Monday, December 19, 2011


For the last year and a half I have been working on my technique at the torch. I spent a lot of time making beads out of Corina Tettinger's book Passing the Flame, which in my opinion is the best beginner lampwork book out there. Corina's style is very similar to mine (or I should really say mine is similar to hers)..small beads, lots of precision dots, encased transparents. I have done very well using her basic designs, tweaking the dots and colors, and using those beads creating jewelry.

But at some point I started to feel like I was copying out of her book too much. Not that I was doing so to the point of infringement or breaking some sort of artist moral code, but the point of boredom. I am sick of little dot beads. There. I said it. I am tired of earrings which are a sandwich of a dot bead with silver rondelles and silver balls on a silver hook. Blah.

Well, ok, these poked dot beads in 'Leaky Pen' are not boring, although the bubbles are not exactly centered....

But......I still needed some inspiration. Something not out of a book, but something real that makes me stretch to adapt it into a bead.

I am in docent training at the Corning Museum of Glass, which means that in a few short months people will actually trust me to give them tours of the museum. The first exhibit we studied was Ancient Glass, which contains some gorgeous examples of nearly 4 thousand year old core formed vessels. Let me see if I can lift a picture or two of them....

I love these little vessels!

I finally found some inspiration! I love miniatures, and these 4-5 inch tall bottles are just exquisite. They were originally used to hold scented oils for perfume (they didn't exactly have deodorant back then).

The top one is random from the web, the lower one is from the CMoG website. If you have a few hours to spare, the CMoG website is an incredible wealth of glass history and information. I will have to do another blog post on the museum, but for now the point is to look at these vessels.

So the technique is core forming, where a clay core the size and shape of the interior of the vessel is shaped on a metal rod . Back in the day the clay was mixed with dung (camel poop) to make chipping it out of the bottle easier. Today people use steel wool covered in clay bead release, although core forming vessels is not really a popular way to make glass anymore. The glass is then wound around this core, then decoration applied. The most common decoration for these core formed vessels seemed to be stringer wrapped around the vessel and raked. To rake stringer you just heat the area molten and then drag a metal tool through the stripes to make zig-zags. Much like you might drag a knife through cream on  the surface of one of those fancy coffees, or when making chocolate.

  I didn't want to jump into bottles right away, so the first thing I started was raked stringer on tube beads. Getting stringer that thin however is challenging. Well, I should say USING stringer that thin is challenging. It is easy to make. But it tends to go from 'too cold to stick to the bead' to 'so hot it balls up' in about a millimeter difference from the flame.  In other words it is tricky to apply. I started with plain stringer and the results were not terrible but not great either. Luckily the raking was easier. I made tube beads,circled the beads with stringer and raked from end to end so I was working on a relatively flat surface. I thought for my first attempt at raking stringer they didn't turn out too bad.

I think next I will try to make a complex stringer with stripes of the colors in one thicker stringer. I will make a flat rectangle on the end of a rod, paint stripes end to end, then stretch the rectangle so I have a long rod of stripes. Then I can apply 2-3 of these to the vessel or bead rather than 6-9 separate stringers for the same affect, and the thicker stringer will be easier to apply.

I chose colors which were similar to the old vessels: turquoise, lapis (deep blue), white and yellow. They aren't popular jewelry colors, but they certainly make me think of Egyptian decoration.

So after making a few of these I got brave and tried a little vessel. I thought it turned out wonderful for my first try, until I took it off the mandrel. Unfortunately it broke into 3 pieces. My hubby wanted to glue it together, but I think I will keep it in pieces. It will remind me that while I apply the handles and spend 3 minutes working on one end of the vessel, I must remember to go back and warm the other end occasionally.  I also just got it out of the bag to take a picture of it and one of the handles had popped off as well. 

Ok, so pretty sad for my first effort. But failure is a learning opportunity, right?

So as Moo would say, if at first you don't succeed.....
look really, really cute.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm Back

It is time to revive this shortlived blog. As it does when you get older, time flew by from spring past summer, through fall and into winter. It is now December...not sure when that happened!!

So this past weekend we had the opening to the VESTA art show at the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center in Wellsboro PA. VESTA is a wonderful group of ladies largely from the Wellsboro area who are brought together by their art endeavors. There are a wide variety of media: Kathy Cummings, Alyson Leach and Alice Mickey are painters, Linda Hoerner does jewelry and graphic design, Ali Taylor uses lots of beads in weaving and jewelry, Judie Mainus works in fiber and metal thread, Ruth Anne Miller is a weaver and craftswoman, Barb Most sews using vintage fabrics and does altered photo imagery and collages, Madaline Murphy makes exquisite art quilts, Patty Dillman makes willow baskets which are to die for, and then Kathy Riley and I are bead makers. Well, Kathy is in VESTA, I am not sure if I am official or not. I showed this year as a guest artist, hopefully everyone liked my work.

I am hoping to get more pics from the group, but I have one of our own display that Kathy and I shared :

That is Kathy in the foreground ( I love that fleece she is wearing-I want to paint my upstairs hallway that color!)

My fleeces are mounted on black frames at the base of Mount Rileykuhn.  I used mostly old frames I had in the attic, and covered them with black fabric from Tom's old Harry Potter- Dementor costume.  I had to laugh because the felts were too big for the frames, so I popped them in the washing machine. Shazam! Shrunk to size! Kind of like Shrinky Dinks. Made the edges more ruffled too. I really loved how they turned out.

Further up the slope are some bracelet/earring combos I made. I had lots of bracelets, very few necklaces, and not a lot of earrings. The reason I had so few earrings is that the Fire Mountain order I made for earwires and posts took forever to ship. They did a pretty good job of getting it out the door, but the package sat at the Horseheads office of F****x for 2 days, then didn't get to the house until 8pm the third day (halfway through the opening of the show). I offered to pick it up myself but they wouldn't let me. Next time I will be using UPS.

Here is Kathy's bead tree. It was stunning! She grouped the beads on the branches, so one branch had encased florals, another alien eye beads, another swirly beads. She even made chickens. Yes...CHICKENS!!  I traded her a pair of earrings for one. We all know how gaga I am for chickens.

I also sort of spewed felts all over her side of Mt Rileykuhn....luckily she shares way better than our dogs.

A closer look at Mt Rileykuhn....

So my dear husband Dave came all the way down to bring me a stand for my bio and see the show and he took the pics on his iphone. He wasn't sure if anyone else would mind their work being photgraphed so ours is all he took. We then all went out to eat, scored some free drinks at the bar, and then Dave stayed with us at Kathy's. Kathy was kind enough to let us sleep in the bed, which we shared with Moo. Moo has never slept with us before, and was very, very happy to be in the middle. He was such a nice, still, and quiet sleeping companion I was hoping maybe, just maybe, Dave would let him sleep with us at home. After all, we have a massive bed...plenty of room!

No luck.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

If you don't have anything nice to say....

I am sure all our moms said this at one time or another: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything." Of course sometimes this just isn't true. Obviously when our best friend is about to buy that hidiously ugly puke green sweater or that too tight pair of low rider jeans that does nothing but accentuate her muffin top, it is our moral imperative to speak up and dish out some truth. After someone's nasty little dog attacks your bull terrier, then blames your dog because it is a 'pit bull', obviously some re-education is in order. Or when the nieghbors snot nosed get the idea.

However I think mom's point was to not be mean. To try to be positive, to not dwell on bad things, and to not maliciously hurt someones feelings.

Hence the reason I have not posted in two weeks.

 I have an excuse. About 3 years ago, I had a goiter. No, not the type that lives in the New Jersey zoo with green scales and lots of teeth and likes to death roll. This is a big mass on your neck that if you let it go long enough looks like you tried to channel an anaconda and swallow a melon whole. Of course I didn't let it get that big, although I was tempted.....I mean seriously, how much more embarassing to your kids than to show up with a melon sized goiter on your neck! I couldn't have beat that with a stick!

But seriously, I was starting to have trouble swallowing, and you all know me when I get hungry. So in to surgery, and "Off with her head!" Well, thyroid anyways. When I woke up if certainly felt like someone had tried to cut off my head. I think I told my friends the Christiansons that I felt like Nearly Headless Nick.

