30 July 2012

Challenge of...Travel

I have always wanted to travel the world.

I was envious of those who got to do a semester abroad. I always wanted to go to "study" in Australia with the koala bears and the kangaroos. I want to see the frescoes in Tuscany and the temples in Kyoto. I have always been intrigued by the culture and the people of India and it would be otherworldly to see the Taj Mahal in person. It would be a dream to take my daughter on an African safari to see her favorite animal the elephant. And I was fascinated when we had foreign exchange students who traveled halfway around the world to live and study and play in my small hometown.

I have my online friends over in Europe (hello, friends!) who can hop on a train, or a boat and be in another country in a matter of hours the way I would travel to another state. And although the United States is all one country, I would argue that each state feels distinctly different, almost as if traveling to a foreign land sometimes. But other times it has been surprisingly similar. I harbor a secret goal of one day visiting all the 50 states. So far I have been to less than half of them. That is something I really should change.

I am a travel wannabe. I want to have the matching luggage and confidence of navigating airports and train stations. I want to be the target audience for catalogs like TravelSmith. I can read about the travels of others like Ali Watters on www.travelblog.org/. But time and money are often an issue. Only 30 percent of Americans hold current passports in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of State. I would be in the majority on this statistic.

The closest country to me is Canada and I would love to travel there someday. I have been to Mexico for that Spring Break fling back in 1987. My parents took us to the Bahamas and I honeymooned in Jamaica. But I have truly never traveled and that makes me a bit sad. But I love that I can hop on the internet and be someplace new in a matter of minutes, whether it is investigating my dream vacation destination or read about the travels of others.

Olympic-Sized Inspiration

Right now the Olympics is in full swing in London. It is always thrilling to watch the Olympics unfold, learn about the host country and see the spirit of Olympism unite us all no matter where we call home. I wasn't able to watch the opening ceremonies, but that is my favorite part. I love the pageantry and the spectacle of that event, and I hear that it was a splendid treat. One of my favorite parts is when the athletes from each country get to walk into the stadium in their smart dress uniforms with the flag bearers. The overwhelming sense of pride of nation is so evident. That has always been an inspiration to me. And it always made me want to learn more about all these nations that I may have never heard of before.

The flag of the International Olympics Committee was designed in 1912,
adopted in June 1914 and debuted at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics (source: Wikipedia.)

The flag of the Olympics is iconic with its six colors: five rings in blue, yellow, black, green and red on a white field. These rings represent the "union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world." Interestingly, every flag of the 205 countries participating in the 300 events at this years' Olympics games can be found in those colors. There are five main regions that the rings represent: Africa, the Americas (North and South America are combined), Asia, Europe and Oceania.

The Olympics are all about nationalism and pride of place, but they are also the perfect gateway into understanding and embracing the uniqueness of each people and land. A perfect celebration of all that makes this world a wonderful place.

Travel Is More Fun With Friends

Last year at the end of the Challenge of Color, I asked if there were any suggestions people would like to see for future challenges. I like a challenge that can be accessible to anyone, anywhere no matter their skill or chosen medium. I got a lot of great suggestions but one kept rising to the top for me.

My friend Marcie Abney of La Bella Joya has always been an inspiration to me. She has posted challenges on her blog showcasing architecture or art with interesting color palettes in something she calls Margie & Me based off a book by Margie Deeb called The Beaders' Color Palette. I love watching how those personal challenges of hers unfold and what others who are inspired contribute as well. I know that she loves a challenge and she makes the most beautiful jewelry with tiny seed beads. She is a marvel. You can get her tutorials in her Etsy site, and you should see the cool designs that she has has published in the new book Showcase 500 Beaded Jewelry.

It was Miss Marcie who shared the idea of a travel themed challenge. I am pleased to be collaborating with Miss Marcie on this challenge as we travel the world.

Ready to take the Challenge?

Miss Marcie and I would like you to travel with us around the world from the comfort of your own home. In this challenge you will be tasked with creating an accessory that captures the spirit of the nation that you are assigned.

