Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Beaded Quilts

I've been working on my next Inspiration for the Beadfx website and it involves little one inch squares made out of delicas, which has reminded me of the beaded quilts I saw at the Bead & Button show. They had been donated for the silent auction to raise money for breast cancer research (this year, they raised $14,000 !) and they were made up of 100 squares, each about 1.5 inches square in size. I think, but I'm not sure, they might have been made by a bead society with various members each making one square.

Nope, I was wrong (although I have read about bead societies making quilts for fundraising as well). I just Googled it and found out that a woman named Jeanette Shanigan asks beaders from around the world to make the squares and then she puts them together and donates them to the B&B show. That is just totally amazing. Way to go, Jeanette! And of course, everyone else who contributes!!

This year's theme was hearts, as you can see from the photos. Last year's theme was roses and the year before was butterflies. You can see more photos and find instructions to make your own square on Janette's website: http://shanigansbeadshenanigans.com/

BTW, Janette hails from Wasilla, Alaska, the same town where Sarah Palin is from - is there only one town in Alaska?? ;)

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Ceramic Beads

As you may recall, I took a class at the B&B show about how to make ceramic beads. The class was taught by Jennifer Heynen, who is a real sweetheart, always smiling (this is not the most flattering photo of her but it was the only one I got).

We shaped the beads out of clay and then had to paint and glaze them. I ended up making about 40 beads and I only got about half of them done by the end of the class. I took half of them back to my hotel room and spent the next few days trying to find time in between classes and shopping to finish decorating the beads. I did finally get them done and dropped them off at Jennifer's booth on the show floor on the last morning. Better late than never!

Jennifer had set it up that we would all hand in our beads on a paper plate with our name and addresses on it and she would (very carefully) transport them to her home, fire them in her kiln and then mail them to us. It was so exciting to go to the post office and pick them up last Saturday.

Here's how they turned out. I'm pretty pleased with the result - I love the bright, bold colours. I had to laugh though, as one or two of them have unglazed portions. It's not really a problem, it's just they feel a little rough in that area and the colour is less vibrant. I found it was quite difficult to figure out if I had already glazed certain parts, or if I had put on two coats of colour or just one on certain sections. I probably forgot to turn certain pieces over! I figure it's because I was rushing and doing it in the hotel room, without proper lighting and squeezed onto the little hotel desk. Plus, the glaze goes on a pale pink colour so by the time you're done, they all look the same! At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

BTW, did you notice the one that looks like a piece of cheese? That's my souvenir of Wisconsin, a.k.a. the home of the cheeseheads. That's what their football fans call themselves. I could have bought myself a foam hat shaped like a wedge of cheese but somehow, I think this bead will do the trick instead, don't you?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's In Your Front Yard?

As we were walking about in the Dufferin and St. Clair area yesterday, we came across this house. First, we noticed the waterfall. Then the Indian on the horse. Then the cowboy boots on birch tree "legs" sticking out of the ground. It is quite an amazing set up. Not entirely sure what the message is meant to be, I interpret it as the Indian putting a stop to the advance of modern civilization, putting the white man in his place so to speak, but I could be wrong. Whether or not there is any deeper meaning intended, it is certainly a fabulous combination of art and landscaping!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Street Sale

My sister and I spent this beautiful summer morning walking about one of Toronto's lovely neighbourhoods in the St. Clair and Oakwood area, checking out what was on offer at a neighbourhood street sale.

Getting there took me a little longer than planned, as they are currently tearing up St. Clair Avenue West to improve the streetcar tracks. This project has been going on for a few years now as they slowly move west from Yonge Street. Did you know that fire hydrants sit on about 6 feet of big pipe underground? I didn't, until I saw this one today.

It was the perfect morning for walking around. The flowers were in bloom, the sun was shining and several kids had lemonade stands on the go (my sister bought a cup at each one, as we can both remember the thrill of having someone buy a drink from you, although it was watery koolaid back in our day).

These kids were especially creative, all dressed up with a colourful bowtie and wig respectively and singing for their customers (yes, I got their permission and that of their mom to take this photo but then waited until they were looking away to take the shot, to preserve their anonymity).

