The Light Within

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The last year of my life has been a journey through the darkness of grief back to light, or more specifically, connecting with the light inside myself again. In the spring of 2014, I lost someone I love dearly to a most dreaded disease. He faced every moment of his journey courageously, right up until his last breath. It has been a very hard and lonely year without my best friend, and I still find it difficult to speak of the reality of his passing.

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Just as I created this freeform cuff bracelet one bead at a time, so I got through this last year by taking one step at a time, even when it was the hardest thing to do.

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My beads have always been a place of deep healing for me. Sorting them, touching them, weaving them together to create a story. Here is a story of my light within.

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Just as I had done with my Albuquerque Sky necklace, I made the polymer clay focal with my favorite mokume gane layering, this particular one being Barbara McGuire’s Shimmering Gold technique using gold leaf, translucent clay and alcohol inks.

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Layering the translucent polymer clay with gold leaf is a lovely technique that gives an inner light shimmer to the focal piece.

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The colors of a watery realm reflect deep feelings and the undulating paths of the beadwork represent the ups and downs of my grieving path.

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When the beadwork was complete, I found that I didn’t like the feel of the wide cuff directly on my skin so I lined it with teal-colored ultrasuede and then finished the piece with four sew-on snaps. It feels like a hug on my arm.

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I still have my sad days, days when I miss my friend with such an achingly hollow feeling in my heart. Then there are my not so sad days, days when it’s easier to see and acknowledge all of the abundance in my life. On those days, I grab on to hope and my gratitude pulls me back to a more positive place.

I’m glad to be sharing my beadwork with you once again.

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Albuquerque Sky

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In the fall of 2010, I traveled to Albuquerque, NM to visit my son and his family a week after my precious grandson, Landon, was born. Landie had surgery when he was only one day old so it was a challenging time for our family but it was also a celebratory time as his healing was going very well. He came home from the NICU the day after I arrived there. I spent a wonderful week getting to know my courageous little grandson and also having loads of fun with my beautiful granddaughter, Ella, then 2 years old. Her exuberance and excitement infused my life with a breath of fresh air. It still does!

One evening, my son and I went out to pick up dinner at a traditional New Mexican style restaurant. I wish I could remember the name of the place because the food was excellent. Anyway, as we turned west onto a main thoroughfare, I looked up and I distinctly remember that my jaw literally fell open as I beheld the sunset. The whole immensity of the western sky was ablaze in brushstrokes of fiery orange, shimmering gold and twilight purple. We have great sunsets here in New England but with our hilly terrain and lots of trees, you see a much smaller portion of the sky. Here in the flat desert landscape of New Mexico, the sky was a huge expanse, saturated with color.

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That experience inspired me to create this necklace, which I have named “Albuquerque Sky”. I made the polymer clay focal with my favorite mokume gane layering, this particular one being Barbara McGuire’s Shimmering Gold technique using gold leaf, translucent clay and alcohol inks. Even the name is perfect. Yummy.

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Starting with the sunset image that had been emblazoned in my imagination on that fall day, I chose my seed bead color palette with the aid of Beverly Ash Gilbert’s “Eye for Color” color wheels. They’re a wonderful artist tool for creating “bead soup”, as Beverly calls it. I’ve created bead soup before and wrote about it here and here.

I was also inspired by her netting technique for beading necklaces. For my freeform beaded pieces, I usually use a one-bead peyote stitch and sometimes use multiple beads in one stitch or to create “bridges” within my work. Beverly’s technique uses 3 beads in one stitch, which I found worked up much faster. That said, this necklace took many hours to complete. I don’t mind. I love the process and find it meditative and soothing.

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I bead embroidered around the focal and then improvised a netted frame around it. Instead of fashioning a clasp from beads or wire as I usually do, I sewed on 2 dressmaker’s snaps, which are hidden when the necklace is closed. Another inspiration from Beverly, thank you!

This necklace is the manifestation of a treasured memory, one I will always hold dear in my heart. As always, thanks for stopping by my little corner and allowing me to share my work with you!

“Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.”  ~Oscar Wilde

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! As I gaze out my window at the puffs of clouds floating across the cold, blue sky, I’m enjoying a very special tea called Sunrise.

From the 1,662 acre Steinthal Estate, located in the Darjeeling district in northeast India, the leaves were plucked at sunrise during the second flush season. I have been told that the dew that collects on the leaves overnight delays the photosynthesis process. This delay causes maximum flavor retention in the leaves so plucking in the early morning hours is desirable for optimum flavor.

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Sunrise is such a hushed, magical time when the world still sleeps and beautiful colors bloom across the sky. During the week, I rise at 5:30am so I’m able to see the sunrise most mornings. The beauty of nature is truly awe-inspiring.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. The aroma was quite fruity as I lifted the infuser from my glass teapot.

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I have read that the Steinthal Estate is actually called the Singtom-Steinthal Estate. The word Steinthal comes from the German Jesuit missionaries that developed different areas of the tea garden.

This special Sunrise tea was handcrafted in honor of the 160th Jubilee celebration of the tea estate.

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The color of the tea liquor reminds me of the blazing dark-orange that lights up the sky at sunrise. If there are clouds in the eastern sky right before the sun peeks over the horizon, it looks like their undersides have been stroked with a paintbrush.

The flavor is quite fruity, with a dominant note of fresh apricots. The rich body is silky smooth. If you prefer your Darjeeling to be on the astringent side, I recommend pushing the steeping time a little.

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I had some fun taking photos as I poured the tea! Now the tea is all gone and I’m craving another cup…

On the studio side of things, I’ve created some polymer clay sheets with the technique I spoke about previously and now it’s time to play around with cutting some shapes for my beadwork. While I love my job, sometimes it’s frustrating having to wait for an afternoon of free time to play in my studio. Does anyone else have that experience?

As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing my tea time!

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

~Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! I hope that you had a great week and stayed warm if you’re experiencing a bitterly cold winter as we are here in New England. Oh my. Each day has started with these numbers – 3, 8, 10…brrrr! I need some serious warmup here! So, with that in mind, I chose a dark, rich China black tea to grace my teabowl this morning. Meet Organic Black Monkey, with its fuzzy golden tips threading through long, twisted, dark leaves.

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I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. As I lifted the infuser from my glass teapot, a strong aroma of sweet pipe tobacco greeted my senses. With the name “Monkey”, I thought this tea might be more like a Golden Monkey, with those rich, cocoa notes, however, I found this tea to be more like a Bohea in aroma and flavor.

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The long, twisted leaf reminds me of a dark Oolong tea, one that has been oxidized at 40-50%, in fact, there are some of those toasty, woody nuances in the flavor as well.

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The dark-russet tea liquor is thick and bittersweet, like a very dark chocolate, leaving the suggestion of cocoa in my mouth. The tobacco notes that I found so pronounced at first mellowed out as the tea cooled. Aside from that cocoa bitterness, the tea is quite smooth, leading me to think that this tea would be fun to “monkey” around with the steeping times.

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This tea did a great job of warming my bones, a perfect cuppa for a frigid, mid-winter’s day.

I started playing around with my polymer clay stash last weekend and want to continue that this weekend. I had purchased a DVD from polymer clay artist, Barbara McGuire, on her version of mokume gane, involving gold leaf, alcohol inks and poking the clay with geometric shapes. I’ve been imagining ways to combine the beautiful, watercolor effect of this technique with either free-form beading or bead embroidery. Stay tuned to see what manifests!

As always, I so enjoy our time together, sharing a cup of tea. Thanks for stopping by!

“I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.”  ~Andrew Wyeth

Spacetime Necklace

A fusion of an earthy past with an abstract future in the spacetime continuum, this necklace is completely out of the box for me. None of the “out of the box “steps came easily, in fact, one could even use the word “struggle.” I had an image in my mind that I didn’t quite know how to go about manifesting, especially the way I wanted the lentil beads to hang with the stone jasper spears.

