29 February 2012

The Challenge of Music Reveal

Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.
~Ronald Reagan 

Welcome to the Challenge of Music!

Each quarter I pledge to Challenge my readers with a new theme. This quarter our theme is Music.

I asked anyone who wanted to play with me to share a favorite song or artist or style of music and use that as the inspiration for an accessory or something creative of their choosing. The requirement is that the participants share something about that music, like the lyrics, or information about the artist, anything that can help us understand their muse. I knew that it would be great to get a glimpse of musical influences from around the world. Knowing that the music we choose to listen to is like a cultural fingerprint, this will be a most entertaining way to learn more about all the unique personalities that are playing along. Since my post is quite long, let's get this party started!
One of my favorite artists is Sara Bareilles.

From the moment that I first heard her sing "Love Song" I had to hear more. Her album "Little Voice" quickly became the only one that would be playing in my car, much to the chagrin of my children. It was the last song on that LP - "Gravity" - that gave me chills the first time I heard it and still manages to put me in a trance. I push repeat on that song almost every time I am in the car {alone} and sing along with Sara at the top of my lungs. I do love to sing, and can mostly carry a tune, and I would like to fancy that if I were to be a famous singer, I would sing songs like Sara Bareilles. If we are ever driving in my car together I will be sure to regale you with my karaoke version of this song. ;-)

However, when I found the video for "Gravity" I was utterly mesmerized. It is truly one of the most remarkable videos I have ever seen (and I saw the first video on MTV back when they actually played videos!). I have come to find out that it was directed by an award-winning director named Matthew Cullen who along with his team at Motion Theory is responsible for some of the most memorable commercials and videos around. Here is what they say about the video for "Gravity" on their website:

What begins as an evening stroll soon unfolds into the ultimate journey for Sara Bareilles. Her every step changes the world around her, as if she's taken a million strides. As the story unfolds, Sara's motion creates the illusion of defying gravity itself as she seems to walk calmly away from Earth into space. We pass practical celestial objects as we move farther away, such as a man carrying an airplane, balloons resembling planets and lights making up constellations and galaxies. Every element is made up of choreographed people and simple props, grounding our journey in emotion and humanity.

It's an impressionistic environment, with visuals rooted in the universal themes of the lyrics. In a single take and a combination of dance, unique props, and amazing lighting, Motion Theory's Mark Kudsi led a team to create an entire universe in the span of a city block, infusing the journey with subtle design and visual effects. The result is a video that covers great geographic distance as it ventures over the emotional landscape of what inspired "Gravity" in the first place.


 I simply cannot get enough of this video. See if you agree.


Every time I hear this song I think in terms of ripples on a pond that are ever widening. The colors I get are soft and serene, like the sky at dusk on a wintery January day, the kind where the colors bleed into one another in shades of icy blue, dusty peach, vanilla cream and dove gray. I pulled out this amazing hollow bead from Stephanie Ann Dieleman. That hollow seems so delicate but it is quite strong, a reference to one of my favorite lines, "You loved me 'cause I'm fragile/ But I thought that I was strong/  Then you touched me for a little while/ and all my fragile strength is gone."

I wanted this piece to have the feeling of being pulled in different directions, like being in orbit, ever-widening circles, like those ripples on the pond with each piano chord. I was also thumbing through my Calder book for inspiration.  I used a free-form wire technique with galvanized steel wire, then added a frame in heavier gauge wire underneath because I thought it was too flimsy. In each scroll there are tiny gray-blue seed pearls and Swarovski crystals in my favorite Tabac finish over gray, each bead orbiting in its tiny universe. I was clearly influenced by the celestial nature of the video, playing it on an endless loop in my studio this past weekend as I was pulling this together. It was incredibly difficult to photograph this piece, it is more like sculpture. Wearable art! I really love this piece. I think that it truly captures the feel of the song from the color of the musical tones to the stirring climax of Sara's ethereal voice and the stunning video images. Plus it is propelling me in a completely new direction. I plan to make more things like this and that has me excited about creating again.

Another favorite song is "Uncharted." This is from her album "Kaleidescope Heart". This song has personal meaning for me as it does for Sara. 

She says this of her centerpiece song on her third album, "I was worrying [to a friend] about how I was never going to be able to write another song, and I was starting a lot of songs but I couldn't finish any of them. I was really worried about stepping into the unknown and I didn't know what to expect the second time around... and that afternoon, I sat down and wrote 'Uncharted.'" 

That is a powerful statement to me because I feel this way all the time. I am always feeling like I have to top myself which often causes me to seize up and not produce a thing for weeks on end (as happened recently). Not because I lack ideas or that I am missing the skill necessary, but more that I wonder if I can keep up with myself or others. I know that it is not healthy to compare myself to where others are on their journey, but that doesn't stop me, as I am sure you can relate. Then I create a few things that are utter crap (I just don't show that side often enough ;-), clear that junk out of the way, and press on. And eventually, I come up with something that brings the spark back.

The bridge on this song has one of my favorite lines:

Compare where you are to where you want to be, and you'll get nowhere.

