Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Friday Favorite Tools

I’d like to call this “First Friday Favorite Tools” but I didn’t get it done in time for August's first Friday. But, I’m going to call it that anyway and every once in awhile on a Friday I’ll add something I’m using to my blog and try to explain how I use it.

For one thing if you don’t have a set of calipers, get one! They are the most useful tool that I own. I never used to use them. I used a ruler and a sharpie to mark things. What was I thinking with the eye ball method? You can measure your bead for a liner, easy peasy, add the needed millimeters and then mark the tubing with the calipers (a quick scratch will do it). From then on it’s just the usual directions for lining that bead. The calipers will measure in both inches and millimeters. So, you can measure a bead to post it; or a mandrel because we have a gazillion sizes, you can do that too. I also use my calipers for metalsmithing. Measure and mark! So run on down to your local Harbor Freight and get a set, they’re about $20.00. Once you start using them you will always want them around.

The second item I never want to be without again is small, but powerful. That steel looking thing there is a hand vice. It was made in France and is about as close as I’ll probably ever be to France in this lifetime. You can use it for squaring off your metal (or your tubes), by putting them into the vise, cutting and then running your file against that edge. Now this is not necessarily good for the file (move the tube up a smidgen) and don’t use a pricey one. Oh, please be gentle because that vice did not come from Harbor Freight. It’s from Rio Grande Jewelry Supply. You can also get an absolutely PERFECT 45 degree angle cut. I’m going to need that in the future…near future. I can not tell you the amount of times that I have had to refile something because the ends did not match well enough to solder. This has saved me time and aggravation. Time is money and well, frankly I never have enough of either but if you want this French version it is going to set you back $175.00. For that amount it ought to ask you what you want, find the materials, and bring you the finished piece. It doesn’t! But, there are some alternatives and an inexpensive model in the Rio catalog. If you part-time your metalsmithing it would be fine. I use my tools a lot and this is a very high quality steel.

Last, but not least, I threw in my trusty Sony camera. That baby can shoot at 12 mega pixels- Oh baby, Oh!). So, hey then, how’d she take the picture? I have another Sony, it’s a huge thing and sits on the tripod all of the time. Lugging that baby around to shoot photos for this blog and of family would be way inconvenient. I like this little camera. It fits anywhere and takes a great photo.

This is it for the First Friday tool session. Not sure what’s up for the first Friday of the month tool talk next time but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Skullishly Wonderful

I'm doing well, thank you! Here is the latest in Sharon's "Skully Wear". A new customer of mine asked for some new skulls in miniature so she could make some earrings. Way cool and a new challenge to try and get them about dime sized. Whew. Mission accomplished and she is very happy. Along with her new skulls I made a few others you can check out on Etsy. Since I like working on a bigger canvas I made a new skull called "Sugar" (how appropriate). The last one had a mole and was called "Cindy" (her namesake is...oh, you know!). Her portrait is included here and isn't she a cutie? She is trying so hard to smile for the camera!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Big Countdown

Ah, counting down...Like five , four, three, and so on. I used to love doing that. You say that around kids and they are either happy (as in, "Ready, Set, GO!) or squirming because "You're in big trouble mister!" I'm trying to make the most of my countdown. I'm at five. Five days until I go back to work. Yikes!! Where did this summer go and how did it go so fast. How much undivided torch time remains before I have to share that time? BAH HUMBUG.

Now don't get me wrong. I like what I do for a living. It's somewhat crazy working with delinquent boys but it does keep me on my toes and thinking quick. It's not easy to out maneuver an angry teen, but I like the challenge. You might be wondering what they're so angry about. Part of the time I can't answer that (teenage angst doesn't help) and the rest of the time it's just too complicated or appalling (and unethical) to repeat. Like I said, counting down used to be fun and sometimes it still is. And, sometimes I do it to keep from losing my temper...which I have to admit I am pretty good it (keeping it in check I mean.) Considering I've been sworn at in no less than a half a dozen different languages I've done pretty good.

Mostly, I use the good control to make beads and progress with those boys. You'd be surprised at how many of them are impressed with art. Bring a few beads to show them and they are as inquisitive as any kid. Do a gesture drawing while they're playing basketball and they're aghast. Explain the muscle structure behind the drawing and they're in awe. "Is that me?" "Can you draw my face?". And the really important connection, "Will you show me how to do that?"

Art does its' magic!