Since I no longer have a thyroid, I don't produce any of the hormones needed to do all sorts of stuff. I take Synthroid, which is supposed to regulate all that. Funny thing is you have no clue how much of your moods and personality is dependant on that organ which no one gives a second thought.

I have walked into the doctors several times and told them my levels are low. They say "How do you know? Did you get it tested?"   I reply that I alnost smacked my husband with a frying pan, and that is not normal. Sure, he knows how to push my buttons, but I don't do domestic violence. Probably a good thing given my temper sometimes.

So two weeks ago there was a 'mixup' with the doctor and the prescription-at least that is my nice way of saying they didn't send it down to the pharmacy for a week. You want to see me get ugly? Hide my pills for a week. Or don't send the scrip down so I can't fill it.

I kept trying to sit down here and blog, but all I could think of was mean and nasty. Now I know a few people who LIKE mean and nasty, and to be fair they are a blast with a six pack and some serious gossip time. I mean..... if I were like that....they in theory....would be very should never gossip.....


Funny thing is, I felt mean and nasty to myself. My beads looked like crap, the dogs were pissing me off, and pissing on the floor, and my muffin top got so big I refused to take a picture in my new skirt.

Luckily, the meds are back on track and I am feeling normal again. Unfortunately, my mood swings have a champion, and his name is Mo the Enforcer.

I have never had a dog so in tune with my moods. If I yell at a dog, Mo, who was sitting so calmly 2 seconds before, suddenly enrages, yelling in a barbarian roar and launching at the dog as if he is the hound from Hell itself. If I am feeling silly he starts bouncing around like he has a pogo stick stuck somewhere. If I am tired he lays with his head on my feet. When he started snarking at everyone, my first thought was Tallulah, my first bull terrier, had come back to haunt the house and was whispering things in his ear.....killlll himmmm.....take offfff hissss knowww youuuu wannnt toooooo. She would do that. She really would, the cutie patootie. I miss her.  

I was looking for a picture of Tallulah, and found a picture of Bridget and Denny in a nest box when they were babies. Denny is sticking his tongue out, and they are so stinkin cute I had to post it!

There she is! That is my Tallulah, with a possum she killed in the barn that was going after my chickens. She was such a good girl! She actually tried to bring it in the house, probably would have put it in her crate. Lou was a hoarder. You would find all sorts of stuff in her crate, and the whole time you were in there looking she would be pacing back and forth, worried you would steal her treasures.

Now I am sad, I miss my Lou. Wonder what Mo will do with that?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Too much to do!

I have a superhero name.

Really. I do.

Dave and I used to game with a group of friends. Gaming, for those who are not complete geeks, is where you each make up an imaginary character, and pretend to be that imaginary character going on an imaginary adventure with your friend's imaginary characters. You have names like Gonad the Barbarian and wear robes and carry battle axes, mead and loaves of bread.  You understand what +1 to charisma is, and actually care if you have it.

Anyways, we all gave each other superhero names. Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking we gave each other cool names, like The Destroyer, Captain Gorgeous, and The Brain Machine.

Not on your life.

My husband was The Procrastinator. He had a catch phrase...." I will save the world!!.....tomorrow."
He had that name until the kids got old enough to start doing the things on which he was procrastinating. So he now is refered to as "The Delegator". I see it as self-improvement.

Our friend Roland is The Enunciator. He makes sure we are all speaking proper English whilst roaming the vast plains of Far, Far Away.  His wife, my dear friend Rosanne, is The Facilitator. She, btw, plans all our gatherings. Our friend Ben is The Great Antagonizer. He truly is great at it, too. He is that little brother who pokes, and pokes, and pokes...gahhh! He used to have a wife named "Lady Placid", who was like Dr Jeckle. Her other side we call 'Evil'. Now she is just Evil all the time, and no longer the wife.

Another friend Carl is Carlbustion, because after flying in from New Mexico for a vacation he was so cold  he build a huge fire and basked by it for 5 days. My oldest son is Sparky, Carlbustion's faithful sidekick, because he too likes to play with fire.

So I used to be known as ...The Belcher. Yeah, that's right. I can out-belch a pirate just in from sea after 3 months of eating nothing but rum and salt pork. I can out belch a teenager who just drank a 2 liter of coke and ate 3 boxes of pop rocks. I proudly wore the name for several years, often getting together with the above group of geeky friends, drinking Milwalkees Best, and loudly shouting my catch phrase....Bleccccchhhh!