I tried to keep it simple with this necklace, but, well, that didn't exactly happen! I wanted an explosion of color, to refer to the Kaleidoscope Heart of the album name. I used that line above from the lyrics on one of my new Story Beads to form the centerpiece in a lariat-look necklace, but it really can be worn extra long or doubled up. I added the silk strands, glass beads, agate rounds, a kaleidoscopic Swarovski crystal button wired to a brass cog (from an experiment a year ago that went nowhere), a few coils of colorful wire and two chains for a pop of color and movement. I added a pewter heart from Green Girl Studios and a colorful beaded tube from JulsBeads. There is a playful asymmetry in this piece to show that were I started was much more simple than where I am today and the path is ever changing and branching off. I am wearing it right now, in fact to remind me of this wisdom.

I have to remind myself all the time that it does me no good to compare where I am today with where I am headed, nor to what someone who has gone before me has achieved. I need to be in the moment. My moment. And when I am, I can be free from worry and comparisons and negativity and realize that my path is uncharted, and I get to make my way as only I can. 

As I was doing the research on Sara,  I came across this really adorable video for the song "Gonna Get Over You." I love that she is trying to get through this tough break up by be-bopping around the grocery store. Her alter-ego in this video is a really put together rocker chick that has this really awesome rockabilly style with the poufed hair, tight jeans, white t-shirt and black leather biker jacket. However, the first thing that I noticed is that she is not wearing any jewelry. Egads! That is just not right! So I decided at the last minute to make just one more... something fun that would speak to her broken heart but also to her tough exterior in this video.

My necklace features some upcycled and new chains in gunmetal and black along with a some festoons of rhinestone and silver chains. It was trickier than I thought to get those chains just right. Still not sure if they are.

The focal is a great raku heart in light blue and grungy brown from Lisa Peters Art and a sterling silver heart charm just floating around my stash.. I can totally see Sara wearing this in that video, can't you?

Thank you so much for joining me in the Challenge of Music hop. Since you were kind enough to sit through my entirely long post, if you leave a comment here, I will be having a surprise giveaway in a few days! Any old comment will do, but you MUST have a way for me to contact you via email either in your profile or comment. 

Are you as pumped as I am to hop? Please join the rest of the talented participants in this most musical challenge!

Erin Prais-Hintz - YOU ARE HERE!

Happy hopping!

P.S. Did you enjoy the hop? Would you like to play next time? Watch for the next quarterly Challenges in May, August and the return of the Challenge of Color in November!

27 February 2012

Color Inspiration from Fusion Beads

"It is not the form that dictates the color, but the color that brings out the form." ~ Hans Hoffman

FusionBeads invited me to be part of their new Blog Partner program. 

For February they sent me a colorful mix of Swarovski crystals as part of their kick-off to the Pantone color forecast. 

The mix that I received is called Fruity*. The colors are blue zircon, chrysolite opal, Indian pink, sand opal and sunflower. Woah! These are bright and fruity and full of fun! But they are also way far out of my comfort zone. But that is okay, because sometimes I need a good kick in the pants with a colorful boot print and this is just the kick that I got.

{February Simple Truths Sampler Club limited edition - find out more about the club here}

When I first opened up the package I happened to have one remaining charm from the February Simple Truths Sampler Club left on my bead table (sometimes I can't count correctly when I make them ;-). This month was a lovely lotus blossom with a message from Rumi - "let the beauty we love be what we do." While each one was slightly different, this particular one had a soft blue background and a bright pink bloom. 

Humblebeads work magically with my 'simple truths' pendants. I was quite surprised to find that I had some of Heather's disk beads in blue, pink and yellow. From there the design came together quickly. I fished out some of my favorite chain of all time (I got this so long ago and can't even recall where, and these are almost the last links that I have!). I used some wire to wrap some of the links with the tiniest of the Swarovski crystals in 3mm. 

I also discovered that I had some silks in those same fruity colors, so I knotted them to the back of the piece to make it more comfortable. I used some Vintaj Flourish bead caps to hide the knots.

{Let the Beauty We Love available on Etsy}
But after I finished this one, I realized that I didn't use all the crystals that I was sent. I don't usually make crystals the star in a design. They are more like the best supporting actor role.

So I pulled out the blue zircon, chrysolite opal and the sand opal and noticed that they worked really well with a lovely pendant and charm set that I had from Marsha Neal.  I pulled out the blue wire from my Soft Flex Trio Egg Hunt. I wove the wire alternating various crystals through some chunky rings and some dottie rings that I had lying around. I finished the necklace with a few strands of brass chain studded with more of the crystals. To make it a set, I created some kicky earrings with a load of tiny 3mm crystals wire wrapped to some chain with the charms below. I think that I am jealous of all those about to embark on the Bead Cruise, so I called this "Island Escape."

{Island Escape available on Etsy}

And yet, I STILL have crystals left! FusionBeads was so very generous! So I decided on one more piece, a bracelet. I have been inspired by Kerry Bogert's book Totally Twisted (and she is working on her second one - can't wait!) so I thought I would make a piece that is a nod to her Bang Gals bracelets. 

I have had this lovely glass focal bead from KelleysBeads for far too long. I don't even know what possessed me to order it as pink is truly not a color that I embrace. Not only did I get this big focal bead, but I also bought a set of smaller spacers that coordinated. All I can say in my defense is that when I commit to buy I really get committed! I pulled out a few more things that went with this pink palette: dottie glass bead from JulsBeads, polymer clay bead from Jeannie Dukic, yellow ceramic bead from Splendid Loon Studio. I twisted some colorful wire in baby pink, peridot green and bright fuschia. But wait! Where are those crystals? I knotted and wrapped some sari silk and ribbons in coordinating colors and then overwrapped them with gold filled wire and some of the remaining crystals in pink and sunflower yellow. I call this bangle "Spring Fever" and I plan to donate it to a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club coming up next month.
{Spring Fever}

Thanks for joining me on this first FusionBeads Blog Partner post! Looking forward to what goodies they will send me next month!

