Thursday, May 26, 2016

Inspired by Reading: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

As you know, I look forward every month to the Inspired by Reading Book Club since it combines my love of reading and creating jewelry.  This month we read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.  As is often the case since I've been so out of touch with adult fiction for so long, I had no preconceived notions of this book... and boy, it was a weird one!

The main character, Rose Edelstein, discovers on the eve of her ninth birthday that she can feel her mother's emotions in the lemon cake that she has made for Rose's birthday.  She quickly begins to understand that it goes far beyond her mother's baking... she can taste the emotions that the person or people who made or picked any food.  She eventually hones her skills so that she can tell what factory and field the individual ingredients came from and even the character of those who picked them!  I can't imagine the burden that would be... sometimes it's really better NOT to know every little thing.  Rose ends up resorting to mostly eating super processed foods that are primarily made by automated processes to avoid tasting sadness, rage, or despair.  I appreciate that by the end of the book, Rose seems to have found a place for herself in the world and a way to make good use of her talent.  By the way, Rose isn't the only one in the family with unique abilities and/or oddities, but I'll let you discover all that for yourself!

I think that this month is the earliest I've ever finished the book since I had some good, concentrated airplane reading time on our trip to Portland, Oregon.  Finishing the book early doesn't necessarily translate into actually finishing my project early.  Le sigh.  But that being said, I still did better than I usually do!

For my design I was inspired by the titular lemon cake.  I have to admit that when I picked up the book from my local library my first thought was something like "that looks all wrong for lemon cake!"  In my experience, chocolate frosting does NOT go on lemon cake so I assumed that the cover artist got it all wrong.  (As a librarian involved with book selection for many years, I'm well aware that authors rarely have any say in cover art and that publishers aren't always concerned with the cover being an accurate depiction of the story inside... so this was not a crazy line of thinking for me.)  As I dove in and started reading, I soon realized that the picture was correct... Rose's birthday cake was indeed lemon with chocolate frosting.  Weird... but it did give me my inspiration, so who am I to judge?

I find it fitting that the main component of my necklace came from one of Andrew Thornton's destash events.  These yellow glass beads were a great choice with their lemony goodness.  I paired them with a couple of wooden beads in the same basic size and shape for a simple strung necklace.  Chain just didn't feel right for the back of this piece.  I broke out the dark brown deerskin leather lace and my leather punch and used some waxed linen to stitch the leather closed.  (Thanks Nunn Design for the great idea!).  I love the soft feel of the leather and that it adds a little more "chocolate" to my lemon cake necklace!

You can check out what the other book club members made this month over on the Inspired by Reading Facebook page!  Looking for a great monthly challenge?  Love reading?  Join us!


Monday, May 23, 2016

The Honey Do List: May 2016

This year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... we're calling it the Honey Do List.  When it comes to challenges I always say the more the merrier, so we've opened it up and invited folks to play along with us!

Here's the inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

This month's challenge was going to be some kind of spring flower action, but I was lucky enough to take a class on raptor photography at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this past weekend and found a new muse!  This is Samantha the white morph great horned owl sitting in a flowering crab apple tree.  Our photogenic raptors were brought out by the Minnesota Raptor Center who rescue injured birds and release those who can survive back into the wilds, while keeping the birds like Sam (who has a broken wing) for demonstrations and education opportunities.  So, this month take inspiration from the bird itself, the colors, whatever strikes your fancy!

Eric took a ton of great raptor photos during his photo shoot at the Arboretum but I was super excited to have this lovely owl picture as May's inspiration since this one was among my favorites!  I have quite a few different owl focals and beads in my stash, so I knew that I would have fun creating for this challenge!

The first piece I made was inspired more by the owl herself than the whole photograph.  Eric gave me the perfect polymer clay pendant from Summer Wind Art for Christmas... the owl on the pendant even has the same bright yellow eyes!  I started by choosing a few different pieces of Amazonite to accentuate the pale blue background of the pendant.  I added in some faceted Mookaite pieces in yellow and dark brown and used copper to make wire wrapped links.

