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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Troll Bracelet Beads...

Since I've started making the cool silver-lined beads that fit Troll Bracelets, a lot of people have asked me for details on what stuff to get and where to get it. I spent a lot of time looking around, and trying things that didn't work. There doesn't seem to be a lot of specific information out there... very frustrating. I eventually bought a bracelet from the Troll folks in Denmark, as well as one of their beads and another bead from the Pandora bracelet line. Now I think I have it figured out. And to save time in answering everyone individually, I'm here to tell you everything I found out. For specifics on actually making these beads, you'll have to go a-googling. I'm not enough of a silversmith to explain the details. The photo above shows a Troll bracelet with, from the left, a TrollBead, a Pandora bead, a silver bead, and one of MY beads.

So here's a list of What-to-get and Where-to-get-it...

TrollBeads is where I got my starter bracelet. I've read that Pandora beads will fit Troll bracelets, but not the other way around. I like the Troll bracelets better anyway. I ordered a 7.5 inch bracelet and made my own clasp. Theirs are really pretty though. Here's a bead/bracelet compatibility chart to help you out. Uniquely Charming - on ebay.

There are bunches of "authorized" Pandora stores, but here's a pretty good one that somewhere has a nice page to help you figure out what size bracelet to get.

I actually went to ebay to buy my Pandora bead to fit on my Troll bracelet. The seller is Pandoras Box Of Beads. I had a lovely shopping experience.

The mandrels and sterling silver tubing I use for my beads are 3/16 inch or 4.5mm. The tubing has an inside measurement of 3.75mm, and the walls of the tubing are 26 gauge. I get the tubing from Santa Fe Jeweler's Supply, and the mandrels are at all the big glass bead suppliers like Arrow Springs, Glasscraft, and Frantz.

I'm also told that Metalliferous in NY, NY is a good place to get silver tubing.

I use a bead press from Jim Moore Glass Tools to flare the tubing, forming it into rivets. You have to do the finish work by hand. I get my hammers and polishers at Rio Grande.

Any questions? You'll have to ask someone else, because this is all I know! Have fun with these, or buy them from me! And hey! If you have other helpful hints or sources for supplies, please leave a comment here, so we all know what to do! Thanks!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Mitzi's Painting

So last week at the Family Party, Mitzi hands me her new postcard and says, "Hey Cuz, think you can make a bead that looks something like this painting?" Hoo-boy! Not exactly a custom order, but a pretty tall order coming from my favorite artist/cousin. I'd just flat out say NO! to most people, but for some reason I decided to just sit with it and see what happened. Then yesterday, when the weather turned poopy and I gave up relaxing on the patio, I poured a glass of wine and headed for the studio. Magic happened! I got it right the very first try, and as I was finishing it up, a song came on the radio that said something like, "I want to make something beautiful for you..." - I though it sounded like Sinead O'Connor, but I can't find the song anywhere. Anyway, it was cool because Mitzi often says, "Make something beautiful every day." It all seemed to fit so nicely. Today I added a silver core and nice hammered end caps. It's beautiful. I might make more. This one is going to Mitzi so she can wear it to the big Art Show she's doing in Marin in a couple of weeks. I'm so proud of her... and of me, for stepping out of what I think I "do", and doing something that came out really beautiful. But if you're thinking of asking me to make something special for you, well, please don't... There aren't many people I'll do this for, unless of course you offer me a ridiculous amount of money. Hey, a girl's gotta make a living...

See the painting on Mitzi's website. It's called "Ribbons & Spirals".

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Here I am...

Yes, I know, I've been neglecting my blog. Please don't take it personally. I'm still scrambling to catch up after my little trip to Reno. You know how it is - when there's too much to do, something usually just doesn't get done. But I finally got my pictures from the trip edited, and popped them onto a special page on my website. Here's the link: Family Photos. It will take a long time to load, so go make some tea or something while you wait.

OK then. That's all for now. Overload continues. Just keep going!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

new beads

You know those "European Bead Bracelets"? The biggest name brands are Pandora and Troll, but I've started noticing others too. They're pretty cool, with so many different beads to put together any way you like. I first noticed them a year or so ago. Thrilled to see any kind of lampwork beads hit the mainstream, I've been watching them all this time. Looks to me like these are hot, hot, hot right now, so hey, I'll jump in on this trend.

I just got a really great bead rivet press from Jim Moore Glass Tools. It's a beautiful thing. Better than new shoes, and you know how I love new shoes... My technique is getting pretty good. The next thing is to get the right size mandrels and tubing to make big enough holes to fit the bracelets. In the picture above, the lavender striped bead is one I ordered from TrollBeads. All the lampwork is pretty basic in the ones I've seen, so of course I decided to cram as much detail into these little beads as possible, including CZs. The result is pretty nice, says me, but of course the prices won't be as cheap as the mass produced, mass marketed ones. My TrollBead was $21. I got a $30 Pandora bead on ebay last night at the bargain price of $26.50, just to compare the bead styles and hole sizes. A little more marketing research, I ordered a Troll bracelet to string these on. I've read that most brands of these beads fit the Troll bracelets, but don't necessarily fit Pandora or the others. This is getting complicated...

