Friday, July 31, 2009

Durfort Workshop 2008 - Day 5

On this Friday morning, Jennifer and I got up at 7 a.m. and headed out for a walk. We went up the same mountain road as Carin and I had taken a few days before but went much farther along. We each took lots of photos of things we saw along the way and tried to imagine what it would be like to live in some of the homes we saw. One place had some sort of stonework foundation ruins that I like to imagine date back to Roman times but they probably weren't that old. In this photo you can see what appear to be the remains of three ovens. We weren't sure what all the pieces of wood might be for, whether the owners were building something new or just storing wood stacked up against the old stone wall.

We also saw one place with a beautiful collection of hydrangeas in pinks. blues and purples. This next picture is the back of Jennifer's head as she was taking some close up photos.

This is a picture of me holding up the mountainside! This very sheer cut is about six feet from the edge of the road.

One thing that I found very amusing is the village signs, one when you arrive in Durfort and one when you are leaving. Can you tell which is which? :)

We got back from our walk just in time for breakfast and then everyone headed back to the studio. Other than lunch, we spent the entire day there so I was glad to have had this walk in the morning. We were all very busy working towards finishing pieces or at least, getting things into the final stages. I finished a short chain, to be used as a bracelet, and worked on putting several other pieces together.

Here's a picture of Kate having fun with some wire.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Durfort Workshop 2008 - Day 4

On this Thursday of our week long PMC workshop in Durfort with Kate McKinnon, I had a rather slow day overall. We were starting to get the sense that time was running out and everyone else seemed to be going gungho along on their projects. I didn't realy have any ideas and couldn't quite seem to get going, so I ended up copying one of Kate's pieces, with her very kind permission. It's a piece that I love and I'm so glad to have it. I don't know what it is called, I call it a spinner piece because the pieces all spin and it's meant to be either a pendant or a connecting piece, as there are rings on either side to which you could connect something else. Kate likes to add patina to her pieces but I really liked the look of this piece with the silver all shiny and bright.

After lunch, I had booked a massage with Nese, our cook. She was very, very good and it was just what I needed and I felt much more creative and more relaxed when I got back to the studio. All the other ladies were still working away, I don't think they had moved since I left!

Since I don't have much more to tell you about this day, I will show you a few more photos of La Cascade and Durfort.

This is one of the streets of Durfort, with the quench running down the middle.

This is a picture of one of the meals Nese served us, with the colourful table and fabulous floral centrepieces.

About a block down the street, around the corner and across an old stone bridge, there was a water fountain where we went to fill up containers with fresh spring water. I think the fountain is said to be protected by the Virgin Mary herself, as there is a statue of her nearby. It seemed slightly unusual to me to find a family picnicing there under Mary's watchful eyes the first time we went but it was certainly a lovely, peaceful spot and fresh and cool water - an easy stroll there and back just before meal time to ensure we had enough fresh water on the table.

This last picture shows the bridge and the idyllic view down the river.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Durfort Workshop 2008 - Day 3

When I read my travel journal from last year's trip, I am amused to read my notes about the sound of the waterfall behind La Cascade (hence the name) and the hourly church bells, both of which seems so obvious to us when we first arrived and which quickly barely noticeable after just a day or two, they were such a part of where we were. Here's a picture of me beside the waterfall (taken by Jennifer), so you have an idea of how much water was thundering through there. There is obviously some sort of sluice gate at the top to control the flow but it seemed to be wide open the entire time we were there.

On this 3rd day, Kate had invited some of our local friends to come by the studio and she would demonstrate what we were doing with the precious metal clay. Joining us were Shewaun, who (I think) is a goldsmith in NYC back in the real world, Valerie, who makes jewellery and mostly works with silver and Vero, the owner of the B&B where I stayed the first night, who works with mixed media and told me she makes hats. She is also a performance artist and often performs at fairs and the like wearing her creations. At least, I think that's what she does - there might have been a problem with the translation, but she did show me some photos of her work as well, so I think I've got it right! The picture on the right shows one of her pieces that she had sitting in this old barn-like area attached to the side of the mill house, so you can get an idea of the age of the building as well as her art!

After the demo, we all made some metal clay pieces before having a delicious bowtie and vegetable pasta dish for lunch.

