Thursday, September 30, 2010

Composition, Camouflage and Contests

It has been a long week, full of sick kids, very little sleep and my own version of the flu bug. Needless to say, I have not accomplished a whole lot.

I have also been preparing to spend the weekend at a Becoming an Outdoors Woman seminar, where I will be teaching a course on outdoor photo composition.

In light of that I have been taking photos and making more survival bracelets -- this time with a color geared more towards women who love the outdoors -- pink camouflage!

I am also working on a new "bead painting" with a fabulous Owyhee Picture Jasper center stone. It is being done in brown, cream and gold tones with a little blue (sky) and green (grass) thrown in. I will post photos when it is completed.

The temperatures are cooling off so the mornings are crisp when I head out to drive the school bus, but by afternoon, when I am painting, I am down to shorts and a tank top.

The cool temperatures and shorter days are triggering the Autumn color change and the prairie grasses covering the Nebraska Sandhills are beginning to turn to the burgundy and gold hues of Fall.

I have the itch to create, but I still have handouts to prepare for my class, bags to pack and laundry to do, so I had better head out.

OOOPS! I almost forgot my newest thing -- a weekly contest! Comment on my blog posts during the week and at the end of the week I will put all posters' names in a hat and draw a winner. The prize this week is a survival bracelet in your choice of colors: pink camo, olive drab, black or hunter green. I am out of antler buttons, so the closure will be a simple knot and loop. This being the end of the week already, I will carry this particular contest through NEXT Saturday, Oct. 9.

Happy Creating!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beads, Bracelets, Buses and Brushes

It has been a while since I posted a blog entry -- since the day my kids started school, actually! They started school and I started a few jobs. I now drive the morning bus route to the west, which requires that I be up at 6 a.m., and I am also the afternoon overload driver, which means I drive a bus to hold "extra" kids if necessary. During the day I am painting outbuildings on a local ranch.
I have also been learning how to paint landscapes. So far, it is quite obvious that I have a LONG way to go -- my outbuildings look far better than my landscapes! I have done one painting a day for the last four days. I have a lot of trouble making the paintbrush do what it is supposed to do.

Needless to say, with all of that going on, the jewelry creation has been slow.

I did, howover, learn from my nephew in the Army, how to make survival bracelets from parachute cord. They are pretty cool -- I use a slice of deer antler as the clasp. There is around 10 feet of useable paracord in one bracelet -- if you ever find yourself stranded in the wilderness, LOL. The cord can be used as shoelaces, clothesline, strapping cord, a snare, or take off the sheath and inside you have numerous smaller fibers that can be used as fishing line, sewing thread, and more. I wrote a tutorial for the bracelets, which can be found at my website, or at

I have completed two more of my "bead paintings." For those I used my miniature colored pencil paintings as the focal stone, then continued the paintings on out with the beads. These are a lot of fun!

Happy Creating!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bangles, Beads, Bugs and Buddies

Finally, the end of a long, long week and the beginning of a new one. Last week was spent nursing sick kids and mourning the death of good Christian man who died much too soon. The kids are feeling better now, the hubby has gotten over his share of the bug and my buddy has been laid to rest, but the sadness lingers.

To help keep the sadness at bay, I joined in a bracelet challenge -- a cuff challenge to be specific. Since I don't wear bracelets much and NEVER wear cuffs, the challenge is an interesting one. We are all working from the same photo of a cuff made by a friend and doing a similar cuff in our own style. Very interesting and quite tough, actually. One friend works in colored wire and is making a bright, happy colored cuff, the other is working in earth tones and I am working, as usual, in two-tones -- gold and silver.

The other project I worked on was based on some lovely mini tapestries one of the local artists here does -- her name is Roberta Barnes and she does these teeny tiny landscape tapestries, and teeny tiny landscape paintings on ceramics. They are breathtaking. I decided I could do something similar, but using the landscape cabochons I have already been incorporating into my jewelry. So, now I am painting with seed beads! My first one was rather rough, as I was flying blind, but since then I have read up a bit on seed beads and hopefully the second one will be much improved. I really like the first one and it is quite a conversation starter. I also plan to use my miniature colored pencil paintings as the focal point of some of these pendants -- which will be lots of fun!

We also got some new "critters" for the acreage -- kitties! We have a mouse problem in the machine shed (including one that crawled up in the pickup's air conditioning shroud and died --peeyew), so a friend gave us some kittens. I went after two -- one for each kid -- but came home with four! Cute little guys though and one has totally adopted me. We now have one black kitten, one yellow kitten and two calico kittens. They are from three different litters, so all at different stages. The calicos are the youngest and the yellow one is the oldest.

