February 28, 2011

Wise Up Necklace - Earthenwood Studio Design Team

I love the connectors that Melanie from Earthenwood Studio sent me this month as part of her design team program

So let me tell you about this necklace.  First, I made it for myself because I have a jewelry shortage now that all my favorites are off to the publisher being photographed for the book.  I wore this necklace on Saturday and received so many compliments - that's always a good sign.

The owl is from Spirited Earth.  The red heart, earthy bronze and clock connectors are from Earthenwood Studio.  The house is from Jubilee.  The teal spacer is from me.  There is an Elaine Ray lentil bead in a bright cheery green and one of my stamped resin beads on other side to compliment it.  The clasp is made with a button from Mamacita Beadworks. 

You can see what my fellow team members created with their little Earthenwood stash this month here and here.

And check out this sweet design from Melanie using our beads together.  She paired up her heart and connectors with one of my snow owls and a little rare brown bird that I had at the Bead & Button show one year.

You can find all sorts of awesome beads in the Earthen Studio's Etsy Shop and Website

February 27, 2011

More than just beads

Did you know I graduated from art school with a degree in Fine Art where I studied painting, drawing and printmaking?  I use so many of those skills in my beads, most notably my design and color lessons.  And while I love being a beadmaker and all things beads, I enjoy being able to take a mental break from production work and play with paints, pencils and paper!

I take on freelance assignments as an illustrator and have been working on writing children's books for the past 7 years.  My work was primarily block prints but last year I decided to revisit watercolors.  I had taken a semester of watercolor painting in college and it's been fun to reteach myself the basic techniques and start to develop a style. 

I love drawing quirky characters, woodland animals, holiday imagery, green themes and of course crafty scenes!

My next big goal is to write a craft book for kids.  I've recently started writing and sharing some quick projects on my illustration blog.

To see more of my work you can visit my website.

And if you are interested in following along with my artsy adventures
I have a blog dedicated to my illustrating and writing.

February 25, 2011

Married + Owning a Business = ?

Okay, no more waxing poetic.  What is going on with me this week?  Well last Friday Jess was laid off - again.  We have gone through this song and dance at least a 1/2 dozen times over the last 4 years.  It's getting old. 

The first time it was scary and Jess found a new job within days.  Relief.  But after the 3rd time he found himself unemployed due to cut backs in his field, cheaper labor available and companies no longer hiring employees but rather contract labor, we decided to try having Jess work for me.  And it did work for a time.  But after a few months I asked Jess to go find work again, it was too stressful for me to carry the whole load and quite frankly back then my business wasn't what it is today.   
But this time it is different.  It's no longer scary to face unemployment.  Our faith allows us to trust that we are provided for no matter what the circumstances.  My business is in a different place and I have been out-earning Jess for the last year.  None of his jobs have offered health insurance, so no loss there.

More importantly this lay-off has given us time to pause.  You see Jess is an artist.  Like a super-way-more-talented-than-me kind of artist.  And I have let him slink away from his dreams of living a creative life.  Instead of helping him face his fears about selling his work I have relied on the false security of his day job. 

It's time to make our way together as artists.  Jess will be helping me a few days a week with getting orders out the door and working on some administrative stuff that will free up some of my time.  But a few times a week Jess will be working on his own projects.  We are still trying to decide if I will sell them in my Etsy shop or if we will keep his shop.  Or we may decide to start a new shop.  Lots of things to work through over the next few weeks. 

I can tell you though, it's already like a heavy weight has been lifted off our necks.   We are facing each day light-hearted, working happily side by side.  I'm looking forward to seeing Jess make his way as an artist, getting back in touch with his most authentic self.  It's exciting times, I will tell you that!

We've claimed Friday as a play day in the studio.  Today Jess has been making these teeny-tiny charms.  Next up we will paint them.  They are so sweet!

Wish us luck, keep us in our prayers and look forward to getting to know Jess more as he dips his toe in the world of online social media.  He's such a charming and clever guy - I know you are just going to love him and his creations!

February 24, 2011

Delicate Dreams

Hold your dreams close and protect them,
Like a watchful meadowlark over her nest.
Each egg - the whisper of a promise.
Each hope - a sweet song in your heart.

Meadowlark pendants are now in my Etsy shop.

Tell me one crazy hope or dream you have
One that you laugh even thinking of it being possible. 
I can feel mine, on the edge of a shell. 
Delicate and teetering, but close enough to touch.

