Sunday, February 28, 2010

Effectively Organized: Insanely Organized

Gasp! I'm not reviewing a creative book! I've been starting to create some Personal Challenges to myself to conquer areas of running a small hobby business more seamlessly. I've been wanting to go about making the challenges so that they are a combination of doing the business side of things in a more fun, engaging, and creative way. For the activities that usually
make me want to run screaming for the hillsare a challenge for me, I plan to create a challenge to make the activity that I have a hard time with. Bookkeeping is my personal nightmare. It's more about the dull routine than not understanding. Once I dig in and start doing, I'm fine. But...routine is so...well, boring! (This is when all the years of practice at procrastination come in handy.) But, I have some creative projects in mind that I'll share that I think will make it more fun for me to do. Or at least less annoying.
I was going to dive into the Bookkeeping Challenge, but I needed to step back and lay a foundation by getting organized... or as the book I'm reviewing states, "Getting Things Done." Let me just qualify my review by saying that I love organizing things. I could do that for days. I love creating systems, trying out every planner and calendar, playing with Outlook tasks, creating my own databases, using a Palm Pilot, making lists, using Post-It notes. It's the follow-up and maintenance of the lists that lose my interest.
The other thing worth mentioning is that I have a day job as a girl geek project manager. I've been running projects for years without the formal training. (Mr. Allen's definition of a project is something that has more than one action associated with it...a tidbit I totally agree with.) Then gained more formal training which really gave me a set of tools for many situations. The latest method I studied really boiled things back down to simplicity...all the rigorous documentation isn't going to help you if you don't follow through. For some of my projects, the simplest approach of post-it notes and a notebook work best! (More on that in another post.)
I had heard about "Getting Things Done" for a while. It didn't seem like I really needed the book. I've always been very on top of accomplishing my task list. My last year in the US I was on a mega-project, remodeled a house, and planned a move across the world. I did have to amp up my game during that year. Interestingly, the practical suggestions given in this book are exactly how I modified my activities to accomplish the maximum possible. Rigorous task management, ruthless email editing, a folder for everything, all helped me manage through the hurricane that was my life for a year.
My caveat to the book is that his philosophical approach differed from mine. However, his point of view and experiences have also been different. As a time management coach, he has been assisting people who have become overwhelmed with everything they need to accomplish. His practical bottom-up approach makes sense in that context. He criticizes the top-down (life priorities, values, then task priorities) as more amorphous and less tangible. I disagreed with his thoughts as I've lived my life very well with this principled, top-down approach (concepts captured in books like 7 Habits for Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey). I did have to step up my game when I got swamped, but my top-down approach helped me manage my priorities and learn to say no (finally!) when my plate was overflowing.
Aside from the philosophical difference, I found some value in the practical application of his suggestions and tweaked my task management practices. I am finding it is working very well for me. Right now, I'm using a a freemium service called Remember the Milk for managing my tasks and have categorized generally according to Mr. Allen's suggestions, but with some additional folders that meet my particular needs.
So, are you organizationally challenged with Getting Things Done? Take the challenge: read the book and see what you think of implementing his suggestions. I do have some projects/ideas for making the implementation of Getting Things Done more fun.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Creative Finds: Polymer Artist - Rebecca at Arty Becca

Ah, the generous artists who don't mind stopping to peer over my virtual shoulder and offer a word of encouragement or advice! When it was glass, Ms. Laura Sparling of Beads by Laura would stop by to help me with encasing. Oy...still not consistently successful with the technique, but becoming much less mysterious as a result of her suggestions and her online tutorials.

Now that I'm sprouting feathers in polymer clay, Ms. Rebecca of ArtyBecca has kindly dropped by to offer some words of advice on finishing my polymer clay pieces. It's often those tiny little things that make the most difference in the actual practice. can buy the books and tutorials and follow them carefully. (Which, as you may have realized, I usually don't follow the project...I'm more about following the technique.) But, it's those perfectly refined points that make the world of difference and move your work up the notch you've been laboring so hard over. Which is what Rebecca did to help me with finishing...getting fingerprints out, shaping, and buffing for a shine. Thank you so much, Rebecca!

Check out her work in ArtyBecca's Etsy store. With Rebecca's permission, I'm posting photos of her current listings in her Etsy store. The photos in this post are two of my favorites. Click the photos to take you directly to the listings. Her beads are beautiful...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Studio Time: More Polymer Progress

Starting over in polymer clay has slowed me down quite a bit! I have the unrealistically high expectations of wanting my work to be as good as the lampwork I just left off. Um. No. It's going to take...time. And practice. Lots of it. But every time I practice, I see progress.

Here are the pieces from last week. I'm pleased with the color maturity, thanks to the lessons from Maggie Maggio and Lindley Huanani on color mixing. I would have been struggling so much longer without that vital resource. I'm hoping to bring these color studies back to glass (whenever I get to go back to it). The shaping is still a bit of a struggle. I sanded this piece down, but it didn't improve the shaping much. Although organic, it mixed beautifully with a Beverly Ash Gilbert seed bead medley called Golden Raspberry.