Time to feed the calf and the kittens, then off to work at the art gallery for the day. Guess I will take my newest bead painting project with me to work on.

Happy creating!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Doming, Dapping, Daydreams and Danger

I was trying to work on some tutorials for today and was struggling to get through them. Just one of those days. So, I decided to try my hand at dapping. I bought a dapping set when I set up the shop in the caboose, but I haven't really played with them yet. I also bought a shear. So I played with both today.

First, I made a set of domed and hammered copper earrings. I wanted them to sit properlyon the ear, so I had to make a back for them. First, I took copper discs and dapped them (using the steel block and dapping heads). The challenge was adding the hammered texture AFTER they were dapped, since they loose the texture while they are being dapped if you do it beforehand. I managed though. Then I had to figure out the back. I remembered a pair of earrings I had many, many, many years ago in college -- they were huge-- and I did the back in a similar manner. They work! *Dancing with joy.*
No, I won't share how-- I am going to write a tutorial, so I can't share all my secrets just yet. ;)
Next I used the shear to cut a rough circle out of sterling sheet. I left it somewhat rough, for an organic look. Then I domed it with the dapping set as well. I had a strip of fired bronzclay on my bench, waiting for a use, so I formed it around a ring mandrel, leaving it partially open. I hammered the INSIDE of the circle (not as hard as the outside of one that has already been domed) to represent starlight. Then I placed a small flat circle of fired bronzclay in the ring, off to the side, to represent the moon. I call it "Moon and Stars." The outside of the sterling dome portion is textured to match the texture on the outside of the ring shank. I want it to be something people can stare into and think of a starry, moonlit night when all their dreams came true.

One of my favorite things to do is sit on the hill behind my house, watching the moon and the stars (after the glorious sunsets of course). After all the rain we have been having, I have to load up with bug spray first though -- we are growing a great crop of mosquitoes in the Nebraska Sandhills this year after all of the rain we have been having.

I have a "Sunset Moon" ring in my head now, so I may come up with a design for it soon.

Tomorrow is our annual open show at the local art gallery, so I may enter my "Lakeside Idyll" pendant that went to the state show earlier this year -- and "almost" won an award. It was good to hear it was up for consideration, but an actual award would have been even nicer, LOL.

I am also entering a few photos -- one of a soapweed that I took closeup, another of the handle on the old machine shed on the hill, and one of some used horseshoes hanging on the fence at my in-laws.

We had some tornados the other night, and I got some funnel cloud photos. I was actually driving alongside one -- which was nerve wracking even though I knew it was a ways away. I don't know if I will enter any of them or not. However, later that night I also got some photos of the storm clouds and the sunset, complete with the full moon and our barn. I did a mixed media piece from one of those photos that I also plan to enter. No photos of it yet.

So, wish me luck -- I could use some positive feedback -- it has been a rough few months.

On the other hand we have a new house -- in the country, with lots of space and awesome views! I even have room for my own studio at home -- a far cry from a 40-year-old 2-BR trailer, I am happy to say! :) *Dancing with joy again.*

The Lord is so good to me! :)

Happy Creating!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Camp Comeca, carving and choosing to learn to paint

I just spent a week at the Great Plains Creative Arts Association's 60th annual craft camp at Camp Comeca south of Cozad. What fun! I was teaching a photo composition workshop, along with helping people decipher the settings on their cameras. When I didn't have students, I also had the chance to learn various things myself.

I started with the precious metal clay area, where I designed a textured fine silver and dichroic glass pendant and earrings set. I also brought home another matching cabochon to make a ring to add to the set.

I also tried my hand at carving wood. I'm a little scary with a knife, but when I switched over to using a dremel tool, it got much easier and I ended up making a surprisingly good looking walleye lure painted up in the fire tiger design. I also learned about using my flex shaft to engrave patterns in the wood stocks on guns. Fun!

Painting walls is something I enjoy and am good at, but the art of wielding a paintbrush to create beautiful pictures has always eluded me. Despite that, I took an oil painting class this week and came home with a rather passable painting of a wooden windmill at sunset. What is even more surprising is that my husband, who doesn't care for paintings in general, and my art in particular, actually LIKES it and wants me to hang it at home!

Now I am interested in learning more about all of those things -- which is exactly what my hubby was afraid of, LOL!

I have also started a beading project -- much harder with these old eyes and I hope to finish it soon.

For now I need to unpack and get rested before the work week begins again tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Buckles, Brooches and Bills

I have spent a busy week making custom order rings, fixing rings that didn't turn out as I hoped, wire wrapping lovely stones, working on the Thedford Commemorative B.R.A.N. belt buckle (and the pins) and freaking out over power bills.

I also had a few really nice sales! Hallelujah!

The B.R.A.N. buckle is finally nearing completion. The hills, windmill and road are on the front, with the lettering as well. The silver trim is fitted and just needs to be soldered. The back apparatus needs to be soldered. Polish the whole thing up and it should be good to go! Whoo hoo! Finally!

I wire wrapped a gorgeous charoite pendant the other day and mixed it with charoite, amethyst and sterling beads. Absolutely yummy!

I finished the leaves and vines custom ring without the CZs -- huge improvement! I also ground off all the ugly little czs from the original ring and then hammered the ring -- also a huge improvement!

Tomorrow I will get a shipment with new silver solder (to finish the buckle) and some fine wire for weaving. I feel the need to weave some awesome new jewelry!

I also hope to make a Viking weave necklace to hang my first handmade bezel project on. The pendant is copper, with a tiger iron cab set in a sterling, plus a sparkly cz at the bottom. I made the bezel by hand, which was not easy for the freeform stone I used. I think a silver Viking weave section, with copper end caps would be nice to go with the pendant.

I have a friend who suggested I turn it into a brooch (pin). She is right, it would make a GREAT pin! However, the stone is already set and if I try to heat the piece, the stone would blow up. So, it won't become a pin.

I have been struggling so hard with high heat bills this winter, but when I received my latest power bill, my heart dropped into my stomach. How could it cost $450 to heat a 10x30 space inside a Burlington Northern caboose for one month?

It didn't. I noticed the bill said estimate, so I called to have them refigure it with the reading I had sent in with my payment. Glad I did -- it is now $235. Still h igh, but certainly better than what it was before. :)

I continue to work on my website -- adding new inventory to store as often as I can.

I had better get to bed.

Happy creating!

Monday, February 15, 2010

custom orders, cold, carts and computers

I have been busy this week, making custom order rings, which is a nice problem to have. Less than two weeks ago, I made a brushed bronze ring from a scrap of fired bronze. The idea came to me in one of those rare "lightbulb" moments and I came away with a winner.

A friend overseas saw the ring and decided she had to have one. Another friend locally saw it today and also thought she needed one. So, I will make the first one "just like the one in the picture," and the second one will have a synthetic blue topaz.

It is a nice simple ring with clean lines and a great big shiny stone. Classic.

I also have a custom ring order that I am working on -- in silver, which is so much more user friendly than the copper or the bronze. The ring carries on my "In the Garden" series with the leaves and vine motif. This is a fun one to make!

I am continuing to work on my website, and the shopping cart especially. I have added a number of items to the store and I will be adding more each day. It will be several weeks before the search engines pick me up though.

Speaking of things you do with a computer -- mine is on its last legs and I need to find a good used (or refurbished) printer to replace my 8-year-old version of a darned good printer -- the Epson Stylus photo 2200. I hope to find another of the same model. After getting stung twice trying to buy a used one, let's hope the third time is a charm!

It is so cold here! I have the heat set on high, the woodstove burning and a space heater for my feet and it is STILL cold in the caboose! BRRR!

Well, time for bed, I have to run to town for errands tomorrow, and that will probably take all day. Good night and happy creating.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Websites, Workshops and Weaving

I have spent the last few days recovering from ambulance runs, workshops and an ear infection, but I have kept busy designing my new website.

The home page is done and there are items in my online store, so I went ahead and took the site live. I will continue to revamp the site as I get more "website" savvy.

I love the color scheme, made up of my favorite colors of burgundy, hunter green and parchment tan. I know they are passe, but they will return someday, and for me they are comfort colors.

These colors are also considered to be trustworthy and soothing in website studies, so hey, I may be out of style in home decorating, but I am right in there as far as website design. :)

Now live: Check it out! Please. All constructive criticism and advice is welcome!

I taught two fun workshops last weekend, one of beginning wire wrap -- make your own findings, and the other was a beginning jewelry design workshop for basic beaded jewelry.

Several of my students have requested new workshops, so I will soon be lining up a "wire wrapped stones" workshop and a "beginning precious metal clay" workshop. I'm just tickled that anyone would want a repeat workshop from me!

My teaching style is very relaxed, which may not appeal to some folks, but I kind of just go with the flow and let the students decide what they want to work on the most.

So, tentatively planned next is the wire wrapped stones workshop at the Thedford Art Gallery, on Saturday, March 29. I haven't decided whether to do a morning or afternoon class.