Next up I chose a pale green porcelain owl pendant made by Andrew Thornton that I picked up at Allegory Gallery when Eric and I visited Ligonier a couple of years ago.  I just got a selection of colored leather from Tracee Dock (The Classic Bead and Classic Elements) and I've been eager to give it a try... this was the perfect opportunity!  I paired the .5 mm metallic leather in lawn with a selection of brass and Czech glass beads (including some with a cool Mercury glass finish!)  Because the leather is so thin, I added a second strand to the necklace in a fairly fine brass chain from Vintaj.

I had big plans of making a bracelet using an owl bead from Green Girl, but time ran out on me... too much traveling and having fun this month I guess!  This was the one design that I had dreamed up that actually used the color palette from the photo so I'm sad that I wasn't able to pull that one off.  I'm still excited about the idea I have so I'm sure that I'll eventually get back around to that one.

Determined to still have at least three pieces completed for this challenge, I whipped up a pair of earrings at the last minute.  They are a design I've made before and am quite fond of but use a new color of Czech glass owl beads.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

We're All Ears: May 2016

This month's We're All Ears challenge hosted by the Earrings Everyday blog is all about tea parties!  Erin shared tons of her favorite tea, tea pot, and tea party images with us to get us going but left things pretty open for interpretation.  Here are couple of my favorites plus one more that I found!

I must confess, I wasn't really much of a tea party girl when I was little.  I was a total tomboy and the favored imaginary play scenarios with my best friends tended toward prison, library, and Catholic church (my neighbors were Catholic and there's way more pomp and circumstance than in the Souther Baptist church in which I was raised!)  What I can say is that I've always been drawn to the colors and patterns on china... especially the more over the top color combos!

All of the earrings I'm sharing with you today have something in common...  they all feature beads or charms that came in the "Vintage Tea Party" subscription box from Blueberry Cove Beads.  This may all be part of my evil plan to use things up instead of having to put them away properly, but don't judge me!

This first pair combines some lovely Humblebeads polymer clay discs (aren't those colors just yummy?!) with brass and coral colored Czech glass flowers.  To me this is pretty much a perfect spring tea party color palette.

I'm really proud of myself for making this second pair work.  Originally I was going to make a mis-matched pair but only use the tea cup.  The more I looked at the tiny saucer, the more determined I became to find a way to use it!  I dug around in what has become my beading junk drawer (seriously, I need to clean up my studio!) and finally found a small filigree piece from Vintaj that had some promise.  The plate is pretty secure in there, but I plan to add some glue to the back to ensure that the plate doesn't go anywhere!

To round out my tea party inspired earring collection, I made one more pair.  This time I used some floral print ceramic beads from Blueberry Cove that remind me of the top tea pot picture.  Instead of the other more literal interpretations, I focused on the floral china design for this pair by using a mix of Czech glass flower dangles.

I didn't make this last pair for this challenge, but I couldn't help sharing them here anyway.  These were part of the set of jewelry I made for the March Art Bead Scene challenge and feature some more Humblebeads.  You can see that post HERE.

Check out what everyone else made for this fun challenge by stopping by the Earrings Everyday blog!  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

On the Oregon Trail: or Adventures in Portland and Beyond

I wanted to take a tiny break from jewelry here on my blog and share a little bit about my recent vacation to Oregon with my husband and our good friends Kathleen and Shea.  I'm just going to hit the highlights of our week on the West Coast here... Eric is doing a much more detailed account of our adventures over on his blog.  He's especially good at chronicling the breweries (and meaderies, and distilleries) that we hit along the way.  Check it out over on his blog starting with Day 1 HERE!  Apologies in advance that this post might get a little long and has lots of pictures!

Upon arrival in Portland, we headed for the coast and our night's lodging in Pacific City at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda.  Of course, we made a couple of beer and snack stops along the way but still arrived with plenty of time for a nice walk along the beach before getting dinner at the Pelican Brewing brew pub.  Our internal clocks still being on Central Time, we woke up pretty early the next morning and explored the beach and surrounding sand dunes some more before breakfast.  I loved discovering all the tiny tide pools amongst the rocky shore... so much magical life there!

