Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back Over a Great Year

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On this last day of 2013, it is pleasant to count all my small accomplishments of the past year. One project which became a wonderful learning experience in many ways was the Art Jewelry Elements weekly earring challenge, which I joined in April for the second quarter. Here's the total inventory I was able to make (minus Weeks 43-47, which were gifts, for which the photos mysteriously disappeared).

For details on the bead artisans, you can check back on my blog for information, or the AJE Pinterest board. I know if there is another challenge from AJE in the new year, I will be applying again.

I am also looking forward to a few special projects I have planned, starting in January. I hope you will continue to follow along with me as I learn new ways to take various handmade components and motivate myself to create some beauty in my world!

I wish everyone many Blessings for the New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

♪ AJE Earring Challenge (Still Playing Catch-Up): Weeks 48-50 ♫

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So here it is, almost Christmas, folks. The decorating is all done, special food prepared, seasonal music enjoyed, friends visited, perhaps even some gifts bought and wrapped? I've been busy with all that, too; unfortunately I've not been making much jewelry. But I will share three wonderful pairs I sneaked in, mostly because they involved ZERO creativity on my part, but instead rely on the loving care and talent donated by some very special artists.

I've used the amazing charms I received/bought on the Art Charm Swap, added my favorite headpins/earring hooks by Soul of Somanya and voilà: 100% handmade awesomeness.

First up, wonderful wire-wrapped hearts by Alicia Marinache (link to her post showing all the pretties in their wondrous variety). In Alicia's own words: "Asymmetrical, made of antique bronze, with a sparkle of colour in a small jade charm. A charm in a charm :) They are all unique in their own way, exactly like love is: cheerful, and happy, and colourful, and never the same!" I received one on the swap and made it my mission to secure another! They are paired with African headpins in oxidized brass which I formed into earwires.

The second pair features the blissful bead-weaving of Nancy Dale (link to Nancy's post, where she describes her inspiration for these beauties): "Prospective beaus in romance novels are quite consistent about bringing the lady in question blooms of one sort or another... I love Forget Me Nots!  Delicate, and a glorious shade of blue, a matte sort of white, with just a touch of a lemony yellow… Made with size 11 and 15 seed beads, in the closest blue I could find to the real thing, five petals surrounding a Swarovski 6mm chaton crystal." Naturally, I very much wanted a pair of these as well :) I felt the simple sterling earwires, also purchased from Soul of Somanya, were the perfect accompaniment.

This third pair showcase the awesome rustic-styled charms, all handmade by Terri Del Signore (link to her post). I have once again dug into my stash of Ghanian handmade headpins to form the earwires, this time in antiqued copper. Here is how Terri described her approach to the theme of the swap, which was love: "The ceramic cross bead... represents the ultimate sacrifice done out of love! The copper hoop, also made by me, is a circle that has long represented the idea of 'never ending'. The two combined represent my faith and that I can think of no greater love than the never ending love of God!"  And what a fitting theme as we celebrate His birth!

I hope everyone is enjoying moments of Peace, Love and Joy in this busy season. May this year-end provide renewal and appreciation of our many blessings!

**Blog hop linkies below the video so you can check out what everyone has shared this week! Also check the AJE Pinterest board for lots more.**

Of course, I can't leave without adding a favorite French carol, here sung by Ottawa's award-winning The Stairwell Carollers (more amazing a cappella works on their Youtube channel):

Thursday, December 19, 2013

♪ Il Est Né (He Is Born) ♫

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The closer I get to Christmas, the more I find to share of the awesome magic that happens this time of year! The latest is this sweet wooden DIY Nativity Scene from über-creative Jamey of Victoria, B.C.'s Dabbles and Babbles... pdf template included!

Wouldn't that be fun to paint with kids or grand-kids?

To continue in my series of beloved Christmas carols, here is an unusual jazzy setting of Il Est Né by the utterly charming Petits Chanteurs d'Aix (from Provence, France). The visual effects of falling ornaments and giant snowflakes is quite distracting, but the beautiful voices and cheerful arrangement more than make up for it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

♪ The Huron Carol ♫

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This is one of my favorite Christmas carols. Originally written around 1642 for the Huron (Wendat) people of North America by French missionary St. Jean de Brébeuf, Jesous Ahatonhia ("Jesus, he is born") was used to express the Nativity story in word pictures more familiar to his adopted flock.

