To Sum it All Up - in 20 Minutes or less.

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What a year.

Here's where I was in January. 

We've come a long way since then.  We are in our new house.  My new studio is functional when it is clean - though a bit chilly this time of year.  The rest of the house is coming together and every project we finish in the rest of the house frees up time & space in my studio.  (You can read more about our project on the house over at The Beorningstead.)   I've developed some new product lines and I'm slowly learning how to manage my studio time better.

I still haven't gotten to finishing those tee shirts yet but I keep playing with screen printing design possibilities and I'm feeling almost brave enough to actually get one started.

Maxx is doing much better. Fewer fits, more friends at school, generally healthier.  He is learning how to read - though it is a real struggle, especially compared with Molly who was reading almost straight out of the womb.  His math skills are excellent.  He is happier at Church and more likely to interact in lessons and pay attention and process information well.  As much as I worry about some of the pitfalls of public education, I know that Maxx is really benefiting from the environment and services he enjoys in his classroom.  His teacher this year is incredible!

Molly is doing well at school.  She is admittedly bored and frustrated with the History/Social Studies and Literature classes.  She loves many of her teachers, is doing surprisingly well in Math and thrives in Music class.  You should hear her incredible voice.  Her range has expanded and she is quite a chamelion - she can sing in a very mature, sophisticated, operatic style or she can jazz it down quite a bit.  She had callbacks for the musical last night - we'll find out this afternoon what part she gets.

Bry has a job he likes - though it is over an hour away from home.  We're struggling with how long he is gone every day.  Luckily, his supervisor is very understanding and has encouraged him to take his time and be wise about traveling on the bad roads this winter.  His assistant lives 5 minutes from the school so if the roads are awful or impassible out our way, he can take some extra time getting in.  He has reached a level of frustration with the house because he has so few hours to work each day.  We're really looking forward to some holiday time to work on the house and relax this week.

I am healthy-ish.  What a pleasant surprise that has been.  Last fall, I was beginning to think that I would rather just die and get it over with than continue to suffer with so many viral illnesses and subsequent sinus (or ear) infections over and over again.  Why am I healthy all of a sudden?  I think there are several factors:  Maxx's immunity is a bit stronger than it was so he's sick less often and not mixing up as many mutations for me.  Using Progest has had a profound effect on my entire body.  I am entirely convinced that my endocrine system was completely off kilter and estrogen dominant for most of my life (WHY couldn't doctors have figured that out 20 years ago???) and the Progest has given me a balance that I've been needing for decades.  Everything is better.  Except maybe my weight - that is proving to be a bit difficult but I have established an equilibrium in the last couple of months and hopefully that means I'll be able to start bringing it down instead of watching it continue to creep up. 

I have left Etsy.  I cannot begin to tell you what a tremendous relief that is.  My cash flow has taken a painful hit but I'm no longer playing the re-newing game and spending dozens of dollars each week just to keep my items in a search.  Want to read more about Etsy Fail?  Look here.  I'm not going to talk about it anymore. 

Now I'm examining my business plan again - or still.  There are several issues that I need to resolve in the coming weeks and I'm looking forward to taking a few days this holiday to contemplate my business goals and personal goals and how I will get them to mesh comfortably this year.  Mostly, I want to be a healthier, less-stressed mom and create more.  I really want to get back to writing and Complex Cloth.  Most of my dyeing in the past several years have been targeted for mainstream sales - which is great.  We all love having those glorious silks floating around on rinse days.  I also want to experiment with some more in-depth surface design techniques.  Hopefully I can make time and space for that in my life next year.

. . . .

Another Front Page Appearance and Recent Work

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So -

I am totally and completely overwhelmed right now. 

But things are good.  Or mostly good.  Just very, very busy and I am very, very disorganized and slothful.  So that = Overwhelmed.

Here is a gorgeous rainbow Adventure scarf.  The photo is not good.  That blue is really an intense cerulean and the purple there near the edge is capable of burning your retinas out in real life.  Think Lisa Frank rainbows and unicorns but with less glitter and more sheen and you'll be close.   This scarf and it's velvet twin are going to the Arts Council today along with a few teal blue scarves for your buy local, buy handmade gifting pleasure.  (If you are not local and absolutely must have one of these rainbow scarves NOW or you will DIE - send me an e-mail or contact me through Facebook or my ArtFire shop and if the scarf has not been sold in the gallery, I will retrieve it for you and ship it to you in time for Santa.)

(Again - don't let this blue fool you.  It is bright cerulean turquoise blue, not midnight blue and that dark plum - screaming royal purple.  Neither of our cameras will take a good shot of these scarves because there is too much color information and the poor little pixels get all confused about what hue they are supposed to be.)

here's another collection that landed my earrings on the FP of ArtFire and made my stats skyrocket again.  I wish I could hug EarthMotherMosaics!  Thank You!

