First Metal Clay Book Review is In!

Blogged under My Crafty News by Tammy on Wednesday 21 May 2008 at 8:31 am

Yippy! I got my first review for Picture Yourself Creating Metal Clay Jewelry, thanks to Alice A Rein, who is one of the many talented metal clay artists you’ll find in the book. It actually means more to me that someone who is in the book wrote this because when I include other artists in projects like this I am always concerned that it won’t meet their expectations.

The metal clay community is really full of amazing artists, like Alice, and my book is far below their technical level because my audience is the total newbie. I really wanted someone who has zero jewelry making and zero metal clay experience to be able to pick up the book and make the projects from start to finish. Alice seemed to get that, and I hope other metal clay folks do as well.

It’s difficult when you have a book that is so focused on one target audience and someone who is at a different level may expect something totally different. Since I tend to have the “want to please everyone” syndrome, this issue always nags at me! Ugh!


DIY Gene Anyone?

Blogged under Design Ideas by Tammy on Tuesday 20 May 2008 at 10:35 am

The other day my friend, C, and I were browsing through a Pier 1 Import, which just opened about 10 minutes from me. I’m giving my house a face lift, removing the once sort of country crafty look, and replacing it with a more Florida feel. Of course, I realize that Pier 1 is not really all that Florida. It’s more of an India flavor, but I was looking for some ideas and inspiration.

Because I have a husband who actually gives a hoot about the decor to a certain extent, large items like furniture, I have to get his vote on and usually some of his muscle power too, but little objects like pillows or wall decor, I have started to make executive decisions on. It only took 20 years of marriage!

As C and I started walking around the store, we came to the window treatment area, and the following conversation started:

C., “You can’t have curtains, can you? Won’t your cats climb them?”

Me, “My 14 year old cats don’t do much climbing these days. Besides, I have to have something covering the windows! And I don’t like blinds.”

C. “The price on these isn’t too bad, but they are kind of boring, not that well-made.”

Me, “Yes, boring is right. I guess I’ll just make new curtains again. I did that before when we moved into the house years ago. ”

So, it only took one trip to a store and in a matter of minutes, my DIY gene had kicked in! Do I have time to make curtains? Of course not! But somehow when faced with buying something that I could make, and make much better, I have this undeniable, unavoidable impulse to DIY.

I will say that it is not my fault because my family pretty much suffers from this same problem. My dad and mother are major DIY-ers. Some of it is frugality, and I admit that. But, for me, a lot of it is that I know I can make something I like rather than buy something I’m only so-so about.

I suspect this DIY gene is shared by many craft-o-holics out there. So, feel free to tell me your own secret DIY stories. Admiting you have a problem is the first step. The second step means I have to pull out my sewing machine from the closet!

Reclaiming & Rezoning Living Versus Crafting Space

Blogged under Yada, Yada, Yada by Tammy on Monday 19 May 2008 at 9:48 am

I was off line a lot yesterday – forgive my lapse in posting. My DH was spending a long day upgrading the Crafty Princess to a new PC. Of course, today I’m still feeling some of the pain like my email is not working thanks to Outlook, which I pretty much hate, and MS Word doesn’t think I should have the right to use it, again, MS, hate you! But, generally, I’m limping along and I’m sure the messy techie issues will be resolved over the next few days. I just hate spending time on that kind of stuff, though, ya know?!

I will say that one nice thing about having limited Internet capability (I do have a laptop but it doesn’t have all the same goodies as my desktop) I managed to get a lot of work done around the house, which included the beginnings of my craft supply reorganization efforts combined with the hope of redecorating my house a little.

My plan of attack for yesterday was to take back the guest bathroom which had been turned into a metal clay/photo studio for my metal clay book. My original idea in using that room was that (a) it could be cat proof to some extent since you can close the door; (b) there are two handy sinks in there so keeping the area clean is fairly easy to do – mucho important for metal clay; (c) and I can put supplies away under the cabinets and in a small rolling cart when it’s not in use. Of course, (c) had a few pit falls, such as the fact that the supplies seemed to only increase in size and number rather than be put neatly away when finished with. Gee, how could that have happened?

So, with a new, larger roller cart (like the one pictured above – about $20 at my local Target) along with a new shower curtain, some pictures for the walls, towel set, and rug, I reclaimed our guest bathroom so that guests may actually use it again. My goal is to at least make it through the end of the month since we have guests due around then.

My next major reclaiming project will be to remove a hoge podj (obviously, I have no clue how to spell that!) of jewelry making supplies, paper crafts, and fibers from the corner of our family room and move, fit, and organize them into my office slash cat room. I think it is doable, but I have to admit that just the small taste of reclaiming yesterday made me realize what a monster task I’m taking on! But, it sooo needs to be done. I mean, who wants to use a guest bath that has a pile of wire, torch, and beads sitting all over the vanity? Even worse, what if my “guests” decide to get crafty with my goodies themselves?

