Tuesday, August 28, 2012

For Shannon

Shannon is a 23 year-old mother of 3 little boys.  She recently suffered catastrophic injuries in Galveston while shielding her baby from a collapsing facade.  She will require 24 hour care for the rest of her life and her poor children will never have the life they should have with their mother.

Here's the link to the newspaper article describing the accident.  WARNING:  there is an emotionally intense photograph.  If this will bother you, please don't even look.  You don't have to.

I'm running a BNR for her benefit that's so popular I had to expand it to a second.  I'm not benefiting in any way from these.  Everyone involved has pledged their profits to helping her family cope with the numerous expenses involved with having Mom in the hospital.

Please check these out.  It doesn't cost anything to pray.



If you decide to participate please read my comments on how to do it.  If you're not participating, please pray for them anyway.  Running these has restored my faith in the goodness of people.  A mother shielding her baby from danger is the ultimate and she has done it.  Her baby is fine and is with family.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


 Yeah, I get bored.  I'm in the summer doldrums, between the long-anticipated vacation and the resumation of real work.  I cast about for ideas.  The above beads are my take on some I saw somewhere and wanted to tweak a bit.  Nothing too outrageous.  Rose cane and green leaves on a transparent base but etched, which changes the whole look.  I'd like to explore etched beads further, but a couple things give me pause.  First, the solution for etching beads is toxic and hazardous every way that you can think of, even when the acid is neutralized with sodium bicarb (baking soda) it's still poison.  If you breathe it or if it touches your skin, it will burn but that isn't the least of it.  It will also go to your bones and hang out there.  Not good.  Second, etched beads don't seem to sell as well as the shiny ones, even if they are more interesting to look at.  If anyone has any insights, I'd love to hear them.
 Above is another technical challenge.  I love pixie dust (another health challenge but an easily dealt with respiratory one.)  But I got bored.  What happens if you add frit and stringer?  The short answer:  Nothing sticks.  By superheating a small section of bead, I can get the frit to stick, then I melt it in and by the time that happens if I apply the stringer while the base is still molten, the scrolls stick and eventually melt in.  Needs more development.  And size control.
Size control is what ticks me off about the above beads.  I made a mushroom of silvered ivory, dotted it with CiM Bordello, and encased the whole thing in Effetre light brown trans.  It's a technique I'm exploring further with different color beads in the kiln but these are meh.  There's a whole mm difference in diameter and when I'm encasing it's so tough to get the same thickness.  I'm trying it with more obvious colors and somehow hoping that will improve my technique.  I'll let you know if that produces any miracles.

I think this must be one of those lulls when I'm keeping my head up until the next breakthrough.  I'm learning quite a bit about the way glass melts and works but will I be able to translate it into anything relevant?  A high point - next week I'll have a new color to play with, CiM Tandoori.  It looks similar to one of my faves, Vetrofond Arancio Perfecto and I can't wait to see how it differs from CiM Clockwork, with which I wasn't terribly impressed.  Why is it that the reds and oranges can't be truly transparent?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pennsic XLI

Every year I try to go to the big annual event held by the Society for Creative Anachronism and I've just returned.  I didn't take any pictures this year, partially out of laziness and partially out of repetition.  People come from all over the world and hold competitions, display their Medieval style art, sell an amazing variety of things, eat, drink and socialize.
This is a rather miserable picture taken at the opening ceremonies several years ago.  Did I mention that over 10,000 people participate at some point or other in the two week event, not including staff.  The campsite stretches over 2 miles.  We camp in groups defined by geography and friendship.  My group has at times been as large as 100 campers but is now down to about 60.

 One of the many reasons to go is for the shopping.  There are products specific to Medieval reenactment that you just can't find anywhere else.  Some of the shops are really great too.  These are not permanent structures.  They are assembled on trailer bases and disassembled afterward and packed up for the next year.
 Most merchants sell their wares out of tents and this is entirely appropriate for the time.  The event is modeled on a war.  The primary purpose is actually to see whether the East or the Middle or the Allies will win the martial competitions.  The reason for the vendors, classes and restaurants (called taverns) is to support the war effort.
Becoming a vendor is a complex process.  Primarily, you will be given a spot if you were there last year.  A few new merchants are accepted every year and that's why I'm writing.  It doesn't matter if you sell handforged Damascus steel blades or electric toothbrushes, these observations might help.

