I purchased my own domain name!

I feel like I’ve come full circle today with the purchase of my very own domain name for Art and Tea. With the approach of the 5-year anniversary of my blog’s first post, I feel that it’s the perfect way to celebrate that.

If you use a reader service to read my blog, you will probably need to update the URL address. A big thanks for all of your interest and support of my blog over the years.

I believe this auspicious occasion calls for the return of my Art posts!  What do you think?

A Lizard Tail Goddess

First of all, I’d like to extend a big thank you to Julie Picarello for all of her inspiration in creating this necklace. And her inspiration continues with the arrival of her eagerly anticipated book in my mailbox this week. More about that later…

A little over a year ago, I was excited and honored to attend a weekend workshop with Julie, one of my polymer clay/color heroes. The first word that comes to my mind whenever I look at her work is…..yummy. Her use of color, design and texture all flow together in such an amazingly vibrant way. As part of her workshop, we made these nifty little polyclay pieces that Julie calls “lizard tails”. As much as I love Julie’s work, I didn’t want to duplicate her jewelry pieces but put my own artistic voice into my piece. So, being true to my style, my “lizard tail” became the body of a bead embroidered Goddess.

Many moons ago before I started creating jewelry and beadwork, I loved to embroider. I remember my Hungarian grandmother teaching me how to carefully lay stitches down on a tablecloth when I was very young even before I started going to school.  I continued embroidering on into my teen years, creating colorful designs on t-shirts, denim shirts and pairs of denim jeans so ripped up that I transformed them into purses. Ah, happy memories! I loved taking an everyday object and embellish it with colorful stitches. Years later when I discovered that I could sew with my beloved beads, well, oh my, I was in heaven.

This beautifully serene, bone face cabochon was purchased years ago at a bead show in Providence and has sat patiently in my studio stash waiting to be included in its own unique piece of jewelry. I beaded the face and body separately on Lacy’s Stiff Stuff and then sewed them together before adding a final beaded edge to the whole pendant. I thought about adding some fringe or a bead drop but decided finally to just keep this piece as simple as possible with no embellishment.

The choker is beaded in my favorite beading weave, herringbone stitch, with tiny size 15 beads. In seed beads as with wire gauge, the larger the number, the smaller the bead (or wire). I then beaded small gold caps to finish the choker ends and added a gold-filled filigree box clasp. Despite its long pendant, this necklace is so lightweight and such a pleasure to wear. It is backed with soft Ultrasuede.

I thought it wonderfully synchronistic that I finished this piece the same week that I received my copy of Julie’s new book, “Patterns in Polymer: Imprint and Accent Bead Techniques“. If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a workshop with Julie, this is the next best thing and is filled with eye candy inspiration and instruction on creating your own unique mokume gane pieces.

Next up on my beading table is another component made in Julie’s workshop, my “lazy river” pendant. Stay tuned, dear friends…

Saturday Morning Tea

It’s been raining here all week in New England, in fact, the whole northeastern part of the country has been wet. We seem to be stuck in one of those circular weather patterns that just keeps spinning round and round. Much like life when we can get stuck in a certain belief or thought pattern and it keeps going round and round in our mind.

Ah, you wonder….now what the heck does that have to do with a cup of tea? Well, as with anything else in life, we can also develop certain opinions about different types of tea even if we haven’t fully tried them. I’m guilty of this myself.

When I started working for my company back in the mid 90s, I didn’t like green tea at all. Yup, that’s right. I didn’t like green tea. I thought it had a “funny” taste, one I wasn’t used to, one that didn’t match with what I thought of as the beverage “tea”. As with a lot of Americans, I had grown up with just black tea and then pretty much only had a cup when I wasn’t feeling good. And yes, there was a string and a tag sticking out of my cup.

All that changed when I started working at a tea company that has the philosophy of providing the finest loose leaf teas to its customers. I slowly learned to appreciate all of the different types of tea for what they were and yes, I finally opened my mind and my heart to green tea. I learned to stop comparing its flavor to black tea and love it all on its own. I invite you to do the same.

This morning I introduce you to a green tea from China called Green Mao Feng Imperial. “Mao Feng” translates to “Fur Peak” or “Hairy Mountain”, referring to the downy white hairs on the leaf when it is plucked and also to the location where it is grown and harvested. During its processing, the full leaf is rolled into long, thin strands, characteristic of this style of tea.

And just look at the gorgeous intact plucking of this tea. Wow! I find it amazing how the leaves can stay together like that despite all of the rolling around during their processing. I would guess that this leaf has been entirely hand processed.

