Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Skulls?

It's time to rest, post, and have a cup of tea. It has been entirely to hectic this week. Gosh, you know how it is, run until you drop but "U Git Ur Done". We (DH & I) packed for Chicago, well Naperville and Wonder Lake. We're heading out in the morning for a class with Trey Cornette and a visit with darling daughter, Kate.
The tea is hot and Celestial but I'm really thinking of checking out The Tao of Tea The site is interesting and I'm sure the tea will be fit for a King - or a Queen who needs to 'slow her roll'. Who says teenagers never get anything right! They may not know the tale of Sisyphis but they CAN quote the concept to you when you look like death warmed over.

The beads in my still life - about the only thing still in my life - are going up for sale on My Etsy site over the next couple of days. Spring Skulls! Personally, I think they'd look good on one of those new peasant blouses and in any spring color.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Welcome to LEST

Hello out there great big Internet world! If you're reading "artsy fartz" blogs then I'd like to introduce you to my Etsy Street Team (LEST - Lampwork, Etc. Street Team). They are really cooking (well more like flaming hot) in the blog area. You'll find lampworking techniques, tons of interesting tidbits, and this week an in depth interview with the Lampwork Artist "Pipyr". She makes these phenominal borosilicate sculptures. The one I've posted here just rocks. Want more???? You bet your sweet bippy you want to bookmark their site for frequent return trips. Don't forget to leave them a few comments. Everyone would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Copy Me, Please! - A Beadmaking Journey

In general I’m a pretty serene person but last night I entered a heated debate on the Lampwork, Etc ( site. Unfortunately, the “triggering” posts from the original thread had already been deleted. She (more than likely a lovely person) must have panicked at the responses she was seeing. It was the universal conversation artists have, no matter what the medium, plagiarism. For those not familiar with the concept it is to take and use the ideas or writings of another. I don’t think there is any controversy in that statement. It is fact. What is roundly debated is the degree to which it is acceptable to find your inspiration in other’s works and translate that into yours. Obviously a dot per dot reconstruction of Seurat is unacceptable but does that put pointillism off the batting order because he did it best? Now you see the dilemma? Or rather, the debate.

I am an artist, now working primarily in lampwork and metals. I have done so since college which gives me a pretty broad base of experience. To add to that tour de force I practice perpetual student-ism (cool made up word!). I am a technique junkie and probably a frustrated engineer because I grew up watching Mr. Wizard and always wanted the answer to “How’d you do that?”

It’s amazing how that simple question or the use of its subsequent information can cause an earthquake. Are you copying? Why hell yes I’m using that technique. But I am just as sure that when I first started, during and immediately after a class, I practice what the teacher instructs. When there were few teachers I emulated the books I could find. There was no wealth of teachers or glut of lampworkers then. And there was no Lampwork, Etc. I am not alone when I say I am delighted that there is a forum. But where people gather and talk there is bound to be some friction, it is inevitable. Someone makes a singular post usually critical about someone else’s piece of art (a handmade lampwork bead). It goes like this – and this is a variation on that theme, not a quote- “I’m confused, isn’t this a so and so design? They were my teacher (friend, etc.) and I know they didn’t make this bead. So what’s up with that?” Oh, you know the righteous indignation routine. Then we are all off and running, trying to put the worms back in the can…at least until the next righteously indignant person starts a new thread with a similar variation on the theme.

Clearly, to me, they just don’t get it!

Now, I can not make a case for Joe Boxer signing a Michelangelo but didn’t he and DaVinci have their minions? They apprenticed these people for near lifetimes. Let them paint on their paintings. Chihuly has minions too. Certainly we are not apprenticing to that extent in the lampworking arena but if you’re a good teacher there’s a chance you have minions (or at least a few groupies). I’ve felt groupie-ish. Learning is fun, flat out, and I’ve had more than my fair share of teachers. I’ve emulated, copied, and translated the work. It is the nature of an apprenticeship, even a short term one lasting a weekend.

