Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Days are here again

My computer is out of the shop! I haven't been ignoring the blog, just out of commission. A holiday miracle! So how have you all been this December?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sunday Dresses with Polka Dots

These polka dotted beads make me think of the Sunday dresses of our neighbor Ruby. During the week she wore any old thing working around the house and in the garden, but on Sundays, the fancy dresses and red lipstick came out. Nobody was a bigger part of our life on Trammel Creek than Ruby. She was the only neighbor within shouting distance and had lived there her whole life. She was in her seventies when she taught my boys to ride their tricycles by following them across our yard on her knees. She raised lush gardens every year and always shared the bounty of her tomatoes and okra when mine didn't measure up. It was pretty snakey close to the creek. When Ruby killed a snake with her hoe, she'd bring it down to show my delighted offspring. They'd hang it on a fence post because she told them that was how you make it rain(and it always seemed to rain soon after). She had a spacious house, but lived only in the back portion. The front had a parlour with a functioning player piano and maroon velvet furniture. It was used only at Christmas when her family came to visit.In her small living quarters, she had a recliner,a television, dozens of African violets and her party line telephone.(Party lines meant that you could pick up the receiver and hear your neighbor's conversations since everyone was on the same line. This was very entertaining and somewhat frustrating when you needed to make a call.) All her meals were eaten in front of that t.v.,preferably when Wheel of Fortune was playing. When we came to visit, we'd hear her shouting out the answers as soon as we stepped onto her property. There never was a day that Ruby didn't visit us at least three times. The visits were short and surprising as we never knew when she'd sneak up to the window and bellow, "Heeeeey boys." I've never seen anyone who enjoyed life more than Ruby. Trammel Creek was her whole world and for more than 80 years it was enough.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The importance of Oranges


At Christmastime
Mama kept oranges
In a perfect pyramid
On an old bread dough tray
That had belonged to my grandmother.
On display.

We never dared disturb them
And so they shriveled,
Mummified.
Mama would say (perplexed),
I can't understand why you
Won't eat that fruit.
So pretty.

Now I buy them
Extravagantly
In plastic net bags
And pile them in a jumble of
Bowls and dishes and plates.
Every season's offering
In disarray.



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Black and White Movies

There's something about black and white movies that makes you concentrate more fully. Maybe color distracts us. Anyway, this is the time of year we pull out some of our all time favorites. For holiday schmaltz we like: It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas in Connecticut,It Happened on 5th Avenue,and The Bishop's Wife.
For witty banter we choose:The Thin Man series or any of the old Tracy and Hepburn comedies.
We're particularly fond of screwball comedies like My Man Godfrey,It Happened one Night,Holiday,Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,Sullivan's Travels and Born Yesterday. A Slight Case of Murder is also fun.
For dance fever we choose the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers collection.
For pure nostalgia we like the Ma and Pa Kettle series and the Tarzan movies with Johnny Weismuller.
For drama it's Double Indemnity,Dark Victory and Mildred Pierce.
For romance it's Bogey and Bacall.
What's the best black and white movie of all time? Hands down it's Ball of Fire. It has everything a good black and white does best : music,dance,laughter,tenderness,gangsters,and romance.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One Christmas on Trammel Creek

It would be so nice to have a heartwarming Christmas miracle to write about today,but that's rarely how things happened on the creek. Let me set the stage for you.... The mailbox was in Kentucky and the house stood at the foot of a big hill in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. The road between was hotly contested. Neither state felt responsible for scraping the snow so we were often trapped days after everyone else had forgotten it even snowed. It was Christmas Eve.The kids were dressed in red fuzzy pajamas with feet sewn in. They had just left a plate of cookies for Santa (with a carrot for Rudolph) under the tree. Nobody wanted to go to bed.
We heard someone in the yard caterwauling, "I dream of Jeanie with the light broooown hair."
"Is it Santa? Is it Santa?" the boys chorused.
Looking out the window, we saw that it was undoubtedly not Santa. A jolly fellow we'd never seen danced unsteadily across the snow with our big Saint Bernard, Bandit.
We called the Tennessee police. They said it was not their jurisdiction. We called the Kentucky police. They said it was not their jurisdiction.
We called out to the jolly fellow to ask his name. Even in his drunken state, he introduced himself as we all do in the South by telling us not only his name but all the people we might know who were his aunts,uncles and cousins. We called everyone with his last name and finally got a cousin to agree to pick him up. Santa really did come early that night in the form of Cousin Earl.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Lady in the Little Red Minivan