Whatever your inspiration... the climate, the landscape, the colors on a topographical map, the way the people dress or what they eat, the architecture of the cities or the natural landmarks... I challenge you to be inspired by travel this month!

If you love traveling, this is the challenge for you! For the Challenge of Travel, we will each choose a nation from the list of participating Olympic countries in the five regions and create an accessory of our choice to represent it. 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 80 who sign up between July 30th-August 4th. Get it? Around the world in 80 countries!

2::Choose a region: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe or Oceania. There is only one rule: you MUST choose a region that is NOT where you currently live. (This is a challenge after all!) So for instance, I will not be able to choose the Americas. But that leaves me 4 other regions and a huge list of countries to investigate.
3::From the list of countries in each region (see links below) select a country. You will list this country in your form at sign up. I also found the links to the Continents at NationsOnline to be very informative with loads of jumping off points.

OR Challenge yourself... You can opt to have me and Marcie pick a challenge country for you from your chosen region. ;-)

4::Do a little research. Pretend you are embarking on a journey to that country. As with any travel, you might want to do a little research to learn what you can about the country. Go to Google Images and type in the name of your country just to see what comes up... investigate if they have a tourism board... take a look at their flag and learn about the symbols and color choices...find out what makes that country unique in all the world. The Olympic.org website is a good place to start as well.

5::Mark your calendar: Blog Hop on Saturday, September 1st. Yes, you must have a blog to participate in a blog hop. You are encouraged to blog about your country selection, your inspiration, your creative process. Be sure to tell share what you have learned about this nation. Please find a way to share something about the country on your blog: the flag, the culture, the landscape, the architecture, etc. It doesn't have to be all of these, but some way that we can learn about this place that will be helpful in making the connection with your accessory.
Hopefully we will have as many different countries as we have participants. But even if we all did select the same nation we would still have so many different interpretations. This is an exercise in how to take the the beauty of a place as your inspiration and interpret it in your own way. I hope that this Challenge of Travel hop will be a great way to expand your horizons to the beauty that is found in every corner of the world, discover something new from the comfort of your own home and find a new travel destination!

I will compile all the entries into the database and email all of the participants by Tuesday, August 7th with more information to help you enjoy the hop.

The official Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger." But a more informal motto that has been adopted is, "The most important thing is not to win, but to take part." And for us...the most important thing, the only rule really, is to HAVE FUN!

What one place in the world have you always wanted to visit and why?

28 July 2012

Bead Soup 6

Welcome to my reveal of the Bead Soup 6!

I have been able to participate in just about every Bead Soup since the beginning. I have always been delighted to make a new friend on the other side of the world and to see all the lovely designs that people make with a few simple beads. And I am excited that I am one of the contributors to the upcoming Bead Soup book that will be out in just a few short weeks. Can't wait to see it!

Lori Anderson deserves a round of applause for always making the experience a delightful one. I always let her know that I would be more than happy to share my stash with someone from another country. I enjoy making new friends in faraway places!

This year I was paired with Eniko Fabian from Austria. Her blog is Perl-Eni. Eni is a whiz with seed beads and I have just been in awe of her creations like this one.

{The colors on this and the way it is hugging the exposed donut underneath are so lovely! If I understand the translation from Hungarian... I think that is a curtain ring. Brilliant!}
I have to apologize because I was so focused on getting this done on time (actually I was early!) that I neglected to take a picture of the beads and findings that Miss Eni sent me. Doh!

Included in the package was a set of large chalky white barrel beads (sorry no picture!), a set of silver bead caps, a swirly leaf clasp and a beautiful polymer clay pendant that I think she may have made herself. The pendant has a slight glittery sparkle to it and these beautiful stylized leaves in teal, turquoise, black and white. I set aside the white beads for another day and decided to go with black as my color base and allow the silver to be bring out the white and the sparkle.


I found these matte black faceted glass beads in my stash from Bead Trust. I added Swarovski bicone crystals in a rich teal color. I decided that they would wear the caps so that there was just a hint of that color coming through. I also found some variegated dyed charoite beads from Michaels in a shimmery teal (I also have them in a rich shade of purple, I love them!). It looks like a tiny planet to me.