Until my husband told me it was gross.

I was devistated.

I mean really. He is supposed to love me unconditionally, and he just cuts me to the bone.


 I needed a new name. One day I was listing all the things I had to do that weekend, enough things for a week and a half, and Rosanne gave me a new name.

I became the Over-Committer. Not like it fits or anything.

So here is a pictoral of the things I need to do:

This is my motorcycle, and yes it is in the studio. :-D
1. Practice riding

This is the dogpile of Jack, Chewie and Mo. I would like to get Mo his TDI so I can do therapy work with him. I would like to get Chewie to stop being so......Chewie. And I would like to spend more time with Jack because he won't be around much longer.
2. Train the dogs

This is a pan of homemade dog food for Jack, who is not eating well. I freeze them into single serving portions in a muffin tin.
3. Make another batch of meat muffins

My downstairs bathroom, which needs, obviously, to be finished.
4. Finish the bathroom

This is a felt I made, and my friend Wendy and I are going to a juried fiber art show at the end of the month. I need to make a lot more to sell at the show.
5. Make felt tops, coasters, necklaces, bracelets, etc.

Kathy Riley and I may be going to a show at the Corning Glassfest.  I also may be competing in the flameoff, which is nervewracking to even contemplate.And I have about 4 different shops which are willing to carry my jewelry.
6. Get on the torch

Plus I have the normal, everyday stuff of being a wife and mother, housekeeper, caring for the managerie, working, putting in the garden .....

Nahh, I don't think I am The Over-Committor. Not at all.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My most excellent friend, Kathy

I realized that in the last two posts I have said nothing descriptive about my friend Kathy. This wasn't to slight her, but simply because we have been friends so long she is a part of me and I assume you all should know her too.

I met Kathy nearly 13 years ago, when I got my 4 month old puppy Jack from the pound.

This is Jack, the old man, now 13 years old.

Anyways, I wanted to learn to train him, so I called a number in the phone book for Life of Riley dog training, owned by Kathy Riley. Turned out after describing the dog that she had been standing behind me at Walmart when I bought Jack's crate! Too funny. Anyways, we start up training in obedience with Kathy, and we became friends.

 We went though an obedience course, which I found not nearly fun enough. She offered agility classes, and we were hooked! Over the next 10 years we went to many agility matches with Kathy and the dogs, adding dogs, going up in classes, and having our good weekends and bad weekends. We have rescued dogs together, gone on road trips, had a lot of drinks, gossiped about other trainers, blown through too many hobbies to think about.

Kathy is a fascinating person. Even after 13 years, I am still finding new things out about her. She graduated from the Philidelphia School of Art, farmed, owned a garden center, ran a dog training center, competed with Bull terriers in agility and obedience, been a sucessful artist in natural materials such as gourds, and is now an accomplished bead artist. You name it she has done it!

Of course my absolute favorite thing she has ever done, the thing that makes me green with envy, is she was a gorilla girl at the Philly Zoo. That meant she took care of the baby gorillas, who were attachment mothered until they were old enough to join the group. Oh, can you imagine spending all day holding baby gorillas!! I am so jealous!

I think Kathy is beautiful but she doesn't agree with me, so she never lets me get pictures of her. I managed this one only because she was too busy training my dog:

We have some pictures someplace of she and I in various places with Pansy and Lou. Pansy is one of Kathy's girl BTs, and Lou, or Tallulah, was my first BT, and the love of my life. They looked like the Princess and the Pauper, Pansy being a well bred Bakerstreet dog and Lou being a stray, but they looked a lot alike (well, ok, their heads were totally different, but if you don't know bts...). Even had the same white squiggly on their backs. I don't kow what happened to all those pictures. They were best friends.

 Kathy lives in a little cabin by Pine Creek with a fanstastic view and a housefull of puppies. If you ever want to rent a cabin by the creek, she has a rental open at Life of Riley Vacation Rentals.