Today, I have some baby steps to take while I work on the next big reclaim/rezoning effort here at Crafty Princess Central. I really need to get this darn PC working too, but I swear at the very least I’ll get started on zone 2.

Jump Ring News for Metal Clay Artists

Blogged under Crafty Products by Tammy on Saturday 17 May 2008 at 10:36 am

It seems like a small thing, and actually, jump rings are pretty small normally has far as their size, but they always seem to have a big job when it comes to connecting the parts and pieces of your jewelry.

When I was designing projects for my metal clay book and DVD a few months ago, one method I struggled with from time to time was getting a bail or some kind of connection into the clay correctly. Sometimes the clay would be too thick, sometimes not thick enough, so it took some time to find a perfect thickness, and of course, this would vary some depending on what exactly I was attempting to design. I had the added issue of working exclusively with low-fire clay (since that was the focus of the book), so I had to keep my components fairly small. Super thick clay pieces weren’t going to work too well for what I was trying to do.

Eventually, thanks to the folks at Metal Clay Findings (a company who specializes in creating fine silver findings for metal clay artists), I discovered embedded jump rings, and the “duh” light went on. I guess I’m not the only metal clay-er that loves these super easy to use jump rings because they have recently expanded their embedded jump ring line to include a larger size. They are 25% larger than the original ones (4mm) I used for my book and are 5.25mm in diameter. This larger size is nice because then if you want to use it for a pendant bail (just as an example) then the ring part is larger and will accommodate thicker chains or other media you may want to string through it.

It’s been pretty cool to watch this company grow from providing only a few simple findings less than a year or so ago to coming out with new products on a regular basis. While I agree that you can make a lot of your own findings for metal clay using fine silver wire, after doing it myself, it is just nice to have another option when you want to concentrate more on working with forming the clay and not so much with the other areas of the design that can sometimes drive you crazy.

The Art of Crafting a Teacher

Blogged under Crafting a Career by Tammy on Thursday 15 May 2008 at 7:13 pm

Writing, teaching, and crafting are three areas of my life that constantly cross over one another. For the longest time, I kept thinking I had to pick “one” career path, yet I kept coming back to these three areas. I couldn’t just pick one.

Then, it really jelled for me last night while teaching a blogging class as to why they are so inner related for me: they all involve opportunities for continuous learning.

Or, put more simply, I will never learn it all!

As I was walking around trying to help my students, all newbies to blogging but all at various levels of computer literacy, it struck me that I was attempting to teach them what took me months, probably really years, to figure out. And, I’m still figuring out the whole blogosphere thing. I am far from an expert. I just happen to know more than someone who knows zip, so now I’m attempting to teach others what I know so they at least get a little head start that I didn’t have long ago when I opened my first WordPress window.

As I helped some of them navigate simple tasks like signing up for a Bloglinesaccount and others I helped upload an image to their new WordPress blog, I was also learning as I was teaching. This was not the first time I had taught a blogging class, but it was the first time I tried to teach 24 people all at once and I also tried a few new ideas out on them. Some things worked, some need fine tuning, some I may shelf for awhile. The evening was exhausting, challenging, and fun. I was learning more about blogging and teaching, and when I left, I felt that I probably learned more than my students did.

Can life get any better than that?

Metal Clay Book Cover is Out

Blogged under Publications from Moi by Tammy on Wednesday 14 May 2008 at 3:08 pm

It’s finally out of the closet – The cover of Picture Yourself Creating Metal Clay Jewelry! I’ve heard my advanced copy is on the way, so that means this puppy will be out for sale very soon. I’ll keep you posted.

A Lot of Crafty Pride

Blogged under Around the Web by Tammy on Tuesday 13 May 2008 at 5:29 pm

Sometimes with craft deadlines looming like book chapters that must be reviewed and projects that need to be made and posted, it is easy to forget why I enjoy it so much in the first place. For me, crafting provides a creative outlet and a sense of personal satisfaction when I make an item that I can wear on my body, display in my home, or give as a gift. But, for some crafters, it can bring so much more, like self-confidence and independence. When I’m reminded of this, I can’t help but get that warm fuzzy feeling, that feeling where you realize that making jewelry, altering a book, sewing a purse together, the acts themselves bring so much to anyone who participates than just the result at the end. It’s the “doing” that is the real reward.

One group of crafters who has recently reminded me of this is the Refugee Crafts Project, an amazing group of women who are working together as part of the Emily Griffith Opportunity School to learn the art of jewelry making.  You can learn more about their story at the group’s blog, A Little Something, but today I wanted to mention a specific honor this group earned: an invitation to participate in the City Park Arts Festival and Jazz Fest located in Denver, Colorado.

