30 December 2005

That's it for now

This is the last of the five pins that I wanted to show off. There's a 6th in my hair at the moment. I don't want to take my hair down to scan the piece so we'll have to wait until later to finish the set.

I'm looking forward to beading these and seeing how they work up. If all goes well, I may try to do the Art to Wear Fair at the Bead Cage with them this spring.

I'm actually feeling really good about these. Posted by Picasa
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Fourth of Five Bronze Pins

The fourth of five pins. Posted by Picasa
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Third of Five Bronze Pins

The third of five pins. Posted by Picasa
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Second of Five Bronze Pins

The second of five bronze pins. Posted by Picasa
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Bend it the way it goes

In the continuing saga of my crisis of self-worth, I mentioned that I felt like everythinging that I do in ceramics owes itself in some way to a friendship that I can no longer enjoy. Because of that, I'm revisiting something that I haven't done in quite some time. Specifically, metalworking. I've made quite a few of these bronze pins which I think will look fabulous with beading. I've wanted to do some finished jewelry for my Etsy shop and I think that this could be a wonderful direction to start moving in. I can still enjoy my ceramic beadmaking, but will be incorporating it into something that I also enjoy... Something that is uniquely my own. Posted by Picasa

19 December 2005

Long time no see...

I did a ceramic beadmaking demo yesterday at The Bead Cage a local beadshop that I've been working with since they opened 2 years ago. It was the first time that I'd gotten my hands dirty since the opening of Helena's studio last month. I realized then how absent I've been in the last few months. I also realized that I wanted things to change. Which probably explains the new and improbable shade of red you see in this picture of my hair.

For those who've noticed that I haven't been around much lately. I haven't had much to say. I'm sure that no one really wants to hear that my creative life has been on hold while I've suffered through depression and self-doubt inspired (largely) by the complete breakdown of what may have been the most significant friendship of my adult life. For most of the last 10 years, every idea and technique that I've explored in clay has been (in some way) a byproduct of that friendship.

When artists work closely together for extended periods of time, their work naturally begins to become an extension of their creative dialogue. This was the case in this friendship. One of us would try an experiment and the other would run with it, developing extensions and inspiring further exploration. Forms that I developed that never quite worked for me were perfected in her hands and vice versa.

I could spend months pointing fingers and trying to cast blame. If I were being completely honest, I would have to admit that I've spent some part of the last 3 months doing just that, although never really aloud. I have to say, it hasn't been constructive and I don't feel any better. I'm sure that there are those who know us both who crave understanding almost as much as I do. In the interest of fairness, to both her and myself, I have tried to simply answer questions with vague (yet truthful) comments about different directions in life and drifting apart.

That said, I still can't shake the feeling that somehow everything that I do in the studio owes a debt to someone to whom I can no longer accept being indebted. And, so, my ongoing crisis of self-worth continues and takes on yet more baggage.

It feels as though my fountain of creativity has been poisoned. I'm sure that others have been here, and will explore this landscape in the future. Unfortunately, none of the previous visitors have seen fit to leave a map showing how to find the antidote. If you know where to find the cure to what ails me and would like to try your hand at cartography, drop me a note. I'd love to hear from you.

29 November 2005

Santa can't resist that smile

You'd never guess from the huge smile on Miss Mica's face that she was not so fond of Santa this year. I guess that she liked the Clifford hand puppet that the photographer was wearing and tickling her with more than she didn't like Santa.

We have observed that there are few things that Mica actually fears. Masks are one. 3-D glasses are another. A young friend of ours has these Hulk Hands which terrified her. My current theory is that we can add Santa's beard to that list. In a way, it makes a certain amount of sense... Mica just doesn't like anything which obscures a person's basic humanity.

We're fortunate to have absolutely wonderful pictures of our baby girl with Santa from both last year and this year. I'm glad that the people from the mall were willing to be patient while I introduced Mica to Santa and allowed them to become acquainted gradually. Of course it helps that I was able to time our visit for a day and time when there was absolutely no line. I'm not sure that we could arrange that again on a bet. Posted by Picasa
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21 November 2005

Busy weekend

Saturday was the grand opening of my friend Helena's studio and gallery in Middletown, Ohio. After a week spent pulling the space together, everything looked great. We had throwing demos and lampworking. I spent the day making agateware goddesses.

Today, we took Mica to Indiana for pictures. It's hard to believe how much she's grown. She's a little girl now, not a baby at all anymore.
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10 November 2005

Free Beads Part II

I sent tiny heart pendants to the Sampler for the November Sampler box. The picture (at left) was posted in the Sneek Peeks so I figured that I'd finally say something about them. The hearts are porcelain, strung on vintage rubber tubing that I picked up at Mendelson's as a vegan friendly alternative to leather.

I don't really do much in the way of retail sales direct to the public. I've done 3 bead shows this year and plan to do several next year, but my primary business is wholesale to bead stores. I thought long and hard about what the Sampler could do for me given my prefered business model. I really wanted to participate in the Sampler because it sounded like so much fun.

I had been thinking for quite some time about creating a MysticSpiral Street Team and realized that the Sampler could be the perfect way to kick that project off. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten my act together to create a form for the website yet. If you're reading this and think that you'd like to participate, send me an email and I'll get back to you with details.

Notes From the Voodoo Cafe: Hey, Artists! Listen Up!

And this is why I really need to keep working on my website. I love Ricë Freeman-Zachery's work and her blog has been inspirational to me... I'd hate to hear what she'd think of my website in it's current state. It's better than it was, but it still needs work. Check her out.
Notes From the Voodoo Cafe: Hey, Artists! Listen Up!

03 November 2005

Show's over

I am finished with bead shows for the year. The show last weekend went pretty well. I'll never retire on what I'm making at bead shows, but I came out of the weekend in the black by about twice what I had invested in the show and with a new wholesale customer.

Green Girl Studios didn't show up for the show. On one hand, I kinda missed having another vendor next to my table. (There was a door there that someone kept opening because there were climate control issues with the venue. If there had been a vendor set up there, no one would have opened that door and I'm sure that things would have been more tollerable for those of us at that end of the room.) I'm sure that they'd have done well and that people may have spent some extra time looking at our table while waiting for the hordes of customers to clear so that they could get their turn to browse through and buy all the wonderful pewter charms. On the other hand, I'd have been right there next to the irresistable charms all weekend and would probably have spent more than I made. Maybe I'm lucky they weren't there afterall. I did pretty good this time. I bought 4 mixed strands of freshwater pearls so that I could work up a porcelain and pearl necklace to show off the porcelain. I also bought some nylon string for stringing the necklace because I'm thinking about knoting between the beads and pearls. The knots will protect the pearls from the porcelain.

After Louisville, I spent some time trying to figure out what I hoped to achieve with the bead shows. I reached the conclusion that, as long as I met my expenses for the shows, my real goal was to use the opportunity to promote myself, and (eventually) my wholesale customers. The shows are a way of raising awareness of artisan ceramic beads.

Post bead show, I seem to have come down with a cold. That combined with my usual readiness for a break has kept me out of the studio. It's cold enough that I need to either gather my tools and supplies into the indoor studio (which needs some pretty major re-organization before I can start working in there again) or move a portable heater out to the screen porch so that I don't freeze while I'm working.

28 October 2005

Show business

The Dayton Bead Show is this weekend. I'm meeting JJ at the Holiday in by Dayton Mall at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Show runs from 10-5 tomorrow and 10-4 on Sunday. (If you happen to read this blog and stop by the show, come by the booth and say hi.)

They set me up at the show right next to Green Girl Studios. I've seen their ads in Bead & Button Magazine. I am completely in love with their pewter charms and pendants. I'm afraid that being set up next to them at the show may have disastrous results for me. :)

As usual, I forgot a couple of things for the show. I have a list on the spiral bound notebook next to me. Props to adjust the angle of the boxes, business card holders, the business cards with the blog address on them, the dolls... (How could I forget the dolls? ok, I didn't really forget them, I didn't want to leave them at the show overnight.)

See you tomorrow, I hope.
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27 October 2005

Let's face it...

Do you ever get the feeling that you're being watched? There are roughtly 50 glazed faces sitting on the table next to my computer waiting to be fired. I've been trying to get out to the garage to load a kiln for almost 3 hours. The batteries on Sprout's swing died yesterday, so right now I can't even lull her to sleep long enough to take a shower or go to the bathroom. She's teething so she's kinda fussy and high needs at the moment.

The Dayton Show is this weekend. I'll probably go ahead and set up the table tomorrow night on my own and then meet JJ there Saturday for the show.

I should have plenty of stock for the show. I didn't really sell that much in Louisville and haven't done any shows or sales trips since then. I want to place a little more emphasis on the faces for the art dolls this time around. (Which is why there are 50 of them waiting to be fired.) I'm taking my dolls with me to the show to showcase the faces. I'm looking forward to seeing the response.

ETA: I finally loaded Sprout into her car seat and took her, the diaper bag, and my faces out to the garage. I loaded the kiln while she watched from her car seat and then loaded her, and me, into Mom's car (which I'm borrowing for the weekend) to run some errands. We have new batteries for the swing, and now if I can just figure out the dynatrol issue... (What in the bloody h*ll does ErrD mean?) I'm hoping that JJ can come over sometime next week (I wasn't able to pick up the hydrocal from the pottery supply store for him since they were out of stock... this means that he'll need to come this way next week anyway) and we can poke at the kiln. Speaking of which, I should go check on it.

15 October 2005

Magnetic Personality

I decided to make some magnets to go into promotional packages with line sheets and samples and other materials to be sent to prospective wholesale customers. VistaPrint is having a sale right now. The prices aren't great, but they're better than they would be without the sale. I think that the design for the magnet worked out well.
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13 October 2005

Collaboration in action

Let's you and I conjure together. You watch me and I'll watch you and I will show you how to show me how to show you how to do our marvelous human tricks together.

Image and finished design by Shari Bonnin of Bonnin Designs

My artform is unusual in that my work remains unfinished until another artist has incorporated it into theirs. I have been fortunate, recently, to share the creative process with Shari Bonnin of Bonnin Designs. I posted an image earlier this week as a preview of the results of this collaboration. For those of us who obsessively pour over the bead magazines that arrive in our mailboxes on a frighteningly regular basis, Shari's name and work is probably familiar. If you're having difficulty remembering why, perhaps a glimpse at one of the Fire Mountain Gems ads on the back covers will spark your memory. Shari's designs have been featured in two of them. In addition, her work was featured on multiple episodes of DIY's Jewelry Making series during the 2004 season.
Image and finished design by Shari Bonnin of Bonnin Designs

It has been such a joy for me to see how Shari has incorporated my work into hers. I hope that readers of my blog enjoy this preview. I look forward to showcasing this and other collaborative efforts on my website in the near future.
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Testing 123

The computerized kiln is firing in the garage as I type this. It is the initial test firing which will tell me that I've got everything hooked up correctly and allow the bricks and everything to outgas before I place anything important into the kiln. In about 18 hours I'll be able to look into the spy hole of the kiln and tell whether everything went according to plan. Once this test firing is done, I can fire hundreds and hundreds of beads at the same time. I will probably spend a significant portion of my weekend glazing beads to fire early next week. What fun!!! Yeah!!!!!
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12 October 2005

My Little Rosie

We took Sprout to Indiana today for pictures. She was absolutely wonderful. We got some of the most fantastic pictures. I'm particularly thrilled with the pictures of her in her Halloween costume. I decided that I wanted her to be Rosie the Riveter this year since it will probably be my last chance to choose her costume.

