Thursday, December 25, 2014

A lovely visit

Santana Row has been a peaceful interlude at the end of our busy year.  It's a really pretty spot...a shop, live, eat community.  It's always lively with walkers and strollers having a nice time.  Not sure I could live in the midst of a shopping center, but a three day visit has been restorative.

There is a lot of pretty here.

The hallways are brilliant.  Plain white walls become patterned by a grid that covers the ceiling lights and are angled to cast shadows that change depending on the angle of the light.  Quite an interesting way to achieve patterned walls.

The elevator foyer has a Spanish dancer painted on the wall, a different one on each floor.

The room is large and nicely appointed so it's been a pleasant stay.  Tomorrow we move onto our next adventure, while we savor the memories of being with family and friends.

Christmas babies!

First we stopped in Santa Cruz for a visit with first grandbaby Sam

then onto to Campbell.....with little Miss Layla

And sister Malayna

A wonderful dinner with friends Char and Rose at Straits in Santana row and then tucked into our fancy Christmas abode, hotel Valencia.

Christmas Eve was spent with our son and his new bride in their new home which they've made warm and inviting.

We've breakfasted, walked, relaxed and I've played with beads and tonight we'll join family for dinner! It's been a peaceful and joyous time with excitement to follow.

Wishing you peace and joy as well!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Design Intuition

As long as I've been beading you would think that I would have certain design principles firmly on board.  I understand them in theory, I can even articulate the ones that appeal to me and why, but somehow I can't seem to always apply them without the aid of seeing them visually.

I for sure wanted to use these unfoiled fancy stones in an earring because I love the way the light flows through them and I wanted to bezel them in crystal which I did, and I was in love.  The bezel is one shown to me by Nancy Joseph and it worked out perfectly for these stones. I've previously dangled earrings from chain to swing from my earlobes and that was my plan, but any chain on hand was to fine for the size of the crystal so I beaded up some diamond weave to suspend them from and attached an ear wire.  Picture the photo below, but upside down with no drop on the bottom and a third diamond.

Here is where the design flaw became apparent….they were much too bottom heavy.  One would think I would have taken a photo for you to compare, but I didn't, sorry.  I got busy with turning them around, using the diamond weave that previously suspended them as a bottom accent and adding my favorite pave teardrops.  Now they are balanced and sparkly and very very fancy pants.  I will be wearing them over the holidays with black velvet and enjoying the glow as the light passes through the stone.

So it turns out I am more of an intuitive designer then one schooled in design principles which I can readily apply. I know, profound observation on my part.  I have to see the piece beaded and then I can recognize color and balance and engineering and all the rest that goes into good design.  But I just can't always see the design flaw coming.  When I think about it, it makes total sense that I design with components because I can visually arrange them all day long.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I'm struggling a bit learning how to do this well.  This sign in my studio is a reminder.   Since I've been home eight days now I am actively working on how to have relax.

The first few days I had to unpack, grocery shop, tidy up the studio and do some Christmas shopping.  It turns out that being semi-retired does not eliminate a number of things that still need doing.

But other then beading, which is not work as far as I'm concerned, I have taken time off from the the business of MADDesigns.  As I transition to a different way of conducting business I plan on re-opening the webstore and as you can see, maintain a more active blog.  I will get to those things, but in the meantime I have chosen to totally let go of the business to do list until after the 1st.  Then I will plan what inventory to make and release as kits and what to release as tutorials.  I'll make a schedule of when to do these things and include some illustration and writing time for a couple of new designs.  So stay tuned.

During yesterdays rainstorm I sat in my comfortable chair with a cup of tea and a new Sunset magazine.  It was hard to overcome the feeling that I should be doing something else….I think this whole relaxation thing needs some time to learn it. 

I also got out my big Bead on It Board.  It's my favorite, not only because it's named the DeCoster, but because for a big, long term project I love the amount of real estate it has.  It's great for lap beading and it can store all my active beads.