Found various treasures at the sale, several books, a few CD's, a set of four ceramic cereal bowls that I might use for food or display, a new keyboard (since the letters on mine are starting to wear off and even though I touch type, I still find it annoying) and my best find, a very cool cannister box with containers flour, coffee, tea, sugar and - my personal favourite - cookies! Isn't it neat? It is spotlessly clean on the inside too, complete with a vintage plastic coffee scoop. I think it will be great for holding part of my bead stash. Definitely worth the $10 the vendor charged me for it.

We finished the morning with brunch on the patio under the yellow umbrellas at Boom. If you're in the area, I highly recommend it, the food was delish and the waiters were friendly and cute.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jewellery for the Beach

The fact that we have had five days in a row now of warm, sunny weather, coupled with the fact that the month of July is only days away, makes me think/hope that summer has finally arrived. This week's mugginess also makes me long for the beach, to dip my toes in and perhaps even submerse myself in the cool, fresh water of a tranquil sea or lake, and most especially, to do a little beachcombing for seashells and polished sea glass and rocks with which to fill my pockets.

If you happen to be asking yourself, what kind of jewellery could I wear to the beach?, I must share with you these absolutely fabulous earrings I bought at the Bead and Button show. Funnily enough, I had to go all the way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the good old U.S. of A. to find this Canadian artist but I am convinced it was worth the trip.

May I present to you, these amazing earrings from the Pacific Shores collection designed and made by Stephanie Ann, who hails from British Columbia.

I've included a close-up of the bead, because as far as I am concerned, it has to be seen to be believed. The blue for the water, the layers and colours of the sand, the murrini for the seashell, the wave detail - the perfection of this design simply blows me away!! The dangling sand dollar charms are the final, perfect detail, definitely the icing on this most charming confection.

Of course, I wouldn't actually wear these earrings to the beach or in the water as I would be devastated if I were to lose one or both. Although anyone finding them would surely think they had won the beachcombing lottery, don't you think?!

Here's the link for Stephanie's website:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farewell to Farrah

I was sorry to hear that Farrah Fawcett died today, although glad for her sake that her suffering is over.

I was in high school when she first became famous and everyone always asked if we were related, given that we share the same last name (as far as I know, we weren't, but we always liked to entertain the idea that she was our long lost cousin). Alas, that was probably the only thing we had in common. That famous haircut never worked on my poker straight hair and not for lack of trying on my part, both with the curling iron and using Farrah Fawcett shampoo!! But she was a definite part of my growing up years - my brother Craig had that iconic red bathing suit poster up on his bedroom wall for many years and I watched the "Charlie's Angels" TV show both while she was on it and after she left, and was impressed to realize she had some genuine acting skills and wasn't just another pretty blonde, as proved by her performances in movies such as The Burning Bed. One of the articles I read today mentioned she appeared on an episode of The Partridge Family, which I didn't remember (and I could have sworn I saw every one of those shows???!!) but when I watched the clip on YouTube, it did seem vaguely familiar...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNbtVZ_V-_Y And of course, there were all those hair and toothpaste commercials (and shaving cream and the Mercury Cougar car featuring the "moon roof"...the list goes on)!

It definitely seems like the end of an era, somehow...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Left Behind and Now Lost

There was one fly in the wonderful ointment that was my trip to the Bead and Button show in Milwaukee earlier this month and that is the fact that I left my favourite coat on the plane and it hasn't been seen or heard from since.

You know how it goes - you get on the plane, you stash your gear in the overhead compartment and you sit down. The plane was one of those small ones that only seats maybe 50 people and there were only about 20 of us on the flight, so as soon as they boarded everyone and before we got buckled in, I hopped up and switched to the empy two seater across the aisle, leaving my unknown seatmate to his own devices (Colleen was sitting several rows in front of me as we hadn't coordinated our seating arrangements for the flight home. No doubt she would have remembered my coat if she had been sitting with me, she's good about stuff like that).

