Work work work…

…makes it difficult to focus on my creative life. The first week on a new job is also pretty stressful. However my new colleagues made it fun and fairly painless. But I am exhausted, since I’ve worked every day and had a commitment every evening that’s kept me out late.

But a couple of things to report. I submitted the piece I made for last year’s TBS Bag of Beads challenge to be entered into an international exhibit being hosted by  J.O.G.S. and Art Bead Circle which will take place January 28 to February 9, 2011 at the Tucson Expo Center 3750 E Irvington Rd Tucson, AZ 85714.

It is called Key to Me(mory). It incorporates braided spool knitting, bead embroidery, wirework and stringing with vintage buttons and vintage brass findings I inherited as part of my great-aunt’s button collection. It is meant to echo bead punk a bit as well as hark back to the chatelaines of old. The copper pipe cap caged as the focal pendant is a reminder of my childhood when I played in building sites with my dad who was an electrician, plumber and general jack of all trades. The spool knitting is a craft from my childhood as well. And my uncle worked for a brass and copper foundry and would give me wires to braid and play with.

Key to Me(mory)

On Friday night I taught my second class at Michaels. I had four students, one more than last time, but we took several steps backwards at Michaels. They seem to have lost my card to clock in. Then the class which was a fundamentals of stringing class, the sole purpose of which was to teach people how to use and cut memory wire, was a bit of a bust since there were no memory wire cutters in stock. I didn’t have a pair either so I struggled through using some crappy nippers. Embarrassing.  Fortunately my students were cool with it.

Michaels has booked me to lead a birthday party in December and another in January. Both will be the fundamentals of knotting, where I’ll teach the girls how to make a macrame hemp bracelet.

And a confession: I spent $150 on silver components and semi-precious stones at Stones and Findings at Friday over lunch, then went back to the office and ordered $80 worth of end cones for Viking Knit bracelets from Artbeads.com. I was thankful for the 20% Thanksgiving Discount which saved me $20!

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First night

So I instructed my first class at Michaels last night. I had three students and I’d already met two of them at the Bead Evening at Michaels on October 29. They were all eager to do the project called “Fundamentals of Crimping.” Sounds sexy, eh? Well, really, it’s a princess-length necklace on Beadalon that features clusters of beads crimped in place along the wire — they look like they’re floating there. It is anchored by a focal bead with charms dangling from it. Easy peasy, right? Well, after going through intros, then touring the Bead Corner at Michaels, we got down to business.

Boy was I glad I only had three students. By the time we went through the steps and I got them to lay out their design, then showed them how to crimp, we used up every minute of the class. In fact, we ran overtime. But that might have a lot to do with the fact that we talked and laughed a lot too. The three students, Alice, Yadira and Elena, got along well and praised each others’ results.

I think it was a successful first class. So next Friday I teach the “Fundamentals of Stringing.” But don’t try to guess what the project actually is, because I guarantee you’ll be wrong. It is, in fact, a memory bracelet. Yes, students will learn to string beads on memory wire, how to create a loop at the beginning and end with roundnose pliers and how to attach charms at either end with jump rings. And there’s one thing I’m sure of — we will take every minute of the two hours to learn these basics.

Oh, and the other thing I’m pretty sure about: all three of my students will be back for more next week!

Certifiable

I completed the Michaels Bead Academy certification course for instructors online this afternoon. A test of how carefully you watch which colour beads they use in the design. Hardly a difficult test to pass, for sure.

I stopped by the store to drop off my samples of knotted hemp bracelets. I’m going to try a few more just for fun, but I can’t let it take away from my holiday present making activities during this, my last week of freedom.

I also made a pair of amethyst earrings using the wire wrapping technique I’m supposed to teach, to show people they can make pretty things too, using other beads.

So here’s my biggest challenge and, I guess, a confession: I have never stuck to a pattern in my life. EVER. So how in the world am I going to teach other people to? I will consistently tell them to do what feels right. To change it up to suit their own sense of design. And there are lots of people out there just like me.

But I have students already who want to slavishly copy exactly pieces I’ve made. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t even remember what I did and could never recreate it. One of a kind usually applies to my work. So I’m trying. Trying hard to follow the Michaels pattern exactly for at least one sample of the project. Then I let my imagination rule and create a second set of samples to inspire my students and show people what I can do with the basics.

Perhaps this is not all bad. I am learning to be a conformer. When it’s called for.