We want to move back home to Michigan.
We want to open a little art bead shop/jewelry/art gallery.

Plans are in motion, it's hard to be patient.  It's hard to wait for the right time for things.
It's hard not to rush ahead and to count eggs before they hatch.

Talk to me today, share your dreams. Share the dreams that have come true and the dreams you have tucked away.  I need to hear your stories.

(Nest Photo credit: MichealCobbAllen via the creative commons on Flickr and altered by me.)

February 23, 2011

Bead Table Wednesday - What the Frack?

Today I thought I would show you one of my other tables - the clay table.

As you can imagine this is where I actually spend most of my time.

And this is no camera trick - I actually cleaned off my clay desk last week. (And it's still clean!)

This is an older photo of my clay desk, but it pretty much looked like this last Friday!

My scrap pile - there is no waste with polymer clay.  I glob my scraps according to colors and Jess mixes them for me while he watches cat videos on youtube.  I cover this with wax paper to keep out the dust bunnies.

The whole bead table - just to show you it wasn't a trick!

These are all my canes - wrapped in wax paper.  I always store things according to their use - so the canes I use the most are on top and closest to me.  (For those who don't speak clay - canes are long tubes of designs that I cut into paper thin slices and apply to my beads.)

Clay wrapped up - clay doesn't dry out, my only enemy is dust.  The lower right-hand corner is one of my texture plates, reclaimed from an old window blind sampler book that Jess brought home from an interior design office.  (He collects the weirdest and best stuff.)

Molds and rubber stamps.  I have a few of these baskets hanging on my pegboard - but these are the ones I use the most.

And on the beady bead table - these incredibly awesome lampwork beads from my friend Genea!  Oh how I love her work.  I keep staring at these two sets - they are perfect.  You know how you get those beads and you are afraid you won't do them justice, so you just stare at them.  This is one of those sets.  I'm thinking they need to be paired up with one of my new starfish pendants though.

Check out Genea's beads & blog.

So dear friends - what's on your Bead Table?

Check out the Bead Table Wednesday flickr group and add your photos. 

And bonus points for messy desks - they are my favorites!

P.S. If you have clay questions check out the very helpful forum and articles at Polymer Clay Central.

February 22, 2011

Carried Along

We are carried along in a stream -
some are aware of the invisible forces pulling them,
some float without a thought as to where the current is taking them.

Some days I'm in that current,
not thinking about the future or plans -
just working away in the jumble of the day to day.

And then sometimes flotsam gets thrown into the mix
and suddenly the waters are stirred in unexpected ways
And there is a moment when you realize you can swim against the current. 
You can create a sail. 

There are no limits as to where you can travel. 
Cast off the nets that bind - the old thoughts, habits and patterns.

Swim upstream, make a break for it.

Change your life and stop letting the current carry you away from your dreams.

This is a note to myself as my family faces momentous changes that have knocked me out of that complacent stream and I find myself facing the waves and breakers that are crashing over me.

So thankful for the bright stars in my life that help point the way.

February 16, 2011

Bead Table Wednesday - Fiction vs. Reality

Welcome to Bead Table Wednesday.

Check out my clean desk - aren't you totally impressed? I mean look, you can see the bottom of my bead tray! I worked so hard on it, hours I tell you hours.

What, wait...don't pan the camera up.  No stop! 

Ah, yeah I may have just pushed everything to one side.  Is that the equivalent of shoving everything under the bed when we were kids?  Actually the clean portion of the desk was for the last photo I needed for the book - my tools.  So to fool everyone who doesn't read this blog into thinking I'm this nice, neat organized beader I staged the photo.  Please don't tell the rest of them, they will find out soon enough!

And what is really on my bead table today - orders, orders and more orders getting ready to be shipped to my very patient customers.  Goodness how I love them!

So dear friends, what's on your bead table today?

Share a snapshot on the flickr group

February 14, 2011

Balancing Family & Creating

I'm often asked how I find the time to do everything.  The truth is, I don't!  I struggle just like you with balancing family and running my business.  But I have always worked my creative business along with raising my girls, from the time I would do craft shows with our newborn in the stroller and beading away when she was taking naps!

I am very fortune to have a family that completely supports my business.  Most of the cooking and cleaning are handled by Jess and my girls. 

