Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ribbons and Cords

Just to show that a jewelry designer does not live by beads alone, I thought I'd post some pictures of some gorgeous new stringing material that I've gotten in. These are some hand-dyed silk ribbons:

The reason there's a question mark is that the artist selects the colors for you so it's a "surprise." I received a package of mostly earth tones which I think will be great with the colors that are "in" this spring.

The same artist also hand-dyes silk cording and I got some solid colors (teal and lavender) as well as the mixes shown in the two pictures below:

Yummmy! I can't wait to use these in some designs. I think they'll be great with my embroidered fabric pendants. In fact, Jenie, I think this means I can re-create that aqua lace pendant you liked so much. You'll be the most stylish girl in Paris (and that's saying a lot!)


More Fun with Songs!

Okay, continuing with the “song” theme, I’ve got a fun little trip down memory lane for you. Check out Billboard’s Flashback List and find out what song was #1 on the important dates of your life (day you were born, married, etc.)

Here’s my list:

I was born on June 18, 1965 and the #1 song that day was "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" by The Four Tops. Must be the reason I’m so sweet! Okay, yeah, I know…gag!

I graduated from high school in June, 1983 and the #1 song was "Flashdance ... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara. Figures.

It’s weird how the majority of important dates in my life occurred in June – like my wedding in 1994 when the #1 song was "I Swear" by All-4-One. It makes complete sense that I have no idea what this song is.

The exception to the “June” rule is the day Ryan was born in January, 2003 when the #1 song was "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. Hmmm…not crazy about this one as I personally think Eminem is both awful and totally overrated. I may have to pick a different song for that day! Actually, I always associate his birth with “All That Jazz” because I was sitting in a theater watching the movie “Chicago” when I went into labor.

Okay, that’s it. Have fun with this and feel free to post your own songs in the comments!


Monday, February 27, 2006

Most Embarrassing Songs

A friend of mine, KD, did this on her blog and I thought it was so much fun that I’ve decided to totally copycat her and she’s graciously given her permission. These songs are (to quote KD): "...songs you listened to when you were in high school, that you cried to during breakups, that you wished someone would sing to you, that you dubbed from your existing cassettes or taped off the radio or by holding the cassette recorder up to the tv speaker (hee!) while MTV was on, songs you liked so much you taped them twice, because 'Only Pussies Use the Rewind Button to Listen to the Song Again.'" And shut up because you know you TOTALLY did at least one or all of those!

So, here they are - my "most embarrassing mix tape" songs:

25. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” – Paul Simon. Hey, the rhyming lyrics make it easy to remember. “Just slip out the back, jack. Make a new plan, Stan.” Oh whatever – shut up!

24. “Pleasant Valley Sunday” – The Monkees. Because, hey, they were a band made up for TV (which is what my mother thinks about The Doors, too, but that’s neither here nor there).

23. “Forever in Blue Jeans” – Neil Diamond. And thus begins what I like to refer to as “The Neil Diamond Years.” My dad actually went to the Hot August Night concert and we had the subsequent album and I played it until it wore out and had to be replaced. Ditto for the Neil Diamond “Gold” album. Shut up, Sparkle. At least it’s not Barry Freakin’ Manilow!

22. “Song Sung Blue” – Neil Diamond. I told you there were “years” involved. Besides, this song saved my butt in 7th grade honors English class during our poetry section when I had to not only write my own song lyrics but stand up and perform them in front of the class. Did you know that the word Bu – ble – gum goes perfectly to “Song Sung Blue?” And my mother wonders why I was tormented in junior high…

21. “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” – Neil Diamond. Shut up – it’s a great song to belt out at the top of your lungs and dance around the living room to. Seriously.

20. “Creeque Alley” – The Mamas and The Papas. I don’t know – it has the word “mugwumps” in it.

19. “Be True to Your School” – The Beach Boys. Ah yes – 7th grade cheerleading tryouts…another high point in adolescent embarrassment. And yet, I still love the song because it’s all school spirit and stuff.

18. “Hey, Deanie” – Shaun Cassidy. Shut up – he was CUTE!

17. “Da Do Ron Ron” – Shaun Cassidy. Listen, I SAID he was cute and when you’re twelve, that’s what really counts in life.

16. “It’s So Easy” – Linda Ronstadt. Because it’s Linda Freakin’ Ronstadt, that’s why.

15. “How Soon Is Now” – The Smiths. Hey, it’s not my fault. It USED to be cool before it became a TV show theme song (and a stupid TV show at that although the first season was kinda fun, but then they made it all about Alyssa Milano and no one needs THAT.)

14. “Back On My Feet Again” – The Babys. Shut up, you don’t even know who they are.

13. “Midnight Rendezvous” – The Babys. Okay, maybe you know who John Waite is, but still…shut the hell up.

12. “Come Sail Away” – Styx. Because it’s about boats, no wait, angels, no wait, aliens…wait, what were they smoking when they wrote this? And yet, it’s perfect for belting out in the car at the top of your lungs and quit looking at me that way!

11. “Separate Ways” – Journey. Hey, if you were a girl in high school in the 80’s you KNOW you played this album into the ground so SHUT UP!

10. “Don’t Let Him Go” – REO Speedwagon. Hey – it fits in this section with the whole 80’s super-group thing.

9. “Only Time Will Tell” – Asia. I don’t know – I just like it. Don’t make me hurt you.

8. “Walkin’ In L.A.” – Missing Persons. Because she does that cool hiccup/squeak thing with her voice. Hey, man, it was the 80’s.

7. “A Million Miles Away” – The Plimsouls. Because actually, I’m embarrassed that I liked ANY music from the 80’s.

6. “88 Lines About 44 Women” – Nails. Shut up – the 80’s were an unnaturally long decade.

