Friday, January 27, 2012

What a fun day!

I feel like I have been totally neglecting N's Whims this month. My to-do lists for the rest of my life have been a mile long, totally monopolizing my time. Most of the month, I have been looking longingly at my studio and mentally berating myself for not making it a priority. But hey, that is life sometimes. The laundry is done, kids are fed, sales tax paid, I've lost a few pounds and my house is mostly in order. Anyway, as I was feeling badly that I wasn't going to make it into the studio yet again today, I got two HUGE pick-me-ups in the mail.

I received both my bead soup ingredients from my partner AND my February issue of Bead Trends (with my bracelet inside). Seriously, which to open first?! I decided neither, because my to-do list was not done. Oh my, is that some tremendous self-control or what?! Boy did I get efficient! When I finally got to the fun stuff, I chose my package from my bead soup partner, Patti Vanderbloemen. You know I had already peeked at the online version of the magazine and my curiosity was killing me! Patti was so generous with her ingredients, I was overwhelmed!

First off, all of the findings she sent were sterling silver--chain, two handmade clasps (made by Patti) and two bali style balls. So beautiful! I don't tend to work a lot with sterling in order to keep the price down, so this is going to be fun!
Next, I found the pendants. You know I love ceramic (so much that I am currently taking a class to learn how to make pendants and beads), but I tend to be drawn to the earthy, rustic designs. Patti sent me some porcelain pendants (I learned from my instructor, this is the hardest to make)--they are all at once dainty and commanding--whatever will I do with these complex beauties?!
You would think that would be good, but no, Patti included a very generous supply of hand-made glass rondelles to accent my design. You can't tell by the pictures, but the white ones have a shimmer--like freshly fallen snow. Beautiful!
I also found a little bag of the cutest yellow enameled metal beads! Two lovely pops of color! Patti couldn't have known that these are precisely the sort of enameled goodies that made me sign up for a couple enameling classes this summer. Aren't they super cute?!
Last but not least, Patti included another little surprise--a pair of earrings she made. Woohoo! Surprisingly, I rarely receive hand-made gifts. What a treat! The glass beads have a really cool clear texture to them--like crystallized sugar--so neat!
Now, what to do with all these beauties?! Sometimes it is best if I walk away, come back and look for a while--get to know them--and wait for them to speak to me. You will get to see in March for the big reveal! So fun!
Hmm, now on to the magazine--my guilty pleasure! I just love reading it front to back. So, I started with the letter from the editor. I almost fell of my chair when I saw my name in her letter! She wrote "One of my favorites in this issue is entitled 'Sunflower Fields' and was created by Natasha Lutes. It is a beautiful bracelet that she created in memory of her grandfather (and grandmother). You can find her gorgeous design and more about the story behind it on pg. 62....."
Wow! How cool is that?! I am tickled pink! What a day!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bead soup anyone?!

Today I put together my bead soup mix for my partner, Patti Vanderbloemen.LinkHere is a teaser photo of what I threw in her soup--can't wait to see what she makes with it! We were supposed to send things that we like that are not normally used by our partner....

While I was at it, I put together a bead soup mix for my friend, Mimi, who did not get randomly chosen this time for the bead soup party. You see, this has become such a popular idea that there are too many designers who sign up for a spot.
Lori Anderson, the organizer of this amazing event has to randomly choose the participants in order to keep it manageable. She came up with such a cool concept--one jewelry designer swaps beads with another designer, working with beads outside your normal ingredient list and creating a new recipe--so to speak :). Anyway, Mimi not getting chosen made my randomly chosen excitement a little bittersweet. She was going to go through her own beads and try to push herself to work it differently and then post along with the party, but I thought this would be a fun little surprise :). Here is a teaser photo of her soup mix:

Last time, I just threw my things in a package and sent them out--I was not aware that the packaging should be as pretty as the beads inside :). I usually use up my creativity long before the packaging--but, I gave it my best:

I thought it would be fun to wrap it like a huge piece of candy--open it up and find "eye candy!"

Monday, January 16, 2012

January craft to give back

Woops, the month almost flew by without this getting scheduled! I hear they could use more hair accessories at the WNC, so we will re-do this easy project this month. Next Monday the 23rd at 7 pm, come on over and let's whip some super cute hair clips out! Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January whims....

Seems like every January I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my studio. I usually have lots of new beads and findings that came in over the holiday season--all piled up on my desk, many still in the package! Come January, my studio is usually a mess, I am a bit fried creatively and every time I walk into my studio I am reminded that I need to tally up a year's worth of purchases and sales to take care of taxes. Yuck!
So far, I have organized my receipts and cleaned up my desk--putting away most of the new beads. As I cleaned up those beads, a fe
w began to whisper, "come on, play!" But, I just wasn't feeling it--until I came upon two pendants that I have been saving.

The first was the bloom piece that I made in my metalsmith class--too much time went into it to be able to sell it reasonably--I would rather keep it or give it as a gift. I had just put away a new chunky chain that is made of hammered blackened copper--perfect for this piece. Add to that some funky black and brown beads that my friend, Nicole, brought me from a cool bead store in New Orleans and some sparkly copper crystal beads and whalah! I would love to post a picture, but I have submitted this piece for publication. Fingers crossed!

The second pendant was a ceramic pendant that I had picked up from a really cool artist, Jangles. Even at 50% off, the price for the pendant is really too high to sell the bracelet in my usual selling point. Since I knew I couldn't sell it, I didn't get to play with it during the holiday season. As I was l
ooking at the call for submissions in Bead Trends magazine, I noticed that in August they are looking for pieces inspired by the county fair. Well, this pendant had always had a carnival feel to me, so.... I designed yet another piece I can't share with you. :) Both pieces stretched me creatively and I loved how they turned out! If they aren't chosen to be published, I will still be grateful to Bead Trends for the motivation. And, if they aren't chosen, you will get to see them sooner--bonus either way!