I did think about my coat during the flight, because it was rather cool on the plane, especially down around my ankles, and I considered getting up to get my coat and drape it across my knees for warmth. However, it was only 1.5 hour trip so I persevered and when we landed just before noon, I got up and headed off the plane - alas, without the coat. I didn't even realize I had forgotten it until much later, when I went to go out at dinnertime and wanted another layer as the evening had turned rather chilly.

I immediately called Air Canada's lost and found department and had a rather frustrating call with some guy in heaven knows what part of the world that sounded more like a Laurel and Hardy routine than a customer service call. Me: "I've just realized I left my coat on the plane earlier today." Him: "Have you filed a report?" Me: "No, that's why I'm calling, I'd like to report a lost coat". Him: "But did you file a report?" Me (slower and a little louder): "No...that's...why...I'm calling ...I want to file a report NOW." Then there was the three or four times I had to confirm that it was not a leather coat and try to explain it was plastic (by this point in the conversation, I wasn't sure he'd be able to handle the concept of "vinyl") and light blue in colour (I didn't even try "turquoise".) Sigh.

It's just over two weeks later and I've heard nothing further about my missing coat. I called back a few days after I first reported it and they confirmed they had a record of my original call, but told me they had no news and I'd just have to wait for the airline to call me back. I don't understand why they haven't found it. It was the only thing in that particular bin. Perhaps the plane went back and forth to Milwaukee several times that day before it got cleaned and someone else is now wearing my coat, leaving me to figure out what to wear on rainy days when I want to look cool and stay dry, trying to remember where I bought the coat in the first place and wondering if there is any chance I will ever find such a perfect coat ever again.

Man, I loved that coat. It was such a pretty colour, even straight men would compliment me on it, it was that nice. The plastic/vinyl was great for windy days as it acted like a windbreaker and even better when it rained, as it never leaked or got damp. It had roomy pockets in which you could stash all manner of things, a book or an umbrella or a pair of earmuffs.
I can only hope it will return to me some day in the not so distant future, together with the perfectly matching scarf and the black, you guessed it, leather gloves in the pockets. Fingers crossed.

Here's a picture of me in the coat (with a different scarf) with two adorable young men outside Tiffany's in New York in October 2006. Good times.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mosaics in Milwaukee

Ever since my visit to the Hacienda Mosaico in January, I have become more interested in mosaics. So imagine my surprise when I arrived at the Milwaukee airport and discovered all these lovely designs incorporated into the floor there:

A quick check on Google revealed that the floor is a "a showcase for the artist Carlos Alves who produced the mosaic floor medallions that make up the work "Aerial Wisconsin" in the concourse's terrazzo floor. Depicted in the medallions are images of locations that passengers may see from the air as they approach General Mitchell International Airport."

My favourite was this last one, with all the church spires. It made me think of Europe for some reason, perhaps because it seems all the great cities have churches on every other street corner.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Carmen Jr.

One of the most entertaining parts of the Bead & Button show took place at the Bead Social on Saturday night. The attendees were treated to the charm, humour, fashion sense and balloon stylings of special guest Carmen Banana.

Carmen's alter ego goes by the name of Donna Penoyer, who is described on her website as a "party catalyst". Can you imagine having a business card that reads "professional stilt walker" - wouldn't that be cool?? She was certainly quite a hit at this function! http://www.donnapenoyer.com/stilts/

The best part, as far as B&B is concerned, is that she is also an accomplished PMC artist and teacher. What a combination!!http://www.donnapenoyer.com/index.html

The Dixon Chick happened to be wearing one of her crocheted necklaces featuring some lovely plastic fruit beads, which naturally caught the eye of Ms. Banana. The two started chatting, they bonded and next thing you know, Stephanie was honoured to be crowned Carmenita Bonita Florita Constancia Perfecta Banana, a.k.a. Carmen Junior.

I'm not sure how she got her crown home on the airplane or if it survived the bar hopping that I understand took place after the Bead Social but it was a certainly a night to remember for all concerned!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Trying to Invent Something New

I'm working on my next Inspiration piece for the Beadfx website. Dwyn gave me new beads this past Thursday night and I wanted to start it right away, as I have to get it to her in two weeks time in order for her to have time to photograph it for the newsletter.