In the afternoon, Linda, Wendy and I drove to the book binding village of Montelieu, which is about a half hour's drive from Durfort. It was a pretty drive, winding roads and through a lovely little medieval town called Saissac with very old stone buildings and unbelievably narrow streets - at one point, I had a back down a hill to let a truck go past me on the road and since I was driving a standard, I was worried I'd never be able to get the car going uphill again! But id did). Saissac also has a fabulous panoramic view of a valley - we had to stop for a photo op there, but my picture really doesn't do it justice.

We walked about Montelieu a bit and checked out the book stores but it wasn't as exciting as I thought it might be, mostly because we were incredibly hot. So we went into a little cafe and had a cool drink. They didn't have any Diet Coke (can you imagine??) so I had an Orangina, which is always refreshing.

On our way back to Durfort, we stopped in Soreze to hit the bank machine and while we were there, checked out the bakery and tried some genuine French pastry - yum!

After dinner, several of us headed out in 2 cars to a night fair in the town of Avignonet, about a half hour away. The drive there was quite beautiful with lots of picturesque farmland, with the sun setting as we drove. We stopped to take pictures of a sunflower field and had a lot of fun pretending to be flower childs (or children of the corn, as Kate said!). Jennifer went a little bit risque, as you can see from this photo!

The night fair was so much fun! It was a combination of fair and flea market, with lots of people walking up and down, music playing, coloured lights and all sorts of stalls with vendors selling lots of goodies - clothes, food, meat, breads, live animals, antiques, books, you name it. They even had a merry go round with live ponies! I bought a bracelet from Valerie and a very cool book about Paris from 1960 with really neat black and white photos throughout.

This picture of Jennifer, Kate, Shevawn, Carin, Adrianne and Sydney is one of my favourites from the trip - it was such a magical evening.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Durfort Workshop 2008 - Day 2

My roommate Carin woke up about 4:30 this morning to go to the bathroom, which woke me up and I lay in bed with my brain buzzing, wondering what I was going to make in the studio. When Carin came back, neither one of us could get back to sleep (probably a combination of jet lag and excitement) and we started talking about lampwork beads and all sorts of things and finally, just after 6 a.m., we decided we might as well get up and go for a walk. We headed out through the quiet village streets and on up a country road. It was so quiet and peaceful, as there was no one else about, and everything was still a bit damp from the rain we'd had overnight with that nice, fresh, damp nature smell. We saw several very large snails as we walked, they must have come out with the rain.

After breakfast, when we were back in the studio, Kate took us through the section of her book about rings and we also looked at her calendar which featured 16 months of ring designs. She did several demos and before we knew it, it was 12:30 and time to head across the street to visit the studio of two local artists, Anne and Peter. Anne paints silk scarves and Peter paints pictures and they were quite happy to show us their creations. The picture on the right is of Kate and Anne and shows one of Anne's scarves.

Lunch was a delicious potato and leek soup to counteract the lingering chill of the morning, together with salad, bread, cheese (oh so French) and a delicious banana crumble for dessert.

After lunch, we were back in the studio and finally making stuff! We all made toggles for the Shag of Pearl bracelets that we were going to make, as Kate had given us each a kit. Once they were done, we started in on the bracelets themselves, which involve a lot of wrapped loops on headpins. Sadly, my bracelet is still a UFO (unfinished object) but I'm hoping to get that done very soon!
Before we knew it, it was time for dinner, which we ate out at a lovely restaurant that is part of a hotel called Abbaye d'Ecole. It's a historic building surrounded by 6 hectares of garden. It was quite fancy but the prices were more than reasonable. We had a table outside and it was a beautiful summer evening to sit out. Wendy and I had a stroll around the grounds before our appetizers arrived, which came much sooner than expected after the maitre d' had warned us several times that because there were so many of us in our party, it would take longer to prepare all our meals because not all of us had ordered off the prix fix menu and we must be patient. This in spite of the fact that we had answered just as many times that we weren't in any hurry and quite happy to wait. We figured he must have experienced some very unhappy campers in the past and wanted to avoid any possible unpleasantness, but luckily, we had nothing to complain about!

Have a look at the hotel's website if you want to see how majestic this old place is!