(With apologies to little red hens everywhere)
One Saturday morning in December the lady with the little red minivan said to her family,"Who will help me carry the laundry baskets to the basement?"
"Not I," said the small girl on her tippy toes, "I have to practice my pirouettes."
"Not I,"said the tall boy in front of the computer,"I have made it to level 5 and must defeat the dragon."
"Not I," said the bald man with the remote control, "My team just scored a touchdown!"
"All right," said the lady with the little red minivan,"I'll do it myself!" So she lugged the laundry baskets full of football jerseys and ballerina costumes and sweatshirts with pictures of dragons on the front down to the basement where she spent quite some time watching the clothes go SWISH,SWISH (not to mention fluffing and folding).
At lunchtime the lady with the little red minivan said,"Who will run to the grocery store on the corner for a loaf of bread so that I can make our lunch?"
"Not I," said the small girl twirling in circles,"I have to sew sparkles on my tutu."
"Not I,"said the tall boy,"I just made it to level 8!"
"Not I,"said the bald man,"It's halftime. Here comes the marching band."
"All right,"said the lady as she jumped into her little red minivan,"I'll do it myself!" So she drove to the grocery story and while she was there she remembered that she also needed milk and mustard and many other things.She spent quite some time finding and picking out good things to eat(not to mention choosing the best peanut butter for her family).
That afternoon the lady said,"Who will help me clean my little red minivan?"
"Not I,"said the small girl,"I have to write an essay on what I want to be when I grow up."
"Not I,"said the tall boy,"I have to write a book report and I'd better read a book."
"Not I,"said the bald man,"I have to write a progress report for my boss and I'd better get busy."
"All right,"said the lady,"I'll do it myself!"So she got out all the buckets and hoses and sponges and soap and spent quite some time washing and scrubbing (not to mention vacuuming and waxing).
That evening the lady said to her family,"Who will go to the mall with me to have some pizza and see a movie?"
"I will!"said the small girl.
"I will!"said the tall boy.
"I will!"said the bald man.
"Fat chance!"said the lady as she zoomed away in her shiny red minivan to the mall where she spent quite some time eating pizza and watching George Clooney(not to mention shopping and smiling).

Purple

When I first read this poem there were no Red Hat clubs. The first stanza has become one of those ubiquitous refrains found on coffee mugs and coasters now, and the original meaning seems to have been lost. It's not about going out once a month with your besties to have lunch. It's about aging with courage and aplomb. It's about sloughing off the shackles of society that have made you say and do what is acceptable and "letting it all hang out"(yes, I know you haven't heard that since the 60's). Here's the whole poem with apologies to Jenny Joseph, the author:
Warning
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

¿Qué es la vida?

I just found out that there are bead shows right here in Nashville! Isn't it strange how discovering new things leads to a whole world you never knew existed? Each new thing has a history, a vocabulary, a body of literature, art,customs, traditions and eccentricities. Fascinating! I've watched this discovery process in my own children and in my students but never really thought about its significance. Let's say you suddenly start to notice bugs. You discover that a particular bug interests you more than others. You look for a book or article on this bug and find that it figured prominently in the history of ancient Egypt. So you research further and find that this bug has been painted and sculpted and written about through the ages. There are societies and conventions devoted to knowledge of this bug. There's a specialized vocabulary devoted to this bug's life. You find that there is a social networking site for devotees of this bug. Bonanza! You now have a reason to wake up each day. You want to explore all the possibilities of this amazing bug. That's how I feel about beads.


Monday, November 29, 2010

All that is gold does not glitter

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
-J.R.R.Tolkien

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Looking forward

The craft fair season of 2010 is officially over. Whew! Now is the time to re-evaluate everything. What direction do I want to take with this jewelry-making thing? Do I want to shoot for craft/art fairs that are on a larger scale from the small ones I've been doing? Should I design a more professional booth? Do I want to sell beads only online? Do I want to venture out into pendants and earrings? What about learning wire techniques so that the jewelry is not totally polymer clay? There's a lot to think about. This has been a magical mystery tour since I rolled that first bead this summer. I'm not sure where it will lead me, but I know I want to continue. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dance to the Music

The name of this bracelet is Fiesta. We made a discovery this year-you cannot mourn the people and things that are gone during the holidays. You should and MUST celebrate what is and what has been.Last year we had no turkey on Thanksgiving, no tree on Christmas and no presents. We had recently given up our ten-year old bookstore and were counting all of the losses of lifestyle and family members as one big reason to feel the sadness down to our bones. And that's just what we did. This year we are pulling out all the stops. Sam spent most of Thanksgiving day decorating the tree with all of the bits and pieces that have survived the years. The stockings that Grandma made for the boys hang nearby. There are ornaments from all the years when Christmas was the biggest time of the year. It's beautiful. There were very few things my dad enjoyed in his last years, but Christmas tree lights were high on his list. We're celebrating this year not just for us, but for him and for everybody we love-past, present, and future. Happy holidays, y'all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The more things change...

These beads are called "Salsa". Tomorrow for Thanksgiving I'm making the traditional turkey and dressing with cranberry sauce entree, but the side dishes this year are going to be things we actually eat. Number one will be Chinese fajitas. I start with water chestnuts, bean sprouts and bamboo shoots in the skillet, then add onions, peppers,mushrooms and a bunch of those French-cut green beans. Stir fry this with lots of garlic in olive oil. Serve over a bed of jasmine rice. Sauce it with a little Pace picante sauce mixed with teriyaki sauce. Yum!Then back to tradition for the desserts: yellow cake with chocolate frosting and chess pie. What are you having?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm plumb fool 'bout tomato red


This post's title came from a cool,old bluegrassy song called "Ida Red". I just heard the news yesterday that some of my favorite Premo and Sculpey III polymer clay colors are being discontinued. The one I am particularly mourning is tomato red. Yes, I know I can mix it myself with just the right amount of red and orange( or is it orange and red?). I just love seeing those little bricks of color stacked up on my studio shelf and knowing that I can have a pinch of my favorite color at any time with no mixing. Sculpey colors that will soon be gone are: pottery(perfect for terra cotta beads),sunset(I'm gonna miss it),atomic orange(so much more vibrant than just orange),ivory,sunshine,stonewash, pale pistachio,lemon, light pink,and vanilla creme. In the Premo line these colors will be goners: copper(undergoing a reformulation),cobalt blue (whaaat?),zinc yellow(oh nooo!),red,blue and green pearl,sea green(can't believe it),frost,fluorescent pink,green,red and yellow,violet(I'll miss it), and glow in the dark(spooky).Just when I had my palette figured out, I'm going to have to re-think the whole thing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Butterflies

One of the things I'm most grateful for this Thanksgiving week is that after 34 years of marriage I can see him walking toward me in a crowded room and I still get butterflies.

