Thursday, September 27, 2007

From the kiln, etc...

I have a bunch of things to show you today.
Once again, I have been working on the beads I need for the pendant swap and am pretty pleased with the ones I got out of the kiln today.

First, we have "Grace". It was hard to name this one because so many names popped into my head - growth, sea fronds, but I think I'll stick with grace..

Sometimes you just get settled at the torch and things happen and last night was one of those times.

Another, similar bead that just "happened" was this one to the right... I call it "the Dance". It reminds me of a joyful, uninhibited dance.

I think that's the state I enter sometimes when I am creating. It's as if I'm in a trance and the glass is telling me what to do with it. If I have no plan, I'll pick up a color or two and let them tell me what to do. Sounds weird, but that's what happens.

This one, I'm calling "Fall Musings" because the colors, especially the variegations of the scrolls make me think of all the changing colors of the leaves.

The leaf change sneaks up on us and all at once, there it is. I've noticed it is already beginning.... sad, but it means another change of season and I enjoy the variety of seasons we have. I could do without the bitterest cold and the beastliest heat, but they come with the territory, so I choose to celebrate the changes rather than mourn them.

This one is a little different for me. I think I'm celebrating dots now that I have switched to my grocery store glasses and can actually see where they are going. I'm calling it "Frozen Flowers" mainly because "Colorful vine seen through a foggy window" just doesn't work!

It's one of the beads I made using enamels and I find the enamels keep the stringers (lines) from spreading too much and a lot more detail is preserved and a design can appear much more precise.

I couldn't resist posting this one. A new friend sent me a large piece of fluorite to wire and I worked on it for the past two nights. I think this is a perfect setting for this gorgeous piece!

(As with all the pictures, if you click on it, another window will open with a larger version, just hit your back button to come back to this page.)

Metaphysically, Fluorite is said to help connect mind to spirit. It does so by helping to neutralize persistent and unwanted thought patterns so that the mind, instead of keeping itself distracted by constant activity, much of which is resistance to these undesired thoughts, can be at peace.

Hmmm... I have a very similar piece that I wear occasionally. Sound like something I should carry with me at all times!

It seems I can't get a blog post up without mentioning the chickens and we've been pretty hard on them lately.

I have to admit that they aren't all mean and scary. This is our house chicken! We aren't sure if it's a he or a she. Until the day it crowed, we were sure it was a hen....

We call her/him "Socks", "Boots" or "Spats" because of the feathers on her/his feet. Whenever I walk from the shop to the house, he/she is hot on my heels because we have a little can of corn that we use to lure him/her to eat from our hands.

This one separated from the pack early and likes to hang around with us. Rudy has even taken a liking to it.

There's a welcome mat that says "Close the door quick before the chickens come in". I thought it was hilarious the first time I saw it, but now.... I may have to get it because I don't think it will be long before that becomes a problem!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wreaths and Roosters

I was first introduced to Sweet Annie (Artemisia Annua) by a friend who used to groom our dogs. I had taken the "girls" over for a visit and she showed me the swag of Sweet Annie she had hanging on the door. I was struck by it's frothy appearance and fresh, pungent aroma.

Years down the road, when we had our herb shop, one of our annual workshops was a Sweet Annie Wreath. (My sister, Tina, has basic instructions for making an herbal wreath on her blog here.) We planted a big row of it for just that purpose the first year and have never been without it since - although it is no longer in that nice neat row!

One year, it reseeded itself in a patch of Mesclun mix our young son had planted. He proudly cut and served it to us and we were surprised at the bitter taste. The next day we learned what had caused it and also that Sweet Annie has a laxative and vermifuge effect Well, at least no one had worms!

I expect to see it all over the farm now and was surprised today went out to photograph the stand of Sweet Annie that I had been watching all summer. As I got closer, something was odd about it. There's a picture of it to the left.

Those seed heads looked graceful, but certainly not the light, lacey look I expected, in fact they were so heavy the plant was bent over from the weight. I approached and gave the tops a squeeze. What? No scent? Wait a minute... these aren't Sweet Annie!

Nope, after taking an even closer look at the leaves, it turned out that the plants I'd been protecting from my husband's weed whacker ever since we cleaned out the corn patch were just overgrown Lamb's Quarters, gone to seed!

So, on with the hunt... I had gone far afield to avoid an attack by the angry rooster gang that lives at the bottom of the hill, but I was just going to have to brave them to get to the good stuff!

The guy to the right is the biggest bully of the bunch. He leads the attack and is shortly backed up by his lieutenant, a red rooster.