The owner of La Cascade, Gwen Gibson, joined us for the meal, as did Shevaun, whom I'd met on the first day when we went to the vide grenier. She was staying at a friend's house in the village of Soreze for a couple of weeks and Jennifer had met her on the street the day she arrived, as she was wandering about trying to find Gwen's place. Shevaun very kindly offered to let Jennifer stay at her place for the night and a new friend was made.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Durfort Workshop 2008 - Day 1

On our first full day at La Cascade last summer, we were treated to our first breakfast made by Nese, who would be cooking for us for most of the rest of the week. It was a simple buffet of fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, breads and jams but it was all very French and very tasty.

After breakfast, we headed up to the 3rd floor studio and Kate gave an introductory talk, telling us what she had planned for the week. She also showed us various pieces that she had made. Just before lunch, we went for a walk to the town square of the village and Kate showed us the path to take if we wanted to walk to the next village, Soreze, about 20 minutes away by foot.

Durfort has a history of being a village of copper craftsmen - the shop in the photo was filled with copper items. Some of the streets have what they call a quench running down the middle - the copper artisans would bring their hot metal pieces out to this stream of water to dip them in the water and cool them off. It's very picturesque, although a little disconcerting if you're trying to drive a small European car up the street and trying to keep the wheels out of the trough!

After a very tasty lunch with a green bean and tomato salad featuring the best cherry tomatoes I have ever tasted in my life, omelettes and bread, we were back in the studio from 2 to 5 pm. Kate walked us through her book, Structural Metal Clay and described various techniques.

After class, I took a walk to the local cemetery with Jennifer. We had been warned that there was a storm coming in and as we walked about checking out the tombstones, we could see these amazing cloud formations over the mountains in the distance so we didn't stay out too long and made it back well before the rain started.

Dinner was roast chicken with potatoes and carrots and salad and lots of wine. Everyone was chatting and getting along very well. One of the women in the group was travelling with her husband and he joined us for dinner. They were from Germany, 2 of us were from Canada and the rest were all from various parts of the U.S.

After dinner, it was still raining and since everyone was a bit jetlagged, we had an early night after a little bit of show and tell, when my roommate Carin (from British Columbia) brought down some of her lampwork beads to show us. They were gorgeous!! Here's a picture of her marble bracelet, I loved the big beads!! It's a year later and I still haven't made a marble but at least now, I know how and what tools to use!

(Commitment update: 10 workouts in 13 days, including an hour of tennis on Saturday, 90 minutes of intense cottage cleaning on Sunday prior to the jewellery party in the afternoon and a 40 minute walk today)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Arriving in Durfort

When I arrived in Toulouse a year ago, I rented a car and drove to Durfort, which is about an hour to an hour and a half away. I was a bit nervous about driving a car in a foreign country with road signs in another language, especially since I would be alone, jetlagged and driving a stick shift for the first time in several years but I did fine, if I do say so myself. Didn't get lost, that's a good sign! It was a beautiful drive through quintessential French countryside and of course, the most amazing thing to see was the fields of sunflowers. I was afraid to stop the car and get out to take pictures as the shoulders of the road were quite narrow and the road was mostly two lanes with winding curves but I slowed down to look whenever possible and got some good photos over the next few days in safer locations.

I made my way to the home of Vero and Bernard, who live about a mile from La Cascade, as I would be staying in their B&B the first night. They live in an old mill that has been converted and I went for a walk around to check out their gardens and a little bit of the countryside around them. Then I had a wee bit of a nap before driving to little town with a lake, called St. Ferreol, only about 10 minutes away by car, which Vero had directed me to. I had a look around and then found an outdoor cafe to have a meal. I believe I ordered a crepe dish, if memory serves - I wanted to eat something light but French!

I had an early night and slept well, in a room on the ground floor of the mill. It was lovely and cool, as the stone walls did a good job of keeping out the heat. The next morning, Sunday, we had breakfast outside beside a river and I tried out my rusty high school French with Vero's husband Bernard, who didn't speak any English. Shortly afterwards, Kate arrived with Jennifer, another woman from the workshop, and another woman named Shevaun who was staying nearby whom they had befriended, and we headed off to the vide grenier (flea market).

What a wonderful treat that was! They are held every Sunday but in a different town or village each week all summer. We spent the morning wandering around, checking out all the stalls and finding great treasures (some I bought, some I had to leave behind). Then we climbed back in the car and headed off to another vide grenier we had heard about, which was maybe a half an hour's drive in another direction but took us slightly longer to find as we got a wee bit lost, but we eventually got there after asking locals for directions in stilted French. This one was a bunch of stalls set up in a large open field and we found more fascinating items there as well.

