Welcome to A Hot Piece of Glass!

WELCOME to my colorful corner of the world! I write here about the things I make, in glass, fiber, metals, and whatever else I can find to play with!

**And if you want to read more about me, check out Adventures In Living!, my personal blog, or The ScooterMom, where I write about my adventures on two wheels! If you're interested in medieval, ancient and Renaissance glass, check out my history blog, The Medieval Glassworker!**

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hard Candy!!

More about the ArtBliss retreat.....

So, when we last left me, I had attended the Meet and Greet reception for instructors and students. After the reception, in which a glass of Chardonnay and a huge brownie was consumed, I retreated to the utter silence and calm of my hotel room. (side note: if you have not stayed in a Hampton Inn recently, you should. Beautiful!) I poked around on the internet for a while, submitted a piece of jewelry to another magazine, and watched some of a Will Smith movie. It was a bit of heaven for me.

When the alarm went off early the next morning, I was ready and SO looking forward to my class.

Melissa Manley is a fantastic instructor. I can't say enough great things about her, so you're just going to have to listen to me gush about it all for a while. I was lucky to find Melissa Meman was in my class, too, so we grabbed a table together and bemoaned the fact that we did not bring all of the tools we wish we had!

Note to all you who may attend a retreat or other jewelry class like this: BRING YOUR TOOLS, even the ones not officially on the 'required tools and supplies' list!!! I was so clueless, and I didn't realize I should have just loaded the darn entire toolbox up instead of paring down to the bare minimum, especially since I drove to the event! I wasn't without the necessary tools, but having mine would have helped, since we shared a lot of stuff.

But I digress...

So, here we are, all ready to start metalsmithing in a hotel conference room...

(That's my friend, Melissa Meman on the left!)

We listened to Melissa Manley talk about metals and her background and a bit about what we were going to learn, and then we just got on with it!

One of the things I like best about her classes is that she is a very epxeriential learner and teacher -- always ready to try stuff out and not get caught up in "what you're supposed to do".

So, we annealed metal, and cut it, dapped it into domes, enameled it, and then learned how to tube rivet it into beads. Along the way, we learned annealing, pickling, torch-fired enameling, sawing, filing, hole-punching, decorative techniques, tube riveting, and probably a zillion other things! It was amazing! Here are a few action shots compiled together in a collage....

From left to right, top to bottom: Melissa demonstrates sanding the discs; Using the disc cutter (note the hydraulic press and rolling mill!); Dapping; Pickled and halfway finished; Enameling; Assembling; More tools!; So very happy!; Finished work!

And here are my finished beads! I can hardly believe *I* made these! I mean, really. I am on a creative bender now, desperately searching for and ordering all kinds of tools so I can do MORE of these! And the jewelry and wearable art possibilities are amazing! I cannot stop sketching all the fabulous ideas I have that pop into my head pretty much all day (and probably all night, too). My sketching skills are....well....sketchy, at best, so I hope that what I've been drawing still means something to me when I finally get around to making everything.

My actual life keeps getting in the way, though. Very annoying.

Well, not my kids. Or my husband. They aren't annoying (ok, maybe sometimes...).

By lunchtime on Saturday, I was so completely full of adrenaline and creative energy...being there in that workshop and meeting and talking with so many creative souls was like feeding every appetite I have. Well, almost all of them. I felt like I was hyperventilating all during lunch, trying to take everything in, process it, learn, watch, listen, talk, dream, think... talking to people about what we were doing and what *they* were doing, seeing everyone's work from the morning, and dying to get back into the room to do MORE! It was overwhelming, but it a really, really good way. That kind of energy comes from a pure place in my soul. It's exhausting, and I can't live there every day, but when I can get to that place...oh! It feeds me and fills me, and makes me more ME.

I sound slightly insane, don't I?

