Saturday, February 23, 2013

Freeform Peyote Challenge!

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

Today I'm participating in the Choose Your Own Adventure Freeform Peyote Challenge, hosted by Mandi Ainsworth and Karen Williams.  I'm really excited -- not only are Karen and Mandi two of my favorite beady people, but freeform peyote happens to be one of my favorite jewelry making techniques... ever.

The challenge was to create your own freeform piece. Because I'm me, I decided to try a little experiment. What would happen if I combined bead embroidery with freeform in another way? Specifically, if I incorporated it into the embroidery instead of adding it after the fact?

Oh, and also? I made two pieces.

For the first pendant, I started by stitching around a found object, a broken post earring from the 80's. I embellished it with seed beads of different sizes and threw in some electrical wire snippets for added interest -- because I like them so much better than bugle beads.

I love how it turned out! Like a psychedelic fried egg. So of course, I had to make another.

This piece was also made from a broken earring, using the same technique. Once again, there are bits of electrical wire thrown in, and I also included some tiny Czech glass beads -- although they're hiding.

The biggest difference between the pendants is the way I finished them. The psychedelic fried egg was strung simply on beading wire with some beads a friend had given me and a clasp and crimp beads that another friend, my puppy nephew's mom, had passed on to me from her beading days.

 (Why is the photo on its side? I don't know. Maybe it got tired?)

The second was going to go on a ribbon, but when I was looking through some of my old projects, I found a multi-strand electrical wire necklace that matched it perfectly. So the two came together with a button for a clasp, and voila! 

This piece is my favorite, and it shows that freeform can be combined with any other beading technique. So versatile, and so utterly amazeballs.

 So that's what I made for the challenge. Now it's time to visit the other participants, including hosts Mandi and Karen. You can find the full list of adventurers on either of their blogs! My guess is that their work will knock your socks off... so you might want to wear an extra pair or two.

Thanks for reading and commenting, and have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Small Loom and Freeform Weaving.

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

As you might have guessed, I'm addicted to books. Specifically, books about making things. Whether it's jewelry, little pies, or tiny notebooks, if someone somewhere has written about it, I'm going to have a look!

I have a huge soft spot for self-published books because as I mentioned last week, I'm all for artists and writers taking matters into their own hands. I have an equally soft spot for published books that are no longer new releases, though. Sadly, most of them don't get the attention they deserve, even though they're just as awesome as newer ones.

So here's the first in a series of older books that knocked my Halloween socks off. But even better? These books go well together! Each one has techniques that will mesh well with the others, and all of them can be combined with sequins.

Small Loom And Freeform Weaving

This is a book by Barbara Matthiessen, and it's one I'm thrilled to have in my personal collection. 

Since this year's Bead and Button Show course catalog came out, I've been wanting to learn how to make Claudia Chase's woven bracelets. They'd be so fierce with sequins sewn on! Sadly, the awesome course isn't in my budget, and neither is the Mirrix Loom. 

However! I found this book at the Idea Store and promptly fell in love. It shows you different kinds of weaving, including pin weaving and loom weaving, and it even teaches you how to make your own loom using, among other things, a plastic comb and duct tape.  How's that for inexpensive?

You can use the weaving techniques to make headbands, bracelets, and even tiny little bags. There are a few projects that combine wire and weaving techniques, too.

The instructions pass the Saturday Sequins test for clarity -- meaning they're so good, even I can follow them! They're also thorough. She covers every aspect of weaving, including what to do with those pesky thread tails.

The only problem I have is... now I have to get all kinds of yarn! Or maybe that isn't a problem, so much as an opportunity.

So that's the first book in the series! Stay tuned for some awesome books on combining fiber with wire.

I should also mention that I'm not against buying a loom if you can afford it. They look gorgeous. And even if you can't afford it... Mirrix is doing a contest! The prize is a free loom. Here are the details.

Also, Mirrix has a blog. I see lots of happy reading in my future.

Now it's your turn: Have you done bead or fiber weaving using a loom? Have you ever tried to make your own? Also, are there any older crafty books that you love? Let me know!

Thanks for stopping by, and have a sequintastic day! I'll see you in the comments. <3

Edit: I have the best blog friends ever.

Here's a website that Maneki shared with me, all about small loom weaving.

Here's a link Bobbie shared, featuring one of her beautiful woven pieces.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Don't Give Up!

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

I was going to review four fantastic books this weekend. I was really excited about it, too -- because these books are serious awesomesauce. I've decided to push that post back another week, though, because something important came up.