First - go where they want you.  If you've been a vendor at a show before and it worked out for you, go back!

Sell what they want!  Every show has its own market and how well you fit into it will determine whether you will be successful.  At this one, artisans who handcraft authentic items using period techniques are favored.  Artisans who create historic type items using modern techniques also get a bit of a boost.  There are plenty of people who sell T shirts and bumper stickers but if that's all you're planning on selling you're not likely to win one of the coveted new merchant spots.

Have plenty of inventory!  You will not make any sales and you may not be asked back if you don't have enough inventory to cover the length of the event.

Have help!  Everyone has to eat and answer nature's call.  You are open a given number of hours and if you aren't there you will not do well.

Sweeten the pot!  One of the most popular shopping days is Wednesday's Midnight Madness.  The merchants start packing up Friday and Wednesday night stay open late to decrease the amount of stuff they're going to have to cart home.  Some (the popular ones) offer special deals.  Hours will be determined by the show but you can have special coupons for returning customers or on your Facebook page.

Make people want to look for you next year!  You've got the most awesome items the show has ever seen but returning customer coupons and careful customer service will make people remember you.  Every year I shop based on my memories of the previous year.  The merchant who carefully wrapped my pottery and gave me a nice, reuseable, WATERPROOF shopping bag will be my friend next year.

Finally, don't forget to enjoy it!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thank You Notes

I've been streamlining shipping lately and am skimping where I shouldn't be.  Namely, the thank you note.  Ideally, it should be an individually written card lovingly enclosed and packaged with the order.  It should thank the customer, remind them who they're shopping with, and encourage them to come back.

I'm of two minds.  I truly believe in my deepest of hearts that most of my customers toss them.  I've seen a couple board posts with people lamenting the waste of paper and packaging on simple orders.  I can't skimp on packaging - all it takes is one order arriving damaged and needing to be replaced and I'm in the red.  Promotion is a different story.  We've all got business cards and enclose them in each order.  Even with returning customers.  I keep business cards in a file on my desk with notes on them as to what I bought and if anything happened but I'm not sure anyone else is this compulsive.

Where does the thank you note fall in?  Again, this is something I have sent but stopped when I started seeing that the same people who I sent them to complained about wasteful shipping.  At the same time, I just received one from a large supplier I placed a wholesale order with and I'm rethinking the whole thing.  It was individually printed, customized to what I ordered, tasteful and shared what they did that made them different from the other places I might have gone.  There was an individual's name (first and last), their phone number (not 800 but we're all on one-price unlimited calling anyway) and an invitation to call for any reason at all.  When I read it I was struck by the thought that someone actually cared.  I was planning on doing business with this company again anyway because they have great prices and their product arrived in good condition, exactly as advertised and promptly.  I confess that the thank you note I received is tipping me more in their favor.  It was a wholesale order.  I'm a small fish in a big pond.  A person with a last name gave me their phone number if I'd like to discuss my order.  I'm impressed.

What does this mean to me as a small business owner?  I'm going to enclose a thank you card again.  I have them, I might as well use them.  The ten seconds it takes me to write one out is priceless.  Please let me know if you find this offensive or tedious.  I will flog an idea to death.  If you disagree I want to hear about it!

If you've stumbled upon something that your customers find extra special, please share it with me so I can steal the idea.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Sometimes I don't torch for a while, even as long as a couple days.  I've been working on a couple custom orders and I like them because at least I know what I'll be making.