That swirly leaf clasp is so pretty that I wanted it front and center. I also wanted it to look like the pendant was floating. So I used some teal seed beads to attach the clasp through the hole. When you hold it up it flips a bit sideways, but it lays perfectly when you wear it. I know. I wore it today and got loads of compliments! ;-)

{'Bohemian Forest' named for the vast forest in the German, Austrian and Czech areas.}

I enjoyed working with these pieces. The colors are rich and the pendant is oh so light. But most I love that I have made a new friend on the other side of the world. So to Miss Eni I say "élvezik a nap" which in Hungarian means enjoy the day! (I hope ;-)

Please go to Lori's blog for a complete list of the participants in this first round of the Bead Soup 6!

26 July 2012

Scoring a Home Run with a New Website

This quote is the perfect one for me today.

This weekend will be a tournament for the traveling baseball team that my son Rocket plays on, the Plover 14 Nationals. Not that every game isn't important to try your best and to hopefully succeed at, but this is our final tournament...capping a record season of 21-0 and 1st place in all five of the previous tournaments this summer... and this is our home tournament. There is a lot riding on this weekend. (To put it in perspective, last year, this team, albeit with a little different blend of talent, finished the season with a record of 26-1 having taking second at only one tournament. The tournament that we won two weeks ago.) This is a talented group of young men. But they are 14 and that has me worried. I just hope that the last two weeks off hasn't softened them or made them complacent.

Also, this week, I have had a longtime goal hit me square on... to cancel my website.

I built my current website myself after spending a lot of money to watch other people do it not so well. I sunk a lot of cash when I was just starting out. And then there was the time when I had just transferred to a new company for the web development and the next day they fired my rep and shut their doors... right after they cashed my check for $500+ as a downpayment for the site. Luckily for me, my brother-in-law is a patent attorney with one of the country's largest firms and his little phone call got me all my money and files back right away. That left me with a bitter taste in my mouth for working with someone else to design my own site, and a lot wiser as to what to ask and look for in service providers.

I really just wanted a landing place to call my own, a sort of online calling card of what I do with the ability to manage it myself (I hated having to get someone else involved to fix one little line of text when I knew that I could do it). I preached weekly to the BNI chapter I was the educational coordinator of  (Business Networking International) that to be taken seriously in business today you needed to have a website to make your presence known. Yet I didn't have a fully functioning one of my own. Ultimately, I chose the company Wix.com (in 2009) because I liked the fancy Flash components and I wanted to be able to moderate it all myself. And there wasn't that much out there as there is today.

But the last time I updated this website was in the fall of 2010. Gah! I cannot believe that it has been that long! So I have known for some time that something had to change.... and nothing like a deadline with money on the line that gets you motivated ;-)

I had been hearing from people that they couldn't see my website due to the Flash component, especially if they are using any Apple products (curse you Apple!). Heck, I can't even access it at my work because of that! And with the increase in mobile devices, it makes sense to have something that can translate to that arena. While I will still own the domain name (actually, I own two... www.treasuresfoundjewelry.com will redirect to www.tesoritrovati.com) I knew that I needed a different solution.

Here are the things that I want from a website:

  • To have a live feed to my blog so that no matter where someone goes they can join in the conversation.
  • To have a gallery of my past works, my exhibit works and my custom orders.
  • To have an artist statement/resume of sorts to direct people to my credentials.
  • To have the ability to link to my Etsy shop where my Simple Truths components will continue to reside.
  • To have a shop dedicated to my jewelry sold from my own website.
  • To have the ability to set up forms on my site for contacting and signing up for Challenges, etc.
  • To have my website and all my online activities housed under one domain.
 Not much to ask, right?

A few weeks ago I started looking around for some solutions that could help me. It is a bit overwhelming to say the least. I found a handy reference that reviewed dozens of different website creators and that was helpful to point out things to me that I wouldn't have found on my own...but also a bit overwhelming. They actually reviewed Wix.com as their top pick, but I beg to differ. As a result of reading these very thorough reviews, I heavily browsed a number of them: Volusion.com, IMCreator.com, Moonfruit.com, Weebly.com, BigCommerce.com, Shopify.com, IndieMade.com and Squarespace.com.

