Friday, October 31, 2008

In the Workshop

We're having fun in the workshop this weekend, and pictured here are three eager "Wild Wire Women": Nettie, Chris, and Karen!
Today we've been working on Tribal Treasures Necklaces (as featured on my DVD, Tribal Treasures Bracelet Workshop) and we just finished making ball-headed headpins with a kitchen torch.
In the course of one day, all three students have learned:
• all about the tools used to make beautiful wire jewelry
• how to clean, measure and cut wire correctly and safely
• how to make beautiful double-wrapped eye-pin loops with spiral embellishments
• how to make wire cages for beads
• how to make coil-wrapped embellishments for beads
• how to twist heavy-gauge wire and turn it into shapely jump rings
• and basic jewelry design and assembly. Whew!
I confess—I'm tuckered out, but not these gals. As soon as they'd finished making their headpins and had a quick dinner out at Cafe Aroma, they headed back downstairs to the spacious workshop/classroom in my home where they're busy hammering wire and making more jewelry.
I guess I'd better get down there, too. I want to be in on all the fun!
Stay tuned for more developments...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Girls of Santorini

As I prepare for tomorrow's Wild Wire Women retreat in my home in Idyllwild, California, I find myself looking back just a couple of weeks to my time spent with four fabulous gals in Santorini.
Pictured from left are Juli, Paula, Dia, and Barbara. The five of us had a unique adventure on a beautiful Greek isle near the end of the tourist season, which meant that we escaped some of the crowds and yet enjoyed beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery.
We spent a good part of our time in the workshop, of course, learning new wire-art jewelry techniques and being inspired by the colors and textures and surprises around every corner. But we also took time for delicious meals every day (courtesy of Patrick Mahoney, our tour organizer) and excursions to Ia and a day-cruise of the Caldera.
I'll post more photos of our jewelry retreat in Santorini in the future, but tomorrow I start sharing photos of the "wild wire women" and the beautiful jewelry they'll be making during our special time in the mountains this weekend.
Stay tuned!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lake Como adventures...

As promised in my previous post, I am sharing one of the first photos I took upon arrival at Hotel Olivedo in Varenna, on Lake Como (a.k.a. "lago di Como"), Italy.
The ferry system works very well and is relatively inexpensive, especially if you purchase a day-pass for multiple trips to and fro. In retrospect, I realize that it would have been even more economical for me to purchase a week-pass, since I stayed in Varenna for eight days.
I enjoyed riding the ferry as I explored various towns and villages around the lake. My first adventure was to the touristy town of Bellagio, which is ideal for window shopping if you enjoy looking at designer handbags, jewelry and scarves. Walking up the steep hill from the waterfront, one encounters more shops—offering more handbags, clothing, jewelry, Venetian ornaments, and gorgeous Italian lingerie—and some excellent restaurants and cafes with more reasonable prices than can be found lakeside.
I also found a yarn shop! This was not as easy as it sounds. I was looking for yarn in the first place because it was a bit chillier in the evenings than I had thought it would be, so I needed a warm scarf for my neck. Of course, scarves and shawls are offered in just about every shop in Italy, especially around Lake Como, but what I had in mind was a hand-knit, thick wooly scarf, not a thin cashmere pashmina. So I decided to knit my own, if I could only find some yarn and knitting needles...
After asking several storeowners in Bellagio if they knew of a place to purchase yarn, and receiving absolutely no help from them at all, I persevered anyway and eventually found a tiny yarn store near the top of the hill where, as Rick Steves says in his guidebook to Italy, the locals shop. The kind proprietor showed me all of his skeins in many colors and provided me with knitting needles, too, so I was thrilled that my perseverance had paid off.
So now I had something to do while waiting for ferries, while sitting on park benches after touring sumptuous lakeside villas (such as the Villa Melzi), while relaxing with a cappuccino in a quiet cafe, and late at night, too—Varenna is a small town with no nightlife to speak of. And within 48 hours I had knitted a beautifully warm wooly scarf to wear around my neck during those bracing ferry rides across the lake.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm back from Europe!

Hi, everybody!
I'm finally back from my month-long trip across Europe, and so thrilled to be home again and blogging. I found it impossible to contribute to my blog while I was away, in part because all the computers I was using at the Internet cafes were somewhat difficult, and also because I didn't know how to download my photos on foreign computers.
So, I reluctantly gave up the idea of a travel blog and focused instead on having a great time and taking lots of photos.
I'll be blogging in the future about upcoming workshops and retreats (such as the Wild Wire Women retreat that begins this Thursday) but from time to time I'll reach into my photo files for an image of Italy, Greece, or the Czech Republic and share stories about my amazing trip.
It all started with a terrific weekend workshop that I taught at Art in the Loft in beautiful Alpena, Michigan last September. If you ever have a chance to visit this part of the country and take a workshop at Art in the Loft, DO it. The Loft is big, gorgeous, and filled with natural light and lots of inspiration. Many thanks to Nan Katzenberger for organizing my weekend workshop series! I hope to return sometime next year to teach more fun techniques to the talented students who frequent the Loft.
On the Monday morning following my workshops, I departed Michigan for Milan, Italy. My destination was the tiny village of Varenna on Lake Como, just a one-hour train ride from Milan but truly a world away from the big city. I loved my accommodations at the Hotel Olivedo, which is situated right on the lake. I had a sweet little room at the top of the hotel, which is located near the ferry landing. This made it easy to hop on the ferry every day to explore Mennagio, Bellagio, Como, and other towns in this area.
Every day, I walked and walked and walked, up hills and stairs, and I also took a few tours such as an Italian cooking class, a tour of Bergamo, and a day on the Bernina Express train to St. Moritz, Switzerland. Magical!
Of course, my primary purpose for my latest European trip was the wire jewelry workshop I taught in Santorini, Greece. After eight memorable days on Lake Como, I departed Milan for Athens and then took an Aegean Airlines flight to the island of Santorini. Patrick Mahoney of Toscana Americana took care of all the arrangements, providing hotel accommodations, a wonderful studio workshop, and fabulous restaurant choices every day for lunch and dinner. Thank you, Patrick!
So by now you're wondering, so what's with the bones (pictured)? Well, after spending about eight days in Santorini, I departed for Prague, Czech Republic, where I met with my dear friend Robin Harsh who is a YWAM missionary there along with her husband and two children. I had asked Robin if she wouldn't mind taking a day-trip from her home in Plzen to the town of Kutna Hora, which is famous for its "bone church." She agreed somewhat reluctantly, and we had an amazing opportunity to see and photograph this strangely beautiful and moving monument to the transient nature of life. If you ever have the chance to travel to Prague, do it—for the best bead shopping in Europe, gorgeous architecture, art-nouveau murals and other art, terrific food, and excellent coffee (besides the best beer in Europe)—and take a side trip to Kutna Hora to see the bone church!
I'll be blogging in the future with more photos of my trip, and I appreciate everyone who has waited so patiently for me to return home and continue my blog. I've really missed sharing my experiences with you and look forward to reading your comments in the future.