There are times when I feel like I need something different.  I'm obsessed by rainbows and have been trying to get a bead that combines all the colors, in order.  The problem lies in the fact that yellow and green, next to each other on the spectrum, form a black line where they touch.  The idea crossed my mind of doing wraps of color with a hair's breadth between them on a black or clear base and I still might do it, but then I had one of my custom orders.  It was for a bead combining several transparent colors on a white core, encased in clear.  I made the bead and went to bed.  The next morning, lying half-awake, I remembered that transparent yellow and green don't react.  I had my solution, and here's the result.
 I wound up making it into a necklace for the same customer who gave me the idea in the first place.  The shape is very organic and I love it!
These beads are on the same idea, with no clear encasement.  I never noticed with CiM Sangre and Vetrofond Arancio Perfecto that they retain much more of their transparency if they're encased.  Learn something new every day!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Late Night Insanity

Apparently at 3AM I decided that what I needed to make my life complete was a new BNS.  A BNS is a promotional treasury where you buy into one of the featured shops and in return get your shop featured and have people buy from you.  It's a great tool for exposure and while no one gets rich doing them the participants are wonderful supportive people and great gossips.

For some reason I decided that participating wasn't enough - I needed to run one.  I'm featured in over half a dozen of them at any given time, but I wanted the whole enchilada, so I set one up.  It should be harder than it is.  Pick a bunch of shops and a theme, usually color based (I picked purple -surprise!) and put it out there.  Invite a whole bunch of people and welcome to the party!

Here's the link to mine

As far as glassy goodies go, I'm not sure how well the two will mix.  I've already been dismayed by how much time I spend promoting vs. making, photographing and listing stuff and this isn't helping.

Here are some of the new goodies I've made
 I'm not happy with my pictures lately.  I'v been shooting indoors because outside isn't giving me true color.  I've got to compensate, especially the blue range.  Red doesn't do well indoors, as the beads below (on a base of CiM Sangre) prove.  I only wish I could capture the complexity of the dots and beauty of the beads. They're a bit flat.

 Silver and gold are fine and I love the simple look of silver and gold just plain laid over glass.  Easy to work with.  Easy to wear.  Easy to care for - just either wear it or polish it like your other jewelry.

These were a bit of a let down - I used up my last rods of Effetre light aqua and wound up with beads that weren't the same size.  I'm going on vacation soon and can't afford to order more glass so these pretties are relegated to the seconds section.  Less than 1mm from perfection.  Honestly, I ought to have just kept them for myself and made earrings.  No one will notice a millimeter since my ears are more than a mm different anyway.  I could wear the smaller earring on the bigger ear and no one would know.

I don't know how people list new stuff day after day.  It is either promote what you've got or make it.  I'm having serious issues doing both.  Which is why I was awake at 3AM doing a treasury.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting Sucked In

I've been very bad.  It's been a rough few weeks, so I'm going back to some comfortable music.  This one stands out, both because it's a cool song and a cool video.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Foodies Beware

I've been shopping lately at the Amish market in Flemington, NJ.

The selection is awesome and many of the goods offered for sale are hand produced. I read about buying local and organic food and additive free but on a supermarket shelf these words are meaningless.  My local supermarket has produce from my county proudly displayed in the front of the produce aisle.  When I see it, I buy it.  Nowhere do I see meat, eggs and butter that I can point to on a map.  Here I can.  When I buy a pound of cheese I can say it came from here.  The farm is right on the label.  As far as organic goes, I know that the beef, pork, lamb and chicken are raised in what we city slickers call a farmyard.  They don't do the cage thing.  The feed they give their animals isn't ground up who knows what with a chaser of antibiotics and hormones.  Organic is a term that has lost all meaning.  It's good to know that what I'm eating was produced using farming techniques I can trace back through generations of my own family.

A bit of caution:  the fish is brought in daily from the fish market in NY.  Produce is likewise sourced.  Bulk goods such as spices, grains and flours are repackaged quality ingredients.  Many of their candies are also repackaged bulk supplies.  Do try their homemade fudge!  They've got more preserves and pickles, all homemade, than I can even name, including a few family favorites like watermelon rind and pickled peaches.

