Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I didn't make many Halloween-themed beads this year--a few spiders and candy corn, but that was it. However, many other beadmakers did, including some of the amazingly talented Southern Flames beadmakers.

You can see their work here, at Flame Tree Glass's Halloween Contest page. There's information on the main pane, and on the left there are two .pdf files with pictures of the entries. All I can say is WOW, WOW, WOW! at the imagination, creativity, and quality. These people went ALL OUT. Puts my candy corn in the shade, for sure --- but I'm in awe!

Some of my favorites: The Trick or Treaters, by Marcy Lamberson:

Raven's Last Temptation, by Koi Creek Beads

In sculpture, there's Stephanie White's Graveyard:

And a phenomenal boro life-size skeleton by Doug:

Go over to Flame Tree and look at ALL the entries -- they're beyond incredible.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I've been tagged!

I tend to catch up on blogs once a week, so I missed this (sorry, Marcy!). Marcy Lamberson of Studio Marcy tagged me for this one. Marcy makes amazingly whimsical glass beads and sculptures, and in her free flow of ideas, sense of fun, and craftswomanship combined is what I want to be when I grow up.

So, here's the rules!

1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by including links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

1. I teach European history at a local university as my Real Job, in a program for returning adults. Melting glass keeps me from killing my students, but so does the knowledge that I am playing a part in helping people make their lives much better.

2. Two months ago I acquired a rescue shepherd / lab / spitz mix, Justin Renate McCavity Wigglebutt, Esq. (Who can guess how he got his middle two names)? He is delightful, pushes every boundary, can be a real pain in the ol' butt, just passed his Stage One obedience training, and is a snugglebug par excellence. In other words, he's Justin-Other Good Dog. Anyone want some beads with shepherd hair inclusions?

3. When my cats are all curled up together in a heap I feel ridiculously happy, and start singing "Asleeeeeeeeeeeeep in a heeeeeeeeeeeap" until I sound positively simple.

4. My neighborhood has a new dog park! Justin and I go nearly every day. It's only 2/10 of a mile down the road.

5. When the weather gets cold I don't turn up the heat, but I wear mismatched fuzzy or fleecy socks in wild colours.

6. My workbench is a desk / table from a local hotel that had been bought by another chain and was renovating. They gave me a deep discount because there were scratches on the table-top. W00T! I did not mention that I planned to tile the top ... bad me, no doughnut.

7. I need to upload recent images to my Bead Artists' Gallery site.

Okay: tagging!

1. One-eared Pig:
2. Dogmaw Glass:
3. Ashton Jewels:
4. Art of the Firebird:
5. Dorset Hill Beads:
6. Gwaciebeads:
7. BeadNerd:

Ya'll have fun now!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Creative Slump II: Side Trip down New Glass Lane

Saturday was the first meeting of the Southern Flames lampworking group that I have been able to attend for a while. Meetings are most often on Wednesday nights, and very often I am teaching on Wednesday evenings.

It was a fun meeting. During the meeting, we had a new visitor--Brad Shute of Striking Color. He brought samples of his new silver glass, and offered his odds and short ends at a very reduced price. They looked lovely! I decided to try it, but, as I have had mixed success with the silver glasses, I thought I would invest in only a quarter pound.

After the meeting, Marcy Lamberson (StudioMarcy) and I were the only two who took him up on his offer. We walked out into the chilly night, over to the back of Brad's truck. He pulled out a scale, and three cardboard boxes full of short ends. We began making silly jokes about getting our glass "Crack," complete with parking-lot dealers and careful scales. I should say that

Brad was very generous in his reading of quarter pounds and pounds -- he gave me more like half a pound of glass. Marcy bought a pound, and her total was likewise a good bit over her specified amount. We all shook hands, made more jokes about midnight goods handovers, and headed out to our respective ways. I went to the last part of the Open Studio night at Duckbill Studios, and Marcy went home.

Well, I got to try the glass on Sunday, which distracted me from Gwacie's assignments. I have had hit-or-miss results with many silver glasses, and in general find that *for me* they aren't worth the price. I do well with Taxco and Rocio Silver Mist, but the new Terra and other glasses just never work as well for me as they do for many others--it's purely my technique. So I approached Brad's glass with a combination of determination and trepidation! I didn't have much torch time, but I made a wanna-be barrel and some sprees.

The barrel, alas, broke through the bead release before I finished shaping it, and appears to be permanently fused to the mandrel. This is the one bad thing about middle-dipped mandrels, IMHO; one's occasional plant stakes are much shorter. But the silver glass produced absolutely beautiful colors with almost no fuss.
The glass does not like to be encased, I found, at least not with Diamond Clear. It's technically COE 104, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is compatible with all 104 glasses. You can see the cracks in the spree beads, feh and double feh. So: no or only very light encasing, where the ratio of clear to base is smaller. The barrel is encased, too, but there were no cracks because the clear was less of a percentage of the whole bead.

So that took up my torching time on Sunday, and is bringing back some of my enthusiasm. Brad's glass gets a solid thumbs-up sign from me, as well. I am teaching Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday I want to go vote (IF YOU CAN, GO VOTE EARLY. THIS IS AN HISTORIC ELECTION NO MATTER WHO YOU BACK--PLEASE PARTICIPATE!). Friday, though ... time to work on assignments and custom orders, and maybe some more of Brad's silver glass.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Creative Slump Assignments I

So the last few weeks I have been in a creative slump. I don't know whether it was doing a series of shows plus my regular work, or whether it's simply that something in my brain is saying that it's time to pay attention to necessary repairs around the house. The kitchen needs repainting, the living room flooring needs to be changed from filthy carpet to laminate, and the garden is in desperate need of attention and winterizing. As my job comes first and there are so many leisure hours in the day, the torch is of necessity taking a background spot right now.

Maybe that's a good thing, because it lets me regenerate. But when I don't torch regularly, I also feel as if, when I do come to the torch, as if all I do is to waste glass.

What to do, what to do? I still have one custom order to finish, and while sometimes one is sick of making the same beads over and over and OVER, at the same time, structure is a good way to jump start the ideas for new beads.

I also asked friends to give me assignments, and Gwacie of Gwaciebeads came up with an assignment: a blue focal with dots spiraling on it. Another friend, Tinroof, suggested beads made with two variants of copper ruby frit and silver on a black base.

The CR bead didn't work for me, but in fairness I tried it last, and was tired. As for the blue focal, first I took Gwacie literally and tried my hand at THE blue bead (first picture, made by Sarakay). This bead style became a real sensation for a while, and generated many copies after Sarakay posted her fantastic tutorial. I didn't get the right reaction, but you can see a little bit of it on my bead. It isn't THE Blue Bead, but it is still pretty.

Then I actually did Gwacie's assignment. First off was a bead
of turquoise and that lovely peachy coral, the one that can go orange and peach and all shades in between. I layered the dots (they really intersect, not swirl) and copper mesh.

Then I tried a new Vetrofond color that has a really nice streaky clear blue background, and made swirled dots for it. I just grabbed stringers at random, and found that they were some I had mixed for a floral bead. That meant that the dots were not crisp and clean, but instead were somewhat muddy. Oh, well. It fit the bill. Then I got sidetracked trying to make good chunky discs.

Next up when I get to the torch will be the Copper Ruby / fine silver reaction, as per Tinroof, and Gwacie's next assignment: the longest tube bead I have ever made, the teeniest decorated bead I have ever made, and the bead with the most colors I have ever used. Of course, I wound up taking a side-trip this last weekend ... tell you about that tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Doodles Mosaic Tiles

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST. Today's topic is:

Doodles Mosaic Tiles has a broad array of mosaic tiles for mosaic artists. Many of her tiles are clear, in a variety of patterns and sizes. However, she has lovely broken china tiles, glass globs, and holiday items. Fhe also carries neodymium magnets, and a wonderful clearance section (titled, amusingly, "Oops!") that almost seduced me into trying my hand at mosaics.