What I have never felt is the need to defend or defame anyone capable of doing such themselves. Really! If you’re a friend (groupie) of so and so master lampworker and you see a replica (sic: duplicate) of one of their signature pieces why don’t you bring to their attention the offending piece? Let them do what they may. There has to be a motive for “outing” a person on a public forum besides poor manners or judgment.

Interpreting a bead or idolizing a bead master is certainly not a crime. We do not live in a vacuum. Artistic influences are everywhere. They are a visual assault on your senses and can fill you to overflow with inspiration. I have over 10 sketchbooks to validate that theory. If I can find inspiration in a teacher, a museum, a web page, why can’t someone else. And what are all of us minions to do with all this eye candy and knowledge? Before Lampwork, etc., forums, and Internet heaven I had the opportunity to work through this slippery slope somewhat privately. Newbie’s today do not. The world is our backyard and we are not always kind to our neighbors. No one got to be a “bead master” without first being a “bead minion”.

Of noteworthy value (if not curiosity) is that the young Turks of Beadland seem to remain somewhat clear of this fray. And yes, so do many masters. You rarely (if ever) see a Johnson, Tabor, Herrell, Greenburg, or Sersich commiserating on a forum over a “copy” (I have had most of them as teachers) – I haven’t. Maybe it’s because they’re young and the directional compasses are evolving so fast they’ve no need to be concerned about where they’ve been or are. They need only concentrate on growth.

Maybe it’s the lesson for all of us. Just put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

And yes, Virginia, there is a motive behind my name dropping. Aside from the fact it makes a good point. I’m hoping people will find this blog, warts and all. My serenity is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it and learn from it. Bead On…

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Express Yourself

“Life is like a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.” – Danny Kaye

Working midnights at a “day” job can be exhausting, except that last night I was able surf while I worked. I tried hard but never ran out of things to peruse and questions to answer. There was still plenty of Internet left when I was done for the night. What I found this time was pretty entertaining.
I did not create this site. And, there seems to be some controversy over who did. Let the legal minds of the world fight it out. I just know it’s interesting, creative, and fun so I’m sharing it. You’ll figure out how to use it right away. Use Danny Kaye's advise in the quote and...Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Torch Runnith Dry

Here I am with my "storming" brain and I run out of propane for torching. If we were a 24 hour city (and I do so love cities) I'd go and fill it. At least I'd like to fantasize that if I "lived urban" the world would be at my finger tips. It's a true case of the grass is always greener...Amen.

Unfortunately, or not, there aren't "eye candy" photos of my new work so I surfed around and found some. These are links to two great blogs I find inspirational when I can't create in an experiential form (should read - messy, all consuming, passion infested frenzy) I let my eyes consume and my heart digest as many images and eye candy as they can can take. Doing that, for myself, has kept me vitally involved in the college of life long learning. / And, it usually means the inspiration will evolve and new works derived from those quiet moments of study. Information out. Sounds a little like a bathroom analogy too because sometimes what comes out "ain't all that great".

With that, I'll take my leave and you can go and look at the better inspiration on those sites rather than remain with the 'toilet image' I conjured up for you.

Happy surfing. Sharon

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hurry Spring!

I've been on the torch most of today when I wasn't being lazy, daydreaming, and going through garden catalogs. It's Michigan and the temperature is fluctuating moment by moment. The joke here for all of us Michiganders is, "If you don't like the weather...wait ten minutes". How true it is. But, I can smell it and feel it and see the colors. Spring is coming and all that cold flaky stuff is going to melt. I know there's a good joke in that line about a wicked witch but I'm just to happy thinking spring colors. Annealing right now are flowers and, sorry...I just can't do beads without skulls and bones. Maybe I better do some spring skulls, BINGO, ding ding ding, idea!!! Stay tuned, check back, come will take me a couple of days but while I was writing this down a light bulb went off. I love it when THAT happens. Short of winning the lottery it's as good as it gets. These "Garden Discs" are newly listed on my Etsy site today. I guess I'm thinking green all the way around...hahaha.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Inspirational Poetry and Otherwise

Life should
not be a journey
to the grave
with intention of
arriving safely
in a pretty and
well preserved body
rather to skid
in broadside
thoroughly used up
totally worn out
and loudly
What a ride!!!