What we're looking at for now is hit-and-miss hole sizes that might fit the bracelets, or might just look nice hanging on a chain around you neck. My silver-lined beads will start at $45. They're just better beads with a lot more detail. I think we're all going to like these. They look beautiful, have a nice weight, and look more complete as a piece of jewelry because of the silver lining.
Once I get the hole size standardized for the bracelets, I'll make a big deal out of that. Meanwhile, you can expect a few of these next Tuesday, unless I give them all away to my family in Reno...

Signing off for a few days. Time to pack and head for the airport. See ya!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

something to ease your eyes

This is the beautiful Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva that lives at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, in Kansas City. Rick and I saw it last summer, when we were in KC for the ISGB Gathering. We had ducked out of the bead conference to visit the museum. My main reason to go there was to see the Guanyin. We wandered around for over an hour, and I thought we'd never find it. Then we turned a corner, and boom, there it was. Tucked into a large darkened alcove, perfectly lit, quiet and away from the flow of the museum, it was like a magnet for me. I stood there for a good thirty minutes, while Rick wandered off. Normally I'd be feeling tugged to follow him, not wanting him to be bored with my little obsession, but this time I just stayed until I felt finished. I still go to the photos often, just to remind myself of that calm I felt. Wonderful. Ahhhh.....

I need that calm, that balance this week. Hectic is normal for me, but this week I've added to the mix. My family in Reno is having a big birthday party this weekend, for all the year's "significant" birthdays. I happen to be in that group, and I've missed a lot of family parties over the years, just because I've chosen to live far away from them. When I got the invitation, I immediately went into, "of course I can't go" mode. Then my Dad called to say he wasn't going to be able to meet my sisters and I at the Grand Canyon in June as planned, but would be at the party. That changed everything. I decided I needed to make the effort to be there. I sort of feel "needed" at this particular party. No real reason, but I feel it anyway, so I'm going. Lauren will be my travel buddy, and Rick will stay home with the herd. It's a quick trip, and my first time on a plane in about five years. We leave Friday, get into Reno Friday evening, party on Saturday, and back home Sunday morning. It's nuts. I feel like such a jet-setter. And if my friends in the area read this, they'll be mad at me for not seeing them too... nothing I can do about that. This one's for the family, and that's it.

So... one more look at Guanyin, a slow, deep breath, and back in the flow of life. Here we go...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Terrible thing! My domain name expired yesterday, without warning, and at the moment I have no website. This is just hideous. I scrambled over and renewed it, but they say it might take 48 hours for my site to reappear. Hang in there with me please! I'll have it fixed in no time!

Monday, May 14, 2007

mother's day

I'm not a big fan of Mother's Day. I've never felt worthy of all that silly adoration that goes with the day. I do the best I can as a mom, and I know my kids know it and love me, so we all agree to make a minimal fuss over this particular holiday. Danny called me from Seattle, and Julia came over for dinner and made me a terrific Pirate Earring. Lauren is home for the summer now, so she soaked in the hot tub with me before dinner. She had been unpacking her things all day, and I'd been working, so we were both tired and in need of some spa time.

I normally take Sundays off, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. We had gone to Albuquerque on Friday to help Lauren move home, so that was my day off this week. And now this whole week is looking crazy and short. More on that in a day or two. Meanwhile, back at the Bead Ranch, I have the first Graceland Bead to show you. Start with the picture above. Then when you turn the bead around, you see this...

And a little zoom for you...

Bead ideas come from unexpected places. Listen to Paul Simon's Graceland. That's where this came from.
This particular bead is not for sale, but there will be others... and they will be expensive. Start saving your lunch money and come see me tomorrow!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

it's all happening at the zoo

We had a great day. GREAT. I'm mean really great. The Rio Grande Zoo is kind of old, a little funky in spots, and very beautiful for the most part. I personally think that there should be only a handful of large, natural habitat zoos in the world, where animals can be protected and studied and bred in order to preserve endangered species. Small zoos aren't much fun for the animals, but I still like to go to them because I think the animals like to have visitors who appreciate them. I've never had such a good Zoo Day before. Most the the animals were active, and there were lots of babies, animal and human. My camera wouldn't work when we got there, and I thought I was going to have to skip photos all together. But when we got to the giraffes, I decided to try again, and the magic worked. My little camera came through for me one more time, and I took overt 60 pictures. I've picked some of the best ones for you here. I hope it inspires you to go visit your local animals. If I had to get a real job, I think I'd work at the zoo. Even the ladies in the gift shops are into the animals and know lots about them.