I'll close with a recipe I made tonight

Green Beans Almondine
2 lb. green beans, ends removed and broken into mouth sized pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil (optional, but nice)
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds

Combine the beans, salt, vinegar, oil (if using) and pepper in a microwave safe dish.  Cover with cling film and microwave on high 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the butter and cook until it just starts going golden.  Add the almonds and remove from heat.  Let the temperature equalize and return to a low heat and toast the almonds to a warm, nutty brown.  Toss with the cooked green beans and serve.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

There is a bit of glassy goodness at the end but first I want to share this
 If you leave Joe alone for too long, he gets bored and finds something to do.  I love the skull with the pipe and helmet I found in his man cave corner.  The skulls are models he bought at Toys-R-Us, of all places and aged and decorated.  Periodically I'll find one doing or being someplace odd.  Read that part about Joe getting bored.
I haven't been bored.  The set of beads above is some new Val Cox frit (Ocelot Spots) I want to talk about.  The white bead in the middle I'm referring to as my resting state bead.  CiM Peace, with Ocelot Spots frit melted in.  It's pretty in an amber kind of way.  On the right are 2 beads with Ocelot Spots on Effetre super clear.There's a lot of variation in the way the colors distribute themselves....

The beads on the left are Ocelot Spots on a base of Effetre Straw Yellow.  I didn't deliberately reduce them, but on a hothead, everything gets reduced anyway so I might as well run with it.  Notice the greens and blues around some of the frit?  Not present on clear. Present in a lesser degree on the top left bead.  I figured since I was going to get reduction anyway, why not go for a boro kind of look and encase it?  Here are the results - I like it!

Monday, July 2, 2012

What's Up?

I'm always making something.  It's never as much as I'd like but every once in a while a wild idea will strike and I have to try it out.  The set below is an example.  A treasury sparked a color scheme.  I wish I could have made beads incorporating the orange and yellow and green together but they don't play nice.
 This pseudo vessel was one of those beads that evolved.  It started out being a focal until the clear core got out of hand and started to get too close to the end of the mandrel.  It's now a one hole bead.  I love the colors and am pleased with the design.
 You wouldn't think learning how big your lentil press is would be such a challenge but here's proof.  Don't ask how many beads this really is.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Its a Mad World

Every once in a while I'll get a song stuck in my head.  Admit it - it happens to everyone.  Right now, for me, for over a week, it's been Gary Jules' version of Tears For Fears' Mad World.  Folks say it's depressing but I find it hauntingly beautiful.  I'm humming it and remember about a verse and keep singing it in my head.  I've watched many versions on YouTube, including the original Tears For Fears version, which I don't like nearly as much and a bizarre heavy metal version that I clicked off of 1 1/2 minutes into the song.  I've also watched some Weird Al but that's the subject of a different post.

It's been pretty mad here.  The studio was 110 degrees for a couple days in a row and I barely torched at all, and now I'm on the weekend with Joe working and not torching as much as I'd like either.

 I have made some beads.  Above and below are some Breast Cancer Awareness Beads I made.  I'm donating some of the proceeds to the Susan Komen Foundation for breast cancer research.  I'm not crazy about the politics but I don't see the point in all the suffering cancer provides.  As October draws closer I'll make many more and have some annealing as I type.

 I'm tired of black and white.  Here are some colors with silver wire.
 The beads below I saved for last for a reason.  I really love the wild way they turned out.  The core, which isn't visible, is Effetre Apple Blush.  I love the way silver glass pops on top of it!  I made a twistie of opal yellow, Terra3 and Psyche and mixed with silvered ivory.  This trio I will quite cheerfully keep for myself if it doesn't sell.
What's mad about my world?  Not a whole lot, really.  It's just a pretty song.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Canyon de Chelly Revisited

The comment from my last post got me wondering if CiM's Canyon de Chelly strikes differently in different torch chemistry.  I usually combine it with Double Helix Psyche because I love how they work together so I usually strike it and reduce the Psyche all in one go.  What would happen if I wasn't using Psyche?  I don't like turning the gas very high unless I'm reducing something, so I would ordinarily strike CDC by letting it air cool under the table until the glow was gone, then reheating it gently just past the tip of the visible flame.

The beads above are a base of CDC with CiM Hades on top and silvered ivory on the bottom.  The top beads were struck by turning the flame way up and reducing them in the cool part near the base of the flame, and the bottom by leaving the flame at its usual low level and holding the beads just above the visible tip.