"One of the good things that come of a true marriage is, that there is one face on which changes come without your seeing them; or rather there is one face which you can still see the same, through all the shadows which years have gathered upon it." ~George MacDonald

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Everything's comin' up roses

This is a post of gratitude. Thank you to all for the wonderful response at yesterday's craft fair. What a fine thing it is to see my beads wave as people walk by my booth. Many new bracelets were sold; many new friends were made. I am grateful and humbled. When I started this venture, I wasn't sure if anybody would like what I was making. I wondered:Do my colors clash? Are the big beads too big and the small beads too small? Will anybody take the time to see the thought and attention I pour into each tiny detail and choice? I am delighted to say that I want to continue bead making for a long,long time. I have learned so much;I have so much to learn.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Powerful insight

I started this blog as a way to share information about the beads I am learning to make from polymer clay. It has turned into a different animal altogether. As I think about the colors, shapes or patterns of the beads, my mind travels to a place and time where I first encountered those same colors,shapes or patterns. Who'd a thunk it? Is blogging this way for everyone? The fact that you're writing your innermost thoughts in a place where anyone in the world might accidentally bump up on them is a marvelous and frightening thing. Here's what I have learned so far: 1)You become much more conscious of spelling,punctuation and grammar when writing in a blog. You want your thoughts to come across clearly,but more importantly,you don't want someone out there to see a mistake and think you don't know better. 2)Even we shy folks become bold enough to say to someone,"Read what I have written. Please." Wow. Just wow. 3)Long forgotten memories surface to help you to make a point. I think this may be true of all writing. 4)Your reading audience could be anybody in the world. This can and should make you think twice about every word you post. Is it kind? Is it true? What feeling will the reader take away after reading what you have written?
What do the beads pictured have to do with today's post? Well......I write and doodle with a brilliant blue pen on white paper and....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Green Wave

I need to be looking to the future instead of the past for a bit now. Big craft fair coming up this weekend at the Civic Center. Lots of new bead sets to see. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kentucky Seasonin'



Let me say that language is my pastime and my passion. I am not, however, a native English speaker, oh no sirree bob. I grew up speaking pure Kentucky. We had English class every day from first grade on, but it was a pleasant interlude of diagramming sentences, memorizing lists of prepositions and filling in blanks on worksheets. I ran into the house at the end of the day screeching, "Mama! I done so good today!" Our teachers made a halfhearted effort to banish "ain't" from the classroom. They made us say, "I saw Esau sitting on a seesaw. Esau saw me too," but what we heard every day in our homes and in our community was, "I seen...". When I got to college, I was fascinated to learn that there was such variety in the English I was hearing. As I got deeper into studies of foreign languages, I started to see the patterns in my own and to alter them. I learned to speak standard English. This is the same process that many immigrant students are experiencing today as they realize the words spoken at home differ from what is spoken other places. We need to recognize that some of our homegrown students are experiencing the same thing. I wholeheartedly agree that students need to be taught standard English usage. We need to take a lesson from the wicked witch of the west, however, and remember that these things need to be done delicately. Students need not be ashamed of speaking their native tongue, nor should they feel that they need to correct their elders. When I go home, I speak standard English. I sometimes express an idea in a way that makes me lapse back into my native language to make a point. I respect the past and the hardworking people who may not have had much education but realized that roots were good but wings were better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

(Don't) Look for us in the Nashville news

There are not enough minutes in the day to get everything done I need to do in the next couple of weeks (thus I am wasting even more time writing this post). With two jobs and craft fairs every weekend, I'm so scattered I don't know if I'm coming or going. It was like that a lot when I was teaching school and had small children at home. There was never time to relax or even slow down. With all that, I miss those times. I remember one summer day when my best friend "D" and I decided to load the kids in the van and drive to Nashville to the hippie grocery store. What a place that was! There were no Whole Foods or Trader Joe's in the area then, so we were fascinated with the bins of herbs and spices, with the dried beans in big barrels, with the organic and improved products we couldn't get at the Walmart. I had just gotten a bad haircut, and when I say bad, I mean really REALLY bad. Picture a combination mullet, lopsided hound dog, country music diva hairstyle and you've got it about right. But everything was copacetic because the kids were having fun and we were all glad to be going on an outing to the cool part of Nashville. We read the labels on the herb bins: peppermint for digestion, feverfew for headaches, and valerian for relaxation. Relaxation??? Now there was an herb we could use! So we bought a bit and headed for home. For some strange reason the ride home didn't go so well. The kids got really quiet. Our eyes started to itch. When we tried to talk, our voices came out raspy and rough. We soon figured out that the valerian was causing some kind of allergic reaction in all of us shut up in that van. Opening the windows didn't help. We had to do something. We had left the cool part of Nashville and were in an area with nothing but a rather seedy hotel nearby. We pulled into the parking lot and placed the small brown paper bag of crumbly dried plant material in the hotel's shrubbery among the cigarette butts and debris. We could only imagine how we looked: two desperate mamas (one with very strange hair) hotfooting it out of the parking lot looking over our shoulders the whole way.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vaya con Dios

This is a completely new style for me. First I made some faux amber beads using a lot of translucent clay,a bit of sunshine yellow and a tiny scrap of alizarin crimson. The metallic looking beads are simply black clay tubes rolled onto a texture sheet and rubbed with brilliant gold Pearl-ex powder before baking. It's a special bracelet. It's on its way tomorrow to Mexico. Two very good friends will be taking it with them. Though they invite us to visit and say we'll meet again, it may never happen. I don't expect to ever see the places I've dreamed of since I started studying Spanish many,many years ago. Oh little bracelet, I hope you see the flowers boats at Xochimilco, the ruins of Chichen Itza, Frida's blue house, Diego's murals, the pottery at San Miguel, the silver in Taxco, the museos, la comida, la música, and la casa de mis amigos verdaderos. Adiós.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Indestructible Red Sailor Dresses

There were about a dozen of us assorted kids who formed the core group at Granny's store. Some were her actual grandchildren, some were nieces and nephews and some (like my sister and me) were not related at all. Granny believed in total equality,though. We were all treated the same and didn't know until we were adults our real connections.One day she was sorting through her fabric stash and came upon yards and yards of some stiff, heavy fabric. It was the same red as this bracelet. Granny called it sailcloth. She pinched it between her nose and outstretched arm and found that there was more than enough for all of us girls to have a red sailor dress with white piping. She didn't need a pattern, just measured the length of our arms and legs and started sewing. The dresses had a long dropped waist with box pleats at the skirt. The bodices were fitted and a line of pearl buttons marched off-center from waist to shoulder seam. Thick white piping like cake frosting spiraled from wrist to elbow on the sleeves. The dresses looked kind of snazzy as we watched them take shape. Then...we tried them on. The weight of that heavy, stiff fabric bowed our young shoulders. Granny believed in making things last. She included a few years growing room in the hem and seams so that the dresses could be let out as we grew. It was like wearing a featherbed! We told her how much we loved them so she wouldn't get the "fat lip" and hung them in our closets. I do seem to remember having to actually wear it a couple of times, but I grew so fast it was soon handed down to some of the younger girls. Years later I was teaching in another county in another state. My eighth graders waited on the bleachers for the younger students to come into the gym for a Halloween costume parade. Suddenly I couldn't believe my eyes. One of the tiny first grade girls was wearing an unmistakable red sailor dress! She had on a bedraggled wig and a pair of her father's brogans. She carried a patent-leather purse and wore a pair of oversized eyeglasses. She looked like...well...Granny. The child's mother had not come to the parade, and I never was able to find out how they came by the sailor dress, but the fabric was bright and clean and looked just as good as it did when I first saw it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Granny and the grape-green darted dress

This grape-green genie bracelet is the exact color of the first dress Granny taught me to sew. The hardest parts to learn were the darts. Darts were wedge shaped bunches of cloth that you sewed just under the bustline to make a garment lay smooth against the body without undue emphasis that a bustline actually existed. I looked at all of the loose shirts in my closet to see if darts are still sewn into clothes today and found none. I guess people must have been built differently in the 60's. Anyway, here's a tiny portrait of Granny. She never left her home in the back of the store. Never! When somebody was going in to town, she'd send some money and tell them to bring back sewing fabric or sheets or towels (things she didn't sell in her store). Things were hunkeydory when the items were brought back if Pa happened to be out back or in the yard. Granny could sneak the bundles into the spare room to the overstuffed chifferobes and wardrobes that could easily have stocked several dry goods stores. If Pa did happen to be in the store, he stomped and roared about the waste of money and general uselessness of her stash. Granny would pooch out her lower lip and not talk the rest of the afternoon. We kids always knew when Granny was upset because we'd see she had the "fat lip". We pretended to be mad at Pa too for solidarity and then forgot the whole thing when he let us go behind the counter and ring up a purchase or slice thick hunks of bologna for a customer's cracker. We knew Granny would be back to normal the next day and all would be right with the world.

Flour Sack Dresses

These beads were designed to look like the patterns on the flour sacks at Granny's store. She told us they used to be made into beautiful dresses. Let me take you back to that store, and later I'll introduce you to Granny. The store was a cinder block building painted white. The main selling floor was about 20'by20' and contained everything you could possibly need. The floor was oiled concrete. Right in the middle was a cast iron stove. Various couches and mismatched chairs stood in a ring around the stove seating a dozen or so adults. The walls were lined with wide white shelves. Canned goods and a big glass case filled with chocolate bars were on the right behind the counter. The counter held a cash register, meat slicer and scale. On the back wall up high were sacks of sugar, flour, cornmeal and cans of Donald Duck orange juice. Down low were the salt blocks for cows to lick. In front of that was the baked goods rack with loaves of white bread and hamburger buns. On the left wall were cans of oil and the various fluids cars needed. In front of this was a big glass case containing thread and needles, candles , soap, envelopes and other household necessities. The front wall had a refrigerator that held milk and big sticks of bologna, liver loaf and cheese. Beside that was the cold drink box and the chips rack. There was a freezer with packages of meat and an open doorway in back that led to Granny and Pa's living quarters. In other places people might have had pubs or hotel lobbies or sidewalk cafés to visit to watch the world go by, but Granny and Pa's store was our window to the world. During the daytime we went with Mama. You didn't just go in and make a purchase and leave. Oh no! The kids ran out to the side yard to see who was "it" in the ongoing games of tag, hide and seek and statues. If Pa was in the store, Granny took the women back to her living room where they sewed on quilts, canned, talked about "women's problems" and cooked. The men sat out front and talked politics. At night after supper Mama and Daddy both took us. We ran around outside till we were exhausted, then worried the adults to distraction running from the storefront to the living quarters begging for cokes into which we would pour a sack of salty peanuts and share all around. I'll tell you about Granny another time. Now I'm going to go see if I have any cokes and peanuts in the pantry. I wonder if they'll still taste like happiness.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Sense of Style

I finally figured out how to replicate the patterns in Hawaiian shirts, and I do LOVE me some Hawaiian shirts. I simply had to free myself from some notion that there was a "set" way to make the pattern and allow the clay to speak for itself. I've also made these in fire-engine red, hot pink, fuschia, flourescent green, sunshine yellow, and turquoise. I love them all! I used to worry about my sense of style. I wanted to dress like all the other teachers, but sweater sets and conservative skirts just didn't feel quite right. I've tried, honestly, I've tried. For years I bought the denim jumpers with apple appliques, the knitted vests with pictures of chalkboards and all the rest. Now I've realized that it just doesn't matter as much as I once thought it did. As long as you are comfortable and clean, you can wear whatever you want. (Aaaand I'll make you a bracelet to match too!)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nomenclature

My bracelets all have a name as soon as they are made. This one is called "Godzilla's Lagoon". Why? It's a long story as most things tend to be in the South. Names are very important to us here. In my last post I introduced you to Aunt "J". You might think you know who she is if you know my family, but that's not necessarily so. You see, we were brought up to address every adult who wasn't a grandparent, parent, or teacher as Aunt_ or Uncle_. It was just considered good manners. I didn't find out until I was an adult that many of my aunts and uncles were really no "blood kin". Anyway, Aunt "J" delighted in the funny things that small kids say. I'd take her shopping with me when my children were small. "We'll just wait out here in the vestibule on the bench for you," she'd say,"You just shop as long as you want." My children would smile and wave as she rushed them out of the store. I found out later that they had an entire comedy routine going in the front of the Walmart. Here's how it went: A person would unwittingly sit down on the bench next to Aunt "J" and her tiny companions. The person would then comment on the cuteness or big brown eyes of the tiny companions. "Where'd you get them big brown eyes?" was the phrase they most hoped to hear. "GODZILLA!" my sons shouted. I'm not sure if Aunt "J" or the kids got a bigger kick out of that, or who came up with the idea originally, but it brought on lots of insulted sniffs and a few "Well, I never!" comments which made it even more fun for the comedy team. The small companions are now grown men who probably don't even remember Aunt "J". I rarely go to Walmart, but I'd give anything to see someone walk off in a huff as Aunt "J" and her buddies slapped their knees.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Peacock Feathers


These peacock feather bracelets went right away at yesterday's show. I can't wait to attempt this again. I loved the effect of the blue combination but want to work on making the lime green more prominent. The craft fair went well. The best part was when a lady came up wearing a bracelet she had bought a few weeks ago and wanted to see what I had that was new. I'll never forget when we did craft fairs in the late 80's. My aunt "J" loved to bring her yard chair and "help" me. She had a quirky sense of humor and most people thought she was a bit cantankerous. She spoke loudly and was very outspoken as well. She'd sit behind the table and exclaim, "I'll swannee,child. There sure are more ugly people than there are pretty ones, don't you think?" She'd comment on hairstyles, clothing choices, whether children had been taught manners or not-anything she observed that amused her or was out of the ordinary-and all in a stage whisper that could be heard for blocks. I miss her. I didn't sell much at those shows, but the chutzpah she had... ah the chutzpah!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sugar Tree Color Combo


I've been trying to capture the colors of the fall woods in beads for a couple of weeks now. There's a certain type of sugar maple that has a coral/orange/pinkish color that I can never quite achieve. These new beads use a technique I call torn paper. I've made thousands (literally) of small spacer beads this week in every color possible as a way to temporarily string colors side-by-side to see if I want to invest the time to make a more complicated bead set using those colors. I have dozens of new bead sets for this Saturday's show in Hendersonville. I remember the very first craft show we ever did. Somehow I thought we would sell everything we had brought and was disappointed to find that, though we did sell some things, we took most of it back home. Our booth display has changed many times over the years. Last season we had a huge pegboard display that I loved and a rolling cash-wrap with storage that you can see by looking at the previous posts here. This season I've pared it down to 3 or 4 folding tables with layered cloths and have sold more than I ever have before. I love the anticipation before a show begins. Will the weather be nice? Will people show up? Will they stop by my booth long enough to see what I've worked so hard to make or will they rush by to get to the food booths? Stay tuned...I'll let you know in the next post.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kimono beads