The baby giraffe was worth the trip, but of course there were a lot of other beautiful animals to visit too.

The polar bears were really busy and wonderful.

The lion looked sad, and every dumb mom who walked by said, "Look! It's the Lion King". I don't think he likes being a Disney character. I think he'd rather be born free...

The rhinos were pretty amazing. We rounded the corner to the sound of lots of laughing kids, yelling, "What are the rhinos doing, Daddy? Why are they being so silly?" Well, there are a lot of baby animals at the zoo, and the rhinos were attempting to join the trend toward parenthood... but I think the boy rhino was a little confused... don't be offended by this picture. It's only nature.

Yep - it's all happening at the zoo. but the poor guy got tired and lost all ambition pretty quickly. Before long, with no baby rhino success, they flopped down to take a nap...

On the way out, we got a last look at the flamingos, all squacking and bickering like a bunch of cranky Las Vegas showgirls. Pretty funny.

And now, back to work. Always so much to do. I have an idea for a new bead. It came from Paul Simon while were were driving yesterday. In the song Graceland, there's a line that goes, "Losing love is like a window in your heart...". That's all I'm sayin'. If it works, you'll see the beads on my website. They'll be called "Graceland Beads", for reasons you'll only know if you read this. Don't you feel special?

Friday, May 11, 2007

my generation, baby

Have you seen The Zimmers on YouTube? Coolest group of "old people" you could ever meet. Their version of the Who's My Generation is just great. Watch it. If it doesn't stream the first time through, watch it a second time for the full experience. Wonderful. It'll make you feel good. Promise.

I have a bookmark to the Osho Zen Tarot site at the top of my Firefox browser. I like to visit every day and pick a card. The Transformation Deck is good too. I use both. I'm always amazed at how accurate a random computer pick can be. Maybe there's really no such thing as random. Today I got the "Exhaustion" card... My, my... yes. I'm accused of lacking the ability to spontaneously dump responsibility and run off to have fun. Back when the Who was singing My Generation, I had great skill at abandoning math class in favor of a day at the beach. I managed to graduate too. Guess there's a lesson to be learned from my younger self. Goofing off now and then isn't all bad. It's not the end of the world. In fact, it might be the best way to refuel for a fresh start. A nose held to the old grindstone becomes very flat.

Rick and I are heading to Albuquerque today, to help Lauren move her stuff - lots of stuff - back home for the summer. But we're going early for a stop at the zoo. I've wanted to go there for six years, and today's the day. They have a new baby giraffe we have to see before it's all grown up. And when we're back here tomorrow, ready for work again... well, no promises... I might just go back to the beach.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

nothin' like good design

Isn't this gorgeous? Good, clean, simple design is such a pleasure to my eyes. Makes me want to throw out everything in my house and start over. At the very least, it reminds me that it's time to unclutter. It not only clears space, but also the mind. Getting rid of what's not important makes room for what is important to find it's way in.

photo of staircase at Longchamp in SoHO

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

on the ball

Like so many people who work "small", I have a lot of trouble with my back, neck, and shoulders. I've noticed that my posture is just terrible when I sit in the regular office chair I have at the torch. I try to remember to sit up straight, but the dumb chair really encourages slumping. So I ordered a yoga ball chair. It arrived yesterday, and it's cool! Sleek and beautiful, and the big red rubber ball is like a giant toy. I'm sitting on it now, nice and straight. And rather than slumping, it encourages bouncing and stretching. It's even supposed to work those pesky core muscles I'm so good at neglecting. I don't know if this will be good for beadmaking, but I'm sure going to give it a try. Guess I'll have to cover it with a beach towel, so flying glass doesn't pop it! Want one of your own? I got mine from Amazon. Here's a link, and a photo. No that isn't me on the chair... I'm much older and fluffier!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

it's only temporary

My main computer is off being repaired (thanks Chris!), but thankfully, I have the laptop running smoothly again, and can set up this nice little office on the dining room table. Temporary? Well, maybe... I do like being able to look out the window, even though the windows are horrible. The seal between the panes is worn out, so all the dirt is inside the panes where it can't be cleaned. New windows are in the plans for this summer. Still a few small projects to do before we attempt to sell this place...

Yes, Taos is only temporary too. We've said it before, but it feels true now... we're moving. To Oregon. Southern Oregon where the sun shines and we'll be a day's drive from most of the family. This is a great house, and we'll miss it a little bit, but it will be just right for someone... you maybe? Wanna buy my house? We might even include the goats, for the right people, of course.

