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A beader’s curse…

A bead store owner recently expressed her frustration with people who steal from her small business, and several people quickly chimed in to comfort her. One of the replies was so great that I just have to share it. I believe this is the ultimate beader’s curse:

“May her beading thread always fray, her crimps always fail, and may she never find the other earring.”
~Carolyn H

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Beading for a Cure Auctions are up!

I’ve been remiss in my blogging again. Guess I decided that spring break meant a break from everything. At any rate, I’m back now and I wanted to let you know that the Beading for a Cure auctions are listed now!

BFAC is a very special charity that was created in memory of bead artist Layne Shilling, who lost her battle with colorectal cancer in 2002. Each year, the proceeds from this challenge are donated to help fund cancer research. You can read more about it on their website.

I have participated for the past two years, and I am signed up for next year too. My entry for this year’s challenge is the cuff above. It is included in this week’s auctions, which end Saturday April 7th. I strongly encourage you to bid — not just on my piece, but on all of the beautiful entries. And if you’re not able to bid this week, don’t worry — there will be more listings every week through April 28th. You can view some of the other entries, along with the auction listing schedule, on the BFAC auctions page. There are some spectacular contributions this year. Please check them out, and consider supporting this special charity.

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Remembering Dad…

dad painting a mural in a church in Clearlake, CA

Today would be my father’s 78th birthday so I’m dedicating this “inspiration Wednesday” to him. My dad made his living via his art at a time when that wasn’t so easy. He was a redwood sculptor and also a very talented tattooist, but I think his greatest love was oil painting. Growing up, I dreamed of being an artist too.

He used to have a gallery in the California redwoods and he also worked with other galleries along the coast. I got to tag along when he sold at shows and galleries, and watching this taught me a lot about the the art of craftsmanship.

working on a tattoo

He had a powerful commitment to his work — to him, creativity was a spiritual practice. He treated it with great respect, and he taught me to do the same. He always impressed how important it is for an artist to take great care of your tools –especially your hands and eyes! — and also to use the best materials available. He stressed the value of really learning your craft, paying careful attention to detail and quality, and always striving to hone your skills no matter how much you think you know. Beyond these practical skills, he taught me a lot about the healing properties of art. I won’t go into that too much in this post because it’s highly personal, and because I don’t know how to write about it without sounding corny or lame. Suffice to say that like my father, my creative process is also a spiritual process.

oil painting

I suspect it was my dad’s influence that first exposed me to beads and beadwork, and he is indirectly responsible for my learning how to do leatherwork too. His soul mate Michele is a talented leatherworker who makes beautiful buckskin garments and bags. She taught me to work with garment leather back in the early 90’s, which quickly led to my interest in tooling and sculpting leather. So I guess he’s ultimately responsible — or at least, influential — for my career choice and my choice of materials.

My dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but I always loved and admired him. There was nothing traditional about him, so he was never a traditional father figure (thankfully, I have an awesome stepdad who has more than filled that role in my life). Still, he was an amazing individual and a talented artist. He passed a few things along to me, and they’re some of the things that I like best about myself. Thank you dad, for sharing your art and spirit.

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Hera’s Cuffs

Leather peacock cuff – in my Etsy shop

I’m still having loads of fun with my leather peacock feather designs. Shown here are two new leather cuff bracelets featuring carved peacock feather designs with real body feather accents. They’re embellished with vintage glass cabochons and fine seed beadwork.

The one to the left is done in an emerald green, and the overall design is a tad simpler. The one below is done in a shimmering olive green, with more elaborate shaping and beadwork. Both close with button loop closures, so they’ll stretch from about 6.5″ – 7.5″.

Hera’s Cuff – to be listed soon

There are a few more peacock designs on my work table right now. I’m excited to see how they’ll turn out. Hopefully I can squeeze in some studio time and get them finished up soon!

As with all of my peacock themed items, a portion of every sale will be donated to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in memory of Mahala.

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Shifting Focus

Snow Queen headdress – 2012

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my beads have really been calling to me. I’d love to listen, but I never seem to have the time or resources to really explore this. That’s why I’m stepping back from commissions right now; I really want to clear out some time to follow my muse.

While I do enjoy the type of work that I’ve been doing, it feels like I have fallen into a cycle of creating easier, smaller, “safer” stuff — either because that’s all that I’ve got time for, or because I know that it will sell. That last bit may sound shallow, but let’s get real — I’m blessed to be able to do what I love for a living, but it IS still work. This is how the bills get paid, so I often feel pressured to create the smaller “bread and butter” items that satisfy my creditors, rather than the  time intensive pieces that satisfy my soul.

Amber necklace – 2001

For a frame of reference, the headdress above is probably one of the most elaborate pieces that I’ve completed in the past several months. It’s lovely, and I’m quite proud of it; however, it’s still not a huge time investment compared to my beaded pieces. It probably took twice as much time for me to create the necklace at the left — which is still not that elaborate in the realm of beadwork! In both cases, the significant creation time requires a greater price tag than most of my work. While they’ll certainly sell eventually (in fact, the necklace already has) I typically do not sell pieces like these every day. Thus you can see how I’ve fallen into this cycle of creating more “bread and butter” work, and less of the deeper work that really fuels me creatively.

I’d really like to change that in the year ahead, but I’m not entirely sure how to do that. The cold hard truth is that no matter how loudly my muse calls, my responsibilities remain. So how do I create this shift in focus? Do I take out loans (not really an option), pray for a generous benefactor, or simply take a huge leap of faith?

For several years now, I’ve been sketching very elaborate designs which would incorporate several of the skills that I’ve developed over the last 20 odd years, and also challenge me to develop new ones. While I used to fantasize about having the time to work on these ideas, now I am feeling like I need to. Part of this drive is simply my creative force aching to stretch and grow, and part of it is the need to go deeper and develop greater patience and focus (qualities I am seeing the need for in other areas of my life). I can see and feel this goal very clearly, but I can’t yet see how to actualize it. Any suggestions?

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Handmade Holiday Gifts 3 – Jewelry

leather peacock feather earrings
For this installment of my handmade holiday gifts series  I’m going to focus on jewelry. It is such a time tested gift idea – we all love to adorn ourselves, and there’s a nice range of price points. Jewelry is great for stocking stuffers (like my peacock earrings to the left) and also as a more elaborate gift for someone special

Whatever you choose, I hope that you’ll avoid the big chain stores (where everything looks the same) and consider buying from independent artists instead. This list includes a few of my favorites from Etsy. Their styles range widely, but the common denominator is that these are individual craftsmen (and women) who create original, quality work. 
beaded bracelet by Beadware

 Beadware creates handcrafted gifts & fine beaded jewelry made with glass beads, crystals, stones, pearls, sterling silver, pewter, copper, brass & silver or gold plate. Affordable enough to wear a different piece everyday.
Her designs reflect a juxtaposition of left and right brain. She likes organization, order and details. She loves color, combining it in surprising mixes or staying within a color family. Her work is colorful, delicate, tasteful, understated and simple. 
beaded necklace by Blazin’ Beads
 Jenny of BlazinBeads says this of her work: “I strive to create unique pieces. I get my inspiration for my creations from colors I see in nature. I am always thinking of new ideas and feel most satisfied with my work when I can put the many ideas I have into a new and unique piece. My true passion is seed bead work and it is crucial to me to follow my own style. I have been beading for 20+ years now and my creations are meant to stand the test of time.”
tribal skull necklace by Erthe Fae
 Erthe Fae is your source for handmade fantasy jewelry, steampunk jewelry and tribal jewelry. She makes beaded necklaces, crystal bracelets, unique anklets, chandelier earrings and more. Every item is one-of-a-kind and handmade in Arizona with a dazzling variety of beads.
Her handmade jewelry draws on her love of fantasy, faerie lore, tribal belly dance and the steampunk subculture. She designs with these passions in mind, always striving to create something that is equally at home with a costume or day-to-day wear.
wire wrapped bracelet by Faerie Kat
Faerie Kat’s Dream Faire wares are handmade necklaces and chokers, bracelets and cuffs, rings and earrings, tarot bags and pixie pouches, faerie stars, handcrafted books and folders with jeweled pens, tiny crocheted bowls and baskets, and other trinkets and treasures shaped from the ethereal gossamer of Kat’s dreams.
She is inspired by the magic of nature, mythology and legends, fantasy and folklore, fairy tales and faeries, all living in a world overlooked or unseen by most.

deer necklace by Heidi Kummli
Heidi Kummli’s beadwork is an expression of herself, and her feelings for our Mother Earth and the creatures upon her. Through researching Native American beadwork techniques and trial and error, her work has continually evolved. Heidi started working with beads in 1975 and remembers making jewelry even as a young child. Heidi’s great grandmother was a Chippewa Indian that did beadwork for Vaudeville. Heidi feels this gift was passed down to her. She currently lives on 12 acres west of Boulder, Colorado with her husband Gregg, and their son Benjamin age 15. Their home is totally off the grid. The sun and a back up generator is all they need to power their home. Heidi has won numerous design awards throughout her career. She hopes that through her work she can share the beauty that surrounds her.

JG Beaded Jewelry offers handcrafted beaded jewelry and unique gifts including beaded earrings, bracelets, necklaces, crystal sun catchers, rear view mirror car decorations, beaded bookmarks, real bug necklaces, insect key chains and Lovin Life stickers.
She loves beads & gemstones and started creating jewelry when she was very young. They say, if you love something – stick with it, well… she has stuck with it (for decades).

necklace by Rainwater Studios
Rainwater Studios explains: “Each piece I make is unique and enchanted. From faeries who frolic and play to butterflies in flight. I like to use vintage jewelry pieces and precious stones to mesmerize the eye.  Each piece has a story to add a personal touch. From the Celtic highlands to the romantic times of the Regency Era. You are sure to find a special piece that you will soon want to call your own.”


earrings by Seattle Chic
Seattle Chic is a 1-woman artisan business, creating handmade jewelry & jewelry-quality accessories for boutiques, online, & local customers.

She says: “I can’t imagine a life without passion. Making imaginative, original jewelry & photographing it keep me busy all day & up half the night. When I do sleep, I dream up new designs & can’t wait to get up to make them real. I hope you find something here that you love & sense the joy I felt when creating it!”

ancient eye bracelet by Splendid Fish

Splendid Fish says “Each piece of high quality handcrafted jewelry from Splendid Fish Studio is based on original designs imagined and hand tooled by B. de Corbin.

You won’t find pieces like these made by anyone else, or sold anywhere else in the world. I work with copper, brass, and silver using a variety of ancient techniques such as forging and enamelling.  My work is derived from the work of the ancient metalsmiths, but is still contemporary, and is designed and constructed to please the discriminating collector. This is not just costume jewelry – each piece is an original, quality piece of art!”

ear cuff by Thyme2Dream
 Thyme 2 Dream states: “I create jewelry for Fae & Elven folk and have recently discovered that mortals like it too…in my shop you will find unusual jewelry items~ ear cuffs, bohemian wraps (ear wraps), arm cuffs, tiaras, circlets, hair vines combs & twirls, rainbows and other fairy accouterments.
Fantasy, Medieval and Renaissance wedding jewelry is also a specialty of mine…I would love to work with you to create something unique for YOUR special day!


thistle ring by Winged Lion
Winged Lion says that they’re “an artistic family – Natalia, Sergey, and our teenage son Lev. In our etsy store you can see Jewelry made by Sergey and original hand-pulled prints by Natalia and Lev. 
Having an extensive fine art background, Sergey combines deep knowledge of art history, refined taste, vivid imagination, and the ability to turn his artistic fantasies and inspirations into accurate and realistic renderings. Some of Sergey’s jewelry pieces are designed by himself, some by me [Natalia]. Our creative collaboration resulted in producing jewelry which can be truly called wearable art.


filigree earrings by 1000 Dragonflies
1000 Dragonflies creates exquisite vintage inspired filigree jewelry, using components from her extensive collection of vintage and antique rhinestones. She has an excellent eye for line and color, and her work is particularly drool-worthy!

These artists’ work may or may not be to your taste. Of course, I hope that you will love their work as much as I do, and choose to support them … but if you don’t, please consider doing your holiday shopping with other independent artists on Etsy, or at local craft fairs.

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Handmade Holiday Gifts Part Deux ~ DIY Supplies (or Gifts For Your Bead Babe)

In my previous post, I stressed the importance of stepping back from the media pressure to CONSUME during the holiday season, and I urged people to focus on finding more meaningful and affordable gifts. In that post — and the subsequent comments — we discussed the value in buying handmade and local. In the coming weeks I hope to share cool finds from some of my favorite artists, tinkers and makers (and I would love it if you would share your favorites too!); but first, I’d like to encourage some old fashioned DIY…

As I’ve mentioned before, creating beadwork is soothing and meditative. If you opt to make your own gifts, your recipient will not only have a lovely and meaningful gift that was handcrafted by you; but you may de-stress a bit in the process of creating that gift! Win, win — right? I’d like to enable … I mean, assist you with that goal. Below, you’ll find a few of my favorite beady businesses. These are woman owned small businesses, run by people who actually bead (the latter may sound  funny, but I assure you that this is becoming increasingly rare)! They are passionate about their products, and they add beauty to the world not only through their wares, but through their spirits. Each one is worthy of your support, and you can feel good about supporting small businesses and amazing individuals in one swell foop. I am including their locations, in case you’d like to take it a step further, and buy locally:

Beyond Beadery’s infamous wall-o-crystal!

 Beyond Beadery is owned by Betcey Ventrella and her sweetheart of a man, Mark. They are based out of Rollinsville, Colorado.

Miz Betcey is the undisputed queen of Swarovski crystal. She carries these sparkly confections in every imaginable color, size and shape. She also carries an impressive selection of Japanese seed beads, as well as those super special heavy metal seed beads. Scrumptious stuff! You should have no problem finding gorgeous supplies here — or perhaps a gift certificate for your favorite beader?

photo via

Another excellent source for seed beads is Out on a Whim , which is located in Cotati, CA. Out on a Whim is owned by Beki and Shawn Haley, who are absolutely beautiful people! Their shop has been family owned and operated since it opened in … sheesh, at least the early 90’s? Beki is a talented bead artist and instructor so she definitely knows her stuff! Her staff is equally knowledgeable, and their prices are highly competitive.

Beki recently taught at the popular BABE show, and she is scheduled to teach again at the Bead and Button show in Summer of 2012. She designs original patterns, which she offers as kits (complete with materials and instructions). If you’re looking for projects to make as gifts, or even just gifts for the bead addict on your list, you should definitely visit her kits page.

Those of you in the midwest might prefer to pay a visit to Stormcloud Trading (AKA “Beadstorm”), which is located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Stormcloud was opened in 1987 by the fabulous Sandi Graves. Her shop focuses on traditional and contemporary beading supplies, as well as leatherworking and metal supplies. Sandi is an accomplished beadworker, and she also works with enamel and metal.

Amazing work by Julia S. Pretl

If you’re looking for easy gifts, why not try a book, pattern or bead kit? As I mentioned above, these are great stress-free projects because they simplify the design process — and they make excellent gifts for bead fanatics! If you want to go this route, I have some great recommendations for you. First, I suggest books or patterns by the intensely talented Julia S. Pretl of Baltimore, MD. I’ve gushed extensively on this blog about Julia and her work (seriously, just check my tags to the right) so I will keep this suggestion simple: Julia is amazing. Go check her out!

BQ squares designed by Charley

Another bead designer that I love is Charlene Hughes, AKA “Beady Boop” of Arcata, CA. She was one of the first designers to start publishing pattern books, and she remains one of the most prolific and innovative designers of intricate peyote patterns. Charley no longer maintains her own website, but you can still find many of her books and patterns at Rita’s site.

Charley only beaded one of the 9/11 Bead Quilt squares on the panel to the right, but the other 3 squares were created using her designs. As you can see, she has an excellent eye for line and color.

Sparkly Wheels by Nikia Angel

Another great source for bead kits and patterns is Buy the Kit, which is owned by Nikia Angel of Albuquerque NM. The site features a wealth of Nikia’s beautiful bead designs, along with many other talented designers’ work. At this point, BTK represents over 20 well known bead instructors, many of whom teach at high profile shows such as Bead Fest and Bead and Button. Their designs reflect a wide array of styles and skill levels, so you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.

You’ll find complete bead kits with materials and instructions, or you can choose from their “Beadless Kits” (AKA patterns) for necklaces, bracelets, bags, earrings, dolls, hair wear and more.

vintage glass cabs from Treefrog Beads

Last but not least, I’d like to give a little plug for my own virtual bead store, Treefrog Beads! I’m based out of Seattle, WA, and my focus is on vintage and antique beads and cabochons. I’ve been collecting old and unusual beads since the 1980’s, and I especially love glass cabochons, Swarovski crystal and antique micro seed beads. You can find my complete selection at my website, which is linked above — or you can peruse my listings over on Etsy. One caveat about ordering from me right now, though — I’ll be on the road from mid November through early December, so if you order during that time, there will be a slight delay in shipping.

So there you have it! If you love beads — or if you love someone who loves beads — you have a wealth of choices for great supplies and/or gifts! Again, each of the small businesses listed above is owned and operated by a wonderful woman. If your holiday list includes beads or beading supplies, I strongly encourage you to support one of these shops!

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Season’s close…

Wow, what a great Halloween season! I know it sounds weird to call it a “season” since Halloween is really just a “day” — but I prepare for this far in advance, so it feels like a full season to me. 

This year, I got to work with some of the coolest customers ! I also learned a lot. I’ve been doing this for well over a decade now, and there have been quite a few years where Halloween kicked my ass and totally wrecked my hands, too. I love the flurry of sales, but it’s still harsh when I’m bandaging my wrists and alternating heat and ice packs on my hands by the end of October; and of course, my family doesn’t enjoy seeing me babbling incoherently amidst a pile of leather scraps and glitter. They may find it amusing, but they don’t enjoy it.  I guess I can get a little mean…

With that said, I was determined to pace myself this year. For the most part, I think I did a pretty good job — as evidenced by the fact that I am even capable of writing this. There’s still room for improvement,  and I see several things that I can do differently next year. So there was a learning curve, but it wasn’t as steep as years past. I’m extremely happy about that.

My customers were amazingly positive, patient and encouraging, and I cannot express my gratitude enough. The closest I can come is to offer you all a 15% discount off all orders in my Etsy shop from now through Friday, November 4th, 2011. To take advantage of this offer, simply use the code “thankyou” at check out.
I’ve posted a few of my awesome customers’ costumes here. If you’d like to see more, please visit my 2011 Virtual Costume Contest on facebook (don’t forget to vote for your favorites by “liking” them!) 

Now that Halloween is over, I think I’ll take a brief respite from mask making so that I can focus on hair accessories and beaded jewelry. My beads have been calling to me for months now, and I’m more than ready to listen. Beadwork is slow and meditative — perfect for winter, and for unwinding after the bustle of Halloween madness.
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10th Anniversary

This picture shows 4 of the 576 beaded squares that comprise the 9/11 Bead Quilt Project that I was so blessed to be a part of. The square in the lower right corner was my (then 8 year old) daughter’s first piece of bead embroidery. Her square, like all of the others, measures 3 inches high by 3 inches wide. By itself, it’s a small token — but collectively, these quilts measure approximately 9 ft by 9 ft. That’s 81 square feet of tiny little beads, woven by people from around the world; woven by people who felt compelled to share their grief, love and hope in response to those tragic events.

The quilts are now in the collection of the National September 11th Museum and Memorial at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan. A few people have asked me if the quilts will be displayed publicly today. Unfortunately, they will not. I misunderstood and thought that the museum would have its grand opening today, but in actuality, the memorial is the only portion that will open this year. The museum will open next year (2012). Until then, you can enjoy these beautiful and healing works in our online gallery. I encourage you to take a moment to view the project today. Remember what happened, pray for the families and survivors, and hope for healing.

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Adventures in Negative Space

Apparently, I’m still on a cuff kick. I’ve made a couple new ones since my last cuff post, and I have more in the works. Not that I’m cranking them out or anything. If you’ve ever done beadwork, you know — it is simply  impossible to “crank out” quality beadwork.

These are a bit simpler than my filigree cuffs. I’ve been using them to explore my aversion to negative space. To be clear, it’s not that I dislike negative space… it’s just that when I get in the beading groove, sometimes it’s hard to stop myself from filling everything up with color and texture.

So I’m consciously trying to leave some open space with these. It amuses me to notice how challenging that can be. It takes conscious effort for me not to bead every square inch of the cuff!

I suppose that I’m improving, though. This brown and green cuff is my second attempt at deliberate open space. The smaller purple & teal cuff below was my first try, and as you can see, the ends are really the only areas that leave any open space.

The one that I’m still working on is primarily open space, with just a beaded focal and edging. I like it, but I’ve got the nagging feeling that it isn’t finished. Once I complete the edging, I’ll post a picture here and on my facebook fan page. It might be interesting to see what kind of response it gets. Maybe that sense that’s it’s incomplete is just a manifestation of my compulsive desire to bead everything? 😉