Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ten Things Thursday: Things I want to do!

Hello, everyone! Welcome to this week's bonus post: Ten Things Thursday.

If you read my blog post on patience, you'll know that there are lots and lots of things I want to do in life. The list seems to grow every day, with ten things added for every one I accomplish! But that's all right -- while it's sometimes frustrating that I can't do everything right this very second, I acknowledge that having a bunch of things to look forward to makes life interesting and fun for me.

With this in mind, I thought I'd share ten things I'd like to do at some point. Of course, paring down my list of things I'd like to do in general would be impossible, or at the very least, would make my eyes cross, so I thought I'd stick to ten things I'd like to do in my creative life. In no particular order, here they are:

1.) Make art quilts. I love fabric! I love embroidery and sewing by hand. I love multimedia. I Linklove collage. All of these are the ingredients for very colorful, very crazy quilts. Since Mr. Sequin's wonderful mother is a quilter, I'm thinking of asking her for some lessons this December. If we have time in between eating cookies. ;)

2.) Learn to make shoes. I'm not really a shoe person because I have these itty bitty feet, and the only shoes that fit me have pictures of Disney Princesses on them. But if I could learn to make my own, I could see this changing. I know someone who makes shoes, and I could probably pay, or barter for, lessons... but this one will have to go on the back burner. I wouldn't mind painting or beading on canvas shoes in the meantime.

3.) Learn cake decorating. I swear, it's not just because I'd get to eat all my practice cakes. *Looks guilty.* I like the idea of making something I won't have to find storage space for. Cakes get eaten -- in this house, quickly!

4.) Participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November. I've done it before and loved it. However, I'm not allowed to begin a new project unless I've got a handle on the one I'm working on now. I'll have to work extra hard this October.

5.) Create my own journals on Cafe Press. I'd love to have my own customized writing journals. This one wouldn't be too hard. It's just a matter of deciding how much I want to do it and then making time. Coming up with designs. In the meantime, I could always customize the covers of plain journals with my collection of acrylic paints and sparkly stuff.

6.) Submit an article to a jewelry magazine. I've wanted to do this for years! I already have some ideas. Just like the journals, it's a matter of time management. I think this one's a slightly higher priority than journals, though, given the number of notebooks I currently own. ;)

7.) Hold a craft night. We've done this at our house before, but it's been awhile, and I think it's time for another one. Good friends, good food, good music, and crafty projects? Sounds like a perfect cold weather activity to me!

8.) Teach a class. I did some jewelry instruction when I lived in North Carolina, and it was such an amazing experience. Teaching people the things I know, including all the little tricks I've learned along the way. Seeing them get so excited when I show them something new. Getting to know amazing people. I honestly feel like it's missing from my life, so it should probably go to the tippity top of the priority list.

9.) Design textiles. Over the years, I've realized my paintings all look like fabric patterns. In fact, several people have made similar comments. I would love to design fabric and see it in fabric stores! If that ever happens, I could use it in my crazy art quilts. I'm just not sure how I'd go about the whole design-into-real-fabric process.

(Yes, I squealed over the episode of Project Runway where they got to design their own fabric. In fact, I think I made excited, high-pitched noises throughout the entire episode! Sorry, neighbors. Sorry, neighbors' dog!)

10.) Try wool felting. My lovely massage therapist mentioned this to me, and the idea has stuck in my head. I really like the idea of dyeing my own little wool pieces, too. And yes, these would also look fantastic on crazy art quilts.

So that's my list! I'll get around to some of these sooner than others. Teaching is a must, the sooner the better. Art quilts were mentioned three different times, so you can tell how excited I am. And the art party would be a perfect way for my friends and I to unwind and relax.

Now, what about you? What's on your list of things to do?

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Be patient!

When people look at the work I do, especially the fine wire work or chainmaille, they often remark that I must be so patient. And I nod and smile, not exactly sure how to respond, because I don't think they'd believe me if I told them the truth.

What's my little secret? Well. As it turns out, I'm the most impatient person I know. Seriously!

I want to make huge, artistic jewelry pieces. I want to make smaller ones to sell. I want to set up an Etsy store, as well as sell my work privately. I want to create tutorials and kits and do podcasts and enter contests. I want to write novels and cook amazing food and teach hula hooping and... and... and...

