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Studio overhaul, take 52

This weekend’s big project has been to give my studio a much needed overhaul — again. It’s a familiar dance, we do it every 6 months or so. The beads start threatening to take over the house, and we high-tail it to the hardware store in search of new ways to corral them.

Our condo has great space for a family of 3 — but we need space for a family, an art studio AND a bead business. Moving is not an option for at least a few more years, so we’ve learned to be creative & maximize our space as best we can. Thankfully, my family is very indulgent 😉

This makeover will provide a third work table — devoted exclusively to packing & photography — and lots more shelving (“More shelving!” is like, my battle cry). I’m so excited by the prospect of being able to see my desk again! Maybe I’ll even post some pics when we’re done.

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Blog etiquette questions

Mary Tafoya’s post about “blogging what you do” has some good ideas for how to make blogging easy and habitual. I was psyched to see that, as I’m still new to this blogging business, and it feels a bit awkward … My inner critic is constantly telling me that the things I want to write about are dorky or boring (“gosh, Dre — who really cares why you like orange?”). I’m also unsure of how the whole blog culture works.

So rather than continuing to feel awkward & confused, I’m going to throw out some of my “stupid questions about blog etiquette”:

a) I’d like to write about other artists that I find interesting or inspiring. What’s the protocol on this? Is it cool to just write what you like & then drop them a note to say “hey, check out my post about your work”? Or is that a big faux pas? Should I ask permission first?

b) what about pictures? I can see where direct linking/bandwidth theft would be uncool, but what about uploading the pic myself & providing a link to their site encouraging readers to go check out more?

c) thus far, most of the folks on my blog roll are people that I know. I’ve stumbled across a few others that seem cool or interesting, but I’ve hesitated to add them cause I don’t want to come off like some weird scary stalker. Or is that normal in blog world ?

I think that’s most of it. Any answers or ideas are much apreciated!

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A Love of Orange
Lately, orange has become my “happy color”. Rust, sienna, hyacinth, tangerine, apricot — I can’t get enough of those cheery hues. Orange is a radical shift from my usual palette. I’ve always favored jewel tones (lots of emerald, cobalt & plum) or earthy hues — bronze, mocha, caramel, wheat, olive and moss. By contrast, orange is probably the only color that I’ve ever really disliked. To me, it screamed “obnoxious” or “immature” — but those negative connotations have faded. Now orange seems to exude warmth, welcome and joy.

So it’s a big change, and I can’t help but wonder where it came from. Is this a new facet of my personality emerging? Maybe it represents an energy or feeling(s) I want to bring into my life?

What does the color orange say or represent to you?

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Etsy mood ring

Ok, who was it that turned me on to Etsy? I’m not sure if I should thank you, or yell at you — cause I sure am spending a lot of time there lately! I’m delighted to find gorgeous work, quality supplies, a supportive network of creative people, and a green vibe that really appeals to me.

I opened an account awhile back, and have been trying to get a feel for the place from a buyer’s perspective. Gonna try my hand at selling soon (wish me luck! 🙂 — just need to polish off a few things first.

In the meantime, I’m just shopping (ok, mostly window shopping) and accumulating a ton of “favorites”. In doing so, I noticed that the things I’m drawn to can be sort of a barometer for my moods. The grouping below is from the last few days, and all of the items have similar hues. The stuff from the week before is all seafoam-y and mauve … kinda neat!

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Hooray for the barter system!

Thought I’d share the results of a recent trade with woodworker,
Morgan Reed. This group of handcrafted hairsticks includes osage orange, zebra wood, tulip wood, purple heart and padouk. They’re well crafted, and elegant in their simplicity.

When I saw her work, I knew that these would be perfect for some barrette ideas that I want to play with. I’ve used imported sticks in the past, and I love the idea of incorporating something handcrafted and unique instead. It’ll be a few months before I can start (from now through November, my world is all about masks) but I have several ideas that I’m excited to explore when I’m able, as well as a few older designs that I’d love to revisit.

For now, they’ve got a prominent spot in my studio where I can admire (and be inspired by) them. Three cheers for the barter system! 🙂

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Formative work

When I was little, I dreamed of being a professional artist like my father. I had this vision of myself as an artist (ahhtist?) — hair blowing in the wind, heart brimming with inspired, mystical energy that would move me create exclusive masterpieces in my large, brightly lit studio.