A relationship is born and during those artistic lessons we can slide in some side-door therapy. First you have to get their attention and art is the best vehicle I've ever seen for that. It doesn't judge you, everyone is welcome, and it embraces it's crazies and eccentrics (uh, Warhol, Van Gogh, Me!). The boys revel in acceptance of any kind and art is the great equalizer. Strong, handsome, weak, or just doesn't matter.

Keep your eye on the Etsy...I've been busy. Winding up and counting down. Five, four, Three...Ready, Set, GO!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Photo of our casting class (missing Susan and Eileen - shucks!)

I have rambled on about this topic before. How people in the “arts” share a bond. Maybe it’s just that we are extremely right brained. My friend, Susan says, “People just don’t get it!” I know they don’t, and we both agree its okay. I don’t ‘get’ golf but I understand people’s passion for it. I would like to drive the cart around the course, maybe once leisurely to enjoy the scenery and get the feel for the course. And then, at break neck golf cart speed (ha, like 5 mph?), to see how fast I could make it through the hair pin turns. Okay, so this doesn’t have much to do with commonality but I bet there are those of you out there who’d enjoy doing just that! Or, maybe….it does make sense because if we’d both like to do that, it is a commonality between us. Artists are adventurous problem solvers and sometimes problem creators. We have a lot of common traits.

Susan and I have a slew of common traits and I suspect this covers a lot of “girlfriends’, let alone the creative ones. I mean why else would you be friends, duh? It's because you have these common traits or interests. Another thing besides our creativity we have in common, thanks to Susan, is penny squishing. Quit laughing!!! As a kid I used to love putting them on the railroad tracks close to my home. – Squish! Flatter than a pancake. I’d walk down there several times each summer with my pocket of pennies.

When I met my husband I squished one of those silly aluminum round discs on a machine. I put our names on it. I think he wondered what he was getting in to. Little did he know?

Susan and I travel. We’ve been to Bead and Button, The Gathering, and Lapidary Journal’s Beadfest. We’ve co-facilitated classes at Lapidary Journal's Beadfest off and on for several years.
On one of our out of state adventures Susan showed me the penny impression machine in the rest area. She uses them as souvenirs of her travels. My eyes LIT UP “Squishing!!!” of yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah (see me dancing). The glee of it all. You can take the girl away from the tracks but the squishing remains in her heart. This might explain my adoration for the hydraulic press. Heavy squishing : - ).

We have squished our way through lots of years of friendship and this week I received a present. Who knew they existed? Elation. Are you checking out that photo of my collection? Susan sent me a penny from South Carolina along with the COLLECTION BOOK SHE FOUND. There are also sites on the Internet about penny squishing such as
Pressed Penny

Ah, things in common. Ain’t life grand????

If anyone else out there passes a penny squisher – squeeze one for me! I’ll trade you a bead for it. Really, I will!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Let's see...I was a metalsmith long before I was a bead maker so I ought to be able to line those beads without the aid of an arbor press or wrist twist so I thought, What the heck, let's do it. Not that I don't want one of those tools. What tool freak wouldn't but it will have to wait. "Swirl Girl" is already past her spending limit so it's dapping tool time. This one was done on an 3/16" mandrel and lined with 7/32" silver tubing (I'm thinking)and the result is a 5mm hole in the bead.

Maybe what I need is a Pandora bracelet here and I'll know for sure. Ah, do I need the swirl girl to go shopping again??? I need some personal restraint here! Thank heavens sometimes that I don't live near anything but a Walmart.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Swirl Girl Is At It Again!

I ought to say that I’m winding down and getting ready to go back to work (day job) but it is much more like winding up. Kind of like tightening the spring on the tic toc of a grandfather’s clock. I feel like Alice, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!” Or was that the Mad Hatter??

When I get in to this mode I become the “Swirl Girl” (thanks to a friend - Janel - naming me that when I get like this). Kind of a like a whirling dervish but I go in straight lines. Straight lines to bead stores, classes, book stores, computers, tool stores, and the list goes on. I travel to any place that has something that I need (okay you probably got me there – want!). Maybe what’s needed here in a conga line of all of us “artistics” floating into each and every store around the country. Just yell up the line, “Hey up there, pass me down a few sticks of that new color glass.” Close your eyes and just think about it…a long snaking sandbagging type line, everyone’s arms raised, passing this forward and that back. A wonderful fantasy…except that probably Mike Frantz (our glass supplier) is at the end of the line collecting the money for all of it. Shucks! But you ‘gotta make a living and I love the glass. Keep going to Italy Mike…can I hide in the luggage?