Tide pools!  And a wider view of the rocks that hide them.
A panorama shot of the magnificent view hidden on the other side of the dunes.
As we were checking out of our hotel I noticed that they were selling bags of rabbit food.  Upon inquiring with staff, we discovered that there is a huge population of semi-wild bunnies in Pacific City that will come when you shake a bag of food.  We couldn't resist!  I had a great time feeding bunnies from my hand while Eric did an impromptu photo shoot.  After that it was into the car and on the road back to Portland so we could pick up our friends from the airport! 

The view from our hotel room, more pictures from behind the dunes,
Eric finds a brewery, and a behind the scenes look at Eric's bunny photo shoot!

Day three started with a hearty breakfast at our hotel (we stayed at McMenamins Kennedy School, Eric talks much more about this unique hotel over on his blog HERE) and some exploration around the grounds.  The main event of the day was a fun (and filling!) food tour of the Alphabet District and NW 23rd Avenue with Forktown Food Tours but we fit in some breweries and such too.  I can't speak highly enough of our tour and tour guide (the company's owner Heidi!)... it was fun, delicious, and informative.  Just as we hoped, it was a great way to kick off our vacation.  Beyond the tour itself, Heidi gave us some great recommendations for hiking spots and more.  I can assure you that we did not leave the tour hungry or thirsty!  Next time we find ourselves in Portland we will definitely take one of their other tours.

A few shots from our fabulous food tour!
We got a fairly early start on day 4 (Friday) with a quick breakfast in a hotel courtyard of Blue Star Donuts and chouquette pastries from St. Honore Boulangerie that we took home from the previous day's food tour.  Our day's destination was Hood River.  It's an easy day trip when you are based in Portland with a breathtaking drive through the Columbia Gorge.  We stopped along the way to do a hike to Wahclella Falls.  None of us are what you call real hikers, but this was a nice loop that was at a good pace for our group.  Lots of beautiful scenery along the way including the falls themselves.  It was hard to tear ourselves away from the water, but eventually we got hungry and had to continue on! 

The lovely Wahclella Falls!
We were in Portland over Mother's Day.  We started the morning with brunch at place Heidi our tour guide recommend to us called Interurban.  Amazingly, most of the shops in the neighborhood were open pretty early for a Sunday morning so we walked off our delicious food and drink and checked out the sights and stores of Mississippi Avenue for a bit.  Next on our agenda for the day was a visit to the International Rose Test Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden.  With it being the weekend AND Mother's Day, both gardens were pretty crowded but still beautiful and well worth the trip.  As you can see from the photos below, the roses were going strong during our visit!  

Over the course of our week in Oregon, we hit up many fine eating and drinking establishments.  In fact, I counted 20 breweries or taprooms, 3 distilleries, 1 meadery, 1 winery, and 1 cider maker.  (My liver may need a vacation now!!)  I won't bother going into great detail on all of them since I know Eric will be doing that on his blog, but I'll give you my highlights and a photo collage!  Some of my favorite breweries were places we went to on our last trip:  Hair of the Dog, Cascade Barrel House, and Pfriem.  New to us this trip I really enjoyed Breakside, Commons, and Logsdon.  Another happy accident was stumbling upon a little meadery called Stung and getting an impromptu tour!  

Pelican, Commons, Pfriem, ABV, Olympia Provisions, Logsdon, Hair of the Dog

I'm so thankful that we could take the time out of our busy lives to connect with our friends on such a fun vacation.  Like many of you out there, our friends are spread far and wide... making it difficult to see them as often as we would like.  As long as this post is, it really just scratches the surface of our journeys.  Good food & drink, great friends, plenty of belly laughs, gorgeous scenery, and much more!  I think it's fair to say we all had a great time exploring in Oregon!!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Art Bead Scene: May 2016

This month's inspiration for the Art Bead Scene challenge is "On a Shaker Theme" by Charles Sheeler.  Overall, it's a bit more modern and angular than what I am usually drawn to, but I do like the color palette.  For some reason, the white of the buildings coupled with the blue tones makes me think of the Greek isles... but that's neither here nor there!  You can read more about the artwork and the artist over on the ABS blog HERE.