This time around, my challenge involves delica beads (don't worry, Dwyn has us trying something different this time around, so The Dixon Chick, who is not overly fond of seed beads, gets completely different beads to work with, lucky girl).

At the Bead & Button show, I picked up this book called "Mastering Beadwork", by Carol Cypher, who was kind enough to autograph it for me. I had a look through the book to find some ideas but then decided that because the piece I'm creating is meant to be an "inspiration", I wouldn't be right to use any of the 63 projects contained in this book or anyone else's idea or pattern for that matter. However, I was quite excited to have a look through this reference book and can't wait to get back to it and try some or all of the styles contained therein. They all look beautiful and relatively simple to make!

Instead, I'm trying something on my own. I'm working the beads up using the brick stitch because they are size 11 and so small that brick seems the quickest method to get the result I want. I'm also embellishing a focal bead in a manner that I learned from both Heather Taylor of Bead Junction and Rachel Nelson-Smith. I plan to finish the edges in a manner that was taught to me by Kate McKinnon. Or should I say, I'll be using techniques that I think they taught me, it could be that my brain has forgotten exactly what they said and when I go to do it myself, it might not be quite what it would have been if I remembered the technique properly.
Either way, hopefully it will turn out. I never actually know if the idea I have in my mind will translate to an actual finished piece until it's done. Often there are many adjustments between the original idea and the completed project when something doesn't work quite the way I had envisioned. I've already had to take scissors to a bit that I started that just didn't look the way I had pictured it. :)

I'm not sure I need to totally reinvent the wheel though and more to the point, I'm not sure I can. The finished product will technically be "original" because it sprang from my imagination but that actual idea might not be something that someone else hasn't already done before. I might be using a combination of bead types and colours that are unique to this piece but given that no one (as far as I know) holds the copyright to the actual bead stitch, it might look very similar to something I have seen before in a book or magazine or at a class or even something that I've never seen but someone else has made. How do you know for sure if you are having a totally original idea when it comes to design? Do you know that expression, "there is nothing new under the sun?" That may be very true. Some things are totally obviously brand new and like nothing we have ever seen before, like the guy that came up with the idea for the intermittent windshield wiper (have you seen that movie, "Flash of Genius"? His name was Robert Kearns and boy did I thank him yesterday when I was driving in all that rain we got!) but it seems to me those flashes are somewhat rare and not everyone has that flash when they are making jewellery.

I would NEVER intentionally plagerize someone's work by copying their design and claiming it as my own but I worry that in many cases, the work I produce might be very similar to someone else's designs. I certainly hope not but if I do, I will certainly hold my hands up and be the first to admit it's entirely possible and beg their forgiveness. In the meantime, I will try to invent things of my own and hope they turn out, and keep hoping for that flash of genius.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Other Cat Is A Cutie Too

Ever since I posted about Max the other day, my other cat Carly would like it to be known to the blog world that she is cute too. And she's right, she is. Partly because she has a big freckle right in the middle of her face:

and because she has a cute way of crossing her paws when she's just hanging out:

As an older cat (she is 17 now), she tends to sleep a lot and I am often amused by the fact that she seems to be able to sleep anywhere:

on a clock

on her water bowl

and most frequently, on my shoes! Awww!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Wine Gum Necklace

My latest Inspiration Creation for Beadfx is now posted on their website. I call it the Wine Gum Necklace because the resin beads made me think of those wine gum candies with their shapes and colours (although I can't say I've ever seen blue and green wine??? and I never did like those candies, so maybe I'm getting them mixed up with something else??)

As usual, the Dixon Chick and I started out with the same assortment of beads. Sadly, Miss Chick did not finish her piece in time, even though we had an extension due to the fact that we both were away for a week at the B&B show, and as far as the challenge goes, Dwyn tells me that means...I win!! :)

However, stay tuned to the Beadfx website as Steph will probably get hers finished and posted in the next few days.

