pitter-pat

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Nothing makes a beadmaker’s heart go pitter-pat quite like a new tool. These were a birthday present from my sister – lucky me! They’re called ‘beadrollers’, and I ordered them from a small company called cgbeads. They are made of nice smooth graphite, and they have cavities of different sizes that you roll your bead in to shape it.

I was sort of on the fence about beadrollers. There’s a certain pride involved in shaping your beads by hand. But the fact is, when you’re trying to make beads that match perfectly in size, it’s an exercise in frustration. Usually I have to make 3 times the number of beads I’m aiming for to get two that match.

So, beadrollers.

They sell these in all kinds of shapes – it was tough to decide on which ones to get. I settled on one for the ‘Pandora/Trollbeads’ type beads, and one for round round beads. Believe it or not, it’s actually not that easy to create a ‘marble round’ bead – naturally, they want to be kind of a donut shape.

I’m excited to get to the torch today to play with my new toys.

And you know what?

It’s Day 30.

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gathering my thoughts

I keep a pad of sticky notes by my computer at all times while I’m working. When I get an idea for something – bead idea, jewelry idea, blog post idea – I make a quick little sketch, maybe a couple of notes, and then I can get back to what I’m doing. If I don’t write it down, I’ll never remember when it comes time to work on new stuff.

The pile of stickies can get a bit out of control.

Here’s the before:

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And after:

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I stuck them into my sketchbook, all lined up, nice and neat, with double-sided tape (who doesn’t love double-sided tape??) so that when I’m looking for something I don’t have to paw through a big pile of yellow paper.

It kind of goes against the philosophy that a messy workspace is actually conducive to creativity. I am a long-time fan of this philosophy. When I was little, my parents bought me a plastic sign that said, “A creative mess is better than tidy idleness.” Although truer words were never spoken, sometimes we do have to do a little tidying.

To make room for new messes.

a long way down

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I’m not sure whether I got off the horse or fell off the horse, but either way it was a bit of a rough landing. Here’s an important life lesson: it’s much easier to stay on the horse than it is to get back on.

I’ve been doing so well with my 30 day challenge – in fact, it’s almost over (Day 28 today!). But last week I had a bit of a fall. It always starts with a small stumble. On Wednesday I was REALLY feeling a day off. Just one day. Well, that felt good, so I didn’t work on Thursday. Or Friday. Not only did I not work, I kind of disappeared. No blog, hardly any Facebook… quiet. It was odd, but at the same time, oddly liberating.

When you’re running a business online, you have to put yourself out there… constantly. As an artist, you’re always kind of on the edge of your seat, waiting to see if people will like your stuff. On Facebook this is especially true since people can literally ‘Like’ what you post. I try not to worry about it too much. Some days you can’t help but sigh a little… Someone posts a bead and gets 225 Likes, you post a bead and get 4. But it’s important to remind yourself that you can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Many of the people posting beads on Facebook have been around, posting beads, for 5, 8, 10 years and have developed quite a following. Everyone starts somewhere.

Back to the days off, and the derailment of the 30 day challenge. Putting yourself out there all the time can actually be kind of exhausting. It’s a lot of work. In the end, it’s totally worth it – building relationships and communicating with people because of things you have created is just the absolute best. It might be better, even, than actually making things. But something you should know about me is that I am NOT an ‘out there’ person. TOTAL introvert. Every introvert who has to put themselves on display is bound to turtle at some point. Turtles, I know you’re out there, do ya feel me?

So I turtled. You know, I had about a day and a half of the ‘sads’. I just felt blue and I couldn’t tell whether I was sad because I wasn’t working, or if I wasn’t working because I was sad. But when that passed, I started to feel some mental creative space opening up. Energy started to flow… scribbling on Post-Its with little drawings of things I wanted to remember… new ideas. Exciting ideas. I think when you’re totally focused on a certain color palette or design scheme (which I usually am), there isn’t a lot of space for new ideas. So the slowing down, it’s a good thing.