And I want to do it all now! Oh, forget now -- I want to do it all six months ago. ;)

This can be problematic, as you might imagine. It's impossible to do all of these things at once, no matter how good I am at multi-tasking (or time traveling). If I'm not careful, I run around, trying to decide what to work on first, and I end up doing nothing. My life is further complicated by my injury -- I have to make sure not to hurt myself, which can be frustrating. Sometimes it's hard to know your limits until you've surpassed them.

This is why I'm writing today's post. I need a nice reminder that patience is not only a virtue, but the way to staying happy, healthy and sane. Hopefully I can help anyone who has a similar problem. I'm going to work on patience in two areas, and you're welcome to work right along with me.

1.) Patience with ourselves. With all the opportunities in the world, it seems like there's always something more we could be doing. And it's true! But that doesn't mean we should do it. If we've chosen work that we love, that we're passionate about, that makes us happy, odds are, we're doing more than enough already -- and doing a super job. We should remember to reward ourselves with some down time. Taking a nap, watching a movie, reading a book while drinking hot chocolate.

Everything we want to do, we probably can at some point. It's just a matter of prioritizing. What do we want to do the most? What can we do easily? I've started keeping a to-do list with only these things on it -- no chores, no appointments. If they're complicated, I break them down into tiny steps and cross off a few each day. I keep the number of tasks low and add things to the list only if I've reached the goals I've set for myself.

Also, every night before I go to sleep, I review everything I've done and congratulate myself on a job well done. It's become a habit at this point, and it makes me want to continue being productive. And in case I forget all my hard work, I keep a physical list on my computer of the most important things I've done. I add to the bottom of it, or at least the middle, so I have to scroll through all of my past achievements in order to add new ones -- talk about a reminder!

2.) Patience with the process. Whether it's a novel or an organic vegetable garden, most of the things in life that are worthwhile take time and effort, as well as trial and error. They don't happen overnight. It's important for us to realize this, and to come to enjoy the process. To celebrate all the little victories, to learn from our so-called failures so that we emerge stronger and more competent and ready for greater success, instead of focusing on the outcome like it's the only flavor in the ice cream shop.

So that's my advice to myself, and to anyone who is a bit challenged in the patience department. Keep going, take care of yourself along the way, and use whatever little tricks work for you. I believe that with the right mix of hard work, talent, dumb luck, persistence, and yes, patience, we'll all be just fine.

So. Are you impatient? What are some of your strategies for coping with it?

Oh! I almost forgot. I picked up my sequin order today (after a week of checking the mailbox every day -- this patience thing is an ongoing process for me!). I've already started making kits for my Etsy store, with color themes like fire, ice, and rainbow. Soon to come are mineral, evening, and ocean. I'm very excited, and I'm thinking about having a giveaway -- to stay tuned!

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday: Cool Tools!

Hello, everyone! I'm delighted to be writing this bonus post. Today's Miscellaneous Monday topic? The tools that make jewelry making easier and more fun for me.

As you know, I have a curious brain and restless fingers. I always want to learn something new and try out a different technique! Most of the time, this is easy. I work a hair or two outside of my comfort zone, and the tools I use stay the same.

But sometimes? I want to try something dramatic, and for me, even a little bit scary. Sometimes the cost and the tools involved get in the way for awhile... and then the Perfect Tool comes along.

This was definitely the case with the Fiskars Hand Drill. I purchased it for a plexi class (that is, a class on making pendants out of plexi glass) with the talented and wonderful Tonia Davenport the summer before last. It sat in a box in my studio for a year, but I'm starting to realize just how handy it is. For drilling holes in things like wood and plastic -- you know, dice, poker chips, tiny plastic chickens, the usual things -- and as of last week...

Drilling metal!!!!

Now, Mr. Sequin has a Flex Shaft machine. He even patiently and generously taught me how to use it. The thing is, I'm terrified of it. I don't have the strength to hold the metal in place, and so it whirls around on the drill bit like a tiny, deadly little propeller. Eek! Not nice for fingers. I'd written off doing a lot with sheet metal until I realized the scrap sheet I used under my found objects to preserve my work bench... was full of neat, clean holes.