Last but not least - here is the Genesis of what I think is going to eventually become a gorgeous piece of Art Cloth.  It is a bamboo/cotton blend that I scrunched almost to death, shoved tightly into a container and dumped some Teal Blue dye over.  I love that crackley kaleidescopic look of the dye patterns. 

ArtFire Front Page

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In checking through my stats this morning for my ArtFire shop, I noticed that visits skyrocketed on Sunday.  That made me happy but perplexed.  Perhaps this Front Page Collection had something to do with it?

I love ArtFire's Front page.  Etsy has developed a very predictable look for their FP and they use a very rigid set of criteria for choosing FP items.  It always looks clean and . . . predictable.  ArtFire surprises me every day.  Sometimes the collection is bright and wild, sometimes muted and soft, sometimes supplies are featured, or "crafty" crafts, sometimes wall art, photography or jewelry or a color theme is featured.  Sometimes one of my products turns up there.

Thank you, BeautifulAdditions, for including my dragonfly in such a great collection.  And thank you, ArtFire for putting in on the FP!

Artsy Science - Gorgeous Photos

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I popped over to Kingdom of the Blind today to see an intriguing photograph of a Rat's hippocampus that was the 2nd place winner in the Olympus Bioscapes International Digital Imaging Competition.  (Amazingly artful life science photography using digital devices.) 

Melody and her co-contributers live in Australia and work for the Queensland Brain Institute.  Kingdom of the Blind is part of the Culture at Work project.  Melody has done many embroideries exploring the structure of the brain in various stages of health and disease.  It's really a fascinating project within Australia's wonderful endeavor to tie the worlds of science and art closer together.

I was very grateful for the link to the Photo contest.  I remember being impressed with 2009's winners but that was a whole year ago and I forgot to go back to the site for more inspiration what with all of the packing and moving and construction and general chaos running rampant around here.

I see lots of textile possibilities in these winners and runners-up.  How about an embroidered Dragonfly eye?

Or maybe DaddyLonglegs eyes?  (Both eye photos by Dr. Igor Siwanowicz from the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology, Munich, Germany.)

Molly thought some screen printed pattern designs would be awesome - Silk Diatom Dress, anyone?  Yes, please!  (Photo by Dr. Michael Shribak over at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.  Dr. Shribak obtained this image of Diatom arachnoidiscus using incredibly cool techniques he and his team invented and are exploring with the video enhanced polychromatic polarized light microscope.  Click on his name above to find out a little more.)
Please visit the website to see all the winners and honorable mentions.  This work is simply incredible.

Thanks to Drs.  Siwanowicz and Shribak for their permission to post their photographs here. 

A Gift for Me

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Today I broke down and ordered a couple of samples of mineral makeup foundation.   I'm trying to wean myself and our family off from commercial product that contain xeno-estrogens and endocrine disruptors.  Molly Bryn has many, many strange difficulties that seem to be related to her hormonal state, which has gotten worse lately.  We definitely need to cut out commercial meats - easier said than done when we don't have our cow or chickens or piggy yet.  Beans, anyone? 

My own levels have been much more manageable for the past couple of years but a recent discussion with Bing from Natural Way in Massena alerted me to the fact that our personal products may pose as great a risk as the food we eat - more in some cases as cosmetics are not regulated in the same way as food. 

Skin Deep manages a website which includes a tool that will allow you to see the risks associated with the cosmetic an personal care products you use.  I use the palest shade of foundation I can find that does not dry my skin.  Sadly - it has a rating of 7 in terms of toxicity because it is so pale.  It looks like something I should avoid.  As do our soap, our shampoo, our conditioner and my favorite lipstick.

So today, I ordered a couple of sample colors of foundation from Pink Quartz minerals.  I'll let you know how it works for me.  One thing that is really nice about these mineral makeups is the sheer number of color choices.  Look at all those foundation tones!   Have you looked at the eye shadow possibilities?  Pink Quartz has tons!  At the drugstore, we are held hostage to the whims of the Runway when it comes to color. 

Molly and I would like one of each, please!

You can read about our color plans for the Beorningstead here!

More Holiday Handmade Wishlist items

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O.K.  so this is a stretch for our budget.  More than a stretch.  I've owned cars that cost less than this - but it is worth every penny.  I would LOVE to someday own something beautiful from Dryad Studio and this would look so wonderful in my new house.

More Handmade Rings

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Another shop that Molly and I have been looking at for alternative Class Rings is Billy Reb's Manufacturing.

Billy specializes in Medieval, Gothic, Skull and Biker Jewelry.  He has an ArtFire shop and a website.  It looks like his website contains items that he produces regularly and the ArtFire shop is for more one of a kind pieces. 

