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Handmade Chic – My new blog

March 25, 2009

I have started a new blog adventure, which will be taking up much of my blogging time! So I have a feeling that I will not be updating here are a result. If you love handmade goods of all sorts, please visit my new Handmade Chic blog for all sorts of topics that will be of interest to the indepdent artist!

Giving Back in Hope of a Lupus Cure

March 8, 2009

Early last month, my uncle passed away from a Lupus-related condition that caused so much damage to his lungs, they ceased to be able to support life. He was stolen from us way to early, being only 54, and left behind not just my beautiful aunt, but 5 beautiful children.

Losing any loved one makes us feel powerless. There’s often nothing we can do to stop the loss. However, we can often, in our own small way, add to the effort to stop the tragedy from happening to others. My uncle, who lived in Pittsburgh, was treated by some of the best doctors, as The Lupus Center of Excellence is based out of Pittsburgh. The center not only works to improve the lives of those with Lupus, but also conducts research with the eventual hope of triumphing over this auto-immune condition.

Jerry Wayne Summers

Jerry Wayne Summers

This is why for the months of March & April, I will be donating 25% of my sales to The Foundation for the Lupus Center of Excellence. Any monies donated in my uncle’s name will be matched dollar for dollar by the foundation’s administrator. I do this in your memory, Jerry Summers, so hopefully, in the future, families will not have to have their loved ones stolen by Lupus.

My lampwork beads can be found on Etsy & Artfire, and my handcrafted lampwork jewelry is on 1000 Markets. Thank you for looking.

Yes, you can have your Art and be practical, too!

January 4, 2009
The current economy has gotten me to thinking a lot about the idea that art can be functional. I have always been interested in finding ways to incorporate my lampwork into everyday objects. I decided to search my favorite new online venue, 1000 Markets, to see how other artists create pieces that are functional, but truly works of art at the same time. I have chosen a few to share with you; each is something that you most likely use already, but is a piece of art in it’s own right!

Purses can be a great way to make an artistic statement without breaking the bank. estudiomartita offers a number of functional pieces in her bold, urban Latino style, but her Heart and Soul Frida Calavera Purse is beyond cool. A recycled handbag features a handpainted panel, making this purse a frame for an original piece of art. 

 In case one purse isn’t enough (and let’s face it ladies, it isn’t!), roobiesoup also offers unique purses, this time made from recycled cigar boxes. I honestly had a hard time selecting which of her purses is my favorite! Since I am a purple fiend, her Purple Moon Cigar Box purse called to me immediately. It features her own original artwork, and is limited to a run of 25.   

Once you have your piece-of-art handbag, let’s turn our attention to the head. delightworthyncreates the most beautiful and stylish hats and headwraps I have seen in a long time. The one that immediately caught my eye was her Felted Flower Headwrap. The colorful felted flowers are a perfect antidote for the winter chills as you don this headwrap to stay warm!

Moving on to art you need around the house, Bluesky Pottery has a number of items that you can use around your house. One of the most practical items, a wall clock is combined with a personal favorite, dragonflies. Her Dragonfly Wall Clock is a functional piece of art that adds to your decor.

Next is from taylorseclectic. When I first came across her shop, I thought her Red Rose Blooming Sculptural Vase was glass. Then, as I read her description, I was amazed to find that her work is paper art, constructed in amazing shapes. This vase is meant to be a room centerpiece and is the third in a series, signed and numbered by the artist.

What could be more functional than furniture? And what could be more wonderful than a piece of furniture that is also a piece of art? Mad Tea Party takes everyday furniture and turns them into extraordinary pieces of art through her painting. Elegant and whimsical at the same time, her Moody Blue Handpainted End Table immediately caught my eye. Her other work is just as amazing.

Need to give dad a present? Think he’s sick of the same boring old ties? Amysfunkyfibers uses her artistic talent to create one-of-a-kind ties and scarves. Her Handpainted Ginko Tie is stately and interesting–definitely not the same tired ties that the other men around the office will be wearing!