The polymer clay lentil beads were formed from a caned sheet I had made after a demo at a polymer clay guild meeting a couple of years ago. I used one of those beads in my “Spacetime” bracelet, posted about here.

Instead of drilling a hole through the beads themselves, I attached a piece of clay to the back and wired through that so the spears would appear a bit recessed from the lentils.

The hand-forged copper chain was inspired by 2 of my favorite wire artists, Cindy Wimmer and Kerry Bogert. The copper clasp came out of my clasp treasure box, created earlier this year in Deryn Mentock’s online class, “The Art of Closure.”

As always, thanks for visiting  and sharing in my creations!

More Excavations

Back in the spring, I wrote about my creative adventures in digging into baked polymer clay with a carving tool. You can read that post here. At the time, I constructed a bracelet of my carved components. Recently, I created a necklace using a pendant from that series of components. I went on an archeological dig peeking into colored layers of polymer clay.

At first, I thought that a simple buna or leather cord necklace would let the pendant shine on its own. But then I did some more digging… Using some of the colors from the pendant, I rolled each color into a “snake” and covered it with a thin layer of black. I fashioned individual round beads and textured them with a nifty hardware tool I received in Julie Picarello’s workshop 2 years ago. Once the beads were baked, more digging commenced. The beads were strung with cobalt-colored seed beads and small copper jumprings I made with a knitting needle and a pair of sharp snips.

This necklace is all about texture and color, two of my very favorite art expressions.

The copper wire clasp is one I had forged in Deryn Mentock’s “The Art of Closure” class. It’s an online class I took last spring. I have one of those Chinese food containers that I cleaned out and filled with clasps I made in that class. As I finish a piece, I like to look in my clasp treasure box to see if one of them will look good with my creation. I thought this clasp worked out very nicely.

Thanks for visiting and allowing me to share my creation with you!

Summer Earrings

Or more aptly titled – what I made during my summer time off… I found these fabulous glass chili pepper  beads at a bead show a couple of years ago and scooped them right up. Combined with some copper wirework and teal beaded rings, they’re very swingy.

These earrings were created during a fun color mixing session with polymer clay. The discs were made from a sheet using the Stroppel cane, Alice Stroppel’s wonderful technique using cane scraps. The oblong cane slices remind me of pills from a Mario Bros. video game my kids used to play when they were young. Very colorful!

Marbled drops created during another polymer clay playtime session. The agate rounds I found at Munro’s in Michigan last spring and complement the drops very nicely, I think.

More polyclay drops, these ones I created from extrusions. The bead caps were made with my new disc cutter and a tiny spiral stamp. A bit wonky looking but ok with the primitive tribal feel. The copper washers were textured from a brass plate.

These earring components were created from a polymer clay sheet that was painted with alcohol ink, sprinkled with mica powder and then run through my pasta machine when everything dried. They remind me of raku pottery. A glass blossom dangles from a delicate sterling chain.

These polyclay components were created using Randee Ketzel’s Snowflake Jade cane tutorial. I just love the depth achieved from layering with translucent clay. Swarovski crystal raindrops dangle from the delicate sterling chain.

More Snowflake Jade components paired with Swarovski opaque white crystal beads and sterling silver wire.

These earrings were created to go with my “Spacetime” necklace I have yet to introduce to you.

I recently purchased some of Christi Friesen’s Swellegant metal patinas and colorants and started my experimentation with some 16-gauge copper wire spirals. The next 4 earring pairs were created with those spiral dangles.

I think the blue-green patina looks so yummy on the copper! Here we have African opal and turquoise heishi.

Some Czech glass beads and turquoise heishi.

Some gorgeous enameled copper spiral shell beads by Maryann Carroll along with turquoise heishi.

As always, thanks for stopping by!