Every time I think I've invented a new kind of bead I find that someone else has beat me to the punch. I had never seen these when I began making them, but found similar beads in a book from England. The large turquoise beads with black, white and gold markings are called kimono beads. They're easy to make if you're working with huuuge beads, but small bracelet-sized kimono beads are difficult. The small plain beads are pebble beads I like to make with a bit of Fimo silver glitter and an unbuffed surface. I adore throwing a fidget bead like the shiny turquoise ring into a bracelet for interest. I know I need to branch out and try some necklaces or earrings, but bracelets are this season's obsession for me and I just have to roll with that. Necklaces and earrings have to be viewed by looking in a mirror but bracelets can be admired all day as you wear them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The season of obsessions


For a whole summer I was obsessed with an Irish television program called Ballykissangel. We watched it at first for the plots, then the scenery, and most of all to listen to the wonderful accents. Thinking back, there have been so many summers when I've immersed myself in another place or time. Here's a partial list of summer obsessions:
1. P.G. Wodehouse-Bertie Wooster had aunts almost as funny as my own.
2. The wives of Henry VIII-my favorite wife was Anne of Cleves- she took one look at Henry and said, "Let's just be brother and sister, OK?"
3. Science fiction from the fifties-amazing things like instant-cooking ovens, phones that didn't need wires, computers that could talk-all appeared long before their time.
4. The lives of the geisha-which led to Japanese art-which led to Japanese food-which led to Kazuo Ishiguro.
5. Holocaust literature-which led to Isaac Bashevis Singer and then to Sholom Aleichem.
6. Bead-making is the current obsession. It started this summer. I hope it never ends!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In praise of potatoes


My favorite part of this veggie bracelet is the potatoes. I did the surface texture with Old Bay seasoning to look like it just came from the garden. It's been a long time since I've had a freshly dug potato. It's almost more fun to grabble (dig around in the dirt) for them than it is to eat them. My father always hoed a big mound around the potato plants so that we could just brush the dirt away and find the spuds like buried treasure. My mother would take the tiny ones, give them a little scrubbing, and lay them lovingly on a big pot of fresh green beans. The bigger specimens would get turned into our favorite treat: mealy potatoes. Mom would peel them, slice thinly, dip in an egg wash then in coarse cornmeal with salt and pepper and fry them individually in an oiled iron skillet. Heaven! There were only two kinds of seed potatoes you could get locally: cobblers and Kennebacks. I don't remember the distinction between the two, but it was as hotly contested as any political campaign. Nowadays I buy the big bakers to roast in a moderate oven for an hour and a half. First I poke some steam vents,roll them in a bit of olive oil and then kosher salt. Might as well face it I'm addicted to spuds!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nothing rhymes with orange








Since I took the weekend off from blogging you get three bracelets for the price of one today-all orange! The first bracelet is one of those melange concoctions made from orphan beads. The second one makes me think of going to Knoxville on a football weekend. On the interstate going up you start to see weird flags and pompoms sticking out of car windows with that peculiar yellow-orange color UT fans love. When you come near the campus, a sea of yellow-orange greets you. People are sporting caps, shirts, jackets, pants, scarves, and everything imaginable as they walk to the stadium. It makes you vitamin C sick to watch. The third bracelet mixes orange with chocolate. Yum! Orange you glad Halloween is over?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Goodnight, Moon


It's been hard to sleep lately with the full moon making the night as light as day.Here's the full moon and the crescents (complete with craters), the dark beads represent the night sky when the moon is new. The yellow bead is cheese, of course. Here are some of the titles I rejected for this bead set: full moon, blue moon, moon pie, moonstruck, paper moon, moon shadow, bad moon rising, moon river, howling at the moon, moonlight sonata...I finally chose the title of my sons' favorite book when they were small. We wore out three copies before they got too old to want me to read it. My favorite time of day was the reading of the bedtime stories.
...Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Good night cow jumping over the moon
Goodnight light
And the red balloon
Goodnight bears
Goodnight chairs
Goodnight kittens
And goodnight mittens
Goodnight clocks
And goodnight socks
Goodnight little house
And goodnight mouse
Goodnight comb
And goodnight brush
Goodnight nobody
Goodnight mush
And goodnight to the old lady
whispering "hush"
Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Goodnight noises everywhere
--"Goodnight Moon", text by Margret Wise Brown

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween

My first six years of teaching were at a small, rural school. We strive now to get parents involved in schools, but that school really knew how. We had fall festivals, school programs, ballgames, and all kinds of special events, but the Big Kahuna of them all was Halloween. Kids came to school in costume that day. The costumes were ALL homemade.(They didn't have Walmart nearby then.) These costumes were clever and innovative. Moms and grandmas sewed for weeks beforehand. We had Cleopatras, army men, smurfs, lions and tigers and bears. We had Raggedy Anns and Andys. We had clowns and hoboes and ghosts. We always had multiple Elvises. It was wonderful! One year I had an eighth grader who came as the Wolfman. His mom made a concoction of Karo syrup and wool for his face and hands. The flies buzzed around his head all day. After lunch the whole school trooped into the gym for the costume parade. As each class stepped out onto the gym floor to be admired, applause and cheers greeted them. Flashbulbs sparkled. The insignificant prizes we gave out were more sought after than gold. Parents took off work to be at school that day. This small school was the social hub for the community and parents supported our efforts. It didn't hurt that we provided photo ops and memories of their child's life to fill their scrapbooks and their hearts.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Traffic Lights


