Saturday, December 22, 2012


Hello, beady friends!

This is a quick note to let you know that I'm taking the rest of the month off of blogging. I need time to catch up on blog comments, plan some fun things for the blog for next year, and recover from my inevitable yearly cold. I can expect it as soon as the holiday chaos winds down.

Also, while I have your attention, I'd like to draw your attention to my brand new mailing list in the top righthand corner. -----> It's one of the fun things I'm planning for next year, and if you sign up, you'll get all sorts of extra goodies that you won't get on the blog. Including my favorite sugar cookie recipe!

And that's all for now. Whether you celebrate the holidays or not, have a great week and a sequintastic day!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tela Formosa's first book! A review.

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

I have something exciting to share with you today. It's my very first in-depth book review! The book I'm reviewing is Design and Create Your Own Wire Wrapped Cabochon Pendants, an e-book by my good friend, Tela Formosa -- who was nice enough to let me have a free copy. You can read her own, excellent description here.

Since I'd never done a detailed book review before, I decided to try a question and answer format. When I read any jewelry book, I ask myself the same questions every time, and they help me determine what's a good or even great book -- and whether I should tell you, my most sequintastic readers, about it.

And because there are more than one or two questions, I gave two answers for each: the long version and the short version. That way, you can focus on the things that matter the most to you.

Are you ready? Here we go!

What made you excited to read this book?

Short answer: Have you seen Tela's work???

Long answer: I was excited to read a whole book devoted to wrapping cabochons. I've read plenty of wire-related books, and I have plenty of them in my collection, but cabochons tend to get a small section, at best. That section is never enough for me to get the hang of wrapping stones, and I'm not all that interested in duplicating the examples -- I want to go in my own direction.

Tela's book was going to solve all those problems for me!

Are there any prerequisites for tackling the projects in this book?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: The above answer isn't set in stone (ha ha). Tela does a great job covering the different types of wire, the tools needed, and the basics of wrapping cabochons. A smart beginner could follow the book fairly easily.

Still, it is a book intended for experienced wire artists. Most people would benefit from having basic wire-wrapping skills like making bends, curls and coils. Wire weaving will also come in handy for people who like big, fancy bails.

Are the written instructions clear?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:  Tela's book is very casual in tone, like she's sitting next to you, giving you a private lesson. I like this approach. A casual, but intelligent approach to something that can be intimidating takes a lot of discomfort out of the equation. It also kept my interest throughout the book.

Her written directions are clear, and on the one or two occasions where I wasn't sure what she meant, she was ready with photos -- and then this directionally-challenged sequin scientist was fine.

How is the quality of the photographs for both in-process shots and finished pieces?

Short answer: Awesome.

Long answer: I have a bias towards photographs instead of hand or computer-drawn diagrams. It can be done, as Karen Williams shows us, but I think it's hard to show a three-dimensional process with a two-dimensional diagram.

This book is all photos, and they're top quality. The finished pieces are plentiful and gorgeous and serve as great examples of what can be done with wire and stones, and the in-process shots are very clear. I'll expand on this later, but my favorite example of great photography is when she discusses the backs of pieces. She showed the details perfectly, and I didn't have to do any guesswork about what was going on.

Does the book teach new techniques or explain known techniques in a better/more detailed way?

Short answer: Yes -- a mixture of both!

Long answer: As I mentioned before, Tela's book is all about wrapping cabochons, so there is much more detail than any books or tutorials I've read. And yes, she explains it in a better way. I like her take on the right kind of stones for beginners, which makes more sense than what I've read in other books, and her explanations of the different elements that go into a wrap are awesome.

And her discussion on the backs of wraps? I think that's my favorite part. I haven't found a discussion like that anywhere else, and I love that the focus is on secure, clean-looking backs. This is another bias of mine, but I love tidiness in wire wrapping.

Does the book offer anything else that other books and tutorials don't? 

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:  Besides the focus on wrapping stones and the conversational tone, she also talks about how she gets into a creative state. I love creativity exercises and have always thought that more books should include them.

  Tela also created a technique-based, instead of a project-based, book on wire wrapping, which isn't all that common. Which brings me to the next question...

Does the book encourage readers to go in their own creative direction?

Short answer: Yes -- very much.

Long answer: This book is all about giving you, the artist, the tools to design for yourself. This is my bias as a reader and jewelry maker, but I think teaching people to think creatively, for themselves, is the very best thing any teacher can do for her students. Especially rebellious, ornery students like me who always do their own thing. ;)

If the author wrote another book, would I buy it?

Short answer: Hell to the yes!

Long answer: The short answer pretty much covers it, but I'll say that after reading her book, I want to buy some of her tutorials.

