Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kansas City Part Two: The Classic Bead

One of the things I was looking forward to the most on our trip to Kansas City was the possibility of meeting a talented bead artist that I have purchased from online, Tracee Dock of The Classic Bead.  I used one of her lovely pendants in my necklace for the April Art Bead Scene Challenge, you can see it HERE.  Tracee and I had emailed back and forth a couple of times and I shared my blog post using her bead, so I decided to ask if she had time to meet while we were in her neck of the woods.  To my delight, she said yes and we arranged a meeting time.

Saturday morning Eric and I made the drive down scenic Ward Parkway over to Tracee's house.  (As a side note, the houses along most of this drive were insane!  I'm talking giant estates and mansions with statuary and fountains in the median and on the corners of the cross streets.)  When we got there Tracee welcomed us into her lovely home (it sounds like she's been working hard renovating it and her daughter's new house!) and introduced us to her boyfriend Paul.  Soon after, her gorgeous kitty, Thompson followed us in to make our acquaintance as well.  I wish I had gotten a photo of him since he was such a pretty boy...sweet too.

Tracee and Sarajo... both wearing necklaces featuring Tracee's pendants.
We all hung out for a while talking and getting to know each other a bit...and then I got to go shopping!  Tracee had graciously pulled out tons of her work for me to go digging through.  There were so many great pieces but I knew I couldn't buy them all!  Lucky for me, Eric was willing to help me look through everything and we were both busy pulling things into the "maybe" pile.  It was so very hard to whittle that pile down to something reasonable but I finally did it.  Eric was good at keeping me focused and making decisions (likely because he was past ready to get on to the next brew pub on our list).

I was like a kid in a candy store!  So many lovely things to go digging through.
Participating in various design challenges has been helping me to start using (and stop hoarding) my art beads.  I was finally starting to make a very tiny dent in my mountain but I have now erased all progress on that front!  What's worse, is that the more blogs that I start following, the more talented artists I find, and the more art beads I end up buying.  A viscous cycle but oh so much fun!  I suppose that there are far worse addictions to have.  Here's a peek at the goodies that I brought home with me:

Bright flower pendants... so many gorgeous colors!

I think I picked up a great variety of things.

Some matched pairs for earrings.
I truly appreciate Tracee opening up her home (and her bead stash!) to me and allowing us to come over.  It was really fun meeting the artist behind the pendants I have been  drooling over and purchasing online.  I look forward to seeing what other designs she comes up with and will continue to keep an eye on her Etsy shop and Facebook page.

Gorgeous beads will always make me a very happy girl, but it is just so much more special when you get to meet and know the artisan who crafted them.  It just adds another emotional layer to the design process for me.  I can't wait to start working some of Tracee's lovely beads into some new designs!  Since I'm doing the AJE Earring Challenge, I think I know where I'll be starting...  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Road Trip to Kansas City

Eric and I have been wanting to go and visit Kansas City for a couple of years now... probably originally getting the idea because one of our favorite Celtic rock bands, The Elders, is based out of there.  Well, we finally got a good excuse to go visit in the form of a wedding invitation from Ali and Greg, a great couple we met back in 2011 when we traveled to Ireland with the Elders for the second time.

With their wedding date set for the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, Eric and I set out for a super long weekend (at least that's how I'm viewing it!) to Kansas City last Wednesday.  We got into town early enough to join the happy couple at a nearby bar where their wedding band, Bob Walkenhorst and Guests, plays almost every week.  It was great to hang out with them over great live music, yummy food, and local beer for a while.  It was a fabulous start to our KC adventures!

The next couple of days were a blur of trying lots of local beer (check out Eric's blog, JABlog for the details especially for all things beer-related), eating yummy barbecue, and wandering around various parts of KC.  We even took a little side trip over to Lawrence, Kansas along the way where there were lots of cute shops and, of course, a couple of brew pubs!

The wedding was wonderful and sweet (and a little geeky considering the bride walked down the aisle to music from Star Wars and the newlyweds recessed out to the theme song from Indian Jones!) and it was very special to be included in Ali and Greg's special day.  We wish all the best to our friends as they start this next chapter of their lives together!

Here are some photo highlights:

Waiting for it to be time to get Boulevard tour tickets.  Thanks to the nice group from Des Moines for the tip on which brew pub to stop at on the way home...and for taking our picture!

We walked down to Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ to eat before our tour.

Outside of Boulevard Brewing.

Nearing the end of the tour at Boulevard.

Sculpture Garden at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Sj and Eric at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Our dinner location thanks to the recommendation of Dane at Boulevard.  Highlight of the meal: beef tongue tacos!  Dessert doughnuts with tres leches sauce was amazing too! 

Wasn't my drink pretty in pink?

Eric and Sarajo all dressed up for Greg and Ali's wedding reception at the Loose Mansion.

Delicious BBQ at Oklahoma Joe's (the original gas station location).  We waited in line for 1.5 hours!

