Thursday, December 31, 2009

Creative Finds: Enchanted Adornments

I have been silent artistic rhythm is all out of whack as I learn new skills and have to put glass on hold. The learning curve has been steeper than I expected...but when I go back to how long it took me to learn glass, it's not surprising. Lori Anderson of Pretty Things is doing a year-long blog project called An Artist's Year Off to challenge herself and grow creatively. I think I've been forced to grow by circumstances. It's more challenging than I expected. I want to have objects to the level of quality I was just starting to reach with my glass. I've still been creating...but I'm back to stringing and wire work for now.

In the meantime, I've been getting new books to try out some new mediums. Which leads me to one of my book reviews...Cynthia Thornton's Enchanted Adornments. I have to say, I was thoroughly and pleasantly surprised at the breadth of techniques covered in this book. It has removed some of the intimidation I was having with clay (polymer or silver). I was expecting jewelry ideas, but she totally exceeded my expectations by covering the techniques way back to the fabrication of the components with silver clay, polymer clay, and creating molds for creating repeat pieces (I've been needing this!). I've skimmed the book twice already and can't wait to read it in depth.

Millie at AMMJewelry has already posted some of her results with one of Cynthia's projects. I'm excited to see what other people are trying.

As for me, I did manage to snaggle up a whole bunch of clay at a going out of business sale. I have been playing with blending. I have no clay conditioning machine, so everything is being done by hand. I'm learning quite a bit. I had some beads and buttons I was starting to like. But. I have no oven. I was considering getting a small oven or at least a toaster oven, but I'm waiting to see if I'm going to stay here in Hong Kong. (May be moving back to the States due to constant migraines here.) So. I thought I'd settled on brilliant solution to use my kiln. It might have worked if I had remembered to do the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion. Them clay things were burnt to a crisp. And it was a toxic burnt windows, fans blowing (at least I have my squirrel fan from my lampworking to help vent). So. Learn from my mistake! Make sure you pay attention to the temperature!!! I'll try to play with some more blends to show you what I'm coming up with. I don't know if I should even try using my kiln again or just play. If anyone has any feedback on whether I can use my kiln (as long as it's set to the right temp), I'd appreciate the feedback. I really miss being able to use components created completely by me and wanted to use some of the buttons in my jewelry.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hong Kong Chronicles: Lessons in Bargain Hunting

I thought I knew people who were the consummate bargain hunters. I've shopped with them. I am not one of them. My friends with mad skilz in shopping...if it comes to a showdown between me and them, they win hands down. I don't even hold a candle to their skilz. But compared to Hong Kongers, they are merely trainees. I do believe Bargain Hunting could be nominated as an Olympic Sport. And the people who live in Hong Kong would dominate.

My adventures in bargain hunting began by accident. I'm still discovering where to find odd bits and bites of crafty things as well as quality home accent items. Big box stores such as Britain's B&Q and Australia's Spotlight were tried. And failed. Bix box stores are NOT a hit in Hong Kong. However, the box store in the throes of failure is a gold mine for the Hong Kong bargain hunter. It means mega-discounts on quality merchandise.

Which leads me to a sad little aside about the demise of Spotlight. It was a home decor store with high-thread count sheet sets that included a fitted sheet that actually fit your bed. Not some scratchy monstrosity from Ikea that parades as a pseudo-fitted-but-is-really-just-a-flat-sheet-with-an-attempt-at-pockets. This thing will have you wrapped up as a mummy by the morning. They have real air tight containers that protect your food from mold and critters...unlike the cheap plastic rice bins that appeared to be air tight. Not. They also have a very, very modest craft section. Nothing like a Hobby Lobby or Michael's. But, I've been making do with being able to find some things I need/want.

My big idea yesterday was to pick up a few bars of Sculpey polymer clay to get to know the properties of working with the freedom of clay, how to blend colors, etc. I was planning on 10, maybe 15 bars of colors.

Oh. Dear.

I tracked my way to the store and found the shelves nearly empty. I moved toward where the Sculpey had been kept past a line that was 500 feet long that was beginning to wrap around back on to itself. I way. If I don't find the Sculpey, I'm out of here. But, I did find the Sculpey. It was 75% off. My 15 bars morphed into 53. Oops. I got in line. In about 10 minutes I found how heavy 53 bars of clay are. About 20 minutes in I spied a nice craft bag to start toting the clay. We inched past the yarn section. I had the opportunity to read the contents and picked up some nice skeins of bamboo/soya, recycled cotton/acrylic, cotton, and bamboo/cotton. Some dreamy new yarns I've been dying to try. I'm unfortunately still in scarfland, but my latest scarf is moving it up a's a waffleknit that will be a gift for a friend who adores purple. I managed to restrain myself from more yarn and more pillows.