*FTC compliance disclosure: the '*' items mentioned in this post credited to Fusion Beads were provided as a promotional gift for review or design purposes.

Be sure to come back on Wednesday, February 29th for the reveal of the Challenge of Music hop. I expect it will be quite a rockin' party!

22 February 2012

40 Day F.A.S.T.

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
~ Leo Tolstoy
I am Catholic and today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40 days of Lent.

Photo by On the White Line, used with Creative Commons

This holy day of obligation is a day with familiar traditions (liturgy and Eucharist) but also filled with unfamiliar, or uncommon rituals (mass on a Wednesday, ashes imprinted on my forehead, fasting). We are reminded on this day to turn away from sin and return to the Gospel. And on this day we are reminded of the three pillars of Lent: prayer, almsgiving and fasting. No matter your faith or beliefs, these three things don't have to be mutually exclusive to Catholics or Christians, and I have come up with a challenge for myself as I journey through these 40 days. And I invite you to join me.

Prayer - When it comes to prayer, I believe there are as many ways to pray as there are people in this world. There is no one right way to do it. I used to teach 7th grade religion and one of the best units I did with the kids was on prayer. I taught them how to lead a prayer service and how to find deeper faith through service. Perhaps it would be nice to fall back on tried and true prayers learned in my youth, and while that is what most people would think of as prayer, but I think that there is more to it than that. I try to live my life as a prayer, with thanksgiving and praise, but also with reconciling and acknowledging my weaknesses. It can be as simple as gazing in astonishment at the formation of the clouds in the sky or admitting when I have done wrong and attempting to make it right. To me, prayer doesn't have to mean just following a sacred text, or reciting stale lines from a prayer book. To me, prayer is about living in such a way that my every action is a reflection of my beliefs. To live faith-filled and other focused is my prayer for the world.

Almsgiving - In 2009 and again in 2010 I started a little project I called "Blessed Bucks." You can read about it here and here. Giving part of what you earn to those who need it more is a long tradition in many faiths and cultures. This year, as in the past, I am working on a fundraising project for my daughter's dance school. This will coincide with Lent. I also work throughout the year to donate jewelry that I have made to causes that are dear to my heart. I will be supporting the Boys & Girls club this Lent and I am sure that there will be others that will come up. But I don't stop there. I try to donate every month. And I am working on an idea of having a 'simple truth' that would be sold in my Etsy store with proceeds to go to a charity. That idea is still being worked on. I will let you know more when I have a direction for that.

Fasting - There are a lot of people I know for whom this 40 days of fasting is treated more like a punishment. To give up chocolate or coffee. To quit eating snacks or drinking soda. That is really more of abstaining, like the way Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays (which helped to give rise to Friday night fish fries, and while delicious, does little to further faith ;-). Typically, fasting is refraining from food or drink. In reality, it is just another way to set apart the day as different. When you fast from food and drink, you will feel hungry and maybe even a bit deprived. But knowing that you can easily open the refrigerator and satisfy that hunger or thirst calls to mind that there are others in the world who will go to bed without food, who lack clean water. These are things we take for granted in our world of drive-thrus and 24-hour grocery stores.

But what about fasting from other things? Turning off the T.V. Shutting down the computer. Reading a book instead of floating around on the internet hopping from one mindless site to the next. Talking as little as possible. Putting the phone to rest. For me, to truly fast is to slow your pace and set something aside, but it doesn't have to be something physically nourishing. It can also be soul-nourishing.

Today I went to church and prayed. I got the smudge of ash on my forehead and tried to imagine what a conversion of myself would be like. And I think I came up with a plan.

When I got home from work, I went for a walk.

You might think that is not a big deal. But it is to me. You see, I can't remember the last time that I actually went for a walk that wasn't accompanied by pushing a cart up and down an aisle, or on my way from the parking lot to the front door. Isn't that sad?

I saw a picture of myself with my mother from when I was in college. I had a hard time seeing myself in that girl and it has nothing to do with the style of my hair or the clothes I was wearing. I look like I may have eaten that girl, swallowed her whole. I wonder if she is still in there somewhere. I decided that I had to find out.

So I went for a walk.

As I walked, I looked at the reflection of the blue sky rippling in the long stretch of puddles by the side of the road. I saw the tufts of white clouds and the black stains of the tree trunks reflected in the rippling surface. I saw my own reflection, and I admit that I didn't like what I saw. I simply don't recognize myself anymore. I know that I need a conversion, have known for a long time, but didn't know where to start. And as my legs were stretched and my arms were pumping and I felt the cold sting of the wind on my face, a plan emerged.

The 40 Day F.A.S.T.

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit... or to build one.

What would happen if you had 40 days?