Finally, function can be artistic and fun. I came across the art of Mechelledesigns after seeing one of her pendants on the front page of 1000 Markets. Her bird prints are absolutely charming! I fell in love with her sleepy-eyed Bird Pillow, which features a bird-shape and the handpainted little bird.

Remember that you can support your artists, even while cutting back on the extras. Find fun ways to incorporate art into your life–the best art often doesn’t come in a frame!

The Art of Balance

December 3, 2008
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Some artists are able to capture perfectly symmetrical moments, dazzling us with their ability to create order and beauty at the same time. Sadly, I am not one of those artists!

My life tends to swing like a pendulum: I work as a teacher, so fall through spring I am in overdrive, while summer finds me happily contemplating nature in a zen state. When I find joy, I feel its electric pulse through every fiber of my being; when I find sadness, it causes anguish that envelopes my heart. Even my beads are a victim to my love of entropy; I prefer the wild flow of organic shapes and designs, and only derive frustration and boredom from creating a perfect “dot” bead.

But I have come to respect and embrace the need for balance.

Balance between fun and work, family and friends, what I give to myself and what I give to others. This last part is, to me, the most important part of the balanced equation. I have always had a hard time saying no when asked a favor, always gone home from a day of teaching exhausted, because my students “needed me.” What throws me off balance the worst, is when I can’t find the time for my art and being creative.

I have learned that I need to take for myself in order to continue to give. It’s a hard idea for someone like me to wrap my head around, and yes, I feel awfully selfish when I have to say “no”.  Life is a constant juggling act, we know, but I need to find time to create, or I begin to wither. I go completely off balance.

Let Lampwork Adorn Your Life

October 6, 2008

 Lampwork beads, once a relative rarity, have been gain popularity for the past few years. Some are purchased to be adored as part of a larger collection, while many are used to create stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. However, many creative artists are showing the world that lampwork beads need not be confined to any one category.


Lampwork Bead Pen from Beyond the Bead

Many artists are experimenting with different forms, so that the beauty of lampwork can also be paired with function. Showcased below are three lampwork artists who have taken their bead art to the next level, creating objects of art that can be used everyday.



Michelle, from Beyond the Bead ( ), wanted to create something with her lampwork that her father would actually use. Since dear old dad didn’t wear any jewelry except his wedding band, she looked to items that would be functional such as pens, bookmarks and wine stoppers. The lampwork bead pens, one of which is pictured below, are popular with her customers who want a custom-made pen for their business, friends or family.


Glass Door Pull from Beadskadoo

Patricia, from Beadskadoo ( ), loves melting glass. She also has an interest in refinishing old cabinets. She had refurbished a side table, and couldn’t find an interesting drawer pull to compliment the piece. With a little ingenuity and some hot glass, Patricia created a glass door pull that made the table one-of-a-kind. She confesses that she is tempted to put her glass pulls on everything she works on now, and she offers them on her website and in her Etsy shop.


 Our third artist, Lara Lutrick ( ), has been making lampwork beads since 1997. As her dad is a woodturner, it was only a matter of time before the two would combine creative forces to create pieces that are truly unique. An exhibit for collaborative works between members of the American Association of Woodturners, and the International Society of Glass Beads gave them the perfect venue to debut their art. Lara prefers to create organic style beads, which compliment her father’s wooden pieces exceptionally well.

Collaborative pieces by David and Lara Lutrick

Collaborative pieces by David and Lara Lutrick

 For fans of lampwork beads, the creations of the above artists are certain to be exciting; who doesn’t want items that are beautiful and functional? Add this to the fact that the artist-made lampwork immediately lends a one-of-a-kind handmade charm to any object, and you can begin to see how you can adorn your life with lampwork.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

September 12, 2008

 They say time flies when you are having fun, but what is the excuse for the rest of the minutes and hours that appear to rush by us in a blur?

