Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Book review: Tropical World

Last year, I reviewed an adult coloring book by Millie Marotta called Animal Kingdom (my review at the link) and I was somewhat surprised that no one said, "Hey, what's that got to do with beading?"  My guess is that everyone is now smart enough to know that interest in one art form doesn't preclude interest in another, and all creative activities are helpful in stoking the fires we already have burning!

Inspired by, but not limited to her travels, Millie has put together another coloring book called Tropical World and published by Lark.  Her illustrations stay fairly true to the overall shape or form of the subject, but then are filled in with a myriad of fanciful patterns and details.  Like the first book, a few pages are left with some spaces and unembellished forms for you to letter or draw on as you choose.  A few (very few) color suggestions are included when it seems appropriate; for example, suggestions are made for the plumage of a bird you may not be familiar with.

Colored pencils or pens?  Direct coloring in the book or photocopies?  It's up to you, but the paper is absolutely heavy enough for even markers to be used directly in the book.  

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Monday, October 05, 2015

Amulet bags

Berry Juice

Do you remember amulet bags??  Whatever happened to those?  It seemed for years you couldn't open a magazine without seeing examples, reading how-tos, and lusting over what everyone was making.

And then, all of a sudden...poof!  They seem to have disappeared from popular culture.  Is that because we had gone as far as we could go with them?  Did the large bead embroidered collars take their place?  Did we just get over-saturated by them?  It seems kind of sad that they have vanished, and I wonder if there are any artists who are still working on them and improving on our old techniques.

The bag shown at the top is a little teeny tiny itty bitty thing that I made back in 2005 from size 15/0 seed beads and even smaller antique beads.  I'm not an amulet user, myself, but I still love the bag form.  I'm contemplating whether or not it's time for a personal revival of amulet bags :-)

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Friday, October 02, 2015

heART beats from other blogs!

Artificial Plants Made from Craft Foam or Paper
How to make artificial plants from craft foam or construction paper. Both materials make lovely succulent plants. Use what you have. Template included.

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean presents some thoughts on the great beadist Kim Miles and what she is up to these days.Come see the gorgeous necklace displaying one of Kim's amazing focals!

Make a Burlap Bow for a Fall Wreath
It's easy to make a simple, big burlap bow to put on a grapevine wreath as a decoration for fall.

Make cute pom-pom pets with this new kit.

Diamond Five has Arrived
Connie's posted the fifth installment of her free SAL (stitch-along). Be sure to join the Connie Gee's Designs group on Facebook to follow along with other stitcher's progress and to show off your own.

Art Bead Scene
Check out part 2 of Heather 'Humblebeads' Powers' new series - How to Sell More Jewelry! Lots of fab tips and tricks for you!

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Why take a class?

The piece I learned to make in a class taught by Nancy Eha

I like to take a class from time to time, but I haven't taken one for awhile.  So I've been mulling over what I might like to do and thinking back on the classes I've taken in the past that I think were really successful.  A number of years ago, my friend Debbie emailed me to suggest that we go take a beading class together, and my first thought was that it would be a pleasant way to spend the day with her, but not much more.  Wrong!  It turned out to be one of the best classes I've ever taken.  

Although I’m used to teaching myself whatever technique interests me, either by the brute force of trial and error or by reading about it, I’m not a total stranger to the classroom.  Usually I like to take technique-based classes to improve my learning curve, or when the subject included expensive equipment that I wanted to try out before launching into buying it.  But here was Debbie, suggesting that we take a project-based class.  No way!  No how!  But still…I wanted to spend the day with her, and it might be fun.

Well it was fun, and all of my reluctance was misplaced.  The first thing you need to consider very carefully when choosing a class to take is the reputation of the teacher.  Many people can be brilliant bead artists without necessarily being good teachers.  Especially if you are a beginner, I would recommend that you check to see that the teacher you’re considering has a reputation for being organized, patient, and creative.  Organization without creativity is boring.  Creativity without some level of organization is chaos.  And patience…well, I think we can all figure out why that would be important!

Debbie working on her piece
The class that Debbie and I went to take was being taught by Nancy Eha.  I had long admired Nancy’s work, and I knew from various discussions on the internet that she had an excellent reputation as a teacher.  But I was still disappointed that we’d be taking a project-based class instead or a techniques-based one.  By the end of the day, however, I had changed my mind.  Here’s why.

