultrasuede, bead backing, Ez Felt, etc.)
  • beading or quilting thread (I use Silamide, or Nymo if there isn't a lot of weight to the piece)
  • a beading needle (size 12 will work with size 11 beads)
  • scissors


1. Tie a knot in your thread before coming up from the back of the fabric.

2. Pick up one sequin and one seed bead.

3. Go back down through the sequin, bypassing the seed bead.

4. Repeat 2 and 3, and tie a knot behind the fabric when you're done.

The seed bead will anchor the sequin.

Variations: Go for a scattered effect. Place cupped sequins face down, instead of face up. Stack more than one seed bead and see what happens!

Tonight I'll hunt for some pictures of "spot stitch in action!"


Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Sequin Palette Packs

New in my Etsy supply shop, a couple of new assortment packs of vintage sequins:

Fairy Woodlands pack, featuring new purple rainbow flowers
and vintage "fairy wing" sequins. Yummy rich, rare colors too.

Old Fashioned Garden Mix, very soft, with rosy metallics,
fluted translucent pink and other scrumptiousness.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Contact Info: A Suggestion for Bloggers

Blogging is a great way to communicate. Right? I dunno. Three times in the last two weeks I've needed to contact another blogger privately (once about something I wanted to buy, once about something they wanted me to sell them, and once about getting involved in a project they'd put out a call for). But I couldn't figure out how, because they have no contact info associated with their blog. Two of those times, they had no email address anywhere on their websites either. Buh? What's the big secret? You're bloggin' aren't ya? Why not go all the way? ;-)

Realizing I should practice what I was about to preach, I checked my Blogger profile and noticed I'd disabled my email address. Today I enabled it to make it easier for someone to contact me "off-blog." Before, I figured they could find my email by going to my profile, then my website, but what the heck, why make people work so hard? (We work hard enough already!)

Will I get more spam? Gosh I hope so! I have such a great spam filter, I so hate not to use it! ;-) No, seriously. I just realized that a really nice recent profile opportunity (in the works) would not have happened if the PR person hadn't taken the time to click through my profile to my website and find my email address there. Let's hope the good outweighs the bad on enabling an email addy on my Blogger profile.

Like good ole Frank Zappa used to say, "I'll do the stupid thing first then you shy people can follow." Or, "Great googly moogly, you gonna do it too!" Or, "Shoot low, they're riding Shetlands!" ;-)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Richard Biffle Loves Crows

Here's the story. Not long ago, a mother ordered a custom pair of my crow feather earrings for her daughter. I must not have read the email very thoroughly because for some reason I thought she was a fan of Richard Biffle rather than his partner. Well, she wanted them to arrive by a certain date, so I dropped them in the mail with just enough time. She said something about her daughter wanting him to see them on her because he has a special affinity with crows.

Well I never heard back so I was worried sick that they hadn't arrived in time. This weekend I had the. . . ok, the stomach flu (YUCK that is so disgustingly TMI) and didn't check my email all day. Tonight I opened up the most lovely note from the daughter that I almost cried. It was one of those blessings-on-a-deeper-level type of notes, and yes the earrings had arrived in time for a very special occasion for the two lovers.

So I thought I'd share some of Richard's art. Maybe everyone but me has heard of him, what can I say? LOL, I'm getting to be a bit of an old fart and I don't listen to as much new music as I used to, or rather, when I do it's usually on Sirius radio or via an iPod so I don't necessarily see the cover designs.

I really like his work -- a lot. I can see his unique illustration style in there but I also like that he seems to have been inspired by some of my favorite graphic design, such as old crate labels, European posters from the art nouveau period, and of course the rock and roll posters of the 1960s and 1970s.

Do check out his work. I find his color schemes inspiring too. They really pop!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

September Poll Results: If You Were a Bead

Seventy-six of you beautiful peoplez chose one bead from a list of 10 that matched, as closely as possible, the bead you'd be. Some of you suggested beloved beads that I had totally forgotten about, or didn't have room for on such a short list.

