Friday, September 28, 2012

Thank you, Shaiha and Melinda!

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I just received this lovely clasp in the mail today. Early this month I participated in a blog hop celebrating the Creative Bead Chat (CBC) Facebook group administrators. One generous blogger, Shaiha of Shaiha's Ramblings, offered a special prize to a randomly selected commenter... and I won this beautiful clasp made by the talented Melinda Orr! So thanks to both you ladies... I can't wait to use this wonderful component to enhance a project. I have a few ideas...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sometimes a nap really hits the spot...

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Miss Lucy hopes all you bloggers out there, especially those suffering during this nasty flu season, will follow her example and just TAKE A NAP. You don't necessarily have to sleep on the keyboard and mouse-pad, but a little extra rest during this transition between seasons is good for your immune system. Burning the candle at both ends WILL backfire!

*sigh* If only we could all rest as blissfully unaware as Miss Lucy. She had her "big operation" last week, and by the following morning she was back to chasing her big brother Kramer around the house.

Keeping an eye on the competition. Sharing the basement
window and dreaming of catching birds!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Woo Hoo! The new colours are out!

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The Pantone newsletter was sent out today. I always get happily distracted whenever the newest colour report is issued. I immediately sent it off to be printed at Staples (their colour copiers rock!) Now I can daydream in colour to my heart's content. While Tangerine Tango is out, there are not one but TWO orange shades this spring, one for gals and one for guys. How cool is that? If you want your own copy, you can download the PDF by entering your name and email here:

Every time I see a new report, I imagine I will make up my own Kato recipes, but in reality I will happily pay for someone else's. Crafts by Chris is one place to buy the package deal (she also makes recipes for Premo and Fimo brands). Another artist who makes her recipes available is Carolyn of 2 Good Claymates, based on her  Clay Colour System , which I use and love.

Seriously, I would get so much more done if I weren't such a colour junkie LOL.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A surprise blessing in my week...

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I had a helluva week... well, two weeks, really. Then Wednesday, after a day spent at emergency with my youngest son, I came home to discover THIS in my mailbox. I am participating in the Holiday Bling Blog Hop, hosted by Shelley Graham Turner (Fabric of my Life) and Marlene Cupo (Amazing Designs by Marlene. The reveal day is October 6th. Shelley and Marlene have paired the participants and each has created something especially for the other.

My package could not have come at a better time.
It was so touching to see all the care Jo-Ann
took in wrapping the parcel! I just love her business card
with the little owls, too.

I was so excited! But it was late and I couldn't remember if the rules said to open it right away or wait til the reveal day. Let's just say at this point my head wasn't on too straight!

So the next day I sent off an email to my Swap partner, Jo-Ann Woolverton of It's a Beadiful Creation. Just to check if I had it right. I eagerly unwrapped each layer of Jo-Ann's carefully wrapped parcel, pausing to take lots of pics. (That was hard; I would have preferred to tear right in!) I was like little kid in a candy store... and what I found was so wonderful it took my breath away!

The Bling!

What's that? You can't see what Jo-Ann made for me? Well, I'll just have to post a better picture on October 6th... Hope you'll drop by to see what everyone has created!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Creative Bead Chat Facebook Group Tribute to Administrators

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From top left: 1/ Keirsten Giles of Lune Designs; 2/  Karen Totten of Starry
Road Studio; 3/ 
Marla James of Marlas Mud; 4/ Melinda Orr of ORRTEC;
(not shown: Marla Gibson of Spice Box Designs)

What is Creative Bead Chat? Well the Facebook "about" page reads as follows:

"A home for creative component and jewelry designers to share our new creations, tool tips and help build our creativity and sales! A home for new designers, as well as experienced, to share our experiences and ask questions. Ultimately we are a team and work together towards the goal of being proud of our accomplishments and accomplishing our dreams... welcome to Creative Bead Chat! Only rule...Treat others as you would like to be treated."

As one of those "new designers", I have enjoyed dropping in to this group of talented individuals and absorbing lots of information. The members are a varied and sharing group. I don't comment very often, but when I do, there is always someone to answer my questions. 