Knotty

Well, naughty and knotty. I’ve been naughty, and haven’t blogged for a while. I’m inexorably getting sucked back into the working world and have spent some of my precious creative time doing mundane tasks around the house as the days before I start my new job rush past me.

I’ve been busy making Christmas presents, though. Chain maille watches, bracelets, necklaces and viking knit as well. Nothing I’ve designed though. The TBS monthly meeting was Wednesday night, and Marilyn Gardiner brought some Viking Knitters for sale. I spent some time showing several people how to get started with their new purchase.

Mid-week I went to Michaels and created samples of memory wire bracelets with dangling charms. And a necklace strung on beadalon with cracked glass beads, glass crystals and secured with crimps. Yesterday afternoon I sat at a table in the Jewellery section of the store and made a pair of wire wrapped earrings while answering questions about the other samples and the classes I would be teaching to demonstrate each technique and project.

Alice, who came to my Oct 29 event at Michaels then stopped by the TBS fair last weekend to buy Stephanie Eddy’s Lazee Daizee Viking Knitter, stopped by yesterday and I showed her how to get started with the knitter. She signed up for my Nov 19 Fundamentals of crimping class.

But I couldn’t bring myself to attempt, in front of people, the knotted hemp bracelet. I haven’t done macrame since Grade 7 — you know how you used to be able to sign up for classes in grade school like recorder, softball, etc. I took a macrame class and made a lot of plant holders. But Grade 7 was 38 years ago.

So here I am this afternoon working through the knotty directions for the Fundamentals of Knotting bracelet project. With #20 hemp cord and a few beads in hand, I taped the anchor cords down to my BeadSmith tray and started weaving the cord under and over and — wow, a half knot and a full knot! The proverbial “just like riding a bicycle” moment. Still, I am not happy with the first finished product so I’m going to make another. And perhaps another. There’s something soothing about tying knots and creating a strong, intricately twined bracelet.

Fair Play

It was a long weekend, but a lot of fun. over 800 people stopped by the CNIB over the weekend to experience the best-ever Toronto Bead Society Fall Fair. I was stationed just inside the front doors at Marilyn Gardiner’s booth all weekend, and we were one of over 80 vendors showing and selling jewellery and components. At Marilyn Gardiner Design we were selling chain maille kits, tools and findings, and were steadily busy Saturday and Sunday. Marilyn taught several classes. I spent a lot of Saturday demoing viking knit until the kits were all gone. Coiling Gizmos too. I also did a demo of spool knitting, which people were really interested in.

And I find that chatting with people and turning them on to a new craft to be very satisfying. But what really gets me excited is looking at all the creative work by my fellow vendors, many of whom are bead artists and some of the most artistic people I know. The pieces they have for sale, and ideas for using their components, sparks my imagination in a million directions and I feel my own creativity building, my excitement growing and I come home and jot down ideas for lots of new projects. A successful show is one where, despite the fact I come home exhausted from a couple of busy days, I pour out my purchases in front of me and start experimenting with designs.

Watch this space for the exciting pieces I’ll be making over the next few months.

Finishing

I have rarely had completion problems. When I start a project I usually have a picture of the whole thing in my head and a pretty good idea what I intend to do so I can wear it as soon as possible.

But when Tom Holland visited us in August, and I spent the better part of a day with him, he gave me a bead I had been repeatedly going back to and picking up. It was a thank you for our hospitality and I took it, giving him the promise I would make something special to feature the bead. The bead sat on the coffee table in front of me for the better part of a month and I kept looking at it, admiring its shiny blackness and the sparking white bursts adorning it. I loved the bead for itself and didn’t want to screw it up. Tom had admired my viking knit necklace and I told him I’d likely use the bead in a VK necklace.

So I took some dead soft 26 ga sterling silver wire and created two long, curved chunks of viking knit to frame the bead. That was in September. The parts sat in a bag while I collected end caps, different clasps and thought about what to do with the back of the choker. Finally, while tidying up my bead stash this morning, I came across all the pieces I’d been considering and looked at my bead board covered with sterling silver jump rings and I sat down and put this piece together in less than half an hour.

I think Tom will be happy with it. I emailed him a picture of it already. So for my blog readers, here it is — I guess it begs the name “The Firecracker!” I think I’ll be wearing it a lot. I don’t think I can bear to give it away when I love the bead soooo much.

