Bead Show Adventure

This past weekend I ventured out in the pouring rain to the Whole Bead show in Providence, RI. I’ve been attending this show for years and it’s always been easily accessible off of Route 95, at the Holiday Inn on Atwells Ave. This year, however, they decided to change the location to the Rhode Island Convention Center on Sabin Street. I got lost going by the Mapquest directions but quickly stopped and asked for directions. Ah, why didn’t the directions mention that second left? Argh. Back on track, I found the parking garage and followed the signs up to the 4th level. Thinking of that Seinfeld episode where they get lost in the parking garage, I made a mental note of where I parked my car and headed in.

To say that the halls at a convention center are monstrous is putting it mildly. The booths were set up in a square grid with extremely bright lights illuminating all. The combination of the vendor lights with the hall lights bouncing off the tables of glittery beads gave me an immediate sense of disorientation as I stepped through the hall entrance. I decided to do a walk through to give myself a sense of who was there and what they had to offer. I was also on the lookout for my favorite vendors. Alas, with the change in venue came a change in vendors and I couldn’t locate my favorite stone bead seller, Raj from Oregon. My favorite seed bead seller was there, however, but his inventory of seed beads was half of what it usually was. I did manage to acquire some unique muted fall tones.

I feel another free-form piece starting to brew.

I got some good deals on pearls (75% off) and a beautifully unique bone pendant of Guan Yin’s head cradled in a hand. As I have a pretty extensive bead stash at home, I’m always on the lookout for a unique seller besides the usual stone and crystal beads and precious metal findings. I found one on my way out. Susan K. Nestor Studios from Ann Arbor, MI creates stamped resin pendants in various muted colors like I’ve never seen before. What really caught my eye, however, were the stainless steel and colored silk neckrings she had on display. I’ve been searching for something simple to highlight some free-form peyote and polyclay pendant ideas I’ve been gestating and these were just perfect.

I’m looking forward to playing with my new beads!

Ella’s Blanket

Right around the time I found out that I was going to be a grandmother for the first time, my Mom, an avid knitter, gifted me with this gorgeous yarn and showed me a new stitch. It all flowed together so synchronistically that I decided to knit a blanket for the baby, using my new yarn and the stitch I just learned. We have since found out that she is a girl and her name will be Gabriella, Ella for short. She is due to be born at the end of October and we can’t wait for her arrival!

The stitch is not too hard once you get the hang of it. It creates little diamond shaped units that build upon each other. You create 2 diamond shapes (the bottom edge is curved instead of pointy) and then pick up stitches from the right side of one diamond and the left side of the other to create a new diamond that links them together. You continue in this fashion and can make your piece as wide or as long as you want.

I found a book through my library system called Domino Knitting and the pattern and stitches in that book reminded me very much of this pattern.

The yarn I used is called Noro “Matsuri”, comprised of 87% cotton and 18% wool, giving it breathability along with warmth. The only drawback is that it needs to be handwashed but I know that most washers these days have a delicate or handwash cycle so that should be ok. I also think that any handmade knitted piece should be delicately washed anyway.

As I write this, memories drift up of my daughter’s favorite blanket when she was a child. It was a pure white crocheted blanket, created by one of my colleagues at the bank where I worked at that time. She loved that blanket so much that…well…sorry, Aim….we ended up calling it the “string” blankie.  Memories like that fill my heart with warmth and love.

I hope that my new granddaughter will love her new blanket, too.

Saturday Morning Tea

Happy Fall! This morning I am enjoying a cup of rich, dark Yunnan Golden Tips black tea. While the tea itself is a dark chocolate color, the leaves are a beautiful golden yellow. These are the very tips, the new growth, of the tea tree. In Yunnan province, the particular type of tea plants that grow there are actually trees with very large leaves. The tips are carefully plucked and processed to create special lots of this tea.

I had some fun arranging the wet leaf on this misty rainy morning.

The aroma and taste is of exotic spices and dark honey with a silky smooth mouth feel. There is a hint of earthy smoke in the finish. This tea would go very well with milk or cream but I don’t think it needs a sweetener because of its natural sweetness. I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes in boiling water.

There was a period of time last year where this type of tea was very challenging to obtain. I think it was because of the quickly growing popularity of Pu-ehr teas. The leaf used in the processing of this tea comes from the same area and tea trees as Pu-ehr tea. I’m happy to say that there is a return of the Yunnan blacks this year but a lot of what I’ve seen so far is very special and more expensive.

The weather forecast is for rainy skies all weekend as 2 storms head up the coast to New England. I am going to devote most of my weekend to working (and hopefully finishing) a knitted blanket for my soon to be born granddaughter Ella. That’s why I’ve been quiet this week.  All of my free time has been filled with knitting needles and yarn! I’ll post a picture soon.

I’m also headed off to the Whole Bead show in Providence this weekend, too. I’ll post a picture of my newly acquired treasures as soon as I can!

Saturday Morning Tea

While Labor Day weekend marks what most consider the official end of summer, this is the actual last weekend of summer. While I am feeling somewhat wistful thinking about the passing of all of those deliciously warm days spent outside in the garden and lazing on the backyard deck afterwards, iced tea in hand, I am also looking forward to the crisp, colorful fall and a cup of a darker, spicier tea warming my hands. Not quite yet though.

In honor of the summer’s passing, this morning I’m sipping a very very light tea, a white Ceylon from the Adam’s Peak estate. The leaf is gorgeous, long thin slightly curved pieces resembling the delicate ribs of a fan. This represents the newest leaf on the tea plant, the tender budding leaf.