As for my own creation, I went a little asymmetrical this time around, which is a real departure for me. I didn't have any choice over the colour or number of beads so I worked with what I was given. If I had picked them myself, I would have picked an even or matching number of beads and spaced them out accordingly. Instead, I had to go out of my comfort zone a little bit, although I did balance it by keeping the same number of jump rings between each bead, which soothed my inate desire for symmetry. I like the fact that some of the beads are centre drilled and some are side drilled, as that mixes it up a little bit. I wanted a little something to make it pop and Dwyn suggested adding the crinkle cut rings from a chain they sell at the store and she was bang on - I really like the finished effect. Plus the photos she took really make the necklace look great, if I do say so myself!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Riverwalk Art

While we were walking about in Milwaukee on our first day, we noticed these pieces of art in various spots. I was sure one of them looked like a ring and some of them looked like necklaces that were dangling about the bridge abutments.

At the time, I thought maybe I had jewellery on the brain because we were there to attend the Bead and Button show but what I have since found out is that an artist by the name of John Ready made a series of sculptures called the "River Gems" that were displayed about the city.

In true Susan Lenart Kazmer style, "the arty earrings, necklaces, brooches and rings are made primarily from recycled pots and pans, brightly colored plates and bowls, oddly shaped ashtrays, martini shakers, camping gear, Jell-O molds, bowling balls and lawn mower tires." (Mary Louise Schumacher, Journal Sentinel)

You can read more about the exhibit here:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Weave it, Wire it, Lovett"

That very clever slogan belongs to the super talented Dallas Lovett, who taught one of the classes I took in Milwaukee. We learned how to make Raindrop Earrings - here's a picture of the finished product:

and here's a picture of me with Dallas and my good friend Heather, who also took this class (both of us girls wearing our newly made earrings, natch):

These earrings were one of the few things I actually finished in any of my nine classes during the week long Bead and Button show. Karen Elmquist said it best: "I finally am accepting the "process-not-product" concept of class-taking and wasn't chastising myself this year for having unfinished pieces. Plenty of notes and a head full of ideas will do me more good than an assortment of rushed finished pieces."

In some cases, it was impossible to finish anything given the short duration of the class, some of which were only 3 hours long. In other instances, like during the 3 day session with Susan Lenart Kazmer, we each finished a few pieces but we learned so many things, it would have been impossible to create something reflective of every single idea and method - we had to pick and choose what we wanted to do in the time we had vs. what we would take away with us and implement later.

That said, I'm still feeling pretty glad to have these earrings to wear now, rather than have to wait until I have time to finish the project.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How Cute Is My Cat?

Kate McKinnon had this really funky tablecloth on her booth at the Bead and Button show in Milwaukee - it was all yellow and orange, soft fuzzy spots on a black background, very retro, very 70's, very Drew-o-rama (http://www.drew-o-rama.com/). She also had a box of matching pom poms in orange and yellow that coordinated perfectly and that she was giving out to people. I brought one home and had it sitting out on my dining room table, intending to somehow attach it to the journal I had made to record my experiences at the show, when next thing I know, my cat Max has it in his mouth and he's carrying it around the apartment and/or chasing it. It is hilarious to watch him with it and he is just so darn cute. (I'm trying to teach him to play fetch but so far, we're not having too much success. But he's still cute.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Amazing Karen

Last year when I was in France at a workshop taught by Kate McKinnon, she had these amazing owl beads (at least, I think that's where I first saw them, or else it might have been on her website - can't quite remember). One had a hole and one was a cabochon (a bead with a flat back and no hole). She ended up making the coolest component, with the owl sitting on a branch. She was also incredibly generous and when we were in Mexico is January, she gave me the cabochon owl. (I haven't done anything with it yet because at the time, I didn't know how to attach a cabachon to anything but now I do - thanks to my two beading friends named Heather - and the ideas are percolating. It will have to be something very special!)

Anyhow...Kate told me the owl bead was made by someone named Karen Elmquist from Toronto (not! she really lives in Southwestern Ontario) and I emailed Karen last November to ask if she had any more for sale. She wrote back and told me she had made them as a special gift for Kate but she would let me know if she ever made any more.