I do realize this board probably makes at least half of my bead friends crazy, but try as I might I haven't changed my messy beader ways.  This just works for me, spill out a bit of what I want to use and use it, spill out the next thing…..I have learned to spill out fewer crystals, making the eventual clean up a little bit easier.

Time to finish up Christmas wrapping and mailing tasks and then back to the beads.   It's all I've got planned for the next two weeks!  And of course kissing grand babies!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More photography

Conversation with some fellow bead artist/photographers suggested that maybe the light tent was not my best option so I decided to compare yesterdays photo (no light tent) with one using the light tent on the same piece.   When I didn't use the light tent, I also had not diffusers on my lights and can see the images of the three lights reflected on the pearls.

I thought perhaps the light tent would diffuse the two big lights enough to make them disappear and the front 'sparkler' light would have more impact.

I did notice that using the same f-stop resulted in a darker picture.  I didn't yet bother to go full manual and increase the shutter speed.  I am sure as time goes by I will get more familiar with how to best utilize this camera's (Canon Power Shot G16) features.  But I remain pretty happy with the level of detail, color and white balance (on auto).

Monday, December 15, 2014


My photos have come a long way in the time I've been beading but it's always nice to improve.  I feel that the bar has been raised in so many different areas of this beady career and I like keeping up.  Many of the artists take not only their own step out photos, but their own beauty shots and the beadwork is artistically presented.

My Canon EOS Rebel Ti, was stolen recently and I had to make a decision on what to replace it with.  I was torn, wanting the T5i with an expensive macro lens but not sure I could really justify that expense.  Mark being Mark started the research process and came up with the CanonPower Shot G16 as a recommendation for taking macro jewelry shots.  This option would be 1/3 of the cost of the DSLR I was considering.  I was still torn but willing to give it a shot.  It's a much better size for taking on travels, even though for the most part it will be dedicated to the studio, it was a consideration.  I never liked traveling with the big EOS rebel.

After reading through the manual and getting familiar enough with the controls, I thought I would shoot a bit of beadwork and see what I got.  I used an Aperture controlled setting as I like to control the depth of field.  I set it to 5.6 and let it determine shutter speed.  I worked without the light tent, laying the piece on some white paper and setting up my 3 lamps.

I'd say I got amazing detail out of this first shot!

Colors are good, white balance good, detail good…..I'm happy and can't wait to shoot a few more jewelry photos.

This necklace is second in the series of birthday necklaces.  This one belongs to Gail and was beaded by myself, Susan, Judy and Gail.  Yes the birthday girl has to bead too.  I contributed two beads so that the necklace would round out at 5.  The large center is a Bellisimo bead from Carol Wilcox Wells, the Art and Elegance of Beadweaving, and the smaller ones are from Beads in Motion, the Peanut Bead Slider bracelet.  The bracelet was also gifted to Gail and was done in these colors so she now has a matching set.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ancient Bells, CRAW, PRAW and semantics

My second Ancient Bells in Lavender and Bronze…..A fun way of using CRAW and PRAW.  What is PRAW?

The two side bells are beaded with cubic right angle weave and the center is prismatic weave with five sides.  The necklace is also prismatic weave using size 8 beads and six sides around.

So what is prismatic weave, it's a term for a stitch which shares the thread path of cubic right angle weave (cross the intersections with thread which squares up the sides) but is done with more or less sides then the four sides which make a cube.  Since according to smarter girls then I, Cindy Holsclaw and Gwen Fisher, that what is being woven is a prism, then the terminology fits and a PRAW-X where X is the number of floor beads (or sides) that are being created.

In the example of my necklace, it would be PRAW-6.  Although it adds another term and may initially cause some confusion, I just couldn't bring myself to call it CRAW when it wasn't a cube I was creating.  This way of referring to it makes sense to me.  We could of course use TRAW for triangle or three sided, CRAW for cubic or four sided, but after that my memory fails me for naming the 5, 6 or 7 sided ropes….so for me PRAW works.