So I drilled holes in a ring band for decoration. The underside needed a little sanding, but it was quick and easy and I could control the speed of the drill. I wasn't scared a bit. This opens up a whole new world of opportunities for me! Including wire riveting. *Swoons.*

The second tool that's made my life easier is the pair of metal cutting shears I bought at the Beaducation booth in Milwaukee this year. In spite of sawing into my finger (just a flesh wound) a few years ago, I'm not all that scared of jeweler's saws, but mine is kind of wonky and no longer holds a blade. I used a pair of shears made by Eurotool in a class one year, and I loved them dearly. Ultimately, I decided on the brand Beaducation carried, because I tried them and loved them too, but either one is a good and worthwhile purchase.

I used these shears to cut my ring band, and oh, they worked fast and left me with edges that required just a little sanding. I'll probably replace my saw frame at some point so I can handle curves in metal, but for now, these babies will keep me happy.

(By the way, this is the ring I made!)

So there we have it! Two tools that have changed my life in a very good way. How about you? Which tools have made a difference for you?

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ideas! Input appreciated.

When I first started this blog, I wasn't sure how I'd like blogging. Saturday Sequins was an experiment, which is why I limited myself to one post per week. I figured, if it turned out to be kind of fun, but not spectacular, there wouldn't be a lot of pressure to post. If it was less than fun, I didn't have to continue and wouldn't have put a lot of work into it.

Well. Surprise, surprise! I love having this blog. I love posting. I love reading other blogs and getting to know amazing people, and I love sharing the people/places/supplies that make me happy. Which is why I've been toying with the idea... of writing more often.

This gave me the idea of Special Bonus Posts. Every once in awhile, when I'm in the mood and I have the pictures to go along with it, I might add the following special features:

Tutorial Tuesday! In which I share simple, sequin-related projects.

Work-in-progress Wednesday! In which I post pictures of things I'm working on.

Featured Artist Friday! In which I put the spotlight on the artists who inspire and delight me.

What do you think? Should I go for it? What other special features would you like to see? And while I'm here, what else would you like to see on this blog in terms of posts, topics, and pictures? Curious sequin enthusiasts are just dying to know.

Thanks! :)

Let's make a deal! A post on bartering.

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another post at Saturday Sequins.

Today's topic sort of took me by surprise, and a delightful surprise it was! I can't say it's entirely my idea. In fact, I have two lovely ladies, Jessica Wagstrom and Gala Darling, to thank for inspiring me. But I thought I'd give it my own spin and add some other things I thought of, because brainstorming happens to be one of my favorite things in the world.

(Speaking of which... this is a closeup of Honeycomb, one of my favorite pieces in the world! It's made of aluminum and tiny rubber rings from Blue Buddha Boutique. Also notice the Swarovski crystals on itty bitty headpins I made myself with my torch.)

I live in a world where money is exchanged for goods and services. So do you. But! There's another way to do things, and a way that's been around much longer than currency, namely exchanging goods and services for other goods and services. To me, it sounds like a great way to build a sense of camaraderie and community, but also a great way for fledgling artists to get their business off the ground when they're a wee bit strapped for cash.

Think about it. If you're anything like me, you know a number of amazing people with incredible talents, be they writers, artists, photographers, chefs, or whatever. People whose skills you could use. You also have a number of talents, and there's a good bet the people you know could benefit from them. Why not partner up?

First, make a list of the people you know and what they're good at. For example, I know bloggers, jewelry makers, very pretty people who could model my work, as well as cool people who could potentially put me in touch with other cool people. I can think of a dozen things they might help me with!

Next, make a list of the things you have to offer in return. As someone who wears enough different hats to open her own boutique, I make jewelry, I write, I cook amazing food, both healthy and unhealthy, I create recipes, I'm good at brainstorming and creative problem solving, I make sparkly hula hoops, and I know quite a few hoop tricks. I also know how to take care of curly hair. Perhaps, just perhaps, I have exactly what someone else is looking for.

(This is a full view of Honeycomb. One side, that is. This necklace happens to be reversible! More photos to come.)