I wish for a long, uninterrupted stretch of time over several days to get some of this banged out (pun TOTALLY intended!). That's not going to happen, so I really, really, really need to sharpen my focus and hone in on what needs to be done step by step so I can actually make progress on this work, and not just flounder around in a sea of creative angst.

And Barbara Lewis has re-ignited the fire about a book idea I have had for a long time....I need to make that proposal and get it out to someone who can actually help me make that a reality.

And the copper....the metals are just calling me. I have SO MANY ideas.

Thank you, Melissa, and thank you Cindy and Jeanette, for facilitating a wonderful experience!

(and I haven't even talked about the evening class, 'Roll Playing'....but I will. Soon.)

ETA: Most of these pictures were taken by the wonderful Cindy Wimmer, of Sweet Bead Studio and the cofounder of ArtBLISS! Thanks for the great shots!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Remembrance of things past

I'll get back to my adventures in metals at ArtBliss in my next post, but first, I wanted to write about something for my Art Bead Scene Carnival post for the month. The topic is Remembrance.

I have been making glass beads for about seven years, and selling them in my own jewelry designs for about the past three years. It's always funny (funny-haha, AND funny-strange) to look back on my own work from those beginning days.

When I see pictures of pieces I made back in 2007, I don;t know whether I should be alarmed or wistful. I clearly didn't know much about working with wire or metals then, and I certainly didn't feel like I was *really* expressing myself. I'm going to embarrass myself here a little and show a picture from those early days...like this one, a purple and black Viking wire necklace that just....didn't work:

THAT, my friends, is an abomination of photography AND jewelry design. I had a concept in my head, and definitely was going somewhere with it, but somehow it got lost along the way. I probably refolded the map incorrectly or something because we did not reach the artistic destination here. Ugh!

I still have this necklace, and recently, I thought about taking it apart and remaking it somehow. I love the wirework, and the bead isn't too bad, but it looks like a Gothic nightmare when put together!

Over the past little while, though, I have learned a few things about photography as well as jewelry design and my own inclinations as an artist. First of all, I don;t have to try so freaking hard all the time. A lot of my better work springs from not actually wrestling with the materials. Here's a more recent Viking wire necklace that I think works a little better (and has some MUCH better beads in it!):

Much better, in terms of photography, beadmaking skill, and design. I actually DID get to where I was going with this one, and it garnered a lot of attention (alas, but no sale) at my recent show.

As an artist, I think it's important to look back periodically and see where you have come from. Perspective is always a good thing, and it helps you figure out where you are now, as well as see how far you have come. I know that I am always amazed at the difference three years makes, and I am excited to see where I will be three years from now. So many good things have happened in 2010 for me that I think truly anything is possible in 2013!

What do you look back on and remember that gives you perspective for today?

Monday, September 27, 2010

State of Bliss

On Friday, last week, I headed off to the much-anticipated ArtBliss retreat in Sterling, Virginia. I was there to take Melissa Manley's 'Hard Candy' class and soak up as much metals knowledge and skill as I could manage in one day. I was also there to finally, finally, FINALLY meet Kerry Bogert, who I have been friends online with for like TWO years!

The weekend was capped off with my first-ever juried show (on Sunday). It was a hell of a great weekend, that's for sure! I am going to take a while to recover from this level of activity, definitely.

But first....after the busy week of making things for the show, getting irritated at my torch, and packing, packing, packing.....FINALLLY it was 3:00 and I could drop my little kids off with my girlfriend, kiss my oldest goodbye, and get down (or up) the road!

In this post on my Adventures in Living! blog, I talked about leaving/traveling and my thoughts about it. Really, though, it was pretty awesome to get in my car knowing I had a two-hour, radio-blasting drive in which I had nobody who would be yelling at me from the backseat.

I turned up the XM radio and the first song was an old George Michael song, Freedom, from about 1990, I think. Heheheheheh.