Church of St. Joseph, Sainte-Marie-Among-the-Hurons,
a reconstruction of the French settlement,  near  Midland, Ontario

An English version written in 1926 (NOT a translation of the original words and often viewed as patronizing) is the one I grew to love as a child, and still sing alone at home as well as in worship music. (There is also a French version but I believe that was just composed in the 1970s.) Many beautiful recordings exist, but I am sharing this version by Canadian Cree entertainer Tom Jackson in honor of his annual cross-country "Huron Carole" Tour, raising funds for and awareness of hunger in Canada. *Sorry folks, this year's tour ends tomorrow, Dec. 19 in Victoria, BC. I'm hoping I'll catch it next year.*


Donations can still be made to the Christmas & Winter Relief AssociationAnd please remember, your local food banks need you, not just at Christmas but year-round.

The enduring appeal of the Huron Carol continues with this recent translation of the lyrics into Mi'kmaw, sung a capella by the Eskasoni Trio of Nova Scotia and offered as a free download at this link. (Hauntingly beautiful.)

Mi'kmaw is a commonly spoken First Nation language here in Maritime Canada.

*Wli Nuelewi aq (Merry Christmas)*

Monday, December 16, 2013

♪ Unique Hungarian Christmas Tree ♫

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This is an amazing Christmas tree on display in Budapest, Hungary. A beautiful design AND it will be recycled for a special group of children (see below):

"This year the Palace of Arts in Budapest celebrates Christmas with an 11 meters high Christmas tree. Hello Wood, a local architecture and design studio, has built a special installation made out of 365 sleighs – it will stand in front of the Palace of Arts until the end of the holidays. After Christmas, the temporary structure will be disassembled and the sleighs will be donated to the little inhabitants of the SOS Children’s Village in Hungary."

You can see more photos here, including the lighted tree at night. Here you can view a video of the installation.

And because I can't resist the beautiful Christmas music of Europe, here is a Hungarian carol (and lots of nativity pictures... my favorite):

Mennyből az angyal (Angel from heaven)

Mennyből az angyal lejött hozzátok
(The angel came down from heaven to you)
Pásztorok, pásztorok!
(Shepherds, shepherds!)

Hogy Betlehembe sietve menvén
(Passing in haste to Bethlehem)
Lássátok, lássátok.
(Behold, behold.)

Istennek fia , aki született
(Son of God who was born)
Jászolban, jászolban.
(In manger, in manger.)

Ö leszen néktek üdvözítőtök
(He will be your Savior)
Valóban, valóban.
(Indeed, indeed.)

Mellette vagyon az édesanyja
(Next to him is his mother)
Mária, Mária.
(Maria, Maria.)

Barmok közt fekszik
(Lying among the cattles)
Jászolban nyugszik
(Resting in the manger)
Szent fia, szent fia, 
(Her holy son, her holy son.)

*Translation by Angela Kovács

Saturday, December 14, 2013

♪ Waiting for the Baby ♫

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Christmas is so close now... today Hubby brought in our tree. Every year he orders a tree from people he knows well, so as to be certain it is legally grown and cut, and to support the local growers. It was supposed to be "around 6 feet tall". Well, someone was feeling generous: our LITTLE tree is well over nine feet LOL, so  a bit of judicious trimming with the reciprocating saw was required. But every year we put it in the stand and remark, "It's the best one ever!"

I've been slacking off the jewelry-making but exercising my creativity in the kitchen. We are VERY restrained when it comes to gift-giving. Even when the four boys were young, the tradition of Christmas presents was conscientiously controlled, lest it become a monster. The one place where we do allow a bit of extra spending is on our special Christmas food. Over the years we have narrowed the sweets to our five favorites, and the closest family, friends and neighbors receive trays as seasonal gifts.

Gumdrop cake, turtle bars, shortbreads,
peanut butter "cups", and marshmallow squares.

This is my sister's tray, ready for pickup. She gets the "perpetual tray" option: when it is empty she can return it for refills ad infinitum. Looking forward to Christmas dinner at your house, Sis!

This year, I have been enjoying a wonderful selection of carols over on Alicia's blog. She has shared several beautiful traditional Romanian colinde; do have a listen if you haven't yet had a chance! I promised Alicia I would share a few of my favorite chants de Noël in my first language, which is French. I have read that in modern France, Christmas music is not that big a deal... but here in Acadie (the French-speaking parts of Maritime Canada), we love our traditional carols. Here is one that always tugs on my heartstrings, as it sounds like the most gentle lullaby. The chorus translates:

  This Child, the most beautiful of children,
    Calls to you with joy and elation
      To His cradle, to His cradle,
       Bring the gifts of tenderness.
       To His cradle, to His cradle,
       Bring the gifts of tenderness.