A close look at the picture will show you how simple my "bead shop" really is. On Bead Days, I have the white trays with beads lined up by number. The file card box holds all the names of everyone in the SBC. Today there are 778. The front half of the box is people who have actually bought beads. The back half is people on the mailing list, who have never bought a bead. Sometimes I wonder what they're doing on my mailing list, but then I thump my own self on the head, and remember that interested is interested, and it's often good enough. Some people just like to wander in and look, and it makes their eyes happy and somehow improves their day. I like that. And I don't consider those people less important than the big time shoppers.

You also see a notebook next to the computer. I write the names of who buys what, so I don't get confused in the rush. I think I've only sent the wrong beads out once or twice in all these years. Not bad, and I think it's because of the simple, hands-on system. The calculator, phone, other personal notebooks, and pink water bottle round out the "office". This is pretty much everything I'll need for the day. And because it's only temporary, I'll move it all back to the "real office" tomorrow. Maybe... Sometimes what seems to be temporary can become just what we were looking for in the first place. It's almost summer. We could just eat outside on the picnic table, with the goats...

Monday, May 07, 2007

people you don't know...

...but you'd like them if you did know them! This is Keith McHenry, the Birthday Boy... sort of obviously. Fun party out there last night. Good friends and food, and a nice campfire. We still smell like girl scouts this morning.

Jill Rounds is Keith's Sweetie. She made the tile for our kitchen, and is an incredible baker. The cake was way yum!

Happy Birthday Keith! Thanks for the great evening!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Happy Birthday Dear Goaties

Today is out goats' first birthday. Here they are - Joon, Benny, and Sam, the "runt". We love them so! And now they're even doing their "job". They eat weeds in the yard all day long. They're happy goats and useful too. And cute, cute, cute. And sweet as apple pie, which I'm sure they'd love if we gave them some. No pie, sorry goaties... but we did bring them some tortilla chips this morning. Their favorite treat... must be like cake for goats. And yes, we sang Happy Birthday to them too. We sing to everyone when we know it's their birthday, even if they aren't here. And now we're off to a birthday party for our friend Keith, the kind and wonderful Food Not Bombs guy. More singing! Yay! And cake too. Life is good.

Friday, May 04, 2007

what a weird day

What's going on... anything odd in your world? I have a busy weekend coming up, so thought I'd hit the computer for a quick email check this morning, and then get an early start in the studio. And then the Universe laughed very hard, and crashed my computer... and then it crashed my laptop too. Then I went to call the Computer Doctor, and my phone was dead. By this time, I was starting to laugh along with the Universe. Not much else to do in these situations but step back and go, "WHAT???" I'm listening for the answer. Meanwhile, I'm scanning, cleaning, backing up, defragging, and even dusting the monitors, in hopes of soothing at least one of the beasts. The laptop is the least disturbed. I think I have it down to one little hickup at startup. Fortunately, I'm smart enough to realize I need two of a lot of things. So the backup computer is OK for now, and the cell phone will fill in until we fix (or drown) the landline. I also have two cameras, two torches, and lots of extra jewelry tools... What I'm really getting at here is we don't have any clue or any control over the "unseen forces" that so strongly affect our little lives. Best to roll with it, and maybe wear a helmet...

Something pretty and cheery?
Here's Lauren and her friend Tessa all dressed up for the Spring Formal last weekend. don't they look beauty-full?

Hope you all have a happy, but mostly safe, weekend. We're going to see Arlo Guthrie tonight. That should calm my frazzy nerves.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I snapped these Taos Tulips this morning, using my fancy optical zoom lens. Huh. I didn't think it would work so well. Almost like a snuck right up on that bee. I've been hearing a lot about bees lately. The validity of the Einstein quote is still up in the air, but either way, bees are important in the big picture, so we need to be nice to them. No killing bees this summer, OK? Let's all plant a lot of nice flowers for them, and make sure there's water around so they stay and make honey and survive and pollinate stuff. Yes, stuff.

Back in Seattle, we lived in an urban jungle, with a neighbor who kept bees. We had a family of raccoons who came tapping on the back door every evening, so we fed them... duh. The five babies were so cute we wanted to keep them around. We bought a small wading pool for them to drink from and wash their food. It was great for the mom, but the babies couldn't reach over the side. So we built a little staircase with bricks for them. One problem solved, but we started noticing a lot of the neighbor's bees drowning in the pool. So... we extended the bricks down to the inside of the pool, and set a few more in the water, so they just stuck out over the surface. The bricks absorbed the water, and the bees had all these little islands to land on and drink from.

Maybe all that is kind of extreme for you, but a pie pan and a rock can make a really nice zen water feature on your deck. Besides, when the bees are happy, they aren't stinging. Lessons to be learned everywhere...

So, Happy May Day. Go hang out with Nature and see what she says.