We also got some wonderful seasonal shots.
Photos by Sandy Nabb Nabb Photography

11 October 2005

Vessel Necklace Preview

I've been excitedly anticipating the results of several recent collaborative projects. I sent pieces to several members of an online forum that I'm on so that they could use them to make finished jewelry. The first of the jewelry designers to respond was Shari Bonnin of Bonnin Designs. I'll be adding the pictures of the finished work to my website in a special gallery but I wanted to post a quick preview in the form of one of the images that Shari sent me. It shows the vessel that I sent her with the beads that she selected to go with it.

03 October 2005

Free Beads

I'm working on a new marketing plan for my website. It's not really a new idea but I don't know of anyone in the bead community who is using it the way that I am. I want to create a "street team" for my beads.

My plan is to create a page asking visitors to my site for their help finding potential wholesale clients. I need to promote the idea as a win-win situation. What if visitors to my site could go to their favorite local bead store and see my beads and vessels in person, choose from a selection of them, purchase them, and take them home immediately without the wait and expense of shipping. I would love for that to be possible, but what I need is the names and contact information for bead stores in the areas where they live. I would like to reward their help in gathering this information by sending them a thank-you gift for any wholesale leads which result in new wholesale customers.

I really feel like wholesale is a better avenue for me than retail. I would rather spend my time in the studio than setting up a shopping cart on my website or listing auctions on ebay. I would like to use the bead shows to find, service, and promote wholesale clients in the areas where I do shows. I would love to travel to shops around the country and do trunk shows and workshops and speak about ceramic beads at bead guild meetings. I feel like the visitors to my website can be the most powerful force to help make these things happen and I want to create a system which allows, encourages and rewards thier efforts on my behalf.

02 October 2005

Kiln' Time

The electrician came today to wire an outlet for my Kiln. I need to finish hooking up the controller and to buy some witness cones to replace the ones that shipped with the kiln so that I can test fire.

Tonight I'm bisque firing the heart pendants that I'm working on for The Sampler. I also have some callus "stones", the skull masks and doll faces, and some other doll faces all in the kiln. The idea is that I should be able to glaze them while the kiln is going through it's inital test firing and then glaze fire them later in the week. I have a lot of beads and stuff to glaze and fire.

While the electrician was here anyway, we had him run an outlet for my old bench furnace. When I bought the small kiln, I had the guy at Vulcan re-wire the bench furnace since I had accidentally over-fired it. The kiln is now wired for 120V and fires to 1650 on household current so that I can use it for PMC. I'm thinking that I should be able to do some limited raku firing using the bench furnace as well. It is at least worth experimenting with.

Other than that, I've spent most of the last two days working on adding tags to the blog. Hopefully the tags will increase the utility of the blog and make it easier for me to find my website notes. It doesn't do me any good to write down my plans for my website if I can't find my notes to follow up on them.

28 September 2005

Time Flies

Miss Mica is asleep in her swing giving mommy a much needed break from chasing her around the livingroom. My baby girl is walking. She still sits down and crawls if she wants to get somewhere but she takes 2-5 steps at a time unassisted and unsupported. My mother and I took her yesterday to get her bangs trimmed because her hair was always in her eyes. The haircut was not her favorite experience. She kept trying to fend off the comb, scissors and the hands of the women wielding them.

I can't believe that it has been a week and a half since the Louisville Show. I should probably post a quick recap before I move on to plans for the next show. We were located, as I said in my last entry, we were just inside the entrance to the show. This was great exposure but I'm afraid that it didn't do wonderful things for sales. Most people stopped and looked at the table on their way in, but didn't want to buy until they'd seen more of the show. By the time that they got back to us, most of them seemed to have exceeded their budgets. Everyone was very complimentary but our work was so different from anything else in the show and I'm not sure that anyone knew quite what they wanted to do with it.

I had one very interesting development. A while back I wrote about my feelings about funerary art and the idea that I could make vessels as reliquaries for crematory remains. During the Louisville show, a gentleman was looking at my vessels and commented to his wife that they would be good for ashes. The two of us ended up in a conversation about the possibilities of pendant vessels for pet cremains. He works for a pet cemetery and thinks that their clients might be very interested. It was just an interesting piece of coincidence.

I spent some time over the last week trying to figure out what I need to make in anticipation of the Dayton Show. One of the popular trends in bead arts right now is beaded art dolls. I saw very little in Louisville aimed at that market. Jane, from Jane's Fiber and Beads had a few ceramic faces by Keith O'Connor. (I don't really have anything against his beads, they're just a radically different style from my own. They tend a little toward the primitive or rustic.)

JJ's polymer and ceramic faces were a big hit and the mask pendants that I had were well received. People really want to see faces right now. So I'm spending some time focusing on making faces for the Dayton show. I plan on making the faces as both cabs (suitable for dolls, jewelry, or embellishments on other artforms) and as pendants with loops on the back.

So far, I have about 13 skull masks made. I have sketches of 18 styles of masks in my notebook as a springboard for ideas. Even if I spend my studio time replicating the faces in my sketchbook, I should be able to create quite a stock of finished pieces to put on the table at the show.

I'm debating now whether I want to try to get some doll bodies made (either buy them from someone who makes them, or maybe commission a friend of mine who sews to make them) to sell at the show with the faces. I want to display finished dolls or dolls in progress at the show to show off the faces in use.

20 September 2005

Show off

We couldn't have asked for a better location at the Louisville show, really. We were set up just inside the entrance to the show. I'll post more details about the actual event later in the week. For now, I just wanted to post some info about how we set up the table. Mostly, I'm happy. There's still work that could be done, but nothing is set in stone.

