Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hot Times

Day 1 for fertilizer.  Things are heating up already.
Normally those words mean there are beads happening.  Soon, very soon.

Even though my glass melting addiction has dampened my enthusiasm for ornamental gardening, it hasn't seemed to lessen my desire to grow food.  And since discovering that we do have a fairly sunny area to do it, I've been dreaming of putting down some semi-permanent vegetable garden roots there.  This year I'm trying straw bale gardening, which appears to be picking up in popularity, based on the press.

My little sunlight experiment last summer managed to give us several batches of pesto, strawberries, some peppers and some onions, but it was painful to look at.  That weathered blue box on the right was my husband's childhood toy box, lined with pond liner and filled with potting soil. A veritable deer buffet.  A glass bead maker friend in the Midwest shared photos last summer of her amazing straw bale garden, so this year I had to try it. 

This was the experimental garden to see if there was sufficient sunlight in this area.
Her yield was phenomenal, and there was something quite appealing to the Iowan in me to see those rows of produce all nicely lined up.  Straw bale gardening is excellent for areas where the soil is too poor or hard to cultivate, which is my primary reason for trying it.  Much less work than tilling and building raised beds with gopher wire bottoms.  And as a Master Composter who loves to make hot compost (remind me to tell you sometime about stalking landscapers to get grass clippings), this is all just made of Right.

The bales arrived just as I finished laying down four rows of hardware cloth for gopher protection.
The bales (12) were delivered on Saturday evening - around here I was hard pressed to find anyone who would deliver, so I went with Brown's Ranch and Supplies, and the 75 year old owner himself showed up ready to rock and roll those bales.  I've read somewhere that 5 bales per person is about the right number, so 12 isn't that far off for our little family.  If you're in the area I recommend him, but be aware that in the Bay Area these are more expensive.  I think we paid around $15/bale, delivered.

All lined up.  Fence posts will be added at the row ends, with wire strung between.
The first day I soaked them with the hose for as long as I could bear.  They are so tightly packed it's doubtful to me that the water reached the center.  Thus begins the "conditioning" stage that will create the humus inside the bales that the plants will live in.

Today they got some more soaking and the first dose of nitrogen.  There is an organic and a non-organic method to this part - while I mostly prefer organic methods of fertilizing plants, in this case I just used the high test nitrogen (ammonium sulfate).  I figure it probably doesn't matter in the hot composting stage as all you're doing is reducing carbon and nitrogen to humus, but once the bales are planted I'll be using organic fertilizer for the plants.  You can also use blood meal for this, or any other source of nitrogen.

Tomorrow I'll just refresh the moisture, and then it's more fertilizer every other day for about 10 days.  So far it's nearly up to 80 degrees inside, and I fully expect it should get up near 160 at the peak. 

The deer fencing should arrive any day now, and I still need to get busy on a gate for the enclosure that will repel bunnies and a neater drip arrangement on a timer.  I'll keep you posted as it comes along.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I have a new website

Well, it's not "new-new", but it's been updated for some months now.  Maybe you should check it out and let me know what you think?

Here's the link to my website:  http://www.pattylakinsmith.com

Just a heads up - I've dropped the playswithfiredesigns domain for both web and email.  I have a Gmail address - my name at gmail.com.  It was awkward designing the new site, because at every step I found myself thinking, "this is just like my blog - why am I doing this again?"  Since Blogger updated their features a couple of years ago you practically don't need a "real" website, but it sure helps to have presence out there, so I'll keep it.  Maybe I'll try out their ecommerce tools too.

I went with Weebly for the hosting and web-building tool, and it was a piece of cake to build.  Pretty basic, but it'll do, and as soon as I find a new domain name host I can kiss G.D. goodbye forever.  Now I just need to get some more work to David Orr for shooting, so I can fill up the photo album.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

1000 Reasons to Love Beads

The day is here and I am beside myself.  Late last year I learned that four of my images had been accepted for inclusion in the latest Lark bead book, lovingly curated by Kristina Logan.  If you don't know who Kristina Logan is you need to stop reading this post right now and click on that blue link on her name. Her work captured my attention immediately.

So anyway, to learn that my work was accepted was kind of a dream, a non-reality until the publication date came and I started hearing that people had received their copy.  I recently got mine and I am stunned.  One of my beads was even chosen to be on the spine of this amazing book.  David Orr did all of my photography for this and I am grateful for his help - his own attention to detail took my work to another level.

 Lark's 1000 Beads, with Kristina Logan, Juror.

Kristina and the editors at Lark have assembled a breathtaking collection of beads in a mindblowing range of media:  glass, polymer clay, metal, plastic, rubber, fiber, wood, paper, and more.  Unlike the prior books, this one is not just about glass.  There was meticulous care taken in selecting and arranging these photos to provide harmonious and thought-provoking transitions from page to page.