So I was set for music....LOVE my XM radio! And off I went, rolling up I-95, just singing along:
Northern VA is notorious for terrible, terrible traffic, particularly on Fridays in the rush-hour period (which can start around 3pm!). I was worried I'd end up sitting for an hour someplace and missing all the fun at the Meet & Greet Reception, but in reality, I made some smart route choices and got to the hotel in record time (two hours, no stops!).

I was so glad, too, because when I checked into the hotel and walked up to the registration desk for the event, Cindy said something to Kerry, who was sitting on a couch behind her, and the next thing I knew, Kerry jumped up and hugged me!

She is very tall. Just sayin' :)

(Actually, everyone is tall, to me. I'm only 5' 3")

I ended up chatting with Kerry almost all evening. It was fantastic! I felt like we had known each other forever.....have you ever had that experience? Meeting someone in person and hitting it off so well that it's like you've always been friends?

So, the reception. I have to admit, others with much better cameras probably got better pictures.
We ate some of the best brownies I have ever had in my life! Oh. My. God!

Kerry signed copies of her book, and sold kits for some of the book projects.

I got to have a wonderful conversation with Melissa Manley about going to art school and about whether or not it would really be worth it for me. (hint: I can totally make my art without a Fine Arts degree)

And I snagged a picture of one of the fantastic organizers of this blissful weekend, Cindy Wimmer, of Sweet Bead Studio!

Kerry and Cindy and I went around and took some video of the reception, using Kerry's amazing camera. Kerry did a bunch of editing and put it up on her blog later that night. Go here to see it!

I won a beautiful pair of Melissa Manley's earrings in the drawing (a good bit of serendipity!), and had a glass of wine and just reveled in being there. Later, I retreated to my lovely hotel room, and slept like the dead all night long.

Up next: Metals and enamels, oh boy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Whirlwind Weekend

I spent the weekend at the first ArtBliss event, learning metalsmithing and enameling techniques from one of the very best teachers I have ever had, Melissa Manley. The event was extremely well-organized, the workshops were fantastic, and I even won a couple prizes! Oh, and the brownies? To. DIE. For. OMG!

I have MUCH more to say about this event.....but you're gonna have to wait a bit til I recover.

Because the ArtBliss retreat coincided with my first-ever appearance in a nice local juried show, I couldn't stay all weekend, but drove home laaaaate on Saturday night. The show was....not great, but not horrible...and right now, I am so completely exhausted I am not sure how I am remaining conscious. My knees and ankles are killing me!

I promise to tell you all about my adventures in metals and how I am completely in need of more tools.....but I have to ask you to wait a bit, til I can organize my thoughts and not feel like I am scraping the bottom of the energy barrel.

More to come, I promise.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Please tell me it hasn't been over a week since I posted last! *sigh*

I've been caught up in the whirlwind of getting ready for Arts Around the Lake on Sunday, and prepping to go up to northern VA for ArtBliss. I knew it would be a challenge to jam both events into the same weekend, but it is necessary. One of my goals this year was to take more metals and jewelry classes (Melissa Manley! OMG! I am taking her class!), and also to get into better and bigger shows. Funny how both goals seemed to converge on the last weekend of September this year!

To be honest, I have made a few new things, but I haven't photographed them. Really, I feel like I don;t have time to fiddle with pictures, and if the items don't sell this weekend, I'll take the photos and put stuff up on Etsy. I know I promised to add this necklace to my Etsy shop a while back, and it hasn't made it there yet, mostly because I needed it for inventory for the show. The one thing I did do, however, was set up my display in the yard as a test run for working out the arrangement of things. I also wanted to use it to see how much inventory I needed to cover my available space, and see if there were any 'holes' that needed filling. Here's a quick-and-dirty look at the booth overall:
It's a 10x10 shade, with two of the collapsible banquet tables. I only have the two tables, and I usually set them up this way, putting myself either behind, or off to the side. I don't own the side walls for this tent, and I wish I did, because now I can't find them in white (it's a Quest brand shade from Dick's Sporting Goods), so I use white bedsheets instead. The biggest problem with that is the fact that they blow all over and billow like sails. I have to weight them with clamps. I also don't have enough to cover more than one side. It'll have to do for now, though.