Thanks to our intrepid administrators for making sure everything is running smoothly over at Creative Bead Chat (CBC)!

Marla Gibson: Isn't it the most creative photo setting ever??

Marla Gibson of Spice Box Designs (shop temporarily closed)

I'm looking forward to getting to know you all better and hopefully participate instead of just absorbing the awesomeness! You support and encourage each other and that is an inspiration to all.

Anyone interested in checking out the CBC, here's a link:

Thursday, September 06, 2012

WIP for Cari-Jane and congrats to Joan...

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This will be a quickie (HaHa, for me that is LOL). I'm posting in response to Cari-Jane Hakes of hybrid handmade, who offered a cool desktop calendar for September 2012. Download it for FREE at the link above. Cari-Jane is a U.K. metal artist living in France. Here's my computer area featuring your cool Time Pebble calendar, Cari-Jane:

Not much room here for creating, but PC is pretty portable LOL

Lots of room over here, just behind my chair. I do a lot of
spinning around in that chair!

Current project, side view of cane... looks like a flaming
big mess, right? Can't share too much 'cause it for
a gift exchange!

So that's my WIP at the moment. Will share more next month!


Couldn't let the day go by without congratulating the very talented Joan Tayler for her appearance AGAIN on Polymer Clay Daily. The culprit this time? Why, Joan's whistles, of course... good pick, Cynthia! There's a suggestion that anyone hankering for a whistle TUTORIAL hit Joan's blog with a request. 

Joan's newest whistle designs.

The last word:

Continental drift on pause...

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Blue Marble Earth Images from NASA's Earth Observatory Program
As requested by some of you, I'd like to share a little about the creation of my Africa Map pendant. I've wanted for some time to create some canes featuring countries or continents. Never had a clue how I would use them, so it remained an itch in my right brain until Erin announced her Challenge of Travel at the end of July.  

My first search for inspiration took me (figuratively) out of this world. As a child during the early years of space travel, I was fixed to the old black and white television, gobbling up regular doses of technical jargon and snowy shots of in-flight hi-jinks. The romance of space was, to my mind, not at all diluted in later years by that nasty talk of "faked" moon landings. I remain a believer and a dreamer.

So Erin, since your choices of travel destinations were limited to Planet Earth, I figured I would go for one of the places that has drawn souls, both the daring and the introspective, since before Stanley and Livingstone. I have actually met young men and women from West African countries, here, in my own obscure community (my Middle of Nowhere to their Heart of Darkness). They have each seemed a proverbial ray of sunshine to this perpetual seeker. Perhaps I fear Africa is as for from my grasp as the surface of the moon. In my art I can seek both.

Armed with my determination to translate fantasy into art, I chose the incredibly beautiful Blue Marble image above as my graph.

I just noticed the second photo is upside down. No matter. I got a couple of cheap frames, and made a sandwich of the two sheets of glass, with the printed photo in the middle. My print was quite small, about 3" x 3.5". If I were to do a similar project in future I would go larger.

Mine are actual glass. If using plastic "glass", definitely test it before using it for polymer clay (PC can react with some plastics). Now to prop up the frame and support the clay picture I will be building.   

This little contraption is meant for holding needlework patterns. It is not visible in the following picture, but you'll have to trust me. It is doing its important job. I lined up an old floppy disc storage box to support my work. Office tape was sufficient as the clay volume is small. 

You needle-workers out there (and you are legion) have mostly guessed my method. When I had eyes that worked, my creative passion was counted cross-stitch. I didn't bother creating a "chart" as that would be tedious and unnecessary. 

Custom polymer clay colours.

Lined-up extrusions are cut equal lengths.

But the principle of filling in the "canvas" is the same. Using extruded clay, I started matching colours in the picture, lining up my extruded clay rods, starting at the bottom (O.K. that is a moronic comment, where else would I start?!) Here are a few WIP shots:

I have several large flexible Ott-lites that I LOVE for many crafts. I have one positioned behind the frame, shining through the glass sandwich. A second light is focused on the front to help my *mature* eyes see the build.