5. “Grandma’s Feather Bed” – John Denver. And then there was my John Denver period, but I put all the blame on my parents who had an 8-track of his greatest hits and played it ad nauseam whenever we went on a road trip. It was brainwashing, I tell ya!

4. “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy” – John Denver. Shut up – it was on that same darned 8-track. Plus, he was on “The Muppets” TV show and who doesn’t love that?

3. “Mr. Blue Skies” – Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). I don’t care what you say, I like ELO. I like them, do you hear me? And they do not, either, use too much synthesizer so shut up!

2. “Thunder Island” – Jay Ferguson. Hey, this song is like, about sex and stuff, you know. Besides, I can still hear my mother telling me how “inappropriate” it is to listen to it so I HAVE to like it. It’s in the rules.

1. “Calypso” – John Denver. I’m having this song played at my funeral. Seriously. Because I loved Jacques Cousteau, too.

P.S. Of course, I wouldn't put these all on the SAME mix tape - that would just be weird. Plus, there are definitely some other songs that would make this list except A. KD already used them and B. I could’ve gone on googling old songs until I died of old age. The madness had to stop somewhere.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Book Review, etc.

Well, didn’t get much done in the reading department this week. I started two new romance books, but frankly, both of them were so godawful that I didn’t make it more than a quarter of the way through before I gave up in disgust. They’re so bad that I’m not even going to write about them.

I just need to stay away from romances.


I’m part way through another book that actually looks promising, but I haven’t made it far enough to review it so I’ll have to save it for next week.

So, I’m going to do another blast from the past: Jennifer Roberson’s “Cheysuli Chronicles.” While the individual books have been out of print for a long time, they’ve been re-issued in three omnibus editions, the first of which is ”Shapechanger's Song.” It contains the first three of the original novels. Now, a lot has been written about shapechangers in general so the background of these stories may seem a bit trite in today’s world, but when the books were first issued back in the mid-1980’s (ye gods, I’m old!), they were quite fresh and original and fit nicely into the “telepathically bonded animals” niche along with Lackey’s Valdemar books and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. I will say that Roberson was a newbie author when she started this series and, frankly, there are some newbie mistakes, but both the stories and her writing skills progress dramatically as the series moves on. It’s always been one of my favorite series and I re-read it every so often so I can enjoy it again.

Not only are there the three omnibus editions containing all eight or nine of the original novels, but according to Ms. Roberson’s website, she’s contracted to write three new novels in the same universe soon.

I should also note that her ”Tiger and Del” novels have been re-printed in omnibus editions and are enjoyable as well.

Okay, that’s it for the books for this week. Hopefully, I’ll have more to report in next week’s review.

Oh, and I’m also on a voyage of self-discovery so if you want to help me out, go check out: Nohari and Johari. I’ll add them to the links section as well.

Have a great weekend, all!


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Earth Goddess Earrings

I did a lot of jewelry perusing on my shopping expedition this past weekend and mentally noted the current trends, colors, etc. The result is that I went home and created these fun, earthy earrings using a lot of gold (THE metal for the season) and adding touches of deep green and brown:

I used green aventurine chips and faceted agate rondelles and added in some gold stamped metal disks. I should have them up on the website later today at Silver Parrot Designs



P.S. The FREE SHIPPING deal on all orders over $20.00 is still in effect!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The do's and don'ts of shopping...

…according to KJ who spent five blissful hours at the ultimate shopping mecca known as South Coast Plaza this weekend. I checked out makeup at Sephora and even had a makeover done to try some new eye shadow colors. I shopped for shoes and new spring clothes and managed to hit the bookstore, too.

And, along the way, I learned a few things so I thought I’d share them here.

1. DON’T drive 80 mph in the parking lot just because it’s early and you think you have the place to yourself. In reality, you weren’t alone and we all saw you and we all muttered “idiot” to ourselves as you blew past.

2. DON’T open the re-stock drawers at Sephora looking for Stila eye shadow in Fog because it’s the perfect shade you’ve been searching for and there’s none out on the shelf and the slacker teenage makeup geeks who work there are nowhere to be found so there’s no one to help you and you’ve been standing there for 25 minutes staring at the empty spot on the shelf where it’s supposed to be and forlornly hoping that some will magically appear. All you will get for your trouble is an annoyed teenage makeup geek MANAGER snottily asking what you think you are doing and why didn’t you just ask for help.

3. DO get yourself a makeup consultation/makeover at Sephora. It’s free, you can try out new looks and products to your heart’s content and they are not as pushy about whether or not you actually BUY any of the stuff as the people at the department store makeup counters are. Oh, and it will get the aforementioned snotty teenage makeup geek manager off your back.

4. DON’T laugh when the 40-something-year-old makeup artist who does your makeover tells you her name is Begonia. No, really.

5. DO have the makeup artist teach you what to do with your eyebrows. This has always been an area of mystery for me other than plucking a few stray hairs here and there – I’m always afraid to do more because I don’t want to end up with that over-plucked “surprised” look. Now, thanks to the consultation, some judicious tweezing and clipping, and Benefit’s Brow Zings in “Light”, I have totally fabulous eyebrows that I can maintain myself.

6. DON’T waste your money on the fancy schmancy eyebrow shaping kit with the stencils…which I at first thought was a fabulous idea until Begonia (no, really, that was her name) pointed out how difficult it is to keep the stencils in place and to place them exactly the same on each side in order to avoid having two completely different eyebrows. Use the Benefit kit I mentioned above instead. It’s easier and cheaper.

7. DO check out Cargo’s GlossBox (which for some reason is no longer on the Sephora website, but is available in the stores). You get 14 lip gloss wands for $14.00. The colors are sheer, fun and very wearable plus they smell and taste great.