Since CRAW and PRAW stitch present a lot of visible thread I decided to use the thread color to my advantage, using a dark purple thread with the bronze beads.  It adds a nice dimension to the finished piece.  In most cases I use double thread and forego the extra pass around the top or ceiling beads of the prism, however in the case of the necklace I found that extra pass pulled in the top nicely and the side beads create a ridge.  Here I wanted the one color but I think this would be especially fun with floor and ceiling beads of one color and a high contrast for the side beads.  The ridge created would be so much more visible in that scenarios and someday soon I will be trying that!

In the meantime I am working the second color way for Layla, my beading by the bay piece, and just this morning I woke up with a vision for a Bead Dreams piece that I'd love to complete.  Colors have been decided, stash beads have been assemble, additional beads have been ordered…..and I want to bead it now.  But Layla needs it's turn to be finished first!  I have a week of mostly at home time, with just a few holiday related outings required.  The rest of the time I'll be beading!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Aaaahhhhh retirement!

Funny, I thought I would take time off this week, but I am having a hard time finding the 'how not to be productive' mode of life.  It's true I do not need to travel, or pack for awhile now, but I still have to unpack, the studio remains in the aftermath of a busy fall and needs some order restored, and then there is Christmas, and wrapping and mailing.  Throw in some necessary beading and some desired beading and finishing up Ms. Layla's second sweater (she is well behind her sister in Grandma knits, but then she can wear her sisters first knits so she's not entirely without options)

I also decided that the all white Christmas tree with white lights did not look good with previous handblown ornaments so I undecorated it and redecorated it with all white and silver and now it's pretty.

I think it's going to take some time to settle in.  But I'm home for weeks and weeks now.  I am taking a class with David Chatt in January, in February I film the sequel to the Interweave RAW video, I'll be doing one on CRAW and PRAW and then there is Beading by the Bay in March.

All in all an easy schedule, totally doable.  I've also recommitted to walking and need to get on with an Ocean walk today (high surf is reported and I love to experience the Ocean during high surf, from the shore of course!)

I came a cross a little series of bags that I did in the photo album today and was re-inspired to do something like this again.  They were all done with a Turkish cast on and wool which I felted, then embellished the purses.  It was great fun.  I'm thinking the little ones would make a great cell phone/evening purse for carrying a lipstick a phone and a credit card.  Sadly I sold all these and I don't even have one.

The aqua one and the hot pink and orange were done from Cat Bordhi's magical knits and had a moebius cast on.  The straps were hard to predit and cam tout a little larger then I would have liked.  If I did it again, I think I'd stick to the little cute ones!  I'd love to make up a bunch and then spend a couple of days embellishing them.  What creative fun can you cook up?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Heavy Beading

What do I have planned?

I'm working on the second and third color ways of Layla, my Beading by the Bay piece.  It's called Layla as it was designed while air streaming in the Santa Cruz mountains waiting for Layla's birth.

Newest colorway is bright silver and muted metallic blues with a blue shade fancy stone.  I haven't decided on the outer edge color yet.  In this color way you see a hint of bright pink on the back of the CRAW petals.  I will say this one is challenging to bead as it is size 15 craw with 14 turns and joins.  There is also a back structure which gives a three dimensional quality to the piece.  I love the chain finish and my next challenge will be to find an equivalently good chain in a bright silver.  I think the third color way will call for a bronze chain.

I've also ordered the lemon fancy stone for the Deco Bracelet in Beading All Stars so that I can do up a bronze and amethyst sample.  First up will be the third Layla color which has yet to be decided.

I also just finished a second ancient Bells design in bronze and Lavender and ordered the beads to kit it for when the webstore re-opens sometime in January.  I'll take a photo for you soon!  Here it is in the original color.

When I'm not beading I have a rectangular lace shawl, and an adorable sweater for Layla on the needles.  Layla's is almost done which is the bonus of knitting for little ones.  The lace shawl is on size 3 needles and has a ton of repeats yet to finish it.  It will be very ethereal when it's completed.