One thing I am really thrilled about is my new earring card racks. I found a couple of tall slatted shelves at a yard sale a while back, and my husband cut them in half widthwise for me, and hinged them together so they stand up. My large earring cards fit perfectly on them! I made some sandbags to weight the bottom in case of wind. You can sort of see the top of the stands in back of the table. When I took the picture, I hadn't figured out how I was going to make them work, so there's no picture of them yet.

Don't worry, I promise pictures of my totally put together and dressed-up display after Sunday's show.

I'd promised myself I wasn't going to get stressed out about this show, about prepping for it or about being in it, OR about it being the same weekend as ArtBliss. I want to do both, I CAN do both, and it will all work out fine. Yesterday, however, I found myself descending into the depths of craziness, and it colored my whole day, leaving me exhausted by the end of it.

My torch and tank setup decided that yesterday was THE day to go all nasty on me and cover my glass and beads with a layer of grey, sooty crap. Over everything I made. And on my 'make list' was a set of pink beads made with CiM's Gelly's Sty, a color I typically don't have trouble with at all. Here you can see (the horror!) the difference:

On the left are the original beads, made with Gelly's Sty a few months ago. On the right....the nastiness of yesterday. Same batch of glass, too. Yuck.

I've decided that I don't have time and energy to mess with it right now. I am going to disconnect the torch and hang the hose up for a couple of days and re-evaluate. I have beads to make into more work for the show, so that's not an issue, really. I had planned to make some sets to offer at ArtBliss, but I may have to bag that.

And if you've stayed with me all the way down to here in the post....wow! :)

At any rate, i ended up making a bunch of earrings yesterday and getting them put on cards and into my inventory box was a huge relief. I wish I could say the transition from Plan A (beadmaking session) to Plan B (making earrings) was a smooth and seamless one, without gnashing of teeth and railing against the injustice of it all, but at least I got something done. Right?

So. I am totally TOTALLY looking forward to seeing some of you at ArtBliss this Friday night! Safe travels, if you're traveling, and see you there!

Monday, September 13, 2010

It Never Gets Old

I know that those of you who are subscribers to Interweave Press's magazine, Step By Step Wire Jewelry, will not be surprised by this, as you'll have already seen it, but *I* just got to see it, and I am beyond thrilled!

I am in the October/ November issue of Step By Step Wire Jewelry!!!

This was the very first article that I submitted that was accepted for publication, and it was so exciting to see it finally in print! Of course, I spent all of last week running to the Barnes and Noble near my house to see if it had gotten to the stands yet, and when it did, I bought two copies! (One for me and one for my mom, of course!)

The next day, a package arrived from Interweave that was my bracelets and a complimentary copy of the mag. WOO! There was even my bio and picture (taken at the Barbara Lewis workshop in Northern VA back in March)!

So. Exciting.

Aside from MY article in the magazine, there are a bunch of other great projects in there from friends of mine (and people I don't know yet!). Definitely check out Kerry Bogert's 'Sugar Plum Petticoats' -- I'm going to try those round links in a piece later in the week, I think. Also, Cindy Wimmer's 'Spirit Dancer' necklace is amazing! And Dia Daniels' 'Fetish Pendant' is fantastic....another idea I had been toying with, and it's so cool to see someone else's interpretation. If you don't already have this magazine, I suggest you go get it.

I'll be asking Santa for a subscription this Christmas, that's for sure. :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Falling for fall

I love the change of seasons. My life started out in upstate NY, near where the awesome Kerry Bogert lives, but we moved to Miami when I was nine. I love my parents, but I am not sure I ever forgave them that decision. :)
In Miami there are 2 seasons -- Hot, and Hot and Wet. I never really adjusted to tropical living, and while it's a nice place to visit, I'd never ever move back there. As soon as the opportunity to leave (going to college!) came, I left, and I haven't been back all that often. I do need to take my kids down there, to visit their grandpa and see where Mom grew up, and maybe see some old friends I recently got back in touch with (thank you, Facebook!). One of these days.