While that’s a lovely vision, it really doesn’t jive with my reality as a working artist. Putting food on the table via my craft means working as efficiently as possible. It means being disciplined and working every day (even when I’m not particularly “inspired”). It means balancing creative time with administrative time — and it means doing some degree of production work.

When I started selling my handwork, the mere mention of production work bothered me. I dislike repetition and the idea of assembly line art. “Producing” seemed counter to “creating”.

My dad had a different take. Rather than production work, he viewed it as formative work. He saw value in those little projects, and the way that repetition hones your skills.
As I grow older, I realize how much I agree with him.

Many of my simple designs remain popular — but I still enjoy (and learn from) creating them. Each time I make one, it calls me to focus on shape, color and detail. It challenges me to improve my existing ideas, and to explore new lines that are more graceful or expressive. This study, these skills become the building blocks (and often the inspiration) for my larger/more involved work.

I’d love to tell you that every time I sit down to my workbench, a brand new design masterpiece just leaps off the table — but that’s not how it works. For me, “inspiration” is most often a gradual process that evolves from simple (and consistent) work.

When I was a kid, I imagined that this lifestyle would be far more glamorous than it is. What I could not have imagined, is how much satisfaction I would find in the ‘boring’ parts ;o)


This is a sample of what my worktable looks like right now:

(okay — my worktable isn’t really this tidy, but it *is* piled with masks!).

At any given time, I usually have several masks & crowns in various stages of completion. The ones shown have been sculpted & painted with a base coat; they’re now awaiting finishing details like accent colors, glitter, beadwork & feathers.

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Letting go & enjoying the rain…

I had big plans to catch up on my photography this week, but I guess the universe had plans of its own. On a good day, it can be tricky to for me get decent pics. Natural light seems to work best for shooting my beads & handwork — but my condo sits on a heavily wooded lot. Great for nice cool summers, not so great for sunny photo spots :o/

Unfortunately for me (or at least, for my photos) it’s been rainy and overcast all week. I made valiant attempts to get some pics taken anyway, but it just wasn’t in the cards.
The rain kept dumping, and the phone wouldn’t stop. The cats absconded with my DIY light box , and no matter how hard I cranked the gamma, there was just no hiding the fact that they were lousy shots.

I got intensely cranky before it finally dawned on me that the best thing would be to just let it go. I gave myself permission to stop worrying about all the zillions of beads & cabs I need pictures of. The new masks, crowns, cuffs and hairclips … they’ll keep 😉

Instead, I put finishing touches on the masks I need to send to NOLA — and played with some new designs I’m hoping they’ll like. I worked on my pages for the Bead Journal Project, and doodled & sketched new book/journal ideas which was fun and productive.

My books are rustic looking, which is the polite way of saying that they’re a bit crooked and bent

my 2002 journal ~ buffalo hide w/beaded fabric inset:
my daughter’s beaded/long stitched book

These new sketches are for more polished/precisely crafted books, but they should still retain that … special wobble that says hand crafted.
I’m so glad I started keeping a sketch book again, so that I can hold on to ideas that inspire me. I’m excited to try them out, but summer & early fall should be very busy for me. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to explore them again this winter.
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Peeking out from my cave…

At one time, I was very active in the internet beading community. The various bead forums introduced me to many talented artists and ideas. I formed treasured friendships, and took part in some really special projects. Being so “plugged in” kept me up on all the latest stuff, and for many years it was very inspiring.
Somewhere along the way, I hit a state of — oversaturation. As much as I enjoyed the many groups I’d become a part of, I found myself spending more time talking about art than creating it. I needed to step back and reconnect with my own creative voice. 
Today, I tend to be somewhat of a hermit. This isn’t entirely bad — solitude can be conducive to creative work — but I think it’s time to balance that out a bit. It’s easy to get lost in all that quiet thought, and I really miss connecting with other creative folk. Hence, this blog. My hope is that it will provide a positive means to:
* chronicle my creative pursuits and mishaps.
* reach out & learn what other artists are up to
To start, my goal is to update this thing (at least)bi-weekly bi-monthly. I hope to share my own work, as well as some of the people and things that inspire me.

Wish me luck! 🙂