Friday, August 26, 2016

Mental Organization - Appeal of the Traveler's Style Notebook!

I'm still getting my bead mojo back after a long and stressful summer of upheaval at work, surgery, and other things.  Part of my struggle has been coming home from work, sitting down for "a few minutes"...and finding myself unable to convince my brain that there are other things that need doing.  I've realized some of this is due to the pure quantity of projects, chores, and obligations lodged in my brain - there's just too much in there, and while I remember it all it seems to get so jumbled that it doesn't stream back out in a logical "to-do" list.  It's been most frustrating to know I have so much fun stuff that I need and want to do...but be unable to organize it in my brain enough to actually become motivated and productive.
Why is it that I have nothing to write down on a planner page, yet I have too much to remember to do?
 In my "few minutes" of sitting after work, I've spent a bit of time on Youtube watching the ball-joint doll vlog channels (yes, the doll obsession is still pervasive), I stumbled across this video (try the 2 minute mark) that sparked something in my brain.  One of my favorite doll people talked about and showed off her home made Midori Traveler's style notebook...I thought to myself, "Didn't I read a blog post about those when I got into adult coloring last year?".  Turns out I was right - this guide to the system by JetPens reminded me of why I still had this info in some corner of my brain.  After revisiting that post and a bunch more Youtube videos (particular this one and this one), I decided that this approach to mental organization ticked some boxes that a more structured planner or full blank journal just doesn't...and jumped into the deep end of Traveler's style notebook creation.
A sign of mental disorganization?
I mentioned something to my fellow AJE'ers about my new fixation and Jen sent this post my way. It perfect explains the purpose of a planner or notebook as an accessory to your brain - you are essentially "externalizing your memory" - taking the pressure off of yourself to remember everything and what order it needs to be done in.  I'm not quite sure why this realization has come so late to me - my parents are long time FranklinCovey users, and tried to get me using their planners back in highschool.  I've tried other planners and less structured journal-type books through the years, but nothing has seemed to stick for me.  We all know it's hard to maintain a new habit, but I feel like part of my issue is the overall structure of things I've tried in the past.
Notebook inserts, necessities, and a home-made Midori Traveler's Notebook style cover...sometimes it pays off to have leather lying around...

I'm a list maker for certain - scraps of paper, sticky notes, backs of opened bill envelopes are all fair game.   It doesn't matter if the list is keeping track of groceries, things to pack, gifts I need to make, or dolls that need clothes...a list is my go to method of mental organization.  For appointments or other items that need doing on a certain day, I tend to take a few minutes to set up Google calendar reminders to send me an email in advance.  As far as keeping track of creative projects, I supplement my lists with thumbnail sketches of what I want to remember.  The problem is when I actually want to work on the list or to locate the original thoughts in the jumble of loose paper scraps and partially used sketch books.  Regular planners have always seemed confining - monthly squares too small, weekly/monthly space too large, and where do I make a list or sketch that is not date specific?.  Blank books of paper present a different issue - too much freedom.  I feel like listing in a blank book is not a good use of the paper, so tend to treat them only as a place to sketch or write a full page blog post outline. 
More tools for insert making, decorating, and organization.

So here's the appeal of a Traveler's style notebook - I can buy single inserts that are blank or lined, grid or dots.  There are a myriad of structured inserts too - from typical planners to lines in columns for listing or bullet journaling.  With this, I can keep track of all my long term lists in one place, but also have a destination for temporary lists.  For example - I tend to stop at the grocery store/Target/Costco on the way home from work several days a week.  On those days, I make my list on a sticky note as I think of things during the work day.  Now I will be able to stick this list into my list insert (washi anyone?), and don't have to worry about grabbing it at the end of the day (or loosing it in my car).  Along with the home for lists, I can have segregated blank inserts for beads/dolls/sewing/blogging and other creative endeavors.  I'm not going to get into decorating right now, but I will also not hide the fact I'm really excited to have a place to exhibit all of the small art and paper ephemera that I have accumulated.
Collage fodder, washi tape and gel pens for decorating...I *might* need more washi already...