The tea liquor is a pale straw color with a slight tinge of green. The aroma is sweet and floral which carries on into its flavor.

More sweetness bloomed as the tea cooled, making this an excellent choice to explore as an iced tea. This tea is only slightly vegetal.

As you can see from the reflection in my teabowl, the clouds are finally parting to reveal patches of blue sky. That makes this gardener very happy.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear tea friends!

“Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of  my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.”  ~Anne De Lenclos

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

“Meditation on Spring” Beaded Cuff

Spring colors are blooming on my very first bracelet cuff creation!

Forsythia yellow, willow green, azalea pink, rhododendron rose, cream and baby pink magnolia. Colors so fresh and light, rebirthing the world in their embrace. Ah, I just love this time of year!

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I wrote this post about stitching a 2-drop peyote band from a bead soup mix that was left over from this freeform bracelet. That band has sat, well, for 2 years now, on a bead mat in my studio, patiently waiting for me to transform it into a piece of jewelry.

I created the face cabochon from polymer clay using the same glazing technique I used for these faces, rubbing on mica powder and mixing alcohol ink with liquid polymer clay.

After I beaded around the face cabochon, I attached her to my peyote band. As I held it in my hand, I felt that the weight of the cabochon was just too heavy for the lightness of the band so I pondered and pondered on what I could do next. Hmmmm…

Aha! What if I sewed the peyote stitched band to a piece of ultrasuede and then glued that to a brass cuff? That would give it the weight and counterbalance it needed! So, I did just that and then glued another piece of ultrasuede to the back of the cuff. I stitched a beaded edge, thus joining the 2 pieces of ultrasuede together at their edges, giving the cuff a finished look.

I found a great resource on the web for ultrasuede. Field’s Fabrics is located in Michigan, has over 160 colors of ultrasuede in stock and charges only a flat rate $6.00 for shipping. You can buy scrap variety packs or as little as 1/8 yard per color. I used a pale spring green called limade for this project.

Even though it took me several years to figure out how to bring all of the components together in harmony, I’m so happy with my new creation. Now that’s it’s complete, I’m thinking of another bead embroidered bracelet, this one softer without the brass cuff, possibly beaded on a piece of batik fabric in yummy colors.

Ah, the possibilities…

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” 

~Albert Einstein

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

Bead Treasure

Whenever I travel to Michigan, I always love to stop by Munro’s in Berkeley and see what they have in stock. Sometimes my visit coincides with one of their sales. This time I hit the jackpot with a sale on all their freshwater pearls (25% off) and Chinese crystal (50% off!).

I also love their extensive and reasonably priced selection of stone beads. However, I find that one of the drawbacks about buying stone there as opposed to my experience at bead shows is that their sales staff is not always that knowledgeable about the names of the stones and not all of the bead strands are labeled. I like to know exactly what it is that I’m spending my money on, don’t you?

This time I was drawn to fire agate, carnelian, labradorite and iolite – a gorgeous sunset color combination.

The photo above just doesn’t do justice to the amazing cinnamon color of the big crystal beads on top.  They’re such a yummy, spicy fall color.

I’ve recently purchased Sherry Serafini’s new book called Sensational Bead Embroidery and am feeling inspired to create a bead embroidery piece using small pearls in the vivid blues and greens above.

My absolute favorite bead store is Bead Haven in Frankenmuth, a quaint little Bavarian style village my parents love to visit for their homestyle chicken dinners. I was delighted that the restaurant, called Zehnder’s, had a vegetarian section on their menu. That said, their specialty always has been and will continue to be their “Thanksgiving-like” spreads.

But I digress…

I have one main reason for visiting Bead Haven and that is for their amazing selection of seed beads. Wall upon wall of every size and color imaginable along with a whole wall dedicated to hanks of charlottes and “faceted” seed beads, my new love as you can see from my pictures.

While their selection of seed beads is unparalleled, I find their stone bead pricing to be very high. Munro’s and/or a bead show is much more reasonable.

Other than checking out, I didn’t have much contact with their sales staff since I was on my seed bead mission and didn’t require any assistance with that. My daughter, however, had an interesting experience when she purchased a “Pandora” style bead for her bracelet, which she was wearing, and then discovered that it didn’t fit. They were very agreeable about exchanging it for another bead though. In contrast to Munro’s, the sales staff at Bead Haven was all quite young.

There are 2 bead shows in town this weekend, the InterGem show and the Innovative Beads Expo, both in Marlboro, MA. At this time, however, my pocketbook is telling me that I have enough to play with!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw