Monday, December 19, 2005

New Bracelet

Here's another entry in my continuing quest to prove that I *DO* actually make stuff as well as buy new beads (ahem...shut UP, Sparkle). I finished all the tube beads for this project over the summer and then I got caught up in the search for the perfect clasp. Who knew that an affordable, three-strand blox clasp inlaid with turquoise would be so difficult to find? Not me, apparently, or I'd've designed things differently. In fact, I almost went with a plain silver clasp, but this bracelet just seemed to demand "more" than that so the search went on. Then life sorta smacked me upside the head for a while there and I had to put all the creative stuff on hold. But, I finally found the right clasp and had time to put everything together and so here it is:

I'll have it up on the website later today or this week for sale. I've got to do some cleaning up over there now that the holiday sale is over for the year so please be patient. Oh, and thanks to everyone who ordered from Silver Parrot Designs during the sale - y'all made my year!

But, of course, buying is fun, too ;-) so here are a few more of my early "presents" to myself:

These beautiful flowers and leaves are by Melissa McQuilkin of Whitney Street Studio. I have to say, they are even more impressive in person - beautiful and delicate. I can't wait to put them with some pretty amethyst, prehnite and pearls that I have in stock.

Take care!


Friday, December 16, 2005

Work in progress

So, just to prove that I actually DO make stuff vs. just buying new beads (shut up, Sparkle), here are a couple of pictures of projects that are partially completed.

When this is finished, it's going to be a beaded barrette with fringe. This picture shows the backing material that I stitch the beads to. I started with a center cabochon of white quartz. It's surrounded by several rows of size 15 Japanese seed beads in peyote stitch. Then, there's a row of backstitched size 11 Japanese seed beads in white luster pearl color and another backstitched row of silver-lined crystal size 15 seed beads. Then you can see where I've "attempted" to free-hand sketch (NOT my strong suit) a swirling design and I've also attached a few crystals and onyx disks and surrounded them with peyote stitch, too. Eventually, the entire background will be filled in with size 15 black seed beads with a few silver-lined crystal beads scattered here and there. The basic idea was to have it look like a star-filled night sky with a "moon" in the center and cosmic winds blowing stardust around. I'll post a picture again when it's complete and you all will have to let me know if I captured that feeling or not LOL!

Here's the other project I'm working on:

The center stone is yellow quartz and the two other stones are dyed red agate. I think I may have called them carnelian in an earlier post, but that was incorrect. This piece is going to be a bracelet. I've started with peyote stitch in metallic gold and bronze tones and you can again see some of my crap sketches as I tried to put in a "flame" design around the stones. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to follow through with that or just have a solid background. We'll see. I'm letting it "sit" a while so I can come back and make a decision about it. Of course I ended up with 3 "flame" sections that look pretty consistent and one section that looks totally different than the other three. Like I said...drawing ain't my thing. And, on this surface, you can't really erase your marks so it's hard to have "do overs." Color scheme on this will be either fiery tones of yellow, orange and red or, if I decide to do away with that design idea, I'll use metallic and earth tones.

I'm also still working on the latest peyote tube bracelet. The basic design is all laid out on my beading board (but no way to put it in the scanner yet, unfortunately) and now all I have to do is tinker with it a bit to get the exact bead placement that I want. I'm pretty pleased with it, though, and I think it's going to be spectacular when finished...especially with the gorgeous silver and turquoise clasp that I got to finish it off with.

Now I just need the TIME to do it!

Happy weekend everyone!


Friday Book Review and Last Day of Holiday Sale!

First things first – today is the LAST DAY of the Silver Parrot Designs 2005 Holiday Sale! so head on over to the website and check out the deals if you haven’t already.

Now, here are the book reviews. This week, I continued working my way through the rest of Sharon Shinn’s “Samaria” series. Both ”Angelica” and ”Angel-Seeker” are excellent and breathe new life into this series. I was slightly disappointed in the previous two installments as compared to book one, but these last two novels are as good as “Archangel” is.

In fact, “Angel Seeker” is the best of the entire series thus far. It picks up where “Archangel” left off and follows some of the secondary characters from that book: Obadiah, Nathan and Magdalena, as they build the new angel hold at Cedar Hills and try to improve relations with the troublesome Jansai. The addition of the imprisoned Jansai girl, Rebekah, and her dangerous love affair with Obadiah is fascinating and definitely adds spice to this novel.

“Angelica” is good as well. I enjoyed seeing how Susannah, an Edori woman, would resolve the love triangle between herself, Gaaron the Archangel, and her Edori lover. It’s also the first time that the author introduces the idea of colonists from other ships and other worlds and their impact on Samarrian society.