All of this is very new to me.  I hope to start implementing my ideas over the next couple of days and weeks and post my progress for you next time. Do you have a method for keeping track of your daily and creative tasks?  How do you "externalize your memory"?  (Seriously, that is my new favorite phrase.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bead Fest: A Feast For The Eyes

Bead Fest was held over the weekend.  It's one of the highlights of my year and I've been attending since 2004.  I've even been a vendor at it 3 times (and might again in the future).  This year I went for fun; to see friends and do some (lots) of shopping.

Welcome to Bead Fest
You need to be careful at Bead Fest.  It's easy to go waaaaaaaaaay over budget in a short period of time (ask me how I know).  I told myself to lay off so many art beads this year...hahahahahahahaha!  Ok, yeah that didn't happen.

Gardanne Enamel Components
Explain to me how I'm supposed to do that with such fabulousness like Gardanne Beads enameled pieces?

Thornburg Bead Studio
Nikki/Thornburg Bead Studio brought some of her gorgeous lampwork urchins with her.  I ended up buying a bunch of lampwork headpins from her though to assist me with our AJE headpin challenge.

Penn Avenue Pottery
Tracey/Penn Avenue Pottery had oodles of fun ceramic beads to choose from.  I found myself trapped (totally against my will) at her booth for awhile, with my hands stuck (yes, I couldn't pull them out) in those trays.

Staci Louise Originals 
After my escape from Tracey's booth, I ended up at Staci's booth (that's a lie, I'd been there probably 500 times already by Saturday apologizes to Staci).  Her booth looked like a magic unicorn had visited with all the beautiful rainbow colors.  I added more beads to my gigantic Staci-collection.

Staci's bags
In addition to her beads, Staci also brought some of her hand-dyed and stamped bags with her.  I own a luna moth bag and it was perfect for shopping the show.

In fact, several bead-makers brought other art with them in addition to their beads...

Diane Hawkey
Diane Hawkey had some of her whimsical pot head planters and house sculptures for sale in her booth.

Beaded Chic Fused Glass
Donna/Beaded Chic has been playing with fused glass lately and brought some new pieces along with her table full of lampwork!

Marsha Neal
Marsha Neal had beads, tiny pottery and her needle-felted creations at her booth.  

Jenny Davies-Reazor
AJE's own Jenny Davies-Reazor had some of her gorgeous tiles and needle-felted/bead-embroidery pieces for sale at her table.

Firefly Design Studio
Michelle/Firefly Design Studio had her beach-inspired dishes with her!

And of course there was gorgeous jewelry at the show...

Marcia Balonis and Pam Garbig
Marcia Balonis and Pam Garbig had a table full of beautiful samples and kits for sale.  I brought home one kit and will be writing about it on here in the near future. 

There were also great tools for sale!

New AJE member, Cooky Schock had a booth and I came home with a lucet and some cord from her. You might recall the recent blog post that Cooky wrote for us about the lucet.  This great little tool helped make my 5+ hour car ride home go much quicker!

Treated myself to a new Xuron plier.  Soooooo comfortable!

Funky Chain, ParaWire, Gemstones
This was just the tip of the iceberg of what was available at Bead Fest!  You're probably wondering what I brought home with me, right?  Let's take a peek...

Pottery Purchases
A bunny pot head planter from Diane Hawkey, a ring holder from Marsha Neal and a dish from Michelle/Firefly Design.

Tools and Kits
The lucet, cord for the lucet, some dyed Stiff Stuff (Bead My Love), spiffy new XBow Series Xuron pliers and a fab kit from Marcia Balonis.

Art Bead Haul
And this is the art bead haul.  So many beads, pendants, headpins and cabochons!  

Bead Fest 2016 was fabulous as always and while I hate to see it end, my wallet requires a year to recover.  See you in 2017, Bead Fest!

Happy Beading!