I have alternately given up things like chocolate or coffee in past Lents. But that only served to make me resent my decision every time I saw one of those really crappy-assed chocolate bunnies that look so damned tempting or I developed a lingering headache cloud that followed me around for 40 days. Neither one helped me get in touch with my faith, nor made me a better person. So today I decided that I would go for a walk. Not a big one. Just over to my parents house a few blocks away to water the plant that I have neglected since they became snowbirds and back around the long way home. Just 30 minutes or so. And while walking, and looking deep into puddles, I decided that I would walk every day, for at least 30 minutes. I would walk to get moving, to get healthier, but also to find myself. If I couldn't walk outside, I would have to fire up that ancient walking contraption in the basement that has sat idle for too long. But walk I must.

If you take something and do it - or not do it - for 40 days, what would happen? When you hit that 21 day mark will it become a habit (or break one)? Will it become second nature if you add 19 more days?

I sure hope so. I am not sure what outcome I will see in 40 days. I don't expect to fit into some different sized jeans at the end, but wouldn't that be a nice outcome? But maybe, just maybe I might start to feel better about myself, have a little time alone with myself, get to know myself better, feel a little lighter in my jeans and in my soul. For isn't that what a conversion is all about?

I am calling this my 40 Day F.A.S.T. And I am inviting you to journey along with me.

Now you might have a different goal in mind, an alternate tomorrow that you are striving to reach. I am not expecting that everyone will choose to journey with me, or that they will have the same plan. In fact, I expect that your 40 Day F.A.S.T. will be as unique as you are.

What about learning a new vocabulary word each day? For A Smarter Tomorrow

How about abstaining from negative thoughts? For A Sweeter Tomorrow

Why not stop being so hard on yourself, practice gentleness? For A Softer Tomorrow

Or maybe you will abstain from truly bad habits (texting while driving, giving up smoking, fill-in-the-blank)? For A Safer Tomorrow

For me, F.A.S.T. simply means For A Super Tomorrow... I want to be better in some way at the end of these 40 days than I am right now. Better in mind, body, spirit. And in order to have a Super Tomorrow, I know I need to start today.

Who's with me? Grab the button if you like and join my on your own unique journey for the 40 Day F.A.S.T.

The 40 Day F.A.S.T.
<div align="center"><a href="http://treasures-found.blogspot.com/2012/02/40-day-fast.html" title="The 40 Day F.A.S.T."><img src="http://i1241.photobucket.com/albums/gg508/tesoritrovati/40DayFASTcopy-1.jpg" alt="The 40 Day F.A.S.T." style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Your turn...
What would you be willing to do - or not to do - for 40 days? 
How do you think that would change you? 

If you are willing to join me in your own 40 Day F.A.S.T., please let me know in the comments and feel free to grab my button. We can check in with one another and encourage us on our way to a super tomorrow!

21 February 2012

Random Acts of Wisdom: The Four Agreements

"Everything we do is based on agreements we have made - agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves. In these agreements we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, what is impossible. One single agreement is not such a problem, but we have many agreements that come from fear, deplete our energy, and diminish our self-worth."  ~don Miguel Ruiz

{Wisdom Heart by Darla Kirchner on Etsy, inspired by the Four Agreements}
Some time ago I found a link on a blog called The Jungle of Life written by my friend Lance Ekum that turned me onto don Miguel Ruiz and his message of The Four Agreements. I have not read this book (but I am going to look into it!), but a passage about what the Four Agreements are really struck me.

The Four Agreements
Be impeccable with your word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t take anything personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t make assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always do your best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

~ don Miguel Ruiz

Without knowing that there was anything called The Four Agreements, I realize that this is something I have always strived to live. But having this neatly bound up in a book makes it seem more like a plan of action. I am going to look for the book to learn more.
At one time I had signed up to receieve uplifting messages to my inbox from don Miguel Ruiz. I don't know if they just stopped coming or for some reason I just wasn't receiving them, but for many months they weren't there, and I had forgotten all about them. All of a sudden last week, they started up again. And this was the message that I received on February 17th:
Healing is on the way, and it's just a matter of time before things will be better for you.

The weird thing is that this is the exact day that I was out sick.

I have continued to receive the messages each day. It is like an old friend has turned up on the doorstep with a few well chosen words of wisdom. It truly feels random that they have appeared again in my life. I like that don Miguel Ruiz starts each one with the request to "Take a few moments to quiet your mind, open your heart, and reflect on these words being offered to you today." So that is exactly what I am doing. They have become a framework to my day and help me to focus my energy in a way that I haven't been for so long.

I am glad that these simply powerful messages have found me when I needed them most.

What messages or random acts of wisdom have found you lately?

15 February 2012

Pick Me Up

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." ~ Buddha

I am a bit under the weather today, so I am at home nursing myself through a nasty head cold and trying to stay awake long enough to complete  few things that have been on my rapidly spinning plates.

But at least I am not dead. So there is that to be thankful for (thanks, Buddha, for always putting things in perspective for me!)

I am enjoying my mixture of Emy J's Costa Rican mixed with Dunkin Donuts Vanilla Nut coffees and my Bailey's fat free French Vanilla creamer in my new favorite mug...
Thanks Miss Jennifer Jangles for always being a bright spot in my day!

There is no way I cannot help but smile when I see this Dr. Seuss tableware sitting with a steaming heap of liquid courage to face the day.

Today I am eating toast with cinnamon and sugar. I also tend toward wanting graham crackers with a light dusting of butter on them in little crumbly rectangle sandwiches. And my mom always made us warm milk with a touch of butter and sugar in it when we were feeling sick. Weird, I know. But that is the only thing that I want right now. That is comfort food to me.