Swirl girl has also taken two more classes. Yup, TWO! One class with JJ Masuda, aka “metal master”, in working with Pewter and one with Cindy Moore “wire weaving queen”, on making unique dies for the hydraulics.

Pewter is dirty, melts and hammers easily and is cheap. I am liking the cheap part very very much. I love working in silver but the cost had been deafening and I’d like to offer some pewter pieces. It was a hoot to do and I will need some practice and to learn something about molding materials for duplicates but it’s a possibility. I already work in wax so concept isn’t an issue; techniques are, and they’re conquerable. There is a picture here of what I did in the class, NOT MUCH! But I learned to raise a bowl and how to melt, solder, and pour the metal. Like I said, looking for technique here right now and not necessarily prime results. Those will come.

I made dies for the hydraulic press with both JJ and Jack Berry but Cindy makes a different type of die. Her large welded steel die bends rods of metal which are then arranged on a new die plate and soldered on. Then these plates, whose rods can be arranged in an infinite number of patterns, are then used in the press to give you your patterned metal material to work with. There are lots of possibilities here too.

I’ve included some photos of what I’ve been doing since sometimes my descriptions can be as clear as mud when I am excited and swirling. Top if off with new listings on Etsy and new tools to work with and find studio room for and I’m “winding down” in a BIG way.

That’s about all for this installment of “swirl girl goes wild”. Except for including a photo of my recent haul!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Princess Nellie is ready for her close-up

And apparently her Tomboy sis is ready for her "Butt - Take One". I just had to show the world how cute these collars look on the fur babies. I mean doesn't that just cut it for adorable. Liz makes the most beautiful collars at the most reasonable prices. She is a naturalist and contributor to animal causes. How absolutely Pay it Forward. They give so much to us and she takes care of them too! BRAVO Liz, and Nellie thanks you for her dress up look. Up on the left are the beads I made for for them to be popping up on her Etsy site Pawsh Dogwear. I should also be posting some new beads today and keep watching out for Robots! They're landing soon...and they're friendly. Wasn't that a line from Bullwinkle?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Danger Will Robinson, Danger!!!

You’ve got to love a Robot. They’ve got such personality. I, Robot was a great movie and then there was the Terminator and of course, my personal favorite, Lost in Space (the TV show). Dastardly coward, Dr. Smith was so much fun to watch and I loved the number of ways he could cause chaos for that robot. Yet, the robot always won. I don’t think scientists are that hapless but it sure makes for interesting TV sometimes.

These days we have "Asimo" the bipedal robot that walks and greets visitors at the Honda headquarters. He can recognize 10 faces and Honda says they will be using the robots as their mail clerks by 2010. There goes my retirement job.

Since I think Robots are just great fun anyway I’m beginning a new series of Robot beads. They hold great promise for facial expressions and personalities…just look at the batch above. “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!!”….Sharon’s creating the next robots. Keep your blog tuned to RTAW for future robot facts and Etsy for hot new Robot Beads.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Fifteen Minutes

Wow! All I can say is Wow! Okay, so you know me better than that if you are reading this blog. I am so so lucky to have friends in the beading world. I bet you are too! Mallory Hoffman contacted me about a week ago and asked if I would like to be interviewed for her blog. Are you kidding, I mean really, me?

Let's see...hhhmmmmm, YES! Of course. Could I be more emphatic about that, YES YES YES!

After agreeing to that, shyness set in. Uh, I don't do newsworthy things. I just cleaned behind my refrigerator (first time in like five years - ssshhhh, don't tell everyone!). But then I've been off work and recuperating so it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. Maybe I should take a poll, "When is the last time you cleaned behind your fridge?", then we'd know who the really compulsive cleaners are and we could tease them.

See how I am, nothing spectacular. Never saved the world and I don't have a cape. Although my oldest kids would tell you when Under Dog was popular I used to furl out my Chenille Robe and pretend I was Under Mother. There's no need to fear Under Mother's here! And I do have this habit of stopping in the busy road for ducks or for scooting turtles off the road so they don't get hit by the cars. I'm going to get rear ended one of these days.

Pretty mundane life, except for the Art and the friends. This brings us full circle to Mallory and that interview. We meet this past year. She's fun and enthusiastic, brings a lot to the plate when you talk about friendships. One of those people that brings out the best in you. How lucky am I!! I did the interview. It was fun and now I'm exposed for all the world to see. Yikes, I better go on a diet, save the world, get a new cape, and make a perfect bead! Maybe not in that order....