The next step is to think of a possible deal you could make with an awesome person in your life. Maybe she'll model your jewelry for photos in exchange for a custom piece. Maybe she'll take professional quality photos if you agree to make her a hula hoop and give her some lessons. Maybe he's so busy running a successful business he has no time to eat, and he'd love to swap home cooked food for private consultations. You never know until you ask!

So that's my advice to myself, to yourself, and to anyone else who might be reading. Consider bartering. As long as you choose someone you know and trust, and whose work you're familiar with, the worst that can happen is that you have to negotiate a little or that you hear "no." In which case, you haggle... or move on to the next person and the next opportunity.

So how about you? What kinds of people do you know, what do they have to offer you, and what do you have to offer them in return?

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lessons from an injured artist.

Hello, and welcome to another post at Saturday Sequins. I hope you all had a fun and relaxing Labor Day weekend!

For me, last weekend was full of travel, travel and more travel. By plane, by car, by bus. There was one bright (and glittery) spot, though, and that was my visit to the Museum of Fine Art in Boston! Mr. Sequin and I went to see the jewelry exhibit, and it was so much fun, we had to look at everything again. We also saw some jewelry in other locations throughout the museum, including the work of the original wire master Alexander Calder and one of my new favorite jewelry artists, Sam Kramer.

After all that travel, I confess I'm exhausted. Emotionally and physically. This might be the perfect time to discuss something I've been putting off for weeks now -- taking care of our bodies so we can keep creating beautiful things.

This is one of those subjects I never really thought was important when I was younger. I would always skip over posts just like this one, thinking they didn't apply to me. I continued to treat my body as if it were invincible, invulnerable. That is, until... I got eyestrain two years ago. And then my carpel tunnel flared up. And then I suffered from a terrible, horrible shoulder injury made worse by well-meaning but overzealous medical professionals. I couldn't dress myself or cook for awhile. You can imagine how much art I made. That was April of 2010, and I'm still recovering.

(Note that as of early 2011, I found a team of really supportive, knowledgeable, and caring people to help me get better. I could never have gotten to the level I'm at now without Brenda, Raimy, Jessica, Emily, Paige, Laura, David, and Scott, who is the best doctor ever! Or without Kate, who referred me to Brenda in the first place.)

It's been a tough time, but I've learned so much and become a stronger person in the process -- and I don't just mean my shoulders. I now have the opportunity to share what I've learned, and I'm hoping it'll help all of you, whether you're in perfect health and want to stay that way, have a problem area, or are suffering from a serious injury. So, in no particular order, here are the things I've learned:

1.) Value your body and the work you do! The fact that you do creative work makes you an amazing, extraordinary person. The fact that you do it in comfort is a tremendous gift, and one you should never overlook. So if you're filled with self-doubt, not sure if you're good enough or talented enough, wondering if you will become rich and famous, take those thoughts, crumble them up and toss them in the circular file! Look at yourself and your work through fresh eyes, because believe me, when you can't do the things you love, you come to realize how special they are, and how silly you were. And how much it means just to do them, money or not.

2.) Rest! In this world, we are taught to go, go, go. Work more hours, take on more activities, get fewer hours of sleep. Well, I urge you not to get caught up in that. It's good to work hard and have meaningful things in your life -- to have an abundance of meaning! But your body will thank you if you get an extra hour of sleep here and there, or take fifteen minutes to rest your eyes, or take half an hour to sit and do nothing. Even the smallest things will add up.

3.) Warm up! When you're 15, you don't have to worry so much about whether your muscles are ready to go. When you're 28? 29? 30? And beyond? It's time to think about getting your muscles in a state where they can do what you need, and where you won't feel as stiff and ouchy afterward. Soak your hands in warm water before you do chainmaille. Put a heat pack or warm washcloth on your shoulders if you're going to be hammering a lot or working with clay. This is especially nice on a cold day!

4.) Stretch! Stretch your hands -- consult a doctor or physical therapist for some safe stretches. Do eye yoga. Do some nice, gentle shoulder stretches. To make the most of your stretching, make sure you do it to the point of slight stretch, with no pain. Pain is bad! Increase your intensity in small increments, and make sure to exhale as you do -- it'll keep you relaxed. Finally, stretch after you've warmed up. Not before.