"On a Shaker Theme", 1956
by Charles Sheeler
oil on canvas
I decided that this challenge was a perfect time to pull out one of the remaining little house beads by Tracee Dock of The Classic Bead that I've had squirreled away for ages.  The one I picked has nice cream and grey tones to it with some subtle blue undertones.  I grabbed a set of lampwork glass by local glass artist Jeff Barber to pull in the blues and found several wooden beads to round things out.

I used a mix of blue and brown waxed Irish linen to knot the necklace.  I'd hoped to use two strands of each, but I couldn't quite get them all through the house bead or the oblong wooden bead.  I ended up using a doubled over length of blue linen and managed to tie on one strand of brown.  The round wooden beads have been in my stash since my first year of beading so it's nice to see them finally find their way into a design.  (Although per my usual neurosis, I'm sad that they are almost gone now!)  I used a larger round link chain to finish off the back of the necklace... I usually save this chain for bracelets, but I like the balance here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Adventures in Metalsmithing!

I've been flirting with the idea of learning more metalsmithing skills for quite some time... even taking a class or two to dip my toe in a tiny bit.  What I have really been wanting to do was to take a more in depth class to really add some new techniques to my jewelry making toolbox.  In particular, I was hoping to take the Metalsmithing 1 class at Quench Jewelry Arts in Northeast Minneapolis but timing (and class availability) just never worked out... that is until now!  I managed to snag a seat in this four week class that ran Monday nights in April.  Perfect timing for me to take advantage!

While the class certainly teaches a number of techniques and helpful tips, the primary focus is on teaching studio safety, using the jewelers saw, and sweat soldering.  The goal of the class is that each student leave with at least one finished project using these techniques.  I ended up with two pendants and a simple pair of post earrings... but I'm jumping ahead of myself!

On the first night of class we all assembled at Quench and met our instructor Aisha Formanski.  (Her company is Everthine Jewelry and she has also written a book, New Directions in Stamped Metal Jewelry.)  After introducing ourselves to each other and Aisha, we got down to the business of learning the basics of the jewelers saw.  Most of the evening was spent going through a series of practice exercises with the saw on a piece of copper.  Going into this class I was pretty nervous about trying the saw (several people with far more training than I have told me how frustrating they find it).  I actually enjoyed sawing for the most part... that was a pleasant surprise!  For whatever reason, piercing the metal (where you saw out a shape from the inside) was especially fun for me.  We also got some lessons in filing and using the flex shaft to sand rough edges with a sanding disc and smooth edges further with a silicone barrel.This was the only week we finished a little bit early!  Aisha gave us homework though... we were to decide on a design for our final project and bring it with us to the next class.

My partially completed sawing exercise.

Week two we all came to class and immediately got to work starting our projects.  I decided to use a combination of sterling silver and copper (go big or go home!).  After playing with several different templates, I picked an oval shape to go around my ginkgo leaf and set about sawing it all out.  I was determined to salvage the positive image of the leaf for a second pendant.  Aisha gave us some instruction on using the disc cutter, dapping, and stamping designs into metal.  She also did a demonstration on sweat soldering and basic acetylene torch use and safety.  I didn't get around to doing our soldering exercise this week... I just kept going on filing all my edges!  

Progress being made on week two.  There was still a lot of filing to do at this point!

Weeks three and four we were allowed to come an hour early for extra open studio time to work on our projects.  Thank goodness for that extra time... there's no way I would have finished everything without it!  After doing a little more filing (seriously, I felt like I was filing FOREVER!), I finally tried my hand at doing the soldering exercise and then finally my primary piece!  Week three, Aisha also spent some time showing us various ways of finishing our pieces... soldering different types of bails onto pendants, making holes with hole punch pliers and more, and how to solder earring posts on.  She also showed us some cold connection options.    

