Monday, December 28, 2015

This Pensive Time of Year

I don’t know about everyone, but at this time of the year, I become pensive (engaged in, involving, or reflecting deep or serious thought; "a pensive mood").  I think about many things in my life – including people who are no longer in my life, persons that I thought that I would have never lost touch with.  I do know that friendship is a giant revolving door or roundabout (a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic flows almost continuously in one direction around a central island); friends and even family members come and go throughout one’s life (family members are always family but the occurrence of their association with a person does change through the years)

An example would be “K” who I have been friends with since 8th grade.  She and I were inseparable for several years, until later in high school, when I wasn’t cool enough to hang out with or walk to school.  I know that it was new friends that she made – I made new friends also, but was hurt seeing her walk home on the opposite side of the street that I walked on.  We managed to get over that by the time graduation rolled around and we planned our senior trip together to Florida.   Throughout the years, she made it clear that she didn’t like the life I was living as a young adult and didn’t want to associate with me during this time.  Looking back, I know that I made some really stupid decisions, but nothing that was damaging, lasting or terminal.  She would come back into my life and leave with the wind.  I truly believe that it was hard for her to have more than one friend, one person to hang out with at a time.

In our 40’s, we again became close friends.  During this period of time, it was pretty bleak for “K” – she ended up losing her job, and in desperation asked my husband and I to loan her some money.  We weren’t much better off, but we had credit and offered to do a cash advance on a credit card with a really good interest rate, which she agreed to.    After taking more than 6 years to pay back the money that was charged, she bristled at the interest that was on the card, but paid it back mid-2013.  Following that, I received a few emails about her brother who wasn’t doing well physically, and a phone call in the fall of 2013 letting me know that he passed, and she would call me back when the memorial service was scheduled.  I am, sadly, still waiting for that phone call.

There was a time when I would have said that nothing would have gotten between the two of us.  I was wrong.  My husband and I now agree that we are no longer the “Bank of Thompson” – that has closed.  He firmly believed that “K” thinks we ripped her off with the interest and that is the problem.  I don’t know if I believe that, but something did – and I don’t know if anything would ever be the same.  Hell, she had a major medical issue that I only found out about because her boss mentioned something to me thinking that I should know (as a close friend).  “K” never told me.

I had another friend, “J” who I did everything with for years and years.  We drank together, went to bars and clubs and danced and hung out.  We did so much together when I left my practice husband; he told my father that he believed that we were lesbians and that’s why I didn’t want to stay with him (the truth was that I didn’t love who I was when I was with him, but men like their own version better).  She even visited when I was living in Germany and we traveled around together.  When in Paris, my husband fell asleep in the hotel room early and “J” and I looked at each other and left the hotel.  We walked the streets until the wee hours of the morning, stopping for a drink or coffee in several bars or cafes.  We learned that “woo woo baby” means the same thing in French or English!  What a grand night!

Soon after I moved from the area that we both lived in, I learned that she wouldn’t come north 20 miles to see me and if I wanted the friendship to continue, I would have to drive down all the time.  So, slowly, as I made new friends, it fizzled out.  I last heard from her because she was in the hospital and she wanted me to get some medical information for her; shortly after getting it for her, I never heard back, her phone was disconnected, and multiple attempts to find her were unsuccessful.  I wish her well.

As girlfriends got married and families, I seemed to have less in common with them.  It’s the “you don’t understand because you don’t have kids” phase in life.  Through the years as the children grew, the friends and I seemed to have widened that gap and it’s hard to cross.  Or it’s the gap when a friend marries and their husband really doesn’t like me (or my husband) and you just separate because it’s less stressful.

When the internet because popular and on-line interest groups developed, a number of on-line friendships developed.  As interests changed; those friendships also waned.

I was deeply involved with a bead society locally that I thought would never change as long as I was involved with that medium of art.  The leadership I started with and deeply connected with has changed and new leadership is now in place and I don’t connect with it any longer.  I have a different outlook than some and it was a time for me to remove myself from the leadership, as much as I didn’t want to; the time was right.

