Saturday, October 18, 2014

Contemporary Geometric Beadwork

Kate McKinnons Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Volumne II, arrived in yesterdays mail and I've got to say the level of work, the photography, the forms, the creativity…..the colors! All so very well done.

There are so many incredibly unique piece in this book yet they all evolved from a few concepts.

This is the ultimate in process/project, given a few instructions on process, creative genius ensued.

The Mariella Boscetti piece on page 73 captivates me with it's colors, as does the Katherin Kosta piece on page 229.

Laurel Kubbpy's piece on page 134 incorporates pearls in little hidden pockets.

and Rayo Boursier on page 135 incorporated crystals!

JoAnn Baumann's Pagoda Bangle uses grey creams and yellows and the Kate McKinnon bangle shown on page 166 worn by Graham Thompson and photo'd by Ali Megan is perfection.

I don't have a large stash of delica's, having been a RAW girl for most of my beading career I've never developed the delica habit, but I see now I will need to change my ways.  I'll also need to find some time.

This is a book that a needs to be part of any serious bead weavers library!  I'm thinking I may need two as it is sure to be a classic and the pages are sure to be turned many many times…..

Friday, October 17, 2014

Having my morning coffee with you

This one's for Terry in Alaska and Kathy in Massachusetts and all of those beaders I meet who tell me they enjoy the blog. (Apologies to both of you if I didn't spell your names quite correctly, trust that I have your faces and names firmly planted in my heart, I just don't recall the proper spelling)

People continue to tell me they like to start their morning with a cup of coffee and their favorite blogs, so here's me pulling up a chair to join you..  It is truly nice to be reminded that people do read and do enjoy what I have to share.

I've had a busy summer and fall which is a bit of an understatement.  My schedule caught me a bit off guard (yes it was me who booked it!) but I neglected to realize that scheduling too many back to back engagements which also required kits, then throw in some foreign travel and things got a tad hectic here at MadDesigns.

It turns out that Touch of Whimsy is one of my favorite things to teach, which is a great thing because I'm teaching it for three days in Tyler Texas next weekend.  This was the formerly maligned yellow polaris bead (or bon bon bead depending on your source!) At first glance it took some imagination to develop a set of colors that suited it, but Liz did it beautifully here and at the end of the day yellow became the new favorite!

I look forward to my next set of engagements and then I look forward to an airstream trip to Santa Cruz and lots of grand baby hugs and walks on the beach and visits with family and friends.

My recent trip to New Hampshire was a treat.  Having grown up in Massachusetts I often crave the cool fall days and the beautiful colors, especially given that we were having an unseasonal 100 degree heat wave here in San Diego.  I ate lots of  'Lobstah'  (have you ever seen a lobster roll or taco that looked so good?!)

and enjoyed the company of the many who joined me in classes.  My flight was scheduled late in the day on Monday so Judy offered to take me on an outing up the coast to some of her favorite ocean spots and then to Stonewall Kitchen for lunch and shopping.  I'm excited to make the pumpkin  layer cake that I purchased for guests on Sunday.

This is one of the beautiful spots where one can have lunch at Stonewall kitchen.  Kathy instructed me to be sure to pick up there recipe cards which I did so now when I start to cook I will have lots of inspiration!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Beading All Stars - Deco Bracelet

Obtaining the un 'obtainables'  I had to laugh when I saw this reference recently….yes occasionally we inadvertently design with a piece that ends up being hard to get.   Sometimes there is a long lead time between design and a publication.

This was the case with the Deco bracelet that I designed for the Beading All Stars book published by Lark this September.  It is a compilation of ten artists who each designed two piece for the book.  If you haven't had a look you may want to as there are some beautiful designs in this book.

The 'lemon' fancy stone had just been released and I couldn't resist the allure of it's checkerboard racets and it's tapered shape.  The foiled silver night stone was just so darn pretty and surrounded with a size 15 raw bezel really stood out as the focal piece.