That something? More rejections -- some rejections that broke my heart just a little. So I'm going to put a Barbie band-aid on the injury and write something I really need to read. And if you're a creative person who's faced disappointment, it's something you need to read, too.


When I found out I'd been passed over for two awesome opportunities, the first thing I felt was disappointment. I was really hoping I'd make it. That I'd get the big break I'd been looking for.

My next feeling? I felt like a loser. I started to wonder...  did I have any business trying to make it as a jewelry artist? I have had an awful lot of rejections lately. It was the kind of attitude I'd been trying to avoid since I started trying to make a name for myself in the beading world, and there it was -- staring me stubbornly in the face.

Still, I knew there had to be something I could do, some insight I could find, that would make me feel better. So I did what I usually do when I have a problem... I started brainstorming. Here's what I came up with.

Feelings aren't always reality.

I'm all about accepting feelings. Disappointment is natural, and I absolutely don't believe in censoring my thoughts and feelings just because they're unpleasant. However. When it comes to feeling like a loser, it's vital to remember this:

Just because you feel it doesn't mean it's real.

Do you need to read that again? I sure do. In pink.

Just because you feel it doesn't mean it's real.

I could feel like a flamingo, but it wouldn't make me one. The same is true for being a failure, a loser, and all those other nasty words we call ourselves when our confidence starts to flounder.

It's not personal.

If you feel like a loser, if you feel like giving up, another thing to realize is that rejection isn't personal. 

I don't just mean that it's something you created, and not your actual self, being turned down -- although that's true. I don't just mean that people's tastes as individuals are incredibly, and ridiculously, subjective -- even though that's true, too.

(I mean, some people actually eat raisins. Yuckballs!!!)

Work can be rejected for a million reasons, none of which has anything to do with how good it is. Maybe the piece is too big or too small. Maybe it doesn't fit the overall theme of the show/contest/exhibit. Maybe, just maybe, your work didn't make it because it's really, really creative and crazy, and humans are biased against creative ideas. 

You'll never know for sure. It won't help to speculate. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that:

You probably weren't rejected because your work sucked.

And you definitely weren't rejected because you suck! 

It happens to everyone.

You know who's faced rejection? 

Lady Gaga. Madonna. Monet. Stephen King. Oh, and everyone.

Rejection is a rite of passage. It doesn't make you mediocre or a loser. It just makes you human!

In fact, one of the major differences between people who succeed and people who fail isn't talent! It's this:

The people who succeed keep going, even when they feel like quitting.

The people who succeed keep going while other people quit.

It's just statistics. The more you put yourself out there, and the longer you stick around, the better your chances of getting noticed. But if you sulk on your couch and never show what you make to another person ever again? Your chances are zero. Zilch. Goose egg!

Sure, it's a little more complicated than that, but not much. Persistence -- or grit -- is the most important tool you have as an artist! Even more than natural talent. And the cool thing is that it can be developed. So even if you're not feeling gritty right now, that's OK -- think of it as a muscle you can build over time.

Work smarter.

Here's the other part of the persistence equation. You already know that to keep going, you keep doing. Right? But something to keep in mind is that working hard is good, but...

Working smart is better than working hard.

Don't just keep making your art. Find ways to raise it to a new level.

Refine your technique. Practice doing the things you struggle with the most. Keep looking for ways to distinguish yourself from others in your field, whether it's through presentation or becoming more innovative or heading in a slightly different direction with the things you make or offering amazing, over the top customer service. 

You already make awesome things. I'm taking that as a given. And of course, as I mentioned before, rejection often has nothing to do with the quality of your work. But there's satisfaction in continually improving. It gives you something to work towards, it maintains your confidence even when your career is uncertain, and it helps you develop grit.  

The only catch? This one's the hardest because it's different for everyone, and the only person who can make the important choices is you. My only advice is to work smarter in ways that make you happier and more passionate about what you do and to... 

Never, ever, ever, change your work into what other people think it should be. 

Toning your work down deprives the world of the things you, and only you, have to offer. And this is because...

You're a misunderstood genius.

(For now.)

Remember, even Stephen King faced a ton of rejection before he got where he is now. If people aren't acknowledging your work just yet, they might need some time to come around to your brilliance. But they will come around. Someday, once you've made it big, you'll be an inspiration to beginners who will look at you and whisper... I can't believe she was ever rejected! In fact?

The more obstacles you face, the more interesting your success story will be. 

