Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Inspired by Reading Book Club

I feel like I haven't been posting too much lately, but life has just been flying by too darned fast!  I didn't manage to get project done for all the challenges I like to participate in, but I did get two pieces done for the Inspired by Reading Book Club!

This month's selection was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  I vaguely remember hearing about this book (Henrietta's story) when the book came out a few years ago, but never really delved into it until now.

Some of you may know that my husband is a pediatrician, so medical and scientific themes tend to be of some interest around here.  I feel like this book did a great job blending the science with the very human story of Henrietta Lacks and the family she left behind when she died of cancer... and it didn't get so "science-y" that I couldn't follow it.

I was truly fascinated to learn how tons of medical and scientific advancements came about because the medical staff at John's Hopkins took samples of Henrietta's cells when she was being treated for cervical cancer.  What is really crazy to me is that no consent was needed to take, grow, and run countless experiments on her cells.  More mind blowing to me is that, legally, consent probably wouldn't be needed today... think on that for a moment.

While the author gives as much background on Henrietta Lacks as possible, the story is really more about what happened to and with her cells after her death and the impact all of this had on her children... especially her daughter Deborah.  It is the story of gaining recognition for one woman's contribution to science and the struggle for her family to come to terms with what had happened and find a way to move forward.  I'm not going to give too much away (read the book!) but this was an interesting read for me even if I found parts of it really hard to read because of the emotional and mental toil this journey took on Deborah and her siblings.

So, now onto my creations!  I never thought I'd be writing these words, but for my creations this month I was inspired by blood and blood cells.  Yup, you heard me right.  Inspired by blood.  What can I say?

I was really struggling with an idea for this book, and I started reading a little later than I would have liked.  Luckily, when I was going through my art bead stash I came upon a enameled pendant that I bought from C-Koop years ago at the local bead show.  It caught my eye and I realized that it looked a little bit like blood cells to me.  (I realized that's not going to be a selling point, but I'm guessing most people won't actually see what I see!)

I knew I had some sari silk in a blue that would work perfectly with the background color of the pendant and I thought I could weave it in and out of some silver plated chain.  At first I intended to add some little dangles along the chain in red tones but I decided to keep it simple instead.  It wasn't even a time issue... I just took a step back and realized that sometimes less is more.  I completed the design with a key shaped toggle clasp from Nunn Design as a nod to the fact that Henrietta's cells were the key to unlock many medical questions leading to all sorts of advancements.

My second necklace is less about cells and more about the color of blood... deep, dark reds.  (Wow, I do sound like a weirdo this post don't I?)  Anyway, I was playing around with a cool new focal from Vintaj and paired it with Czech glass in several shades of red including one with a Picasso finish.

This is a blog hop.  Check out all the creations that my fellow book clubbers made this month!  Pop on over to Andrew Thornton's blog HERE to see the creations inspired by this month's book.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New Earring Monday: Weeks 29 & 30

This time on New Earring Monday, it's another round of variations on a theme!  This time I'm focusing on some great carved leaf Czech glass beads that I got from Lima Beads.  I may have gone a little crazy playing with this new shape but I'm loving it!

I think I've mentioned before that almost any time I ask my husband for advice on which design option he likes better the response I get is "do both!"  So, that's what's going on this week for this post.  I came up with multiple options and he wants me to do them all.  I laugh every time, but he's mostly right.  I should do both (or all three...or whatever) because I need to restock my space at the Unearthed Arts gallery, start building up for the Art Wander this fall, and maybe not neglect my Etsy shop quite so much.  

So here's what I've been up to... I may have gone a tiny bit overboard on these playing around with different bead combinations and wire colors.  Do you have a favorite?  I'd love to know!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bead Cruise Inspired Design Challenge

To help all of us Bead Cruisers pass the time waiting (impatiently) for Bead Cruise 2015, Diana Ptaszynski of Suburban Girl Studio decided to organize a little design challenge.  The rules were simple, create a piece of jewelry that is ocean, tropical, or cruise inspired (any or all of these, actually) and share with the group.  I figured I should share with my blog readers too!