I set up some free trials on some...

I liked the look of IMCreator.com but I found that it was a bit quirky. I kept adding a picture but then after it saved it always reverted back to the default template picture. If a free trial cannot work like the full version it is very frustrating.

BigCommerce.com is just that. BIG. I found it to be too much. Yes, they have a lot of great bells and whistles, but it was too confusing.

I like Shopify.com and kept coming back to it, but the cost was more than I was willing to spend at 3x what I was going to spend elsewhere, and I didn't like that they take a % from the sale.

An oddball in the bunch, Moonfruit.com is a UK based firm. While I liked their style and it looked like a great solution, ultimately it is a UK company. The time zones between here and there would be prohibitive if I had a problem.

My main concern is that this is not just a storefront. It has to be my entire brand online.

I set up free trials with both IndieMade.com and Squarespace.com. I laid out some pages I would like to have and chose a template in each that I could modify. I didn't have a lot of time to play with banners and such, but at least it gave me a view into what it might look like and how it might function for me. I actually taught myself how to do things like adding in an Etsy mini, using Feedburner for putting my blog posts embedded in each site, and I am working on a utility that will allow me to have slider based jQuery slideshows for my gallery (just know that it is not Flash based so that it will be more easily accessible by the masses - as if there are masses coming to view my website!).

IndieMade has a very clean look, and I have already contacted someone I trust to help me build a cool banner for the site. I like that the ecommerce is already integrated into it. The dashboard is easy to navigate. Simple is sometimes a good thing!

Squarespace is a bit more robust, but some of the dashboard is a bit harder to follow, I thought. I spent a good deal of time choosing colors and a special fancy font that I love for the header that looks like a handwriting script. But when I look at this at my office, it translates to an ugly serif font like Times. Ugh. (This is what it should look like: http://puu.sh/LAby) There is no way around that. Apparently, things like that just won't translate to everyone. That answer makes me mad. But I like the color choices and the way I was able to manipulate the template. They have a way to import ALL my blog posts from Blogger into their system... but what if I leave? And then I have to use their system to blog. Will I lose followers? And I like that I use Blogger as that is the same place I upload to ArtBeadScene.com and Earrings Everyday. But I was able to import the feedburner, so hopefully that works. They have no built in shopping system, but they did point me in the direction of Ecwid.com and as I am reading up on that I like it more and more! I will see how challenging that add-on is over the next few days. Squarespace also just started offering v6 (I am currently using v5). The products are complete different. So I might try a free trial on the v6 just to see if I like it better.

A key issue for me is how good the support is. As a test, I asked a lot of questions of both of them and they were right there emailing me back the answers, so I feel confident that they will be responsive if I have any problems.

One of my biggest wishes is that they would be able to host my domain name and give me my own email address (I know that it appears that I have that now, with the enjoytheday@tesoritrovati.com email, but I hate their user interface at my hosting company and insist that they route that to the original simplybeadiful@inbox.com email... which explains why I have two emails if you have ever received one from me!). If either one would do that (and I am okay with the charges associated with that) then I would be dropping my hosting company as well. Neither one of these will do that exactly. So I will still be paying my domain hosting service for that. The costs are comparable though to what I was paying with Wix.com: IndieMade.com will be $11.95/mo and Squarespace.com is either $8/mo or $16/mo.

I will eventually transfer over my domain name to one of these two. But I would love some feedback from you on what you are seeing so far. Keep in mind that both of these are rough and not everything is populated with content. I am feeling my way around blind (and usually in the wee hours of the night ;-), but I think you can get the drift of what I am trying to accomplish. When I settle on a new solution, I will be moving rather quickly to establish it. Like in the next 5 days. My service with Wix.com will be canceled as soon as tomorrow (you can still view it until then). I do not want to be charged for another year that I allow it to remain dormant.

Here are the two trial websites to take a peek at...

Your help will get me to keep moving forward... and hopefully stealing second on my way to scoring a run!