 As for other books, I'd buy those, too. Especially if she wrote one, say, about cabbing stones. But no pressure. ;)

And that concludes my very first book review! I hope you enjoyed it, that it was helpful, and most of all, that you'll stop by Tela's website and check out the other tutorials she has available, too!

Also, a note to authors: If you like my question and answer format and would like me to review your book, let me know! I really enjoy promoting other artists and reading crafty books of all sorts, so if your book fits with the overall theme of Saturday Sequins, I'll definitely consider it.

Thanks for reading, thanks for spreading the word about Tela's book, and have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Featured Artist: Karen Williams

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!
I'm happy to share the work of one of my favorite jewelry artists with you today.

Karen Williams of Skunk Hill Studio makes beautiful beaded pieces. She has a knack for freeform peyote stitch and makes the technique look organic and effortless.

 (I love the fall colors and the cute leaf clasp in this bracelet!)

(Freeform beaded beads and copper headpins are a gorgeous combination.)

In addition to peyote stitch, Karen also makes freeform pieces using netting and right angle weave.

 (Moonlight and Shadows, one of her more recent pieces. Spooky and elegant!)

(Rainbow Reef bracelet. The fish buttons are perfect.)

Karen also makes beaded fancy goldfish. These little guys are a favorite of mine. I can imagine an aquarium full of them -- minus the water, of course!

 (The beaded fish: a cute and low-maintenance companion.)

Recently, Karen even started using sequins in her work -- which makes me one happy sequin scientist! Here's the piece she made for the Sequintastic September blog hop:

(Intricate and delicate; perfect for winter!)

She also added sequins to a beaded bead, and I love how it turned out:

I'm enjoying her explorations in sequins and seed beads. I can't wait to see what she does next!


Karen isn't just a talented artist, though -- she also has a gift, and a passion, for writing and teaching.

I've mentioned her first book, Freeform Peyote Beading, before. It's worth buying even if you're not a beader. There's the serious eye candy, but then there's the discussion on the elements of design. She's better than any art teacher I've had at explaining the technical side of art -- just read her series of blog posts on color, and you'll see what I mean.

I also like the way she tackles the techniques involved in freeform. Freeform beading is a mixture of building specific skills and following your own path/instincts as an artist, and it can be a challenge to explain for this reason -- but Karen blends these areas together very well. I especially liked the section on beaded beads.

(Speaking of beaded beads...)

Karen recently published another book, Corsets, Caps and Stays: Elegant Beaded Bead With Right Angle Weave. As you might have guessed, I'm not so good at following directions. My brain is rebellious, and my eyes cross when I look at the diagrams in books. But this didn't happen with Karen's book. I started to understand RAW right away, and her diagrams actually sped the process up. 

(I have a long way to go before I'll master this technique, but I no longer think it's impossible. Freeform RAW is at the top of my list of things to try!)

I could go on and on about the other cool things that Karen does, like create tutorials and kits, but I'm afraid of embarrassing her -- if I haven't already. So I'll let you look for yourself!

I hope you've enjoyed this week's featured artist! Stop by next week, and I'll have another treat for you -- Tela Formosa has written an incredible book on wire wrapping cabochons, and I'm going to tell you all about it.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a sequintastic day! <3

PS: Want more freeform? Check out this post on Darcy Horn's epic Kickstarter project!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Beaded Body

Hi, everyone!

As a prelude to tomorrow's Featured Artist post about Karen Williams, I thought I'd share an awesome Kickstarter project with you.

This project is by Darcy Horn of The Jade Dog Designs, and it's one of the coolest Kickstarter projects I've seen. Darcy wants to cover a life-sized mannequin... in seed beads. Specifically, in freeform peyote and brick stitch. Her project is called The Beaded Body.

I know I keep my language clean on this blog, but isn't that totally badass????

(Beadwork by Darcy Horn.)

She's already started beading a miniature mannequin as a representation of what the finished piece will look like. It looks like she used a Barbie doll, which makes this doll hoarder very happy.

So if you're wondering what to get me for the holidays, I'd be thrilled if you'd back Darcy's project and consider that my present. ;) In case you missed the link before, here it is!

Thanks for stopping by! Tune in tomorrow for a post all about a freeform artist who works on a smaller scale, and who is equally awesome.

And of course, have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Beating The Blahs.

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

First of all, special thanks to everyone who participated in the online craft fair last weekend -- both the vendors and the visitors! I'd love to do another one of these. I'd also love to do a book fair in January so we have something to do with our holiday money. So if you've written a craft book or you know someone who has, whether it's traditionally or independently published, let me know!

And now for today's topic....

The Blahs.

I have a confession to make. During the last couple weeks of November, I'd been feeling less than sequintastic. In fact, it's safe to say that I'd been feeling craptastic. Super craptastic with extra yucksauce on top.