8. DO check out Pop Beauty’s Eye Class - Brown Eyes eye shadow compacts designed to coordinate perfectly with your eyes. It takes the guesswork out of picking that “perfect color” and gives you 12 fun shades in a nice compact with a mirror. The shadows can be used together or alone and the darker shades make nicely coordinated liners when applied with a slightly dampened angle brush. And, according to Begonia, those of us with brown eyes, blonde hair and cool skin undertones (like me) can also wear the “Blue Eyes” shadow collection from Pop Beauty! Hmmm…my birthday is coming up!

8. DO get yourself into the right bra size and even buy a new bra (or two) prior to shopping for clothes. You’ll be shocked at the difference it makes in the look and fit of your clothes and you’ll probably even drop a shirt size – I did!

9. DO visit the Talbot’s Woman (if you are a plus-sized person) store in the Crystal Court section of South Coast Plaza. Not only do they have some really, really cute stuff, but they actually CUT THEIR CLOTHES TO FIT THE FEMALE FORM unlike some other stores I could mention (Old Navy, Gap) who only CLAIM to carry plus sizes, but actually don’t. And just to prove this, I’m going to out my own size here in public. At Talbot’s and Lane Bryant I wear a 14 on top and a 16 on the bottom (okay, 18 if we’re talkin’ tight jeans). Old Navy and Gap? I can’t fit into their size 20 pants! Now, I’m willing to allow ONE SIZE for difference in cut, etc. but THREE SIZES??? Say it with me: ”that ain’t right!”

8. DO try on a pair of Talbot’s white, rock star jeans with the crystal buttons even if you haven’t worn a pair of white pants since junior high. You’ll be surprised how hot you look in them – I was. And yep, I bought ‘em, too. And yep, I know the laws of the universe state that I will spill something on them every single time I wear them, but I don’t care. THAT’s how hot they looked on me.

9. DON’T visit Gap Woman in Crystal Court in the mistaken belief that it’s a plus-size store and go from high excitement to deep disappointment when you discover it’s not. It’s just that they’ve separated the female clothes from the male clothes. Which is stupid because EVERYONE knows that “Woman” in the title of a store name is super-secret-fashion-code for “fat chicks store.” I mean, right? Oh, but don’t worry, Gap clothes go up to size 20 (snort, choke) on-line. Gotta keep the fat chicks outta the store where they might accidentally bump some poor little size 0 and send her flying through the wall.

10. DON’T park your infant in a stroller in the middle of a crowded restaurant and then leave said infant/stroller combo TOTALLY ALONE while you go outside the restaurant and down the hall out of site in order to get a stronger cell phone signal. And no, I didn’t make this up. While I was having my delicious and oh-so-healthy chicken Caesar salad at the Back Bay Rowing & Running Club in the mall, I watched a woman do exactly that. I wonder if she’d’ve thought that call was so important if she’d come back to find her child gone. Maybe she and Brittney took the same infant care class? Some people should just not be allowed to reproduce.

11. DO hit the fancy-schmancy shoe salon at Nordstrom’s and try on the Manolo’s and the Choo’s even if you could save for a year and never be able to afford a pair. After trying them all on, sniff haughtily and proclaim that they’re “just not expensive enough” before you leave. And btw, now that I know what these shoes REALLY cost…can I just say that no way in HELL could Carrie Bradshaw EVER have afforded a single pair (even on 50% markdown), much less the hundreds her character was supposed to have.

12. DON’T sprawl on your stomach in a fetal position on the floor in the aisle at Border’s and block the exact shelf I need to get to and then refuse to move when I politely say “excuse me I need to get to that shelf.” And yes, this really happened. The guy turned around and looked at me and said “no.” Although it was tempting to kick him right square in the ass he was so conveniently shoving up in the air, I got the manager instead. The manager actually had to threaten to have security remove the guy from the store before he would move and even then he spewed some torrent of what I am sure were insults in whatever his native language was. I swear some people were raised in barns or rather, I would swear that except I’m sure it’d be an insult to barn animals everywhere.

13. DO check out the jewelry counters at the department stores and see what's in for spring: lots of gold, brown and green for colors; wood and shell are still strong elements as are chains all mixed together in various sizes and shapes. I got some GREAT trend input for Silver Parrot Designs and I'm already processing what I saw through my busy little brain to come up with some great new pieces for the website. Stay tuned!

14. DO remember to get in touch with your inner girl and take her on a major shopping expedition occasionally. Try new cuts, new colors, new products and new styles just for the heck of it – you never know, you might find something FABULOUS!

KJ (channeling her inner sorority girl)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Book Review and other schtuff.

Is it Friday again already? Must be time for the book review, then!

I’ve been enjoying Linnea Sinclair’s work so much that I decided to go check out her website and join her mailing list and as a result of that, I was introduced to another fabulous author, Elaine Corvidae. This week, I finished her novel, ”Winter's Orphans”, and absolutely loved it!

Corvidae has transplanted a very underutilized time in our own history (the textile mills of the American industrial revolution) into a setting where Seelie and Unseelie beings called “faelings” are battling for control of the world. She also gives the reader an unusual heroine in the main character, Mina Cole. Instead of following in the overused path of most heroes who suddenly discover they have incredible powers and immediately swear to use said powers only for good, Mina is far more tempted to kick a little butt in recompense for the poor lot she’s had in life. It’s refreshing to enjoy these different elements for a change. I will warn you that this is not a sweetness and light book. Bad stuff happens and doesn’t necessarily get made “all better,” either. In fact, the opening scene of the book is quite grisly so be prepared. Still, I give it an enthusiastic recommendation and I look forward to picking up more of Ms. Corvidae’s work to check out.