At this time of year, I think about those friends that I am close to now; don’t worry about when they will leave my life as I don’t have control over what might or might not happen.  I think about old friends and what we had then and what we have now.  I think about the friends who made the decision to leave my life; and I don’t worry about their decision.  I can’t do anything about it and I can’t make them stay connected to me.

I am just grateful for those who are in my life.  Past.  Present.  Future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Flashback to Germany - it happens in the Autumn

Many of you know I spent the majority of my first marriage in Germany from 1984 through 1987, while husband #1 served in the military.  I loved living overseas and might have stayed if I could have figured out how to do it, but things called life happen.  If I did, I would not have married Al and met many of the people that are really important in my life.  Things did turn out the way they should have.

But I was feeling a little nostalgic this morning and looking though Google Maps at roads that I walked and seeing if restaurants I knew were still in business.
Cute little apartment building with a small balcony.  Great for beer storage in the winter
With Lou and Vada at the wedding reception party - it was 31 years ago this month
I lived here – first on Lammakerweg (on the third floor with the slanted ceilings and skylight windows) and then on Andreas Fauser Strasse (on the third floor with the great balcony off the front room and the tiny balcony off the kitchen that over looked Martinskirche) in the village of Mohringen.
Andreas Fauser 24 apartment building
It was a nice suburb of Stuttgart and I really enjoyed walking through the village and the orchards surrounding it.  We had a lot of restaurants and bistros within walking distance.  For the first months there, Tim did not own a car.  Many of his friends did, and with a great system of streetcars and buses, a car wasn’t truly necessary.

The Italian Ice shop is still there - we would walk up for gelato in the eveing

The flower shop where I would treat myself to flowers

Martinskirche where there was a small farmers market on the weekend.  I would walk over for fruits and meats, fresh from the farm.
Sadly the Bier & Brezel is closed.
One of the first places that I had dinner out with friends was Bier & Brezel – where a ton of military guys frequented.  It was located at a main intersection between two fairly large US bases.  Another local place was the Terrazino for “teller pizza” – which is a pizza that was the size of a plate (or teller).  Note: if you are in Germany and ordering a meal, anything that says teller means that it’s big (teller schnitzel, etc).  Gasthof Anker was another place, and my parents stayed there during an extended visit.

These photos were taken from Google maps of houses I remember seeing as the streetcar went up and down Degerloch Hill

The tracks used to be in the middle two lanes of the road, which made it really hard to drive as you had to get out of the way

Since my ex was working all day at Kelly Barracks, he made certain I was comfortable with the streetcar system, buying tickets and traveling on my own.  One of the things I loved to do was to take the straβenbahn up and down Degerloch Hill.  I loved to look at the view over the city of Stuttgart and look at the glorious old apartment buildings as the straβenbahn got closer to Stuttgart.  I would wonder how many were still as glorious on the inside as they were on the outside.  Many times I did wish I lived in one of those houses with the 10 foot ceilings and plaster walls, terrazo floor tiles.  There was still an area where you could see some of the damage from the bombs from WWII.
I remember the umbrella and leather store was in this first group of shops
After a time, I was pretty familiar with downtown Stuttgart and I loved walking on the Konigstraβe and go through the shops.  I bought a wonderful leather purse I used for years and a wallet that I still use occasionally.  I bought a great umbrella with a duck handle and a shoulder strap (How freaking handy is that!!), and a scarf that I wore European style for years (until it fell out of the sleeve of my coat and it was lost forever).  I do still mourn the loss of that scarf.  I remember the time that I was browsing the shops and was asked for instructions to the train station.  As I was searching for the German words in my mind, the gentleman said "Oh, you are American, you can tell me in English."

I know for many of the military guys the Konigstraβe was a different experience.  They would prowl the Konigstraβe and side streets for the clubs and bars in the evening and pick up the German girls.  If they were completely drunk before a certain hour, it was called “getting ugly early!”  That expression is still one that I use today to describe certain situations in life.