That is the other thing about Kathy. She has an amazing eye for putting together color, texture, and form into beautiful spaces. Her cabin is an example of her work as an artist. Her last home was an apartment built into a pole barn for an indoor training arena, with a loft and a huge porch off the back. Someday if I ever find myself alone I am going to move in there.

Anyways, that is Kathy. I love her dearly and wouldn't know what to do with my long drive if we didn't talk nearly every day. Besides, everyone needs someone who will tell it how it is, even when you don't want to hear it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Trip to the Corning Glass Museum

Day two..

From my couch I wake up (again) at 6am, by Mo  grumbling and shuffling in his crate (again), which makes Billy the cattle dog wake up (again) and start whining and pacing. Again. I must have looked horrible, because Kathy told me to go jump in her bed with Tootsie while she was in the shower.

Tootsie is my favorite.

You can see her back foot is missing a couple of toes, which happened many years ago. It doesn't slow her down much.

When she was a puppy she was the cutest thing I have ever seen in my whole life. She was just that cute.

Anyways, I apparently was tired because I curled up with the Tootsle and was out for 2 hours.  I felt much more human when I woke up again.

After another fantastic frittata, I made some beads with her new silvered glass.

I liked the little ones but consider the big one a colossal mistake. It is nice and round, and that is about all I have to say that is nice. I was much more pleased with the Zachary Blue pair than I expected....Kathy told me to use it so I did, but I didn't want to!

Mo got to play with his new crush Bad Boy Billy:

Mo pretty much ignored the three gorgeous Bull Terrier girls and just went gaga over Billy. I have about 10 pictures of Billy standing still and Mo in various blurry play bows, army crawls and hoppity hops. Billy was not amused. After a while he went and hid in his crate.  
Once Mo was tired out,  off we went to Corning. All we did was look around the gift shop, but this is like a museum all by itself, one where you can pick up things and look real close and take pictures.

So first I had to look at the Paul Stankard paper weights. I adore Paul Stankard.

Look at those petals!

Those blackberries look good enough to eat!

The bee looks so real you feel sorry he is encased in glass.

Yes, that says $6,000. Worth every....single...penny.


The man is a genius.

So after several hours (I wish), I tear away to look at some other things and I find another paperweight artist to fall in love with:

They are jellyfish!

They look like they are floating in the glass.

They remind me of a Jack Johnson song, Bubbly Toes:

"Move like a jellyfish, rhythm is nothing, you go with the flow you don't stop." 

Anyways, we next checked out the jewelry displays. Oh, the beautiful beads!  Check out this piece:

It was huge! I have no idea who could carry this off, but it was gorgeous. The colors remind me of the Ukraine.

We had to check out our former instructors jewelry.

This is by Heather Trimlett. She likes bright colors and huge beads, and is extremely precise.

Caitlin Hyde is the other instructor from the class we took last summer:

She is known for her more natural colors and totem beads, but it looks like Heather has influenced her color palette. Caitlin is also very precise, and I have 2 of her big beads now.

Finally I had to treat myself after looking at all these fantastic works of art.

Before you go getting all jealous on me, know this is only about an inch tall. It was all I could afford at the moment. But someday.....

Thursday, March 31, 2011


It took me several days to recover from my grand adventure earlier this week, but after a nice long bath and a cup of tea I think I am ready.

I started out Monday morning to Wellsboro PA, where I met my friend and co-conspiritor Kathy Riley at From My Shelf bookstore to do some birthday shopping...for me! Now if you have never been to this bookstore it is worth the trip. It is owned by Kevin Coolidge,  managed by Kasey Cox, and overlorded by Hobo, the store cat.

Kasey is a of those intense, intellegent people who is interested in lots of things, including you. She also remembers everything she has ever read AND everything you have ever read. This impresses me because I can't even remember what I have read....I can get 3/4 through a book before realizing I already read it!   She picks books for you if you like and keeps track of your feedback so she can be more accurate in her choices. I love going there just to talk to her for a while, and she totally is up for a good long talk. Or she rolls her eyes when I come in.....but hides it really well!

Kathy bought me a few books and an expansion pack for Gloom, which if you have never played it you should try it. Thank you Kathy!!