This tea is entirely processed by hand from the careful plucking to drying in the sun to the heating process to stop oxidation. Here is an interesting article from the BBC news about the processing of a white tea from a Sri Lankan tea estate.

A soft sweet aroma drifts up from my white porcelain teabowl as I savor my first sip. I have steeped the leaves in 165 degree F water for 3 1/2 minutes. The liquor holds a hint of color and tastes smooth with light fruity flavor notes.

The softness and delicacy of my white tea slows me down to focus on each sip, helping me transition from a very busy workweek to the more relaxed pace of my weekend. A perfect tea for meditating on the most recent happenings of my life and the change I can feel in the air.

If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.

-Kahlil Gibran

Studio Wednesday

Today I had 2 goals in my studio. First, to prepare the face cab for my first journal bracelet. Second, to work on my freeform bracelet.

I found some old leaf canes in my polymer clay stash and reduced them to a very small size. Then I framed the porcelain face cab (on the left) with cane slices. Well, I liked the look so much that I took out one of the glazed face cabs I created last January and did the same thing with it. So, I’ve decided to use the 2 face cabs, one for September and one for October. In a previous post, I talked about honoring the trees that were taken down in our backyard last week. There were 2 of them so I’ll create a bracelet to honor each tree. I’ve also created a whole bunch of leaf beads from the canes so I can also use those in my bracelets.

After my polymer clay work, I started balancing out my freeform bracelet by working on the side that was bowing in. I’m hoping to be able to finish with the body of the bracelet soon. Then I’ll document how I create the pearl and loop clasp.

The Birth of a Freeform Peyote Bracelet – Part 4

My bracelet is progressing, slowly but surely. Originally, I was going to add one coin shaped pearl but I loved their shape and color so much that I decided to add 3 of them. You can see how it doesn’t grow in an even way. Just like life where we will focus our attention to certain parts, my bracelet is growing more on one side than the other. As I go with the flow of the beads, I will feel a pull to work on one particular part and help that grow. Then I will notice the gaps in the other parts of the bracelet and move over to those places to seek balance.

As the bracelet grows, I am still working in peyote stitch here and there but find myself adding whole loops of beads to create bridges to other parts of the bracelet. As in life, flexibility is key as you listen to your inner voice to see what the next step should be.

I’ve been read a fascinating book called “The Kaizen Way: One Small Step can Change your Life” by Dr. Robert Maurer. Kaizen is a Japanese technique using small, steady steps to achieve lasting success with a goal. You can read more about it and Dr. Maurer here.

There is a part of our brain, located in the midbrain and called the amygdala, that is crucial to our survival because it controls the fight-or-flight response. This response is a natural alarm that alerts certain parts of our body for action in the face of immediate danger. When the alert happens, other parts of our body are slowed or shut down to allow all of our energy and resources to get us out of the danger. One nonessential (at the time) function that shuts down is our rational and creative thought processes. Even though most of us aren’t in situations where a dangerous animal is charging at us, this response is appropriate and vital in our lives today in emergency situations such as someone breaking into our house or reacting to a driver who has run a red light and threatens to hit our car. Where it can create a problem, however, is when we are faced with a new situation that is not part of our usual, safe day-to-day routine, such as the challenge of finding a new job or quitting a habit such as smoking or overeating. This situation can trigger fear and the fight-or-flight response can be triggered from our fear which will then shut down the thinking part of our brain. Big goals can trigger fear also. So, taking very small steps towards a big goal or new situation can bypass those fears. With each small step, new neural pathways are laid down in our brain and we build new habits, working towards our goals and a new situation in a comfortable way for us.

So, what does this Japanese technique have to do with creating a freeform bracelet, you ask? As I’ve read different comments from my readers about their experience with freeform peyote, I’ve heard that this kind of project might feel overwhelming, especially when it is such a free flowing creation. There really isn’t an exacting set of instructions regarding what to do. So, I suggest to fool that fear response and accomplish this creative task with teeny, tiny steps. Set aside 5 minutes a day to add a couple of beads at a time. Put a little sign next to your growing creation that says something like, “whatever I create is beautiful”. There is no right way or wrong way. Whatever you create is a beautiful expression of you, one tiny bead at a time.

Saturday Morning Tea

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged

to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

-Nelson Mandela

Have you ever been in a situation where all of a sudden something happens, you are given a new piece of information and then it’s like something clicks into place inside of you and you’re looking at your world with whole new eyes? Well, it’s been that kind of eye opening week for me that has rocked the very foundation of my psyche. The universe is showing me a whole new direction these days. Maybe that is part of turning 50. So, after my week, this morning I decided on a nice strong cup of tea, a Ceylon black from Homadola estate.

This tea is produced in the Ruhuna district of Sri Lanka, an area located in the southwestern tip of the island, with an elevation between sea level and 2,000 feet. Most Ceylons black teas are produced in a higher elevation which gives them a lighter, brisk flavor. Most people are familiar with Ceylon tea in a teabag.

This low growing district produces very strong, dark teas that are usually accented with silver tips. Their flavor reminds me more of a China black than a Ceylon tea. The aroma is very rich and sweet with a slight hint of cocoa. The leaves are large broken pieces, some uncurling after steeping. I brewed this tea in boiling water for 4 minutes. The liquor is very rich and dark with earthy, cocoa notes. It stands up very well to milk or cream.

This tea reminds us to be strong, fill our lives with richness and be grounded in our connection to the earth.