Perhaps I am nostalgic because this is the time of the Oktoberfest in Germany and there was a huge one in the Stuttgart area.  OMG – I remember being so drunk at some of these festivals, but especially this one.  Beers were the size of a barn and the schnapps!  But we had the best time at these events.  One especially entertaining evening was when the schnappsfrau was trying to hit on my father in the beer tent!  He was tickled pink.  The laughter and fun from these days are forever in my mind.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Ink, Ink, Ink

It's been since January 2012 that I last had a tattoo.  I tend to think long and hard and it this what I really want.  I almost had one added when I was in New Orleans, but I didn't want to make a snap decision and regret it.

My first tattoo was when I hit 50 years old (and I actually have now said that outloud), and it was a hummingbird that was inspired by Native American art from the Pacific NW (Haidaa), it's not your grandmothers' hummingbird.  This was in May 2010, after I returned from a cruise to Alaska and fell in love with this image.  The picture was taken minutes after the tattoo was finished which is why it's still shiny in places.  It isn't small, measuring just over 6 inches long from tip to tail.  Pretty big for a first tattoo.  My second tattoo is another hummingbird that is facing this one, about the same size.  My thought now is to get something to tie them together that is not a black tribal band.

The Love
Tattoo #3 took some work researching, Several of the residents that I work with showed me pictures and I knew that I wanted a word in Arabic - love or peace - something sweet.  I ended up with this in January 2012:  The love or الحب.  this of course is a stylized calligraphy version, and I do love it.

So I have been playing with the idea after one of the doctors wrote my name in calligraphy many years ago - that it would make a great tattoo.  Another doctor suggested the Gujarti script which is really pretty, but not for the first one.   I would have to find a new tattoo artist as the person who did the first three moved across town, seemed unstable, make a comment about fat ladies on an airplane (actually it was just that comment that made me decide that he didn't deserve my money - it reinforced to me that while I am overweight, he's an ass-hat and I can lose weight).  The second artist, who has been working with my husband on several tattoos was really good, but he wanted to do this in black and I didn't want black.  One of the new interns this year suggested white, which was also was my friend Fiona had and I really liked the idea of that.  So I went back to my original shop and talked with one of the artists Jay.   He said that he was booked up for the next day, but no one left a deposit - if you are serious about a tattoo, carry $50 for a cash deposit - I was scheduled for the next afternoon.

Jay did a phenomonal job; I didn't want black, he wanted a black outline as a minimum, I wanted lighter, he thought fading would be good.  I didn't want the blue of the hospital, we agreed on a turquoise blue and to make me really happy, he shaded in some white at the top. The black shading at the bottom actually just looks like a darker blue fading upwards to white.  I didn't know that this was what I wanted.  I love it!
It's perfect for me - Elizabeth

 Now the next question is "Why Arabic?"  Why not?  It's an old culture, it's beautiful script, it's me.  If I see my name written in another script that I like just as much - Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Nigerian, Hindi - I would probably do it again.   So send me my name (Elizabeth) in a beautiful script - I will add it to my wish list for a future tattoo.

(p.s.  On the inner forearm, this tattoo hurt - way worse than the others WAY WORSE.  About 15 minutes into the project, I was forgetting about the pain and watching the process.)

Friday, August 07, 2015

Musings from the Campground

Thursday, August 6th - 7.30am

We are so connected with each other via all the different social media, that it's really hard to accept a sudden and total disconnect as I did this week while camping.  I found myself very jealous of the limited connectability that my hubby had, and I would sneak glimpses on his phone to see what was happening with our friends.

As the week progressed, a curious thing happened.  I found myself looking less and less at his phone.  I wasn't even carrying my phone - I picked up my real camera instead and took pictures.  Not just pictures to be posted on Facebook to say "Look what fun I am having", but pictures that had a shape and form that I liked - and that pleased me.

Alan and I did a lot of nothing this week.  Lake Hudson State Park is a beautiful spot and I would come back.  The campsites are large private.  There are massive hedges of shrubs, small trees and branches, separating each site so you can't see your neighbor.  The sites are also off-set so you can't see someone directly across the road.  Lake Hudson is a "Dark Sky Preserve" and has no exernal lighting - no street lights.  No building lights.