I got a chance on Sunday to take a couple of pictures of the table set-up so that I could post them here and have them for my records so that I would have a frame of reference for future improvements. Amongst other things, I'd like to add some levels to the tablescape so that the table has more drama. Eventually we'll get all the kinks worked out and have a pretty nice display. As it stood, we got quite a few comments on the "E boxes" and on the typesetter's tray.

Amongst other things, I'd like to replace the plastic compartmentalized trays that I have in the "E-Boxes." They're not really very attractive. I'd like to replace them with either wood or black plastic similar to the trays used elsewhere on the table.

We had an 8 foot table instead of the 6 foot table, so what was supposed to be a table covering and skirt set-up was adjusted to cover the end of the table. I'd have been much happier with something a bit more symmetrical.

We set the center box up on edge to add some height to the table. To take advantage of the frame-like quality of the upright box, we set one of the black plastic trays at an angle into the box. I would like, when we do the Dayton show, to add some of JJ's dolls as well as some of my own to showcase the faces that both JJ and I make. We got more comments on the faces, and they sold well for both of us.

The type tray, with the back painted a dark umber, created a classy display. The little compartments worked better with the goddesses and shell vessels than with some of the other forms, but all-in-all, I think the pieces were displayed well.

The show contract specifies that we'll have 6-foot tables. Everything looks really spread-out on an 8-foot table but I'm reluctant to make too many adjustments to the display on the off chance that we'll have the extra 2 feet next time around.

16 September 2005

Let's get this show on the road...

Well, if you happen to be in the Louisville area and have some time to kill this weekend, please consider stopping by the show. It would be interesting to meet people. I'm hoping for visits from family who live in the area but am trying to keep my expectations in check.

As I write this, JJ is probably on I-70 somewhere between Springfield and I-75. We're driving down to Louisville tonight and setting up tomorrow morning. The whole set-up shouldn't take long. We'll get the table set up and then start filling pieces into the little cubbies in the trays.

I have an antique wooden type drawer like those used by typesetters in the days of moveable type. I got it free from a woman who had storage space across from my old studio. Someone, in their infinite wisdom, had removed the paper backing that was originally used in the drawer and replaced it with felt. At some later date, someone (maybe the same someone, maybe someone else) removed the felt leaving behind a fuzzy glue crust. My old neighbor didn't think that she could make enough selling it to pay her for the time that she would have to invest in cleaning it. I've had it sitting in my basement for something like 4 years.

After a moderate investment of time and energy in cleaning the type drawer, I found myself in complete agreement with my former neighbor. There was no way that I could justify the effort that would be needed to get the glue and felt bits out. My solution, paint over them with a dark umber paint. Once the paint had dried, I went over the whole thing with some paste wax to remove the dust and grime and it is absolutely beautiful.

I'll be taking pictures of the table at the show this weekend. I look forward to posting them here. 'Til then, have a happy and safe weekend. We'll be doing our best to enjoy the show. Mica's daddy is coming with us to help with her while I'm busy at the table. JJ and I have been friends for almost 15 years so it's like traveling with my brother. Kim doesn't know what she's missing.

13 September 2005

Beastial Beadshows, Batman!!!!!!

Louisville is in just three days. Suddenly, the show is looking a lot different than it did even when I woke up this morning. Kim has backed out of the show. This means that JJ and I will be doing the show on our own.

I'm in the process of evaluating what I have to take with me. How much stock do I have? How much will I need? How much is JJ taking with him? As far as what I need to do to get ready for the show, not much has really changed. I still need to finish stringing the beads that I'm taking with me. I need to print and cut hang tags. I need to put price stickers on the hang tags. I need to organize my stock so that it is ready for quick replacement of sold items or for showing to customers who would like to see what else is available.

On a more mundane level, I need to do laundry and pack for myself and Mica for the weekend. I need to pack up the playpen and the portable swing from the studio. I need to pack baby food and juice, nipples, pacifiers and toys.

Most of the stuff that I took with me to the Cincinnati show is still in the boxes. I won't need to buy tissue paper or paper bags. I have a receipt book that I've prepped by writing my URL on the bottom of every page. I still have the table covering that Kate made for the show folded with the batik bedspread that I used over it.

I was hoping to pick up a couple of clothing items in preparation for the show. I'd really like to get one(or two) camisole type tops to wear since I'll have Mica with me. I need something reasonably discreet for nursing, especially since there will just be JJ and I at the table. It looks now, however, as though that is unlikely for several reasons.

What I'm realizing, as I write this, is that it's not the bead show that I find most daunting. Beads, I've got aplenty. What I find a little more daunting is the prospect of the show **WITH** Miss Mica. I've traveled with miss baby. It can be either a pleasure or a trial. I sincerely hope that we are able to get the sleep we need, the show will be pure hell if we don't.

I've alread emailed the folks at Bead Mercantile to let them know that we won't be able to do the Pittsburgh show. Traveling to Pittsburgh in mid-November with a baby is not something that I'm really up for, although I hate to back out after signing the contract. I don't know how much, if any, I'll get back. I still plan, however, on doing the Dayton show. In either case, this has been a learning experience for me.

I realized last night that the real reason that I wanted to do these shows with Kim was that I felt unequal to the task of preparing for and setting up a bead show on my own. I didn't know if I could make enough stock to make it worthwhile. I didn't know if I could come up with a display that would be suitable. I just didn't know if I could do it. I now know that, if circumstances were slightly different, I'd be fine. I can make as much stock as I need, and more. The display will evolve as needed.

When Mica's older, this might actually be a good course for me to persue. But until she's weaned and I'm ready to leave her for a weekend, I think it would be best if I stuck to wholesale and maybe one or two local(ish) shows.