L'Enfant, des enfants le plus beau,
Vous appelle avec allégresse
À son berceau, à son berceau,
Portez les dons de la tendresse.
À son berceau, à son berceau,

Portez les dons de la tendresse.

There are many professional recordings of this carol which are musically "perfect", but I chose this charming version because I connect with its live performance by soloist and choir, accompanied by pianist. It is most similar to what we sing every year at Midnight Mass. The slide show of the cutest crèches (mangers), made by children for a Sunday School project, is a touching bonus. (Thank you Youtube uploader "Impactsupporter"; if I knew the name of your choir I would love to give you credit for this beautiful performance.)

If you have a favorite Christmas carol in any language I would love to listen to it on your blog. Let me know!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How Coca-Cola "Invented" Santa

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A short video featuring the art of Haddon Sundblom, commissioned by the soft drink giant in starting in 1931 and spanning over thirty years.

Sweet story but not universally accepted. For another opinion see urban legend researchers at The Claus That Refreshes.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Last Chance to Bid on Art Charms

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Just a reminder... the eBay auction benefiting Beads of Courage  will be concluding over the next three days. Many one-of-a-kind charms will be sold tomorrow morning with auctions concluding at 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 9:00 am and 10:00 am EST (please convert to your local time to avoid disappointment). Here is a peek at just a few beautiful examples:

Unique handmade charms created by (clockwise from top left): Lesley WattNancy DalePerri JacksonCaroline DewisonKarin Grosset GrangeEmma ToddCarolyn ChenaultJen Cameron

And there are sixty more wonderful pieces! This is your last chance to snag some of these beauties, and help us send a generous donation to an amazing program for seriously ill children. See you at the auction!

*All photos above by our talented hostess, Jen Cameron*

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I Have Been Spoiled Rotten (Again)

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As promised, today I am sharing the talented creators whose amazing designs I have been blessed to receive through the Art Charm Swap, coordinated by the unstoppable Jen Cameron of Glass Addictions.

While these lovely charms are "Mine, All Mine"... there are many more for sale at the eBay auction right now! Even more will be listed in 12 hours (8:00 pm EST), including a very special ONE OF A KIND bead by a very special guest!

So now, allow me to introduce my special charms... (all photos and collages by me, with artist credits clockwise from top left). The links will take you directly to the eBay listing for a similar bead by the creator:

Wire woven open heart by Alicia Marinache, handmade glass beads and copper dangle by Carolyn Chenault, vintage marquise in a polymer clay design by Andrea Glickpolymer clay "love heart on tree" carving by Linda Haskell.


Seed beads and Swarovski crystals expertly woven into a garden of flowers, Ginger Bishop (top two pics), a mixed media design incorporating paper, wire, resin and Swarovski crystals by Cory Tompkins (bottom two pics).

An intricate, two-sided mixed media balloon design by Lennis Carrier (top two pics), elegant etched white lampwork heart and silver dangle by Sue Kennedy, beautiful ceramic heart with "key to my heart" dangle by Michelle McCarthy.

Forget-Me-Not flower delicately woven in seed beads and Swarovski crystals by Nancy Dale, elegant polymer clay seashell with glass and pearl dangles by Susan Delphine Delaney, sparkly modern heart design in polymer clay by Patty Pulliam, sweet teapot charm with lampwork bead by Renetha Stanziano (I believe her donated bead sold right away, so this link is to her blog. She may be able to help if you would like one of these cuties).

Gorgeous handmade ceramic cross in a hammered copper ring by Terri DelSignore, resin-filled seed bead heart by Shelley Graham Turner (oops, her donation sold right away also, link is to Shelley's blog), sweet little bird charm of stoneware, hand-painted by Vanessa Gilkes, beautiful polymer clay heart treated with color-changing Pearl-Ex powder by Shaiha Williams.

Finally, this wonderful set of three charms by Toltec Jewels: first an adorable handmade bread-and-butter charm; locket and caged crystal design; and Rita's amazing chainmaille with a Swarovski Black Diamond heart and stamped tag (bottom two pics).

These are just the designs I received in our swap... there are many more gorgeous charms by thirty seven artists from the U.S., Canada, England, France and Slovenia. You are sure to find that special gift for yourself or a special someone. The bonus? All proceeds from the auction go to the Beads of Courage program for seriously ill children. The buyer gets a unique, handcrafted charm, the kids get a donation for a worthwhile cause. Everyone wins!