I think I got better color out of the bottom ones, made without reduction.  There are hints of pink and lavender I like the look of.  Surprisingly, the top beads struck differently.  Or there is a slight reaction to Hades.The bead on the left shows hints of purple right next to the Hades.  CDC isn't a very translucent color so I don't think it is showing through the glass, such as I'd get with Vetrofond Seashell Swirl, for instance.  Just another odd quirk.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I haven't been as productive as I'd have liked.  We moved back to Jersey to be closer to family and one of the first things that happened was that Joe's father passed away.  He died quietly and painlessly in his sleep but there are loose ends that need to be tied off and always stuff that was left undone.  I am truly grateful that my own mother is in robust health and has been able to be the wonder woman she always has been.

When my father was alive, he stressed that my sister and I learn the basics of plumbing and car repair because we might not have a man around and if we did he might not know any more than we did.  I appreciate his wisdom more every day.  Right now, these are the topics that occupy most of my thoughts.

I've spent the weekend virtuously tilling the soil and cleaning.  The poor old truck may have breathed its last moving to Jersey.  We spent half the afternoon trying to get it to start and nada.  Finally, under cover of darkness, we pushed it uphill out of the driveway and eased it back in to make it look like it can move on it's own.  I don't want to see it go to car heaven.  It's been good to us and even with 350K miles I don't think it's quite dead yet.

Beads - that's what I'm blogging about
 Above is a set of favorites - CiM Canyon de Chelly and Psyche and below, another, rainbow rounds.

 Streaky purple rounds made from Kings Robe frit and clear glass. There are other frits that are "hotter" but I just like how this looks and works.
 Fancy a walk in the jungle?  Above are tigers and below are leopards.  Watch your step!

 Busy bees and turning leaves.  More colors to follow, I' m sure!

 I can never really get enough silver.  I encased the above beads for smoothness and tarnish resistance and below, I love the way I actually got the test batch of Terra light to strike.  I could see it!
Glass adventure continues soon!

I actually found a way to phrase the way I feel about lampworking:

I approach glass the way an alchemist would.  I start with a few basic principles, all probably wrong, and add fire.  Love it!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Quest for Wit and Wisdom 2012

 I'm still perfecting my setup and have a long way to go.  Decent displays are on the to do list and next year I want to have divided trays or boxes for the sets instead of the baggies.  I told everyone to feel free to take beads out of the bags to look closer but some folks seemed reluctant to.  I think boxes or open trays would encourage a more hands-on shopping experience.
 Considering the budget I was thrilled to be able to find a free rack I could use to display earrings (don't ask what it was intended for because I have no idea.)  The bargain bins are very popular and I always do well with them.  They're all sets that aren't the same size or color test beads or oops beads.  I sold quite a few pieces of jewelry and some sets - again, I think I would have done better with a more user-friendly display.

Also, for next year - a real, white tablecloth instead of the fabric that was the first I grabbed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Safety First

I took a glass shard to the right eye today when a rod blew up in my face.  I stupidly banged Effetre ivory in the flame like I'd been doing the juicy Double Helix and CiM colors I'd been working with on the previous bead.  Essentially, the rod blew up in a way I never thought possible.  Spectacular and fun to watch from a safe distance, I'm sure.  Not good to be on the receiving end of.  A word of warning.  Wear your safety glasses.  I was wearing my diddy sunglasses and the shard found its way around them.  Wear real, wrap around ones.  I'll be fine.  The shard was embedded on the corner of the iris and even if there's scarring it won't be in my visual field.  I'm on drops to combat infection that help the pain for a moment or two but otherwise nothing stronger than Motrin.  It ain't worth it.  Even though my wrap arounds are a pain and I feel like I can't acutually see through them, I'll never use anything else again.

Here's a picture of the beads that tried to blind me - of course I finished them before I went to the ER!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mothers' Day

I spent the first Mothers' Day in a very long while with my family.  A very good day.  I did forget the memory card for my camera, so no pictures (something ironic about that.)

Some families have a glue that holds the family together and that's my mom.  Family is uber important to her and she makes sure to get us together as often as feasible.  She includes family of family that might otherwise be isolated - relations by fellowship rather than blood.  She puts out an ordinary meal that is special because everyone contributed something, even if it's a hearty appetite.  The television doesn't get turned on because we're too busy yakking.  She is the one who has cherished pieces of battered notebook paper covered in painted macaroni.  We talk about everything from Dancing with the Stars to medieval English politics.  At some point or another each of us can talk and each can listen.