I have a layer of plastic wrap under the clay, mostly to make removal easier. Isn't the Big Blue Marble purty?

As I slowly (my only speed) worked my way up from the Cape of Good Hope, I could see Africa taking shape before my eyes.
*Note: the actual southern most point in the continent is Cape Agulhas. Calling it Cape of Good Hope has stuck since the 15th century.

I'm at the equator... it is very HOT but so exciting. Notice the rows are offset. That was my brilliant plan to fill in the spaces better for less distortion. More about that later.

At long last, the map is filled in. This took me two days to complete and my little Makin's extruder got quite a workout. Offsetting the rows made it harder to square up the sides.

I removed some corner rods and used them to shape an oval. One of many times in my life when I should have followed my instincts, extruded more clay, and built a rectangle. It doesn't look too bad here, just starting to reduce.

As my cane got longer and smaller, the inevitable distortions started to occur.

I think some of this is typical of a larger cane that is not reducing evenly. Possibly because some of my custom colours contained more or less translucent clay, which I find troublesome in canes. I learn something new about the method each time I use it. It works for simpler canes like this one, or you can go complex. See the end of the post for some links.

A slice of cane taken from a smaller circumference. This was a test pendant. I think it was unbaked in this picture. That's just a red seed bead to mark Burkina Faso's location. Notice the curve of the north-western continent? WRONG! 

My favourite caddies for a project: fresh mushroom trays. I love how they are divided so I can spread those goodies around and still keep everything separate.

Land of the Upright, August 2012

So I could refer to this as the finished piece, but the ones we keep are never really ever "finished", are they?

Congratulations to everyone who managed to read to the end! Your prize? Why, knowledge of course. Or the horrible realization that there are folks like me, who really can write so many words about so little...

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE (I promise it's not really an infomercial)! 

I just had to acknowledge a very talented PC artist whose work is an huge inspiration for me. I first saw the work of Ms. Julie Eakes back in August 2010 (I know because that was when I finally got an internet connection!) She appears to be a bit of a specialist in "face" canes. While I am not an über fan of cartoon-style canes, something I saw on her blog in February 2011 blew my mind. Do yourselves a favour if you haven't visited in a while... check out her Botticelli extrusion cane and stay to read her other great posts.

Secondly, there's another fantastic resource I frequent. I've bragged about her so many times while commenting on the blogs of others, but now I realize I haven't mentioned her here. For anyone wanting to improve their polymer clay skills, Cindy Lietz and her Polymer Clay Tutorials is one of the most exhaustive and user-friendly resources out there. Yes, she charges for her courses (the blog is open to everyone), but this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for, and more. And don't get me started on her colour palettes. Highly recommended!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

In the Land of Upright People...

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Welcome to the Challenge of Travel, developed by two collaborators, Erin of Treasures Found and Marcie of La Bella Joya. Their idea, to choose one country, learn a bit about it, as if one were preparing a trip, and agree to meet with other bloggers today, was one which proved very popular. Fifty-nine participants are joining together to offer up photos, commentary and a little eye candy in the form of an original item or two created to honour their country of choice.

I chose the West African country of Burkina Faso for very personal reasons: it is a little known former French colony (which in my childhood I knew by its colonial name, Haute Volta), that I have always wanted to visit. Secondly, by odd coincidence, I actually met a young lady from Burkina Faso right here in my own town in New Brunswick (she was studying at our local French language college). She is obviously a more seasoned traveller than me!

I welcome you in Mòoré: yee-bay-go (good morning)!

Without further ado, I am proud to present:

Burkina Faso, a name translated as "the land of upright people" in two of the native languages, Mòoré and Dioula. This is one of the friendliest and safest places to travel in Africa. Both Muslims (the majority, 60%), and Christians, both also honouring traditional animist religions, coexist here harmoniously. All are courteous to one another and to visitors.

No such thing as "minding your own business": a friendly 
greeting is a social requirement!