About half way through the first day of my 3 day session with Susan Lenart Kazmer two weeks ago in Milwaukee, this woman in the class said something about being Canadian and I noticed her name tag said Karen Elmquist. Imagine my delight to find myself up close and personal with this talented lampworker who made Kate's owl beads!! I quickly went over and introduced myself and mentioned the owls. She said she had made some new ones and had brought them to show Kate. She was kind enough to bring them in to show me the next day and they were amazing.

As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to have this little guy:

She also had much larger versions, full bodied ones and just heads, all so incredibly detailed to show the feathers. I wanted the little one because it reminds me of the little owl we saw hopping across the road on our last night in Durfort last year, it was just a little baby owl.

She also had some of her other beads with her, which were quite amazing. Check out this collection of beautiful baubles:

Kate has a much better picture on her blog of Karen actually wearing the necklace, click the link on the right and read her posting from June 6th as well as her June 12th post to see what she made from one of the new owl beads she got from Karen (which piece I seriously covet!)

But my absolute favourite bead that I bought from Karen is this one:

I call him Freddie (I don't exactly know why). As soon as I saw him, I knew I had to have him. Karen told me it was a "mistake", it was meant to be a hollow bead but a hole burst in the side so she made it into a mouth and added the eyes and then strung a bead on the headpin inside his mouth. I think it is totally delightful and so did everyone to whom I showed it, including Dallas Lovett, who taught a wirework class I attended. He liked it so much, he personally carried it around to each student in the class to make sure they got a good look at it.

So I am delighted to say I have now met and bonded with the very talented Karen Elmquist (although sadly I don't appear to have any photos of the two of us together, which is a serious oversight) and I own two of her creations. You can check out her Etsy offerings and blog here: http://karenelizabethelmquist.blogspot.com/

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kiss This Guy

If you read the Beadfx blog today, you'll know dragonjools talks about a website known as http://kissthisguy.com/. Dwyn told me about this site on Thursday night when I was at the store making use of the lampwork studio but I forgot to check it out by the time I got home 3 hours later, so I'm glad she reminded me about it via this blog posting.

It's all about misheard lyrics. You know how it goes - you're out with a friend, probably driving in a car or sitting out on the deck, a song comes on the radio and you both start singing along, only they come out with some really weird lyrics that aren't anywhere close to what the artist is actually singing and next thing you know, you're wiping the tears out of your eyes from laughing so hard.

The name of the site apparently comes from people mishearing the lyrics to the Jimi Hendrix song, Purple Haze - "'scuse me while I kiss the sky" (whatever that means) is misheard as "'scuse me while I kiss this guy".

One of my favourite examples of this phenomenon is the Madonna song, La Isla Bonita. The opening line is "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro". I heard a DJ on the radio once describe how that line always sounded like "Last night I dreamt of some bagels" and ever since then, I can't hear anything but the bagel reference when I hear that song. :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ride to Conquer Cancer

I just wanted to give a shout out to all those who are riding in Toronto's Ride to Conquer Cancer this weekend, especially my friend Ezio (pictured above). It's 200 km (approximately 124 miles, for my American readers) over 2 days - definitely not an easy feat, and my admiration and support goes out to all those taking part. The most I've ever done is about 30 miles/50 km in one day, so doing twice that and then getting up and doing it again tomorrow seems like a major accomplishment to me. Hopefully this cool, hazy sunny day will assist them in their quest to cross that finish line.

Last year's Ride was the first one for Toronto. 2,850 people did the trip and raised $14 million dollars for this worthy cause. The event has a bitter-sweet association for me, as my friend Tim took part in last year's ride but didn't complete the second day, as his father passed away suddenly on the first day. Ezio is riding this year in memory of his dad, who passed away from pancreatic cancer several years ago. My donation was made in memory of my dad, a victim of colon cancer 4 years ago. Most of us know someone who has been touched by this disease and the more we can do to find the cure, the better.

If you'd like to add your support or learn more about this event, here's the webpage: