Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Love Wins

On Friday morning started off like any other.  I got up, walked the dog, went to the gym for my regular workout, had breakfast with my husband who was on vacation, took a showers, and was in my studio trying to get another round of my rag rug finished before a midday yoga class.  Jim called from the living room that I needed to stop what I was doing and check the news.  He sounded both serious and laughing at the same time.  I asked what was wrong as I frantically pulled up Google News.  Just as I read the first headline he answered: The Supreme Court had just ruled in Obergefell vs. Hodges.  Marriage equality was now the law of the land.

I frantically read through the articles flying up on Googles News, and flipped through Facebook.  As I saw such an outpouring of joy, so much support and love posted over and over, I couldn't help the tears that started to fall.  They fell for my friends and family who have struggled for so long to be accepted, to be heard, and to be treated the same as every other citizen of this country.  They fell for my husband, and how much his love has meant to me in the past ten years, and the joy in knowing that everyone will now have the same opportunity to experience that kind of love and commitment.  They fell for the children I hope to have someday, who will be born into a world where he right to marry whomever they love is fundamental.

I pulled myself together and rushed over to yoga, where I simply could not keep my mind on my breath.  It was both a distracted, and a fantastic practice.  Afterwards I wanted to celebrate so Jim & I went out for sushi and bubble tea.  As the day went on, despite my wonderful mood, I started to worry about the backlash that would inevitably show up somewhere.  I started to scroll through my Facebook newsfeed a little more carefully.  But you know what happened?  The love just got louder.  The support just kept coming.  For a full 24 hours, everything I saw was so positive and joyful.  It filled my heart all over again.

I'm sure there is plenty of negativity spewing forth out in the world over the issue, but it was a joy to see that none of that found it's way into the posts of the people I call friends.  After so much happiness, I knew I had to craft something out of my emotional high.  So here it is.  What could I call it besides Love Wins?  Because that's what love does.  It is the best of us, the best of what we can be.  It pulls us out of despair, it reminds us that we are not alone, it heals deep woulds.  Love wins.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Back to the Gypsy That I Was

When I create a new design for a charm bracelet, I usually make 3 copies and then sit back and see if they sell.  Sometimes a new design is instantly popular, and sometimes it takes just the right person wandering through who falls in love with that almost-overlooked design.  Eventually I am ready to make a new batch and even though the theme is the same it can feel like a whole new design.  This is version 2.0 of my Gypsy Fortune Teller charm bracelet, and even though I've done the theme before, it was like creating an all new bracelet this time around.

I have always been fascinated by old fashioned wooden gypsy caravans, with their brightly colored paint jobs and the fantasy of taking your snug little home anywhere your heart wishes to go.  Traveling the world with your friends and family, and meeting fascinating people along the way.  Add to that the archetype of the mysterious fortune teller bedecked in silk scarves and bangle bracelets, and you have the start to a good adventure story.  

In an unusual twist, for this bracelet I actually started by choosing the bright colors for the beads, before finding all the individual charms.  I used bright rich jewel tones including amethyst, sapphire, peacock blue, teal, peridot, amber, ruby, scarlet and red-violet.

The charms include references to traditional methods of fortune telling like palmistry, the Tarot deck, crystal ball and Ouija board, as well as paying card suits, scales for justice, wand, the Fool, the zodiac, a coin, a cup, a tiny caravan, moon, sword, crown for the Empress, skull, hearts for the Lovers, and the sun.

I'm thrilled with how this bracelet came out.  Much more so than the original version which never sat right with me.  It always felt like nearly what I wanted it to be, but not quite there.  Now if only I could find myself a little caravan to go adventuring in...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Her Craftiness Knows No Bounds (Mostly)

While everything that I've shared thus far has been a jewelry project, beads and charms are not my only medium.  Far from it.  I've been asked many times "What crafts do you do?" I tend to answer with a cheeky "I've never met a craft that I didn't like," because I don't want to bother listing all the crafts that I enjoy.  (Except perhaps knitting.  She and I did not get along.)  The truth is that between being raised by a very DIY mom, being naturally interested in traditional crafts, and my education in costume design & construction (not to mention props and scene painting), I've learned a great many techniques that I pull from every day, and I am constantly adding to my mental list of new things to try.

Baby quilt made for my niece Mia, in 2011.
I learned to quilt as a small child, and had my first sewing machine in grade school.  I taught myself to sew clothing and costumes by using Simplicity patterns throughout high school.  By the time I was studying costume design in college, I wanted a craft to do at the end of the day to help me unwind, and so I picked up crochet.  Over the years I've taken classes in cake decorating, basket making, corsetry, painting, and floral design.  On my own I've made forays into altered art, shrines, paper crafting, soap making, canning, and just about anything else that strikes my fancy on a given day.  Why all this background?  So that you won't be surprised as new projects show up here, including all of these media and more.

Shakespeare Shrine made for pinkleo in the Shrine Swap on Craftster, 2013
My latest side project is for a swap on Craftster.  I'm both organizing and participating in the One Awesome Harry Potter Thing Swap, which requires participants to create a single awesome Harry Potter inspired project for their partner.  Each project must be a large in terms of time spent (minimum 3 hours), and it is assumed to will spend much more than that on your project.   I was lucky enough to snag my friend noodle-bug as my partner and am both thrilled and terrified to be swapping with her.  She is fantastically talented, and I'm afraid of disappointing her.

Rag Rug made for Abbeeroad in the IYP Swap - Round 26 on Craftster 
Both of us dream of living in the Burrow, the home of the Weasley family in Harry Potter.  With that in mind I decided to create a scrappy rug for noodle's home, reminiscent of something that Mrs. Weasley would make for one of her children.  I had previously created an Upcycled Rag Rug out of cotton yarn crocheted around a core of tee shirt yarn, for Abbeeroad in the Invite Your Partner Swap last year, and while I greatly enjoyed the technique, I decided that for this project I wanted to try crocheting the actual tee shirt (or zpaghetti) yarn itself.

I picked up this beautiful rug pattern from ATERG Crochet on Etsy, then headed out to Joann's to pick up some tee shirt yarn.  Only to discover that no one in the US carries it anymore!  I remember seeing it in all the craft stores a year or two ago, and there are plenty of books out with patterns to make with it, and yet there seems to be no yarn to be had!  For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it is a super bulky yarn, made from the remnants of cotton jersey.  The pattern calls for six 130 yard cones of yarn (4 of various colors, and 2 cones of neutral).  I quickly discovered that while you can order individual spools from Lion Brand for $9 each, you are unable to choose colors in any way, and just have to like whatever they happen to choose to send you!  Thanks Lion Brand.

Brescia print from Ganxxet on Etsy
While I did want a scrappy feel to the rug, not knowing what I was going to get was a bit too scrappy for me, so I started searching the net.  There is very little of it for sale on either Etsy or eBay in the US, but I did find one vendor on Etsy with a decent selection and fair prices.  Ganxxet has 80+ colors, including some really neat prints and stripes. I picked up this adorable print called Brescia, which is a white background with a black, blue and pink print that looks like scribbles of headphones, wings, flowers, hands, and tiny Union Jacks.  It reminded me very much of something Tonks might wear. Sold!  The seller was very helpful, checking a color match for me with the shade of pink that I picked out to go with it, and she shipped it really fast.

After I came to the realization that I just couldn't afford to buy more yarn, I decided to make my own with this tutorial, in coordinating shades of blue and black.  I picked up some classic rib knit from Joanns, which was on sale for 50% off.  I bought 2.5 yards of black and 1 yard of blue, which came to just $15, and spent a couple of hours slicing, stretching and rolling it.  The very slight rib in the knit became more pronounced when it was turned into yarn, but I like the variation in texture that it offered.

The entire pattern is 32 rounds and should measure 4' across when completed.  I've finished 18 rounds, and it is currently 30" wide.  Since I've officially run out of the Brescia print, and am nearly out of the blue, I'm unsure if I'm going to do the entire 32 rounds, or if I might stop around 25 or so.  As of right now, I'm worried about it being able to fit in a flat rate box to ship to the UK.  After another round or so I'm going to have to start making box checks each time I complete a row to be sure it will fit!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hot Days, Hot Foods, Hot Chefs

I'm not sure what the weather is like where you are, but here in Nashville it's HOT.  Temperatures in the 90's, with high humidity and no end in sight.  The kind of hot where you can feel your skin start burning as soon sun touches it.  At least this ginger girl can.  My parents say I'm Irish, English & French, but I'm starting to wonder if there is some vampire in our background.  I'm pretty sure there is a serious chance of immolation when I next walk Astrid.

Thankfully the house is nice a cool.  A huge departure from the summers we spent in Kentucky, with spotty air conditioning that didn't extend to the kitchen at all.  I was constantly on the lookout for summery meals that could be made in the crockpot so I didn't have to stand in the kitchen at night, sweating over the stove.  This year I get to make whatever I want for dinner, regardless of outdoor temperatures.  What has all this got to do with jewelry?  It gave me the nudge I needed to finally put together a bracelet that's been in the works for months.

It started when I found the adorable little bulbs of garlic charms in the photo above.  (Far left, next to the clasp ring.)  They were so beautifully detailed that I had to pick them up.  Over the next few months I started seeking out more cooking charms.  It took over 6 months to gather them all, but I love the collection that I assembled, and was thrilled to finally be able to do something with them last week.  

All in all, the charms include garlic, cutting board & knife, fork, plate of steak & asparagus, skillet, cook book, spatula, pepper mill, plate, carrot, bottle of wine, cheese grater, measuring cup, rolling pin, sausage on a fork, and wedge of cheese.  They are all beautiful, but my favorites have to be the plate with a steak and asparagus on it, the pepper mill, and the cheese grater.  The detail on them is just amazing.

When I make a meal that I'm especially proud of, I tend to feel pretty bad ass about myself, and I wanted to capture that feeling in the bracelet.  To do so I mixed jet black beads with some fiery reds, oranges & yellows.  Most are Czech glass, but there are also some great goldstone beads thrown in for shimmer.  Thus the Hot Chef Charm Bracelet was born.

Finally, I'll leave you with the recipe I plan to make for dinner tonight, that I would never have considered making in our last house: Moco Loco.  A fragrant rice made with coconut milk, topped with spiced ground pork, a fried egg, and an awesome sweet & spicy soy sauce reduction.  The recipe was given to me by my Friend David, but it originally came from the book Breakfast for Dinner, and has become a favorite in our house.  I tend to alter the recipe slightly by adding some ground ginger, onion powder, and minced garlic to the pork.  Give it a try!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Around The World in 80 Charms

One of my favorite things about Etsy is the ability to find local artists and craftspeople.  And for them to find me!  I was recently contacted by a woman who lives here in Nashville, who wanted a custom bracelet made to commemorate her world travels.  I told her I'd be more than happy to create one, and asked for a list of the places she wanted represented.  She sent me back a list of 30 countries including Egypt, Morocco, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, China, Laos, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Tanzania, England, India, and Nepal!  Talk about jealous.  I would love it if I was able to visit half the places she's been.

After explaining just how many charms could fit on a single bracelet, we narrowed down her list to her all time favorites, which was still 20 charms. They include a train, a lion for Africa, flamenco dancer for Spain, St. Peter's Basilica for Italy & the Vatican, Big Ben for England, an elephant for Thailand, Star of David for Israel...

the Eiffel Tower for France, Asian dragon, Parthenon for Greece, whirling dervish for Turkey, sampan for China, passport, Great Pyramid for Egypt, coo coo clock for Switzerland...

the Taj Mahal for India, windmill for the Netherlands, a camel, beer stein for Germany, plane, and Buddha for Laos, Cambodia & Thailand.  Due to the large number of charms, there are fewer bead pins than I usually use.  They are a mix of Czech glass in shades of warm sand, rich amber, jet black and crystal clear.  

I'm thrilled with how it came out, and hope the customer enjoys wearing it as much as I enjoyed making it.  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

I Could Really Go for Some Crackerjacks Right Now

Some of my projects are in process for weeks on end.  There are little bowls on my work desk half full of charms for upcoming bracelets, while I await more charms that I've ordered to arrive, or while I await that moment of inspiration when everything suddenly clicks and that half formed idea for a bracelet suddenly comes together.  This was one of those projects.  Not the kind where everything comes together, but the kind where I was waiting for it to do so.