As for me, I'd be a Kiffa bead -- rare, highly collectible, skillfully made with women's saliva in the back country of Mauritania (don't ask). That's the bead I'd like to be, but if I'm honest, the bead I really am is probably the fire polished crystal -- affordable and versatile. You know, middle class glass. ;-)
Here are the poll results:
  • Lampwork focal 13 (17%) -- "Unique, creative artisan style"

  • Chunk of red coral 11 (14%) -- "Bold and natural, with an ethnic flair"

  • Labradorite 11 (14%) -- "Mystical, magical seer"

  • Opaque truecut 10 (13%) -- "Vivid color with a hint of sparkle"

  • Green kyanite 10 (13%) -- "Earth-bound but daring, like the fairies"

  • Faceted amethyst 8 (10%) -- "Classic, quality, understated elegance"

  • Swarovski crystal 6 (7%) -- "Elegant, classy and finely cut"

  • African trade bead 4 (5%) -- "A well-crafted, well-travelled treasure"

  • Fire polished crystal 3 (3%) -- "Affordable and versatile"

  • Victorian jet 0 (0%) -- "Rich black sparkle, the Queen's favorite" (What? Know great-grandmothers in the bunch? No steampunk goth girls? Interesting...these beads are some of my quickest sellers.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

How to Change the World

This is from MSNBC's The Week in Pictures -- a Reuters photo by Rupak de Choudhuri showing little boys dressing up like Mahatma Gandhi, for a contest, on the anniversary of his birth:

mohatma ghandi Can you imagine? Not Batman, not the Incredible Hulk or Darth Vader, but Mahatma Ghandi. 8-) Pacifist activist scholar politician.

"Be the change that you want to see in the world."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Remembering Cindy -- Lung Association Fundraiser

Beaders are a charitable bunch. This from bead artists Dulcey Heller and Carol Strand-Siebers:

Cindy McCornack was a friend and mentor to beaders, in person and online. She lived in Alaska, but had friends all over the world through the online beading community, especially the Bead Art forum. Among the things she left for beaders was her book, Exploring Beaded Art Dolls, full of instructions, inspiration, and photographs of beaded art dolls that she and her friends created.

When Cindy was diagnosed with lung cancer, the Forum responded with flowers, gifts, support, and contributions. In thanks, Cindy began the Mystery Image Challenge. Inspired by the Mat-Su Valley Bead Society in Alaska, she cut an image into rectangles, emailed the rectangles to interested participants who were to bead the lines with black beads, and then embellish the rest of the rectangle. No one knew the finished image except for those who created the central face blocks: Cindy herself, Marya LeMieux-Ruibal, Mary Elter, and Rebekah Hodous.

Cindy died in 2005 of her cancer before being able to complete the project. Moderators of the Bead Art Forum have since completed assembling the Mystery Image Challenge. These four completed panels are now for sale in the Remembering Cindy Etsy shop. All profits after expenses will be donated to the American Lung Association in Cindy’s memory.

Also for sale in the shop are some of the dolls that were made for her during her battle with cancer. Her partner, John, gave them back to the Bead Art Forum for this purpose. There are also items that have been donated specifically for sale in Cindy’s memory. Those who would like their own small memory of Cindy’s Mystery Image Challenge can also purchase postcards of the four panels. Again, all profits after expenses will be donated to the American Lung Association.

Please visit the Remembering Cindy Etsy shop (she would have loved Etsy). The shop will be open through the end of 2008, closing in early 2009. Cindy is missed, and we want to help fight that disease that took her away from us, with funds from your purchases in the shop.


I'd like to also mention that postcard sets of the mystery panel are also available for sale in the shop!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sand and Sage Treasury West

Aw, panoply included my long twin pearls Amaya Necklace in her Sand and Sage gallery at Etsy's Treasury West. It's lovely! Such diversity of items -- maybe this will be my home page debut? Please please? (I'm about to sell my soul to get on the home page but don't tell God that! Hey, a girl's got to have goals, right?) Well, regardless (cause ir-regardless IS NOT A WORD), I'm happy to been included among like-paletted soaps and ceramics and paintings and jewelry. It's really lovely. The colors -- such a peaceful earthy palette.

pearl necklace