Monday, July 28, 2008

I Know A Magical Place...

…it’s a place of peace and beauty where playful creatures live and shy faeries hide amongst the greenery of wise trees. Ssshhh! Tiptoe with me into the World of James Browne and meet some of his creatures. (Click on the images to see details, including stories written for them.)

There are dragons

"Rich in Love"


and faeries

"First Kiss"


wise old trees

"Old Wisebark"


charming forest critters

"The Nutcracker"


fairy tales come to life



and mermaids



I first encountered Browne’s world at a street show in New Hope, PA in early October of 2001. My mother, Marble Man, and I wandered down Main Street, ducking in and out of booths. We entered Browne’s space and found ourselves in a place of rich color and texture. Mom and I immediately got the Galloping Greedy Gimme’s and gathered up several prints to take home.

My special treasure (seen above), titled “Allure”, features a wistful mermaid sitting on the shores of her Land of Arches. Every morning she greets me with that same dreamy expression, and to this day I wonder what she is thinking. It wasn’t only the mermaid’s mood that drew me into this painting. Browne’s sensitive treatment of rocks and water is stunning. AND, he signed the back for me with a little drawing:

This fella's imagination really comes to life in his paintings. He says he has “studio elves and faeries that keep his brushes clean and leave footprints on his palette”. Here, he plays with his first faery, discovered after Sunday school:

"First Encounter"


As you can see, his portrayal of children is amazing.

"Given to Fly"


So, if you have some time, head on over to James' place of wonder and step back into childhood fantasy.

Note: images were used with written permission of James Browne.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The End of a Chapter...

After three years of telling myself, "Don't worry, you'll get back to the fabric dyeing one day", and not going back to it at all, I finally dismantled my outdoor dye station. This workspace consisted of a 2.5 foot x 5 foot piece of plywood set atop two plastic fold-out saw horses (these are cool - the hinge folds flat between the legs and makes a shelf). Draped over the plywood were three old vinyl shower curtains, too grungy to be near squeaky-clean bodies, but intact enough to waterproof a nasty piece of wood. Under the curtain-covered plank: old enameled canning pots along with jars for mixing dyes, and sticks for stirring boiling hot dye buckets. Stacked beside the table were 18 white plastic 5-gallon buckets. On the edge of the driveway sat two propane burners and tanks which I used to boil water. Around all of this neglected area, English ivy grew amok. I wish I'd thought to take a picture before dismantling it all, but, alas, I forgot.

The station, just outside the kitchen door and past the old basketball net, was an eyesore. I could justify it being there only if I was actually using it. So sad; it got to the point where I stopped noticing the mess, except on rainy days when I had to walk the dog through the mud. I killed the grass in front of the table during my first year of active dyeing by knocking over the dye-filled buckets with 5 foot long fabric wrapped poles too tall for them. Turns out, grass prefers not to be watered with boiling water.

Last Saturday, the hottest day of the year so far, I went out in long sleeves, long pants tucked into socks, and sprayed the heck out of myself with Cutter's Outdoor Woods bug repellent to brave the height of mosquito season. Funny, I didn't seem to mind the bugs so much when I was out there working over steaming pots for hours on end. But I sure minded them this time. Even with the bug stuff, the little vampires drilled right through my clothes. I think I donated a double pint!

Anyway, the buckets are put away, I gave one of the burners to my friend and mentor, Lorin Fields, and the plywood is at the street waiting for the trash genies to *poof* it away. Now all that's left of my work area is a lone propane burner and tank, and a patch of dirt. It's nice to have the space free again. But still, I wish it were a mess and that my hand felt good enough to go out and play.

There's a laundry basket remaining full of half-wrapped poles in the storage room and shelves full of dye powders. Lorin is gradually taking raw materials off my hands, freeing up space in the studio for... (you guessed it)...MORE BEADS! Hhhhhmmm...I wonder if I can sweet-talk Marble Man into doing most of the heavy work to help me finish off these poles?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sweating the Details

With all the advertising I've done for my Etsy Shop, I've been thinking "sales are gonna start rolling in any day now". I've had a few small sales, and in the process of shipping out earring sets, I've used up the last of the brown kraft gift boxes I had in stock. Not willing to buy another case of 1000 gift boxes (Can you say "ex-PEN-sive"? ), I've been trying to think of other ways to package pieces in an appealing, yet cost-effective manner. Better to think it all out ahead of time, I figure, rather that panicking when the rush of sales happens, right? Oh, OK... go ahead and call me Pollyanna!