I was in the terrible habit of working all day and night for a few years, but have scaled back this year.  I stop working when the girls get home at 4:30 and spend time doing family stuff until they are in bed at 9:30. When they arrive home from school I devote that first hour to listening and chatting them with about their day. I use my time in the evening to sketch, read and jot down ideas while we watch TV or hang out together. I don't get on the computer or spend time in my studio during that time.  This has been good for all us, and good for me - we can't work 24 hours a day! (Now if I could only pry the Ipod from my hands during TV commercials. Shh, don't tell on me.)

Here are some tips that I shared on my facebook page for mom's who were struggling with finding time to create:
  • Do you have another mom you can exchange babysitting time? I used to do that with another homeschool mom when I homeschooled. We would trade a day so that we could work on our creative businesses.
  • I still get up before everyone so I can have an hour or two of quiet time. Is that what you do now? I find I'm more creative if I wake up early rather than staying up way too late.
  • Maybe you could do a family creative day once a week. Feeding your creative soul may not involve beads at that time, but you will all enjoy the break from the everyday! We would take the girls to museums, art shows, take our sketchbooks to the park, etc.
  • And then there is the reality that when we are raising kids we can't do it all - there are only so many hours in a day.  Don't be hard on yourself and set realistic goals.
I also found this great round up of tips for maintaining balance with work and family - it's a must read!  Couldn't have come at a better time.

February 11, 2011

Create Super Easy Photo Collages

It took me a few days of playing at the Picnik website before I noticed this goodie in my picnic basket!

The collage tab is on the home page. (Don't ask me how I didn't notice it for days!)

The good folks at Picnik have a great tutorial to walk you through the steps. You can see on the bottom of the screen are your photos, you can easily add more.  To create the collage it is as simple as picking your template and dragging the photos to add them to the boxes.

After you create you collage, you'll notice some adjustments you can make - one of them being my beloved round corners.  You can also change the background color here too.

Okay, now just so we are clear - I'm not responsible for time wasted playing with this new toy!

Use this feature for easy tutorials like the one I did on the Art Bead Scene.  Jazz up your blog posts or newsletters.  The collages can even be used in your printed material.  Save them on the high quality setting.

February 10, 2011

Pantone Fall Color Report

The Pantone's Color Report always makes my creative nose twitch.  I just saw this today, thanks to Vintaj on twitter.  

I'm seriously crushing on every color - except honeysuckle, I'm not buying it for more than the smallest of accents.  Oh, I need a few extra hours to play with colors.  I would love to mix these up for a series of beads.  Maybe my Bead of the Month club folks will get something inspired by a few of these colors.  Yep, that's what I'm thinking.

I'm having a hard time picking a favorite - I think it's the Orchid Hush, it's reminds me of these October Sky beads that I made last year:

What's your favorite color from the Pantone Fall palette?

February 9, 2011

BTW - Kodachrome

It's time for another round of Bead Table Wednesday!  Well you saw my real bead table on Monday and today you get to see my Kodachrome versions.  You know those dreamy, this-is-how-luscious-my-studio-is-in-my-own-mind kind of photos.
Loving these colors this week.  I've been busy working on magazine submissions, so I can't show you any finished jewelry - but you can see a little of my thought process here.
All these lovely strands of Czech glass came from Dream Girl Beads.  Marta is a hardworking mom who has impressed me to no end.  Like I ordered Friday and my beads were here Monday.  Not to mention, I just love looking at her shop.  All those earthy little touches make my inspired-ery senses all tingly!  Watch out Paypal account - you are in danger!

Hop on over to the Bead Table Wednesday flickr group to share your Kodachrome visions of your bead table or just let it all hang out in the light of day - either way, I find you completely inspiring!

February 8, 2011

Stamped Resin Beads Tutorial

StazOn Ink
Rubber Stamps
Resin Beads

Press your stamp into the ink pad and stamp the bead.

Yep, that's my whole tutorial and all there is to it.  The ink is permanent and will withstand normal wear and is even water-resistant.  I only stamped one side, if you stamped on the back it will show through and that could used to create a nice effect.  You could do an image on one side and words on the other. 

I love the soft matte beach-glass look of the resin with the images.  I picked up all my resin from Natural Touch Beads at Bead & Button last year.  They have a great website with tons of colors and shapes. 

You can stamp on any of the shapes, but I like the these flat coin style beads, they show off the images more. I will warn you, order more beads than you think you will need - they are so much fun to make and you'll run out of the larger beads before you are done playing!

These are my favorites, I love the icy blue look of the beads.  I could see them matched up with rock crystal and rhinestone beads for some winter-inspired sparkle.