12 September 2005

The process that I use to make these is written up on my website. I hadn't made any of them in over a year. I am glad to be back to them. Especially since I finally have some idea where I want to go with them. Posted by Picasa Photo by KJF

The whole pierced porcelain bead thing is a pretty labor-intensive process. Everyone that I've shown my earlier pierced porcelain beads to has loved them. I'm hoping to enter these into some juried competitions in the coming year. Posted by Picasa photo by KJF

In an effort to explore the things that make me love what I do, I've been working on some pierced porcelain beads since finishing the stock for the show. They haven't been fired yet but I couldn't wait to show them off. Posted by Picasa Photo by KJF

09 September 2005

Mystery stains

With less than a week to prepare for the Louisville Show, I have officially finished making beads for the show. The time has come to focus on show preparation rather than manufacturing stock. Over the next week, I will be temporarily stringing beads to sell as strands, creating and printing price labels, creating and printing signs (and laminating them?), and otherwise trying to get ready for the show. I would have liked to have been ready for the show weeks ago, but it's a bit late for that now, isn't it.

I decided at the beginning of this week that anything that wasn't ready to go in the kiln on Wednesday wasn't going to the show. Wednesday evening, after transferring the dry beads from the surface on which they were spread to dry, I began working on things for my own mental health. The stress of preparing for a show, and trying to produce enough stock to make the show worthwhile (not to mention the stress of an increasingly mobile toddler and migraines, etc) was beginning to get to me. From some perspectives, it would be much easier and more lucrative for me to get an office job than to make beads by hand in my home studio. From my perspective, there is too much that I would miss. I spend my days with my baby girl whose world expands every day as she discovers more and more about it. I am doing, mostly, something that I love, mostly, and set my own schedule while I'm doing it. Usually...

Right now, since I've been focusing on the show, I've been trying to get as much time in the studio and make the absolute most of that time. In an effort to create the widest variety possible, I've been working in colored porcelain. I mix small batches of 4-5 ounces which is enough to make 80-100 beads. From each batch, I make one kind of beads.

To add an element of mystery to the process, I've been using stains of dubious provenance acquired from a semi-local ceramics supplier. This supplier has, over the years, purchase large quantities of clay and glaze chemicals, including stains, from other suppliers when they've gone out of business. The stains that I've purchased are decanted into jars and labeled to the best ability of my semi-local supplier. A materials scientist would probably have a coronary at the site of these odd jars with their funky labels and uncertain contents. It is my goal to use all of my collected stains during my lifetime so that Mica is not forced to call in a Hazmat team to clean my studio when I'm gone.

The result of my acquisition of these alchemistic colorants is that I'm really not sure what I'm going to get when I add the stain to my clay. So far, my experiments have not been bad. The "I think it's blue" stain yielded a beautiful blue and the "Green" stain was very obviously green in the jar and in every stage of production. If you make leaves out of green clay, it doesn't really matter what shade of green you get. On the other hand, "It may be Orange" bisqued to a lovely white. I don't know if it will become orange when fired to a higher temperature. I may have made 2 batches of 100 off-white beads. The yellow stain, in high concentration, had previously given me a startling shade which made my eyes long for the soothing comfort of a 1000 watt incandescent bulb. I mixed the yellow clay with considerably less stain this time around, hoping for a milder result.

I look forward to posting pictures once the beads return from their high firing in Kim's kiln. If things go well in Louisville, I hope to hire an electrician to do the wiring for my large kiln so that I will no longer be kept in such unbearable suspense.

04 September 2005

Cherio Goddess

I seem to have a shortage of green goddesses right now, which is unusual. I've looked in all the usual places. I can't believe that I've sold them all. But I must have.
I currently have one green goddess, and several agateware goddesses. The image below is a close-up of the agateware goddess in the bottom row of the group pic, 2nd from the left.
Agateware is hand-colored clay with varigation. The green marbling that can be seen in the picture runs all the way through the goddess. The two goddesses on the ends of the top row, and the one closest to the ruler in the bottom row are also agateware.

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03 September 2005

Doing what I can

I redid the front page of my website in an effort to promote donations for hurricane relief. I need to add some more information, specifically a link to CERF, and a link to Coffee Cup Software's hurricane relief effort as well as The United Way.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get beads made for the bead show in Louisville in 2 weeks. I've gotten quite a few colored porcelain beads made. I'm trying to arrange a couple of barter deals. I've solicited collaborators on the Switchboards to make some pieces using some of my beads so that I can have some pictures for my website.

Tomorrow we're taking Mica to the butterfly house for the release of the butterflies.

30 August 2005

Pit-fired Goddesses

I individually sculpt these goddess focals. The holes for stringing run horizontally at their sholders. These have been pit-fired. The results are very similar to raku but the process is much different. If you're interested in learning more about the process, I wrote a rather lengthy entry on it some time ago. I love the finish on the pit-fired goddesses and should really try to get a few more made and ready for firing before the Louisville bead show. (I usually retail the Goddesses for $15 each.)

Cameo Drops

These are some of my cameo drop beads. They're temporarily strung in a set of 10. They're made of porcelain and are fired to more than 2300 degrees. (These retail for $5 each or $40 for a strand of 10.)

Porcelain beads are a lot like pearls. They warm to the touch so that when you wear them they begin to feel like a part of you. They also absorb some of the oils from your skin. This will, over time, give these beads a beautiful patina. As secondary side effect, as anyone who has ever inherited a set of pearls from beloved grandmother can attest, these beads will absorb traces of the scent of their wearer.

I envision these beautifully strung with freshwater pearls. I'd love to see what a competent jewelry designer would do with them.

Barter is Better

I've been working on images today, in part because of an interest in showing off some of my work to potential barter partners. (Since it helps to have a value when determining whether to trade, I should include pricing here. The leaves retail for $5 each or $40 for a strand of 10. The blue beads below retail for $4 each or $30 for a strand of 10.)