Monday, December 8, 2014

I'm retired!

Well perhaps we will call it semi-retired.  I am home from the last engagement of 2014.  For 2015 I have three engagements planned and a lot of downtime.  That is what is required at the moment.

My last engagement was Beadjoux in Georgia and it was truly wonderful.  I met a whole bunch of students I hadn't met before and a few that I had and Stephanie and her Mom Monica who own Beadjoux.  I also met Jimmy Boatwright (?sp) so sorry  Jimmy.  I've admired her work, often published in Bead and Button for a long while and now I've met her, always a treat.

See that big old 'Bead on It Board' on the bottom,  it is called the DeCoster.  Deidre who  IS Bead on it Boards felt that the yarn fabric represented me well and named it after me.  I love it as it has enough real estate for me to work on my lap and keep all of my tools and beads handy.  This weekend Beadjoux had a stack of the DeCoster boards and as people decided it was right for them, they purchased and asked me to sign their purchase.  I am a big believer in the best tools, so it was a pleasure to do that.  It was also a first.  Hope you all enjoy your boards as much as I do mine!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Beadjoux....What a lovely store

Monica and Stephanie, the mother and daughter behind Beadjoux in Braselton Georgia are both so lovely and enthusiastic.  They first contacted me two years ago and we scheduled a May date, but weddings and babies caused a conflict and they graciously offered to reschedule me.

I'm so glad they waited for me and that I'm here now.   They have all the right beads, a great location, big comfortable classroom and many accomplished and happy Beaders wanting to take classes!

I've also been nicely hosted with great meals and friendly company.  Many beautiful pacific morning glorys were built.  Tomorrow a similar crowd will work on quattro cupole followed by Santa Lucia on Sunday.

I've also met a couple of formerly, facebook only friends who are now  in real life friends, always nice!

I'll try to give you some more photos of the experience tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


I mentioned that we started a tradition of making a beaded bead necklace for the birthday girl and December brings us a second birthday, so on Monday we spent a day of beading together.  I elected to do a Bellisimo for this necklace (I did an Amphora for the first one)  The rest of the gals did a layered bead from beads in motion, the peanut slider bracelet.  

We completed this but she doesn't get to have it until her official birthday celebration lunch next friday so I had an opportunity to take a photo.

I love the combination of dark blue, silver and platinum pearls that Gail chose for her beads.  We'll make a proper necklace in time, but the ribbon is a nice interim so it can be worn.

Bellisimo if you are curious was first done in 1999 or there about and is published in the Art and Elegance of Beadweaving by Carol Wilcox Wells.

Funny I just noticed the cover beads would fit nicely with this theme, although they have smaller center holes, making them harder to put on a wider necklace.

Judy has decided rather then beaded beads we will make a cuff on which we all do a bit of bead embroidery.  That should be fun!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Beaded Beads

Climatic beading, what a funny thought, and what I mean is there are times or year or weather conditions during which the activity of beading fits into my day so much better.  It also means I probably live in the wrong place, because what I really love is a rainy grey day with some chill in the air.  I would prefer snow even but I live in San Diego so I'm not delusional, I know snow is never going to happen.

Fortunately for me today is overcast and lots of rain is predicted for tomorrow.  I do need to prepare a bit for my last bead engagement of the year (I leave Thursday) but I also have some solid bead time tucked into these two days.

You may remember me saying we have a new birthday tradition among my friends and that is for each of us to make a beaded bead for a necklace for the birthday girl.

So far I've made an Amphora from Beaded Opulence for Susan and am working on a large Bellisimo for Gail's upcoming birthday.  The girls, while enthusiastic and multi talented are just beginning their bead  journeys so I kept their beads simple by beading a base of raw, which then they layer and embellish, like the beaded beads in Beads in Motion.


Victorian Slider


Who knows maybe we'll step up to an urchin  bead in time!

Do have a favorite beaded bead?