While I have never met Kristina, she has been a long-time glass idol of mine, and seeing what she's done in this book makes me admire her even more as an artist.  Looking through the book and seeing everyone else's work is also a wonderful reminder to me of the years that I've spent making beads, and the friendships I've made, and it makes me even more grateful for the many gifts I've received from my own personal exploration in the medium.  I smile each time I see someone's work that I recognize, and recall the times we've met, exchanged emails or Facebook posts, run into each other at The Gathering, or a local ISGB meeting.  And it reminds me of the very first Lark bead book I bought, when I was just starting out making beads, and of the hundreds of post-it notes I affixed to the pages, noting techniques I hoped to learn, and artists I hoped to meet one day.  I am so loving this journey.

Happy girl here.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Silicon Valley Fireflies Workshop!

It was a rainy spring day yesterday when about a dozen of us gathered in my studio for the first ever Silicon Valley Fireflies workshop.  We invited local artists Judie Mountain and Wayne Robbins to share their extensive knowledge about booth and display design.  While all of us work very hard on our glass beads and jewelry, the artful and effective presentation of it is an entire avocation in itself.  Judie has had years of experience in the industry, and the inspired design of their art show booth transports the visitor into an exotic state that  makes you never want to leave.

I volunteered part of my setup for critique, and other members brought photos for individual feedback.  I'm excited about taking my booth to the next level, and putting some of the great concepts that Judie shared to work.  Don't tell anyone, but I rather love the booth creation process, and have fun thinking of new ways to show my work.  I just wish it didn't all come in the last remaining days before a show sometimes.

In other news, I've got new work listed in my Etsy shop.  Today's high overcast clouds were great for photos.

New bracelet on Etsy.
New bracelet in my Etsy shop.

Purple pendulum pendant (say that three times fast) in my Etsy shop.

We've had some incredible spring weather here in Northern California, and we're all breathing a little more easily now that we've actually had a little rain.  More to come this week.  Hope there are signs of spring where you are. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tucson in my rear view mirror

While it's been almost a week since returning from The Best Bead Show in Tucson, the memories are still warm and fresh.  It's always so much fun, and such an adventure, and I'm grateful to have a wonderful friend who likes to make the trip with me.  We are also tremendously grateful to be able to stay with good friends there, whose kind hospitality seems to know no end.  Somehow, waking up there I almost feel like I'm home.  Could I have some long lost ties to the desert I'm not aware of?

This year's trip was extra special.  A local glass bead friend and I teamed together to enter the Sonoran Glass School's annual Flame Off - a fundraiser where glass artists compete to make something fabulous in under 2 hours, and the pieces get auctioned off the next day for the school.  Ever since I first attended one of these I've been itching to somehow be a part of it, terrifying as it was, so I decided to go for it (since this is apparently the year where I'm actively pushing myself toward many of my fears).  It turned out fine and Joy Munshower was an extraordinary team mate for Team Firefly.  She's always done such incredible work, and as soon as I saw her new African series I wanted us to do something in that realm.  She came through in a big way with an impeccable elephant focal, and even had time at the end to put a sweet little bee on my last bead.  If you want to see the work produced by the artists in this year's Flame Off, here is a link to their online bidding album on Facebook

Here's the piece we made.  Beads were made during the Flame Off, and the next day we sandblasted them and assembled the necklace.   

The lovely Kate Drew-Wilkinson.  I loved chatting with her at the Flame Off.

Here's a view of the tent set up at the glass school, during the individual competition.  That's Harold Cooney on the end, making a sweet little footed bowl.

Harold Cooney from the American Trade Bead company, working his magic during the individual competition.  Spectators could stroll around or sit in the bleachers.  Food trucks, wine and beer were also on site for the event, along with big screens showing video from the cameras, and MCs Margaret Zinser and Rashan Jones.
Here we are, just getting started.
The work at the Best Bead Show this year was amazing as well, and I loved visiting my friends and seeing their latest.  I took the biggest crop of acorns ever, and many found new homes there.  It was so much fun to see everyone again, and delightful that I got to chat with a trifecta of Kates!  Regrettably I did not get a photo with Kate Fowle Meleney, but I enjoyed chatting with her about electroforming and I'll not miss that photo op again.  Here's one of 7 acorns that I added to my Etsy shop today.

New acorn pendants in my Etsy shop.

Jari Sheese and her prodigious work.  She brought THOUSANDS of beads to the show, and each was exquisite.

The lovely Bernadette Fuentes was one of my neighbors.  Her murrine are tiny works of art.
Saturday night was the Bead Inspired fundraiser for Beads of Courage, and Jean Baruch and her dedicated team just keeps getting better and better at what they do.  It was a touching, well-organized event on a warm Tucson evening, and I was honored to be inducted into their Bead Hall of Fame for people who help the BOC mission, along with several other outstanding artists.  I've been honored to do what I can to assist Jean in her mission to help children and their families as they struggle with overwhelming health challenges.  She inspires me enormously.

I am deeply grateful for my good friend Heidi, who is the best booth helper Ever!    
I'm so glad we took the Phoenix bypass so we could go through Gila Bend!
So now it's back to the grind, and my mission right now is to unpack (yes, sadly I have not completely done that yet), get my studio back in order, and get some more work listed on Etsy. 


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