Once we finished shopping, we headed back to Vero's, picked up my car and my stuff and went on to La Cascade. As the first to arrive, Jennifer and I checked out all the bedrooms and picked the ones we wanted. She picked the room closest to the waterfall behind the house, which I found to be too loud so I picked the next room down the hall, where the sound of the water through the open windows was slightly more muted. The others arrived in various stages as the late afternoon turned to early evening and eventually, we all headed out to dinner on the porch of a restaurant. The food was delicious and we all talked and started to get to know one another. It seems strange to remember that first night when we didn't really know each other, compared to how close we felt by the end of the week, but of course, this was just the beginning...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

One Year Ago Today

This time last year, I was catching a plane to Toulouse, France (see map below) on my way to a small village in the south of France called Durfort. Flights to Europe leave around 6 p.m. from Toronto, so I worked most of that Friday and then headed to the airport in the late afternoon to catch my flight. Although you can't fly directly to Toulouse from Toronto, you have to go through somewhere else about an hour's flight away, like Paris or Frankfurt or Rome. Or you can fly to Paris and take the train to Toulouse, but I went through Frankfurt so I could say I had been there, even though I never left the airport.

I had been to Paris for a week in March and loved it. I'd had 3 days there on my own and then met up with my friend Debbie from Australia and her mom, who had been visiting relatives in England and were having a few days in Paris before heading back home to Oz. I really enjoyed my week in Paris and couldn't wait to go back.

In May of 2008, I had taken my first precious metal clay class with Kate McKinnon, who came to Toronto to teach classes at Beadfx. After her class, which I really enjoyed, I was checking out her website and noticed that she was going to be teaching a class in the south of France for a week at the end of July. If you've ever read Kate's blog or her website postings, you'll know she is very good at describing people and places and I knew from what she had written about Durfort that I wanted to go there. I also enjoyed looking over the website of Gwen Gibson, who owns the villa in Durfort where we stayed. I decided that a trip like that would be almost as nice as going back to Paris, so I signed up.

Over the next few days, I'll be sharing some of my memories from that trip here on my blog, so stay tuned...

Friday, July 24, 2009

How Do You Workout?

Now that I've committed to doing this 5 workouts in 7 days for the next couple of weeks (update: 7 workouts in 10 days, missed one night of this second week already due to an unexpected dinner invitation and I'm okay with that!), I'm wondering about variety.

Sometimes I go for a walk, which I really like, because it gives me a chance to explore my new neighbourhood, which I really haven't had a chance to do on foot since I moved in last December. I use Google Maps to track my distances and check out what roads lead where, so I have an idea before I set out where I'm going and how far. Plus it's fun to draw different lines on the map and see which route is longer or shorter. Here's the link if you want to try it out yourself:

Other times, I use the small pool in my building which I normally have to myself - heaven! Although last night, I had to share with two young girls about 12 who giggled and squealed and splashed and generally goofed around together the entire time I was there. They were just being kids and didn't get in my way but it just wasn't as calming and enjoyable as it usually is. But I do find it a good workout, to be in the water. (I did 2 min of treading water last night, going to work my way up to 10 minutes in case I want to go for that astronaut training!)

Tonight when I got home from work, it was dark and cloudy with the threat of imminent thunderstorms so I knew I couldn't go for a walk outside. Instead, I did an indoor walk with a video by Leslie Sansone. She has various videos and DVD's available, for distances from 1 mile (15 min) to 4 miles (1 hour), some with weights, some with a rubber stretchy thing (which I don't use any more as the first few times I tried it, I always pulled muscles in my back! Not sure if I wasn't doing it right or if it's just a not so great thing to do). But you don't have to do the extra stuff with the weights or the stretchy band, you can just walk along with them too and do the arm movements on their own. I like it because it combines walking with knee bends and kick backs and works a few more muscles than a plain walk does.

Tonight I did the "Super Fat Burning" 3 mile walk (which translates to a whopping 4.83 km over 45 minutes!) I used to do this tape almost every day a few years ago and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it. It's a great workout, plus Leslie is a very enjoyable instructor. She encourages you while leading you in the moves and also gives you information about how working is good for you, gets oxygen into your brain which helps keep your memory sharp as you age, stuff like that but not in an annoyingly cute or perky way. There are 8 other people working out with her and she chats with them as well. Plus they track how far you've "travelled" and give you periodic updates with a meter on the screen so you know how far along you are on the 3 mile scale.

