Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pearl Necklace

Good morning World! I am once more tickled pick to announce that a photograph of my jewelry design is on the back cover of Creative Jewelry, Volume 7, 2008. A few years ago I entered a contest for jewelry designers at Fire Mountain. People from all around the world enter this contest so I was SHOCKED to find that one of my designs had placed THIRD overall, and won the natural pearls category. They also chose a second necklace as a finalist. There was some prize money involved so I bought myself a kiln, which I haven’t really used. Hmmm… It is on my “to do list” though!

Anyway, they used photography of both pieces in back cover advertisements on national beading magazines and also in their catalogs to sell the products used in the designs. I got an email the other day from someone asking for a kit or instructions so they could copy it. I got those emails the first time this piece was featured so I went to the store to see if I could find a magazine with the ad in it. Sure ‘nuf – there it was grinning back at me. So I giggled and showed it to the check out girl and other folks in line (complete strangers) and they made the appropriate appreciative noises. My necklace! On the back of a magazine! So I called hubby. And then I called my Mama. Yep! I’m one happy camper!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Soap Chemistry

Today I have been experimenting with some natural plant products that I’m planning to use to dye my soap. I’ve been toying with sandalwood, rosehips, henna, kelp, indigo, alkanet, chamomile, madder and pau d’arco. I spent a number of hours trying to track down something called Ratenjot that doesn’t seem to be available for sale in this country and is really expensive to have shipped here. I also have a few other plant items including ultramarine blue coming for more experimentation later - that stuff is expensive!! I feel like the mad chemist - this is so fun! I’ve also done quite a bit of research on some natural plants to use as skin care additives. I’m learning so much! This is all work toward a product line of completely natural soaps with natural essential oils (with healing qualities,) natural colorants and other skin pampering and healing additions in natural soap. By the time this product line is complete, it will be a full line of natural soaps in a whole rainbow of earthy colors - each with a specific skin healing quality. I love my job!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Squeek my Rubber Duckie, I'm in Soap Heaven!

Soap, soap and more soap! I've been busy in the studio this week and here are a few of my newest soaps! First, one I'm calling Lapiz Clove that is inspired by Lapiz Lazuli, a cobalt blue stone with gold flecks in it. The soap has gold leaf in it and has Eucalyptus and Clove oils which is really a marvelous heady scent. The second one is "Magi" which is a combination of Gold leaf, Frankincense and Myrrh, plus some other marvelous spices. It's spicey with just the right amount of sweet. These are the "cool cats" of the collection: The pale green is Ginger Lime, the brighter green is Lime Basil with basil in the soap. There is a turquoise inspired soap in a sweet spicy scent and Robin's Egg which is a combination of evergreens and some exotic spices/floral notes and poppy seeds for exfoliation. The purple is Amethyst Lilac which is a lovely Spring floral. And finally a classic Lavender Vanilla with lavender buds in it. I'm lovin it!
I call these the "whisper colors." Ginger Lime is also in the above photograph and on that is Fresh Linen. The barely there peach is scented with a combination of coconut with citrus and spice notes that I just designed this week and I call it Caribbean Coconut. It's yummy! On that is a pale yellow honeysuckle, a lovely fresh clean Spring scent. The white/cream combination is Sweet Almond which is what you'd expect with a touch of nutmeg that really is marvelous, and there is oatmeal for exfoliation. Finally, Yellow Rose Mint is a lovely fresh floral/minty scent that I've worked on for some time. It has green tea and callendula petals in it for added skin pampering texture.
Here are three from the Soap Stone collection... more like jewelry soap I suppose. The first is Turquoise Spice, Lapiz Clove and Amethyst Lilac. These are so fun! I guess my jewelry designer background is coming through.
Almond Blossom is the layered pink soap, Robin's Egg is the blue with a combination of evergreens and some exotic elements. The green one is Lemongrass Sage and has proven to be a favorite with my clients. And finally the classic Lavender Vanilla.
Jasmine Clementine has calendula petals in it for a lovely golden amber color. The floral citrus in this one is especially nice. The lime basil is mentioned above. And finally the best selling Raspberry Black Pepper is my personal favorite. Raspberry is usualy a bit to sweet, but that unexpected hit of Black Pepper just makes this one sing. I sold out of this one at the show this morning.
Turquoise Spice and Ocean Coral. The Ocean Coral is a seascape fragrance with a hint of spice. And it happens to match some coral I had on hand perfectly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

King Sized Quilt Top Project

Last week my Mother-in-law and I made a quilt top in two days. It was an easy pattern, large pieces and it went together without giving us any trouble whatsoever. I designed the pattern using an existing block pattern. I wanted to do the traditional Amish diagonal set inside block. It could have been rather difficult but it came together as easy as could be and I was grateful for that. I chose the colors over a year ago when I visited the last time. And the fabric has set in storage this whole time. I made sure to purchase extra at the time because we knew that some of the fabrics were being discontinued. I am certain that there is plenty left over of everything except the white.