As a school teacher, I am blessed with summers “off” from teaching. I decided this summer to make a firm commitment to my jewelry and lampwork business. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be able to wake up at a reasonable hour, and be creative as the muse motivated me.

Well, reality has hit like a solid brick wall! Back in school, I am finding it harder and harder to find the time I was spoiled enough to have over the summer in which to make both jewelry and beads. Not only am I struggling with finding the time to fashion new items, it’s extremely hard to focus your creativity when you are exhausted from working all day! Am I whining? YES!!

I am afraid I need to embrace that dirty word: discipline! I need to be structured and commit time to my business, and use it wisely. As many artists will tell you, structure is not their friend. Nothing kills creativity faster than the feeling that you are being “forced” to create!

Here is what I plan on trying; hopefully it may help some people in similar situations!

Writing my own “schedule.” I will be sitting down and actually writing down the times I need to report to “work” for my business.

Structure myself a nice bonus/benefits package. Who says productivity can’t be rewarded with some extra treats?

Allow myself to take more time off! It may seem counter-intuitive when I am complaining that I no longer have enough time. However, the reality is that I need to work more efficiently with the time I do have, while also resting enough that I don’t get burned out.

While structure is not something I crave when I create, I am hoping that it will help me to focus and be more productive. If I am more productive, I am certain that I will not feel the time crunch as oppressive as I do right now. And, if I am more productive, my business will be more profitable, increasing the likelihood that some day I can make it a full-time endeavor. Right now, I just need to make each moment of time count!


Having a Successful Show

August 28, 2008

Most artisans and crafters sell their creations at shows. Even though more and more are joining the Internet community, most sellers realize that their potential customers want to see and touch the creations in person; after all the subtle nuances of a piece are often what attracts one buyer over another, and many times these can only be appreciated in person.

If you are used to mainly selling over the Internet, the idea of doing a show IRL (in real life) can be very intimidating. There is a certain safety towards your ego when selling over the Internet–you can’t see any negative reactions to your work…but you can’t experience the joy of someone falling in love with one of your creations either.

If you have decided it’s time to branch out into shows, or even if you have a few under your belt, here are some suggestions/advice I have found help to make your experience a successful one, both financial and mentally.

Make certain you visit the show before you agree to sell there!

Unless you have sworn testimonials from many trusted friends, you need to actually attend a show to see if your items will be well received. A local church craft bazaar or small summer craft fair may not be the right market for your creations. I have seen many postings from artists who make beautiful jewelry complain that they did poorly at a local craft show. If a local craft show has an open vendor policy, that means anyone can set up a table and sell pretty much anything. If you make beautiful handcrafted wire-wrapped jewelry, why would you want to sell along side of grandma’s foam cut-out Christmas trees (no offense to grandma)! You wouldn’t expect to sell your jewelry at Wal-mart, you would look for higher-end shops that appreciate your work, mainly because customers that will appreciate (and buy!) your work will seek out those shops.

Also by visiting the show, you can see the conditions for yourself in regards to the lighting and spacing. You can determine if the organizer is on the ball and has arranged the tables or stands for optimal traffic flow. You can also observe the type of people who are already attending this event; is it a nice mix of customers, people mainly looking for a bargain, or art conisseurs looking for a one-of-a-kind piece?

Set up your display ahead of time as a dry run.

You will already be running on adrenaline before your show starts, even if you are an old pro! You definitely don’t want to be stressing out because you didn’t think ahead as to how you wanted to set up your display. Also, when you set your display up at home you can immediately pack up everything as you pull your practice display down, reducing the likelihood that you will forget something important! In addition, this planning ahead will force you to think of everything you might need. Since I mainly sell my jewelry at shows, I know I need to include:

  • hand-held mirrors;
  • clipboard with newsletter sign-up info;
  • business cards;
  • extra pens; and
  • scissors to cut the price tags in case the buyer wants to wear their purchase immediately.

Make arrangements to accept credit cards!