It seems like this should have been a narrow enough focus to get me going... but no.  I had too many things to choose from!  I guess that's a good problem to have.  I had truly grand plans of getting a ton of jewelry done for this challenge, but as is so often the case lately, my life has just gotten too busy.  I refused to give in to chaos and I didn't give up on participating... I just scaled my plans and expectations down a little bit.  

First up I made a little pair of seahorse and shell earrings.  I had a bunch of resin projects that had been on the back burner waiting for me to get new UV resin, so I figured I'd whip up some ocean themed earrings while I was at it.  Here's the result!

I used the little seahorse images from the "Bathing Beauties" Nunn Design collage sheet in one of their fancier bezels and kept it simple with some little TierraCast shell charms.  Simple and cute.  These are now for sale at Unearthed Arts in Waconia.

Finishing the earrings was enough to satisfy the challenge, but I wanted to do more.  At the last minute (i.e. last night) I whipped up this cute charm necklace.  (Well, at least I think it's cute... I hope you do too!)  The starting point was the adorable little starfish charm that I just got this week from Kylie Parry (along with some of her other treasures, naturally).  I wire wrapped a bail for it with a Czech glass rondelle and some copper wire and added a little shell charm and a little mixed metal dangle to complete the charm portion.  Wanting a little more umph for the design I also included a lampwork glass bead from Fire Lilly.  I love the way the bottom portion of the bead has some aqua ocean color and the top part is more sandy tones. 

I toyed with the idea of tying a little bit of aqua colored sari silk onto the lampwork bead unit but didn't do it last night in my time crunch.  Maybe I'll try it later and see if that adds something.  Thoughts?  

So, I didn't realize all my beach/cruise inspired designs, but I'm pretty happy with that pieces that I did manage to make.  Who knows, maybe I'll manage a couple more sea-inspired designs before summer is over... and if not, there's always next year.  The 2015 Bead Cruise is closer every day!

Friday, July 18, 2014

We're All Ears: July 2014

For July's We're All Ears challenged hosted by the Earrings Everyday blog, they went a little patriotic with the inspiration.  Take a look:
I have to admit that I wasn't immediately inspired by this one... perhaps the red, white, and blue really isn't my thing (although I do love bright turquoise and red together...hmm.)  Anyway, I had pretty much decided to give this one a pass and focus on some of the three billion other jewelry projects that need attending to when I got a possible idea.  Even as I started pulling bead possibilities, I still wasn't sure that this was going to come together... but it did!  Here's what I came up with!

I did a little mixed metal action with the hammered rings from Vintaj and some oval silver plated chain links from Nunn Design.  I chose a mix of blue beads in Czech glass and Sodalite and a tiny pop of red glass too.  I think it feels summery without being too 4th of July.  The texture on the chain lends a little bit of a nautical feel to things.  

Overall, I'm happy with this design idea and will probably revisit it with different colors and metals before too long (i.e. before I totally forget!).

Check out what everyone else made too!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

30 Words: The Gears are Turning

My main problem is that I have
So many ideas, so little time...
Circle upon circle, spoke within spoke,
The gears inside my head seem to 
Turn and grind nonstop.

The premise of 30 Word Thursday is simple... take a photo, write 30 words (no more, no less) and post it each Thursday.  This is a blog hop hosted by Erin Prais-Hintz over on her blog Treasures Found.  Click HERE to see her post for this week as well as links to the 30 Words from everyone else.

This photo was taken in June at the old Phelps Mill in Ottertail County, Minnesota.

Monday, July 14, 2014

New Earring Monday: Weeks 27 & 28

Ok, I'm back on track timing wise for my New Earrings Monday posts this week.  This week is once again a case of variations on a theme.  This time, the results stem from me trying to decide on earrings to go with my necklace from last month's Art Bead Scene.  Here's a picture of the focal, but you can read the whole post and see the inspiration artwork HERE.

I figured it made sense to use more of the spacer beads that Kerri Fuhr sent along with her gorgeous focal and accent beads as a starting point.  The first pair I made used some of the black lampwork spacers and little Czech glass rondelles in pale green.

I liked the first pair just fine, but I wasn't sure they had enough oomph to stand up to the necklace... thus pair number two.  This time I used pale green spacers and some faceted black Czech glass beads that were a bit larger.