Above - camper in the moonlight.

It's also low on ammenities.  There are two outhouses (one for each loop) - they are new, but still outhouses.  There is one water pump.  You know, a hand pump.  The only modern ammenity at the campground is electricity.  As it was put in the park, it was done thoughtfully - the electric stations are tucked away into paths cut in the brambles so many of them are not seen from the road.

It's very quiet.  Very little street noise - only when the breeze is at the right angle.  There are very few planes.  Even with weekend campers, the park was quiet well before quiet hour.

Aside from the night when the largest storm of the summer came through with rain, thunder, lightening lasting clost to four hours; the weather has been good - perhaps a little too hot and muggy.  But that storm!  It might have been the second worst storm I have camped in - and I have camped in some bad ones.  The thunder and lightening was so fast and furious that it just all rolled together and you didn't know if the thunder was starting or finishing.

But it was a good week.  I finished a few UFOs, put away a project that has been frustrating me (I will pick it up later) and started another that I sketched awhile ago.
Beki Haley's "Tango" necklace

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bead on it Board versus Bead Pad

There has been a lot of on-line discussion about the “Bead On It Board” and the newer “Bead Pad.”  When I was at Bead and Button early in June 2015, I was able to see both and I have been using both this past month.  This is not going to be an argument about copyright, patent, and trademark.  This is my impressions about two different products.  

This year, I bought three different BOIB from Betcey at Beyond Beadery and two from  It was in the back of my head to write a blog post that would talk about the two products, MY opinion of the products.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my BOIB, all of them – to the point where I have eight different one in avariety of sizes from small to large.  I realized it is obsessive behavior, but one was a gift and one was a trade (how’s that for justification?).  In the beading industry, there is always competition (Swarovski and Preciosa, Miyuki and Toho, Nymo and One G (or KO, silamide, Fireline; etc).

The first and the original product is the “Bead on It!” beading board (BOIB).  According to the label on the back of my board, it has a 2008 copyright, and a trademark patented of 2010.  The “Bead Pad” (BP) just has a small label on the back. 

Since I have used the BOIB for many years, I have been working with my new Bead Pad for the last several weeks.  My thoughts are:
  • The fabric is where you see the most difference.  The BOIB is available is many, many colors and combinations of colors – mostly with velour fabrics, with some really exciting prints.  The fabrics feel really nice on your wrist and hands as you bead.  The BP I saw at B&B were of a different palette with earth tones in a rich upholstery fabric.  I actually like the variety in both boards – perhaps, I could see the BP wearing a little better and not getting as dirty.  But both are nice – this would completely be the personal preference of the consumer.
  • Functionality:  Both boards have a great base fabric.  Both boards have a similar feel when working with them, the beads lay nicely for scooping with the needle or for the jab method of one bead at a time.  The deck of the BOIB is a little “spongier”, but I didn’t see that as a positive or negative for either board.
  • On both boards, seed beads get stuck in the groove between the bumper and the base fabric.  It means flicking them out with your Scoopula, triangle tray or fingernail.  A friend of mine attempted to fix this with some satin cording (rat tail) glued in the groove, which just now has the beads stuck in between the cording and the base fabric. 
  • The BP board is much heavier than the BOIB.  It feels as if it’s made out of a dense plywood, versus the lighter plywood that they BOIB uses.  That said, I take my BP to the patio to use because I know that it isn't going to move as much if the table is jolted.  If you are not moving it between your studio area and classrooms, then this isn’t as much of a concern for you.
  • Price:  For an 11x17 board, the BOIB price is $120.00.  The price for the BP for about the same size is $50.  That’s a big different if you are a budget minded beader.
  • Backing Material:  The BOIB uses a felt fabric on the bottom side.  On a non-fabric surface, the BOIB does slip, but not much.  The BP uses a latex free shelf-liner material, which won’t slide on any surface.  I do think the BOIB board is finished a little nicer, but not enough to make it a deal breaker.  One of my BP had a broken staple that didn’t lay right and scratched me, but a quick whack with a hammer took care of that.
In summary, I do like both boards (and I will admit, I was going into this experiment hoping that I would like the BOIB better - and I might because it has been a staple on my desk for several years).  I think that there is a different audience for both boards, just as there is an audience for Mercedes and Lexus, Swarovski and Preciosa crystals, Japanese and Czech seed beads.  The winner will be all the beaders who are put off by the price of the BOIB who fall in love with the BP. And then they decide that they can't wait to put their own test together.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Bead & Button 2015 - The Heavy Haul