I'd like to get the 2 mile version, because I like to use the hand weights now and again (although I'm not sure where mine are, haven't seen them since I moved!) and sometimes you only have enough time and/or energy to do 30 minutes instead of 45, so I'll watch out for that on eBay.

It pays to do something you enjoy in order to get or stay fit, that's for sure, it definitely helps you to keep motivated.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Colours of the Forest

I finished a set of jewellery tonight - a bracelet, necklace and pair of earrings. I call this combination "Colours of the Forest" because of the various shades of green. It reminds me of the dappled way leaves look as the sun shines through the branches, the way the colours change as they shimmer in a breeze.

I love these lampwork beads, they are from Unicorn Beads ( On the necklace, I added some 6/0 beads that I picked up at the Bead and Button show from Knot Just Beads. It's a mix called "Meadow".

The use of the gold coloured toggle clasps (available at Beadfx) is a bit of a switch for me, I don't make too many things with gold finishings. I thought these beads needed the warmth of gold rather than the cool look of silver. I like the way the gold compliments the green shades, the hammered finish of these clasps adds just the right muted sparkle of colour and again makes me think of that glint of sun as the leaves rustle overhead as you walk through the forest.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting Ready for a Jewellery Sale

We're having a jewellery sale at our family cottage this coming Sunday. Hopefully the weather forecast will cooperate, although at the moment, it's a little iffy. Sounds like another weekend of cool and rainy weather, gee, what a surprise. :(

The sale will feature designs by yours truly as well as a sample sale of John Hardy jewellery. John's sister Ellen Woodward will be there selling pieces designed by John Hardy, an artist who works with silver and lives in Bali (tough life, eh?). I believe the man himself is mostly retired these days but his jewellery is still hard at work. You can check out her website here:

I own several JH pieces. My parents bought me the first few items as gifts and I've collected a few of my own since then. I wear my rings every day. I especially love my bamboo ring and it's inscription that says "This ring planted 3 bamboos on Nusa Penida". The idea that you can wear a beautiful piece of jewellery and improve the planet at the same time appeals to me. Mostly, I enjoy the simple design of this ring and the way it feels on my hand.

I've been making some new pieces this week, one of which is this necklace which I call "Tequila Sunrise" (for no particular reason, other than the orange beads remind me of the colour of the drink):

If you are interested in attending, email me for the directions - you would be most welcome!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just A Little Thing

It has been one of those days where nothing seems to have turned out the way it was supposed to or to have a positive result in spite of my best intentions. Some work had to be redone and other things couldn't get finished and the remains of a missing girl were found (which is good because it will be some comfort to the family but sad because we can no longer hope there was some mistake and really she is alive and well somewhere) and it was raining when I left work today, in spite of forecasts all day long that claimed it wouldn't happen, and of course, I was wearing sandals and my feet got all soggy, and traffic was all snarly as a result, and I have to go back out to a memorial service for a teenage boy who died too young, which will no doubt be incredibly sad and depressing. All of which combine to make me feel rather cranky overall and the world doesn't seem like such a special place to be at the moment.

So instead of dwelling on all of today's negative aspects, I will tell you about one small, simple thing that brought me a lot of pleasure today.

I bought this key fob or zipper pull the other day at the In the Garden art show from Karen Elmquist. I think the bead is absolutely beautiful and I can't tell you how pleased I am every time I look at my car keys and see this bead hanging there.

It's just a little thing, just a little burst of beauty in a sometimes grey and sad world but as a budding artist, I can only hope that my creations can bring that much joy to the people who own them. In the meantime, Karen, thank you for bringing that gift to my life today when I so badly needed it!

Commitment update: 5 workouts in 7 days. At the end of week 1, I am right on schedule!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man on the Moon

Forty years ago today, man walked on the moon for the first time. Sadly, we humans haven't actually set foot on any other celestial sphere since then but still, it was an amazing feat and is still impressive all these years later. It's just hard to believe it was so long ago.

My mom had the foresight to take this photo of my brothers and I with the headline of the daily newspaper the next morning. My sister has always wished she was in this photo but she was still a bump in my mom's stomach at the time and didn't arrive on this planet until November of that year (1969, for the mathematically challenged).
There was an interesting article on the Internet today entitled "5 Things You Didn't Know about NASA."