Pictured above is some of the beautiful jewelry they are making, and when one of their leaders, Sharon McCreary (who has been the brains behind the beads for this group), sent me this picture of their jewelry, I was pretty surprised. I remember seeing some of their earlier work on their blog, and boy! they have come a long way in just 9 months. Yes, can you believe they haven’t even been making jewelry for a year?!

Thank for showing me your wonderful jewelry as well as giving me a gentle reminder to slow down now and then so that I can appreciate the process and not just focus on the end result. I would wish you luck at your up-coming show, but somehow, I don’t think you’ll need it.

CFE for Beaders and Book Lovers

Blogged under CFEs/Contests by Tammy on Monday 12 May 2008 at 9:16 am

A few years ago, I discovered book art, and I crafted a number of books, even taking an amazing workshop at The Bienes Center for Literary Arts where I learned a lot of basic book construction techniques. I have always loved paper arts, and this seemed to be a way to integrate my love of paper and text, and of course, there were a few beads thrown into the mix as well.

Pictured above is a piece I made using Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, “There is no Friagte like a Book,” which I entered in the Bienes’ yearly book art contest. Of course, I didn’t win anything, but my little book became part of its collection and was displayed among the work of other amazing artists.

Needless to say, when I saw that Interweave Press now has a Beaded Book competition going on, I was very interested:

To celebrate our love affair with books and beads, Beadwork announces our sixth international juried competition and exhibition: The Beaded Book!

The Beaded Book is bound to bring out your creative genius. Alter a book, re-create a favorite character, bead a page of text, or make whatever your imagination can conjure up relating to beads and books. Show us your passion for books and beads in one creative effort. We can’t wait to see how you combine glitterati with literati! The winning entries will be published in a gallery in Beadwork magazine and the actual works will be exhibited at Bead Expo Santa Fe in March 2009 and Bead Fest Philadelphia in August 2009.

Here is a second Emily book I made. It’s similar to the first one, but I used beading wire, crimp beads, and a crystal dangle bead to stitch up the spine.

Honestly, I have no idea if I’ll have time to put something together for this. My summer is pretty darn full already, but I love the idea at least.

A Lesson in Jane Austen, Crafting, & Trends

Blogged under My Crafty News by Tammy on Sunday 11 May 2008 at 9:56 am

Craft trends – whether related to jewelry designing, paperarts, or needle-work – can’t help but catch your eye if you are even a little involved in the world of crafting. In fact, I think there is nothing wrong with at least being aware of trends, and sometimes we can use these to our advantage. With craft writing, this is especially true because, obviously, if you are pitching a book topic idea, it is important that you pitch one that is hot or even better about to get hot.

However, there is a danger when a topic is so hot that it is over done, badly over done, as in fried, mutilated, destroyed, utterly, well….I think you get where this is going.

I’ll give you an example.

On a recent bookstore trip with my DH, I was browsing through the new fiction table and discovered a plethora of Jane Austen knock off novels. Some of these attempted to retell one of her novels, only using a different character’s point of view. Some of these attempted to continue the plot of one of her novels. All of them are attempting to catch the Jane Austen gravy train that has picked up tremendous speed lately.

As an avid Janite, part of me loves the fact that she is everywhere. Finally, the world now sees how talented she was. Hey, it’s about damn time! And I love the fact that I can easily locate and purchase Jane related items such as a Jane Austen Address Book, Jane Austen Note Cards, and a Jane Austen Mouse Pad. (Yup, I bought them all!)

However, after getting a cup of tea at the bookstore’s coffee shop and browsing through a few of these J. Austen inspired books that I was seriously thinking of purchasing, I realized that while these authors may honestly hope to capture the essence of Jane, the quality of the books (at least the ones I briefly looked at) was lacking.

In one text, as I turned to the first page of the first chapter with the hope of getting caught up in the story right away, I was slapped in the face with a sentence fragment in the second sentence of the text! And, this was not a fragment used for emphasis. This was just a plain old mistake that no one took the time to fix. Another text promised to offer Darcy’s point of view of the love story of P&P, but instead, I saw a boring narrative and little dialogue. When I finally dug out some dialogue, it was surrounded by the first person (“I”) of someone other than Darcy. So, okay, how can that be his point of view, folks?

Maybe it was due to a lack of talent or passion or more than likely it was due to poor editing because there was a rush to get them to print and on the “new fiction” table at Barnes & Noble, but whatever the reason, this trend has taken a turn for the worse. These are not cute little note cards that you address to special friends who will totally appreciate them; these are just sloppily crafted texts that should not have been published.

…Rant over….

