Friday, November 23, 2012

Can I take a minute of your time?

I don't usually write about politics as it can be such an inflammatory subject.  But Senator Mark Begich of Alaska has come up with a great idea for extending the life of our broken Social Security system.  I think that is something we can all get behind!  He will be introducing it to the Senate during this coming lame duck session, and I will be contacting my Senators asking them to support him.   I am hoping that some (in my wildest dreams - all) of you will do the same.

His proposal is called Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act.  The text of it can be found here.  Very basically, it proposes to remove the $110,000 income limit on FICA tax contributions.  This would only raise taxes for approximately the top 9% of earners in this country, and in return for that they will be able to collect higher Social Security benefit payments after they retire.  This one change would keep Social Security solvent until at least the year 2085!

There is a second element of the Act asking for a change in the way we compute the SS cost-of-living increases each year (you can read it in the first link).  This is a good and fair request, but if it has to be used as a bargaining chip/compromise to get the rest of the bill passed, that would be okay with me.

In 2010 the Congressional Research Service (non-partisan) studied what effect such a change could have for this country.  If you would like to read that study, here it is.  It's pretty long and detailed, but written in plain enough language that it is easy to read.

How can you help?  Contact your Senators and ask them to support this bill when Sen. Begich brings it up on the floor of Congress, or even for them to approach him before then and co-sponsor it.  Here is a list of U.S. Senators and their contact information.

OK guys, I promise, that was my only public service announcement for the year.  Thanks for listening.  If you agree with this cause, I hope you will help it's passage.  The power of The People is strong!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Free Beads!

We had a great Thanksgiving day with friends and family.   My tiny house was stuffed with people, and I'm thankful that they love us enough to come over and spend time with us.

Now, looking forward, I'm thankful that I will be getting $25 in free beads on Saturday!  And you can too!  Actually you can spend a free $25 in any participating small business if you have an American Express card and you sign up before you shop at this link.  Once you sign up, they show you a list of small businesses in your area that are participating.  When you spend $25 in one of them, you get a $25 credit back from American Express on your card statement.  It's a win-win for both you and the business.

My local bead store participates, so I'll be there stocking up just like I did for last year's Small Business Saturday.  Wheee!

Even if you don't have an Amex card, please shop at a small business near your home this weekend on Small Business Saturday.  It's a great way to show your support for the people who work so hard to keep their small business open in your area all year long.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a very short post from me today.  I want to wish everyone who celebrates it a happy Thanksgiving!

I took a lot of pictures this morning of jewelry to upload to my ArtFire store, but I have been putting off uploading them and creating the listings.  I love making beady things, the other tasks that go with the selling, I do not like so much.  I need some elves to help me.  :)

Here is a picture of one I made the other day, design by Noriko Romanko.  For the ends, I used silver end caps.  Believe it or not, this was the first time I have ever used them.  They turned out a little bit messy, but quite sturdy.  I need to have more practice with this technique because it is a very comfortable necklace to wear, with the suede around the part that touches your neck.  This necklace was given to my oldest daughter.  She loves when I practice new techniques, because she gets to keep everything that I feel is not perfect enough to sell.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Ideas

Since handmade jewelry is such an over-saturated market, almost every piece of business advice I have seen says that in order to distinguish yourself, one should find a niche product and focus on it.  The thing is, though, that I like and make all different kinds of jewelry depending on my mood at the time.  I don't really think I have a style or a theme that runs throughout all of my jewelry.  So what should I do?

Well, for one thing, I think I am going to work more on beaded art projects, which I had almost completely given up.  Not sure yet exactly what type of art yet, but I have some ideas beginning to form and I'll follow up on them.  You probably won't see the results for a while though, as I build up a body of work.

I have also thought of another niche area I could work in with beads.  I am in the process of testing designs to see if what I have in my mind translates into I imagine it being in real life.