I don't care how pretentious it sounds. I don't care if the rest of the world judges you for using the label or me for encouraging you to use it. If calling yourself a misunderstood genius makes you feel better, do it!

I'll be honest. It's working for me. Mostly because it makes me laugh and think of Brian from Spaced, but also because that's so much better than calling myself a failure or a loser. It makes me feel heroic instead of defeated. It reminds me that my story isn't over -- it's just getting started.

Pick yourself.

Gatekeepers aren't villains (unlike squirrels) who want you to fail. Most of them are awesome people who have a really tough job to do. That said, every now and then you have to pat them on the head and send them lovingly on their way while you take matters into your own hands.

If nobody's taking a chance on you right now, you can take that chance, instead! 

My favorite example is writers and self publishing. Some writers don't want to deal with agents, publishers, and all the other people who usually have the power. So they find their own audience. They write what they want to write. And they put it out into the world with nothing but their own permission! Luckily...

Your own permission is the most important thing.

OK, I think we need to read that again. This time, in purple.

Your own permission is the most important thing.

You only need your permission to sell your work to people who love it. To show it to everyone you know... and all their friends. To wear your favorite necklace to the grocery store so you'll be showered with compliments. To set up a blog or website and share your work with the online world. To write an awesome book. 

Is it hard work? It sure is! In some ways, it's harder than if you'd gone with the gatekeepers. But it's also exhilarating to feel so sure about what you have to offer the world that you're willing to give yourself that big break you've been looking for. And if you're not so sure? Get sure by working smarter and refining what you do.

You're not alone.

That said, never underestimate the importance and impact of a strong support group. Because failure and rejection and annoying setbacks happen to everyone, especially creative people, other artists will know what you're going through, and they'll be able to help you through your rough patch.

Maybe they'll give you some much-needed perspective on how rejection isn't personal. Maybe they'll tell you how awesome you are. Maybe they'll help you form a new plan of attack. Or maybe they'll feed you cookies and hot chocolate and wrap you up in a fuzzy blanket.

Whatever they do, your creative friends will show you that they don't think you're a loser. Your best friends, your creative spouse, your blog readers, your customers, pick you every day. That's worth a million acceptances by strangers.

Also, don't forget to include cuddly animals in your support group. I spent Wednesday afternoon with a friend's lab puppy in my lap, and he absorbed my angst like an adorable sponge. He doesn't care how famous I am. He thinks I'm cool because I play catch with him and his slobbery chew toys and let him body slam me as he brings them back.

Never underestimate the importance of a dog who loves you.

Perspective, perspective, perspective!

Here's the final piece of the puzzle. If you feel like giving up, you might need a healthy dose of perspective. 

There's nothing wrong with dreaming big and wanting to achieve amazing things in life. Our plans, our dreams, our schemes, are a big part of who we are as creative people, or as people, period. They give our lives a deeper meaning. They give us direction and purpose in a world that can be chaotic. 

There's nothing wrong with trying for big things and feeling disappointed when we fail to reach them. Feelings aren't good or bad -- they just are, even if they're not always reality. 

But if you have perspective, you know that failure to achieve something you want isn't the end of the world, and it certainly isn't the end of your life as a creative person. It isn't a reflection of who you are, and it isn't a sign from some mysterious force (like an evil squirrel in a top hat) that you're not meant to succeed. It's just a failure. It's just a rejection. It's just time to move on to the next thing.

And also? In the end, what really matters isn't that we succeed beyond our wildest dreams and become respected and adored, even though that's an amazing thing. What matters is that we're able to create, to make things with our capable brains and fingers and hands and, in doing so, to feel really and truly alive.

Because our physical bodies are finite. They don't last forever. Health comes and goes, and so does life.

You never know how much creative time you have. So bask in it!

When people say things like this to me, I sometimes think it's a guilt trip. I'm not cool with the idea that if you feel anything other than gratitude, you're a miserable person. Or that you have no right to react to a disappointing situation because other people have it worse -- why does it have to be a contest? So believe me when I say, my intention isn't to shame myself, or yourself. It's just to remind you that you're amazing! And that:

You are so much more than a few rejections.

You are so much more than a few rejections!

Remember, rejection doesn't mean you suck! Because no matter what, you're a creative, lively, talented, hardworking, brave person who is loved by dogs. And so am I. I'm also a petite pie princess, a bat benefactor, the owner of a wonderful, inappropriate sense of humor, a hula hooping fiend, and a fantastic problem solver. I bet you're a million things, too. The one thing you are NOT is a loser.