25 July 2012

Garden Gate: Echo Creative Club

Thanks to my friend Jeannie Dukic, I get to play along in the Echo Creative Club periodically through the year. This month has me on the schedule and I received a lovely Gin Blossom pendant from Jeannie. Jeannie makes really lovely polymer clay creations. Her creativity never ceases to amaze me. And it is always a treat to see what the other participants are up to for the month.

{My Gin Blossom is the dark green in the upper right}

The detail on these pendants is so nice and Jeannie makes them in practically every color combination. Another time I got a chocolate and turquoise one and created this lovely little stunner. This time around I got a green Gin Blossom. Evergreen with highlights of mint. I like green, I really do, but I will tell you that this particular pendant was a bit of a challenge for me (it's okay... I like a challenge!). It seemed that every green that I placed near it wasn't quite right - too light, too dark, too mossy, too minty - I have a lot of green beads!

{Unakite in an olive mossy green with hints of peach and orange and a close up of the pretty little magnetic clasp}
I finally settled on a strand of unakite rounds. What I love about this stone is the mottled effect and the rich peach and orange colors that come through, as though looking at a forest floor. That gave me the complementary color for all this green, lest it look too much like a pine tree.

{I just love the way these soft glass globes glow from within and the way the light is reflected on the shell beads.}

I found some lovely translucent faux sea glass rounds in a soft peachy pink, and these pretty mosaic shell rounds in the same iridescent shade. To pull it all together I found a tube of salmon colored matte peanut beads. (I am only slightly addicted to peanut beads. I want to put them in everything I make! ;-) I grounded it all with the copper branch connectors from Nunn Design (note to self: buy more of those!) and finished it off with a sweet little copper magnetic clasp.

{Garden Gate}

I call this Garden Gate as this medallion reminds me of an ornate gate fixture and the colors bring to mind climbing ivy, hothouse roses and drooping peonies. And since I have a decidedly black thumb, this is the closest to a garden that these hands will get!

Peach Pink Orange Garden Roses 250
{Gorgeous peach peony}

Thanks Miss Jeannie for the chance to play along with you! Do be sure and head over to Miss Jeannie's blog for a complete list of the participants for the month.

18 July 2012

Simple Truths Winners and Busy-ness

Thank you for everyone who participated in the Simple Truths Celebration blog hop last week. I commented to several people that it was as though I was seeing an old friend again when I saw the charms and pendants that were popping up. Often I make them in small batches and just experiment with ideas. Some were ones that I had a hard time giving up! But to see them all grown up and in such pretty finery really made me feel like a proud mama hen watching her chicks fly for the first time!

I also want to thank all the people who stopped by with such nice comments. I really meant this as more of a sharing of those who are creating with Simple Truths, but it was nice to get such validation that what I am doing is making a difference to others.

I have pinned all the images that you shared in the hop onto my Pinterest board for Designs Using Simple Truths. If you ever make something with one, be sure to share and I will add a link there!

I promised you some winners and here they are:

Winner of the Simple Truths Sampler 3-month subscription (for the hop participants): Cynthia Riggs

Winner of the Simple Truths Sampler 3-month subscription (for the commenters): Susan Lloyd

I have to say that the ideas that you shared with me for a custom limited edition Simple Truth pendant were so awesome, I just couldn't choose one. So I have selected two. That's how I roll ;-)

1st Winner of a Custom made Simple Truth created as a limited edition: Kim Stevens who said this: 
"I would love to see a simple truth that said - Finding my wings, learning to fly. It was my 6 word memoir for a challenge in a class with Kim Klassen (Beyond Layers). The 6 word memoir originated with Smith Magazine in the thoughts that although our story could fill hundreds upon hundreds of pages, sometimes all we need are a few words. Those were the six words that rolled off my pen to paper and I would love to see those on a simple truths pendant as a reminder for myself that in order to fly I need to leave the safety of the cocoon. It could be rectangular in shape, horizontal in orientation, and I do love pink."