From faelings in textile mills, I moved on to cyborgs and AIs (artificial intelligences) in Elizabeth Bear’s ”Hammered” While this is normally “harder” sci fi than what I usually go for, I’ve always been a sucker for cyberpunk. Also, I liked that this book, too, has an unusual and unlikely heroine in Genevieve “Jenny” Casey – 50 years old, a bona fide war hero and reaching end-of-life cyborg. Although I enjoyed the book, it does have a few problems. Most of them are mentioned on the Amazon site so I won’t go into great detail on them except to say that I agree with the reviewers who found the prose choppy, the multiple viewpoints and time shifts confusing and untranslated French phrases jarring. I speak French and still found them to be a pain so I can only imagine what it would be like for readers who don’t speak the language. I would say to Ms. Bear that Jenny is the interesting character in this book so stop interrupting her scenes to follow minor characters down rabbit holes. Still, I did like the book and will probably pick up the sequel, “Scardown,” which is already out in paperback. However, if you decide to get this book, wait until you have a discount coupon or can check it out from the library.

Lastly, I’m bringing back another “blast from the past” since I once again didn’t get much done in the way of new books. I would say that Anne Bishop’s ”Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood / Heir to the Shadows / Queen of the Darkness” probably rank right up there on my list of favorite books of the last ten years. Bishop provides a unique, well-crafted and creative world peopled with fascinating characters of terrible power and gives new meaning to the words “battle of the sexes.” She deftly handles romance, adventure, tragedy and triumph to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion.

The only teeny tiny nit I’ve ever had with these books is that I’m not sure why she had to give so many of her main characters names that have such negative associations: Saetan, Lucivar, Daemon, Hecate, etc. For those who don’t come from a Judeo-Christian background, this will likely prove to be no problem whatsoever, but as I am a Christian, it was disturbing. And yet, Saetan, Lucivar and Daemon are the good guys in the series so obviously, their rather unfortunate names have nothing to do with the names more closely associated with the Judeo-Christian hell. I still haven’t quite figured out what Ms. Bishop was trying to accomplish by doing this, but once I decided to ignore it and not let it detract from my enjoyment of the stories, it became no big deal. But, I mention it because I know not everyone will feel that way and I wouldn’t want anyone to waste money on books that will offend them. I should also mention that there is a fair amount of violence and sex (and sometimes violent sex) in these books. Tragedies occur and terrible powers are employed. The stories are rather dark overall and yet ultimately, they are about hope – the hope that things CAN change.

Bishop also has a well-written, stand-alone novel in the same “universe” that is missing some of the darker, more disturbing elements of the trilogy. ”The Invisible Ring” is a terrific book in its own right and I highly recommend it as a good place to start to get a feel for Bishop’s world and style before diving into the trilogy. Although Daemon makes a brief appearance in this novel, the story is really completely separate and can be enjoyed whether one has read the trilogy or not.

And now, completely unrelated to the book review, but just because I’m in a crappy mood today, here’s a list of 10 things I hate:

10. Poor bathroom etiquette. Last time I checked, we’re all adults here so WHY can’t people remember to flush and just generally clean up after themselves? Ladies, if you really want to be that gross…the men’s room is across the hall.

9. Mascara that CLAIMS to be waterproof and yet is making dark, raccoon eye circles on my cheeks mere hours after I’ve applied it (and that was BEFORE I started crying!)

8. The fact that my arms are disproportionately too short compared with the rest of my body. Seriously, I do NOT have time to get the sleeve length altered on every single damn shirt or sweater I buy. Let’s hear it for ¾ length sleeves!

7. Reality TV. I mean it. I’m even fed up with “Project Runway” for choosing Santino over Nick. I’m done. I want real actors with real scripts and storylines and no more of these “competition” shows where the producers totally manipulate the outcome so it’s completely bogus anyway. And yes, they do so. Really. Okay, fine, go vote for the latest American Idol dweeb and keep living in your fantasy-verse. Whatever.

6. The unsightly things that are happening to my face now that I’m 40. And no, I’m not providing details, but laser removal, here I come.

5. Having to get out of a nice, warm bed on a cold winter morning before the sun is even up.

4. My nose.

3. People who stand too close to me…even after I’ve politely moved away to give them the oh-so-obvious hint that they are invading my personal space. Back the eff up, jerk!

2. Stupid people.

1. Selfish people who think only of themselves and have no concept of or concern about how their actions affect others. Guess what, asshat? Karma, she’s a comin’ for ya and she’s a real bitch.

Whew! Okay, I feel better. Well, not really, but I can stop thinking about these 10 things for now and move on to the next 10.

Have a good weekend everyone and don’t forget…we’re on “Stormwatch 2006!” Sometimes I hate living in Southern California.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I have found it! THE perfect mascara. It's hypoallergenic, DOESN'T CLUMP, adds length and volume and curl and comes in both waterproof and non-waterproof formulas. I'm test-driving it today at work and my eyelashes have stayed curled for 5 hours straight! This, for me, is a total miracle. My eyelashes NEVER stay curled for more than about an hour - even when I heat up my lash curler with my blow dryer so that it acts like a mini-curling iron. Anyway, I just thought I'd rave about L'Oreal's Panoramic Curl Mascara.

After a long hiatus, I'm sort of re-discovering make-up right now and having a great time with it. I'd forgotten how much I used to love eye shadow and pencils and hell, I'm even wearing lip gloss today and that hasn't happened since COLLEGE!

Speaking of which - Lancome has a great deal w/ purchase going on right now. For $26.50 with any purchase, you get a very nice black leather traveling makeup case. Inside the case you get a set of makeup brushes, eye makeup remover, mascara, eye pencil, lip gloss, yellow correcting concealer, and a very nice compact with 3 eye shadows, a blush, a foundation and a mirror. This, my friends, is one fabulous deal considering that the eye pencil alone is worth $26.00!! This has got to be at least a hundred dollars worth of product if not more and that's not counting the brushes and case.

I've decided to add a few other essentials such as a lash comb and some extra eye shadows and keep the whole thing at work for those days when I don't have time to do the make-up at home.