Exile Brewing was a great brew pub in downtown Des Moines.  Worth a stop if you're going through there.

One of my personal highlights will get its own post.  Here's a hint:  it actually has to do with jewelry making!

Overall, our trip to Kansas City was a great little get away that I think we both needed.  We enjoyed our explorations of KC and would happily go visit again!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

AJE Earring Challenge Weeks 19 & 20

First off, happy Memorial Day!  I hope that everyone is enjoying a happy and safe holiday weekend.  I'm getting this posted a little later than usual since Eric and I have been out of town for the weekend.  Much more about that will appear here and on my hubby's beer blog, JABlog soon.

It's time for another installment of the Art Jewelry Elements Earring Challenge!  This week I focused on artisan beads made by other artists instead of my hand painted pieces.  I'm trying to mix it up!

First up are my Denim Dreams earrings featuring porcelain discs by Marsha Neal.  I love the denim blue and brown glazes she used and the little swirly raised pattern!  I paired them with brass findings from Vintaj, gorgeous Czech glass from Lima Beads (really, the pictures do not do those beads justice!), and small spacer beads from TierraCast.

Week 19

Next, I've got a pair with some cute little polka-dotted lampwork beads from Tanya McGuire.  They look like candy to me!  I kept it pretty simple and just added some small Swarovski crystals and wire wrapped them on copper headpins.  I hung the bead units off of some new copper-plated arched earwires from Nunn Design.  I love turquoise and copper (ok, I'm also a fan of turquoise and sterling silver, but copper is far more economical these days!) and think these just feel like summer.  Simple, quick, and cute!

Week 20

One pair is up in my Etsy shop and the other will be as soon as it's bright enough for me to take some better pictures.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May Art Bead Scene Challenge

The editors over at the Art Bead Scene blog have picked out a delightful floral painting to inspire us for the month of May.  The painting is "Vase with Flowers in a Window" by Dutch painter Ambrosius Bosschaert.  You can learn more about the painting and the artist over at the ABS blog HERE.

Vaas met bloemen in een venster :: Vase with Flowers in a Window, 1620

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder
Oil on Copper, 64cm x 46 cm
I love how the artist snuck so many little insects in with the gorgeous, velvety flowers.    If you enlarge the artwork you see that he didn't spare details with the mist-covered landscape in the background.  There are so many rich colors to play with here!

Looking through my art bead stash (these challenges are really helping me to reduce the dragon's hoard!) I found two contenders.  One is a porcelain Floral Drop Pendant from Nancy Schindler at Round Rabbit and the other a chunky lampwork bead.  I love the ornate floral motif on the porcelain piece, but I decided that it was too pink.  The lampwork bead has a little bit of that pink tone as well, but there are more orange and cream tones that really reflect the colors in painting a little bit better.  Unfortunately, this is another case where I have no idea who the bead designer is...sigh, my regrettable lack of record keeping from my early years strikes again!  I know I bought it at the Twin Cities Bead Bazaar, but that's all I've got.

Once I decided on the round lampwork bead, my immediate thought was to turn the vase idea on its head and do a dangle with lots of fine chain with glass beads wrapped onto the ends.  I used a brass bead cap that reminded me a bit of the ornate vase from the painting and strung several lengths of chain from an eye pin that I then wire wrapped to securely close the unit.  In digging through my bead stash, I found that I had lots of little teardrop shaped beads in yellow, orange, and a peachy color.  Perfect to drip off the chain! 

With the way I crafted the pendant and the size of the lampwork bead, I knew that I wanted a longer necklace for this one.  I worked in a variety of Czech glass and gemstone beads along the chain and even added a cream colored shell piece to represent the shells on the window ledge.  I had to get just a tiny bit literal and add in a couple of glass bell flower beads and a little dragonfly charm.

I'm pretty pleased with how my necklace captures the color and feel of the artwork (less thrilled with some of my photos, but time was running out and the light was fading).  This has been a busy month and I'm barely getting things done and posted before May bleeds into June and summer starts in ernest.  I hope that we will see some big bouquets of Minnesota grown flowers soon.  For now I'm just happy that the trees are leafing out and the world is shifting from brown to green again.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Searching for Balance and Finding Peace

Today's post has nothing really to do with jewelry, but more to do with my head space and where I'm at as a person on this journey through life.  The last few years I've been on a search for more balance and, ultimately, happiness.  Those of you who know me understand all too well that I am a bit of a type A personality.  I have a hard time really relaxing and enjoying the moment.  That being said, I've actually come a long way in that department (and will argue that most humans have a hard time being in the "now").