I always say that creativity is cyclical. I really admire beadmakers who can put stuff out there, day after day after day. But for me, there is ebb and flow.

You know, I’ve always loved the ocean.

 

Fuglibeads

You’ve probably read my ‘About’ page, so you know the story behind my business name, Uglibeads. Making beautiful things is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to get through the ‘beginner’ stages, and all the work that goes along with not knowing what the heck you’re doing. Inevitably, there are some seriously ugly things just lurking in the recesses of your mind, waiting to be born.

Having recently returned to beadmaking after a pretty long absence, I believe in the ‘Uglibeads’ philosophy more than ever. But I realized that I’ve never shown actual examples of these ‘ugly’ beads I keep talking about. Since you’ve never seen them, you may think that they don’t exist. Let me reassure you that this is not the case.

For your amusement, I’ve selected a few of my fugliest Fuglibeads. The Fuglibeads Hall of Fame, if you will.

First, we have a bead that contracted some horrifying disease. Thankfully, it wasn’t contagious.

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Next, an outtake from my series of wonderfully bright beads. Your eyes do not deceive you. Indeed, I made this deformed, dazzling pyramid of awesomeness.

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I made this too. It’s from my ‘Dirty Earth Ball’ series.

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When I look at these beads I just remind myself that it’s all part of the process. In all seriousness, it IS all about practice, and making lots and lots of ugly beads. Since I’ve been thinking about this whole practice thing, I took a photo of the very first beads I made when I got my own torch and set it up at home, on my apartment balcony (a Hothead torch – a little torch that screws on to a 1 lb canister of Mapp gas).  I was practicing stringer control. If you’re new to lampworking and you want to practice stringer control, for the love of god, do not choose WHITE. It’s the softest, meltiest glass there is, and as you can see, it’s hard to handle…

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If you’ve seen the stuff I’ve been making recently (click here if you haven’t), you can see that practice makes… better. The mistakes and the Fuglibeads all add up to experience, and experience makes everything possible… Eventually.

In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for the next bead to induct into the Fuglibeads Hall of Fame. I know it’s coming, probably sooner rather than later.


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass

get your groove on

Tune In Radio

Whether it’s cleaning your house, doing your taxes, or creating stuff, music helps. If you’re like me, you have to find music that’s *just* right. It has to fit your mood and your energy level. The wrong music can throw everything off.

I usually listen to music while I’m at the torch. It helps me get in the zone. Some people watch movies, some people like silence… but I find I can’t work without some noise in the background.

Usually it’s all 80’s all the time. I don’t know what it is about 80’s music… It’s just light and fluffy and it’s like candy for your brain. Plus, it makes my husband dance around the kitchen, and play ‘name that tune’ with every song. He knows them all. It’s disturbing.

Back in the day, Pandora Internet Radio was still available in Canada. It was a sad, sad day when they restricted it to the US. It was genius. Once you’d been using it for a while, every song was better than the last. I discovered so many great artists that way. If you’re in the US, Australia or New Zealand and you don’t use Pandora, you should. It’s amazing. Now, in a Pandora-less world, I don’t know what I’d do without TuneIn Radio. It’s a free app on iTunes (and other platforms), and you can listen to virtually any kind of music you can imagine, on different ‘themed’ radio stations from all over the world.

Here are my favorite 80’s stations:

– .977 80’s Hits (80’s)
– The 80s

When I get 80’s overload, I have a few other go-tos, depending on the mood:

– ABC Lounge Music (Ambient) – when I’m in a quiet mood and need to relax
– Chill-Out Radio Gaia (New Age) – when I REALLY need to relax
– 94.9 CKUA (Public Radio) – local radio from Edmonton, great mix of artists and genres
– Bluegrass – AddictedToRadio.com – when I’m in the Bluegrass Mood.

Yes, there is a Bluegrass Mood. It usually strikes on Saturday mornings.

What gets you in the groove?