Also, it's become apparent to me that I'm lucky Sephora was not around when I was in high school. I would've spent my entire life in that store! I want every single product they carry! well, okay, maybe not the fluorescent lime green creme eye shadow, but everything else! I particularly like the Stila eye shadows and their refillable compacts to put them in. Hard Candy and Pop have a lot of fun things to play with, too.
Okay, I bet stop before I break into singing "I enjoy being a girl" and get myself fired.


The A-B-C's of Lampwork Beads

I post a lot of pictures of lampwork beads here and I tend to use them frequently as focal pieces in my jewelry. In fact, I think having new and unusual lampwork beads is one of the things that makes my jewelry distinctive from that of other jewelry artists out there. Because of this, people are always asking me about lampwork. What is it? How is it made? Why is it so expensive?

It's hard to imagine a time when glass wasn't a part of everyday life, but for centuries, glassmaking techniques were a carefully guarded secret. Fathers passed the craft of glassmaking to their sons, but rarely to anyone else. Glass objects were reserved for royalty in some cultures. In others, ownership was regulated by price--if you could afford the luxury of glass, it was yours.

Glass is an artisan's dream. It can be poured into molds. It can be cut and polished into faux gemstones. It can be stretched and pulled into any shape imaginable. So, it's no wonder that creative people throughout the world choose to express their artistic talents with glass. Lampwork beads are just one form of the varied glassmaking craft.

Lampwork (or flamework as it is sometimes called) is the process of using a torch flame to melt glass rods to create shapes. The shapes don’t always have to be beads, but since that’s what I feature here, that’s what I’ll be talking about in this discussion.

In general, lampwork refers to beads made with soft glass (Moretti, Effetre, and Bullseye being some of the more popular brands). It’s more prevalent because it’s easier to work with. Most beginning lampworkers start learning with soft glass because all it requires is a simple “hot head” torch and MAPP gas from the hardware store.

Here’s an example of “soft glass” beads:

This particular set is by Krystal Kelly of Luna Beads and features white and pink glass.

The other type of glass used in beads is “hard glass.” It can also be referred to as borosilicate (boro), pyrex, Northstar, etc. It requires a specific type of torch and gas to produce a hot enough flame in order to work with this glass. Boro glass is often used in the making of shape or figure beads although soft glass can be used for this as well.

Here’s an example of “boro” glass:

To make a basic bead, lampworkers use a torch to melt the tips of glass rods. Then, they wind the molten glass around a mandrel (a narrow stainless steel rod.) The mandrel is coated with a substance called “bead release” so that the bead does not permanently stick to the rod. Later, when the bead is removed, the space occupied by the mandrel becomes the hole used to string the bead.

A lampwork artist understands the glass and the torch, knowing how much heat it takes for glass to flow, how much heat can be applied to a bead that's already shaped before it becomes molten again and loses shape, when to add decorative effects, and how different colors of glass interact with each other.

Lampworking is a skill that takes a great deal of practice. Glass cools from the outside in and the outer layers shrink as cooling takes place. Bringing a bead out of the flame and leaving it in the open air allows the outside of the bead to cool rapidly around its molten interior. A stress point develops between the cool, shrinking glass and the hot center. The stress can cause a bead to crack, either immediately or at a later time.

To prevent cracks, beads must be annealed then slowly cooled. The best way to do this is in a kiln, where temperatures can be closely regulated. The beadmaker anneals, or "soaks" the beads to make sure that all glass within them is the same temperature. The soaking temperature is high enough for glass to flow on some molecular level, but not so high that the bead ends up in a puddle on the kiln floor. After annealing, the artist begins to reduce the heat in the kiln, taking several hours to bring the beads to room temperature.

This process produces glass beads with less stress, so they're less likely to crack. Very small glass beads are sometimes slowly cooled between layers of insulation. It's not the same as annealing, but the process is usually successful because the small amount of glass in tiny beads cools at a more even rate.

Lampwork beads can feature many different decorative techniques. Beads can be as plain or as decorative as the artist likes. Dots of colors can be manipulated to form designs. They can be left as bumps on the bead’s surface or plunged into the center of the bead for a totally different look.

Fine lines are possible when craftspeople work with tiny rods of glass--kind of like painting with a glass paintbrush. This is referred to as "stringer" work and results in beautiful scroll-like designs.

Beads can be rolled in crushed glass known as “frit” as seen in this set by Krystal Kelly of Luna Beads:

She's taken a simple white base bead and rolled it in frit (glass dust) in shades of purple and aqua.

Multiple layers of glass can be added, switching colors to create the desired effects. Other materials such as silver or gold foil or precious metal fuming can also be added. This set of beads has foil buried beneath layers of transparent green glass:

This set also shows off some of the new shapes of "pressed" beads that are quite the rage among beadmakers right now. This particular shape is called a "pillow" but there are also lentils (flat, disk shapes), lozenges, bicones and more. These shapes are created by winding glass on a mandrel as usual and then placing the round bead into a bead press to create the desired shape.

Some artists are adding cubic zirconias inside their beads for a bit of added sparkle. Here are examples of that technique from artists Lish Diffendarfer

and Kim Miles

I particularly like the way that Kim has put the CZ's into a clear bead instead of where they are typically used which is as the center of flowers. Although, don't get me wrong, she makes the most fabulous flower beads on the market, in my opinion. It's just nice to see something different for a change.

When selecting lampwork beads or jewelry featuring lampwork for purchase, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Are the shapes of the beads pleasing? They're handcrafted, so expect some variations—that's part of their charm, but the overall look should be attractive and the sides should fit nicely against other beads used in the piece.
  2. Holes should be clean and free of bead release. The lampworker should have removed the gritty bead release that was used to coat the mandrel in order to make the bead easy to remove. If the lampworker didn’t do it, then the jewelry artist should have taken care of it before designing with those beads.
  3. The beads should be described as “kiln annealed”, have rounded or 'puckered' ends (soft - not sharp), and have no cracks or crazes in the body of the bead.
  4. And sometimes all of that is not enough - I recently learned I'd been taken in by an unscrupulous ebay seller called "Austin Hamilton" who advertises "his" lampwork beads as being kiln annealed when it turns out that they are not. Nor are they made by an artist. They are mass-produced in China and are junk - and yet appear to be of decent quality when viewed in person. So BE CAREFUL! If the price seems too good to be true on lampwork - it most likely is FAKE!

