nailed it

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Just admiring my pretty red manicure as I make beads… 

Here’s a fact: making beads is MUCH easier than painting your own nails.

While we’re at it, here’s one of my beadmaker pet peeves: if you’re going to show a photo of the beads in your hand to give an idea of how big they are, for god’s sake, CLEAN YOUR FINGERNAILS. While you’re at it, maybe trim them too. Gross, dirty claws are so… gross.

The end.

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magic milk

On my sister’s recommendation I watched ‘Magic Mike’ last night. Well, I tried, anyway. You do get to see Channing Tatum’s naked butt several times, and by several times, I mean many times. But even that couldn’t save it. Really, it wasn’t even worth having on for background noise. That bad.

You know what is magic though? Milk. I have a new milk trick, and it’s not spraying milk out my nose. It has to do with etching beads.

When you see beads that are ‘etched’, it just means that they’re treated with a strong acid that eats away at that nice shiny glassy surface. It creates a silky, matte finish that’s very tactile and smooth. Some bead designs really come alive when they’re etched, and etching totally transforms transparent colors – making them look like beautifully weathered sea glass.

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When you take the beads out of the etching solution (or cream), after you wash them off with lots of water, it’s a good idea to neutralize the acid, or, apparently, it will continue to eat away at the glass over time.

Most people use a little baking soda in water, which reacts with the acid to produce stuff that isn’t harmful to you. When you dunk your newly etched beads in the baking soda solution, it may bubble, because the reaction produces carbon dioxide gas. The magic of Chemistry!

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I recently read that some people are using milk instead of the baking soda solution. While milk is slightly acidic, it also contains large amounts of alkaline minerals – calcium, magnesium, and potassium… which, I guess… works. My inner Chemistry geek is a little skeptical about the exact details, but it’s been so long since I studied Biochemistry or taught Chemistry labs that I’m not that fussed about it.

Anyyyyyyway. The milk fans say that dunking the etched beads in milk makes them sooooooooooooo soft and silky feeling. I rolled my eyes when I read this, but I swear it’s true. I’m a milk convert.

Some people report that the milk curdles when they do this. I haven’t experienced that, but heads-up if curdled milk makes you want to barf. After I do the milk thing, I run the beads under water again, and give them a good scrub with a toothbrush and some dish soap. And voila! Lovely, smooth, etched beads. 

If you have beads that are etched and they’re starting to look a little dull or dusty after a while, a quick scrub with a toothbrush and some dish soap should have them looking like new.

Milk. It does a body good. Depending on your dietary preferences and food sensitivities, of course. And etched beads too!

the uglimug

Yesterday was a great day. You know when you have a great day and you just NEEDED it? Yeah, one of those. The creative batteries have been running a little low lately. The groove is just off a little bit. It happens. I think the heat is finally getting to me. It’s been hovering around the ‘too hot to torch’ zone for a while now, and there doesn’t seem to be rain or cool in sight.

I keep dreaming of a little backyard with a deck, where I could hang out with my feet up, enjoying some shade and a cool breeze. I’m putting my vision of that out into the universe. Beautiful shady backyard, I want you! Maybe next summer.

When it’s 30 below and we’re covered in a blanket of white, do NOT let me complain about how cold and miserable it is.

Anyway, back to the greatest day ever. I decided to just relax. Nothing bead-related. Usually when I need to relax I end up in the kitchen. Lately I’ve been into making picnic dinners and taking them to the park. That’s our version of a backyard I guess. Isn’t there something about eating outside in the summer? It makes you feel like life is just a little better somehow.

Fresh from the garden beet salad with freshly squeezed orange juice, pistachios, and goat cheese.

Roasted potato salad with fresh basil, garlic, rosemary and thyme.

Chicken with mango chutney and brie.

YUM.

I don’t know what it is about puttering around in the kitchen that’s so restorative. I think I inherited that from my Mom. That’s what she loves to do. Hang out in the kitchen, making yummy things. And not in a barfy 50’s housewife kind of way, but there’s something that makes you feel at peace when you’re making good food for someone you love.

So there was that.

There was also a visit from one of my sweetest friends. We talk every day, pretty much, but we hadn’t seen each other since we were 18 years old. Oy! When I saw her smiling face at the door, it was like looking at the exact same person I’d last seen 19 years ago. Exact. Same. As though we’d seen each other yesterday. I’m one of those people who worries that I won’t have anything to say, that I’ll just be a stammering idiot when I see people in person but of course it wasn’t like that at all. She’s got the best energy – just one of those really radiant, genuine people. I was on cloud 9 all day.