To read my "fifteen minutes" please go to Mallory's blog. In fact, you better bookmark it because she is faithfully logging away and it's fun to read. She is also a beadmaker (it's a union, we're strong, and organized so look out) so check her Etsy out for more great beadie goodies. I put in the click quick links for you! If you don't you'll be hearing from Guido, he puts orphan beads into socks and he's been known to clunk a few of the non-lampworking unfaithful. Go now, go quickly, and leave a comment too!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

PUT your paws in the air, Fleabag!

Gotcha! Isn't that what the police say when they've got you "collared" for a crime? How about that for a segway into this post...quit laughing...

I was lucky enough to be added as a favorite to this great site for fancy pants doggie wear. They are all so cute and reasonably priced. And the site is by this really fun person who also rescues Greyhounds. We got to emailing and now I'm making some cute glass bones and paws for her work. You just never know where those beads will go next! I'm getting a great flowered collar for my darling golden retriever, Nellie. She retrieves nothing but doggie treats. Loves hairdriers and is allergic to cats and flea saliva. She also likes to stick her nose into flowers and sniff (diva!!). We have to keep prednesone, benadryl, and an Epi-pen around because she is soooooo allergic to bee stings. Now don't you think a princess like this ought to be wearing a floral collar. Me too!

Keep the torch hot! and check out some collars for your cuties at

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nailed by LOVE

Hearts and skulls, and lots of Etsy listings. See what that coffee can do for you! I've made hearts with nails before but these are the first to have words wrapped with silver. I thought I'd start with the traditional red heart but I don't think that is going to last long. I've been so colorful lately I think I'm going to have to do some that are more OP Art oriented.

And, have you seen all of that material and clothing that is coming back. UCK, I'm sorry, really...I never got in to it the first time around. The only one who ever looked good in that stuff was Twiggy. The rest of us looked like some kind of walking targets or like we were standing under a painter.

And don't even get me started on bell bottoms and Cher's bangs. I'd say things to my girlfriends like, "It's no wonder you kissed that dork last night since you couldn't see what you were doing. Here.....want to borrow a barrette?" Now days there's Gothic, Punk, and all of those other styles. Whoo Hoo, don't tell anyone but THAT I could of gotten in to. Hey, let's all go and put a nice pink steak in our hair. It's a lot more fun than burning a bra and everyone will look at us. They might mumble something like, "Oh look Margaret, those poor pathetic women got the worst job from their colorist, do you know what salon they went to?" We can just smile that all knowing smile (uh, menopause/what was it I knew?) and keep walking. Didn't my grandmother have blue hair? And sometimes it was purple too. It's in the genes ladies. It's in the genes, and I don't mean bell-bottoms. : - )

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Need For Speed

Got to make the beads! I will post some new beads on Etsy tonight and in the meantime I thought you'd enjoy a shot of this postcard I bought at Border's Books. I am freaky for coffee!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fishing for Beads

So what do beads have to do with fishing? Actually, you can go into any good sporting goods store and find beads hooked to all kinds of fishing lures. Usually they're plastic and not very interesting but they're still beads. Over the past couple of days a friend referred me to Mike Conner of One Of A Kind Flies. He has a very interesting proposition. He makes these really great art flies but is tired of using the standard beads you find in the local bead store. He wants some "art" beads to go in his work. Tonight I made some beads meeting the parameters he gave me. Actually, he was pretty open to letting me work up some designs. He provided a nice photo of the colors he's going to use for the next one, a size variance and I was off and torching. Tomorrow I get to send him the photo!!!

You just never know who's going to need a bead. Maybe I should consider tying a few colorful beads next to the worm the next time I go fishing. Are fish color blind? Nah, they couldn't be, could they? I've been to Cabela's. There's a plethora of colorful lures to throw into the water and gheeze they couldn't be making them that pretty to attract the majority (male) of fishing lure shoppers. This is not a put down but I've never overheard a guy standing at the lure rack saying to his buddy, "Which one looks best, do you think I should get the green one or the blue one?" So if they're not making those colors to attract the buyers it's got to be the fish. Right? Okay, it's just female logic at work here but I do hope I made my beads pretty enough to go with his lures. They're really good. You've got to see the one he calls "Assassin" - looks very Ninja. He's nailed them, right down to the titles. You don't have to like to fish to enjoy interesting art with beads!