All of this leads me to answer the question that is most often asked about lampwork – WHY ARE THESE BEADS SO EXPENSIVE?! I have to admit, the first time I picked up a lampwork bead at a show and looked at the price, I nearly keeled over. Thirty-five dollars for ONE bead seemed totally outrageous. Normally, I can pay less than that for an entire strand of pearls or stones. Looking back, I realize that the bead had an incredibly detailed underwater scene on it complete with kelp, fish and shells. It was easily worth the price as marked.

Let’s take a look at what’s involved in creating a bead. First, there’s the equipment. The kiln alone can be close to a thousand dollars when purchased with a pyrometer or digital controller - at least one of which is required to get the kiln to the correct temperature. Imagine buying an oven with no dials or displays and trying to figure out how to preheat it to 350 degrees to bake cookies!

Then, of course, a torch is required. Although it’s possible to start out with an inexpensive ”hot head” type of torch, most serious bead makers move on to more advanced torches such as a Minor bench burner or some other type of more expensive but better quality torch. These torches require a combination of oxygen and propane gases. Tanks of those gases as well as the equipment to safely handle and secure them are also required. Add to that the smaller equipment: mandrels, bead release, glass rods, graphite paddles and shaping tools, safety glasses, fire blankets and other fireproofing equipment.

On top of that, there’s the time commitment. It can take hours and hours to just learn to make a simple round bead with a good shape and a clean hole. Then there’s the danger factor – torches and glass get HOT, people! And, as I learned to my dismay in my first lampworking class, hot glass can cool enough to APPEAR to be cold glass, but still be hot enough to give you a nasty, nasty burn. Now, add in all the minute details of stringer work, frit, or making a shaped bead (animals, vessels, etc.) and you’re talking a major time investment...and labor MUST be figured into the price of the finished piece.

I’ve found it helps if you think of these pieces not as beads in the traditional sense, but as small works of art. They’re really miniature paintings or sculptures in glass and each one is unique and individual. They should be priced accordingly.

Still, it’s possible to get decent deals on lampwork if one shops around wisely. I try to get beads of the highest quality I can afford for use in Silver Parrot Designs jewelry. I never purchase beads unless they are certified to be kiln annealed and I only do business with glass artists who have proven track records of providing good quality work.

While I try to keep the prices as reasonable as possible, occasionally, I’ll dig deep into my pockets for some work I find truly outstanding and that price will be reflected in the finished jewelry piece. And, frankly, there are a few artists who’ve priced themselves right out of my range. While I think they are absolutely entitled to charge what the market will bear and get every penny they can for their work, I simply can’t pay that amount for focal beads, then add on the additional materials, labor cost and profit to make a piece of jewelry out of them and expect my customers to be able to afford the end result.

Thus endeth today’s lesson. I’m hoping to get some jewelry-making time in this weekend to use some of the great beads I’ve featured today and in earlier posts. It’s supposed to be rainy and cold (finally some winter weather!) so it’ll be perfect for staying and playing IF I manage to get all the chores done first.

Dang it - who invented chores anyway? Probably a man, I'll bet ;-)


Monday, February 13, 2006

Single on Valentine’s? Hooray!

This is a great article for anyone (and I'm not saying who you are) who has suddenly found themselves single on Valentine's Day. Go forth and INDULGE!

Book Review Update

Well, sadly, "Rebel Ice" didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. The middle section is still pretty good, but the beginning and the ending are both awful. It's a shame because it's a great series, but I suppose authors can hit the occasional sour note. Get "Stardoc" and read all the books up to this point, then skip "Rebel Ice." All you need to know is that

***********************spoiler alert******************************

Cherijo loses her memory. That's it. Now you're ready for the next book.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Book Review

I’m continuing my love affair with Mary Janice Davidson’s “Undead” series. Although the plot of ”Undead and Unappreciated”
is not quite on par with the two earlier books, it’s still just so much pure, trashy fun that I couldn’t help but race through it in one day. Betsy is still her same lovable, irreverent self. Plus, the dialogue includes witty sayings such as “ass hat” which the part of me that never made it out of the 6th grade finds extremely amusing. I’m always on the lookout for a good epithet to hurl so don’t cut me off in traffic or you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of some of Betsy’s pithier comments.

Ass hat.

Sorry – couldn’t resist saying it one more time.

I’m going to go ahead and review S.L. Viehl’s latest “Stardoc” book, ”Rebel Ice”, even though I haven’t finished it. I’ve really enjoyed this series because it offers something a bit different than the typical space opera genre. Don’t get me wrong, Viehl provides plenty of spaceships, different and unusual planets, space battles and wildly varying alien species, but her main character, Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil, views it all from the eyes of a healer rather than as captain of a ship or space pirate, etc. The varying love stories and Cherijo’s unusual genetic history are additional elements that round out the series and make them enjoyable reads. I know a lot of people have quibbled about Duncan Reever, the main love interest in the series, but I think it’s due to his character not being fully revealed until the third or fourth book. Initially, he comes off as, well, a total ass hat (see how I cleverly worked that in?) He becomes more sympathetic the more the reader learns about him. Unfortunately, some of the elements that made the earlier books so enjoyable are missing in this latest installment. Also, the varying viewpoints and time jumps make things confusing to follow. Once Duncan lands on Akkabarr and is able to begin his search for the missing Dr. Grey Veil, things speed up and get more interesting so I expect a satisfactory conclusion. Still, this is not quite up to Viehl’s usual standards. It’s worth reading if one is a fan of the series in order to keep up with the ongoing storyline, but new readers would do better to start with the first book in the series, ”Stardoc”