And then there’s the third book I read this week: Fiona Patton’s ”The Silver Lake” I’ve been eagerly awaiting this novel because not only does it have some kick-ass artwork on the cover, but I’ve been a big fan of Patton’s since reading her earlier works, especially her “Branion” series which begins with ”The Stone Prince.” I’m particularly fond of the second book in the series, ”The Painter Knight.”

So, I was all set for an equally awesome read AND the beginning of a new series, “The Warriors of Estavia,” with this latest book. Unfortunately, it does NOT live up to the promise of Patton’s earlier works. Not only is the action slow, but the characters are patently uninteresting and unsympathetic. Patton continues her trademark use of homosexuality and bi-gendered or gender neutral beings as well as her use of gods who are constantly and intimately involved in the moment-to-moment lives of their subjects. However, the gods of “The Silver Lake” are even more involved and more in control of their worshippers than the religious forces in the “Branion” series were. Frankly, I wouldn’t have had a problem with most of that if the action and characterization were up to par, but they’re just not. I think one problem that authors run into when they make the gods of their worlds into fairly significant characters and give them huge amounts of control over the mortals in the story is that the mortals begin to seem like mere puppets with no wills of their own. This stifles character development. Another problem with this novel is the incredibly confusing variety of place names and terminology. I never did figure out all the villages and temples (despite the map in the forefront of the book) or the difference between the terms “delin” and “delinkos.” It seems like one term means children and the other might mean “apprentice” or “foster child,” but it was difficult to be sure which was which. So, admire the cover art in the bookstore, but then put this one back and go pick up the “Branion” books…which are all out in paperback already.

That’s it for this week. I’m not sure if there will be another review until after the holidays. It will depend on how organized I am getting ready for Christmas and whether or not decides to ever ship my latest book order. Note to self: do NOT choose the “free, super-saver shipping” option next time. 5-9 days my a$$!

Take care all!


Eye Candy

Here are a few more of the yummy things I've picked up lately (in anticipation of MAYBE having some free time to bead over the holidays!)

This set was just too darn cute to pass up. I love the color combination and the big flowers on the lentil-shaped beads. I thought it would be nice to have a holiday set that is something other than the traditional reds and greens.

Here are some yummy boro glass spacers. I just love the colors in this set and can't wait to design something with them. I have to say, until this past year, I've never been a big fan of boro glass. It seemed like all the beads I saw were muddy and kind of "blech" but I've finally found some artists who really know what they're doing in the color department and I'm really pleased to say that I'm now a "boro convert."


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My, what big teeth you have!

So, I was checking out the website of one of my favorite authors the other day and came across some incredible pictures. In addition to being a top sci-fi writer, Alan Dean Foster, travels to some of the most unlikely places and takes these incredible pictures. I was particularly struck by the shots of him diving with great white sharks off of South Africa so I thought I'd share the link: ALAN DEAN FOSTER

Because of the way his site is set up, this link may only take you to the main page. If that happens, go over to the column on the left hand side and click on "Bio/Photos" and then scroll about 2/3 of the way down the photos column for the shots of the Great White sharks (although a lot of the other photos are interesting, too).



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

But wait, there's more!

But then, you already knew that, right? Okay, so I'm a bead slut. Or else I somehow got magpie genes somewhere becaue I can't pass up the pretty, sparkly stuff.

I bought some amazing borosilicate glass beads from this artist at the last show and just had to get more, more, more. Unlike more traditional lampwork that is made from soft Moretti or Effetre glass, borosilicate glass is much harder and requires different equipment and skills to work with. These unusual twisted rectangles and matching spacers shimmer in shades of copper, red, amber and touches of violet and lavender. The scan just does not do these justice at all. They are even more spectacular in the sunlight.

This set has all my favorite colors - luscious shades of blue, green, aqua and turquoise with touches of lavender, bronze and gold. The spacers are a unique teardrop shape which should make them fun to design with.

And last, but certainly not least, I bought another of this artist's sets of heart beads. I got a set at the last show and have been kicking myself ever since for not getting more. This set features moss green and blue borosilicate glass with a clear "window" in the center of each heart that reveals some sparkly lavender foil work. As usual, the scanner has muddied the colors a bit, but in real life, they are semi-transparent - like looking through a forest stream.

I can't wait to see what I come up with to use all of this great new stuff! It should be a lot of fun!



More is better

I may have to put that down as a contender for my epitaph. I don't know, though, I'm pretty fond of my original choice: "If you all would've just done it my way, everything would've been okay." And before you ask, no, I am NOT a control freak ;-)

Okay, enough with the scary peek inside my head. Back to the beads! My bead embroidered earrings with the dichroic glass cabochon centers are some of my favorite projects, but I've done several pairs lately and started to wonder about "branching out" into other genres. I'm currently working on a barrette with a large white agate stone in the center and black, white and silver bead embroidery all around it and I've also started a bracelet with a yellow agate and two carnelian cabochons with bead embroidery in shades of gold and bronze. I'm loving the work-in-progress so much that I decided I needed more bracelet and barrette-sized focal cabs so I picked up some from a glass vendor at the show. At 12 for $10.00 - these were a real DEAL!