Later I might catch up on episodes of Project Runway All Stars, American Idol and Raising Hope while snuggled under a blanket prepping bezels for 'simple truths' or maybe read some more of the book Goose Girl that I am reading as inspiration for a project that is looming for me...

But more likely than not, I will be working on starting my Challenge of Music accessories or creating the Verse & Vision poetry submission pieces (three are due right now!).  Just because I am sick doesn't mean the multi-tasking has to stop. ;-P

I am sure I will be back to my old, slightly less haggard self in no time.

Now where did I leave my mug?

What picks you up when you are under the weather?
What comfort foods do you gravitate to?
Do you slow down when you are feeling sick? or do you see that pile of dishes in the sink and feel compelled to wash, dry and put them away? (yeah, me neither! ;-)

14 February 2012

Nothing Like the Sun

"If music be the food of love, play on."
~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1

I am experimenting with making beads in my 'simple truths' style. I think I am going to call them 'simple tales' or 'story beads' or something like that. Nunn Design has some really beautiful things to work with in your jewelry. I am fortunate to be a part of their first Innovation Design Team. Just the name of that makes me giddy. They sent me some goodies to play with and I sent the baubles off to Becky Nunn for her trip to Tucson. I hope they were a hit!

One of the products that was in the goodie box she sent were their new channel bead tubes. They come in different sizes and finishes. There is a channel that can hold images or clay. I was so intrigued by them that I went right out and bought a few dozen of my own to play with.

Round about the beginning of this month, I found out about a gallery called the Central Wisconsin Cultural Center in a town about 30 minutes from where I lived. They were hosting a juried art exhibition entitled "That's Amore." I have a goal of putting my work out there into more galleries, so I thought this would be a good place to start. So I decided that I would make something special just for this exhibit.

In thinking about love and and what it means to me, I happened to look up and noticed a piece of art that Kerry Bogert made for me. The mixed media canvas is a riot of bright reds and deep purples with swirls of black and sparkled lines in stylized flower shapes with some of Miss Kerry's beads for the centers. I asked her to add my favorite love poem, Shakespeare's sonnet 130. 

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red:

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound:

I grant I never saw a goddess go,

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

          And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

          As any she belied with false compare.

At the time that Shakespeare penned these lines, there were a lot of love poets out there throwing around impossible cliches of comparison for their muses. You would think that these ladies were floating on air, with garments made of flowers and shining as brightly as the sun. Shakespeare is clearly using conventional love poetry metaphors as a statement against his contemporaries. The 'Dark Lady' inspiring these lines as well as sonnets 127-154 would ultimately betray him, but at the time he wrote this one he is truly professing his love for her. 

Sonnet 130 pokes fun at the overblown comparisons that most of his contemporaries used to hold their muses up to an impossible ideal of beauty and grace. Shakespeare does not compare his love to grandiose metaphors of golden locks shining like the sun and rose blossomed cheeks on fair snowy skin. Rather his love is of dark complexion with obvious flaws, such as stinky breath and decidedly unmelodious speech. That is precisely what I love about this poem. 

This sonnet always speaks volumes to me. The ordinariness and humanity of his 'Dark Lady' is what makes him love her all the more and he finds that beautiful. It sort of gives me hope that my love would find my flaws appealing as well. In this time of Hallmark-driven love declarations, it is comforting to know that I don't have to be perfect to be beautiful in the eyes of my love.

I wanted to honor this poem with my new beads. Each of these barrel beads is an inch long. I filled them with clay and pressed the words from the sonnet into them, two lines of the sonnet in each. You can read them by spinning the bead in your had and reading each line as it circumnavigates the beads. And if you read each bead in order, you will have the entire sonnet.

I took my color cues from the beautiful lampwork glass bead set from my friend Julianna Cannon of Julsbeads. Their dark earthy colors in burgundy and forest with the unexpected flash of gold guided the choice of color for the barrel beads. I knotted each bead on three strands of hand dyed silk cord from Marsh Neal Studio and finished it with a strap of cinnamon colored leather and a heart shaped hook clasp. I wanted them to have the look of old parchment inscribed with the scratch of an ink-filled quill.

From afar, the beads just seem to have a rough texture. Upon closer inspection, you can see that there are words on the beads. And if you look closely, you can read the entire poem around each barrel and from left to right on the necklace. I hope to make more of these types of beads with secret messages, or even snippets of poems or lyrics on them, to carry the message that is important to you close to your heart.

Your turn...
Have you ever received a secret love note that you treasure?
Tell me... What message, poetry or sentiment would you like to see on these channel bead tubes?

P.S. Today is my day to post on the Earring Everyday blog, and I am hosting the first EARRING LOVEFEST over there today. We have 7 - count 'em 7! - winners in the EARRING LOVEFEST. I am also honored to be the guest poster today on Love My Art Jewelry. And there will be a little giveaway there as well. (Totally a coincidence that I would be posting in so many places at once, you would think I never sleep ;-) Go and check them out!