Sleeping until mid-afternoon. Stumbling around, unable to focus when I finally did get out of bed. Collapsing on the couch shortly after that. If I went out to do fun things, like spend the day at the IDEA store or have dinner with friends, I enjoyed it, but it took me an entire day to recover! 

The worst part, though, was that I didn't have much motivation for creative things. I had ideas for a novel and a couple of epic jewelry projects kicking around in my head, but no idea how I'd tackle them because I had. No. Energy.

The Cause.

I had some ideas as to why this was happening. One, like a small grizzly bear, I go into hibernation mode the moment the temperature drops. Two, my vitamin D levels were hilariously low, as a trip to the doctor revealed. Three, I was not taking care of myself. I wasn't getting any exercise, and I was eating way too much refined sugar. Half a package of Oreos a day -- I cringe to admit it!

I knew that I had to start moving around and that the Oreos had to go. I'd read about Gala Darling quitting sugar, and I made a friend in Chicago who hadn't eaten any for several years, and these things intrigued me... but I didn't think I had it in me to make the change. It was too hard!

And then I read this article by Johnny B. Truant, all about how discomfort can be good for us, and I started thinking. Sure, making changes is uncomfortable, and I love the warm feeling of eating a stack of cookies and taking a nap all day, but in the long run, discomfort is a small price to pay for not feeling like I'm missing out on life.

The Challenge.

So I decided to do an experiment. I would try going without refined sugar, and adding hula hooping sessions to my routine, for five days. At the end of this time, I'd see how I felt. If I started to feel better, then I'd consider extending this experiment another five days.

(And I'd tell the world about it so I'd be accountable to more than just myself. <-- Is devious.)

The Result.

On the first day, I felt like crud. There was some serious sugar withdrawal going on, and I came close to tears when I had to refuse a pumpkin pie. On the bright side, this made the exercise part of the plan easier because it distracted me from my crudishness.

On the second day, I felt cranky. But maybe, towards the end of the day, a little better?

On the third day, I realized that I was awake and alert the moment I opened my eyes -- at noon, but not afternoon. Yes, I still craved those Oreos, but I was beginning to see some changes in myself that I really liked. And hey, exercise was actually fun!

On the fourth day, I was craving sugar like mad, but I was also wide awake... and even hyper for part of the day. I danced like a silly person in my livingroom and felt like myself for the first time in a long time.

On the fifth day, the sugar cravings went down a little bit. I also spent the afternoon with my puppy nephew and his mom, and I didn't feel completely wiped out when I went home. I noticed I wasn't as intimidated by tasks that seemed huge before, like answering emails. And now that some of the fog had lifted I could see that there were other factors contributing to the blahs -- like a serious case of burnout over making things for the craft show in December.

And So?
As I write this, I'm on the sixth day. I might stretch this experiment out a little longer to see what happens.

I don't think I'll quit sugar for good. After all, there are brownies to be made and eaten, and I know that depriving myself completely could lead to rebellion later on. At the same time, I know I need to be more aware of my habits and to recalibrate every time I find myself sliding back into the Blahs.

I hope I keep this up. I'd love to know what it's like to not need refined sugar and to have enough energy for all the things I want to do with my life. I think the key is to keep wanting something -- awesome, complete creative projects and the satisfaction that goes with them -- more than I want the things that are comfortable and familiar. 

If You Have The Blahs.

If you have the Blahs, there are things you can do to get rid of them.

You can accept that you have the Blahs. Having the Blahs is a lot like finding sharks in your swimming pool; if you pretend they're not there or that they're smaller than they are, you won't be able to handle them, and it will take you a whole lot longer to get rid of them!

You can adjust your diet in small ways. Lose the soda. Ditch the Oreos. Eat more healthy soups.

You can get moving. Hula hoop. Walk in the park. March in place while you listen to podcasts.

You can have your Vitamin D levels tested and get a supplement if they're low. Ditto for your iron levels.

You can get your thyroid levels tested. Low TSH levels can also contribute to the Blahs.

You can stretch. This will relax you and perk you up.

You can get a massage. Ditto, times one hundred.

You can discover the other, deeper causes of the Blahs. And once you're feeling better, you can try tackling those.

In short? There are plenty of things you can do that might make a huge difference to your mood and to your life. You don't have to cover those sharks with a tarp and pretend they aren't there. At the same time, you don't have to strap a steak to your head and go swimming with them.

So that's my take on the Blahs. Normal sparkle and shine will resume next weekend, when I present a new Featured Artist. So stay tuned!

Now it's your turn: what are some of your unconventional ways of beating the Blahs? Thanks for reading and commenting, thanks for sharing, and of course, have a sequintastic day!