Lastly, since I haven’t had a lot to review lately, I thought I’d bring back a “blast from the past” and talk about an older series that I really enjoyed. Julie Dean Smith’s “Caithan Crusade” series which begins with ”Call of Madness”. Sometime in the past, a certain section of Caithans lost control over their innate magical abilities. The resulting chaos and destruction was so horrible that magic is declared anathema and anyone who shows any signs of it is immediately ferreted out by the church and forced to “repent” which involves voluntarily committing suicide…or being executed if one is willing to go along with the “voluntary” part. The setting is similar to the days of “witch hunts” and the Inquisition. Enter the crown princess of Caithe who suddenly begins to show the early signs of magical development and is forced to flee her kingdom to save herself from execution. But, can she find anyone who will help her gain control over her developing abilities before she, too, is driven insane and unwittingly destroys those around her? These books are older and may no longer be available in stores. Er…who am I kidding…no WAY B&N is going to still carry these. But, Amazon seems to still have them and there are probably used copies floating around out there as well.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy and have a great weekend!


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Flame Bracelet Update, etc.

I’ve made a lot of progress on the flame bracelet. The beaded section is completely done and I’m ready to apply it to the bracelet blank and do the edging.

I had planned to work on that last night, but frankly, after I got the kidlet off to bed, I just wanted to watch some really bad TV and hit the hay. I think I have Disneyland hangover from Sunday.

It’s a good thing I designated this as a “test” project because I’m not happy with it at all. My only hope is that once it’s attached to the bracelet and I’ve done the beaded edging, it will cover up a multitude of flaws and at least make it wearable for me. Hey, you know, sometimes experiments don’t work out…that’s why they’re called experiments. But, as stated in a previous post, I learned a lot and think my work will benefit from that in the future. I’m excited to start new projects and put these lessons into play.
That’s really it except I’m looking forward to watching a new episode of “House” tonight on Fox. I really like that show, but I keep losing it on the schedule because of stupid things like “American Idol” (wow, I soooo hate that show) pre-empting it for weeks at a time. I mean…Hugh Laurie vs. loser wannabes and fixed voting results…which would you choose? Yeah, I know. Duh. At least I’ve been able to console myself with the episodes from season 1 that I missed by getting the DVD’s from Netflix. Yay, Netflix!
C ya!


Monday, February 06, 2006


Mickey Mouse! Mickey Mouse! Sorry...leftover songs stuck in my head from taking the kidlet to Disneyland over the weekend. I've been looking forward to this day since I found out I was pregnant - the first ever Disneyland trip. Y'see, I grew up living only 20 minutes from Disneyland and in the days before it cost the GNP of a fair-to-middlin' sized country to go there. Yep, the days of the ticket books and the "E" ticket rides. So, I think I kind of took it for granted a little bit. I was excited to re-discover it through the eyes of a child and see the wonder and amazement as he discovered all these new things. And I wasn't disappointed.

We rode the train around the park and since I had mentioned dinosaurs, he kept asking "where are the dinosaurs?" over and over. We rode the Peter Pan ride and the Jungle Cruise (he loved the elephants and the piranhas and the crocodile). We visited Toon Town and did "It's a Small World" which I think was his favorite because before it was even over, he said "let's do that one again."

And, since it was a special day for him, I suspended the rules about candy and junk food (well, within reason LOL) so he got to have french fries with his lunch and a lollipop later on in the afternoon and we also shared a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar while we watched the parade.

He was a little trooper and made it all the way to the afternoon before falling asleep in his stroller so my friends and I took the opportunity to do a little shopping on Main Street while he slept. I got him some fun goodies to surprise him with tonight because he was such a good boy. No crying, no tantrums, he asked twice to use the potty (we're working on potty training) and just was a total superstar the entire time.

It was great to re-discover everything through his eyes and I'm thinking about getting an annual pass so we can go again whenever we want. Heck, I need to go back on my own sometime and do the "big kid" rides, too!

Besides, we never even made it to California Adventure!

With all that going on (plus mailing out orders, going to the bank, dishes, laundry, etc.), no jewelry was made this weekend, but I do have another fun picture to share:

This beautiful set of boro beads is from 5 Fish Designs and yes, they ARE yummy!

Take care (and I hope no one is in the path of the fire!)


Friday, February 03, 2006

New Goodies

And, here are a few pics just 'cuz I'm bored today...

This set of purpley-pink boro swirl beads is from 5 Fish Designs. I have to say that this set fooled me - it looks totally different in real life than in the picture (which is a hazard of photographing boro glass). In reality, it's got a lot of purple and beige and not much of the pink or red is visible in plain light. Don't get me wrong, it still looks great, but I might not've selected it over other beads if I'd seen the real thing...not my color palette of choice.

And, I got this funky boro and dichroic spiral pendant from Jeff Welsh. See, he makes more stuff besides the sea horses, sharks, dolphins, sea dragons, etc. I think this is going to look great hanging from one of the new leather necklaces I got at the LA Gift Show. I'm really having fun finding new and different pendants to put on those - I like the low labor and instant gratification of them.

The only thing that's holding me back from getting them up on the website is that they are all 16" and I wanted to add some sterling silver chain to the back as extenders in case anyone wants the option of wearing them at a longer length and I'm out of chain soooo...soon's I get a chance to hit the bead store and get some chain, I'll get some of these babies up for sale.



Friday Book Review

It’s time for the Friday Book Review. I managed to make it through two books this week. One of them was very slow going so I didn’t get as much read as I usually do.