I have also been working on something that has eluded me for a while - the Viking Weave. I love the look of necklaces that feature this weave and I have been struggling to learn the weave. With the help of a wonderful tutorial on, called the "Something New Viking Weave," I was finally able to complete (but definitely not master) a project using this weave. Hallelujah! I can do something similar with my tube knitter, but when comparing the two, the Viking weave pieces are much more flexible and have a neater appearance, so I will probably end up retiring the tube knitter, except when I want to make something out of yarn.

I ended up making a copper bracelet, but it turned out huge -- too big even for my husband, so I will probably cut the ends off and make earrings out of them, and size the bracelet down to fit myself or someone else with small wrists. That is one of the joys of Viking knit -- its versatility.

Bed is beckoning, so I had better heed its call. Happy creating everyone!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Workshops, Websites and Worms

Despite several days without sleep due to overdue prescriptions, computer failure due to worms (viruses) and late night ambulance runs, I was able to function enough to teach two workshops over the weekend.

Saturday morning, I had a lot of fun teaching a group of women from around the area how to save money and add value to their handmade jewelry by making their own jump rings, chains, clasps and ear wires.

Most of the women were suprised at how easy these things are to make themselves and how inexpensive, compared to buying them ready made.

Several of the women stayed for the afternoon class (and a few new ones arrived) where I taught basic jewelry design. I was fading fast by this point, so it got a bit dry to start, but I think everyone had fun once we got to the hands-on portion of the workshop and most of them went away with some very nice finished pieces, while others took home several "works-in-progress."

In the midst of all of this, I finally got the go-ahead on my website, so I have spent most of the day trying to build my own website, which is difficult, even with templates. I am NOT the most computer/technology savvy person around, and most of this stuff is Greek to me.

I think I finally have a decent looking home page, but I still have four pages and a shopping cart to go. Yikes!

I like the color scheme I picked out -- burgundy, hunter green and tan. These are the colors I had initially intended to use for the caboose, but budget woes put the cabosh on that.

I started out using a red and black template, but after cruising through the "what color works best for a website" info on the web, I found that black is hard for older eyes (like mine) to read from, red is considered jarring and gray, burgundy and brown are considered soothing, solid and elegant.

I looked at the gray generic templates and just couldn't get excited about them, but then I found this gorgeous one with my favorite colors, and I knew I was home. Think cherry wood, hunter green leather and the rich look of expensive parchment and you will have the colors of this site. It took all day, literally, but I finally have my home page set up. I am sure it could be more high tech, but I'll start small and revamp as I learn more. Wish me luck!

Tired of the cold, dreary weather, I was dreaming of warm sunny summer afternoons when I designed a neckband out of bronze wire and wrapped hammered bronze droplet components around it for a necklace that reflects the light as the wearer moves. I titled it " A Summer's Afternoon Rain."

It is gently snowing right now, so my hubby could get called out early, therefore, I had better be prepared to get up early to take my daughter to school. Her father usually does that, since our son is a night owl and generally gets to bed late, and therefore, so does Mom.

Good night and happy creating!

Wire Wrapping, Workshops and

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hat Bands, Hearts and the How-tos of Social Networking for Business

I spent the day at a workshop on social networking and how to make it work for your business. I learned a lot -- about how important social networking is, how to make it work for me, and how to do it more efficiently. The workshop was put on by GROW Nebraska, of which I am a member. It was time well spent. Their site can be found at

I have been working on custom hat bands this past week, as well as diving into the learning of chainmaille techniques. I have also been preparing all my Valetine's themed items to mail to various GROW Nebraska stores, and to have inventory on hand in my studio. I also wrote a tutorial for the wiggly weave chainmaille weave, which can be found on

The Valentines stuff is heart-shaped of course, from brushed bronze earrings to delicate, feminine spiraly stuff, to pink and white thulite heart shaped stones strung with the ultimate feminine decoration -- pearls.

The hat bands come in all shapes and sizes, including barbed wire, two-tone links and bars, wire wrapped bands and more. I am developing new designs day by day.

I have a few custom orders to finish and get out the door, but this is a slow time of year customer-wise, so I am catching up on things, trying to find someone to build an e-commerce ready website for me at an affordable price, and prepare for the busy season to come in a few months.

I also pray daily that enough sales will come in to keep the lights on.

That said, I had better finish the wiggly chain weave necklace I am working on, finish posting to the GROW Nebraska e-commerce site, work on a new hatband design, and get some sleep so I can work on rings and belt buckles at the studio tomorrow.

Hopefully my young son, who has been coughing and running a low grade temperature, will feel better tomorrow. His sister, thankfully, has only the cough.

Good night, good sleep and happy creating!