This inspirational piece is by Chris Roberts. I had the great pleasure of seeing her work at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. It just rocks. Make some time and check out her creations at I'm especially fond of Tangible Evidence of Miracles and Recent Alligator Attacks. Check out the composition and patterns on this piece. And guess what?, she's a Michigander! Pure beading inspiration.

Go Make Art...


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Am I There Yet? (Skill Acquisition 101)

Isn’t this humbling? Above is a photo of some of my first beads (they are made mostly of furnace glass). The teachers were fantastic (Toby Upton, and Al Young – be still my heart!). It’s not they aren't great artists or great teachers. I just had not yet accomplished the skill set I wanted so desperately to acquire.

Recently a questioned was posed on LE ( A member, Lori Greenburg, of this honorable forum posed a question asking, “When will you be there"? It raised a lot of discussion about the arbitrary deadlines we all set for ourselves. A kind of “timeline” is what Lori called it. We all want to feel accomplished at what we choose to do, but how is that standard set? I mean, what’s "accomplished?" - define that please. Art is in the eye of the beholder is not a statement that sings a single tune. I considered, and am still pondering, the posts made by others.

Tink Martin (who I personally think of as accomplished) hit the nail on the head for me in a very special way. She stated that the word itself could be defined in many ways, how true. For her ‘accomplished’ means that she would have excellent control of the medium, be able to obtain predictable and reproducible results, and have a full understanding of the processes and materials involved. Touché. And further down I'm going to explain why.

Another outstanding point was made by Terri (sculptorgirl) who pointed out that there is a difference between accomplished and accomplishments. Let me quote her directly here, "We can dance around the ideas of "making art for art's sake", or of immersing in the process and letting nature take it's course, and sometimes we will be greeted with some measure of public success. But those who plan (even silently) to expose themselves to attempting "accomplishments" will likely be very much further ahead as a career artist with recognition in their field (as examples of accomplishments: being in a guild, being accepted to a show, teaching, selling work, etc.),...But personally accomplishing something is no more than setting a goal for oneself…., and then working to attain that goal.”

"Otter’s Flame" (a screen name) agreed that the term “accomplished” can mean several different things. He felt (and I hope I do not misquote) that, as applied to his own work, the term had nothing to do with commercial success but the degree in which one can combine technical ability with what they believe has artistic or aesthetic merit. Otter went on to say that if he ever thought of himself as accomplished then he might feel as though he had become complacent and therefore apathetic. Apathetic in his pursuit of knowledge, experience, and creative endeavor. He could not think of himself as accomplished for fear of impeding on the creative challenge of learning and growing as an artist. Interesting, huh?

All of this discussion brought up plenty of fodder for self analyzing. Have I set arbitrary deadlines, have I accomplished what I wanted? What are my goals or, ack, motives? Is it about being known, financial gain, having community respect, does it matter on any level but a personal one?

Personally, I think everyone goes through this (artist or not). It’s a life process that is self perpetuating. Think about it. Didn’t you want to learn how to ride that two wheeled bike? Walk, talk, run? The “personal” part is to what degree you wish to become accomplished at your craft (or anything) and how important it is personally to have those accomplishments recognized in the larger community of your peers and and within yourself. Not everyone goes on to be a BMX star, or wants to, yet they feel accomplished riding that bike around the block. A-okay with me!

There are recognizable steps to skill acquisition: Regardless of what you are learning, if it is new to you, you will go through a determined set of steps. It is inevitable. And this matters why? It’s human nature. When you were a baby you kept trying until you crawled (you wanted to be…over there…and you were going to practice until you got where you wanted to go!) and so the skill acquisition cycle began. Some accomplishments are consciously planned endeavors and some just seem to be an inevitable course of nature. Learning how to reproduce the cycle is what is important if you desire to arrive at wherever it is you want to go, no matter the desired skill.