Considering there are so many affordable merchant services available now, there is no excuse for the serious crafter or artist not to accept credit cards. I currently use a service that many people recommended, Propay. I personally find this service very easy to use, and sell more higher-priced items as a result. There are others out there as well, I just don’t have the personal experience with them to recommend them to others.

If you do accept credit cards, make a folder for your credit card receipts. Make a “cheat sheet” with the instructions and information needed to process a credit card and tape it to the inside of the folder. This will also come in handy if you have a booth helper; they won’t have to interrupt you to take the card info, since they will have the directions in front of them. Once the show is over, you will already have your credit receipts in a folder making it easy to keep organized for bookkeeping purposes.

Be friendly!!!

This is probably the most important advice, and also the one thing you can absolutely control. You can have a million things go wrong, but the customer doesn’t need to know that. You would be amazed at how many shows I have been to, both as a vendor and as a buyer, where Sally Sourpuss is just sitting along at her table, ignoring nearly everyone who walks by (she may occasionally make eye contact with someone she thinks may have money to burn). There is no way you will have a good show if you don’t smile and acknowledge the people who are taking the time to look at your work, however briefly. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are doing, and don’t get discouraged if they don’t buy something right away. They are more likely to remember you for being nice, and return to you for a purchase at a future show.

And if you feel you are having a horrible show, and inside feel anything but happy, I have two words of advice: Fake it! Being nice never hurt sales, but being unfriendly definitely will.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of advice that is out there for having a show. However, it should be enough to get you going and have a great time while meeting your customers face-to-face. Believe me, there is nothing that beats having a perfect stranger come up to your creations and re-affirm that your work is, indeed, beautiful.

Finding Inspiration

August 20, 2008

 I have been wracking my brains trying to think of a great blog topic for the week. It has been hard enough dealing with the fact that my bead mojo decided to take an unannounced vacation this past few days, but does that have to mean that all inspiration has flown the coop?

 In an either creative or foolish turn, I have decided to combine my conundrums, and face the beast head-on. What better topic for an artist’s blog than inspiration? I have taken three common areas artists often look to for inspiration. But the best inspiration needs to have a dash of creativity to it, so I have tried to assemble some uncommon ideas to get your mojo going, in hopes that it will also help mine find its way home!


Obviously other artists in your field will always serve as inspiration. But instead of confining yourself to your genre, choose another field entirely to use for inspiration. Since I work with glass, I would look to a favorite painting (Starry Night by Van Gogh); ironworks (an ornate, old gate to a cemetery); a favorite book or character (yes, I believe literature is art!); even architecture (imagine using an old Gothic church to move your muse). I think you get the picture (no pun intended!). Rather than looking at examples from your own medium, force yourself to open your world to the possibilities that exist within the artistic realm of expression.


Another major inspiration for many artists is nature. If you haven’t looked to nature yet, try it out. But don’t feel that you need to re-create a perfect replica of the rose outside your window (unless that’s your thing, of course!) Instead, try to view nature in abstract forms to apply to your art. What else is it about the rose that inspires you? The color, the shape, the scent? Allow you brain to take the idea of a rose and see what it connects with. All can be jumping off points for your imagination to create an unexpected masterpiece.


Using the right combination of colors can cause your work to go in directions you never thought they would go. But don’t just rely on a color wheel to get your imagination on fire. Look to textiles, magazines, and even product packaging, (all three of which are designed to catch your eye), for your next color combination. If you are feeling particularly brave, lay out a selection of colors and chose two or three. Now make something with only those colors. You will be forcing your brain to think in a different way, which will inevitably cause your end-result to be fresh and, hopefully, original. Choose colors that go with an abstract theme, such as “hope” and see what you get.

 Every artist faces times when it seems their inspiration has left them high and dry. But I believe the key it to get your brain making those connections between the world around you and the world of possibilities. Once you prime the pump, the ideas will likely flow so quickly you can’t catch up with them. And isn’t that a wonderful problem to have as an artist?

Living with a Bead Thief

August 11, 2008

 I live with a kleptomaniac. He has a very specific target, which is so hurtful to me as a glass bead artist and jewelry designer. He is a bead thief.