By far the most interesting part of her shop, though, are her custom made hand painted tiles. Whimsical, bright, and cheerful, these tiles would turn any mosaic art from humdrum to spectacular.

With 597 sales, Doodles is going great guns! Check her shop out. If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Destashing Diva

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST. Today's topic is:

Destashing Diva has a funky shop, focused around sewing patterns and supplies. She's got 1980s and earlier patterns, a hefty chunk of sewing supplies, and cool fabric fat quarters and bundles, like this piece:
Her patterns are great for kids and adults. She even has some scrapbooking supplies -- fiber is fiber, after all, and many scrapbook embellishments use sewing notions.

With 175 items for sale, and 100% satisfaction, you're sure to find something good in this shop!

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Dainty Pretty Crafts

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST. Today's topic is:

Okay,I admit it -- I have a bias toward paper crafts; I did bookbinding as a hobby for many years before being seduced by the lure of molten glass. Dainty Pretty Crafts has a wonderful shop. She sells card-stock paper pillow boxes in arrays of wonderful colors and prints. Her color and pattern choices range from the cute to the elegant and arty, as you can see here: . Every box is beautifully crafted, to boot, and at $1 a box, you can't go wrong.

Dainty Pretty Crafts also has fold-out pop up cards that are just exquisite. She has space in her shop for handmade envelopes, which, when she lists them, will be (I am sure) every bit as carefully crafted as her cards. She has gift boxes as well.

Lavish some love on this wonderful shop! If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Crostini VS

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! MMMM, crostini were some of my favorite treats when I visited Rome, and so it is only fitting that Crostini*VS sells both vintage and some of my favorite supplies!

Crostini's shop announcement says that she is "Specializing in "hard-to-find" vintage papers and fabrics, fiber supplies, plus "Wicked Cool" project packs to jumpstart your own creative endeavors!" -- and it is true. Just check out some of the papers and fabrics she has! Of course, as an historian In Real Life, my attention was grabbed by her paper pack of vintage Boston photos and her 1981 continent maps. Since when was 1981 well over a quarter of a century ago? Wasnt' that when I entered college? But I digress.

Crostini's just starting out, so her shop is still small. But her offerings (which also include upcycled and handmade craft items) are, in her own words, wicked cool -- check her out! She's got 18 sales so far, so send some love her way.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Crinoline Stash

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! I'm back on a roll, and the next ON the roll is the lovely Crinoline Stash.

Crinoline Stash has a brightly colored stash of supplies. She says in her announcement, "I've got acrylic felt, shrinky dinks, fun beads, findings, and an eclectic mix of supplies!" And she's not lying. Looking through her shop is like looking at the most cheerful rainbow you can imagine. She has a lot of wonderful findings, including colorful jump rings for your chain maille needs. There's ribbons and cords and overall a riot of rainbow colors!

Crinoline also has a store for her own crafts, and uses many of her own supplies to make her goods--so check that out, too, if you want even more inspiration.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Cocomo

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! It's been over a month, and my poor teammates have been very patient. Here's introducing a team member with a fantastically funny sense of humor, Cocomo Mosaics.

Cocomo has mosaic art in several different styles, ranging from the lovely to the quirky. She has a wide assortment of finished tiles, from glass blob tiles, retro tiles, and flower tiles. My favorite section are the coolio tiles. These are just!

Cocomo has 728 sales ... and lots of happy customers! So go check her out if you're looking for mosaic art supplies.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

While on the topic of jewelry ...

I finished the lampwork and sterling necklace a friend commissioned, for her wedding anniversary present. She saw the beads, and that was it -- I never even put them on Etsy. Her instructions were for something simple, too --- simple can be harder than bling at times. But she liked this design, which made me feel happy, too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

GTT Cricket --thumbs UP!

I am in LOVE. With a torch.