The images in this entry are of colored porcelain beads. Each is completely hand-formed using colored porcelain made using the method described in this entry. The beads are fired to more than 2300 degrees and the color goes all the way through. In the unlikely event that one of the beads chips, a little sand paper will disguise the area.

27 August 2005

Works in progress

I have about 60 yellow porcelain beads made and another 40 or so ready to be decorated. There are about 160 turquoise porcelain beads in bisqued bowls sitting on my work table waiting for the yellow to be finished so that I can fire them.

I was asked the other day why I hand-color porcelain in such small batches. The answer is that a 4-5 ounce ball of clay fits nicely in my hands and is easy for me to work with. No matter how well I work the clay, there will be natural variations in the coloration. I like these, but want to have a bit of control over them. I've also found that a 4-5 ounce batch makes between 80 and 100 beads depending on the style of bead that I'm working on. It just works well with the way that I work.

I spent some time last night temporarily stringing some of my porcelain cameo drops in sets of 5 and 10. I used some inexpensive glass seed beads and bugle beads as spacers. I really think that having them spaced out the way that they are now illustrates the possiblities of them. I need to get more of the glass beads to use as spacers because the ones that I'm using now are leftover from a project a couple of years ago.

I took the blue and green porcelain beads to Kim the other day to be fired. I'm looking forward to stringing the leaves in the same way that I've done the cameo drops. Well, I should be working instead of writing about working.

25 August 2005

Just a quick snap from Mica's birthday party. I'll upload more as time permits. She had a great time and was thrilled to have so many people to play with. What a sweetheart we have. I was so glad to have so many friends there to share the day with us.
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It's too quiet

I woke up this morning with a headache and muscle aches. My beloved, understanding my desperate need for a bit of extra sleep, took Miss M to his mother's house on his way to work. I woke up gradually, snuggled for a bit with Alpheus, came downstairs and took a shower, checked my email and caught up on my discssions. It's barely 1 pm and I've now done everything that I usually hope to accomplish in a day, even after sleeping in. I miss my baby.

19 August 2005

Writing things down

I've been mostly offline for the last 2 days and will probably continue to be offline until Tuesday. Mica's birthday tea is tomorrow afternoon and Sunday will be quality family time. (with hopefully a couple hours in the studio for good measure)

I've gotten about 650 words of an article about the Beads-Of-Clay group written to submit to bead magazines. Last night I started an article on colored porcelain beads which I'd like to submit for publication as well. I'm planning a series of articles which I will either use to update my website or try to find publishers for.

I've got to do something, right?

17 August 2005

Colored porcelain

After spending the day running errands and trying to prepare for Miss Mica's birthday tea, I celebrated her birthday by encouraging Mica and her daddy to visit his parents for a while and going into the studio.

Tonight's project: Hand-Colored porcelain beads

Begin by measuring out clay and adding colorants. For tonight's beads I mixed 2 batches of blue porcelain. Since I generally mix small quantities which I then use up in one or two sittings. To mix the first batch of blue porcelain I weighed out 4 ounces of Helios porcelain from Highwater Clays and pinched a small well into the center of the ball. To that I added 1/4 teaspoon of a cobalt based blue stain and a few drops of water. I mixed the water and the stain into a paste with a bamboo skewer and started working it into the porcelain by scoring through the paste into the clay. The reason for making a paste and working it into the clay in this way is to prevent the stain from being released as dust or the stain/water mixture from "squirting" out of the clay when you begin the next step.

Once the paste has been worked into the clay some, the goal is to completely blend the stain into the clay. This is best accomplished by kneading the clay, squeezing it, and rolling it into snakes which you fold, knead and roll again.

All-in-all, hand-coloring porcelain is a lot of work but it's a labor of love. if I were doing a lot of colored porcelain, I'd probably buy it pre-mixed.

What a year its been...

I can't believe my baby is a year old today. I couldn't resist posting a composite image with several pictures from the last year. The one in the lower left corner was taken in the hospital the day that she was born. They had a tube in her nose for a while but she pulled it out as quickly as she could.

She was so fragile and we came so close to loosing her.

The partial picture in the upper left corner is one of the studio portraits taken by my aunt Sandy at her photography studio in Indiana. She has taken the most wonderful pictures of Miss Mica, starting when she was 6 weeks old and she took the black and white picture of Mica and I together that is in my profile. Those who live close enough to her studio to avail themselves of her services are extraordinarily fortunate. She's amazingly talented, and so patient.

Of course Sandy says that you can't smack the smile off my baby. I guess that's a good thing, it sure makes her fun to photograph. The picture on the right here is a snapshot that I took on the cruise last month. I carry a digital camera in her diaper bag so that I can take pictures whenever possible.
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13 August 2005

Crisis of Self-Worth

I find myself asking a lot of difficult questions right now. I know, although I'm somewhat uncomfortable saying so, that I am good at what I do. My discomfort with that assertion stems not from modesty (false or otherwise) but from a desire to avoid the difficult questions which naturally follow. What I cannot say is whether or not there is any greater good to be served by being good at something that the world neither needs nor wants. Some part of the validation of my chosen course comes from people who like my work enough to want it to occupy a place in their lives.

As the date of the Louisville bead show approaches I'm more intensely aware of this question of whether I'm doing the right things with my life. I find myself asking the question, how much money do I have to make at the show to justify my life choices and to establish my worth. I am appalled by the very nature of that question. I have never believed that money justifies anything. I certainly don't believe that money and happiness go hand in hand... So, why is it that if I'm making money I'm more assured in my right to do something at which I'm skilled and that I love doing?

I can't blame my husband for this bizarre fit of conscience. He has never been anything other than supportive. I can't even say that my choice of occupation is somehow a burden to my family. I work from home and am able to take care of my daughter. I'm certainly not the only woman working from home as a way of supplimenting my household income while taking care of my child. I read an article today about being a mom first. I have certainly made Mica's needs a priority when planning my days. We are working as a family to balance studio time with the needs of our family.