When I injured my hand back in 2005, I was in the middle of several (as in too many to count) fabric dyeing projects. I have yards and yards of silk organza dyed in shibori, as well as plain, colors and patterns. Silk noil? I have a crate of it - yards just sitting there with nothing to do! So, I decided to make some quickie gift pouches and bags - nothing too fancy. I've gotten the time down to 10 minutes a bag, start to finish, but would be happier getting that down to 5 minutes without sacrificing too much quality. I mean, it has to look good when the customer unpacks, right?


This week, I've also been shoveling out the studio which looks like a bead bomb went off in there. No way could I find the surface of my work table! I've re-bagged and filed beads and metal findings. In the process, I've uncovered some bags of beads that fall into the "what the HELL was I thinking!?!" category. They are absolutely beautiful, but I don't know what to do with them, and when I bought them I had no plan for them. The only excuse I have is that I gazed upon them with lust in my heart at the bead show last January. They have such exotic names: cat's eye jasper, silver leaf jasper, red agate, ruby quartz, keshi pearls, sugalite, sodalite, Labradorite to list a few. The names are melodic, roll off the tongue, ... and the strands rolled straight into my bag. All this added up to: I bought a bunch of stuff and I now need to find something to do with them. Here's a representative sample:

Most of the beads I bought at that show turned out to be large, chunky rondelles, which is strange, because, usually, I like to work with small, twiddly beads. I must have thought it was time to bust out in a different direction. Guess I'd better do that so I can use some of this stuff up, huh?


**Here's a special thank you to Fete et Fleur, Somepinkflowers, and Rochambeau for featuring me in blog posts recently. I really appreciate it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Constance!



Everyone gather ‘round to wish Constance, of Rochambeau a very Happy Birthday!


Stop by the front hall and pick up your party hat


We’ve got lots of fun cupcakes

Or if you are in the mood for something a little more fancy


We’ve gathered the grapes and stomped on ‘em a bit



And poured a glass in Constance’s honor


Now we’ve toasted (or is that WE'RE toasted?), had some nibbles, and it’s time for Constance to make a wish and blow out her candles…

Have a very Happy Birthday, dear friend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I've Lost That Lovin' Feeling..."

...for my digital camera and longtime friend, Canon Powershot A80, that is.

Once reliable, he's now a moody S.O.B. who requires more than a little romance and sweet talk to do his job. I grow weary with trying to judge his temperament upon caressing him awake, tenderly touching his "ON" button, breathlessly waiting to see if he'll perform or not. Lately, if I'm extremely lucky, he awakens, ready and willing, takes the first picture flawlessly... and then craps out on me to do this:

Let's just say I've been putting a lot of quarters in the Swear Jar of late.

With an Etsy Showcase set up for next Monday, I really need to get some shots of new earrings. After yet another unsatisfying photo experience yesterday, I shouted, "S**T!", to the skies while resisting the urge to rip him off his tripod to hurl him against the wall.

I went online to do a little research, found something I'd be happy with, and ran out the door to do some comparative shopping. I hit the four big shops in our area, including Walmart and Circuit City. None of them had what I'd planned to look at, but all had the next step up, Canon's Powershot A590. What a little sweetie-pie! Trim and sexy in shape, lightweight due to needing only 2 batteries, and it takes fab-U-lous pictures too. Circuit City had it on sale (even better!). I gladly handed over my credit card and took the Little Darling home with me.

"Oh, Happy Day!" Now my pictures look like this:

MUUUUUUuuuch better! To keep the romance alive this time, I guess I'll need some candlelight, Al Green on the stereo... who knows where that'll lead? Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm Goin' High Class Now

First-off: how exciting. My first treasury is a real compliment. The person who set it up chose my double spiral necklace with the cobalt blue bubble bead.