In taking a project-based class, I was under the impression that I would be bored waiting for everyone to finish each step.  Not so.  Nancy’s project was  not going to be finished by the end of the class; instead, she introduced each step and gave us enough time to become familiar with it and try it out before moving on to the next part.  We ended up learning many more techniques than I had expected during the course of the project too.  The class moved at a good pace, and there was still much to be finished at home later.  When choosing a project class, this is something that you’ll want to find out, because not everyone is thrilled about leaving class without a finished something-or-other.

Another piece I made later, using the techniques I learned in class

One of my other arguments against project classes had always been that I could learn the thing perfectly well by myself from the book.  Well, that may be true for some and not true for others, but even so, there are still reasons to consider taking a project class.  There are most obviously the visual aspects of learning a new skill; sometimes it just helps to see someone else doing it.  And then there are the social aspects.  It’s fun to meet other people who are crazy about the same things that you are!
There are also the additional tips that come to you with no extra charge as your teacher talks about many things beyond just the project at hand.  And finally, you will get to try new products that you may not have considered using before.  For me, I got to try out Silamide thread, when I had only ever used Nymo thread before.  Nancy also had us working with an embroidery hoop, which I also don’t usually use.  The Silamide made a hit with me, the hoop didn’t!

The final objection that I’ve had in the past to project classes was that I didn’t like having to make the exact same thing as everyone else, doing it in the exact same way.  Well, as Nancy explained right up front, the uniformity of the pieces we were going to make was for crowd control, and nothing else!  It makes perfect sense.  You are free to go off and use the techniques that you learn in the project in any way you want, stretching your own creativity and adding the new ideas to your growing repertoire.  If the thought of not being able to do your own thing totally turns you off, you would probably be much happier in a techniques-based class.  Just don’t discount all the wonderful things you can learn in a well-run project class!

Nancy Eha’s work and class schedule can be seen at Bead Creative

Copyright 2015 Cyndi Lavin. All rights reserved. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

heART beats from other blogs!

Repair Clay Sculpture DIY
Is this clay sculpture beyond repair? Eileen's puppy smashed it; then ate some of the pieces!

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Looking for easy crafts to make for the upcoming holiday season? Jean reviews the fun-filled felt crafting book, 'Tis the Season to Be Felt-y ! Don't miss this one!

My Grandmother's Fruit Salad
Here's a recipe that has been popular in our family. Over the years, friends and in laws have enjoyed it and continue to make it for their family.

Halloween Square Pattern
Connie's added a free Halloween-themed chart that will be a treat to trick out with buttons, beads, or charms.

DIY Tassel Necklace
This simple necklace can be made in about five minutes from a tassel keychain. Easy and on trend for fall!

Book Review
A new video-based book review is up on the Crafty Princess' YouTube channel.

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book review: 26 Quick Stitched Elements

This is the kind of book that I just love!  Lots of little motifs or elements, as Thomasin Alyxander calls them, endless possibilities for combining and recombining into lovely jewelry!  26 Quick Stitched Elements is published by Kalmbach, so you know you will get the well-illustrated basics in the back, and the easy to follow instructions and illustrations throughout the whole book.

Alyx wants you to be able to take her elements and use them as in all sorts of projects, so she shows many different colorways, variations in details, and suggested uses for each one.  The book focuses on shaped beads, and on integrating them with seed beads, rounds, and bicone crystals.  There are lots of rounded elements included, which can be used in so many ways: as earrings, bracelet pieces, charms, pendants, part of a more complicated necklace, etc.  There are complicated-looking jewelry projects included, but after you've read through the elements portion, you'll see how straight-forward it is to combine elements into these more complex designs.

Galaxy Medallions in different colorways

Be aware, though, that only one brand of Czech shaped beads is used throughout, and that is the Czech-Mate system of beads.  Other brands of Czech beads or Japanese shaped beads are not recommended because the hole spacing and exact shape may differ, causing bead counts to be unreliable.  If you are an experienced stitcher, you can probably make the adjustments yourself, but it may be frustrating for less experienced bead workers.

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