Sadly, I speak of ”Sword of Orion (Beneath Strange Skies, Book 1)” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. As previously mentioned in this blog, I’m a huge fan of their ”Liaden Universe” series so I was really looking forward to this new series they’ve started. And well, um, no longer looking forward to it quite so much. Things start out promisingly enough with a space battle between the ruling Oligarchy’s fleet vs. a rebel fleet (wait, where’ve I heard this one before?). During said battle, both fleets vanish from known space thanks to the implementation of a device invented by a brilliant rebel scientist. There are only two survivors – the scientist’s infant daughter and a loyal retainer who carried her to safety just before the battle began.

Cut to 15 years in the future when the infant, Jerel, has grown into teenagerdom. And by the way, I couldn’t get over the fact that her name sounds so much like Jorel – as in Superman’s dad. Coincidence? I dunno, but it was distracting.

Anyway, the Oligarchy is trying to rise again and both factions are on the hunt for Jerel as she seems to be the key to re-inventing her mother’s device and potentially returning both fleets from wherever they went away to. Jerel goes on the run with her friend (and obvious boyfriend potential), Kay (another name coincidence with the Sir Kay who was King Arthur’s foster brother and seneschal?), her uncle Orned and a few remnants of the former rebel group.

And really, I swear I’ve read all this before. Teenage characters, lost rebel fleets, fleeing one step ahead of the bad guys…yawn. On top of all that, NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS. The group on the run jumps to a couple of different planets, but we learn next to nothing about those worlds. Encounters with the natives are little more than rest stops and re-provisioning during which nothing interesting happens. Finally, the book ends with an extremely predictable “cliffhanger” ending which is an obvious set up to the next book in the series. To which I say – don’t bother.

Yet, I love Lee & Miller so much that I feel incredibly guilty about saying all this. So, please, go pick up the Liaden books and fall in love with them. Hit the Korval website and purchase their downloadable e-books and forget that “Sword of Orion” even exists and especially forget that I had to give it a bad review and then maybe I can sleep at night…someday.

Whew! Okay…shake it off! Let’s move on to the other book, shall we?

I used to be a big fan of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books. I was crazy about them and read every one I could get my hands on – and there are LOTS of them. The “Arrows” trilogy, the “Last Herald-Mage” trilogy, the “Gryphon” books, etc. are all good. Eventually, however, I started to notice a certain “sameness” to them all and I was having a hard time identifying with all the teenage main characters. See, when I first started reading these books, I was a teenager myself, but now I’m 40 and I guess I’m just out of patience with the teenage set – even in fantasy books. Finally, by the time the “Owl” series came out, I was starting to get a little disgusted. By the end of that series, I vowed to stop wasting money on Valdemar books any more (or at least to not buy the hardback versions). And, I’ve pretty much stuck to that vow for the last few years.

Then, I noticed there was a new anthology coming out and I thought “well, hey, it’ll have other authors in it and they might have something fresh to say.” Er, of course, it was also a slow week as far as new books coming out and okay, so I didn’t have anything else to read. Anyway, I picked up ” Crossroads and Other Tales of Valdemar” and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Other than one story that I thought was a little overdone on the violence and suffering, all the stories were really well written. There are some big names from the fantasy community as well as some lesser-known writers, but all have done a great job. If you’ve never read any of the Valdemar books, this probably isn’t the best place to start because all of the stories seem to assume a basic familiarity with the “world” including the Heralds, the Companions, etc. Go pick up ”Arrows of the Queen” if you want to get a sense of what Valdemar is all about. Just be prepared for a 13-year-old heroine and a talking horse.

Oh, and if you get concerned about this sort of thing, I should mention that Lackey’s world is one in which homosexuality exists and is not necessarily frowned upon (especially among the Heralds). The hero of the ”The Last Herald-Mage Series”, Vanyel, is openly gay, so avoid that particular set of books if that bothers you.

It never really bothered me except that, since I read them as a teenage girl and since Vanyel was always described as being quite the hottie, well it was frustrating to know that it was pointless to fantasize about him because he’d never be interested. And really, what’s the point of having a handsome male character in a fantasy novel if he’s only interested in other guys and his big white horse. What a waste ;-)

In other news, the embroidered flame bracelet is ALMOST done. I’ve got a teeny bit of background beading to fill in and then just need to attach the beaded section to the bracelet blank and do the edge stitching and that’s it. I cannot stress how much I want this project to be finished so I can move on to something else. I’m eager to put all the lessons I’ve learned on it into play on a new project and, frankly, I’m just tired of looking at it after all those hours.

This weekend I’ll be doing chores although I don’t know why that’s news – no matter how many times I do them, they’re still there and just have to get done again next week. Why is that? Blech! I’ve also got some orders to ship out and a customer coming by the house for some custom order work.

I’m taking Ryan on a special adventure on Sunday, but it’s a surprise so I’ll post the details next week.

Have a marvelous weekend, everyone! Au revoir.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Project #2 Update

I'm not nearly as far along on this project as the previous one. Although they were both started at the same time, I decided to focus on the bracelet due to the fact that this piece needs a black ultrasuede backing and I'm out of that particular fabric. It's on order, but has been slow to arrive. So, I figured, why not work on/finish the piece that I DO have the backing for.

Here's how this project started out:

The center cabochon has been attached and the peyote bezel is complete. I've done some additional rows of beaded backstitch in white and silver around the bezel. I've sketched in and partially beaded some of the design as well as adding some accent beads and starting the peyote bezels around them.

Here's the next phase:

Here, you can see that I've finished beading the swirl design and I've finished the bezels on all of the accent beads. I'm starting to fill in the black background beads. And, the black ultrasuede arrived in the mail today so I need to crank up the work on this one and get it done. I'm hoping to get the backing applied to the bracelet blank tonight so it will be ready for me to attach the beaded section as soon as the beading is done.

That's it - another fascinating glimpse into the slow-as-molasses progress of bead embroidery.