The heavy haul...4 rolls crystal cup chain, 2 packs of 3mm preciosa bi-cones, assorted rondells, 2 large bags of assorted pearls, box of 16mm, 14mm and 12mm rivolis, drops, metal beads, bag of vintage rivolis in assorted sizes, more cup chain, assortment of One-G thread, vintage 39mm chatons, cool bronze castings from Russia, Bead On It board, Bead Pad (I think I will write a comparison of the two an how I feel about them).

For many years I have written an annual post-B&B report, as I did in 20142013, 2012, 2011 and as far back as 2007.  I will get caught up and blog that soon!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Ahhh, Bead Embroidery

Over the years I have done a fair amount of bead embroidery.  Oh, okay - I have done a lot of bead embroidery.  I don't talk much about the base fabric that I use, but people have started asking what I use and why.   When I started, I was using an interfacing fabric, then craft felt, interfacing with an iron-on "canvas", Lacey's Stiff Stuff, Nicole's Bead Backing, and just recently a bead foundation by the BeadSmith company.  Here are my thoughts:

Interfacing (i.e. Pellon or Peltex):  Actually it's pretty good stuff, but I have only seen it in white.  If you bead fairly close together, it's not a big deal.  It comes on the bolt, so you can get great lengths and cut interesting shapes and patterns.

Craft felt:  I didn't have good luck with this.  Pilled, shredded and was uneven to work on.

Interfacing with an Iron-on Canvas:  I used this with the Taj Mahal.  Man, oh man, was this a bear to bead through!!  Interfacing was fine, but the iron-on that I printed the outline on was so hard to get the needle through.  Maybe that is why it took years to finish.  I will not recommend this to anyone!

Lacey's Stiff Stuff:  Decent stuff, but never felt the best for me.  Many people do love it and swear by it - we all have what we love.  It did shred a little, can be dyed to other colors, made larger by placing the edges next to each other and sewing together but is a decent product.

Nicole's Bead Backing:  This is my hands down favorite bead embroidery product to use.  It doesn't pill, minimal shredding, comes in 16 colors, takes iron-on transfer pencil, stamps and more.  My silver tiara is actually on the green bead backing, because I was going to use a sample and then just decided to go for it.

Bead Foundation by BeadSmith:  I just used this recently for a project and I don't care for it at all.  It feels thin, flimsy and shreds.  I think it's obvious that I didn't like it.

These are just my opinions, you may love a product that I don't care for - which is perfectly fine.  There is room for all sorts of opinions on different products.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bead Embroidery has taken over my life!

Over the years, I have done many bead embroidered pieces.  Small postage stamp sizes for "bead quilts" that have been donated to raise money for charity to larger pieces that I have been fortunate enough to sell.

two Ganesha figures that are now owned by doctors that I work with (thanks guys), 

 a picture of my beloved Casie who passed to the big dog biscuit heaven in the sky.
 I have been inspired by pictures that I took on my travels - which is where this temple guardian came from - a temple from Soraksan, South Korea
 From my three years living in Germany and visiting Neuschwanstein Castle many times

 From Robin Atkins and the annual "Bead Journal" project
 African beads made from old record albums - yes, I do need to finish this one.  I bet that many persons don't realize that record albums used to come in different colors.  That's something I do remember.
 Meeting up with fellow bead embroidery artist, Dot Lewellen, in a bar in Milwaukee (we are such pick ups, I know!)
I have completed two tiaras (and an outline for how I did them is in process)
And my newest piece that was to be a necklace.  Until yesterday when something hit me.  And I love what it's turning into.