And, I know, they don't look like all that much right now, but just wait until I'm through with them!


Part Deux

I picked up these unusal ammonite fossil pendants at a show last year, but haven't decided what to do with them yet. I don't usually do a lot of work in earth tones as I'm more a jewel tone/ocean colors kinda girl, so I took them to the show this weekend with the express purpose of finding some coordinating beads. I discovered this lovely set of bronzite coins at the 70% off sale. Unfortunately, the scan does not do them justice. Each coin has veins of deep golden "flash" very similar to a high quality tiger eye. And again, I was able to get a full 20" strand.

The next picture has a pretty ocean jasper pendant that I got at the same time as I bought the ammonites above. It's got pretty swirls of peach, gray and dark green against a creamy white background. I had hoped to pick up some peach moonstone or something similar to match it at the show, but didn't have any luck in that department. I did find this 20" strand of freshwater pearls at the 70% off sale, but they are for another project. I just thought they went well in the photo with the pendant, but I think I want something with more color in the final design.

Okay, more pictures in the next entry.


It's mine, all mine!

I attended the last local bead and gem show of 2005 this past weekend. It was a bit disappointing because some of the usual vendors did not attend - probably due to the time of year and the fact that there's a bigger show in San Diego this coming weekend. Some day, I'm going to save up my pennies and be able to hit the bead orgy that is Tucson in January of each year, but until then, I'll have to be satisfied with the meager pickings at the local shows (although I'm hoping to get to the L.A. gift show for the first time in January, 2006, so we'll see how that compares).

However, if not all of my regular favorites were there, some of them did show and they were having incredible sales. Lan's Beads had 70% off their entire stock - woo hoo! I probably should have bought more there, but I had some specific needs for planned projects so I just stuck to that and you'll see the strands in the following pictures.

I also decided to post some recent ebay goodies that have been arriving in my mailbox - early Christmas presents to me! This first picture shows two sets of absolutely stunning lampwork glass beads by ebay artist Kaye Husko of Oregon. Her work is quite pricey (and deservedly so), but after haunting her listings for nearly a year, I managed to pick up a couple of somewhat affordable sets. I don't know if I'll be able to part with these, though, because they are just so beautiful. They may have to find their way into jewelry pieces for my private collection. Hey, a girl has to keep SOME bling for herself ;-)

Also in the picture is a lovely strand of turquoise rondelles that I got at the 70% off sale. Only part of the strand shows - it's a full 20" strand.

Well, I had planned to post more pics in this entry, but is being lame so....stay tuned for part deux.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas Sale and Friday Book Review!

Don’t forget – the Silver Parrot Designs Christmas Sale is still going on! From now through Dec. 16th, all orders of $20.00 or more are 15% off!

And now, on to this week’s book review. I managed to make it through two books this week. I read the third installment in Sharon Shinn’s “Angels of Samaria” series, ”The Alleluia Files” Shinn fast-forwards the audience another 150 years into the future of Samaria where whispers of the knowledge discovered by the angel Alleluia in the previous book, “Jovah’s Angel” are causing religious persecution of a certain group. The archangel, Bael, is a dangerous fanatic who is using the powers of his office to control the direction of Samarrian society. I still enjoy Shinn’s ability to logically map out the way this society changes over time, but I found the main characters in this book to be the least interesting of all the novels so far. And, because the action splits back and forth between the points of view of two different characters (a technique I’ve never been that fond of as one character is invariably far more interesting than the other), the character development can feel a bit disjointed. Still, it’s a good overall addition to the series and I’m still enjoying the whole thing enough that I’ve moved on to the fourth book. But more about that next week.

The other book I read is the fourth installment in Rachel Caine’s “Weather Warden” series. ”Windfall” continues the misadventures of powerful, but supremely unlucky, weather warden, Joanne Baldwin. Because of the setting of this novel and its descriptions of major storms, it’s quite eerie when you think about the recent, record-setting hurricane season. Now, usually, my normal complaint about some books is that they don’t have enough action. I never have that problem with Caine’s books. In fact, if there’d occasionally be a few breathers between crises, it’d be nice. However, the reader will definitely never be bored. The reader will definitely never want to be Joanne Baldwin either. This gal makes jumping from the frying pan into the fire actually look like a reasonable course of action when compared to the ways in which her life goes wrong. And thanks to her soul-stealing Ifrit boyfriend, David, she’s low on the magic powers just when she needs them most.

I did think that the real intent of one of the characters in this novel was rather pathetically obvious which made me fear for the IQ’s of Joanne and her sister, Sarah.