Some of you may find it strange that Molly and I have been considering asking a guy who makes biker jewelry to make a graduation ring for her.

You know, I do have a faux biker jacket.  I bought it because

- I was the last one in the family without a pleather jacket
- it was the right length and fit nicely
- it was on sale
- and it says "Somewhere inside this soft, middle aged LDS woman with a braid and progressive bi-focals is a rebellious soul who won't listen to any of your conformist crap."

(did you find the irony?)

Anyway - we liked the look of several of his Medieval rings including the one with the Orange CZ and the Green Crusader ring and we suspect that with his background, he might be a good bet to custom make a graduation ring for Molly Bryn.  He's got very strong design skills, decades of experience and his jewelry is bold and very well crafted.

And I sure wouldn't mind finding something like this in my stocking:

ArtFire Contest! Buy Handmae This Holiday Season!

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ArtFire is running a Promote Handmade contest this season.  Anyone can enter and you can read about the contest here.

The requirements for entry are to find a handmade item you like, blog or tweet about it and post your link on ArtFire's Handmade Gifts Facebook page.  I would love to win one of their cool prizes but more importantly, I want to help other people find wonderful hand crafted items to give as gifts or buy for themselves.  I love real-live-artists and I want to contribute to their success.  Today, I'm featuring some beautiful rings by LinneaSilver.  Here's why:

Molly Bryn came home a few weeks ago with a flier from Jostens and spent several days on the Josten's website designing a ring.  A $350.00 ring, which is about as inexpensive as they come unless you want to but their ugly-butt cheapo $75.00 ring that no teenager really wants to wear.  It was perfectly clear that no one in this household had that sort of cash for a ring this year so she was content to wait and start saving her pennies for next year but then . . . I spent a night laying awake feeling sick about ever spending that sort of $$ at Jostens.

You've heard my School Photo rant?

Same thing with class rings.  Let me tell you a story.

Back in the day you waited until mid year Junior year to get your class ring and they arrived just before the end of the school year - you know - just to be reasonably sure that parents who shelled out big bucks for a class ring would have a graduation to attend in the same year listed on the ring.  So in 1987 I happily browsed through catalogs of designs and chose a ring and my dad handed over an astoundingly large chunk of cash and I skipped down to the Jostens booth in a dark corner of the lower floor of the school to order my ring and get my finger sized. 

My fingers are really small.    Really really small.  My wedding band is a size THREE & 1/2

The Jostens salesman would not accept the fact that I have very long, skinny fingers.  He insisted that my fingers were only so skinny because it was a cold day and they must be shriveled up or something in the cold.  He refused to sell me a ring the right size.   So the day that everyones' rings arrived, I happily took out my ring and wore it with my fist clenched tightly so it wouldn't rattle off my hand.  I've taken the ring in twice to be re-sized and they've never gotten it right. 

Knowing what I know now about the commercial jewelry industry, they probably can't make a ring the right size for me and can't re-size the one I have without losing the stones because they made it so stinking big to begin with.   (It has fit for only the last year or so with the extra 40 pounds I'm carrying but I'm hoping that won't last for very long - when the weight comes off, the ring will again be too large.)

I also know that their retail mark up is despicably large.  The ring MB was looking at was actually pretty small, made out of some cheap metal alloy with faux stones in it.  The rings are mass manufactured - yes, there are custom additions - name, school name, date and maybe some special club names or something but all of that stuff is pretty easily switched out in their process.  I get the trade catalogs.  I know that the materials costs for these rings are under $30.00.  The other $300+  are going straight into ad campaigns, traveling salesmen's expense accounts and some CEO's pocket.  You can bet your booties that no real-live-artists are seeing fair value for their labor in their plants.  (To be fair - they do seem to have a clean environmental record and their manufacturing facilities are here in the states but I have heard lots of complaints about their quality and customer service.)

So, I'm having a hard time justifying spending that kind of money on something commercially made.  Especially with a company that provided me with such poor customer service.  However, I love the idea of getting Molly a very special ring made out of real jewels and precious metals, to commemorate her school accomplishments and graduation.   Molly and I are now looking at ArtFire jewelers to see what other options are out there and we will probably contact a few of them eventually to see if they are interested in making a special real-live-artist made class ring.

LinneaSilver has some really beautiful things in her regular line.  She might be a good bet for a custom piece sometime in the next couple of years.  Molly Likes the celtic design and the southwestern looking one.  I like the medieval textured band with the carnelian set in.  All of them look very well crafted.  At the prices these are listed at, these rings would make great Christmas gifts!  The best part - if you buy one, you know that your money is going straight into a real-live-artist's checking account to help pay bills or feed her kids or buy more silver (which is skyrocketing, this month, BTW) or take a much needed vacation.  That's SO much more fun than throwing your cash into the maw of some giant corporation this holiday season.
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