December 5, 2013

Reading, Beading, and Bouncing

My online beading group has a bi-monthly challenge called "Bead, Book, & Bounce." Not sure why they call it that, but the idea is to read a beading book and create one or more of the projects in it. This is the first one I've had a chance to participate in. This month's book is "I Can Herringbone" by the very talented Melissa Grakowsky. (Crazy title, I know, but I think it's part of an "I Can" series.)

Herringbone has become a very popular beading stitch in the last few years. It is basically the traditional African Ndbele stitch, which has a lovely intuitive logic to it, and creates a great texture even in flat items. Modern western artists have come up with all sorts of permutations on it, and it seems there's no limit to what you can do once you go down that road.

The book is like a master class in Herringbone beadwork. It has 26 projects, ranging in difficulty from beginner-level to quite advanced. So there's something for everyone. Many of the projects can also be used as a starting point for your own wild imaginings. Doing a few projects from this book will definitely boost a beader's confidence.

I didn't originally plan to participate in this challenge, because the due date conflicted with too many other obligations. But when the deadline was extended, I figured I had six days to work with, so I could probably manage one of the simpler projects in the book. Now that I've done it, I very much want to do a couple of the other, more involved pieces, "when I have time."

I chose to do "Poseidon's Gem," a bracelet with 6 colors in graduated sizes. I was limited by whatever few colors of 4mm fire-polish beads I had on hand, so they determined the color palette.

As I mused on Facebook, I'm not entirely happy with the color scheme. Too glitzy, too many transparent colors, the two reds are too similar, and the whole thing doesn't look good on my pasty white Oregonian skin. But I have to admit it's growing on me, and would probably look fabulous on someone with a tan.

I did have to make two modifications:

1. The author wrote that each section was about 1 1/2 inches long, so her diagram with 8 sections should be more than long enough.  But when I had finished 8 sections, the whole thing was only 6 inches long. So I added a 9th section, but that made the ends face each other in the wrong way, so the closure was very awkward. I solved the problem by making a half-section at each end, instead of a whole section added to one end.

2. The way she had the pearl attached did not leave room for the loop to grasp it properly, especially since I used a smaller pearl. I re-did the pearl attachment, adding a size 8 bead between the pearl and the bracelet body. This made all the difference I needed.

These are minor things that inevitably come up as a result of the differences between beaders. All-in-all, it's an excellent beading book, and I will use it again.

December 3, 2013

Of Dads and Candles

I'm not a very organized person. So, when we brought home our photos of our dearly departed dads from Yom Kippur services, they kind of never got put away.  So every Friday night when we light the Shabbat candles, there they are, hangin' out on the sideboard!  We've gotten used to having them there, and they've come to belong there.

A few days ago, we brought out the Hanukkah menorahs and candles, found space for them on the sideboard, and positioned the Dad photos to be part of the festivities. By this time, we don't even consider putting the pictures away. They're too precious!

Why do we have two menorot? The brass one on the right is what we bought when we got married. It was the best we could afford.  The green one on the left is the one I grew up with in my father's house. Many years after he passed away, when my mom finally sold the house, it was the one thing I chose to take. I cannot even express how strongly it brings back childhood memories, and how much it reminds me of my dad.

 As a child, I loved gazing at that green menorah from Israel, nearly as long as the candles burned.  The shape of it seems beautifully graceful to me, and iconic of 1950's Israel. The bottom is weighted to avoid tipping over.  The candle holders each have a lovely rounded bronze edge on the their tops, which for some reason pleases me enormously.

I'm not sure what will be my children's favorite memories of Hanukkah... maybe the cheap brass menorah? Or that crazy blue dreidel that spins endlessly.  But for me, it's the green menorah from Israel, my father, and as an adult, my father-in-law. Our dads have passed on, but they're still always with us.


December 2, 2013

Beading Challenges

Recently I've completed a few more beading challenges for two of my online beading groups. This has really motivated me to do more beading!

Most recently, we were challenged to create something inspired by a movie. It had to be done in the month of November, which we all know was a crazy month for me.  I started out thinking I would do a project which has been in my mind for a couple of years, because it would tie in beautifully with "The Ten Commandments."  But there was no time for such an ambitious project, so after my last show I came up with a quick idea.  

Based on one of my favorite movies, "Local Hero," this pendant celebrates the Aurora Borealis which captivated the movie's visitors to Scotland.  

Aurora Borealis (or "AB") is also the name for a multi-colored coating featured on many beads, so it seemed fitting for a bead project.  I tried to use a lot of AB coated beads in this free-form pendant:

Also in November came the challenge to create a Christmas or Hanukkah "charm." Not an ornament, it was specified, but a small charm, suitable for a necklace or earring.  I used a pattern I had seen someone do, and made a "Hanukkah Snowflake":

October's challenge was to use Halloween-ish colors. Specifically, we had to use all four of these colors, and no others: black, orange, grey, and gold.  Frankly, I wasn't impressed with some of the early entries, and pretty much decided to sit this one out. But then one night as I was falling asleep, it hit me: that Monarch Butterfly I've been wanting to do, since I read "Flight Behavior," it's basically black and various shades of orange! And I could add little spots of gold and grey on the wings! But would I have time? With about 4 days left in the month, I scrambled to give it a go. I beaded night and day, and finished in time to submit it.  If I do say so myself, I'm pretty happy with it:

What's next?  In a few days, I'll reveal my latest challenge piece, and then it's time to work on the next Read & Bead, which is due January 31st.