While the country has experienced growing pains similar to other emerging African nations,  it has suffered much less violence in comparison to its neighbours. Though Burkina Faso was once ruled by warrior tribes, and endured colonial rule by France from 1898 to 1958, its people are  remarkably peace-loving and accommodating, and eagerly welcome foreign visitors.

The more densely populated central region around
the capital, Ouagadougou, is home to the mostly Christian
Mossi tribes. To the west, the Black Volta region, named
for the river, is the most culturally diverse and lushest.
The eastern regions are typically arid with more nomadic
tribes like the Tuareg.

A land-locked nation bridging the
Sahel desert to the north and the tropical
rain-forest in the south.

Burkina Faso (or Burkina) is one of the world's poorest nations, according to the UN, with an average income per person of less than $510 USD per year (and remember that's an average!) Though blessed with some natural resources, much of the land has been marginalized by ecologically unsound practices in the past. Subsistence farming is the work of up to 90% of the people, mainly raising livestock, vegetables and grain crops, which comprise a large part of their diet.

Selling fresh produce at city market in Leo, central Burkina.

The varied buildings are like a walk through time: 

Variety of architecture. From the top: 1/ Traditional homes, southern Burkina farm;
2/ modern movie theatre in smaller city; 3/ The Grand Mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso (second largest city);
4/  Cathedral of Ouagadougou, Capital Of Burkina Faso; 5/ Sudanese Style railway station Bobo-Dioulasso. 

Burkina is a member of the Francophonie, an international community of people and cultures using the French language. My country, Canada, is also a member of this group as are many European, African, and Asian countries where French is spoken and/or taught in schools. (I was surprised to learn that Romania and Bulgaria are also members, as are Vietnam, Laos, and some micro-states of the South Pacific.)

French is the language of instruction in Burkina; school is low-cost and attendance is compulsory, but due to extreme poverty and poor enforcement, only 35% of primary-age children attain a basic education, rendering Burkino Faso one of the most illiterate countries in the world (29% literacy). Outside the cities, mostly the native tongues are spoken. It makes me wonder if more could be achieved by combining French with local languages. Might be more motivational?

School in Dourtenga. I was assuming this was a primary school,
based on the children's appearance, but Burkinabé are of small stature
 due to chronic food shortages. Those French language chalk-board
lessons are on geometry equations and microbiology!

Burkina receives a large amount of foreign aid, both public and private. There are many NGOs working in Burkina Faso. "Imagination for People" is a Canadian (Québec-based) organization that facilitates, with other partnerships, hands-on improvements in many developing countries; two examples of projects include self-contained solar lighting  for remote villages still off the grid; and teaching social entrepreneurship (grass roots small business skills based on local needs). *Please note this website is in French, but does have an excellent (clickable) English translation available*. 

(From top: 1/ Villagers learn about solar lighting; 2/ Computer skills training; both photos by Sylvain Maire, Imagination for People; 3/ Women around the water pump near a Tree Nursery; 4/ American Peace Corps volunteers being taught how to graft mangoes)

Another group working hands-on in remote communities is Kiva, a facilitator of do-it-yourself micro loans. You choose a client in a developing nation, and they deliver your $25. loan, and remember, this is a loan, not a gift. These clients expect to pay you back. I'm definitely going to check that out!

In spite of its many challenges, Burkina is renowned for its key cultural activities, including the  International Arts and Handicrafts Trade Fair, held every two years in the capital (coming up in November 2012) which attracts participants from all over Africa, and the world. For anyone wanting to sample West African music, drumming and crafts, Burkina is THE place to go. Whether the traditional or the more contemporary, the Burkinabé embrace film festivals, hip hop demonstrations, and jazz recitals as well as the more historic Festival of Masks  (this link is to the Flickr page of photographer Anthony Pappone, from March 2012... amazing masks, very much worth viewing!)

The term "mask" refers to the whole costume. I am trying to imagine jumping around like they do in those huge outfits in 100°F+ temperatures! Here is a little video showing a performance:

Lovers of  the natural world are in for a treat as well. The three National Parks of Burkina are wonderful destinations for viewing a great variety of birds and animals in their natural habitat.