I knew I wanted to do a baseball themed bracelet, but I was having serious trouble with exactly the right color scheme, and what to fill a couple of spaces with.  I had tiny baseball players, balls, bats, mitts, hats, and even some I Love Baseball charms, but there was definitely something missing.  I racked my brains and couldn't come up with the rest of the plan.  My solution?  The same one I had for the last 4 years I worked as the Costume Shop Manager at a university in Kentucky.  Ask my friend David for help.  David ran the Scene Shop for the same department, and though we were in different areas of theatre technology, we often helped on another out on projects.  He is one of those folks who will always help you.  I mean ALWAYS.  The kind that even with their plate is completely full, when you ask for help or advice, they always comes through.  The kind you call Friend with a capital F.  It also helps that he's a raging baseball fan.

When I texted him for help, I expected to hear back via text in a while.  But no, Friend called to help because he had "too much to put into a text".  Let me assure you, that is the exact thing you want to hear when you're stuck on a project without inspiration.  He suggested the inclusion of peanuts, popcorn, or cracker jack.  Turns out there are no tiny cracker jack charms out there, but there were some adorable popcorn and peanut charms, so into the mix they went.

My other concern was what color beads to use, without using any specific teams colors, so that it could be for any fan.  I did know I wanted green for the grass, and Friend suggested white or clear for the ball.  I soon also found some awesome acrylic ball beads.  I generally only use Czech glass or crystal beads, but they were so perfect that I just couldn't pass them up.  The dual color scheme wasn't working though, and I realized that I needed to add in a neutral to make the green pop.  In came a sandy tan for the diamond.  Now things were finally coming together!

After a lot of frustration I'm really happy with how it came out in the end.  And I'm glad for the reminder that when you're at your wit's end, you can always turn to a friend for help.  Thanks Friend. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

California Dreamin' ....On Such a Cloudy Day

Do you ever ask a question, only to answer yourself just a moment later?  I hadn't intended to create another travel or place themed bracelet so soon, but somehow I've got two more in the works.  One I already finished and another that's in pieces in my "to be created" bowl.

While I was working as a costume shop manager in Kentucky for the last several years, I got to know a wonderful dance professor named Lisa.  She always seems to be more full of energy and fantastic stories than anyone else.  I've often joked that she is my Fairy Godmother of Fun, swooping in to pull me out of my everyday routine, into an adventure at a moments notice. While Lisa adored her students in KY as much as I did mine, she longed to return to the home of her heart, California.  After a few years of looking, she found a new position teaching there, and is moving away this month.  While I'm thrilled for her, I'm also going to miss her terribly.  Her going away clearly called for a charm bracelet designed just for her and her dream of a new adventure in California.

I started with the idea of the dream of California as part of the American consciousness.  The idea that anyone can start anew there, can find their best self in this golden state of sunshine and promise.  And yes, the Mamas and the Papas did come to mind.  The idea of longing for the sun and warmth of California on a cloudy day.

The charms include a map of California, a dreamcatcher, disks that say "dream", shells, a surfboard, sun tan lotion and a palm tree from the beach, peace signs, grapes and a wine glass, a film canister, the bear and star from the state flag, a sandal, and of course the sun.

The beads are a mix of Czech glass and semi precious stones in shades of ocean blue, azure sky, plum wine, sand, and golden sunshine.  Since Cali has always had it's share of the hippy vibe, I included aquamarine which is thought to help connect you to your spiritual being, dragon veins agate to heighten creativity and protect against bad dreams, and purple jade to attract love to your life.  I can't wait to send it to her once she moves in a few weeks.  (Because everyone deserves to have gifts arrive by mail when they move into a new place!)  And even more, I can't wait till we could afford to go visit.  

Meanwhile...  I'm working on another travel bracelet already.  This one is a custom order for a woman who lives here in Nashville, commemorating all the traveling she has done around the world. And she's been EVERYWHERE!  I couldn't believe the list of places on the list she sent me, and will be lucky if I ever get to see a handful of them. Since the last charms finally arrived today, I'm hoping to get the bead pins worked out this afternoon.  Here's a peek at the charms.

Who even knew you could find a whirling Dervish charm?  Or a tiny Taj Mahal?