While in line, I notice a guy in front me with nothing to buy. I figure it out. His mom stuck him in line to hold a spot while she shopped. During the hour and a half in line before I check out, I was bumped thousands of times. It's common when your personal space zone is much smaller and you share the crowded space with so many people. People are generally exceedingly patient with the constant bumping. It takes a lot to annoy a local with your pushing. However, I managed to mildly annoy the guy in front of me (the one with nothing to buy) as I loaded up my new bag. (What could I do? I was hemmed into a tight space in the line and no one was moving...actually, I was constantly being bumped from behind and the side as people walked past. This is where retractable elbows would be a great invention.) Also, I learned you couldn't even wander off the line in any way (I got distracted with some pretty yarn) as your space would immediately be slurped up by the person hovering behind you. I used my ignorance to slide back into the space I never really vacated.

I learned some tricks from the masters of the bargain hunt.
  1. Hunt in pairs. A family pack is even more preferrable. One to get in line immediately and the others are left to shop while the queue inches forward. (Like the guy in front of me who was a plant by his mom.) I was able to observe the dynamics of this tactic. Mom and Dad would occasionally show up and claim the space while the other family members continued their shopping. Eventually it was just the dad in line and even he was summoned by a phone call and left the line a mere two people away from the cashier!
  2. Which leads to learning another trick: split the family members into as many lines as possible to see who gets to the front first. The winner calls the other family members to their winning line.
  3. Partners in crime can keep you stocked with food and drink, if you haven't already packed your own food and drink. They can hold your place in line should you need to dash to the restroom. They can also hold your place while you shop for even MORE bargains. And a folding, portable stool is also nice. Especially if you wait for an hour and a half.
I waited in line for one hour and a half. .... At least. I refused to look at my watch after a certain point to just ignore the amount of time it took. I prefer to remain generally ignorant or think it was an hour and a half. If it was more, I wouldn't know. I don't want to know.
But I survived my first Bargain Hunt in Hong Kong. I have some more digesting to do to determine if I've become wiser or just more averse to shopping.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Studio Time: Watches

I'm in the process of experimenting with watches. I'm a little wary of the inexpensive watch faces I purchased, so I made myself some watches for testing. I think they're quite pretty and I hope the watch face lasts. I also made the connecting loop for each watch. I think I'm addicted to handmade loops and toggles now. It took me a while to master the formation of the loop so it didn't look wonky.

The first one is a copper watch with copper byzantine chain maille, dyed cultured pearls, dyed turquoise roundels, Swarovski crystal, copper, and carnelian.

This a silver plated watch face with Argentium silver in a barrel weave.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Creative Finds: Stringing Style 2

I seem to be running low on steam these days...I'm kind of trapped between styles and jewelry mediums, so as I'm wending my way into the art clay, I thought I'd experiment with some styles inspired by the new books I bought. This is going to be the first in a series of book reviews I plan on doing over the next few months.

When I was back in the US, I loaded up on visual eye candy. One of them was this book. Now. I probably wouldn't have purchased this book if I didn't have the opportunity to pick it up and peruse through it's pretty pages. After all, I started with stringing and moved on to other techniques pretty quickly. However, I went ahead and purchased this book because it had loads of fabulous ideas that included stringing and then some. I've learned stringing, wire-wrapping, and chain maille and this book gave me some ideas about combining all of those techniques in a single piece.

The result? Beautiful autumnal shades in coppers, greens, and carnelians. This piece combines barrel weave chain maille, copper chain, irregular sizes of copper loops using some ideas from chain maille, wooden rounds, carnelian roundels, citrine roundels, dyed cultured pearls, some of the first lampwork beads I ever bought from Grace Ma, and one of my own floral disks dangling in front of small sterling silver ropes for a splash of interest (as if it wasn't already interesting enough). The Grace beads are the ones I re-worked from one of my early pieces. This was is a keeper. As in...I think I'm keeping it for myself! (I couldn't resist wearing it today to give it a was winking at me this morning...)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Studio Time: Everything is Frizzled

I have had an entire week of frizzlement. The weather is frizzled (rainy and gloomy). I'm frizzled (migraines and just blehs). My camera is frizzled. This perfect storm of blehs and frizzles has led to the blog silence...

Actually, my camera is deep-fried frizzled. It's something I'm finding is happening with all of my US electronics. US is 120v and it's 220v here in HK. I have been using a converter for my camera battery and it was working for a while and now it's not anymore. My camera recharged just fine when I was in the US, but I've returned and now it's not cooperating. I've missed photographing two of my friends weddings. (But the digital age has allowed me to still have access to their pictures.) I've been trying to photograph my latest batch of jewelry and I haven't even been able to get one or two photos.