Leopard; Guinea Baboon; White Pelican; African Bush Elelphant;
Hippopotamus; Snake Eagle; Crocodile

Though just slightly larger than the U.S. State of Colorado, Burkina is divided into thirteen regions and forty-five(!) provinces. IMHO the biggest problem facing the country is their over-sized bureaucracy, with the inevitable corruption that occurs. After all, in few places on earth is the discrepancy between rich and poor more immense. The ordinary Burkinabé is honest, hard-working and willing to share what little he has. Most unrest here has been a result of escalating food prices, and lack of work. While often this was caused by uncontrollable events in neighbouring countries, the fact remains that Burkina's infrastructure has grown at a painfully slow rate. More recently, the Burkina government has taken important measures to improve transportation, health care, safe water supply and other important public needs. So much more remains to be accomplished!

The motto on their Coat of Arms.
They have done remarkably well on the unity.
They have some work ahead of them 
on the progress and justice.
Dear reader, you have probably taken note that my emphasis has been on social and economic challenges in Burkina Faso, rather than on the customary tourist attractions. If I am fortunate enough to visit this unique part of the world, I will plan on staying for a while, digging in and making myself useful. After all, I haven't yet given up on the idea of placing my mark somewhere on the planet, and Burkina is a great place to make a difference! 

Now for a little bling, inspired by the colours, textures and spirit I have admired in my study of this nation of contrasts. I am calling it "Land of the Upright". Since my post is already waaay too long, I'll probably share some details later this weekend.

From the top left: 1/ and 6/ Porcelain elephant and roots button, both Nancy  Schindler,  Round Rabbit; 2/ Flower Jade Stars,; 3/ and 4/ Polymer clay tube beads and Africa map pendant, my own work; 5/  Bronze sun pendant, Lesley Watt, THEAtoo; 7/ Krobo recycled glass beads,  Soul of Somanya, Ghana, West Africa.

Now check out all these intrepid world travellers!

*YOU ARE HERE*       Burkina Faso
Niky Sayers   Egypt
Therese Frank    Kenya
Raychelle Heath     Lesotho
Joan Williams      Mauritania
Sherri Stokey     Senegal
Regina Santerre    Seychelles
Raida Disbrow   Tanzania
Kristi Wodek    Zimbabwe  

Sally Russick  Brazil
Melissa Trudinger   Mexico
Tracy Stillman       USA

Sandra Wolberg    India
Tanya Goodwin       Japan
Susan Kennedy      Japan
Beth Emery    Japan
Lisa Cone    Japan
Tanya Boden    Japan
Inge von Roos    Laos
Erin Prais-Hintz       Nepal
Dee Elgie      Phillipines
Carolyn Lawson   South Korea
Lisa Stukel  Sri Lanka
Elly Snare       Thailand

Shelley Graham Turner    Austria
Mallory Hoffman    Bosnia Herzegovina
Paige Maxim    France
Jenny Davies-Reazor     Germany
Sharyl McMillian-Nelson      Greece
Evelyn Shelby       Iceland
Holly Westfall   Ireland
Rebecca Siervaag     Ireland
Toltec Jewels       Ireland
Lee Koopman Ireland
Laren Dee Barton      Italy
Cindy Wilson       Norway
Kathleen Lange Klik        Poland
Shaiha Williams      Portugal
Jennifer Justman         Romania
Elsie Deliz-Fonseca   Spain
Lola Surwillo      Sweden
Kim Hora       Switzerland
Leanne Loftus       The Netherlands
Patti Vanderbloemen   The Netherlands
Marcie Carroll       Turkey

Marlene Cupo Federated States of Micronesia
Ine Vande Cappelle   Fiji
Tammie Everly        Guam
Alice Peterson      Kiribati
Elisabeth Auld      Nauru
Susan McClelland      New Zealand
D Lynne Bowland        New Zealand
Denielle Hagerman  New Zealand
Rebecca Anderson      Papua New Guinea
Mischelle Fanucchi    Samoa
Kari Asbury   Solomon Islands
Cece Cormier       Tonga
Emma Todd   Tuvalu
Debbie Price        Vanuatu  

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