So that's my take on giving up -- and why you don't have to do it, no matter how loserly you feel right now. If you're not convinced, bookmark this post, save it on Pinterest, email it to yourself, give the link to all your friends for safe keeping, and come back to it once you've taken a day or two to think. I'll be here, waiting to help you in any way I can.

Now it's your turn: what do you do when you feel like giving up?

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing! And of course, have a sequintastic day.

Edit: This video on dealing with criticism and rejection is awesome. Thanks, Joanna Penn and Mark McGuinness!

Also, special thanks to Michelle Mach, who mentioned my post, and my flamingo quote, in her awesome giveaway.

Also, special thanks to Mandi Ainsworth, who mentioned my post in an amazing post of her own, all about beading with anxiety.

Also, thanks to Srini, Johnny, Jeff, Karen, Joel, and for your awesome content. Your links made this post awesome. <3

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Make Your Own Stamps!

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

A few weeks ago I had a paint party, where I gathered my painting supplies and went down to the basement to add color to... anything that would stay still. It was slow going at first, but eventually I started having fun. So much fun that Mr. Sequin had to bribe me with food to get me to come upstairs again!

The fun coincided with stamping. You see, I'd been reading some amazing books on fiber art -- which I may write about next weekend -- and there was a section on making stamps for fabric painting. I didn't have any of the supplies in the book, but I did have some foam shapes and a crazy idea. 

And that's how I turned a plain white shirt like this one...

Into this! A colorful work in progress.

I highly recommend making your own stamps for fabric painting.  It's fun. It's easy. It's perfect for jazzing up old clothing (or sheets or pillow cases). It lets quilters and other fabric artists, including bead and sequin embroiderers, create textile patterns that are totally unique. I've only tried it on cotton fabric and cardboard, but I bet it will work for all sorts of paper projects, too!

Oh, and did I mention how fun it is?

What you'll need:

  • Cotton fabric  (or old clothing)
  •  Foam shapes 
  • A ballpoint pen (or pencil)
  • A thick needle 
  •  Cardboard 
  • Acrylic paint (I like Liquitex, but there are cheaper paints out there)
  •  A paintbrush 
  • A painter's palette  (or plastic plate)
  • A container with clean water
  • An iron and ironing board
  •  A trained flamingo to do the ironing (optional)

To make the stamps:

To make the stamps, I drew a design on my foam shape with a ballpoint pen. I started out with very simple shapes and lines, but I've been working my way up to more complex designs. I retraced this design several times -- about a dozen -- with the eye of my needle. An embroidery needle with a large eye worked well.  The sharp end of the needle tends to snag on the foam.

To use the stamps:

I put cardboard under my fabric, or in the case of a shirt, between the two fabric layers.

I dipped my paint brush in the paint and used it to paint a light coat on the stamp. I tested the stamp on a piece of cardboard to check the paint consistency, and if my paint was too dry or too thick, I added a little water before I painted the stamp again.

To use the stamp, I put it paint side down on the fabric and applied pressure with my fingers. I don't always do this all at once -- in fact, I often start from one end and work my way to the other -- but I make sure to put pressure on every part of the stamp so the entire design shows up on the fabric.

When I was done, the images looked like this:

I washed my stamps after every few stampings to get the extra paint out of the impressions. Water and an old toothbrush or paper towel did the trick. I stuck to black paint for most of the stamping, but I started to get curious about other colors -- like blue and green.

I really like the blue! I'm guessing that purple will be awesome.

What next?

I have lots and lots of stamping left to do, but once that's done and I've waited a few days for the paint to cure, I'll heat set it with an iron. 

To heat set, I sandwich my painted fabric between thick layers of ugly fabric. This protects the iron and ironing board. Some people use a pressing cloth, but all I had was this really ugly fabric I was never going to use. It works just fine.

I iron the fabric sandwich in small sections, spending about 5 minutes on each section and making sure that I keep the iron moving the entire time. I'm not attached to the ugly fabric, but I don't want the acrylic paint to melt or burn. Here's a good article on eHow on heat setting. You can also do it with a hair dryer!

And that's just one way to make your own stamps! If you want to learn more about fabric painting for mixed media work, Chapter Two of Cyndi Lavin's e-book, Every Bead Has A Story, will teach you much more than I can in one blog post. 

I hope you've enjoyed the tutorial! If you have any questions, let me know, and I'll do my best to answer them.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a sequintastic day!