However, I digress. Here in Virginia, fall is definitely on its way. This morning, as I sent my oldest out for the bus at 6:45, the air was distinctly chilly. I'm wearing jeans. This is terrific! (my jeans actually fit! This IS terrific!)

One of my favorite things about fall, besides the chill and the holidays, is the changing light. It occurred to me the other day that each season truly has its own light. In summer, the sun is bright yellow and the light it casts is equally bright, sometimes harsh, and very strong. Springtime light is a gentle cast of color that shows the new growth in sharp relief against the sky and ground. In the winter, the light is weak, and grey, and cold. Against a backdrop of snow on a sunny day, the light sparkles, but it is washed out and even with the brilliance of a blue sky, the winter light can only reverse the dark, but not really boost the colors of the world.

In fall, though, the light is a deep honey-gold glow. It pours over everything in the late afternoon and illuminates the brilliance of the green grass, and streams through the trees like syrup. It almost feels like you could bathe in this light, feel it tangibly on your skin, collect it in a bucket and carry it home. It is rich and luscious, and while fall may feel like the beginning of the end of a cycle of growth, this light always inspires me to create. I bake, I make beads, I sew....I play outside all day with the kids, and then I bask in the glory of the early-evening light with just one last cookout on the deck. This is my season, my light, and I know good things are in store.

What do you notice about fall?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Getting back to it...

Okay, so I think I took the month of August pretty much off. Too hot to make beads, too hot to do much, kids running around, work stuff needed doing, and frankly, I was out of inspiring ideas.

But fall is (finally!) coming, and it's on, now, baby!

My first big (real) art show is on September 26 (Arts Around The Lake at the University of Richmond), and I am in "make" mode, planning the inventory I am going to need. Thankfully the preschoolers go back on the 14th, and I know that I will be spending every preschool morning at the torch, making the beads, and at the table, making the jewelry.

Halloween is right around the corner, and so is Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's early, for the September show, but I am planning to have all 3 holidays covered in some way for my displays.

Right now, I'm working on a series of bracelets and some necklaces in "theme" colors....I am making bead sets in specific color palettes that will be simply strung and turned into earrings.

For example, the 'Hallowscream' line palettes are:
lime green/orange/black/purple

I'll make sets in these color schemes and do a simple bracelet, earrings and necklace for each, and then a number of single sculpted pendants: ghosts, pumpkins, bats, etc.

Here are some of the beads from the first go-round:
I'm planning to do a Fall palette, a Christmas palette, and a Winter palette. I think I can manage enough beads to have 6 bracelets, at least 6 pairs of earrings, and 6 necklaces for each palette, plus any sculptural single pendants I think of.

I'll be making many more beads for the 'Bloomz' line I've been doing, and trying for 8 or so bracelets, earring pairs and pendants. Then there will be the rest, which will be my one-off designs, and the work that has been published recently.

God, I hope that is enough. It might not be, but there is my plan, not having done the show before.

I pray that my sales will be sufficient to allow me to buy my new torch, pay (off?) my kiln, and start paying for an oxygen concentrator.

The sales needed for those goals approaches the $1K mark. Realistically, can I do that in one day? I don't know. Should I try for it and set myself up for it? Absolutely.

And so, I pray.

Please let me stay positive throughout this incredibly busy September, let me get done what needs to be gotten done, and please let me not get to stressed out while doing it. And please help me to see the path clear to the goals I have set up for myself so I can finally, finally get to where I want to be.

And I cross my fingers, and I plan, and make, and think, and create, and design, and set-up and tear down and rearrange.

Wouldn't it be something? A new *real* torch, an oxygen concentrator AND a kiln by the end of 2010?


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