Saturday, March 31, 2007

More Beads and Blooms

Just thought I'd drag out some of my recent beads into the glorious morning sun. These are "tie dye" beads, where a tiny twistie of reactive colors is applied to a base bead. Opal Yellow is responsible for much of this interesting effect. These will find their way into one of my jewelry pieces before too long, as my show dates are rapidly approaching.

Finally got my application in for the local Mountain Art Guild Art and Wine show in June - this year they've hired a promoter for this show and jurying will be done for everyone (not just first time show participants). On April 6 I'm off to the San Mateo Jewelry and Gem show for findings I need to complete my pieces: sterling chains, Bali beads, etc. It's always a fun event.

I need to learn the name of this impressive azalea! It was here when we bought the house, and is incredibly full and packed with color. It's in full glory now, and the single white ones planted next to it are ready to pop. I love it! It reminds me of a lovely heirloom rose.

Finally, check out my new seat covers! Wow! It took me forever to find a leopard pattern that didn't look cheesy, and these were great. I don't know what possessed me, but when I decided to get seat covers I could not ignore this little voice inside me that said..."go animal!". My friends and co-workers are starting to wonder about this previously unknown side of me. What other secret fetishes are lurking below the surface of this otherwise ordinary woman?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rainy, Earthy Delights

So I jumped the gun, I guess, and we're back to winter. Cold, rainy, but hey, we need the precip so I'll quit griping. And I suppose that 56 degrees isn't exactly torture for many of you living in real winter spots, but it is for me. While I complain, know that in my heart I am forever grateful to live in such an amazing place.

Here are some more fun pieces I've made recently. Several of them are the result of playing with Moretti's Light Ivory (pastel) soft glass, and silver foil or leaf. I learned a cool combination from Jennifer Geldard where you make a base bead of light ivory, roll in silver foil or leaf, and then decorate with dark ivory. It produces some very interesting effects, as you can see in the earrings that have the grey metallic ends on them. The dark ivory is very reactive with the silver, and just being near it will cause a very cool look.

Anyway, the pendant above is in neutral, earth colored tones, with swirls of silvered ivory (another technique where you burnish silver leaf or foil onto a hot light ivory rod), fine silver wire, and hand made murrini. Murrini are slices of cane which have been built up in the lengthwise direction before pulling into thin strands. In the one in this pendant, I used white glass as the base, with intense black stripes around it, before pulling and then slicing chips from it. The stripes are then brought into the center by poking the chip after it has been adhered to the hot base bead. Lots of lampwork artists such as Pati Walton use these as undersea creatures in their work. I added one of my fused fine silver rings to this pendant to make it more interesting when hung from a silver chain. I like the omega chains that Rita Sterling sells, in the small diameters.

Here are the Grape Tubes! More slender and graceful than the Blue Tubes and almost juicy enough to eat. These have my fancy fine silver (PMC) head pins, plus sterling silver ear wires and accent beads.

These last earrings make a nice set with the earthy pendant above. The center shows the light and dark ivory with silver reaction described above, while the ends are capped with silver plum - a very interesting metallic color that somehow finishes a bead very nicely. I might mention that I've been making my own ball headpins as instructed by Kate McKinnon and Anne Mitchell, in a fabulous PMC class I took before they moved to Tucson from Monterey. You just need fine silver wire, put a flame on it, and once the end balls up, you quench it in some water before tumbling to harden. While they said that a creme brulee torch wouldn't work, I've had no trouble doing this or even fusing my own fine silver jump rings with mine. Multi-purpose tools are essential, as is creme brulee.
Finally, some interesting news, or not, depending how you feel about bureaucracy. It's been quite a while since I offered any of my bead sets on eBay, and apparently since then they have had trouble with mass producers (often in other countries) spamming the lampwork listings with factory-made beads. To remedy this, a group of concerned lampworkers took it upon themselves to do something, and created a system whereby you can get "approved" as a "Self Representing Artist" (SRA) by providing certain credentials to this group, who checks you out. You basically just have to prove that you're not a factory, which, fortunately, was very easy for someone who is not.