Returning to my original point now – This is an example of what can happen when artists get so caught up in trends that they don’t listen to their own voice. As a result, they end up crafting crap because they too are hoping to get on board whatever gravy train the trend is on, and of course, sooner or later this turns into a train wreck.

I’m not saying to completely ignore craft trends, and from my own experience I understand how easy it is to get caught up in a trend that seems to be a “sure thing.” (I’m remembering the whole “angel” trend years ago, and yes, I still have a lot of angel charms stuck in a drawer around her somewhere.) But, if you do decide to indulge, make sure you are still focusing on what you want to create as well, that you aren’t giving over completely just to ride the train for a while because you really can lose yourself, and ultimately, you will not be happy with the work you create.

A Day of Designing Dilemmas

Blogged under Jewelry Designing by Tammy on Saturday 10 May 2008 at 9:29 am

raku necklace

I had two ideas for some necklace designs, so yesterday, I decided to try to get them both made and post tutorials on my Jewelry Making site for this weekend. I thought they were both pretty straight forward designs and decided to go with the easiest one first before working on the second.

Of course, you sometimes think a design is going to be easy, and then once you start in on it, you realize easy it relative. I eventually did manage to get one of the two designs made, and the tutorial for this Raku Bead & Hemp Necklace is up. But, what I thought was going to be a project I could whip out in a few hours, ended up a day long event with one problem after another, a day full of design dilemmas:

Problem 1, MIA Beads: I started to gather my beads, 5 raku lampwork beads made by DD Hess and 5 Bali-style silver beads from I set them in front of me and started arranging them. “Ring, ring”  I get up to answer the phone, see that it’s a salesman on caller ID, come back to my desk….hmmm…weren’t there 5 raku beads here? “Bang, bang” Under the desk I hear Skimpy, one of my cats, playing ping pong with my beads. I dive down and recover one, but the other is MIA. So, now I have 4 raku beads. Time to rethink the design.

Problem 2, Thick Hemp: Before I get too much further, I check to see that my hemp will go through my beads. I really wanted to use a few strands of hemp, but I realize quickly that’s not going to work. With one strand, the raku are no problem, but the silver ones, crap! I really want to use some of these beads in between the raku but they won’t fit. So, I try a different style, another different style, I cut the hemp on an angle, I wet it on the end, and finally, success!

Problem 3, Length Question: I started with about a yard of hemp. I wanted to make sure I had plenty to use and was thinking of making the necklace around 20 inches long. But, once I got the middle beads secured, I realized the hemp looked too thin for such a long necklace.  It just didn’t please me, so I had to figure out if I wanted to add more beads, maybe smaller ones, or did I want to make the necklace shorter? I held it up against myself while looking in the mirror and decided 16 inches, so that the beads rest against my collar bone, looked nice and would probably work with a lot of my summer t-shirts.

Problem 4, Clasp or Tie: Originally, I had planned to just tie the ends to secure the necklace around my neck, but as I got further into the process, I decided I needed something fancier, more finished though not necessary something that would take away from the rustic/earthy look I was going for. A toggle clasp came to mind, but I didn’t have any that were large enough for this necklace (which is pretty heavy due to the size and weight of these beads). I realized a button would be perfect, maybe a glass button, but again, I didn’t have one large enough, so I started digging through one of my bags of misc. buttons and discovered this metal one. I honestly have no idea where it came from, but it looked perfect. Another problem, solved, or almost….

Problem 5, Making the Toggle: So, I had this cool button, but again, the small diameter of the hemp made me reluctant to just attach the button on one end and make a loop on the other and call it finished, so I realized I needed to make the hemp loop thicker somehow. That morning I had started to clean up my office a little (just a little) and I had a stack of books I needed to put away. One of the books was Designing Jewelry with Glass Beads by Stephanie Sersich, and it had a bracelet on the cover with a fiber style toggle. Hey, maybe that would work! Well, no it wouldn’t work because I would have had to use a bunch of pieces of cord at the beginning to make the toggle part before stringing, but it did give me the idea for creating a way to wrap a piece of hemp around the loop and thus make it stronger.

Problem 6, Writing It Up: Of course, by now it is going on 7pm and time to feed my cats, give one an insulin shot, and the day is winding down. Though I did manage to get some laundry done, a few meals eaten, and other things around the house done while I worked on the necklace throughout the day, I realized that I had the necklace made now, but I still need to write it up. If I waited until the next day, how I managed to get this made may not be so fresh in my mind. The toggle, especially, was a major brain problem for me. Tomorrow, would I even remember how I did it? Probably, but just to be on the safe side, I spend the next hour attending my cats and writing instructions.

Okay, so I didn’t get both necklaces finished, but I did get one designed, constructed, and posted. Plus, I think it turned out pretty well. I was going for a hippy – chic look, and I think I accomplished that.

Now onto necklace number 2!

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