We used to take a walk around the yard after dinner and we did tonight.  It was a little sad because it was so changed.  The last of the Russian olive trees died and needs to be cut down.  The grape arbors my dad cherished and I labored over are gone.  I won't miss the work but I will miss the grape jelly and the piece of my father that they contained.  A corner of the yard is overgrown and the grass has died under the shade of evergreens.  An apple and a pear tree survive and are very green.  I wonder if there will be fruit this year.  I've made a lot of applesauce and canned pears.  My dad planted a little grove of trees for his own little retreat that he never used.  The trees are now huge and when you walk into the grove the bustle of the suburbs is subdued.  There's nowhere to put a hammock, though.  I wonder if he would have liked it.

Some things are the same.  Some are better.  The little house my dad built for us is still there, even if I think it's held together with paint.  The Christmas trees we planted are bigger than the house.  The lawn looks great - which it never did when I cut it, let me tell you!  The sweeping steps from the driveway to the front door are being replaced because even railroad ties will rot given enough time.  There are flowers on the deck and by the mailbox - I hope the mailman isn't allergic to bees.

Wherever Mom is is a piece of home.  I'm very lucky because both of mine are still together.  Mom is the same as ever - the years have been very kind.  It must have been a virtuous character or all that clean living or something but she hasn't aged in 20 years.  I'm very happy to be home and very blessed.

Happy Mothers' Day!  Here's to mine!

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Hot Tip of the Day

Sometimes a custom order requires frit that just isn't available.  This means I have to make it myself, a process that leaves me cursing with tiny bits of glass flying all over the studio that Joe finds with bare feet.  I just found the best way ever to make frit without investing in a special machine.

I blew bubbles of the desired colors in the proportions I wanted then popped them in a deep saucepan and crushed them with a hammer UNDER WATER!  No glass flying all over the place.  Most of the water poured right off and the little bit that was left was easily boiled away.  Nearly instant frit!

Note that I used the saucepan Joe made rice in that had been burned so badly I had to use pumice to scour out the carbonized remains so I couldn't hurt the pan any more than it had been already.  I wouldn't suggest trying it with something good.

Here is a picture of my test bead - no pictures of the process, since I can't trust Joe with a camera

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Latest Madness

I'm sure many people become obsessed with an idea and have to flog it until it's done.  I'm just going to talk about it a lot.  Enamel.  It's a new world.  I can't wait to get other colors and will soon.  I'll play with it and write about it and I'll wish I'd never heard of it and move on.  Above is a set of purple beads I covered with oxford light enamel.  I can't get enough of the spatterware effect.

Below is a set I made using CiM African Grey and Psyche.  I love the colors it makes!  I wish CiM would do African Grey again just for me!

 I got a hold of some green aventurine frit and naturally the first thing I had to do was mix a bit with blue just because.  I love the streaky underwater kind of thing.  The bottom beads are a base of CiM Stoneground and Roman bronze pixie dust.  They're pretty, but if I wanted that look I'd get copper glass pearls.  Not doing it for me.

Now these are cool.  The same frit blend as the streaky beads above but just melted into copper green.  Does copper green ring and separate on everything.  Pretty sure it does!  I still like these and if they don't sell I'll just make them into beads for me.  Bonus!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Back in Business

I'm delighted to announce that I've finally been able to make some new beads!

Here they are
 Waterlilies frit on CiM Stoneground with silver foil above.  Below, a base of CiM Tuxedo, rolled in light Oxford Thompson Enamel, then decorated with scrolls of more Tux.  I hadn't used enamel before but I'm loving it!

 Above is Effetre dark ivory (the curdled batch) with scrolls of Double Helix Psyche.  Below, a base of dark ivory with Tuxedo and Effetre 14K, light topaz and medium topaz.
 I made a couple cupcake beads and some Caribbean type beads with CiM Freemen, Effetre blue aventurine and Devardi green aventurine.
I just had to share - making beads again is wonderful!