February 7, 2011

Bead Storage

I am organizationally challenged.  Just ask my mom, who cleans off my bead table every time she comes to visit.  Of course, we won't mention that she picks her favorite Humblebeads that are on the desk and squirrels them away.  After all, finders keepers...

You may see the photo above and think, well Heather you look pretty organized to me.  And with this little corner of my studio I am!  I organize my stones by color.  Pearls, wood, crystal, Czech glass and each of my metals get their own boxes.  I have 2 boxes of art beads from other artists and then my inventory is stored in another part of the studio. I do have each box labeled and in theory the label is suppose to be easily read when I glance down at my shelf.  Theories, folks, theories. 

This shelf is under my work desk and offers easy access while I'm creating.

Now onto the problem:

Did I mention things that are good in theory?  I have two tables in my studio covered in beads.  The future dig sits. One day I am going to make an archaeologist very happy.

Combine a shortage of time with ample work space and no motivation to pick things up and that is what you get.  I'm showing you in hopes that I will change my evil 'I-don't-put-my-beads-way' ways.  But let's face it, I would rather sit down and make a necklace for an hour than dig my way out. 

Do you pick up as you finish a project or am I alone in my wonderland of a bead table mess?

February 6, 2011

Picnik Photo Tutorial Part 2

First, if you missed the Rounded Photo Corners tutorial, check that out for some basic instructions on using Picnik. 

Today I'm going to show you a few more tricks for adding some life and interest to your photos. 

After you upload your photo to Picnik and resize it, head to the 'Create' tab.  Click on  'Effects' on the top tab and on the left hand-side of the screen you'll find some fun filters to try on your images.  Each one does something different - play around to see what filter will give the desired effect. If you don't like a filter, simply discard the changes before saving.

The Original Photo

Lomo-ish filter with rounded corners

1960's and Lomo-ish with rounded corners
You can combine filters for unique effects.  You might want to jot down what effects you use on a photo so you can duplicate the same style on other photos.

Gritty with rounded corners

Cinemascope without the letterbox and rounded corners

Same photo as above with the Cross Processed filter added.

Each filter has a different feel and tells a different story.  Altered photos can help you tell a better story on your blog.  In the 'gritty' photo I could see that paired up with a story about dealing with creativity doldrums during a long cold winter, where the '1960's/Lomo-ish' photo could accompany a blog post about nostalgia and creativity.
Do you Picnik?  What are some of your favorite tricks?

February 5, 2011

Finding Time to Create

Are you finding that you don't have the time to create or just feel like your inspiration has run dry?  I go through those times too and thought I'd share a few tips with you.

1. Schedule time to play - I know this may seem strange - schedule time for creativity.  You can't force inspiration to strike but if find the time to show up, you might find that inspiration is soon to follow.  Pick a day this month or once a week and say these four hours (or however many you can spare) are mine to have fun and play.  That's what I did with the Bead of Month Club - I gave myself one day a month to experiment and explore.  And the result was not only the BOM bead but a whole new line of spring-inspired creations.

2. Unplug - This is hard for me, but necessary if I am feeling really stressed and want to tap into my inner muse.  Go ahead - turn off the computer and Ipod, don't check your email for a day. I promise the world will not fall apart.  Sit down at your table, turn on your favorite music and let your hands go to work.  If you have a creative block, pull out an art or beading book or go for a walk.  But then go back to your work table. Or work on a mindless task for a for minutes until you feel warmed up - for me that is mixing colors.

3. Sleep - Seriously you feel more creative if you are rested.  I'm so guilty of not getting enough sleep.  But when I do, my mind is creatively solving problems and feeling all fired up to work on new designs. 

4. Chill out - Are you in a constant state of panic, putting out one fire after another or feeling overrun by your to-do list?  Ha - I just describe myself.  On these days there is not a creative bone in my body.  The cure?  Relax for crying out loud.  We don't have to be constantly stressed or under the gun of a deadline to produce amazing things.  Make a daily habit of meditating, going for a nature walk or praying.  All good for the soul and for feeding your creative muse.

Other suggestions for finding more time:
  • Skip watching TV.
  • Schedule a creative play day with a friend.
  • Delegate household chores.
  • Work with your spouse and set up a Daddy's Day Out with the munchkins. Use that time to play and for nothing else!
  • Consolidate your errands - bunch up your errands so that you aren't constantly running around.
Do you have any tips for finding more time in your day?  I'd love to hear them!