5.) Breathe! Not just when you stretch, but all the time. It helps with anxiety and keeps your muscles more relaxed. Also, it's just a good thing to do. ;)

6.) Strengthen! Strong muscles don't get injured as easily. Also, strengthening exercises are something a physical therapist will prescribe without fail. My advice is to start slow, with a low number of sets, repetitions, and resistance, and increase all of these gradually. Consult a doctor, physical therapist or personal trainer for the best exercises for your needs and your body. And be aware of how you feel when you exercise! There is good pain and bad pain. If something hurts and makes you feel worse, don't do it!

7.) Ice! Here's my routine for my shoulders. I heat, warm up with gentle movement, stretch, do my strengthening exercises, and then take out my bag of frozen peas and ice for 20 minutes, no more than that. I make sure there is a layer of fabric, either a shirt or towel, between the ice and my skin, because too much cold can cause blood to rush to an area, which creates irritation. I honestly prefer peas to regular ice packs, but here's some advice. Put the bag of peas in another, thicker bag! The more you use your peas, the more they'll stink, and the more they'll leak all over you. And I probably don't have to mention this, but don't eat them. ;)

8.) Consult a doctor! Seriously! If something hurts for more than three weeks, it's a chronic condition. Don't wait any longer than that -- see someone who can give you advice. If you're going to start a new exercise program, mention this to your doctor. Some moves may not be good for your level of strength and flexibility, or even the way your bones are put together! Make sure you see someone who takes your concerns seriously and does not write you off. If the first doctor is no good, don't panic. Move right on to the next -- doctor shopping is how I found the man I now recommend to all my local friends.

9.) Get massages. They're good for relaxing, but also for getting rid of pain! My recovery has been made up of both physical therapy exercises and massage, and I can't even say which has been more valuable to me. I know a number of people who have felt better, even after serious and longstanding injuries, after seeing an experienced, qualified and competent massage therapist. I suggest asking around -- especially medical professionals, but also people who've had chronic pain. Just make sure to drink a lot of water when you're done with the appointment. You'll feel a lot less tender the next day.

10.) Pay attention to your diet! This doesn't mean only eating marshmallows for a month or cutting out carbohydrates. A diet is just the way you eat, period. In fact, I advise against all fad diets, including Atkins, because it's not healthy to cut out entire groups of food like that. Eat a variety of whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. And legumes! Unless you're a vegetarian or vegan, eat low fat dairy and fish like salmon and tuna. Embrace healthy fats like avocado and olive oil. Eat your leafy greens! If the thought makes you wrinkle your nose, try spinach smoothies. I was so very skeptical when I heard about them, but now I, a picky eater, am hooked!

Doing these things improves your health and your mood. It helps your body repair itself. The point isn't to eat super healthy (unless you want to) and never have sugar or fast food or soda again. The point is to eat better. Little changes add up, feel good, and motivate you to try bigger ones. You can still have the things you love, including pasta! I just pile veggies onto mine. Do what you're comfortable with, take your time, and pay attention to your own preferences and dietary restrictions. Don't eat things that gross you out just because they're healthy, because food is about nutrition, but also how it makes you feel. You can experiment, of course, but there are some things that shouldn't be forced.

11.) Move more! This will keep your muscles in better condition, keep you mobile, and just make you feel better. You don't have to hop on a treadmill at the gym or go running for hours if that doesn't appeal to you. In fact, starting small is a good idea. When I was getting back into exercising, I paced around the house. I keep doing it because it de-stresses me and actually helps me think better!

If you'd like a really fun way to exercise, try hula hooping, otherwise known as hooping or hoop dance. You can purchase or make your own grownup hoop decorated in gorgeous sparkly tape. If we know each other in the real world, come see me about your own hoop and a free lesson!

So that's my advice to you. Before I wrap things up, I'll say two things. First, I'm not a doctor, nutritionist, physical therapist, or personal trainer. Just someone who's talked to a lot of them and learned on her own. So make sure you consult professionals! They may have more, or different, thoughts. The second is, don't feel guilty about any of this. It may be accepted to work yourself to death and ignore your body and its needs, but that doesn't make it smart. Society may label people who exercise and eat well as freaks and fanatics, but I've come to realize they're mostly quite practical people and very happy with their lives.

