Merry Penguins!

Santa Penguins

First, in the spirit of Christmas, a bead GIVEAWAY: the first 5 people to leave a comment on this post will win a festive Santa penguin bead, fresh out of the kiln! Obviously it won’t make it to you in time for Christmas this year, but you can tuck it away for future Christmases. Of course, I had to come up with the dorkiest photo of all time in order to display the penguin family. Ice cubes and cotton balls, I thought it was quite winteresque.

I made these cute little guys based on a tutorial found on Pinterest. I can’t for the life of me find the link to the tutorial again (the ‘pin’ function wasn’t working when I came across this one…). Alas. I have the PDF and if you would also like to have the instructions, email me (juliedwong@gmail.com), and I will send them to you. Even though the instructions were in German (?) I was still able to follow the step-by-step photos to come up with penguins that look nothing like the original inspiration. But still adorable, and that’s how it works when you put your own spin on things. In the past I was not a ‘sculptural’ beadmaker, definitely not a ‘critter’ person, but it’s fun to experiment every once in a while by venturing into new territory.

On the subject of Pinterest… words cannot express my love for Pinterest. For an artist (or any visual person, for that matter), it provides an endless and constantly changing source of visual stimulation. I have several boards (you can see them here), and I turn to them frequently for inspiration. I used to keep a collection of photos I loved from the internet on  iPhoto, and this is the same idea, but much, much better. For beadmakers who love to look at other beadmakers’ beads, there are thousands and thousands of photos of beautiful beads on Pinterest. My own board of lampworked beads is filled with beads I come across that strike me as the most amazing, the most inspiring, the most incredible examples of the art. I add new stuff all the time. What’s great is that every person who pins lampwork beads has different taste… If you do a search for ‘lampwork’ and select ‘boards’ instead of individual pins, you can view personally curated collections of beads put together by others who love the same thing you do. The quality of work is usually very, very good, and if you’re looking for inspiration, it’s much more satisfying than searching through pages and pages of mediocre beads on Etsy or Ebay. Check it out, whatever you’re interested in, guaranteed it’s on Pinterest.

Advertisements

foodiness

Image

We bought a massive wheel of brie on sale a week or so ago, so I’ve been trying hard to think of clever ways to use it up. Lunch today was prime. Just sliced cocktail tomatoes on toast with thin slices of brie melted on top. And pepper, of course. Yes, indeed.

I’ve been on a bit of a food kick for the last few months, searching for new, appetizing things to make. I strive to be a better cook, but I admit my repertoire is somewhat limited. I have a weakness for baking, probably due to genes I inherited from my mother. She’s an amazing baker of many hard-to-resist things, especially around Christmas time. I just find it so relaxing measuring stuff out, mixing it together… it’s one of those mindless activities that you can get lost in for a while.

I have two favorite food blogs right now. One I actually try things from regularly, and the other mostly provides mindless entertainment. If you appreciate good food, you must check out www.smittenkitchen.com. The photos are beautiful and the writing is great too. I admit to having diligently read my way through the entire archives (it’s a bizarre, and time-intensive compulsion of mine). I am a sucker for a good brownie recipe and there are so many brownie recipes on Smitten Kitchen it will make your head spin. I’ve made the best cocoa brownies and my favorite brownies, and both were very decent brownies, though I’ve yet to do a side-by-side taste test. That may be a tad excessive, not to mention dangerous, having two pans of brownies in the house simultaneously. The moroccan spiced spaghetti squash has made its’ way into our regular rotation. It’s divine.

The other food/lifestyle blog I like is The Pioneer Woman. It’s an entertaining mix of down-home cooking (frequently laden with copious amounts of butter) and humorous musings on life on a ranch with four children, several dogs, horses, and of course, herds of cattle. It makes me happy that I do not live on a ranch. I haven’t attacked many of the recipes here (largely due to the aforementioned butter thing…), but we can’t live without the sour cream pancakes… best pancakes ever. They’re so good that they also made an appearance on Smitten Kitchen, which is high praise. Just peachy with gluten-free flour too.

Any other favorites out there?

a love letter

A long time ago, I used to make beads. Back then, I had a blog that I really, really liked. Maybe you liked it too. But it’s time for fresh starts and moving on and all that stuff. So here it is, a brand new blog. Welcome. Let me just say right off the bat that I’m not a fan of the design of newblog, but there are limited choices for free blog designs (no, I didn’t design it), and until Uglibeads starts turning a profit again, here we are. Maybe it will grow on me.

Dipping my toe in the beadmaking waters again after so many years feels weird, and I’m sure that’s something you’ll hear me comment on a lot. It feels a bit lonely, you know? Like, I used to have all these customers and supporters who followed my work and chatted with me regularly, and now I don’t know where to find any of them. Ok, I know where a few of them are (which is amazing, after all these years – Hi Rickie and Annette and BBF Karen)… but it’s a little bit like throwing a party and not knowing whether anybody is actually going to show up. But I know that building a community takes time, based on my previous experience making beads for a living. It took me a few years to make a name for myself back then, and I expect it will again.

Still, I’m in an unusual position. I ‘feel’ like an ‘old’ beadmaker (I did start making beads 11 years ago, after all…), but after a very long hiatus, in many ways I’m a ‘new’ beadmaker too. When I wind glass on a mandrel these days it feels familiar, but far from easy. When I look at my new beads my heart aches a little, when I note the difference between the beads I used to make and the beads I’m making now. It’s hard to start over. I’m not an absolute beginner, but I’m more beginner than I am ‘old pro’. Wanting to fast forward to the part where things get easy and my beads look like I want them to look is probably not a big surprise, but I know that it doesn’t work that way.

I occasionally pop on to the lampwork forums (like www.lampworketc.com) to see what’s afoot in the beadmaking world, and one thing is for sure – since I ‘retired’ in 2005, there’s been a constant influx of new beadmakers out there. On the one hand, it’s good for the health of the community; lots of people actively making beads, buying supplies, taking classes, sharing knowledge and techniques… But on the other, if you want to make a living selling your work, it’s kinda easy to get lost these days in a sea of people selling lampwork beads. Have you searched Etsy lately for lampwork beads? Yeah, me too. It’s a bit wild and wooly trying to find anything that really stands out. I don’t remember it being so overwhelming back in the day.

In any case, times change. Beadmakers come and go. Some of the beadmakers that I really admired stopped making beads too, and I really miss seeing their beautiful work. Kim Miles decided to retire, and now champions the Vegan lifestyle on her new blog http://www.positivelyveganlife.com. I miss Alicia Abla. She used to make the most unique and amazing things ever. I’m so glad I purchased a few of her pieces when I could. Jan Harris was around selling on Ebay back when I was, and she made the most colorful and spirited stuff. I see she has an Etsy account but it doesn’t seem to have been updated recently: http://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/milagritosglassbeads. Well, as I said, times change and we change with them.

What I really wanted to say is that mostly I’m here, attempting to climb back in the saddle because of my husband. Today is our two-year wedding anniversary, and every day I look at him and realize that I love him just a little bit more. He believes in me, and he really believes in this bead thing. He keeps telling me that not many people can pursue work in the arts, and he’s right. It’s a special thing.

Thanks, sweetie, for pushing me to start over. It’s time. It’s exciting. And you are the most special person I’ve ever met. I knew the moment we stopped each other in the hallway at school to talk, that I wanted you around forever. Happy anniversary. And Happy Birthday to Uglibeads 2.0. It’s a good day.

Beads soon.