Monday, August 22, 2016

New AJE Contributors: a Brief Intro

Hello friends! The AJE team is super excited to introduce our new contributors. They are all super talented, creative women, who will add new dimension and experiences to the blog. They will begin writing in September, including introducing themselves more in depth to you. In the meantime, you can get a preview of what to look forward to.

Laney Mead

First up is lampworker and writer for Cat World Magazine, Laney Mead. She makes incredible sculptural beads, especially animals. You can find her work in her Etsy shop and read her blog here.

Laney started out her artistic pursuits with paper and pencil, with no real formal training. She discovered lampworking one weekend and after a blissful two days of making wonkies, she was hooked and has been lampworking ever since.

Cathy Mendola

Next up is jewelry artist Cathy Mendola. She has tried several different mediums including metalsmithing, but a couple years ago she learned bead embroidery and has been hooked ever since. You can learn more about Cathy by reading her blog here, and peruse her Etsy shop here

Claire Fabian

Claire, who lives in Germany (the rest of the team are based in the US and the UK), likes to tell stories with her work. She uses the tagline "to add a little odd to your life" after getting the complement that her work is odd, so she will fit in perfectly! 

Claire works as a researcher by day, and creating with several different mediums in her off hours helps keep her sane (does this sound familiar?) You can read Claire's blog here and take a look at her Etsy shop

Cooky Schock

I don't have Cooky's profile photo yet so I swiped this one off Facebook, which was posted by Sam Leonard

Cooky had written a post for AJE about using a lucet before we begged her to join as a regular contributor. Cooky has a wide variety of artistic pursuits, has been a bead shop owner and is now a traveling teacher. Check out her website gallery for some eye candy  

We are really excited for you all to get to know these artists better and for the new experience and energy they bring with them. We know you will love them! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Playing with Raku

I've hardly done anything this last couple of weeks, it's school holidays so my time has been dictated by children. So I was looking around for something to write about and I decided to have a go at a raku technique I read about ages ago.... resist erosion.

Raku Firing
I've tried this idea on porcelain once before using shellac to mask the design, but this technique uses wax. I had a bottle of wax resist and a piece of dry greenware that I made to try out slab building that I didn't know what to do with next so I started of giving it a coat of wax.

Greenware with wax resist coating
You can't see much from the photo, but it's fully covered with a coating of the resist.

After tracing around the edge of the shape, I sketched out a rough design and transferred it to paper which was wrapped around the piece.

Transferring the design
The design was traced over again with a ballpoint pen and a gentle pressure to transfer the pattern on to the clay.

Scratching the design through the wax
Using a sharp pointed tool, the design was scratched through the wax and in to the clay. I freehanded some leaves and grass to fit around the shape.

Sponging away the clay
Using a sponge and gently rubbing in a circular motion, I carefully went over the lines to wash away the clay. The wax starts to erode along the edges where the design has been scratched through to the clay leaving a shallow organic depression in the piece. 

Once the piece had dried again, I painted over the lines with a copper glaze. The wax resists the glaze and any pools were removed by gently dabbing with some kitchen roll. Once dried, it was put in to the kiln for a single firing. 

The reduction bin
I couldn't photograph the next bit as I needed both hands for taking the piece out of the hot kiln. It was transferred using tongs to a tray of sand with straw and newspaper on top. Once alight, a metal bucket was placed over the top and pushed in to the sand to create a seal and allow the oxygen inside the bucket to burn out creating a reducing atmosphere. The lack of oxygen affects the glaze and brings the metals in it to the surface.

The big reveal
After a few minutes, comes the exciting part... removing the bucket and seeing what the flames have created. 

The finished piece 
Not so pretty on the back
The muck and carbon were cleaned off and I gave the piece a coat of clear sealant for protection. The front and back look totally different, mostly due to the fact that I messed up the cleaning on the back bit during the glazing part and rubbed it rather than dabbing, so the glaze got stuck in the wax and transferred to the parts that should have stayed black. 

Overall though, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It's much better than my first attempt at copper glaze where everything just came out nasty brown, and it's definitely something I will be exploring further. I think this would be a fantastic technique to try out on beads!