10 February 2012

Music Paints the World with Hope

"Music is the regular man’s magic wand, the fairy dust of commoners, the heart surgeon for the broken masses. One minute you can be gray and lost, covered up in a thin film of your own questions and worries and self-focused mess. And then you turn on the music and all the world springs to life, anxieties crumble small to the ground, worry hangs his head in the presence of whimsy. (Those two can never hang out together.) When I’m writing and find myself in a dark, colorless corner of non-ideas, the right music can paint the world with hope." ~ Emily Freeman

One of my new favorite blogs to follow is Chatting At The Sky with author Emily Freeman. I am not exactly sure how I landed at Emily's blog, but I am glad that I did. It always feels like a respite in my day when I take the time to read her thoughtful posts. Emily is a wife, mother and writer who recently published her first book Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life. I don't have a copy of this book, but the blurb about it sounds like I should. I am putting it on my wish list.

Miss Emily wrote her most recent post on February 9, 2012 titled "Using Music to Inspire Your Writing." Seeing as I have music on the brain this month, I was intrigued. The quote above is the opening paragraph of her post. It is well worth a read.

Miss Emily says that when she is working on some new writing she needs to listen to orange-yellow music. The idea that music could be expressed in colors really moved me! She goes on to list some tracks of music that evoke that bright vibrant pop of color and never fail to get her brain dancing in the right direction. One that she mentions is the soundtrack to Pride & Prejudice. Now I have seen the movie, but I can't say that I recall the music that runs so seamlessly through the scenes. Miss Emily says, "Nearly every song on this album is yellow-orange, with the occasional deep green-blue undertone." Take a listen to this selection from the soundtrack and see if you agree. I know that I am going to have to get a copy of this soundtrack to play while I work, especially since yellows are so hard for me to coax out of my studio.

Some music is rich with jeweled undertones. This is music that feels sumptuous and luxurious, rich and dreamy.  Lush music like Norah Jones Come Away With Me or Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake can transport you so completely to another time and place. I love that about music. I recently had the pleasure of treating my daughter, Tiny Dancer, her favorite friend and favorite aunt to the Russian Ballet's performance of Swan Lake at the Fox Valley Performing Arts Center. The music was a glorious accompaniment to the stength and beauty of the dancers. I totally felt that the Prima Ballerina was transformed into a swan as the tendons in her arms rippled as she extended her arms and seemed to float on the air. It was incredibly moving.

The movie Black Swan was haunting and so masterful. The score is by Clint Maunsell based on Tchaikovsky's iconic Swan Lake. This last song in the soundtrack is called "A Swan Song (for Nina)" and is so rich and flowing. (If you listen, the first 57 seconds are so quiet you may think it is not working. Keep listening.)

I can feel the quiet desperation in this song. There is an oppressive sadness that hints to grey and black but with a release of white for me in this music. It is somber and haunting and completely evokes the madness of the character of Nina.

Last week, in phase two of the dance performances, Tiny Dancer and I went to see the Lily cai Chinese Dance Theater company perform. What a treat that was! Not only was it a great experience of another culture, but we were immersed in sounds that I had not heard before as well as movements that were so expressive it was as if they were painting the air with their bodies. In one of the four dances they held lit candles while performing an intensely lyrical choreography to a Mahler symphony. The only light on stage were these lit candles that flickered and seemed to respond to their every move without ever going out. The final number was a feast for the eyes. They were dressed in simple black leotards and used long silk ribbons to literally paint the stage with their presence. It was a tribute to Jackson Pollock's paintings melded with Chinese calligraphy. Beautiful! This YouTube video I found is a bit rough, but I thought you might like to see it.

So music can evoke feelings and memories, but also color and light and shape and movement. The beat is like the pattern and the foundation. It can be dramatic and driving and colored in shades of crimson and plum, or it can be soft and ethereal and colored in tones of azalea and lavender.

What color is the music you are listening to today?

04 February 2012

Last Day to Sign Up for the Challenge!

Today is the last day to sign up for the Challenge of Music.

Go to Take the Challenge in the menu above to sign up by midnight tonight (CST).

We have participants from around the globe playing and their music tastes are as diverse as they are, which is exactly what I was hoping for! We have heavy metal rockers, ladies singing the blues, indie and alternative, classical and jazz. We have a lot of country music fans as well as electronica dance music. There is a healthy dose of 80s music lovers (it will be a walk down memory lane!), and even some new-to-me music genres like kirtan, which I found out is a call and response sort of chanting performed in Indian devotional services.

Now I don't know exactly what each of the 36 (so far!) participants will choose, but I can tell you that on February 29th we will have one heck of a dance party!

I am delighted that you have had such a great response to my Challenges and this one in particular is so wide open to your interpretation. I am already thinking ahead to the next quarterly challenges in May and August, as well as thinking about how to shake up the 3rd Annual Challenge of Color in November. If this one is well received, I will consider making it an annual as well. And as always, if you have suggestions on how to make the experience better for you, or ideas for future Challenges, feel free to email me.

If you would like to help spread the word and show your participation, please feel free to grab my button and post it on your blog.

Take the Challenge

I searched high and low to find a way to make a blog button with a grab box. I found a lot of tutorials and copied a lot of code and tried in vain to make this work. Then I stumbled on the coolest little thing... a "Grab My Button" Code Generator! Check it out!

Remember that sign-ups end tonight at midnight (CST) so if you know someone who is interested, please send them over and encourage them to Take the Challenge of Music with you!

01 February 2012

The Challenge of Music

"Music is the soundtrack of your life." ~ Dick Clark

Imagine what your favorite movie would be like without the soundtrack.