2nd Winner of a Custom made Simple Truth created as a limited edition: Holly Sommerville who said this:  
"Erin, It's wonderful to see all the beautiful collaborations of like-minded artists, words, and visual images. It seems to me that all of the best art connects images and words and people... even across generations. I've been thinking about this challenge for the last few days. I've been thinking about how our role as "mothers" has changed over the years. A few years ago, I chose in the face of ridicule to be a full-time mama to my daughter for a few years. Women seem to always struggle with notions of perfection and expectation. We're perfectionists by nature... We worry about being a good mama, wife, daughter, and employee. We have so many roles... Sometimes keeping hold of all the pieces is a real struggle. We give everything... Sometimes, we give too much of ourselves away and then feel spent. Sometimes, we can't live up to our expectations and those of others.  Yesterday, while all of this was swirling about in my mind, I was sweeping and scrubbing and grumbling. I was preparing for a visit from someone, who always seems to point out my imperfections. I really thought that my house was acceptable; however, I had forgotten about the gigantic cobweb lurking above my rocking chair... above my creative space. As soon as she walked in my house, she noticed the spider's web and was appalled! hehehe... I couldn't help but laugh at her and I. I had just been reading Issa's poem:
"Don't worry, spiders,
I keep house
What I had forgotten in all of my antibacterial haste to be perfect was that yesterday, I also read poetry (for the first time in a long time) and watched the perfection of my little girl fall asleep. I realized that I'm a good mama even if my house isn't always perfect :)  So, my simple truth pendant would have a cobweb in the upper corner with a little joyous spider to remind me that "some moments are worth owning a little imperfection.
Blessings to all the mamas out there."

I just love the thoughts and the messages behind each of these and I am excited to get started working with you to create something special! I will be in touch with you both to start the process and to work with you to get the feel of it right and reveal them as limited editions in my Etsy store as soon as I can! As for the others - it was so hard to choose! - I made a little chart of the remaining ideas. If I decide to pursue them I will be in contact to arrange a special limited edition just for you!

Life continues to march on. I can't believe that summer is half over! Gah!

This past weekend Rocket and his Nationals baseball team were on the road to Fond du Lac where we continued the winning streak. We won the tournament (redemption for last year when we lost our only game all season there to take our only 2nd place trophy) which brings our record to 21-0 and 1st place in all five tournaments we have played in. Our last one is the last weekend in July. Our home tournament. Hoping to finish with a BANG!

Tiny Dancer is starting up the dance lessons again and will be in the Point Tap Festival in early August learning from masters in tap from across the country and working with students in college and beyond. So happy that she can do this. But in the meantime she also plays softball. Her team took 3rd in the league, and she is becoming a really good pitcher and first baseman. She stays cool under pressure and doesn't let the calls get her down (unlike her brother who can't handle the heat on the mound but is more perfectly suited to calling the shots as catcher behind the plate). She was selected to play on the All Star team and last night they were ahead, but it had to be called due to lightning. I love the summer ball season, but I will be happy to get some nights away from ballpark food!

I am excited that I will be traveling to the Valley Ridge Art Studio in Muscoda, WI on Friday to take a class with Richard Salley. I am not even sure what I will be learning, and I am not even sure that I have all the right materials, but I am just so happy to be traveling to this little jewel in Southern Wisconsin and to soak up all that Mr. Salley has to offer. (Seems that every class I ever take is geared toward metals in some way. Have you noticed that? I wonder if I am trying to tell myself something...) I will let you know all about it when I return!
Next week will be full of finishing some design team work, starting jewelry for a wedding, the reveal of the Echo Creative Club on 7/25 (I got a pretty green Gin Blossom to play with), my day as the Studio Saturday on Art Bead Scene 7/28, preparing the end of the month blog tour for our ABS challenge (have you made a blue bracelet for the 7000 Bracelets project?) and the reveal of the 6th Bead Soup Blog Hop on 7/28 with my fabulous partner Eni Fabian from Austria! I hope you will come back and join me! Whew! I am tired just thinking of all this. There is no danger of standing still in my world. Now you see why I don't sleep! ;-)

What is keeping you busy this week?