What it takes

So what comes naturally to me in my working life is apparently something that helps me immeasurably in my creative life and teaching — the ability to effectively market and promote. Both the Downsview Michaels store and I received feedback from the head office that our event on Friday night was the best-attended. Congratulations all round. I just assumed all the stores would have had the same number of people turn out for the event. All the right promotions were in place: we had a great opening day demo and talked up the event there, the store printed and distributed flyers in advance and I promoted the event on my Facebook page. Why wouldn’t it be a success, is what I thought. No brainer.

So now the challenge of filling up my four fundamentals class. I hope the enthusiasm I projected on Friday night shone through and that a lot of those ladies will be interested in signing up. If not, then I am willing to set up shop in the middle of the jewellery section at Michaels and talk to people to convince them they need to come to my classes. But what I really need to succeed is to be in the loop there too. I need my instructor kits, samples and other things to be truly successful. If I have the tools, then I will make sure that I bring in students, translate their interest to enthusiasm and generate sales as well as fun for everyone.

 

Chained

Yesterday was a day to fall back on an old favourite — Chain maille. I spent the day making what will turn out to be Christmas presents for family and friends. I even went the kit route, with kits from Marilyn Gardiner (marilyngardiner.com).

There’s something comforting about the repetitive motion of opening and closing jump rings, of getting the trick of a pattern and doing it over and over and over. And at the end of it all, you have a gorgeous bracelet or necklace. A piece that, hopefully, the person you give it to will cherish and wear, treating it like the piece of fine jewellery it is.

I finished a Chinese knot necklace, a Japanese Stepping Stone bracelet (with charms), an inverted round bracelet with copper beads trapped inside. Today I will try to finish the copper dragonscale bracelet. Who gets what, right now, I don’t know for sure.

This morning I finished a loomed choker. It is 28 ga non-tarnish silver with green iridescent freshwater pearls. I’m giving it a test wearing now. Here is a picture of it before I attached a lobster clasp at the back. I am pretty happy with the outcome. It floats delicately around my neck and is not tight to the neck. And it is so light you barely know it’s there. So I will keep on trying different weights of wire, different colours and different beads. Perhaps next I’ll try some Swarovski bicones to up the bling sparkle quotient.

I can see how this pattern, made with 24 or 22 gauge wire, could be used to make a tiara as well. Another day, perhaps.

Tonight, a second interview for a job. I need to get back to the world of work, but I dread it a bit because it will have an impact on my creative life. But I need to pay the mortgage and the bills…

Exhausted/Exhilarated

So, I hosted my first beading event at Michaels Downsview, 33 Billy Bishop Way, tonight.

A room of what was supposed to be 15 people turned into a roomful of about 20 people – some as young as 6, one young boy about 9 or 10 and women of all ages. Most of them knew little to nothing about bead basics and all of them wanted my attention at the same time. After I explained a few basics about tools, and showed them samples of some of my work, I took them on a tour of the jewelry section of the store. I was bombarded with questions, spent the night going from person to person to person demonstrating wrapped loops, crimping, stringing, knotting. I managed to get to all of them, show them how, sell them supplies and watch some of them blossom with creativity. And that’s the payoff: to have inspired someone to do something new, create with their mind, hands and heart, and feel joy and pride in the creation. I find I really love to teach, mentor and inspire. It’s as much of a rush as creating something new. And the excitement and freshness the students bring to learning from me is exhilarating. So I learn by teaching. How much fun is this!

I have the dates and times for my four fundamentals classes at Michaels: Nov 19, Nov 26, Dec 3, Dec 5. Classes are two hours long and are on the following topics: Basic Stringing, Crimping Basics, Wire Wrapping and Knotting.

Wired to the world of beads…

Since I’ve deepened my obsession with wire and beads over the last six months, and I’ve discovered at the various shows and classes I’ve taught lately that other people are as fascinated by wire and beads as I am, I decided to chronicle my design odyssey in this blog. Of course, the creative and personal intertwine in any artist’s life, so this blog will likely contain as much about me as it does about the design/discovery process.

I hope you’ll enjoy following me and leave your comments on my designs.

Here’s what I’m currently working on:

  • Viking Knitting (using Stephanie Eddy’s Lazee Daizee VK tool)
  • Wirework — especially coiling wire
  • Spool knitting with wire and beads
  • Using yarn looms in various sizes and shapes to create wire and bead accessories.

Here’s a recently completed project:

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