We talked about making a quilt for the Mennonite Relief Sale annual auction. Women (that’s an assumption on my part – certainly some men get in on the fun of quilting) from all over the Mennonite (and other) church make quilts to be sold and some fetch quite high prices. We talked at length about what features people really seem to like and the two main things were 1) contrast and 2) lots of quilting and less emphasis on the actual piecing. And we are both big fans of the work of Mennonite Central Committee – their focus is Relief, Development and Peace. See their website for more information: So with these things in mind we started work on this project.

We had already chosen to use the pinwheel as the block. Our next major decision was which blocks would go in the center, we chose the ones with more black and white and I'm happy with this choice.

It is our tradition for me to design and cut the quilt, Sheril to sew, and whoever is available to help - irons. With three people working at these tasks, it doesn't take long to go from fabric to quilt top. As long as the designer/cutter (me) gets her part right. And if I don't get my part right then we end up ripping out seams which is pretty annoying.

Here we laid out the blocks to get a feel for how it was going to work. Thank goodness they have a large living room with carpet because we end up being on the floor alot.

I cut out the triangles for the center diamond while Sheril sewed a border on the central diamond of blocks.

Then we were ready to sew the triangles to the central diamond.

After that Sheril sewed on the next row of blocks while I cut out fabric for the next border.

Sheril sewed on the final border then, and when I walked back in the room there it was with that black and white border on it and I've got to tell ya, that was a sweet moment. It was exactly the right border to bring it all together and I was really ticked pink with it at that point.

Since it's a King sized quilt, it's hard to get it all in the picture when trying to photograph it - even standing on a chair. So here are a few shots of the details.

So this stage of the quilt is complete. Next it will be carefully marked where all the quilting should go. That's tedious but fun. Then it will go to the women of Sheril's church who will lay it out very carefully in a frame. They will start with a backing fabric, followed by a layer of polyester quilt backing. This top will be stretched out over this and fastened carefully. The women of the church will gather round to hand quilt each part of this quilt, rolling the quilt up as they go. When the quilting is finished, it will come off the frame and be bound with a black binding. I'm really looking forward to seeing it after it has gone through all that. There are many hours of labor that go into a project like this. I'm sure everyone who is involved hopes that it fetches a really high price at auction. Because it's all for an excellent cause.

New Roof

So far this week’s project has been a new roof for the home my hubby grew up in. And while using a power nailer was really fun, generally speaking putting on shingles is just really hot work that tends to lead to sore muscles. It was a welcome change of pace and while my body recovers over the next week or so, I’ll be back in the studio. I hope to remember to post photos soon enough. We’ll see if I remember.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

King Sized Project

It has been a busy week here. Some wholesale and internet orders really pushed me on Monday. And I have a big show Saturday so we'll see how that all comes together. This weekend I'll be showing quite a combination of work including art glass, photography, garnished poems, jewelry, soap and some fine art prints. The combinations of the different art medias are fun because I love color and the displays tend to be drenched in delicous colors, full of vibrant life. I love it!

Speaking of vibrant colors and full of life... Over the last two days my mother-in-law and I have pieced a King size quilt. It will be quilted by the ladies of her church and then sold at auction to raise money for the relief efforts of Mennonite Central Committe. A few years ago Sheril said she'd like to make one for the auction and I chimed in and said I'd be delighted to help. A year ago we picked out the fabrics and when I saw them again I remembered why I loved them. This year we pulled out the stack of fabric and my old drawing and from there emerged a quilt top that I am really happy with. It is our habit for me to design and cut the quilt, for Sheril to sew and for a third person to iron. I'm usually quick enough to keep the other two consistantly busy and hopefully on track with sewing the right parts together. And in this orderly fashion we can quickly finish complicated projects. This time we didn't have the third person and we both ironed at times but it still went very quickly and the quilt top looks great. I'll post photos when I get a chance but for now you'll just have to take my word for it.
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