Another thing I was thinking about doing is offering one-on-one tutoring.  This would be different that the pattern-based bead classes offered in the local bead shops.  I would work with only one student at a time, so they would have my undivided attention.  My plan is to work on the theory of each stitch, having the student learn it inside and out so that they would then have the tools to envision and create their own designs.  Before beginning this venture, I would like to give it some more thought and write out some lesson plans to see if this is a feasible idea.

Of course, all of this does not mean that I will stop making beaded jewelry.  I love to make jewelry, and will continue beading it and offering it in my ArtFire shop, which I have just recently resurrected.  Here is a picture of a couple of my recent beaded bracelets.

So, those are my plans for 2013.  Do you have any yet?  Would you like to share them?


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Bead, Book, and Bounce

The Bead, Book, and Bounce is a challenge that a group of us beaders participated in.  The group is called Operation Tackle That Bead Stash, although we usually do just as much buying as tackling. :)  The challenge was to make a box from Julia Pretl's book, Little Bead Boxes and review the book.

I've made boxes from Julia's book before, so I was really looking forward to making another one.  And after that huge RAW project that I did, it was nice to get back to peyote.  There's just something so satisfying about hearing the 'click' of the beads as they snap into place.

Julia's book is well-written, though I'd advise that you have some experience with peyote stitch before tackling it.  She does provide very clear diagrams and explanations for each step, so if you're an adventurous beginner you might give it a try.  She also provides word maps for each design.  If you've never used a word map before, you're in for a treat!  They make following the pattern so much easier, although I still used the graph for backup.

She provides 12 patterns in the book, for different shapes, sizes, and designs.  She also includes blank graphs for each shape so that you can design your own little boxes.  I got the design for my butterfly box from her website, where she provides additional designs.  If you buy a design from the website, you do need to also have the book, as all that is provided is the graph and word chart, no instructions.

I had an older edition of the book, with four boxes in it.  If you have that edition, do yourself a favor and buy the newer edition as well.  I did.  Julia has improved on some of the processes in the newer book, plus you'll be getting 11 additional patterns (one is the same).

Julia recommends using doubled thread, but I used Fireline.  I started with 6lb and then switched about halfway through to 8lb, because I didn't feel it was firm enough.  Also, I'll give you a big tip: Add the feet to your box when you only have about 3 or 4 rows of the sides done, otherwise it gets too difficult to maneuver the needle around in the box to add them.  Another tip is that even if you're an experienced beader, read the book through once before starting a box.  Some of it won't make sense until you actually have the box in front of you, but it's still a good idea.  You'll know where everything is and be able to refer back when you need to.

Working on the boxes does get a little fiddly and frustrating at times.  There are some spots (like the HEM) where it seems almost every time you add a bead you break one, and then have to replace it.  But all in all, I really enjoyed making my little box, and I enjoy looking at it on my dresser.  I plan to make a few more of them for holiday gifts.

Click here to read book reviews and see boxes from other members of the group.


Monday, November 05, 2012

Trying Something New

I don't work a lot with strung projects, but I was in the local bead store the other day and this little box of mixed beads just called out to me.  I loved the colors of the beads and the freshwater pearls.  Here is a picture of the beads after I dumped them out of their little plastic box.

After playing around with them for awhile, I came up with this arrangement.  I thought I night put the drop strands on a curved piece of wire, with some seed beads separating the drops, and attach the wire on each end to stringing wire.  Then I would string the rest of the strand on each side, adding some beads from my stash to fill it out.  I have some pretty light jade colored rounds I can add and I'd use crystals and silver seed beads to round it out.

I'm not completely happy with it, so I'll probably try a few more ideas before I actually start stringing.  Anyone have any other ideas, or any comment on this arrangement?

I also have to think of a project for the November OTTBS challenge, and I have to make something from Carol Wilcox's The Art and Elegance of Beadweaving for the Bead, Book, and Bounce challenge.  Lots to do, and so little time!  I also want to make some more jewelry for sale so that I can fill up my ArtFire store, it looks so empty. :(