As it turns out not everyone store is carrying the lemon fancy stone….but a few are!  I know that if you give Beads by Blanche a call she has some to sell you.  Also Isabella Lam is carrying it in her Etsy store here….and here

And in a bit of time I will have kits available for the version seen here.  Although the webstore remains closed until the end of my travels this year, I will keep you posted when the Deco Bracelet kit is available, or you can use the contact us form on the web site to let me know if you interested.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

I've missed you….

I've gotten so busy with life that I've not shared with you for along while.  Today I was looking for something that I thought I had written on the blog (which sadly I haven't yet found) but as I perused through many old posts and comments I realized how much history and thoughts on family and friendship and of course beads and knitting were all stored here in these pages.

Then I realized that it was time for me to start collecting those memories again.  Busy is all relative anyways, there are people much busier then I am who live magnificently large and accomplish great things, and there are those who are less busy in a way that suits them.

Right now I'm too busy for my peace of mind, but I have arranged for that to be less so next year.

In the meantime, I think it's important for me to take some time outs, the work will wait (usually) or I will re-prioritize and let go of some  things that I thought absolutely must be done.

This morning we drove to Coronado, a beautiful semi island on the coast directly opposite the downtown city of  San Diego.  What the heck is a semi island?  One approaches  Coronado from a long bridge which carries you over the bay water and out to the land of downtown Coronado.  If you were to drive towards the ocean and then south for quite a few miles the 'strand' re-connects you the mainland.

At any rate, it is a pretty place to walk along the bay or along the ocean.  It is home of the iconic Del Coronado hotel.  Maya of course loves an outing where she comes along.  We followed up our breakfast at the dog friendly outside patio of Tartine with a bay walk.  We're both morning people so arriving prior to 8:00 a.m. means it's easy to get seated and since it's  October I chose a most excellent moist, crusted with sugar, pumpkin scone.  Decadent but oh so good.

We also had a dinner and movie date night and saw the 100 foot journey which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Although I love to eat and to put a good meal on the table I am far from an accomplished cook, never mind chef, but the story was endearing and who doesn't love Helen Mirren?

On the bead front, I have a new Santa Lucia using the Swarovski coin pearls which I've wanted to try in this design ever since I saw them.  My friend Tracy Stanley made a platinum version to wear to her daughters wedding this past summer.  It was stunning so I asked if she minded if I borrowed her palette.

Friend Karen Firnberg an accomplished beader offered to bead up the sample for me, and so here you have my design, Tracy's colors and Karens beadwork.  I am very pleased with the result.  The only thing I changed up from Tracy's version is using coin pearls and the new rose patina on the Swarvoski fancy stone.

While I was in Alaska, Shampagne beaded up a Touch of Whimsy and added a wild heart to the bottom which was a great addition.  We both thought that adding a Swarovski skull might be another fun adornment and I hope to find some time to achieve that as well.  I promise to show you when I do.

Next week I'm off to Bead Creative in Hampton New Hampshire.  I am looking forward to some fall air, fall foliage and Maine lobster!  

I follow that trip up with some more Touch of Whimsy at the Tyler Bead Retreat in Tyler  Texas, then on to Blanches where there will be the brand new sprockets! the fanciful Touch of Whimsy and the elegant Santa Lucia.

Friday, September 19, 2014


It's been a a grey rainy week in Alaska which some might find disappointing, however my home of San Diego has had record highs all week.  I'm good with grey and rainy.

I had teaching engagements on the weekend and evenings but days have been free to sit in a beautiful space and bead.

We did make the drive to Seward on Monday which has stunning views. There were trees that had turned vibrant shades of yellow and Sunrays shooting through clouds.

Lunch at Rays seafood produced the best chowder I've ever eaten and a stop at a meat processor resulted in reindeer bratwurst that Mark cooked for dinner.

This is the serene view from Rays.

On Monday Linda and I had a dinner at the warm and inviting Rustic Goat.

My time relaxing and beading has resulted in a this new piece, Ancient Bells.

Two more classes and then home to San Diego where I hope the heat wave has broken!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's a travel kind of fall

I have lot's of fun travel plans including this weeks trip to Alaska.  My last trip t here was five years ago!  It was a wonderful engagement and I am looking forward to the return.  Mark will join me for the first few days and I hope to introduce him to Seward….he is a tropical kind of guy so the thought of a Moose sighting or a glacier do not hold a huge appeal but the natural beauty there is so breath taking I wanted him to experience it with me.