Whew! Thanks for reading this long post. If you have anything to add, or if you'd like my recipes for vegetarian black bean soup, chickpea curry soup, or spinach smoothies, or to hear about how I wash the floors without using my shoulders, comment here!

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Own it! (My favorite post ever.)

Here's something you might not know about me. Years ago, after graduating from college, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. I applied, and was accepted to, a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program and spent two and a half years immersed in the sciences. Biology, Chemistry, Physics. I even took a few math courses like Calculus and Statistics.

(I then realized I was going down this road not because it made be happy, but because I thought it would please certain other people. I finished my courses, but I never applied to medical school. Still, I'm grateful for the experience and would not trade it for anything in the world. Another story for another time!)

In one of my Physics classes, I happened to mention a hilarious Chemistry-related pun I'd come up with. Instead of laughing, one of my classmates scoffed and said he was surprised I'd admit to something like that in public. As if I'd said something scandalous and obscene!

Well. After 25 years of feeling embarrassed when I was called out for being a dork, I did something different. Now, on the outside, I remained calm. I rolled my eyes and ignored that dude. Inside, though? I got angry.

What a world! I thought. Where I was supposed to be ashamed of making puns. Of liking science. Of being me! This started me on a long -- and ongoing -- road to dumping the shame and claiming my quirks. In short, taking the most interesting things about me and owning them.

This is what I want for each and every one of you! That you realize that many of the things you believe are wrong about you are the rightest things ever because they're what make you awesome. That you own them and never, ever reject them.

Not only is this an important general life lesson, but it's one you can carry over into your creative work. Being an artist means doing what you do with a certain amount of skill, but also doing things in new and different ways. If your work is infused with your quirks, your awesomeness, it can't help but be original.

Also, in accepting the things that make you tick, you'll accept the things that make your work yours. No more I shouldn't write about this or I shouldn't paint like this or maybe I should concentrate on making my work more like so-and-so's. Trust me, it will be a freeing experience!

So here's my mantra: whatever makes you stand out? Own it.

  • If you're sensitive and cry during movies, own it! 
 It doesn't make you frail or weak. I know plenty of sensitive people who are strong because they're in touch with, but not controlled by, their emotions. Don't let others discount your perspective on the world, because you know what? It's just a little deeper. The world needs more depth.

  • If you have more interests than you know what to do with at times, and you're always picking up new things, own it! 
You're not a flake. You're not a scatterbrain. You do not, for the love of all that is sparkly, have problems with commitment. You're a fascinating, multi-talented person. Some would call you a Generalist instead of a Specialist. Some would call you a Scanner or a Renaissance Soul. I would call you fantastic.

Instead of "settling down" and choosing one thing to do with you life, try combining your interests. Writing with art, music with painting. Or work your interests in rotations. Devote one day, week, month, to one interest, and when you've tackled your big project or learned what you need to, switch to another. Keep feeding your curious, amazing brain! The rewards will be numerous.

  • If you write in a genre that isn't considered "serious literature," if you work with artistic materials that aren't considered "high end," if you'd rather cartoon than sketch fruit in bowls, own it! 
Traditional and accepted things are quite often wonderful, but what you do is no less so. If it pushes boundaries and delights you and helps you connect with people who wouldn't ordinarily read books or appreciate art or wear jewelry, you have to do it and continue to do it your way. It's your calling. Also, keep in mind that many famous artists faced some of the criticisms you face now.
(Some of my favorite materials to work with. They make their way into my projects again and again! I have no intention of changing this.)

Own being weird. Own your unruly curly hair and learn to encourage the curl. Own your love for sequins and stuffed animals and novelty socks and Sweet Valley Twins books. When you do, you'll be freer in your work and in your life, and you'll learn to feel compassion for anyone who thinks you should go back into hiding.

Because here's a great big secret! The people who insult you the most are definitely hiding some huge secrets of their own. They may just need some patience and encouragement to own their inner awesome.

(From my collection of Halloween socks. I wear them year round and buy more every year.)

So how about you? Which quirks are you willing to own? Which quirks are you still a little embarrassed about?

Thanks for stopping by, thanks for sharing, and have a sequintastic day!