Stay tuned to this bead station, this bat channel

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

More February musings on my mind

Thinking all day (which is a scarey thing for me to do) as we do when we are in the phases of the moon (not the Phases of the Moose which is a bead embroidery piece of mine) , I realized that when I was a beginner beader, I wanted it all, but there wasn't much all on the internet.

It was 1996, and the internet was really beginning to take shape.  I wanted patterns for everything that I saw, and when I did find one, I printed it and put it in a folder.  After a while, I became friends with beaders who had a little more income than I did and they bought pattern books - O.M.G.  Books?  With beading patterns.  And they let me make copies.  Wow - could life be much better?  Free beading patterns and copyright be damned.

Fast forward many, many years as I was clearing out the closet in my studio of items that I haven't touched in a long, long, long time.  I ran across a stack of those patterns.  From many of the names that I now recognize and count amongst my friends.  Shameful behavior on my part.  One of the things I really noticed?  I made few, if any, of the pieces from these free/illegal patterns.  The few items that I did make, I went to the web page and spent my $7 to $20 and bought patterns.  Why after several years?  Because it's the right thing to do.

As I continue to clear out boxes, I toss the patterns in the recycle bin, shake my head and wonder what planet I was from.  Then I purchase patterns,  Yes, I still purchase patterns.  And books.  I buy books with patterns that I may never make.  Because now I want to support my friends and colleagues.  Who, someday, may support me.

Now, as I start on my teaching career with beads, I completely understand that what I did was incorrect.  Wrong.  WRONG.  Will it happen to me.  Of course it will. I'd be pretty naive to think that it wouldn't happen.  I will just hope that several years down the road, this unknown beader will have the same epithany that I did.  And buy my patterns.

Now, if I could just come up with a name for the Etsy store, I could really start this phase of my life.

February 2015 Musings

We have all heard that the world gets crazy when there is a full moon (luna-tics, right?), but there is the same affect when there is a new moon - and it's been out in force.  Less than tasteful posts on Facebook (which, sadly, has become an important way to keep in touch with friends and family around the world or just a few miles away),  I turned off notifications to social media last night, watched a less than wonderful movie called "The Corsican Brothers" with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and spent some time with my beads and wondering about copying, derivatives, and when it stops being a copy or a derivative and starts being my own design.

Many of my designs have been heavily influenced by my friend and mentor, Marcia Decoster.  Marcia and I worked closely for many years and I took what I learned to heart.  Did I copy from her?  Yes, there are portions of my work where you can see what I learned from her.  But an actual copy of a design.  No.  I don't believe that I did.

Above is a piece that I call "Hever Castle" - the netting around the crystals is netting, it's been done before and will be done again.  The bail (top) and the connection between the crystals is a modified Right Angle Weave (raw) that I learned from her many years ago in her Romantica necklace, you can see the same thing in neckstrap.  But because the pieces are so different, it's not a copy, but influenced by or a derivative of her necklace, but still my design.

I also bought a pattern by Shelley Pleines Nybakke - her Tennis Anyone bracelet, pictured below on the left.  These are pieces made from a pattern, a copy.  The Tiara Necklace on the right is very similar except that it's cubic right angle weave, not a three sided RAW as the bracelets are.  This is not a copy, my design, but using a technique from another instructor.

Thinking about it, I learned cubic right angle weave from Huib Peterson, so I was influenced by what he also taught me.

In your heart, a person knows if they copied another artists design.  When I was just starting to make patterns, I had a dancing moose pattern - resembling a kokopelli, but it was a moose dancing.  I walked into my local bead store at the time, and there was a woman who was wearing a necklace with MY moose on it.  At first I was tickled that she liked it enough to make it.  She told me that she took the picture from the internet, enlarge it so that she could see the peyote pattern in it, and then she beaded it.  But then, the more that I thought about it, she couldn't be bothered to spend the $5 for the pattern.  THAT's copying.

Bottom line - you know if what you are doing is right or wrong.  If doing wrong doesn't bother you, nothing that I can do or say will make you change your mind.

But enough about that!!