We've got a few of those special stop lights in our town that take a picture if you run the red light. I'm not a big fan. Driving is not one of my best skills anyway. I try to be careful and obey all of the rules, but the anticipation/dread of accidentally running the red light makes me slow down too soon or speed up to make sure I don't get "clicked". It feels like they cause more problems than they solve. The town I lived in before had only a four-way stop sign and no lights. That worked fine. On weekends we like to go to Nashville where driving can be a real challenge, and I have only recently mustered the courage to drive there. If my favorite used bookstore, McKay's, hadn't opened a Nashville branch, I never would have even tried. Traffic lights and signs don't physically stop us from driving dangerously; we all must agree that the lights and signs are there for the greater good and our compliance becomes automatic. For the most part, this works. If you don't choose to comply in our town, be ready to say "Cheese".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Big Yellow Taxi

When I think there is no more inspiration for unique beads, something always comes to mind. Thanks, Joni Mitchell, for many hours of mellow music.
The hardest part was deciding whether the beads should be car-shaped with wheels in the right configuration or simply suggestive of wheels. I like this better. Perfectly representational beads make a bracelet that needs to be double-stringed for proper wrist orientation. Too much work!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shy Violet


I was in a meeting today listening to a discussion on blogging as an educational tool. Why was I listening and not contributing? I’m not quite sure. I suppose you could call it shyness, reticence, embarrassment, maybe fear of sounding foolish. Finally I blurted out, “I adore blogging!” We teach others that writing is valuable and needful, but do we really realize the value of writing ourselves? When writing for an audience, we shy folk tend to say much more than we would ever venture to say face-to-face. We have time to think about word choice, tone, focus, even punctuation and precision. We can revise until we’ve expressed exactly what we intended. This almost never happens in a real conversation for us. I started a blog about creating which has, surprisingly, turned into an autobiographical treatise. I’ve begun with a clear vision about what I wanted to post and found that forgotten people, places, and events resurface to help me clarify a point. We teach that there are three purposes for writing: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain. I say there is a fourth purpose: to know our own minds. It’s amazing how our brains put on travelin’ shoes when we write.

Seventies Chic


Our friend Joe died the other day. He was a guy who never stopped loving the seventies and its music. It's the stuff you hear on the oldies stations. He remembered it when it was fresh and new. I've been thinking about that time lately. Some of the beads I'm making would have fit right in.
There were only four types of acceptable foot wear in the seventies:1. Buffalo sandals-the guys had rubber tire soles and the girls had platforms, 2. Daniel Boone suede-like shoes with gum soles were unisex, 3. Beaded moccasins were unisex, and 4. Fancy purply-red leather shoes (which I secretly coveted but could never afford) were worn only by the trust-fund kids who dressed like middle-aged adults.
I hope Joe is wearing his old Daniel Boone shoes right now and attending the ultimate concert featuring Jimi, Janis, Jerry and Jim. Rock on, Joe, rock on.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Only One

I went to a wedding yesterday. The bride and her dress were beautiful. There were eight attendants in coordinating dresses of brown with orange accents. The bride was nervous, but talented and brave enough to sing a song at her own wedding. Amazing!
I'm thinking back today on my own wedding day. I had one attendant. She was reticent and hilarious, tender and tough, supportive and sassy and utterly unique. She was my best friend. She wore a denim skirt that day, which was an amazing thing. I had known her five years and never saw her wear anything except ragged blue jeans (It was the seventies,of course). She helped me to get ready, and as she did she sang the song to me she always sang for courage, the song she sang before a big test, a scary speech, a job interview. "Chin up, shoulders back," she'd say,"now let's sing....
The wonderful thing about tiggers
Is tiggers are wonderful things!
Their tops are made out of rubber
Their bottoms are made out of springs!
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!
But the most wonderful thing about tiggers is
I'm the only one!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Water for Elephants


I confess that I haven't been reading for the past few months. There's rarely been a time when this has been the case since I realized the letters on my building blocks could make words. This bracelet is named after a book I particularly enjoyed. Water for Elephants had a 1920's setting, behind-the-scenes circus life, and an elephant! Who could ask for more? It's a thrill to recommend a really spectacular read. I am,sadly, aware that I spoil it for everyone because I can't resist telling the whole plot. Sorry, friends. Perhaps I need to step away from the clay a bit and read myself into a galaxy far, far away. Any suggestions?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White

I made these pink beads for breast cancer awareness month. I was the type of kid who tried to be invisible when grown-ups were gossiping. I thought if I listened I'd learn what it was like to be adult, and I just couldn't wait. I had a relative who was quite loud and pretty doggone funny to boot. I could be around the doorway in the next room and hear her quite clearly except for one tiny thing. Whenever she came to a word that she thought was risqué she would whisper it. So here's how she sounded: "WELL, I SWAN. YOU KNOW SHE WORE SUCH A LOW CUT DRESS THAT YOU COULD SEE HER bra. HER HUSBAND HAS BEEN HAVING AN affair WITH THAT hussy DOWN THE STREET AND I GUESS SHE THINKS SHE HAS TO SHOW OFF HER breasts TO FIND HER A NEW MAN. I learned a lot by snooping on the grown-ups. It made me a GREAT listener.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tiger Beat