13 July 2012

Simple Truths Celebration

Today is the day to celebrate Simple Truths!

I decided in the fall of 2011 that I wanted to come up with a line of components that was all my own, something that I would enjoy using. I figured that if I had that line there might even be some others who would love them as well. And so you have!

I started with a book and a plan. I had read the book "Four Word Self Help" by Patti Digh and I enjoyed the pithy little quotes so much that I knew that I had to find a way to use messages in my pieces. At first I thought that all of them would have exactly four words, but that didn't last long. I am a collector of quotes and finally I knew what to do with them! I decided that they would be called Simple Truths::Modern Wisdom. But that became too cumbersome name so I just shortened it a bit. Simple Truths stuck.

I tried all sorts of different materials to bring the messages to life, including etched metal, stamped metal and even resin in bezels, but nothing felt right. In fact, it felt like a lot of work! I wanted this to be fun!

{Some of the tools of my trade.}

I just knew that I hadn't stumbled on the right path until the day that I played hooky from my plan to etch metal and broke out the polymer clay after reading a fun little tutorial by my friend Heather Powers on the Art Bead Scene. That was the lightbulb moment for sure!

{The very first Simple Truths - I have come a long way in the finishing of these!}

Now that I look at these early pieces, I realize that I have changed quite a bit in the short time that I have been making these. The way I create them, the materials I use, the process of colorization, the incorporation of messages... all have evolved rather quickly. I like the direction that I am going with them and I hope others do, too. In a perfect world, I would carve my own custom made stamps and solder my own custom made bezels, have 30 hours in a day and nothing other to do than create. Obviously, my world is not perfect ;-). For now, I am having fun with the possibilities that are available and I am working on a new custom made-to-order pendant that includes my own design in a custom carved stamp that will hopefully be available in Fall 2012. Stay tuned.... ;-)
{Just look at the fun details hiding in every nook and cranny of this illustration by Mary Engelbreit with one of my favorite quotes!}

Can you tell that I love color? I have always been influenced by the artwork of Mary Engelbreit. I buy her calendar each year, and I love all her cards. The fact that her illustrations are so colorful, so lively, so filled with layers of images makes me want to come back and stare at them for hours. Look closely and you will see so many charming details. Couple that with the fact that she puts these wonderful quotes on them, and you can see how it captures my imagination. I have a page-a-day calendar of her art this year and I found that I couldn't just toss out each page as I ripped it off. So now if you get an order from me you will also get a random quote from my stash. Just another way to send a little modern wisdom your way.

{'Live What You Love' is the message on the back - good advice, no?}
Imagine my surprise when the very first Simple Truth that I made into a necklace ended up on the cover of the Summer 2011 Stringing issue and some of the first charms I made ended up in the Beads 2011 Buyer's Guide. I have been honored that several of them have also shown up in the pages of other magazines in the designs of some truly talented jewelry artists that I admire! You don't know how proud that makes me!

{I think this one may well be my favorite one I created for Vintaj...and it was a last minute addition!}
And this spring I was honored to be selected by Vintaj to be their art bead partner for the month of May with Simple Truths I created in a storybook theme.

{"Just Be" series... toggle or pendant... you choose!}
From the moment that I started making my Simple Truths, people were attracted to them in a way that they weren't with the other experiments. People tell me that they love that meanings behind them, the colors, the images. They like the ones that are double-sided so that they can keep that message close to their heart. Or wear it proudly for all to see.

They are infinitely customizable. And the great suggestions that I have received from so many have kept me continually seeking out new ideas, new bezel settings, new color combinations, new messages.

{Created for the gallery exhibit "That's Amore" in February 2012. Those are the lines of Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 on these Story Beads. My favorite poem to be sure!}

I have made them for weddings...

{Perfect little charm necklace for a wedding party, don't you think?}
...and anniversaries...

...reuniting with an adopted child all grown up and necklaces for those new to mommyhood...

{My very first custom order... to honor a young girl whose life was tragically cut short... 'do not forget me' in French}
...honoring those who have been lost to us...

...and celebrating the next chapter of a life.