Friday, November 15, 2013

BOC Charm Swap 2013: My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

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Welcome to the reveal and blog hop for the 2013 Art Charm Swap and fundraising auction for the Beads of Courage program, which supports seriously ill children in many specialist hospitals internationally. This year thirty seven bead artists have participated, by creating original charms in the theme of "Love", exchanging them under the inspired guidance of Jennifer Cameron of Glass Addictions. This event culminates today with the opening of the Ebay auction, selling charms donated by each artist, with all funds being donated to Beads of Courage. So visit our blogs, check out the charms on Ebay, and bid on any or all... they make amazing and unique Holiday gifts!

I wish to offer my deepest thanks to Jennifer for her dedicated efforts, year after year, in making this an event I eagerly anticipate. Thanks also to my fellow participants for sharing your beautiful designs and wonderful stories. A complete list including links can be found at the end of this post.

My charm is a depiction of a wild rose upon a heart-shaped background, hand-sculpted with Kato artist-quality polymer clay. The words of the famous Robert Burns poem are inscribed around the edges of the heart, the back is textured with chalk pastel. The charm is 1-1/8" (25mm) tall x 1" (30mm) wide. I have donated two for the auction. *Oops, Jennifer has informed me that she has THREE of my charms... sweet!* I will write a bit more about the process of creating my charm in a future post, as well as share some photos of the wonderful charms I received from fellow artists.    

Over millennia and across a wide range of civilizations, roses have symbolized love, passion, beauty, devotion... but also intrigue, fragility and rebirth. Red blooms especially tended to have unfortunate associations with blood in ancient myths. And then there are those thorns...

There is a personal connection for me, with both roses and Bobbie Burns. Hubby and I married on a rather nontraditional date, January 25, which just happens to be Bobbie Burns Day. This memorial to the Bard is celebrated with great enthusiasm internationally, wherever Scottish ancestry is proudly claimed, and my part of Maritime Canada is no exception. Hubby is a descendant of Clan Urquhart.

Remains of Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland

I am not what anyone could consider a big "flower nut", so cut blooms have made infrequent visits in our home. The exceptions occurred after the birth of each of our four sons, when I was treated by Hubby to a fragrant bouquet of red roses, adorned with a simple and heartfelt: "Thank you for blessing me with a beautiful baby boy". I still have those little cards tucked away ♥♥♥♥

"My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose" was recorded frequently during the strong folk music revival of the 1960's and 1970's, but below is my favorite version. This audio recording features an adaptation of the words transcribed by Robbie Burns, with traditional melody, sung by the late Eva Cassidy. Sadly, both the Scottish Bard and the shy American musician died in their 30's.  Since her death, Eva's recordings have attained a popularity they were denied during her short life. This is four minutes well spent. ♥ Some things are eternal: simple, heartfelt words; a gently crafted melody; a haunting, unaffected voice; and the gift of undying love. 

 O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That’s sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.*

*Original words by Robert Burns, 1794 

Here are the participants in this year's Charm Swap:

Jen Cameron   Glass Addictions

Toltec Jewels   Jewel School Friends

Vanessa Gilkes   Culturezine

Caroline Dewison   Blueberribeads

Lesley Watt   The Gossiping Goddess

Susan Kennedy   Sue Beads

Nancy Dale   NEDbeads

Alicia Marinache   All the Pretty Things

Cassi Paslick   Beads: Rolling Downhill

Alenka Obid   Pepita Handmade

Renetha Stanziano   Lamplight Crafts

Shelley Graham Turner   Fabric of my Life

Monique Urquhart   A Half-Baked Notion

Shai Williams   Shaiha's Ramblings

Lennis Carter   Wind Bent

Cheri Reed   Creative Designs by Cheri

Moriah Betterly   MLBetterly

Perri Jackson   Shaktipaj Designs

Mallory Hoffman   For the Love of Beads

Ginger Bishop   lilmummylikes

Jean Peter   Eclectic Avenue

Linda Florian   Lily's of the Valley

Patricia Pulliam   Rustic Studio

Karin Grosset Grange   Ginkgo et Coquelicot

Julie Bowen   Autochthonous Evolved

Susan Delaney   Lady Flowers by Susan

Emma Todd   A Polymer Penchant

Carolyn Chenault   Carolyn Chenault

Terri Del Signore   Artisticaos

Cory Tompkins   Tealwater Designs

Cheryl (Lee) Koopman   Strega Jewellry

Lori Bowring Michaud   Artfully Ornamental

Andrea Glick   ZenithJade Creations

Jacqueline Carlson   Bead Gypsy

Michelle McCarthy   Firefly Design Studio

Charlene Bausinger Jacka   Clay-Space

Kristi Bowman   Kristi Bowman Designs

And remember to visit the Ebay auction and choose your favorite charms. Thanks for visiting and for supporting Beads of Courage