There was a time when you couldn't have caught me wearing animal prints, but we get older, fashions change, and now I like them. When I made this I was thinking about a magazine that was popular many, many years ago when I was a teenybopper. It was called Tiger Beat and was filled with the heart throbs of the era. As I recall it was Sajid Kahn, Bobby Sherman, the Monkees, and the one non-singing member of the Cowsill family that I particulary swooned over. The articles were written in a kind of hyper-charged English with interjections and exclamation points sprinkled liberally throughout. I notice this kind of language used on entertainment "news" shows on television now. I suppose our mundane day-to-day manner of speaking is just not sufficient when describing the stellar talents of Lady Gaga. Zowie! Whatever happened to that Sajid Kahn anyway?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Carousel


Sometimes I like to paw through the orphan beads that didn't make it into the bracelet they were made for. Then a melange emerges that is unique and a delight to design. I discovered the strangest thing last night....Most days the beads I roll turn out perfectly round. When my hands are sore, the beads turn out in football shapes. When I'm feeling mellow the beads are tubular.When I'm nostalgic the beads are square. I can't seem to make anything to order or duplicate what I've made before due to the fact that I never know what kind of beads I'll be able to roll on any given day.
"You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."
-George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jane Hathaway


Though I tend to like bright color combinations with a little red or orange thrown in the mix, this bracelet has been a big hit for me. For those of you who did not grow up in front of a television in the sixties, Jane Hathaway was a character on a television show called "The Beverly Hillbillies". She dressed conservatively in nondescript tweed skirts and sweater sets. This would have fit her style perfectly. I loved those corny old comedies as a child and can still watch them over and over. The characters seem like old friends. We watched them evolve over the seasons. We identified with their shortcomings and cheered their successes. I just can't get that same feeling of connection with Marge Simpson though she is just as realistic as the characters in the old sitcoms were.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Poetry


I don't think other people are as enthralled with poetry as I am. I come by it naturally. My dad was a ring-tailed tooter at memorizing a rousing poem. He could recite "The Charge of the Light Brigade" at the drop of a hat. There was another one about Darius Green and his flying machine he did for me many times, and I need to find it again. He didn't memorize to please some teacher or get extra credit; that's for sure. I treasure his 8th grade English book. The pages are thick with Donald Duck comics of the era pasted over the pages he was supposed to study. When I read Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams (insert dozens of others here), I want to absorb those words, to savor them, to make them a part of my own worldview. It's not just serious poetry either. On this bracelet I put one of my Ogden Nash faves:
The Panther
Should you behold a panther crouch
Prepare to say ouch!
Better yet
If called by a panther
Don't anther!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Craft Fair Philosophy

Yesterday I watched a first-time craft fair vendor. Her booth was well-designed, her product was plentiful,eco-friendly and cool. She had professional marketing signage. I don't think she had a very good day. It's so hard to get it right at craft fairs. Your target market is always changing. There are many variables: indoor versus outdoor, customers on a budget versus spendy up- and- comers, an older population who don't want dust catchers versus hipsters looking for something no one else has, kid-friendly products versus pricey touch-me-not items. Here's some advice from a craft fair vendor/patron of twenty-five years plus:
1. Smile and engage people when they slow down at your booth. It's overwhelming to see the array of items offered in every booth. Make your products special.
2.Don't get discouraged if someone walks away after your ten-minute spiel about how your product is made and why you made it. They might come back after they've compared it to other things they see.
3.Price your product to fit the market. Things are tough today. It would be nice to make big bucks crafting, but realistically you charge what the market will bear, not what you'd make per hour in a nine-to-five job.
4.Be passionate about your work. If you don't love it, how can you expect others to?
Oh, today's bracelet is the one I wear to this season's fairs. I take it off when someone stops to look and say, "Try one of my bracelets on. You'll love it!" I love it myself. Would I sell it? You bet your boots I would!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chicago Skyline


The spots remind me of the lighted windows from our visit to Chicago. Here's the story...We were visiting the college boy and cut across Illinois to save time. We pulled into a grocery parking lot to look at a map and realized it was actually a combination grocery parking lot and open air toilet. Hightailed it back on the road. We pulled into a filling station parking area to look at that doggone map. A car pulled in verrrry close on our left. Another pulled in nice and snug on our right,everyone looking cool, slouched low in the seats. When a third car pulled up to the back bumper, we vamoosed. It was getting dark. We circled hopelessly. The interstate was visible, but no on-ramp appeared. Finally we saw one just as we whizzed by. "There's an alleyway," I screamed, "let's turn around there!" A smiling welcome committee with matching t-shirts and hats stepped out of the shadows. We burned rubber in reverse, made it to the interstate and drove all the way to Joliet to find lodging. Apologies to Jim Croce for not listening when he told us about Bad, Bad Leroy Brown & Co.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spiders!


Spiders seem to be lurking everywhere lately. Is it fall or Halloween that calls them forth? Many years ago I walked in the woods behind my family's house and went over the fence separating our property from the neighbor's. I knew I was on forbidden territory making everything deliciously frightening. The trees cast a sinister shadow; I heard a weird bird call I'd never heard before. I stepped through a shadowy arch to find a grove where the ground was white with thick spiderwebs. I ran home and have had nightmares about this place ever since. Did it really happen or was it a dream? I never went back to find out. Still won't.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rose in Bloom


I can't believe how incredibly easy it is to make a rose cane once you know how. Simply create a red to white Skinner blend. Wrap it in a thin layer of black. Reduce the cane quite small. Compress the cane from round to slightly smooshed. Slice and build a rose rounding the edges as you go. A lovely effect that looks much more complicated than it is!