I like the way that they can blend in with so many different materials. I like to use different metals in my work and mixing metals as well. And they work so nicely with everything from other polymer clay beads to lampwork glass to ceramic and everything in between.

{There is still room in the Club! Join us!}
I started the Simple Truths Sampler Club in June 2011 with the intent of sharing limited edition charms and pendants with people who would love them and give them a good home. Only 20 spots a month would be offered. The charms and pendants would never be sold elsewhere. And there would be flexibility in participating: 3-, 6-, 9- or 12-months. I wanted to make this Club structured in such a way as I would like to participate. It is why you are here today. So today I celebrate you!

Below are 18 different designers who have joined me on this hop to bring their Simple Truths into the light of day and make something inspired with them. I hope you will go and see what they did and leave them some comment love!

Erin Prais-Hintz
Sharon Misuraco
Tanya Goodwin
Alice Peterson
Melissa Trudinger
Lori Bowring Michaud
Rebecca Anderson
Chris White
Cherrie Fick
Rosanne Garvison
Shelley Turner
Marlene Cupo
Mary Harding
Lola Surwillo
Michelle Burnett
Kirsi Luostarinen
Paige Maxim
Kristen Fagan
Cynthia Riggs

And what would a party be without a gift? How about three?

1::Use the discount CELEBRATEYOU in my Etsy shop for 10% off your purchase OR the code FREESHIP for free shipping. Codes are good until August 31, 2012.

2::Love Simple Truths but haven't found the perfect one for you? Leave a comment below telling me what YOUR Simple Truth would say, what it might look like and I will create it just for you! One comment will be selected and I will come up with a design based on your suggestion, send you the first one and offer it as a special limited edition Simple Truth. ($20 value)

3::Do you love monthly surprises? One random comment will be selected for a 3-month subscription (August-September-October 2012) to the Simple Truths Sampler Club ($54 value).

Winners will be chosen from the comments on this blog post on Tuesday, July 17th. All comments MUST have an email. If I don't have a way to contact you, you can't win. Sorry!

In addition, I will also be giving away a 3-month spot in the Club to one of the participating blog hoppers. Sweet!

Go on and see what modern wisdom the hoppers will be sharing with you! And thank you for encouraging me in my journey!

10 July 2012

Blue Steel

I don't want to be a rock star, I want to be a legend.

Come over to Earrings Everyday to read about my brush with rock and roll this past weekend and see what I would have worn to the concert... if I were 19 again! ;-)

03 July 2012

Coming to My Senses: Fireworks

I hear...the band playing strains of Loretta Lynn and Charley Daniels in the distance...the squawk of a mother duck shepherding her little ones through the throngs of people gathered in her home...squeals of laughter from tiny ones running barefoot through the grass...the constant hum of the thousands of people in their own little worlds...

I smell...roasted corn on the cob with its sweet butter and salt...the sharp tang of beer as we pass by the beer garden tent...the bright intoxication of cotton candy wafting on the breeze...

I touch...the canvas sling of my folding chair...my arm with a quick slap ending the sting of a mosquito finding a meal there...the drops of dew on my bottle dripping down my leg...the radiating heat of the day giving way to the hot breezes of this night...

I taste...the salty crunch of my walking taco...the cool cranberry lemonade tickle my burning throat...my friend's homemade chocolate fudge brownies...the hot sticky dough and the flutter of powdered sugar from the funnel cake...

I see...light dancing like fireflies on the ripples of the water...the sun melt behind the trees bringing the soft pink of dusk.....pops of neon glow sticks coming alive in the surrounding dark bobbing along on the wrists and necks of the little ones...flowers blooming in the night sky in a riot of dazzling light....

I feel...happy that our town has this three day festival every year...grateful that I can be up on the deck of my office overlooking the throngs of people trying to jockey for a spot on the grass below to catch a glimpse of the fireworks...glad that my friends could join us again this year to continue our annual tradition of watching the fireworks together...thankful to be living in a country that celebrates our freedoms in this way...honored that there are people who risk their lives for those of us enjoying these freedoms.

Happy Independence Day!

What is coming to your senses this week?


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