I'll be home for a couple of weeks in late September followed by New Hampshire in October which I booked purposely to experience some fall foliage!  I'm from Massachusetts and I still miss the brilliant fall colors.  I'll be teaching at Bead Creative including for the first time the Spirit Flight earring!  I'll also be teaching La Navette and I think the two will wear well together.

Next up will be the Tyler Bead Retreat with a Touch of Whimsy.  It turns out this has been a really fun class to teach because it's possible to complete a piece of beaded jewelry in one day (mind you that is not a benchmark, not everyone will, but most complete it or come close to completing it)  How often does that happen, and it's a very fun happy piece of beadwork.  I love how the polaris balls look like they are lit from within!

We'll follow Tyler with Beads by Blanche where Sprockets will have it's debut!  I'll also teach Santa Lucia and Touch of Whimsy.

I fly from New Jersey to Sarasota to stay with friend Pat and teach for the Sarasota Bead Society.  I've made a new romantica and will also teach santa lucia and duomos romantics.  And last but not least I will end up in Georgia at Beadjoux which I very much look forward to.  And now, I must begin packing, I leave for Alaska tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Double thread…..Do you?

Every time I teach a class and I suggest (sometimes more strongly then others depending on the project) that one use double thread.  I hear many moans and groans….I realize I am in the minority so I will spend a little time telling you why I prefer double thread.

By thread I usually mean 6lb fire line but I am giving Miyuki thread a try since I am worried about the long term availability of fire line suited for beading and I appreciate the color choices.

Back to double thread…..I think that I have both better tension and a longer MTBF (mean time between failures) if I have two threads.  I am often asked if you can use one 10 lb instead of 2 6 lb pieces and the answer is probably yes, but….I am still of the opinion (and it is just that) that a failure comes from a thread being abraded in a place where it is rubbed and that  you are much less likely to abrade two threads in the same place.

Second most popular question 'Can I just make two passes?' Well yes you can but for me these old hands need to last me for a good long time of beading, knitting, crocheting and whatever else may cross my path so I don't to use them twice when I can use them once.

For me I find I have better tension with two threads but I know for sure there are some beaders who are able to get amazing tension with one thread, if that's you and tension is the goal then one thread may be right for you.

On to addressing the most common complaints.

My thread always gets tangles.  Two solutions, use slightly shorter thread lengths (I know that means weaving in more often, but really you are a beader, that part is a fact of life.) and use wax.  I like beeswax on fire line to hold the two pieces together.  So far I've not used wax on the Miyuki, but I do pull slower to avoid tangles.

What if I have to pull my work back?  For me, I actually find double thread easier to pull back.  I  find the working bead, pull until I can grasp the working thread and continue pulling back until the eye of the needle is at the work.  A gentle wiggle will almost always result in the needle following the thread through the beads.  In the event you've turned a corner as in ndebele, you may have to push the needle through some beads eye first and then come back to method one for the next set of beads.  It saves having to unthread and rethread a needle each time you undo the work.  This in my book is faster.

The last question that comes up is what if I have to change my needle because it breaks or I need a smaller needle.  To solve this particular dilemma I cut one of the threads down at the body of the work, unthread my needle and thread a new one.  Then I pull the cut thread 2 to 3 inches past the body of the work and hold onto it for the first two or three stitches and once again I have double thread.  I also use this method if I have to switch from double to single in the course of a piece, for example if I was using double with size 15 and the design changes to s ice 15 beads where I might want to use single thread.

I know I am in the minority but over the course of the years I have managed to convince some of this way of working.  What about you, single or double?

and for those of you who prefer to see pretty pictures, here is some beadwork, all done with double thread!

All three of these designs benefit from the extra tension I get using my thread double.  A Touch of Whimsy looks better if the top is sprightly like here.  It's not good having a floppy top!

Duomos Romanticos counts on having a firm cubic right angle base to hold the fancy stone in place.

Robbins nest ring also needs a firm tension to surround the bird so beautifully.