My piece after soldering and before it went into the pickle pot!

The final week felt like a race to the finish line!  I came in right at 5 pm with a clear plan of what I needed to do and ready to go!  My first piece wasn't totally clean from the previous week's dunk in the pickle pot, so I started by throwing it back in.  Meanwhile, I got to work soldering my secondary, positive image piece to the copper backing.  I switched off between the two pieces throughout the night... sawing the final shapes, filing lots more, soldering a tube bail onto my first piece, and punching holes in my second.  Our lessons from Aisha on this final night were about finishing our pieces.  We talked about various ways to add patina (we were using liver of sulphur) and using the tumbler.  She also showed me how to use the bench grinder to do some extra polishing.  Our big race against the clock was needing to have our pieces in the tumbler no later than ten after 8, and preferably before!  Gulp.  There's nothing like a firm deadline to light a fire under me!

My two finished pendants!  The one on the right has a tube bail on the back.

While my pendants were spending time getting all pretty in the tumbler, I decided to whip up a simple pair of stud earrings.  Originally, I'd planned to do them with some sterling scrap from cutting the oval.  I gave the metal a nice hammered texture, used the disc cutter to get perfect circles, sanded the edges smooth... and then dapped them with a metal dapping punch totally ruining the texture.  Oops!  I tried to salvage them by adding a metal stamp to the middle, but that didn't work either.  Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.  Into the scrap pile they went!  Not to be deterred, I tried again using some of the copper scrap that already had a hammered texture.  This time I remembered to use the WOOD dapping punch and got a much better result!  I was literally soldering the ear posts on with less than 10 minutes left in our final class.  Whew!

My earrings... larger than real life.

I would totally recommend the Metalsmithing 1 class at Quench Jewelry Arts to anyone in the Twin Cities area looking to expand their knowledge and skills in making metal jewelry!  Aisha was a fabulous (and patient) instructor and the class group was really fun.  It was very cool seeing the different directions everyone went in for their projects... they were all really different.  After taking this class, I'm ready to up my game quite a bit.  I have the feeling that there will be some Open Studio sessions at Quench in my future... as well as some new toy tool purchases!

Our class photo.

As a little P.S. to this post, I had to laugh remembering that Eric had actually bought me a jewelers saw for Christmas back in 2011.  I was just starting to get interested in doing more with metal at that point... but in now way ready for that saw!  He bought me my BigKick machine, a bench block, my first set of letter stamps, a wooden dapping block, and more.  I've made good use of everything he bought me that year... except the saw.  The saw is still sitting in its box but now I have the skills to break it out and give it a try!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May 2016 Inspiration for the Honey Do List

Happy May Day, everyone!  Spring can be an oh so fickle thing in Minnesota, but it's finally looking like the new season is really here to stay.  Today brings some much needed sunshine and warmer temperatures and I am so happy for both!

This year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... we're calling it the Honey Do List.  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm inviting folks to play along!

Here is this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

This month's challenge was going to be some kind of spring flower action, but I was lucky enough to take a class on raptor photography at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this past weekend and found a new muse!  This is Samantha the white morph great horned owl sitting in a flowering crab apple tree.  Our photogenic raptors were brought out by the Minnesota Raptor Center who rescue injured birds and release those who can survive back into the wilds, while keeping the birds like Sam (who has a broken wing) for demonstrations and education opportunities.  So, this month take inspiration from the bird itself, the colors, whatever strikes your fancy!

The reveal date will be Monday, May 23rd.  To make it super easy for you to participate and share your creations, I'll set up an Inlinkz link up so folks can add their blogs as they are ready.  Just stop by my blog on May 23rd and join the fun!  I'll leave the link up open for a while... so you have plenty of time to add your links.  (Last month's is still open... check it out HERE.)  No blog?  No worries!  Feel free to send me a picture of your creation and some brief comments and I'll happily share in my blog post.  You can reach me at  The more the merrier, so I hope you'll play along with me this month!