I went bead shopping yesterday for some pieces to use in a custom order. I went to Rare Earth Beads in Durham, NC, one of my favorite local shops. I'm like a magpie when I go to this place! All those shiny, sparkly things distracting me. Walls are loaded with sparkling gemstones, pearls, and all sorts of unusual beads. It makes me want to toss 'em on the floor in a big pile and roll around on them! Throughout the floor area are tables completely covered with small bowls of sparkling treasures; I just love letting them run through my fingers.

Up until yesterday, I was content to pick strands from the low-priced wall: all 16 inch strands are $5.00. But yesterday, I was on a mission - stones in specific birthstone colors for a customer's order. To save some time, and to keep me from browsing too much (HA!), I enlisted a salesperson's help to find what I needed. According to her it was time to start buying "grown-up stones".

So, I pawed over the "designer wall" where they have exquisite, quality stones. For exquisite prices, too. This salesgirl knew she had a live one. She had me count the number of beads on a strand to divide out the cost of each bead on a strand, and justified buying a $58 strand of citrine briolettes with "sell 3 pairs of earrings and you pay for the strand". That was all it took. I came home with keshi pearls, and lots of strands of faceted beads: citrine rondelles and briolettes, peridot, carnelian, blue topaz, and blue apatite, to name a few.


But now, I 'd better sell some earrings!!!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Author, Author...!

I've been kicking around this idea for a couple of years: I'm going to write a book. Whew! There..., I actually said it out loud. I don't know if it'll be a good book, but I'm going to try it.

Since my big injury back in 2005, I've been trying to find my new path. I'm unable to comfortably dye fabrics anymore, and basic sewing tasks make my hand pain flare up. I had to abandon my wearable art business just when it was getting on it's feet. Now, here I am attempting to resurrect the business with a jewelry focus.

In that summer of 2005, while recuperating from torn ligaments and a dislocated thumb, and in considerable pain, my dominant hand was immobilized in a rigid brace. I couldn't do much except lie on the sofa watching mind-numbing television, gorked on Vicodin. I actually found a picture that Marble Man took of me in this pathetic state, but I'm not posting it here - too sad!

As I struggled to climb the steep and slippery sides of the Pity Pot, my friends suggested things I could do to be productive. They pointed out I've taught myself a lot of art skills, and I should teach classes to pass them on to others. I know for a fact that I'm a terrible teacher with no patience. The next suggestion: "write a book describing your 'artistic journey'." I could tell stories of my travels from medium to medium, and why not end each chapter with a simple project the reader can do?

It feels strange, and downright narcissistic to be writing all about myself, but I'll keep at it. (I've got a whole two pages written now!) I don't know the right way to go about writing a book, shopping for publishers, etc. So I have a ton of research to do.

What do you think? Is this something you would want to read?... Honestly?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Blueberry Corn Muffins

I had so many exclamations of "I've never heard of blueberry corn muffins!" at the tea party, that I thought I'd post the recipe here for anyone interested:

Blueberry Corn Muffins:

Makes 12
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1-1/3 C all-purpose white flour
2/3 C yellow cornmeal
1 T baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 C blueberries, washed and stemmed
1 egg
2/3 C skim milk
1/2 C honey
3 T vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar

Spray muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.

In large bowl, stir or whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the blueberries and toss to coat with flour mixture.

In smaller bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the milk, honey, and oil, whisking until well combined.

Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Do NOT over-mix!

Divide the batter equally between the 12 muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.

Bake 18-22 minutes, until risen and golden. Turn onto a baking rack to cool.

169 calories
4 grams fat
143 mg sodium
18 mgs cholesterol

Note: If using frozen blueberries, don't thaw them. Just rinse off ice crystals and pat dry. Toss separately with 3 T of the flour and stir in after liquid is added.

**These muffins go stale very quickly, but then taste fabulous cut in half, toasted, and spread with some sweet butter.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What Do I Want?

So. I've been writing in this blog now for about 2 years, seriously for 1 year. My posts range form serious to downright silly and I can't decide if that's a good thing or not. On the one hand, I want to discuss/document my art, which means serious posts, and on the other hand, I want to express myself, which means funny and silly - that's how I roll.

Is there a downside to mixing it up and posting regardless of my mood? Or, if people are looking here to learn about my artistic process, am I shooting myself in the business foot by including personal reflections? Please let me know what you think.

What do you out there try to do with your blogs? Do you use it for a single purpose, or is it an online journal for everyday happenings?