Well, in anticipation of possibly diving into the Bay again (no guarantees - I hear it's not been doing well for most), I went through the process, and have to admit that it was painless and fairly fast. I am now proudly known as SRA #L43. But those of you who know me can still call me Patty.

Spring Offerings

Thought I would post a few more images of some of my recent lampwork bead jewelry. I've not been as busy in the studio as I'd like (something about tax season), but a return to colder, wetter weather will get me out of the sunshine and behind the torch very soon. I've also got several shows coming up and need to get busy!

"Blue Tube" earrings are a significant statement in color. Two layers of transparent color are separated by a corresponding layer of opaque, with silvered ivory lines in between (silver foil is melted in with the glass, producing interesting, sparkly effects). The ear wires are sterling silver, with custom fine silver headpins. These are 1 1/2" long.

I am making these in all kinds of color themes: greens, lavenders, earthy tones. They are fun to wear and easy to coordinate with your clothing.

My "Cosmos" series beads have taken a new turn from the classic lentil shape. These new bicone shaped beads are each about 1" long, and really make the multi-colored pattern shine. Gazing into these beads is sure to transport you into another universe. This particular piece is a 17" choker, with eight Cosmos bicones, one of my own fine silver clasps, Swarovski crystals, and sterling silver accent beads. I wore this one with a khaki colored linen top and black cropped pants at a sunset pupu party recently, and several people nearly passed out in awe from the sight of the sparkling glass in the warm evening sunlight. Just kidding, but I did receive many nice compliments on it.

These "Pine Fizz" earrings are a delicate, flattened cylinder shape, and have an irridescent sheen to them. They are about 1 3/8" long, and feature sterling silver ear wires and accent beads.

OK, now if this bracelet doesn't make you think of Easter bunnies and sandals and daisies and warm breezes, you're insane. "Spring Fever" bracelet is made from graduated lentil shaped beads in light turquoise, with dainty ivory flower adornments. Accents include freshwater pearls and sterling silver spacer beads. Clasp is adjustable in size.

Now, for those of you thinking, "that's all very well and good for women who like jewelry, but what about ME?", stress no more. MAN BEADS are here.

MAN BEADS, as I affectionately call them, are beads in a smaller, more rugged size and shape, in earthy colors that men might like to wear. I started making these just last year, in response to a request to make a pair of similar (not matching) bracelets for two men. Well, they were a big hit, and here they are.

This design is called "Tribal Rhythmn", and has ethnic, earthy looking beads in shades of terra cotta, ivory, black, amber, and sterling silver clasps and accents. Of course, the bracelets are sized to fit men. It was fun trying something new, and it has helped me to think about lots of new ways to interpret the concept of a glass bead bracelet.

All for now, but stay tuned for more very soon.

Monday, March 19, 2007

St. Patrick's Day Weekend

Not much time left to enjoy the fantastic spring snow in the Sierra (that's the dirty white stuff behind my feet in the photo). We got up to Bear Valley on Friday to play in the snow and met awesome conditions – 60 degrees (and then some) in the parking lot, no lift lines, and several hours of good fun.

Here is a picture from last December, in contrast – interestingly we were there on Friday to use lift tickets we had bought back then, when they shut the resort down for high winds.

Hope you enjoyed something green on St. Patty’s Day!

Am hoping to get some new bead pix up soon, but like everyone, I’m drowning in a sea of tax paperwork – ack. Not my favorite thing, but a necessary evil, I suppose.

Also coming soon is a multi-part series on my experiences as an electric car owner and driver. It's the best kept secret around, that you can drive oil and gas free without nary a hiccup in your day. Everyone is thinking about the cost of gas these days, and ways that they can help reduce global warming, and this story is too good not to tell. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Indoor Skydiving

I am getting really anxious waiting for the new indoor skydiving facility to be built here in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been wanting some tunnel time there since Christmas, when they promised it would be open.

My teenage son and I did this last summer in the Perris tunnel, just East of Riverside, near Los Angeles, and had an absolute blast. I had heard of it, and since I probably would never have the guts to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, this seemed like a good way to get a big part of the thrill without the terror part. There is just nothing to compare it to – it’s totally wild. It’s a vertical wind tunnel, you know, like the kind in which the aerodynamics of aircraft and cars are tested.

Here’s the deal – there’s a jet engine in the top of a tower, and it sucks air through it which you can “ride” on in the middle of a plexiglass cylinder (diameter of the one in Perris is about 10’). It simulates the freefall portion of skydiving, so you can practice using your body as a human airfoil. The really experienced instructors can do all sorts of maneuvers in there, like near-weightless break dancing with spins, you name it. Check out the video on the Skydive Perris site, and prepare to be amazed!

Your first session is likely to be short (e.g. 2 or 3 minutes), and will consist of the instructor (in the tunnel with you) moving you around a lot to help you find your neutral belly flying position (classic skydiving position), and understand how even the tiniest movements of your arms or legs can change your body’s trajectory through the air. It’s all good stuff that anyone who wants to actually depart a plane in flight would find useful, plus you get a t-shirt and video.

Yeah, it’s expensive, but the memories will last a lifetime. When we went, we shared our tunnel time with a family of 3 generations who came together for the experience. The grandfather was in his 80s, and the youngest was a teenage boy, with mom in the middle. Just one word of caution, loose skin becomes QUITE noticeable in the 120 mph winds! But my hat is off to the patriarch who did this – not everyone would be up for such an adventure.

We did this one day last summer on a road trip to Southern California, and had so much fun we signed up for another session the following day. One of the guys working there was nice enough to video our flights for us using my own camcorder - how cool. When we finished we learned that a facility was being built up near where we live in the Silicon Valley, and we were thrilled! Maybe they have a payroll deduction plan…

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Resources for grieving dog lovers

Here are some links to resources to help you deal with the loss of your canine pet. I found all of these helpful in dealing with the recent loss of our dog Rio.

Sight Hound: A Novel (Paperback) by Pam Houston.

This is a fantastic book. Each chapter is written from the viewpoint of a different character, including the protagonist's pets. Our vet recommended it as the dog in the story has osteosarcoma, as our dog did, and went through the amputation.

Angel Pawprints: Reflections On Loving and Losing a Canine Companion (Hardcover), by Laurel E. Hunt.

Most of the eulogies in this book are from the early 20th century, but they all capture the essence of what it’s like to share the love of a canine companion. The author lost two of her beloved dogs to cancer within 7 weeks of each other, when they were only 9. Here is one of the pieces:

I miss the little wagging tail;

I miss the plaintive, pleading wail;

I miss the wistful, loving glance;

I miss the circling welcome-dance.

- Henry Willett, from "In Memoriam," circa 1916

A Dog Blessing (Hardcover)
by Welleran Poltarnees.

A very thoughtful couple I know gave me this book, which conveys some very simple sentiments about the bounty that dogs bring to our lives, accompanied by antique photos and artwork.

Here are some more resources:
(be patient, and scroll down to find the text below)

Here are some things that were helpful to me. I am far from being “over” my grief, but I’m making progress.

1. Write about your dog – what memories of your dog are most salient to you?

2. Talk to other dog lovers. Until I became a “dog parent”, there is no way I would have known how close the relationship between a human and a dog can be.

3. Give yourself time. Sleep. Be kind to yourself. Ask for others' understanding.

4. Think about (and cherish) what your dog has taught you.

5. Laugh. Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill was the right medicine at the right time, as was a visit to see my mom on Maui. I am grateful to Les, my colleague at work, for loaning me this DVD.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Spring is here in Northern California! As predicted, our temperatures reached the 80's today (more or less), and it was glorious. The clematis armandii (evergreen clematis) outside our kitchen door wafts a heavenly fragrance upon us each time we come and go. The acorn woodpeckers have been visiting in droves, fighting with the bluejays for command of the feeder. Their call is amusing.