Tina has a pretty funny story about this bunch in her blog here.

But, I digress ... on with the hunt.

So, watching my back, I approached what I was SURE was Sweet Annie and took a nice shot.

You can see how lacey and upright the real stuff is. It's a bright yellow-green and the stems toward the middle of the plant are red. The aroma alone will give it away, but just watch out for those pretenders out there!

When it is ready to cut, the seeds bulk up a bit and the branches really fill in.

To the right is a shot of another patch of Sweet Annie next to a piece of equipment - it's a front end loader that is about 6 ft. tall - so you can see the relative size. It really gets BIG!

I was always surprised when I needed to get out the heavy "loppers" to cut the thick stems (trunks) in the fall.

So, now you probably want to know what we do with this stuff.

Well, this this a wreath I made last year around this time. The whole picture is faded, I'm afraid.

I can describe it to you though. The base is sweet annie with a some pampas grass plumes added in and a bit of blue garden sage. The flowers are the most beautiful hydrangeas - an unusual variety I found in one of our brothers' yard last fall. They were purple and burgundy - just beautiful.

This wreath hangs in our bedroom and I really wanted to plan a color scheme around it.

So, be sure what you are cutting and you may have the makings for a gorgeous, fragrant wreath in your backyard too! Just tying a bunch together with a ribbon makes a nice fall swag for the door.

Just watch out for roving rooster gangs - and don't eat the Sweet Annie!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Enamels... we've got enamels

Today, I really got on the enamel train! There are more, but this is the best of the bunch.

The picture is terrible, but it shows the assortment.

I finished a few more of the yellow redware branch beads, but got off track and had to try a few others.

There are so many choices now that I got the whole set of enamels and I've really only tried a few of the colors... haven't even touched some of the new glass colors I got at Beadfest almost a month ago!

The blue bead in the top middle was a try at a bird and it really did turn out well, but that blue is too dark to use on a dark color - not enough contrast. Then I tried again with the yellow one to the right.. Didn't turn out too badly, but I chose a couple others to spotlight:

To the right is a "Willow" pattern bead. It is one of the patterns I found while Googling redware patterns and I found that the brown stringer was stiff enough to get some decent detail.

I love blue willow stoneware and the willow motif is pretty cool. It may wind up in the swap box.

If you click on it, it should come up larger on another screen, just hit the back button to come back to this page.

Just before I finished up, I decided to try something else and the one to the left was the result. I think it has an art nouveau feel to it and I like it a lot. The colors are soft, but the pattern is clearly visible.

I'll have to see what else I can come up with just playing with it in a "free form" kinda way.

I think a simple setting will work with both of these because the beads speak for themselves and will both be easy to wear with a lot of things.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beads and oh, yes.... Cheese!

I've been trying to get a good picture of this set since I made them. We have a sunny day today, so I took them outside and snapped this picture.

They are truly a gorgeous organic set of beads. I made them pretty much the same way as the big one I made into a pendant a few weeks ago because I knew they would be beautiful in a bracelet.

If you look at the enlargement of the third bead from the left, shown here, you can see how complex and amazing they are.

The little silver dots add just the right sparkle too!

I'll be getting back to the redware beads again as soon as I have a chance to torch again.

BUT! The other huge thing I really need to try VERY soon is to MAKE CHEESE!

Last evening, Tina & I went to a class taught by Betsy May, one of Tina's regular herb writers, at the Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg.

Ever since I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, I've felt that I have to learn to make cheese, so when we heard about the class, we signed up.

Betsy showed us, step by step, how to make a variety of soft cheeses including goat cheese (with none of the goaty aftertaste that has kept me from eating it for years) and Neufchatel which is very similar to cream cheese.

But the Pièce de résistance was the 30 minute mozzarella!

Here's a picture of Betsy. I think she's just poured the whey off the curds for the mozzarella.

Even in the less than ideal conditions of the lovely dining room of the Sweet Remembrances Tea Room (next door to the Rosemary House) where the class was actually held, she made it look easy enough that I logged on to the computer this morning and ordered the hard to find ingredients (like Rennet and Lipase) to make our own.

Watching her make the soap - I mean cheese - reminded me so much of our soapmaking adventures. Mixing up the rennet ahead of time, heating the milk, waiting for the curds to form ... it just seemed vaguely familiar.

There were 16 people there and we ate every bite of the (about 2 pounds of) mozzarella! I wish I could have brought some home for DH to try, but I'm sure he'll be trying some soon enough.