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

**Save This Friday November 15**

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This is a friendly reminder that the 2013 Art Charm Swap, Blog Hop and Auction for Beads of Courage starts this Friday November 15, 2013. I will be revealing my charms, specially created for this event, and I am very excited to share my inspiration. In further posts, I will also talk a bit about how my charms were made, plus some photos of the wonderful charms I received from other artists in the swap. 

O.K., I'm not allowed to show you YET! The Beads of Courage program is a wonderful cause which assists seriously ill children in many countries. All funds raised in our auction of donated charms will go towards helping sick kids overcome difficult moments in their treatment. You can help, too, by bidding and buying wonderful, unique creations... getting a jump on Holiday gifts AND supporting a truly worthwhile cause. See you on Friday!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Thank you, Jim!

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This time lapse video of less than three minutes has gotten over 5 million views since it was posted November 6. As we prepare to celebrate Remembrance Day/Veterans Day, this is a glimpse at hidden dignity so close to the surface. As always, many of the 8000+ comments that follow are just as enlightening, for good or bad. I wonder if we are asking ourselves the right questions...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

AJE Earring Challenge Catch-Up Part II: Weeks 39-42

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So today I have the balance of my "catch-up" designs for the Art Jewelry Elements blog earring challenge. After making up the lot this week, I noticed I was leaning heavily on leaf beads, so that is the theme of today's post :)

Week 39: I transformed these spring green leaf lampwork headpins by Jane Perala Designs into instant earrings by adding pretty StudioJuls spacers and AB faceted glass. I guess it's never too early to think about NEXT spring :)

Week 40: Beginning with delicate fey glass crystal green leaf headpins, I added sweet little flower glass beads (commercial but very pretty). This design is strung on  Vintaj filigree earwires. *I previously shared another earring pair using Faye's lampwork leaves on week 28 of the challenge.

Week 41: My last two catch-ups feature Pottery girl 1 porcelain clay beads. Here the leaves are an earthy colour just like the natural result of falling temperatures here in Canada. On waxed linen cord, I have woven some Indonesian carved bone buttons, Yukidesigns, and Egyptian camel bone beads from Yakutum. Handmade earwires by WireForHire.

Week 42: Last but definitely not least, this creation is 100% artisan components, including Ingrid's porcelain leaves in a subtle cranberry glazing, red organic Marsha Neal Studio ceramic discs and Outwest etched lampwork rounds in a pretty riot of colours. Strung on silver-filled Adinkra earwires from Ghana (Soul of Somanya) and a bit of red linen cording.

Phew! Hope I never fall this far behind again! Unfortunately, sometimes health concerns get in the way of what we REALLY want to be doing with our time.

Here is the link for the AJE Pinterest board where you can ogle lots of wonderful earring designs.

AJE Earring Challenge Catch-Up Part I: Weeks 35-38

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I have a lot of catching up to do, so I will try to be much less wordy than usual!

Week 35: Back in my stock of awesome Outwest lampwork for this mismatched disc and squared ring pair. I love the "dressed-up ear-wires" from Tori Sophia. Strung on waxed linen with some mixed glass bling.

 Week 36: Ceramic discs in light green, on silk cord, both from Marsha Neal Studio. The organic blue beads are by Potterygirl1. My own handmade earwires in green niobium. 

Week 37: I started with very fine (1.2 x 2 mm) purple and gold chain and mixed it up with more Tori Sophia ear-wires. Demure orange lampwork spacers by StudioJuls and Outwest, but mixed with the purple have a space-opera-Halloween vibe.

Week 38: Top and bottom handmade brass headpins from Ghana, with traditional Adinkra symbols, Soul of Somanya. The newt charms are by Round Rabbit, the earthy lampwork is StudioJuls. Finished with tiny red topaz and diagonal cube glass.

I notice my camera is acting up these days. It might be time to invest in a better toy :) Part II later today/tomorrow.

Please check over at the Art Jewelry Elements Pinterest board where new creations are added regularly. I noticed there are now just under 900 designs... Wow! That is a LOT of inspiration!

I'll post tomorrow the remainder of my catch-up earrings. See you then!

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