**WARNING** plot spoiler!!

Ladies, if a rich, cultured, English gentleman tries to pick you up in the McDonald’s line at a local mall food court, trust me, it’s WAAAYYYYY too good to be true. Put down the QP w/ cheese and back slowly away.

Still, Caine is valiantly trying to follow in the footsteps of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake…back when she was actually a kick-ass heroine instead of a nymphomaniacally crippled outlet for her creator’s TMI (wayyyyy, wayyyy TMI) sexual fantasies. And for that, I thank her. Because, I do miss Anita. I really, really do.

Okay, that’s it for this week. I am working on some new jewelry, but it’s a lot of bead embroidery which is quite time-consuming so I won’t have anything to post for a while. Especially when you consider that Ryan had stomach flu this week (oh joy) and that pretty much kills any and all creative urges I might’ve had. I did get some truly gorgeous new clasps in sterling silver and turquoise in the mail this week so I can finally finish off the latest peyote tube bead project as soon as I get some free time LOL! I’m pretty excited about it and I think it’s going to be utterly fabulous when finished. And, of course, I’m off to a bead and gem show this weekend so I should have some yummy bead finds to post next week.

A la prochaine…


Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday Book Review

The first book for this week’s review is "Melusine" by Sarah Monette. I’m having a hard time deciding what to say about this one because it has some obvious, major flaws, but I enjoyed it anyway. This is mostly due to the vivid, funny and pretty vulgar first person narrative by the character Mildmay the Fox. In fact, his portion of the story is so much more interesting and better told that it completely overshadows the first person narrative of the other major character, Felix Harrowgate. This is unusual to me because from the outside description, I would have expected for Felix to be the more interesting character.

I also thought that this book was in desperate need of some type of prequel or at least a prologue chapter. The reader is left with the feeling of being plunked down into the middle of a story that’s already been going on for a while. I found the geography of the city of Melusine as well as the surrounding countryside to be confusing and I agree with one of the reviewers on the Amazon site who complained about the use of the word “septad.” It really was impossible to figure out whether it means days, weeks, years or what. Some of the more interesting secondary characters never reach their full development and a couple of characters simply disappear part way through the book and are never mentioned again. The reader never finds out what happened to them. Lastly, the book ends extremely abruptly and if I didn’t already know there was a sequel coming (“The Virtu” due out in June, 2006), I’d’ve hurled it at the wall in frustration.

And yet, there’s something compelling about the world that Monette has created. I’m dying to know more about the various wizards’ factions – what do they believe and why are they fighting. What about Felix’s past? How did he and Shannon first get together? Then there’s Mildmay. Despite his background as a thief and sometime hired killer, one can’t help liking him and sympathizing with his situation and his exasperation with all the losers and madmen around him.

I will warn you that this book contains a lot of foul language (particularly on Mildmay’s part). There’s also homosexuality and a rape scene. Felix’s description of his madness can be quite disturbing as well. However, I didn’t find any of these darker elements to be gratuitous – they are intrinsic to the characters and the plot. I suppose Mildmay could’ve dropped fewer f-bombs here and there and the reader still would’ve been well aware of what his background is, but even there, I didn’t find it out of character.

Overall, I recommend “Melusine.” The flaws are overshadowed by the fascinating characters and worldcrafting.

Next, I continued my foray into Sharon Shinn’s angel series with ”Jovah's Angel”. While I didn’t find the main characters quite as compelling as Rachel and Gabriel in the first book, “Archangel”, still, I find the world and the series to be fascinating. The angels Alleluia and Delilah are interesting and, in Delilah’s case, tragic figures, but the male characters of Caleb and Noah were underdeveloped in my opinion. I enjoyed the way Shinn fast-forwarded the action in that this second book takes place 150 years after “Archangel” so the reader can see the major changes that have taken place in Samarrian society with the advent of technology. I thought it stretched believability somewhat that Caleb would have such a varied understanding of technology from dam building to repairing music machines to unknown alien spacecraft. But, that was a minor blip in an otherwise enjoyable read. I’ve purchased the entire series and am already part way through the third book, but I’ll save that for next week’s review.

Happy weekend, everyone!


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Holiday 2005 Sale!!

Silver Parrot Designs is proud to announce the 2005 Holiday Sale!

From today through Dec. 16, 2005, all orders over $20.00 will receive a 15% discount. This includes the already marked down items in the "Bargain Basement."

Here's just one example of the new merchandise available on the site:

Santa decided to drop in a bit early for the Holiday Sale and he brought beautiful lampwork beads, Swarovski crystals and Bali silver with him!

Silver Parrot Designs will do its final shipments the weekend of Dec. 17, 2005, and will then be closed until January 1, 2006.

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping to all!