He is just over 11 years old, covered in orange hair, and also has a serious catnip problem. And for some reason, has developed a bead fetish in recent months, especially when they are packaged in plastic bags.


Bead Thief after a particularly nasty catnip binge.

Bead Thief after a particularly nasty catnip binge.

At first it was cute to watch him fly over the baby gate, precious stolen goods in mouth. Then, I began to find bags left by my bed, in the middle of the living room floor, hidden under the couch. The ones by the bed caused the hairs on the back of my neck to raise up; were they supposed to an offering, or a warning? Was I supposed to be proud of him for “catching” an, oh-so-quick-bag of beads? Or was I supposed to start beading with one eye turned over my shoulder (ok, so he also has a staring problem that can creep anyone out!)


 The final straw was last week. A beautiful set of five beads were drying after being cleaned. They were little purple trinkets of joy. And faster than you can say “meow,” when my back was turned, one of the beads disappeared. Just like that, gone. No where to be found. The bead thief had struck! I can only imagine what his treasure trove will look like in a year if we don’t stage an intervention immediately.

 The poor little bead set had to be listed without it’s sibling, whose absence was felt as I uploaded the picture

Note how the first bead can barely stand upright, due to its sorrow.

Note how the first bead can barely stand upright, due to its sorrow.

to my Etsy listing. I included a picture of the bead thief, just in case he is working as part of a larger feline bead operation. Maybe, someone will recognize his orange klepto behind, and he will be brought to justice, and my beads will be free.


Hopefully, we can work together to prevent future felines from straying down the wrong alley and our lovely beads from being ripped from their homes, only to lie among dust bunnies, bottle caps, and twist ties.



So What is This “Annealing” Thing You Speak of?

August 3, 2008

 If you’ve looked at even a handful of lampwork bead listings on Ebay or Etsy, you’ve undoubtedly seem the term “annealed”. Most likely, the seller pointed out that their lampwork beads are annealed for strength. But what exactly does that mean, and why is that important? Aren’t we supposed to accept the fact that glass is fragile, and will break?


If you were to look up “anneal” in the dictionary, you would probably find two definitions, one very general: to strengthen or harden; and one more specific: to subject glass or metal to a process of heating and slow cooling in order to toughen and reduce brittleness.1


If glass beads are not annealed they can and do crack right down the middle of the bead. So what exactly does annealing do to prevent this?


Without getting too technical, the bonds that hold glass atoms together have different strengths.2 This is what allows glass to be gradually softened and worked with heat. Then, the bead must be cooled, or else we couldn’t use it! However, these temperature changes can introduce what we call stress in the bead. This stress is what causes the bead to crack.


Think of a bead like the inside of a hot pastry…it may be cool enough to touch, but when you bite into it, the temperature change is so great, you scald your mouth. The same thing happens when you allow a bead to cool at room temperature; the outside cools much faster, and those atoms start to re-form their bonds. However, the inside of the bead has a much hotter temperature, and these different rates of cooling means the atoms cannot properly re-aligned themselves into a stable structure throughout the bead.


Reputable lampworkers use a kiln to anneal their beads. When the beads are still quite hot, they are put into a hot kiln and allowed time to achieve an even temperature throughout the bead. Then, the kiln lowers the temperature very slowly, so there are no great disparities within the bead in terms of temperature. Some people use fiber blankets or warmed vermiculite to slow the cooling rate of their beads, but these methods do not allow the bead time to achieve a uniform temperature before they cool, and are not truly annealed.


Annealing isn’t an absolute guarantee against breakage—if the glass is not worked properly in the lampworking process and is allowed to get too cool while still being torched, stress can definitely enter the bead, and will not be repaired unless the bead itself is thoroughly reheated to a high temperature. However, properly created and annealed lampwork beads should last a lifetime.


1. American Heritage Dictionary

2. “Annealing Glass” Corning Museum of Glass,