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.

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


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


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?