Incidentally, she’s not just an old school friend, but one of my best beady buddies too. Every day there’s something new to ooh and aah over. And something new to make fun of. It’s not nice to make fun, I know, but let’s be real. There are some funny looking beads out there. Of course there are always the unintentional penis and vagina-looking beads. But our real favorites are the goddess beads. I’ll admit I don’t really ‘get’ the appeal of the goddess bead… to each her own I guess… but to us, they’re a constant source of entertainment. There’s always the tacky leaf and flower placement, the frit that looks like venereal disease, misshapen butts and colorful nipples. Well. I’ll leave it at that but seriously.

Our bead conversations take the most interesting turns, especially those late night ones when we’re feeling extra silly. One night I was trying to write the ever-awkward ‘artist bio’. I was trying to think of a word to describe the people who follow my Facebook page. Fans? Maybe not. Followers? Well, I’m not exactly Jesus. Then it veered into uncharted waters and we considered every variation on ‘Ugli’. Ugligeeks, Uglipeeps, Uglibabes… you get the picture. Out of this came the most epic piece of Ugliswag ever to grace the earth. The Uglimug.

So Tracy delivered this thing yesterday. She had these MADE especially for us!

It’s a mug. Black. Shiny. Pretty!

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But not just any mug.

No.

When you pour your hot coffee into it, this happens:

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Honestly, it makes me laugh so hard. I tried it out this morning and just kind of stood there staring at it for a few minutes.

This, people, is what I’ll be drinking my coffee out of every morning as I make beads. My very own Uglibitch mug.

For realz.

don’t let the sun go down on me

You know those things that you just really, really suck at doing when you’re supposed to do them? You can’t seem to get yourself to do them in a timely manner no matter how many times you tell yourself that you WILL be better, that next time you WILL get it done when it’s supposed to be done?

My thing is packing and shipping beads. I don’t know why, but it is SO hard for me to get my butt in gear when I have stuff to ship. It’s always an internal struggle and prolonged dragging of the feet all the way to the mailbox. It’s not that I mind it, once I get started. It’s getting started that’s the problem.

A couple of times, I’ve even sent extra ‘I’m sorry, I’m terrible and I mailed your stuff MUCH much later than I said I would’ beads along with the actual purchase.

Lame.

I’ve decided there are no more excuses for this sad behavior. If I have shipping to do, it gets done before I go to bed. The sun will never set on an unshipped package in the land of Uglibeads.

I know I can do this. I’m a grown up.

Although… maybe if I was an actual grown up, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have to play mind games with myself to get stuff done.

bead chat

Have you seen the latest issue of Creative Bead Chat magazine? They do a really nice job of putting this together! Lots of photos of pretty artisan-made jewelry and components to drool over, interviews and tutorials. Click HERE for the new issue. See if you can spot my beads. I was surprised when I did. I had no idea they were going to be in there!

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They also have a Facebook group that I like a lot and post in regularly. Members show photos of new work, works in progress, ask questions about techniques and resources, etc. Here it is: Creative Bead Chat on Facebook.

 

what’s on my work table

New conundrum: when you make beads and headpins and stuff, how do you decide what to keep to use for your own jewelry and what to set aside to sell? I don’t know how other component makers find that balance, but I’m curious.

I made some headpins and earring pairs last week. They reminded me of little cotton puffs with the fuzzy patches of ivory. Don’t ask me how these colors ended up together on my work table. I have no idea – but they worked together. I couldn’t resist keeping a pair of headpins and a couple of the round beads to play with for some new earring designs.

So far, works in progress, just experimenting, playing, fussing.

Cotton headpin earrings in progress

I got these really cool boro ‘vertebrae’ beads (top left) from a beadmaker who does amazing things with color – Kristan Child. Such a great shape! They’re much more blue and purple in real life, picking up on the colors in the headpins. I’m not sure what direction these are going in but they’re sitting on my table waiting for inspiration to strike. Some funky wire-wrapping?

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I paired these roundy cotton-ish beads with purple eggplant-ish ceramic drops from Petra at Scorched Earth. I like the beach pebbles too but I’m not sure. Still playing, but I feel a kind of serene, earthy, grounded thing going on.

Do you ever feel like your energy is totally off? I mean, not your creative energy, but your energy in general? I’ve been in a weird, slightly aggravated phase lately. I’m not sure what it is. Some cosmic planetary misalignment? The weather? Not enough nature in my life? Too much time hermited up in my apartment working?

I’m trying to breathe, be calm, be introspective. So far I haven’t discovered the mystery of it all, but I’m working on it.