I don't know that there is a simple answer (or even a complex answer... I'm not picky) to this crisis of self-worth... For the moment I just wanted to put something in writing as a placekeeper so that I could continue to examine the issue.

12 August 2005

Mica's just growing so fast. I can't believe that she'll be a year old in less than a week. It's just not possible. Posted by Picasa
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Monarchs doing what it takes to make more monarchs from a recent visit to our local butterfly house. Photographs of moths mating were what inspired my first twin chamber vessels.Posted by Picasa

09 August 2005

There's got to be an easier way

One disadvantage of making hundreds of beads is that you have to glaze and fire hundreds of beads. I've got about 70 beads sitting in a box next to me with a glaze on them that I've never used before. I sure hope that I like it once it's fired. If I like the color but not the finish, I could etch them, but I'd rather not have to invest the extra time.

I worked some on polkadots in the studio this evening. Once I'm done with the ones that I'm working on, I'll probably stop that for a while and focus on some colored porcelain beads. It's great to work with color that doesn't have to be applied with a brush and suspended during firing.

31 July 2005

International News Shortage

As I write this, my husband and I are watching the final broadcast of News World International. The Gore Group has purchased the channel for its broadcast license and broadcast agreements. They are launching their new programming, Current TV, just after 12 midnight. We'll still be able to watch some of the CBC Programming on the web, particularly The National. That said, it's just not the same as turning on the tv and hitting the favorite button.

It's been a long day. I spent time working on the invitations for Sprout's birthday tea. I need to address the envelopes and they'll be ready to go to the post office tomorrow night. I'm pleased with how they came together.

I got some studio time in this evening but came in to watch the final NWI broadcast. I finished the barrel beads that I was working on and have moved on to polkadot beads.

And now the time comes to sit down and write a letter to DIRECTV to let them know how much we hope that they will work with CBC to bring International News back to their customers.

30 July 2005

Blackout blues

My studio time tonight was cancelled by a power outage. I'm not quite dedicated enough to make beads by candle light. Or, maybe I'm just not that dedicated tonight. I'll make beads tomorrow. Instead, Ken and I brought Sprout to visit my parents and we'll go home and go to bed and when we wake in the morning we'll have either power or daylight to work with.

I didn't get much of a response to my post on the BPAL forums offering to trade beads for imps. Heather suggested that I try contacting individuals with large swap lists posted and see if I can work up some interest that way, maybe negotiate a couple of trades for vessels, that sort of thing... I'll see if I can work up any enthusiasm for that. Right now, I'm just wondering if I am fishing in the wrong pond. Maybe it's not the right place for me. *shrug* I don't know. I tend to be a little insecure about things like this. Whatever the case, I asked the moderators to kill my swap post and I'll either work something out privately or I'll think of some other way to demonstrate the use of my vessels at my coming bead shows. BPAL is beginning to feel a little like the wrong path for me at the moment.

Or, perhaps I'm just feeling a little frustrated by the number of things which are out of my control at the moment.

25 July 2005

Wandering mind

It is amazing what I find myself thinking about as I work in the studio by myself at night. The world outside the studio is darkness and thick with sounds of crickets and night birds while, inside my little glass box, a cd plays softly and I go through the repetitive process of making the same bead 100 times before moving on to make 100 of the next bead.

My friend Heather lost her beloved cat last month after a prolonged battle to save him. I was thinking about what a great cat Loki was, and that (if I were a cat) I could only hope to be so loved. Heather and I have talked about the idea of a vessel of some sort to hold part of Loki's ashes. In that way, she can have a part of him with her always and still scatter the ashes at her parents' home.

I saw my friend Helena yesterday and talked to her about this idea of making funerary jewelry. She immediately found herself thinking that this might be something that she'd be interested when her beloved cat eventually passes. This is not as abstract a consideration as it might be as the cat in question is quite elderly and has mostly lost interest in her food.

I also contacted someone from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab forum in response to a post that they had made looking for information about crematory jewelry. They were specifically looking for a lampwork artist who incorporates ash into her work to create a beautiful and lasting memento of a deceased loved-one. I'm not sure the one that I just found was the one that they were looking for. At the time, I just posted to say that, if they couldn't find what they were looking for, I would be honored to work with them on something suitable.

The more that I think about it, the more that I like the idea of being involved with the process of preserving the connection to a loved one who has passed. When I talked to Helena about this whole thing, she was saying that one of her biggest regrets was that, when her father passed, she didn't keep some of his ashes with her. Once the ashes were scattered, she lost that connection to him. Perhaps I could help someone.

After a while, however, my wandering mind turned away from funerary art toward something a bit more directly related to the work at hand. That being, my desire to have a selection of fragrances at the bead shows for my buyers to become familiar with the concept of artisan fragrance. I think that I want to post a swap request on the BPAL forum saying that I will trade a pair of beads for each imp of fragrance which someone sends me. It seems like a reasonable trade to me... I wonder what sort of response I'll get.

23 July 2005

And the bead rolls on

I negotiated with my sweetie for two studio sessions today. I worked in the studio for a couple of hours this afternoon, and then again for a couple hours after dinner. Sprout played in the playpen we bought her for the studio while daddy took care of a couple things inside and then he took over baby watch and I had quality time to play in the mud.

I made over 100 beads today. I started out working on the same style of beads that I was making the last time I was in the studio. I've been thinking of them as "Squash Blossom Melon Beads." They're segmented like any other melon bead but they alternate a zig-zag division with a straight division so that the end result is rather interesting. When I took the break to come into the house for dinner, I had 117 of those made and drying. (Including the ones that I made last time.)

My plan is to break them up into 3 or 4 groups and glaze all the beads in each group the same color. I will probably fill the kiln with beads in a specific color and then sort them into strands of 10 and pairs after they're fired.

After dinner, I started working on polkadot beads. I got about 43 of them made before it was time to come in. This batch of polkadots have 4 large circles impressed around the bead and then 8 smaller ones. I have another 20 or so balls formed to make more beads when I get back into the studio on Monday night.

For now, it's time to take the baby up to bed. We're meeting Helena and her husband tomorrow at Cox Arboretum to enjoy their butterfly house. We probably won't get out to the butterfly prairie because the weather is supposed to be inhospitable.

This will be a full week. Lisa is coming into town for a personal appearance and we'll be seeing her briefly on Tuesday afternoon. Monday I'm getting together with JJ to talk web stuff and work out firing for some of his doll faces.

Speaking of dolls, I should get the one that I'm working on finished. I'm loving the way that her needle felted hair is turning out. She still won't tell me how she wants to wear her beads.

21 July 2005

Back to work

I spent about an hour in the studio this evening after dinner. Studio time is becoming more precious as Sprout becomes more mobile. She's officially crusing now, pulling herself up on the furniture and taking tentative steps while supporting herself. We spent several hours upstairs today, playing in the bed. I watched as she pulled herself up into a standing position using the windowsill and walked with her hands pressed against the wall to support her as she went from the head of the bed to the window and back.

She has gotten so good at going after what she wants. She can crawl quickly from one end of the bed to the other. The cats haven't quite learned that they're no longer safe from her. She wrestled Alpheus to the bed several times this afternoon and each time he looked at me as if to say, "Wait a minute, how did she get over here."

Sprout actually stood for a few minutes this afternoon without any support. She'd been standing at the window and brought first one hand and then the other up close to her face to look at them. I don't know when she realized that she wasn't holding on to anything, but it may not have been until she landed on her butt on the mattress. She just looked over at me and smiled in the most disarming way.

So, anyway, I got into the studio for a little while this evening. I worked on making a batch of about 36 beads which I'll be glazing the same color and then combining into strands of 10 or pairs for sale at the bead shows. I'm anticipating selling them for $25/strand or $6/pair.

I need to order glazes. I will probably order some from Georgie's because they have several that I'm particularly fond of.

Other than that, not much is going on in the studio. My sweetie moved all the vacation pictures off of the camera but I haven't seen most of them yet so I can't upload any more until he gives them to me on a disc or something.

We're meeting up with friends on Sunday at our local arboritum. They have a butterfly house. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm really looking forward to it. I have spare batteries in my purse for the camera so I'll have to take lots of pictures.

I haven't figured out yet how to incorporate butterfly imagery into some of my work. I'm sure that inspiration will come in due time.

17 July 2005

Home at last

I've arrived at home, exhausted and ready for a vacation after my vacation. There is always so much that you want to do and so little time to do it all. I didn't get to take Sprout out to the pool anywhere near as often as I would have liked while we had easy access to it. There were quite a few things that I wanted to do but didn't have time for. The vacation was over before I knew it.

I arrived home and tried to catch up on some of the conversational threads that I'd missed during my absence. I have one friend getting divorced, another's daughter had minor surgery (although your child having any procedure is never minor to a parent)... On a more positive note, I've finally been motivated by an ongoing discussion of BookCrossing.com to register and start releasing books into the wild. I will post to my blog when I release books and will make a point of releasing them in conjunction with bead shows in other cities as well.

16 July 2005

Checking in before checking out

Don't be surprised to see butterfly motifs showing up in my work in the near future. This is a picture of Sprout (and others) at the butterfly farm on Grand Cayman.

Will post exhaustive recap of trip when I've settled in at home. 'til then, we're alive and well and due to arrive at the Port of New Orleans at 4am.

03 July 2005

Website notes

I finally made the time to add links to the blog from my website and to add the internal links to the for sale page to certain key pages. I need, at some point, to add some more external links to my website. These are a few of the links that I want to add.

Links to incorporate into website development:


Helen Bates column for PMI with Pottery Tips on the Web from Sept/Oct 2003 includes a review of my site as well as some other wonderful sites for people learning ceramics. [to be placed on Tips and Techniques page]


Basic bead shapes from "The Bead Site" by the late Peter Francis Jr. The page explains some of the basic vocabulary of bead shapes. A link at the end of the page leads to a second page of more complicated bead shapes. A second link, http://www.thebeadsite.com/BBSTPR01.html, talks about the importance of bead holes in the study of beads. [to be placed on Tips and Techniques page]


This page is actualy a catalog page from Universal Mercantile Exchange, Inc. The page shows the shapes of beads available from this company. It is a useful reference simply because it illustrates a variety of styles and shapes of beads. [to be added to bead shapes page]

02 July 2005

Still more baby pictures

I didn't say much, in my earlier post, about what I got done today while I was working at my "Clay Date." I added handles to 5 of the 6 mini-amphorae that I'd started. I ended up destroying the 6th by putting the handles on crooked and being unable to correct the problem.

Once I'd finished the amphorae, I turned my attention to some beads. After the Cincinnati bead show, JJ suggested that I might want to have some of my beads strung in sets. I spent some time today working on the "Yarn Ball" spacers that I sometimes make. The idea was that I could string 10 or 20 of them together to make a strand which can be sold as a unit.

I'm going to limit the strands to certain types of beads. I'll probably do them with my shell spirals. Maybe with some of the carved or polka dot beads. The strands will probably be $25 or $45 depending on how many beads are on them.

I need to finish my current doll project so that I can get it in the mail before we leave on vacation. Other than that, the next week will probably be largely focused on getting ready for my trip.

These are probably the last two of the pictures of Sprout from the most recent photo session that I'll be posting. I may try to post some snap shots, if time permits. Otherwise, I'll post a couple pictures from vacation after I get back.

I don't know if I'll have much time for updates between now and then, or if I will have access or opportunity for an update from the road.