The soundtrack can make or break a movie. It propels the story and sets the tone. Music can build suspense and help us form reactions to the characters. The right music can elevate a movie to mythic standards. What would Star Wars be like without the iconic music composed by John Williams? or The Lion King without Elton John's lyrics? or how about the times-defining music choices in Forrest Gump? Other songs may have worked, but they wouldn't have been as powerful. They might still be great movies, but the music adds so much dimension to our enjoyment of the films.

The same is true for theme songs. Do you remember the show Cheers? If you do, I will bet that you can hum the theme song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name." Or how about Friends? "I'll Be There For You" is not only snappy, but it perfectly defined that show. 

Now think about your life. Chances are there has been a thread of music running through it constantly. From the time you were little to just today, every person has a soundtrack to their life. Some of the music is something that you might have grown up hearing because your parents or siblings listened to it, perhaps it is the choices that you made for yourself as a teenager and were able to select music that suited your developing style, or maybe it is the music that you gravitate to in your daily life, for working out, waking up, celebrating or falling asleep. Our music choices say a lot about us.

With the advent of the technology available to us today, every person walking down the street has their own personal playlist, some walking right along with them. When I was growing up, you were defined by whatever radio station you chose to listen to, or what 45s you purchased. I eventually graduated to a Walkman that played one CD at a time but was not shared with others. Today we have iPods and MP3 players and we can share our music choices with each other fairly easily. There are satellite music stations that beam only the genre you want to hear into your car and websites that allow you to create your own channel based on your thumbs up or thumbs down on a song. In fact, it has become a sort of a game to share playlists with others, or to see if you can identify the person whose playlist is labeled anonymous. Remember when you could tell a lot about someone by their medicine cabinet? Now you can learn a lot about them from the playlist on their iPod (for the record, I don't have an iPod, but I am an avid listener of Pandora channels and have dozens of them to set the mood for whatever I am doing at the moment. And I understand that I can even create and swap Pandora channels with other people. I should try that sometime.)

What does music say about the listener?

Music is a common topic of conversation with people who are just starting a relationship. Assumptions are made about what type of person someone is based on their musical preferences. Not only is musical preference an outward expression of our inner personalities but our choices of music can be influenced by external situations as well.Musical preferences can be influenced by our personalities (extroverts may tend toward choral music; more religious people may tend toward music with messages in tune with their beliefs), our mood (someone who just had a breakup may be more inclined to somber melodies) or our upbringing (children with a parent who plays in a symphony may find themselves drawn to more classical music).

In 2008 there was a great deal of interest in the first presidential playlist ever released: the iPod playlist of George W Bush. He had country music with a smattering of 70s rock and folk thrown in. His playlist was the subject of much psychoanalysis at the time. What did his song choices say about his state of mind when the Iraq war was raging? Did the song "My Sharona" by the Knack indicate that he had had a wild affair? And during the last presidential election the release of Obama's iPod list revealed his love of jazz but also hip-hop and included African-American greats as well as Bob Dylan. Very diverse tastes that could say something about his personality... or not.  Of course, these are just observations that others have made based on what was revealed and we will never know exactly what that means other than they like one song over another.

Cambridge University psychologist Jason Rentfrow did a study of the preferences that individuals have of music and what that says about their personality. If you like, you can watch this short YouTube clip showing the highlights of his study.

Rentfrow noted that everyone has stereotypes when it comes to what music genres say about other people, but that they don't believe their own music preferences say anything about themselves. I find that incredibly interesting.

Rentfrow and US researcher Sam Gosling created a questionnaire they administered to undergraduates at their respective universities to determine musical preferences and personality traits for their study. They came up with four dimensions of musical preference made up of various genres and then correlated those music dimensions with personality traits (information adapted from ScienceBlogs.com report "What Does Your Music Say About You?" and the study paper "The Do Re Mi's of Life"):
  • Reflective and Complex - blues, jazz, classical, and folk
    Researchers found that those who listened to Reflective and Complex music tended to be inventive with active imaginations, consider themselves to be intelligent and reject conservative ideals. They generally found them to be open to new experiences and emotionally stable.
  • Intense and Rebellious - rock, alternative, and heavy metal
    This type of music is more often than not associated with negative images, anti-social behavior and a combative attitude. Interestingly, this study concluded that those who like this type of music are curious about different things, enjoy taking risks, consider themselves intelligent and are physically active.
  • Upbeat and Conventional - country, sound tracks, religious, and pop
    People who prefer this type of music are cheerful, socially outgoing, reliable and enjoy helping people. They tend to be conventional and rate themselves as physically attractive.
  • Energetic and Rhythmic - rap and hip/hop, soul and funk, electronica and dance
    Those who are attracted to Energetic and Rhythmic music styles are energetic themselves, are talkative and forgiving and adopt more liberal ideals.
So what does that mean? Our music choices certainly are influenced by so many things, and it is an outward indication of our personality, but it is not the only thing that determines who we are. It is just one dimension in a whole spectrum of attributes. But music is a way that we connect with those who have similar styles and tastes and how we show our personality to the world, much in the same way that we show our personality through our accessories and adornments.

If you could pick one song to be your Power Anthem, what would it be? 