Now this one, on the other hand, although it's still a little organic, I did manage to sand down the barrel halves into decent beads. I varnished the Ragged Heart, half barrels and the little headpins with black disks (gotta think of a name for these as I quite like them). This was mixed with a Beverly bead soup called Emily's mix. While there was no turquoise in the clay, the bead mix made the necklace much richer with this extra color.

This set I'm really, really close to being happy with. I might even decide to be happy with it. I still see things I want to fix, but don't all artists? I'm trying to figure out when it's "good enough." Heh. I'm sure we always want to figure that out. Anyway, this is similar to the Rainbow Quilted Heart only in lighter and lighter shades of Fimo Turquoise. I used a Sarah Hornik stringer technique called Wigwag cane. The Wigwag is the outline on the heart and two of the disk pendants. I also mimicked an extruded ball, but just rolled out the cane and twisted it into the coiled ball.

I'm finding it interesting how radically different my polymer clay is from my lampwork. I'm not settled with this yet. I think it's because I'm still exploring techniques. It's to early to be discovering a personal style while I'm learning the technical ins and outs. I'd like to reclaim some of the style I had been exploring in glass. However, methinks me not ready yet. Patience. Practice.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Artfully Meandering: Polymer Progressions

More books I love...I'm wending my way through the color progressions in this book. I'm learning a ton about color in any form, but obviously particularly in polymer clay. The color scales are brilliant. A little technical at first, but once you get the hang of it, quite useful and handy. (If anyone wants help, let me know. I could do a follow-up on some little tricks I found to simplify it to start.) I still haven't found the type of bead I want to make just yet in polymer, though. I might have to break down and get something like a bead roller 'cuz it's making me crazy not to be able to make nicely round beads. Or nicely formed beads. But, I made some beads and pendants I like due to the color practice. They need LOTS of sanding. I don't know if they'll be good enough when sanded, but I can see some progress. This batch had half a bar of white mixed in with the original primary color Fimo clay.

Yellow - Orange Set
I'm actually quite pleased with one of the ideas that came out of this play session: the folded disk which formed kind of a floral and the balled headpins. I'd love the bead roller to make the headpins actually nice and round. (I miss glass. Gravity makes glass round.)

Blue-Purple Set

Green - Blue Set

I don't think the pendant is fixable. Too smooshy and bubbled.

We'll see if I can save any of the others. Might be too far gone, but we'll see if we can resuscitate them.

Also, I’m morphing the Business Bite articles into a series of challenges about the mechanics of my creative business. I'll be drawing in things I've learned from being a girl geek project manager and find ways to apply it in the small business setting. My main goal is to find ways to make the business part less annoying and maybe even enjoyable or inspiring. Creative Self, meet Analytical Self. Play nice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Creative Finds: Beaded Colorways Book Review

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan of seed beading. Until I started following Beverly Ash Gilbert's blog. Free-form beading? I can wrap my head around that concept. Following a pattern? Nope. I still really don't. Or can't. Not sure as I did try out two projects in the book, but ended up tearing them both out. The first because I used regular sewing thread (and intended it to be practice...sewing thread is too fragile) and the second because the project I started was laying out funny. Not to say that I won't try the projects in the future. They are spectacular and dreamy. I read the book for a few months before I got the courage to really try it out and just recently received all the correct materials to actually work on it. The projects in this book have provided a lot of eye candy for my creative mind to play with as I dabble in new mediums. Beverly teaches the peyote stitch and 3-bead netting stitch.

As I mentioned, I started projects, but tore them out. I recreated the projects into my own version, which is an update on my Classic Lariat, re-invented as the Beaded Lariat. (I love lariats. Must be from living in Texas for nine years.) I used some Sarah Hornik lampwork beads as the tassles of the first Autumn Leaves Lariat. The bead colorways are from Beverly's collection of Bead Soups and Medleys. I mixed in some additonal gems such as the tiny garnets and green, organically shaped cultured pearls. The free-form beading was wrapped around leather cord, a red hemp cord, and a yellow waxed linen cord.

This Southwestern Beaded Lariat is half finished. I still need to create a new clasp and add the lariat tassles. It's designed differently from the above lariat. The lariat above can be worn doubled around the neck or tied in a single long rope. The one below is designed to be worn as a long lariat and has the hook enclosure as part of the decoractive element on the front. I sprinkled in generous helpings of undyed turquoise roundels, my lampwork beads, and dyed red coral. I also included one of my own light turquoise with red lampwork heart as the focal bead. There will be dangling ropes behind it when I finish it...(not sure when). Again, wrapping the freeform seed ropes around leather cord, red hemp, and light blue waxed linen. I love this color combo (even though it's getting overplayed, I can't help's still so southwest-y, I must still play with it).