For me, my journey toward balance and peace started in the most unlikely of places, a multi-day retreat style workshop meant to groom future library leaders in my state. Instead of walking away with marvelous new leadership skills, what I learned was far more personal.  I realized during those days that what I really longed for wasn't power or to move up the proverbial ladder.  What I wanted was to have a better work/life balance.  (I'm quite certain that this is NOT what our library director had hoped for me to get out of the program, but oh well!)  With some staffing changes I was able to reduce my library work week down to 31 hours and have an extra day for myself.  In that extra me time I began making beaded jewelry mostly for myself, but that quickly morphed into doing a little bit of selling as well.  I was growing creatively and really enjoying learning and doing new things.

Anyway, this new schedule was fabulous for a while but as time went on I found myself needing to re-balance the scales again.  This sounds weird, but I got the ball rolling to make some changes by accident when I made an off-hand comment that my boss (probably because she knows me all too well) took seriously.  Anyway, events were set in motion that have allowed me to go down to 24 hours a week at the library while keeping the parts of my job that mean the most to me...working with teenagers and purchasing our youth print and audio book collections.

Let me just interject here and say that I know that I'm extremely lucky that I don't rely on my library job for benefits, and my salary isn't really 100% essential for my family to stay afloat.  I'm also beyond fortunate to have a husband who understands me and is completely willing to support me in following my dreams and finding my bliss.  I also can't underplay the importance and value of having a boss who values my work and particular skill set and is willing to be flexible to maximize my impact in my shortened hours.  I'm so grateful for all of this, it's really hard to put that into words.

I'm just four weeks in to my new schedule and so far it is making me a very happy woman.  I feel like I have made a little bit more room in my life to do the things I want to do: building my jewelry business, getting more physically fit, giving back to the community through volunteering, and maybe even keeping my house a little cleaner!  I'm finding myself less stressed out and smiling far more than my "old" normal.

Part of the bargain I made with my husband in making this change was that I would make a concerted effort to not to bring so much of my library job home with me emotionally.  So far I've made good on that promise...part of my finding balance is to learn to let go.  I have to understand both as an employee and a human on this planet that there is very little that I can actually control.   Watching the news serves as a daily reminder that life is much too short (often shorter than we are counting on) and that we should cherish each moment that we are given.

So, let me wrap up this introspective ramble by saying this: I am so grateful for the life I have been given and the special people who I have the privilege to share it with.   I pledge to do my very best not to take any of it, any of you, for granted.   There are so many things I want to do and so many places I want to go... thank you all for playing some part in the journey that I am on!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

AJE Earring Challenge Weeks 17 and 18

Welcome back to the latest installment of the Art Jewelry Elements Earring Challenge...weeks 17 and 18 out of 52!

This time I have more of my embossed and hand painted Vintaj brass pieces to share.  First up, I've got these cute little seahorses paired with dark blue Czech glass beads.

Week 17
Next is this leafy pair that I made to go with my entry into the Vintaj Weeping Willow Design challenge.  You can see my necklace HERE.

Week 18
Both of these sets are available in my Etsy shop along with a bunch more new earrings.  You can click HERE to check out my shop.  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Vintaj Weeping Willow Design Challenge

This month's Vintaj Design Challenge, "Weeping Willow," hit near and dear to my heart.  Trips to Big Spring Park to feed the ducks were a favorite treat when I was a child.  My mother's mom, my Mema, used to take me down there with a big bag of bread to feed the ducks on many a summer day.  (Although, let's be honest, the giant goldfish got quite the snack too!)  We would park ourselves under this giant weeping willow tree to feed and watch the ducks and fish from under that cool, green canopy.  Any of my readers who are familiar with with my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama will probably know exactly what I'm talking about here.

Sadly, neither my Mema nor that majestic tree are still with us but I was able to find the picture above on the website for Huntsville.  I hope that the necklace I made manages to capture a little bit of the magic of spending time with my grandmother  underneath the weeping willow.

I started with some little leaf blanks that I had embossed and painted in shades of green and yellow and then grabbed any and all possible beads to mix into my design.  I actually hadn't originally thought I'd make a necklace... I planned to use both sets of embossed leaves in a pair of earrings but later decided that would be too much.  So enter the idea of a necklace and earrings.  I'm going to keep you in suspense on the earring front... you'll get to see those in the next Art Jewelry Elements Earring Challenge reveal this weekend!

I chose to use the more yellow pair of leaves in the necklace.  I wanted to try wire wrapping the brass branch piece to make a toggle clasp with the filigree ring.  I've had the branches for awhile but have been nervous about my wire skills!  I used some finer, soldered chain so I had to really play with the placement of the dangles before committing to finishing the wire wraps.

The leaves and beads hanging from the lengths of chain are meant to feel like the draping branches and leaves of the willow tree.  All the shades of green are for the colors in the tree and surrounding park.  Anyway, without further ado, here's the finished product.  This one's for you, Mema!  I miss you!

You can see the other entries and vote by clicking HERE.  Mine is number 8!

And as a P.S. to this post, here is the only picture I could find at my house of a tiny me with my Mema.  (Lots of photos of me posing at her house though!)