From there we went to Madalene Murphy's for some tea and muffins. Madalene has the most beautiful old house, set into a hill with a barn and lots of birds outside, and inside is sunny with neat books and maps and quilts everywhere.  She also has the best tea cups:

The colors were all bluish because I can't figure out how to compensate for too much light....someday I will learn how to use this camera!

Anyhow, she also made yummy pineapple muffins:

Look how shiny her counters are!! I need the name of her housekeeper (or learn to actually clean up after myself.) 
While in the kitchen we also got to say hi to the two other guests there:

This is Terra and Linda. Terra is Madalene's goldendoodle, and I swear she has no bones. When she lays down she melts into the floor like a big goofy rug! She is a sweetheart, and also likes pineapple muffins. Linda looks fabulous here, but I don't think she appreciate the camera. Linda is a graphic artist who makes very beautiful paper doll sets, some which are magnatized and come in a tin, each piece hand designed, cut and put on magnets. I am getting one for my oldest niece, (so if sister Sarah is reading this, don't tell CC.) Linda has many other talents, some of which I will show later.

So once tea is steeped we head into Madalene's lovely little sitting room. Some of her quilts are on the walls:


I LOVE these quilts! Not only are they very well made, but they have an abstract artistry I appreciate but can never seem to manage. I am not doing the colors justice here, and if I go back I will take better pictures.

Since we are talking quilts, Madalene showed us her latest creation:

This is Studies on a Goldfinch, being held up by the lovely Madalene. I told her I did not take her picture so *Jedi hand wave* you do not see her holding the quilt. This piece is just so amazing. Never in a million years could I take a series of arcs and design something that not only looked simultaniously like one bird and a flock of birds, but also like birds in motion and a particular species of bird. She just blows me away. And I am not just saying this because I know she might read it!

Madalene just had a piece accepted into an international juried quilt show, so we are all pulling for her. When she looks at our work she asks great questions, and gives us specific, thoughtful compliments which make us feel great. She makes me want to be more like that, which is a good thing.

Next we looked at Kathy's beads, which are so well done, colorful and intricate I just want to put them all in my pocket! Here are her latest full moon beads:

Dang  the overexposure! I told her these were full moon beads but she didn't appreciate my sense of humor:

 A couple more:

She has boxes of these, just lying around. I am sure if I put some in my pocket she wouldn't even notice!Especially the boob beads. Love the boob beads.

We looked at Linda's latest project, which were lovely fabric flowers:

She painted on the edges of this one...and has a button with polka dots!!  I may have to try to make one of those in glass.

I love this one!

Linda is a hoot. She has the funniest, driest sense of humor and is an exacting perfectionist (I suppose it is good she is so talented or she would drive herself nuts!) I wanted to take a picture of her paper dolls but she said she would have to kill me. Well not really, but she was thinking it loudly. :-)  She made some with Bull Terriers for Silverwood, and they sold like hotcakes! I should have bought one, I am kicking myself. I could be dressing my little bully on the fridge every day, and now all I have is a bunch of year old paperwork and a drawing of Chicken Joe. Ok, the drawing of Chicken Joe is pretty sweet, I won't lie.  

Anyways, Linda is also one of the most productive people I know, since not only does she make these flowers, and paper dolls, but also makes jewelry, many with Kathy's beads. I try to emulate her drive to keep things organized and keep track of what things cost and such, but since I am the opposite of exacting it isn't easy. I try though. 

Even though I just met Madalene and Linda I feel like they are fast becoming good friends.

So after a while Kathy and I decide to head home, and made fritattas with fresh eggs from her chickens, who are led by Little Man. Little Man is my rooster who survived the weasel apocalypse. Here is Little Man in the kitchen at my house:

Ok, I just like chickens. Notice my counters are not nearly as nice as Madalenes. I need help.

Anyways....frittatas.  Artichokes, tomatoes, feta, and farmers cheese....yum!

So nothing much happened for the rest of the night. Some beer, some vodka, lots of gabbing, cuddling with the dogs. Oh, Kathy started teaching Mo to touch the dumbell:

Mo picked it up pretty quickly.

Well, I just noticed how freaking long this entry is, so I will go to bed real time in this story. Tomorrow I will tell the rest, since I doubt anything exciting will happen to me between now and then.

And yes, Rosanne, I realize Murphy will pay me a visit for saying that.