Even after enjoying my time playing and making things out of my usual style, I am still not really feeling it in the studio. So, to
day while we had a sick, play indoors day at our house, I tackled some other projects. I sorted through 2 years of the girls' art projects that I had been throwing in a basket to organize later. I saved my favorites for each girl and set aside some to hang in the house, rotating for the seasons (and yes, they are now organized in seasonal order :). Next, I went through our pile of papers in the kitchen. I sorted into four piles: do now (this week), do later (next 3 months), pending and file. The do now pile is up on my bulletin board right by the garage door, and the others are in a file box in the kitchen where we sort the mail. No more paper pile for things to get lost in. Since I was on a roll and the girls were playing nicely, I decided to tackle the junk drawer. I used a binder with dividers and pockets to sort out grocery coupons, phone lists, restaurant menus and other papers that had been mucking up the junk drawer. Thank you, Better Homes and Gardens for the ideas. Oh my did all of that feel good!

Finally, I got a great idea for a winter wreath for the front door from pinterest. I suddenly remembered that I had a large piece of fabric that just might work . When Mike and I moved into our first condo as homeowners, it had quite the 70's feel. One entire wall of our bedroom was covered in mirrors. W
e had limited funds to hire their removal and were too scared to tackle that on our own(Mike worked in the ER and was sure we would shatter the glass and slice ourselves to death). So, I went with my 40% off coupon to Joann's Fabric and bought almost 5 yards of sheer sand colored fabric to cover the wall of mirrors. It worked at the time :). Seeing as how I tend to never throw out something I may want to use for crafting later, I still have that fabric 10 years later.
Re-purposing it brought great joy. One wire hanger and 4 yards of shredded fabric later and I had a basic wreath. Next, I added a sash from one of the girls' flower girl dresses. It was so fun for me to remember those times while working on the wreath! What do you think?!

I attached the sash with just a safety-pin--I am thinking I can change the embellishment with the seasons--maybe felted flowers in the spring...pine cones at Christmas...oh the fun! Maybe next month my whims will return to jewelry :D

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Whew, time flies!

Looking back at 2011, I made some pretty tall goals for my little business. Instead of focusing on growing my business, I focused on growin
g my skills. Last July, in my blog, I wrote, "my goal for this year is to really stretch myself as an artist--can't really do that without trying new things and taking risks." I then went on to list the things I wanted to do in the remainder of the year. I made this list a public announcement of sorts so that you all would help keep me accountable! I then did something I have never done--I closed my shop for 2 months to focus on reaching these goals.

In the way that life typically happens, my twins' had a very difficult time adjusting to kindergarten--which coincided with my "sabbatical." Turns out I actually took the time off to spend in meetings and their classrooms to help them with the transition! I was quite relieved to have this time already
free so that I could do my first job, that of mom, well!

So, looking back on that list, what did I get accomplished? Well, I did take a fused glass pendant class--made a few pendants and had some fun. But, I decided that I do not have a passion for fused glass pendant making. I will leave that to another!

Next, I took part in the bead soup blog party. This is an exchange made between two jewelry artists--each of us giving beads from our stash to the other--with a final product made and posted on your blog. Then, we all went around to the 300+ blogs, hopping and oohing and aaahing at the jewelry made. I got a chance to work with some beautiful glass beads made by Pam Ferrari. It was both intimidating and inspiring. As a matter of fact, it inspired me to try my hand at glass bead making. So far, mine have come out a bit wonky, but they are getting better! Turns out, I do have a passion for working with a torch and fire--the three classes I just signed up to take at the bead and button show this summer all have torch work. One is for glass beadmaking and the other for enameling.

I also taught my first class on altering pendants. This was a very fun, laid-back class with women in my neighborhood. Yummy food, wine and great company. We had such fun and I got to share my passion with other women. They all made such beautiful things!

Once I started stretching myself, I kept going! I took a semester long metals course. I learned how to do several techniques with metal from an amazing teacher, Kristie Chijimatsu. While I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, my teacher and my peers, my passion is not there, either. But, I am really glad that I learned them and see myself enjoying the techniques more at a later point in my life when I have more time for creating. This pendant is my favorite project that I made this semester:

I also submitted a few designs to my favorite bead magazine, Bead Trends. And, guess what, they were accepted. My first published piece came out in this month's magazine. So exciting!

In July I started the craft to give back program in my neighborhood. Each month, a group of us gets together to make/embellish something for the W
aunakee Neighborhood Connection. It feels so good to take a percentage of my profits, buy a few supplies and (with the help of several hands) make a boatload of beautiful things to share with those who are less fortunate in our community. So far, we have donated hair accessories, fancy t-shirts and leggings, winter hats, and necklaces. So FUN!

My jewelry made it out to the Rose Bowl this year--and was even purchased by the opposing team's fans and coaches! I heard through the gra
pevine that the Rose Bowl president is even considering my rings for the coach's swag bags next year!!! Can you believe it?! I had to sit down for that one!

It has been such a fulfilling 6 months, that I don't want it to stop! Like I mentioned earlier, I just signed up for several classes at the bead and button show. I also signed up for another semester long course at MATC, this time in ceramics. Today, I created some new designs to submit for publication, so stay tuned with fingers crossed!
Thank you all for going along with this crazy ride called N's Whims! Thank you for encouraging me, supporting my bead habit and keeping it fun!