For my own life, I can claim a wide variety of musical tastes from classical and jazz to Broadway musicals and country. I have a love of singer-songwriters and based on my preferences in the channel that I have built that I call "Nighttime in the Studio," Pandora has determined that I like "basic rock song structures, a subtle use of vocal harmony, repetitive melodic phrasing, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation and major key tonality."  What does that say about my personality? It might say that I am intelligent and cheerful with an active imagination. Or it could just be a fact that I need to have more melodic music when I am working that won't distract me or make my pulse race too high which I have found to negatively impact what I am trying to create.

I have certain performers that I keep coming back to, like Maroon 5 and Sting, Journey and Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and Jack Johnson, Billie Holiday and Sara Bareilles, Mozart and the soundtrack to Wicked. I will admit that I do have an affinity for Glee as well as a love of the American Idol process. And I also sing as a cantor, or leader of music at my church. In fact I will be leading the congregation this coming Sunday.

I like popular music that my kids have on their iPods as well as music that I grew up listening to with my parents, like the Beatles, Glenn Miller, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. I go through phases. I will latch onto a song and play it over and over again in my car until I get the words just right (Adele's 21 is on a loop in my car now. I almost have song #7 down). And there are songs that I will forever hold in my memory as evoking a certain time and place, like the song that my husband chose for our first married dance (Garth Brooks "If Tomorrow Never Comes") and one of the best concerts that I ever attended (Genesis "In the Air Tonight").

Are you getting inspired yet? Ready to take the Challenge?

What song do you connect to so personally that every time it comes on the radio the beat moves you, the lyrics speak to your soul, and the harmonies make your heart sing? If you love music, this is the challenge for you! For the Challenge of Music, we will choose a song that speaks to each of us personally and translate that song into an accessory. Here is how it will work:

1::Go to the tab above that says 'take the challenge' and sign up. Participation is limited to the first 100 who sign up between February 1st-February 4th.

2::Start thinking about a song. (Don't worry, you don't have to know right away what song, just start thinking!) Go to your playlist or CD collection or Pandora or Slacker music apps and just listen. Select a song that you love. It can be one that speaks to your soul, moves your feet, brings back a memory or never fails to put a smile on your face. It can be in any genre, from any time period. Consider songs from your past: the song you danced to at your wedding, the music that defined that special summer, the song that brings back memories of your first crush, etc. You get the idea. And no, it doesn't have to be music with words. If you love classical or instrumental music, that is fine, too.

OR challenge yourself to try a new music genre (it is called a challenge after all...)If you like country, try classical... if you prefer hip-hop try jazz... if heavy metal is your thing, try blues. Not sure what songs are out there? Go to Pandora.com and select one of their general music stations in a genre and spend some time listening to it before settling on a song you connect with. You might be surprised to find something new that you really like!

Just for fun, want to find the Playlist of Your Life? Try this exercise from WikiHow.

3::Mark your calendar: Blog Hop on Wednesday, February 29th. Yes, you must have a blog to participate in a blog hop. You are encouraged to blog about your song selection (be sure to tell us the complete song title, artist), your inspiration, your creative process. Be sure to tell us of your connection to this song, why you chose it. Please find a way to share the music on your blog: add a clip from YouTube, link to the artist's website, share what you learned about the artist's inspiration, supply part of the lyrics, etc. It doesn't have to be all of these, but some way that we can enjoy the song will be helpful in making the connection with your accessory.

Hopefully we will have as many different songs as we have participants. And if we have our overseas friends join us, we might even have a real world beat! You won't reveal your song until the blog hop, so don't worry about claiming a song. I don't care if you all pick the same song (that is highly unlikely). But even if we all did the same exact song we would still have so many different interpretations. This is an exercise in how to take an intangible inspiration and interpret it in your own way. I hope that this Challenge of Music hop will be a great way to expand your horizons to new music, find a way to make the intangible tangible, and show off your unique and lovely personality!

I will compile all the entries into the database and email all of the participants by Tuesday, February 7th with more information to help you enjoy the hop. The most important thing is to HAVE FUN!

Your turn... and completely for fun if you want to answer it...What is the most surprising song or artist on your playlist or CD in your collection? In other words, what song or artist is the one that people would be surprised to know that you listen to?

Okay, I'll start... I will admit that I love Weird Al Yankovich. Does anyone remember a radio syndication called Dr. Demento? Apparently, the Dr. is still going strong. Back in the 80s I used to listen to this show on Sunday nights. Songs like "Fish Heads" and "Pencil Neck Geek" and "They're Coming To Take Me Away" were all the rage. And that is where I was first introduced to Weird Al. When my son started coming home and telling me he found these really funny songs like "Eat It," "My Bologna" and "Like A Surgeon," I was delighted. I had no idea that Weird Al was still recording and still funny after all these years ("White and Nerdy" - new classic!). Of course, my son thought that he had discovered Weird Al, but this allowed me to introduce him to some of the best songs of my 80s generation so that he could fully appreciate the parodies. Because you can't understand the Weird Al tune "Fat" without seeing the King of Pop gyrating, popping and locking in an abandoned subway station to fully appreciate the genius that is Weird Al.

P.S. I know that some people were excited and thought that this would be another Challenge of Color. I intend to do the Challenge of Color in November each year for as long as anyone wants to play along. But each quarter I have committed to a different challenge to keep things interesting.  

Hope to care to join me in the Challenge of Music!


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