I might actually prefer the first pair on its own, but to go with the necklace I think I have to vote for pair number two.  What do you think?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

30 Words: Dry

Cracked and dry, 
this is how I feel upon 
stepping out of the door 
into the oppressive heat.  
I feel myself become 
deprived of all moisture... 
turned to stone.

The premise of 30 Word Thursday is simple... take a photo, write 30 words (no more, no less) and post it each Thursday.  This is a blog hop hosted by Erin Prais-Hintz over on her blog Treasures Found.  Click HERE to see her post for this week as well as links to the 30 Words from everyone else.

I took this photo in the Las Vegas airport on my way home from a library conference there.  As you may be able to guess, I don't really recommend a trip to Vegas in June... it is HOT!  

Monday, July 7, 2014

New Earring Monday: Weeks 25 & 26

Boy is this year just flying past!  I can't believe that it's July and my 40th birthday is just around the corner.  Gulp.  Due to lack of reliable internet access while I was traveling this post is going live a week later than intended...but I did make the earrings on time so I'm considering myself still going strong with my personal earring challenge!

For this installment of New Earring Monday, I decided to revisit a design that I first tried out last year for the Art Jewelry Elements Earring Challenge (week 40 to be exact).  I embossed two sets of Vintaj altered blank circles (one set in brass and the other in Arte Metal) with the Celtic Weave DecoEmboss Die, sanded them to get the highlights, and dapped them into a convex shape.  I added extra holes along the bottoms of the circles to allow for fun crystal dangles on both pairs.  Unlike my first version, I decided to leave them unpainted and just play with the two tones of the metal for the design.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Drunken Botanist: Inspired by Reading Book Club

The June selection for the Inspired by Reading Book Club is a book that I remember seeing in advance reader copies at a library conference when it was about to be published.  I was intrigued but my success rate for actually reading adult ARCs is pretty sad so I walked away.  Needless to say, I was happy to see The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart on our reading list for this year.  My husband is a homebrewer and has dabbled in wine, mead, and cider making as well.  Additionally I've also gotten a little more into cocktails and am still learning what I really like (and dislike!) when it comes to that. So what I'm saying is that the subject matter was of personal interest.

Generally speaking, I'm more of a fan of narrative nonfiction... nonfiction books that tell a story.  The Drunken Botanist is more of an encyclopedia of ingredients used to make, flavor, and garnish alcoholic beverages from around the world and that made it pretty challenging for me to read all the way through.  I liked the way she broke it down into three parts: plants that get fermented to make alcohol, plants used to flavor various alcoholic beverages, and then mixers and garnishes.

With my attention issues and time crunch problems (my goodness but June has been a crazy busy month!), I ended up skipping around quite a bit and focusing on ingredients that were particularly interesting to me or that just jumped out when I was flipping through the pages.  For instance, I was a little blown away to learn that the cashew is related to poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac and its outer shell has similar oils that will cause an uncomfortable rash.  Weirder still, the nut grows at the bottom of a "cashew apple" that looks sort of like a pear or apple but isn't actually a fruit at all (the nut is the fruit).

Weird cashew plants.
I had lots of potential ideas swirling (mixing?) around in my head like an exotic cocktail but ended up focusing on beer.  Delicious and diverse beer.  Shocking, right?  Ok, maybe not so shocking, especially since I just came back from a trip to Michigan for the National Homebrewers Convention.  While I was at the convention I picked up a lanyard with the color chart (SRM chart) that judges use when evaluating beer.  I won't bore you with all the details but you can find out more about it HERE if you are interested, but here is one version of the chart:

Beers can range from super pale yellow to almost black depending on the beer style and the types of grains used to make them... I decided to make a necklace that represented this beer rainbow!  I chose a variety of beads in Czech glass, crystal, and even some smoky quartz to represent the range of colors and made a fairly simple linked necklace.  I really could (should?) have used a black bead in the middle if I wanted to be totally true to the scale, but I wanted to keep to more transparent beads for a certain look.

Enjoy and go pour yourself your favorite color of beer as you check out what everyone else made for the blog hop!  As always, you can get the full list of links over on Andrew Thornton's blog HERE.