One of the items had to do with the physical requirements to be an "astronaut hopeful." Among other things like a SCUBA certification, you need to be between 5 foot 2 inches and 6 foot 3 inches tall, able to tread water continuously for 10 minutes (I shall have to try that in the pool next time, I have a feeling that one is harder than it sounds) and able to swim 3 lengths of a 25 metre pool without stopping and then swim 3 lengths in a flight suit and tennis shoes. (Imagine! Wearing tennis shoes to the moon!?!)

I also learned from this article that the six Apollo missions that landed successfully on the moon were numbers 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Of course, the most famous mission to not get to the moon was Apollo 13, as any of us who have seen the (great) movie starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard can tell you. A dozen astronauts in total walked on the moon surface -or so they say, conspiracy theorists still claim it was all a hoax.

Personally, I don't believe it was a hoax and my hat goes off to those proud few, and to all the other men and women who made it possible and who have contributed to the space program since those days. I still think of those poor people that died in the Challenger explosion, how excited they must have been as the shuttle lifted off from Earth, how horrifying it was for us on the ground to see the explosion and realize the enormity of what had happened. It's a risky business, to be sure, and not something to be taken lightly.

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, who took the famous "Earthrise" photo (left) in 1968 noted later, "here we came all this way to the moon, and yet the most significant thing we're seeing is our own home planet, the Earth."
From that distance, there are no borders, no countries on a map, nothing to divide us. We inhabitants of Earth are one, and shall remain so, in the words of Buzz Lightyear, "to infinity...and beyond!"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In a Garden, Welcome

Yesterday, on the way to a family picnic, my sister and I stopped in at the "In a Garden" event hosted by artist Kathryn McHolm in the small town of Welcome, Ontario, about an hour east of Toronto. Karen Elmquist had mentioned on Facebook the day before that she was displaying her creations there and since it was on the way to where we were going, we turned off the super highway and travelled one mere kilometer north and arrived in Welcome, which is little more than a four corners with several houses and an Esso station. I hadn't really planned to go, as I didn't think my sister would want to stop, so I hadn't brought any information with me, such as Kathryn's name or directions to her place (which is very unlike me). In any case, I thought that since she lived in such a small village, she would be easy to find.

Ten minutes later, after we had driven in all four directions and seen no sign of her place or any activity whatsoever, I went in to the Esso station to ask for help. The gentleman behind the counter said there were several artists in the area but since I didn't know the name of the one I was looking for, he very kindly allowed me to use his laptop to look up the link Karen had posted on Facebook about the show (thank you, sir, for that small town generosity!) Once I had that information, it couldn't have been easier to find Kathryn's place as it was only 3 or 4 houses down from the corner on which the gas station was located. Of course, we'd driven right past it as we arrived in town but when we went back, there were several cars out front and it was much more obvious there was something going on in that location.

What a wonderful place it was! There is really too much to describe, so I've included a slide show of the photos I took and will just list some of the highlights:

- seeing all of Karen's lovely beads, beautifully displayed;
- the chipmunk on the outhouse door;
- Diana Cohen, whose blog is called "Her Wings" which is why she thought she should be wearing hers for the day - she makes beautiful purses and jewellery - I am still slightly regretting that I didn't buy the bag she made that said "French Kiss is Bliss" - you can check her out here:;
- the beautiful wooden cheeseboard and bread boards and the leaf shaped birdbath that Janine bought;
- the lovely fibre and vintage fabric items made by Veronica Derry - who doesn't have her own website yet, but here's a link to some information about her: - she makes the cutest little birds swinging on a perch out of fabric but I had already given all my money to Karen for beads, so I had to go without a little songbird for now;
- the weather, which turned out to be much nicer than I had expected;
- the lovely tables and chairs set up within the shady part of the garden where people could have a seat and enjoy the homemade treats available;
- Kathryn's studio in the barn at the back of the property, complete with wasp nest decorations; - the garden itself, which would have been completely charming even without all the talented artists interspersed throughout; and
- the whimsical garden scupltures made from chicken wire and lightbulbs.

Here is a link to info about Kathryn, who also has a "Harvest of Christmas Delights" scheduled for Nov 20-22nd and is taking part in the Northumberland Hills Studio Tour the weekend of September 12-13. I would highly recommend you make your way to Welcome for one or both of these events!