We took advantage of the incredible weather to hike the Maguire Peaks trail in the Sunol Regional Wilderness. We went with an amazing friend of ours who actively hikes, travels the world, and generally sucks in life with great gusto at age 71. We worked up an honest sweat, and enjoyed some great conversation on the way up and down the peak, and had a picnic lunch at the top.

As promised, here is another harbinger of first delicious spring beads. I took the picture before Rio's ordeal, after we had an atypical ice storm. Will they become a bracelet? A necklace? Earrings? Let me know what you think. Each one is about 1/2" in diameter, and encased.

Here is what their cousins became, a few weeks ago - a festive 18" necklace with freshwater pearls, one of my own fine silver clasps, and sterling spacer beads. Can you see the stray loose bead in the picture? I guess you can figure out what he wants to be.

All for now. Get off the damned computer (as my husband says), and get out there and enjoy life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Nose Knows

It’s hard to say whether it was me, or Rio who looked forward more to roasted chicken night at our house. Before moving to California in 1995 I was not familiar with the concept of buying a hot, fully roasted chicken from the local grocery store. Perhaps they were there and I never noticed, but I can tell you with certainty that there is no smell I find more intoxicating than the heady aroma of succulent, perfectly roasted fowl that someone else has taken the time to prepare for my dinner.

I have even become somewhat of a connoisseur of roasted chicken, and can safely say that the plumpest, juiciest, best bargain to be found of these is at your local Costco store, where you often have to stand in line to get these delicacies as they come off the spit. I’ve tried the ones from the local grocery stores, and have found them to be pitifully small, often dried out, and generally not nearly as tasty as those from Costco. I hesitate to think about where they get these birds, and how many pounds of hormones it took to get them to that size, but it’s easy to repress those thoughts as I’m pulling the sweet meat off the bones, juice dripping down my fingers and chin as I sample what we’re about to eat.

Usually we eat these about once a week, on top of a main dish salad, on a bed of mixed greens, with peppers, onions, goat cheese if we have it, garlic olives, and whatever else we could find in the refrigerator. It's a fairly quick meal to make. It always turns out too large, and we always hate ourselves for eating so much, but boy, is it good. There have been some times when I was so hungry that I swore I could have eaten a whole one completely by myself, it was so tantalizing.

I’m not sure how long we’ve been including Rio in this ritual, but it was clear to us that it was top on his list of favorite things too. Nothing got his attention like the smell of a roasted chicken emanating from the just-opened trunk of my car on chicken night. Usually when getting home from work I would take time to play fetch with Rio and do other chores before dinner, but the smell of the chicken removed any and all desire he might have had to play. He might obligingly run down the hill to bring the ball back once or twice, but after dropping it at my feet he would run right to the kitchen door, waiting to be let in, where the real object of his desire was.

It seems that for years we would give him bits of the skin that we avoided (for health reasons) mixed in with his dry food, and he would do anything for that. In retrospect it might not have been great for him, either, as we learned from the vet about 6 months ago that his triglycerides were staggeringly high for a dog. But it’s true, he would hold himself in a “stay” right in front of the steaming bowl, glancing quickly between us and the bowl, perhaps hoping to receive our “OK!” signal with the least amount of delay. He would hold that stay just as long as we commanded him to, and it was a good exercise in self-restraint for a dog who was otherwise easily distracted. And then he ate it in about 30 seconds, including a thorough licking of the bowl.

The other night we had the first roasted chicken since Rio died. When I had finished pulling off the skin on the pieces we would use on our salad, it struck me that nobody would be eating it. It would go in the garbage. There would be no obedience demonstration. There would be no sense of symbiosis as he shared this food with us and nothing went to waste. I sure miss that guy.


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