I just can't wait to get everything we need together and make some. Wow! That and a homemade loaf of bread - I'm golden!

Monday, September 17, 2007

More Faux Redware

I was working on a special order vessel this weekend along with some more of the "redware" type beads I was so excited about in my last post.

This is the final vessel. After a couple of false starts, we wound up with the perfect thing for the person who wanted it. Her business includes the word "spiral" and there's one on both sides.

Then, on to the faux redware beads. I tried a couple with a blue background, attempting to inscribe hearts and other shapes.

I was using Ivory to do the inscriptions and I think that was my first mistake. Ivory is not as "stiff" as the brown and they turned into shapeless blobs so you won't be seeing them here. I knew I could do this "branch" pattern. I love the way they look and expect them to become more refined as I go along.

I had googled redware to find old patterns and made some quick sketches of things that I want to try as time goes on.

I do think these or some variation of them will be my "hometown" charm. I can't wait to make a full bracelet of them - 'course then I'll have to go buy the right clothes to go with them. Oh the perils of jewelry making!

Friday, September 14, 2007


So many ideas going through my head - and in so many directions!

First, I had a really nice response to the wire wrapped focals I showed last week, and it was suggested that I try wrapping crystal points the same way.

This is just a small one, maybe an inch or so long. It had a nice uneven "glob" on the top which made it really easy to catch up into the wire.

I'm not showing the first one I tried. First, it didn't photograph well and second, it was large and in my opinion, it looked overdone. I tried wrapping it in a figure eight and adding a number of stones and coils. Well maybe I'll show it later(!) and you can draw your own conclusions. I suppose in the right situation it could be appropriate.

The second is a bead which was inspired by something I saw online yesterday. I actually tried to copy the bead I saw, but got a somewhat different result. The one I was (yes) copying had a mossy look to it, but mine came out of the kiln looking like a piece of redware pottery.

My first reaction was that it would be perfect strung up with some of Tina's herbal beads and I'm definitely going to do that, probably with a charm that says "Grow".

My second reaction was that this is a direction I would like to follow, adding other colors and making a whole collection of redware beads. Redware pottery is an art form that is closely associated with our area. It involves the use of colored glazes, painting with slip (colored, liquid clay) and sgraffito (scratching a slip-covered piece to expose the red clay underneath) . We have a few plates commemorating our marriage and our son's birth with beautiful PA Dutch designs on them that were made that way and this has the very same look.

Having just signed up for yet another charm swap with the theme of "Hometown", I think I know now how to handle it! My first thought was red roses, for Lancaster, the Red Rose City (after the English War of the Roses, Red for Lancashire and White for Yorkshire). Another idea was some sort of quilt design, but now.... I think it will be redware.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

And more swirly settings...

I knew I wouldn't be able to restrain myself.

The first pendant here, the earthy one was the first one I tried to put my own spin on this morning. I was really surprised at how beautifully it went together - even though I was reading the instructions wrong in the first place and decided to do something a little different anyway.

This one is wired through the bead. The instructions were for a cabochon which wouldn't normally have any holes in it.

I loved the idea of wiring it with silver since there are silver dots through the bead itself.

The second pendant I am showing - to the right - was a bead I made some time ago and loved, but never really knew what to do with it.

The base is galaxy glass, so it's quite milky and opalescent. I added a number of stripes and streaks of greens and turquoises and was happy with the delicate yet organic look of it.

The silver setting was the answer to the question, "what to do with this?" This one, I made actually following the directions in the magazine (so the bead is encased in the bezel, but there is no wire through the bead hole.) Normally I do that first and go from there, but for some reason, this time I did it differently.

The major problem I have with this technique is to know when to stop. Every time I look at the "finished product" I want to add another swirl here and another coil there.

Okay - I'll stop, but next time you see them, I can't promise they'll look exactly the same!

Wacky Copper

The photo isn't the best, but I thought I'd post this - just because I'm sort of excited about this technique.

I'm in a pendant swap and I'm somewhat intimidated - did I mention that before? So, I wanted to try something really different - for me. It's straighter than it appears, but this one includes some of the herbal beads that my sister makes.

She's teaching an online class this week and we wanted to make up some ideas of how to use them. They are the irregular brown beads at about 2 and 4:30! They smell heavenly!

This is a vague take off on an article in the latest "Step by Step Wire Jewelry". I actually made another one in silver this morning although it is even more bizarre - not really following the basics but finding the crazy curl technique suits me.
I'm sure I'll be posting it soon.