Let’s go over the steps;

1. Awareness – You become aware of what it is that you don’t know. For example:
The shiny two wheeled bike in the store window you are about to talk a parent in to buying for you!
2. Awkward - This is the” klutz” phase. Do you know anyone who could ride that bike without training
wheels and practice?
3. Skillful - Woo Hoo! You have the ability to do the task with focus and mental
effort. No training wheels, and mom and dad have given up running beside you (they probably can’t
keep up!).
4. Mastery – You do the task effortlessly without even thinking about it. You are
probably riding friends on your handle bars.

“Psychologists have found that it takes about 10,000 hours to develop expertise which usually takes a person on the level of 5 to 10 years.” I have noticed (through experience) that it is fairly easy to move from step one to step two, and not terribly difficult to rise from step two to three. It is arduous to “accomplish” the final phase.

All of this requires a time commitment. Ah-ha, now this is where the arbitrary time line of Lori’s enters the picture. I love learning. To this end anyone who knows me can attest to the fact I take a lot of classes. I have been lampworking for a long time. Well over ten years. I felt pretty accomplished at the last class I took, Jennifer Geldards. I felt skillful and triumphant in all that I accomplished because I could reasonably learn the skills Jennifer was teaching. She was definitely the master and I the student. I will not consider myself a master of those techniques until I have incorporated them into an artistic conception of my own. But, I will get “there”; I know what steps to take!

Some exerts from Lampwork, Etc. and, Escape from Cubicle Nation.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Off to Teach Resins

Last year, my artsy business partner, Susan Lambert and I taught at Lapidary Beadfest Philadelphia. It has been an annual event for us for several years running, less this year's break. We always design these great projects to be fun and current with what's new and trendy in the jewelry world. Along with this I try and demo these projects at our local guild meetings, when at all possible, as they have always been so supportive of our artistic efforts.

Tomorrow I'll be teaching one of our favorite Beadfest classes to date...Resins!

Resins are a great medium to work in. I love to combine it with other things, silverwork and beads. If you like this type of mixed media you should check out the work of Susan Kazmer Lenart . She has just published a great book on working with mixed objects and she's working on another, a must have for me. It's going to all about resins and she certainly had a unique way of integrating them into her work.

Off to pack for class. I really have to be better organized.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Geldish Beads

No time to hang around here where I'd like to so I'm just going to post and run. Here is a small selection of the beads I made at Jennifer's class. She was inspiring.

Remember if you want to see where Ms. Geldard will be next just check out her website:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Many Happy Class Returns

It's late but I wanted to drop a blog note in to let everyone know what's been going on. I just returned from this great experience in Chicagoland at The Gathering Place Studio ( I took a Jennifer Geldard class in lampworking. She is a fabulous person to spend time with AND be taught by. I wish I could sing her praises a little more right now but I have a show to get to very early tomorrow morning. Signing off until after the Bead Bonanza! When I return I'll include a few pictures of the beads I brought home from the class and a few of Jennifer's too.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Something to Think About

I haven't got any pictures to post or whitty tidbits today just something to think over. I attend as many "Gatherings" (ISGB - beadmaker's conventions) as I can. Last year one of the presenters gave a short talk on a very special program called Beads of Courage. It is a program for children who are dealing with serious illness. Beads are given to the children as tangible reminders of the milestones in their treatment.

They accept lampwork, polymer clay, Bali, ceramic, and I am not sure what else. They do have a Director of Bead Donations, Carol Saker. She is listed on their site. I'm unclear as to what might be allowable to post so please check out this site for yourself. I have included their logo above this post and a direct link.

Happy Beading, Sharon

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Hurry Spring

Some of these flowers I might make into pendants (like the largest one), undecided yet!

March 1st The date means that there is hope for spring. As in...hurry up, snow melt, trees blossom, things. As soon as I can forecast winter’s demise I start making flowers, lots of glass flowers. A few can be seen on Etsy and I make them in every size shape and form. Today’s photos include the one that I wear most often. It’s an “Audrey” flower (named for the flower in the Little Shop of Horrors) and she has the most wonderful salivating Mick Jagger lips and tongue! I am casting those lips again and doing a production run of them sooner or later because what's not to love about lips like that! To me they’re the perfect compliment to my juicy Audrey.