Finally, I have an alternate camera. I just need to get used to it. I don't like it as much as my other camera, but it's good enough.

So...just to keep things interesting here is some eye-candy. I need to take better pictures before I upload to my shop. If you're interested in any of the pieces, just email me. I'll upload to my shop later this week after I have some better photos.

Barrel Weave Earrings with Swarovski Crystal - $28

Super-fine delicate chain maille weave in 22-guage wire. The rings and the posts are in Argentium silver (more tarnish-resistant). Approximately 1" in length.

Barrel Weave Bracelet with Swarovski Crystal - $49

Super-fine delicate chain maille weave in 22-guage wire. The rings are in Argentium silver (more tarnish-resistant). Currently sized at 7.5" but can re-sized to fit your wrist. (Really! It's no problem...I enjoyed customizing the fit.)

Double Ring Chain Maille Earrings with Siam Swarovski Crystal - $28

Super-fine delicate chain maille weave in 22-guage wire. The rings and the posts are in Argentium silver (more tarnish-resistant). Approximately 1" in length.

Fine Silver Organic Heart Charm - $8

Thank you for hanging in there and coming to visit me!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hong Kong Chronicles: The Passenger Chronicles

It's really hard to be a passenger here. I have had two good drivers where I didn't feel the need to wear a blindfold or take taxi driver and one bus driver.

I have taken a lot of buses and taxis in the year I have lived in Hong Kong. Most drivers are more concerned with the conditions of the road than with the passengers slithering off their seats or plastered to the windows. Oh. Wait. Apparently, I'm the only one that does that.

I cannot be critical about driving here because I will never even attempt it...England. Me. Stone wall. Flat tire. There is no such thing as the open road or wide open spaces. Ah, for the open roads of Texas, Alaska, Canada, or the western states. I have driven in New York City, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, and Paris when it's bumper-to-bumper traffic, so I understand you just need to do what you need to do.

To give you a picture: driving is left-sided on the pieces of rock that sprout out of the ocean. Street and real estate space are at a prime, so as much as possible is shoehorned onto anything that is potentially buildable or driveable. As engineering advances, previously unbuildable areas are claimed for expansion. In the meantime, skyscrapers, 7-8 million people, buses, trams, taxis, lorries/trucks, motorcycles, cars, scooters, and an occasional bicycle all vie to share space.

Floods of people crest the sidewalk rivers that are only 0.25 people wide. As people spill into the streets, taxis will whiz by, honking at the pedestrians. On a side note, I have observed that taxis don't stop for locals. However, they do stop for visitors. Locals hear a horn and smoothly return to walking on the sidewalk. Visitors have a dazed, shell-shocked look about them so the drivers deign to stop.

Double-decker bus drivers are pretty amazing, driving in these narrow, cramped streets or on winding, hairpin mountain roads. I hated driving my dad's truck with the fishing boat in light traffic on open roads so it boggles my mind that they are able to handle these massive vehicles in such tight spaces drowning in pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Then, if you sit in the "suicide seats" (the front window seats above the driver), you get a good view of everything going on. Including when you stop 2 inches from the bus in front of you. Oh yeah. That's fun to do to visitors. Those seats are usually available, too.

Because of the screech-and-peel nature of traffic and careening around hairpin corners, I am usually slithering off the seat onto the floor, plastered to a window, flattening fellow passengers into a people pancake stack (maple syrup anyone?), or wrenching my back with a four-point death grip on the fixed parts of the vehicle. Even when I am seatbelted into a taxi, because the seats are vinyl, I have insight into what cereal packaging means when it says "contents may have settled" as I am jostled into a stranglehold by the seatbelt in a nearly horizontal heap on the floor.

I am convinced people who live here go somewhere to have Velcro installed to secure themselves to their seat and a Weeble mechanism in their legs to keep themselves upright and from rocking into fellow passengers. Case in point, I came home on a bus with the proceeds of shopping. As I stood up to prepare to be spewed into the street as the bus lurched to a stop, I readied myself in my four-point death grip by setting my basket on the bus floor. In the process of suspending myself like a spider in my bus web, my watch popped off. I just figured I would scoop the watch up as I was stumbling out of the bus. However, there was a lady in front of me with three shopping bags, a purse and her office bag. She managed to steady herself with her burden and reach down to pick up my watch while the bus heaved to a stop. Oh yeah. She was that good. And I need to figure out where that Velcro/Weeble store is.