Commitment update: 4 workouts in 5 days.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Green and Blue Jewellery

I am making jewellery to match my green and blue eyeglass frames, as I seem to be wearing those colours more and more often, especially over these summer months.

My latest creation is a necklace, that started with a ceramic flower focal bead made by Jennifer Heynen and mixed bag of beads I bought from Anne Nikolai Kloss in Milwaukee. My work surface looked like this:

I was going to just use a rather plain strand of beads to hold the focal dangle but I was inspired by some necklaces that Andrew Thorton of Green Girl Studios made recently and posted on his blog (see his entry of July 15th): His designs gave me the idea that I should mix it up a little bit, rather than just string a bunch of similar beads in a strand and call it done. I was also inspired by a necklace I have made by Amber Higgins (a.k.a. Worn Beadies) with respect to the positioning of the clasp at the front of the necklace, above the focal bead. I'm really happy with the result, so thank you, Andrew and Amber, for inspiring me!!

Speaking of Green Girl Studios, I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew, his sister Cynthia, her husband Greg Ogden and their daughter Azalea at the Bead and Button show in June. They are all lovely people and they make the most amazing beads and charms, mostly out of pewter. I wanted to buy at least one of each of their charms (they have dozens and dozens to choose from) but in the end, I couldn't decide and just went home with a catfish bead (half cat, half fish).

Commitment update: 3 workouts in 4 days (took today off to rest my back after 3 days of workouts and because I was attending a family picnic).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Charm Bracelets

Do you get emails from Beading Daily? Sara Graham, Associate Editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, had an article this morning about charm bracelets. In it, she said, "Charm bracelets may be found throughout history. Back in ancient times, some wore the bracelets as amulets to ward off bad luck. Queen Victoria was a big fan of charm bracelets, which created a trend among the European elite. And soldiers coming home from World War II often brought back charms made by artisans near battlegrounds."

Seeing that article reminded me that I have a charm bracelet from when I was a child and teenager sitting in its own velvet box in my lingerie drawer (not that my childhood dates back to Victorian times or even World War II, although it does seem a long time ago!). I decided to pull it out and have a look at the charms.

There are 20 charms on the bracelet itself, as well as 7 loose ones. Most of them were given to me by my grandmother, my dad's mother, who often brought me charms as a souvenir of the trips she and my grandfather went on. There is a pineapple and a hula dancer from Hawaii, a charm from Winnipeg that says Fort Gary Gate on the back, a grain elevator from the Prairies and a seashell and a lobster which are probably from trips to Florida. I must have also received some of them from my parents.

I can remember going into the jewelry store in the small town where I grew up. It was an exciting expedition for a young girl, I can still recall my nervousness and awe as I looked at all the pretty things in the display cases in the store. Back then, I always had to go into the store to get them to put any new charm on my bracelet with a jump ring or split ring - that makes me laugh now, since I have a gazillion of my own rings and a half dozen pliers to open them with these days!!

As I grew older, I started to buy my own charms. The Spartan head and Acropolis are from a high school trip to Greece in grade 12, because Spartans was the name of our school's team. Several of the charms represent my high school interests - there is a cheerleader, a ballerina and a skier, 2 different telephone charms (remember the hours you spent on the phone with your girlfriends at that age, talking about everything and nothing?), a typewriter with a pearl attached (not sure what the connection is between the two, but I learned how to use a manual typewriter in grade 9 and - oh the excitement - an electric one in grade 10), a disc for CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training, which was sort of like Girl Guides for teenage girls although I think it was associated with church. We wore these middy blouses, I always felt like I was in the Navy! Cherish Health, Seek Truth, Know God, and Serve Others, is their motto, according to their website) and a good luck horseshoe and an owl in a cap (with ruby eyes, although probably not real rubies!), which I remember getting for graduation. There is a wishbone and a wishing well, which might also be from that time. There is also one of Toronto's (new) City Hall. The only two I can't quite explain where they originated from or why is a bell (which I quite like because the clanger moves) and a silhouette of a bird.

The miscellaneous ones I have are a coloured one of a Beefeater from London, a set of bagpipes (both of which might be from a trip to England, Scotland and Wales I took in 1988 but my memory fails me in that regard), two horse charms and a couple perched in a crescent moon.

Wow, what a trip down memory lane it was to look at those charms again!

Commitment update: 3 workouts in 3 days.