You'd think it silly, being this much in love with a torch that is technically a step down from the torch I have now, a Bethlehem Piranha. Dogmaw of Dogmaw Glass reviewed the Cricket, and when I saw that review I knew I had to try it. The Cricket is Glass Torch Technology's latest entry level torch, with only five ports instead of the seven their previous entry-level torch, the Bobcat, had. In terms of price, the Cricket is a clear winner. The Bobcat runs $195. Both the Piranha and the Betta are made by Bethlehem (the Betta replaced the older Piranha), but both torches ran in the $300-$350 range, whereas the Cricket is on special, introductory pricing now ($139) and will reach a final price of $167.

However, price isn't everything. Glasswork tends to make you either patiently Zen (Naos and Nikki Carollo come to mind, two stellar beadmakers who prefer to work on a HotHead torch) or a speed and fire junkie. I am inherently impatient, so I have to join the chant of "burn, baby, burn!". I want the most torch for my setup, but I can't afford tanked oxygen, nor would it be safe to use it in my current location. Tanked oxy in my breakfast nook? That would be a resounding NO.
However, Dogmaw noted that in terms of heat and speed that the Cricket outperformed her Betta; and as the Betta is the newer version of my Piranha, it was a safe bet that the Cricket would outperform my Piranha, too. And it did. I hadn't played with borosilicate for a while, but I made some glass pendants and hollow shapes with the Piranha, and then with the Cricket. My experience matched Dogmaw's--while I didn't time each bead as precisely as she did, the Cricket was significantly faster.
When I turned on the second oxygen concentrator, I had to be careful not to burn through my mandrels fast! Borosilicate melted reasonably fast, Moretti transparents just wilted, and Moretti whites and ivories were like buttah. I'd have to dial this torch down far to work with Satake.

The flame can get bushy and then move down to a true pinpoint. I could make larger pieces with the Cricket than I could with the Piranha, including a freeform drop fan pull, and shaping was easier because of that wide flame. (I'd like to try a teardrop shape next.)
I could also do smaller pieces with ease, including buttons. Pendants were a snap, as were large hollow beads. And the Cricket has a sweet spot, which, oddly enough, is harder to find on the Piranha. Striking was easier on the Cricket than on the Piranha, and so was reducing. Mmmmm, some of the colors I got .... wow. While we're on color reaction, raku in soft glass works amazingly well on the Cricket.

The reason the tiny Cricket can perform so well is that the Cricket was created to maximize its use of a 5 lpm oxygen concentrator, and on two oxycons this little torch really rocks, whereas the other torches on the market were intended for use with tanked oxygen. If I had a Regalia oxycon, or tanked oxy, I suspect that my Piranha would work better (or that I would be dreaming of a Lynx). But I don't, and I have other things to spend money on--heat envy only takes me so far before I bump into economic and practical reality. So, overall, I have to echo Dogmaw's grade. As a professor AND as a lampworker, I have to say that the Cricket has earned an A++. I think its only downside will be that it is fussier and more prone to clogging, as are all GTT torches --- but I haven't had any problems yet, and regular cleaning and running the candles at the suggested length will help with that possible problem. And I always have my trusty Piranha as backup!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Best Bead Release

Finally I have gotten to try the bead release sample I was given at the Down the Street Bead Show by the owners of Forward Motion Arts. This is the release that they formulated specifically for higher humidity areas. Most of the releases out there are created in the inter-mountain West, where it is generally very dry (and OH, how I miss that lack of humidity!). The problem is that for those of us in more humid areas, the release flakes and pops and generally misbehaves.

I can't claim to have worked with it extensively, but so far the Best Bead Release is living up to its claim. It has passed at least three tests. 1) It flame-dries well, with minimal popping or flaking. 2) It air dries well, and does not flake or crack even after sitting on the mandrel for a solid week. 3) It stood up to boro work. I have not pressed much with it, and when I did I found that it flaked about the same amount that a mixture of Foster Fire Smooth 'n Tuff and a smidge of Dirty Looie's (which, alone, is one of the worst releases I have ever used, but which seems to add something good to Smooth 'n Tuff, go figure). But that was with flame drying, and at least the release didn't produce the sludge that sticks to the ends of beads.

Will post more as I try it, but thus far the Best Bead Release has a cautious thumbs-up from me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I have Applied For ...

the Indie Craft Experience show here in Atlanta. Both Art of the Firebird and I are applying, but separately; the booth size is so small that we really can't share a table. We do plan to put our tables together, though, so we can use the same credit card machine.

They wanted some pictures, and so I gave them pictures of my loose beads. They also want finished jewelry, so I re-photographed some of the jewelry and fan pulls that I've made. Everything is sterling silver, of course, except for the fan pulls, which are brass.

It sounds as if it would be fun to do, though in the current economy I hope we break even. I did spectacularly well at the last Down the Street Bead Show, but that was before the economic bail-out!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Okay, I usually stay out of politics on this blog. That's for my personal friends-only account, not one attached to a business name where people of all different political persuasions could be stopping by (oh, yeah, I am so optimistic).

But. I've been listening to the election rhetoric, and to what my students say and what I overhear on the bus. And so I am breaking my political moratorium to ask:

What is wrong with all of us??

When did it become okay to dismiss an entire group of people because they disagree? I hear people from both ends of the political spectrum saying, gleefully, that their political opponents will not like what is going to happen when Obama or McCain becomes president, as if all policy can be reduced to a partisan poke at the values and goals of the opposition. I hear people talking about the "out of touch liberal intellectuals" and the "ignorant fundamentalists" and "Joe Six-Pack" and "liberal elitists" and "average American," and in a phrase dismissing anything the target group has to say. In effect, what anyone who uses this tactic is saying is that people who disagree with you can be derided, dismissed, and ignored.

When did we become an us-versus them society? When did scoring points off our political opponents become more important than finding a common ground to begin working for mutually beneficial things? When did we forget that we ALL live in this country? That other people can add up the very same facts as we have and come to different conclusions ... and that doing so does not make them stupid or selfish? That the fundamentalist and the atheist, the liberal and the conservative, the country folk and the city folk ALL bleed the same color, and have feelings and worries and fears and joys, just like us? That people who aren't just like us are still humans and fellow Americans? When did what we individually want become so important that we have become willing to sacrifice others to get it?

Although I teach European history, I give my students one of the following exercises during election years, as the first night's introduction to argument and the use of evidence. In one, I ask them to take the opposite political stance, and think how they would convince someone to vote for that approach. That means they have to understand the other folks' arguments, and the logic behind those arguments. They have to represent the other stance fairly and honestly--no reducing the conservatives or liberals to straw men that can be blown down with little effort by any "right thinking" person. And they have to use non-partisan, non-judgemental language. They can't subtly indicate by language or tone that they disagree.

In the other exercise, I divide the students into teams--Republicans and Democrats. I try to put as many Dems on the Republican team as I can, and vice versa. Each team has an hour in the library or computer lab, and then they have to debate their position (on a predefined set of issues, so that each team prepares well) with the other team. Again--they have to use evidence, they can't resort to name-calling, to disparaging language, or to solely emotional arguments. I don't want to hear that someone's voting for Obama because he's a black, no matter what his positions are; I don't want to hear that someone's voting for McCain because he was a POW, no matter what his positions are. I want to hear reasons based on an understanding of the positions of each candidate, and the assumptions that lie behind those positions (such as, "We should have as little government interference in free enterprise as possible," or "Only big government can protect Americans against big business" or other ideas).

The goal is to get people to listen to and understand people on the other side of the debate. The more we insulate ourselves from people who don't agree with us, and the more we dehumanize those people by our language and our inattention, the more we will fail as a nation. When we understand the others--even if we still disagree wholeheartedly--we can begin to talk. Yet what I hear in politics, over and over, is the adolescent assumption that understanding requires agreement; any disagreement is proof that one doesn't get it.

We ALL live here--conservative, liberal, black, white, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, fundamentalist or atheist or theologically liberal, male, female, bisexual, transsexual, metrosexual, non-sexual, lesbian or gay, married, single, young, middle aged, old, urban, rural, suburban, educated, uneducated, ill, healthy, green or not, military or peacenik ... the list goes on.

And none of those names represent a whole group of people. Copperwise has a lovely essay on why "Joe Six-Pack" is inaccurate and meaningless. She's aiming it at Governor Palin, but the same could be said for any name for "THEM" by either conservative or liberal.

I am "THEM." You are "THEM,"

We are all human beings, and my dearest hope is that we remember that in time.

End rant.

Friday, October 3, 2008

At the Show III: Peyote Stitch

One of the things I value most about any conference or convention, whether it is in my professional field or my crafting field, is the serendipitous discovery of new ideas. I always come away exhausted (Dogmaw and I had drinks and dinner at O'Charley's on the last night of the show, and were in bed by nine-thirty!), but bursting with ideas. As I fell asleep I was thinking about what I wanted to make, and how I could accomplish a new design, and many other things.

Among the items I saw at the show were amazing examples of peyote stitch. I had known about it for a long time, but had never really taken any interest--until I saw some phenomenal examples at the show, both from vendors like Dogmaw Glass, and from attendees like the man below. Check out his necklace!

And a close-up:

The beauty of peyote stitch is that it is portable. More than that, for me at least, it combines the feel of fiber art with glass--you're making fabric out of glass!

Here are some links I have found for peyote stitch instruction:

Even and Odd Count Peyote Stitch Instructions (From Suzanne Cooper).

Bead and Button Peyote Stitch Tutorial (PDF)

Beltana's beads: Tubular Peyote Stitch

(VIDEO) Karla Kam: Peyote Stitch Bracelet

If you haven't tried peyote stitch, these are some places to start.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

This Sunday

I will be at the Amalgam Arts Trunk Show, from 11-4. We're right around the corner from the Farmers' Market, so you can save gas--come shop with us and then go over to the Market! Art of the Firebird and Becky Sizemore will be there, too -- lots of beautiful beads!

Pass around the flyer, too!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

At the Show II: Bead Release and Tiffany Glass

One of the neat things about doing a show is that you get to talk to many interesting vendors. The owners of Forward Motion Arts were there. They were handing out samples of a new bead release that they have formulated. Bead release is basically kiln wash, and kiln wash is basically kaolin and alumina hydrate. Some add graphite, or nepheline syenite, or diatomaceous earth. It's easy to mix, but one doesn't want to breathe the release in while reaming beads, which is why, unless I am very broke, I use commercial releases. My favorite so far has been Foster Fire Smooth 'n Tuff

The thing that is so exciting about that is that most bead releases have been formulated with the dry inter-mountain west in mind, or the humid but cool western coast. Here in the subtropical south, many bead releases crack, flake, or just won't hold. Most people I know who torch in this region use a mix of commercial products or make their own. However, Forward Motion Arts has a new release that was formulated and tested here in the humid South! I am looking forward to working with it. Like all good releases, it can be air or flame-dried (i.e. wafted in and out of the torch flame to speed drying).

The owner of Forward Motion Arts also had a special present for all of the flameworkers at the show: three rods of assorted glass. What maker? we asked him. "There's a story," he replied. (The following text is from FMA's EBAY auctions.) "I bought these rods a couple of years ago from a supplier who had found them hidden in a warehouse in France. They had been sitting in their warehouse since the 1950s. There [were] only limited quantities of it in each of the colors and all the colors except one sold out within a few months. ... I have looked up the history of it and have found that opalescent glass is very rare. ... In trying to find out who made it and where did it come from, here is what I have found." What he found was that the glass was not produced in the 1950s, but in the 20s and 30s ... in the Tiffany color palette, likely by a member of the Tiffany family.

And he GAVE US SOME! One of each rod color. MMMMMM.