Sunday, April 26, 2009

A satisfying conclusion to our Wild Wire Women workshop...

Another wonderful Wild Wire Women retreat has come to an end, and I am very sad to anticipate the loss of my students, but at the same time I am SO excited for them and so PROUD of their accomplishments this weekend.
Judy made the beautiful necklace and bracelet set pictured above. She used jade beads and copper wire; her favorite activity was making coiled wire beads, but sadly none of the coil-wrapped beads on this necklace show up very clearly. Trust me, they're beautiful!
Two of my students, Carol Lee (her jewelry is pictured right above) and Nina (her jewelry is pictured at the end of this post) were very new to jewelry making. This was really their first attempt at wire jewelry design, and they tackled some challenging projects!
My own sample necklace is pictured just above; I made a Jamaica Me Happy necklace and a matching bracelet using naga shell beads, turquoise, and Czech glass beads just for fun. This is what happens when you teach fun classes like the ones we tackled this weekend: even the teacher ends up with something fun to wear.
So, it's almost time to say goodbye to three very talented and lovely ladies. Today was full: we made Spiral-Link bracelets and two different styles of earrings, used liver of sulfur to artificially age all of the jewelry made over the past three days, polished our jewelry with steel wool, used a tumbler to bring everything to a high shine, and had a photography session with the EZ Cube system.
After all that, we're ready to turn in. It's been such a fun weekend, I am sad to see it come to an end. I'm looking forward to my next Wild Wire Women retreat. For information about attending a future workshop, visit

Friday, April 24, 2009

In the Workshop...

My students have worked very hard today on their Jamaica Me Happy necklaces; it's now dinnertime, and time for a break! Who knows, they may be hard at it again this evening.
As for me, I'm done for the day. Tomorrow we tackle the 10 Trippy Tricks 2 necklace, which features 10 (maybe more) different wire links and bead wraps, including a handmade clasp. We'll probably incorporate some of these links and wraps into the necklaces that were started today. I'm looking forward to seeing what my talented students achieve!
Once we have some finished pieces ready, I'll start photographing them so we can share our work with you. Until then, good night...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another "Wild Wire Women" retreat begins!

We just returned from having a delicious dinner at Cafe Aroma, and now we're ready to begin another "Wild Wire Women" retreat here in Idyllwild.
Pictured above (from left) are Nina, Carol Lee, and Judy. We're all very excited about the next three days ahead; we're going to start with my brand-new necklace, the Jamaica Me Happy, and then jump into 10 Trippy Tricks 2 on Saturday. On Sunday we'll tackle a couple of workshops, the Spiral Link bracelet and Fantastic Fibula pins. I'm looking forward to teaching these fun workshops and my students can hardly wait.
I'll keep you posted as our weekend unfolds...
ps My next retreat is scheduled for May 21-25. Contact me if you're interested in attending!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rosy Posy Pendant in Bead & Button

I didn't think I had much to blog about today, until I opened my mail and found that the publishers of Bead & Button magazine had sent me an advance copy of the June issue. My article on the Rosy-Posy Pendant, which I made on a flower loom, is found on page 56!
I'm really excited about this because it's my first time being published in B&B. I never thought they'd publish me since I'm a wire artist, not really a bead artist per se. So, I'm honored and delighted to have my article included in this issue, which should show up on newsstands within a week or two.
They didn't have room to print the story of how I thought up this design, so I'll share it here. I was shopping at WalMart with my mom about a year ago; she was looking for yarn. I don't care for the cheap yarn at WalMart but I tagged along anyway, and while Mom was choosing skeins I just browsed. And then I saw the knifty knitter flower loom.
I already had a knifty knitter round loom in several sizes, which I use to knit colorful hats to wear during the cold winter months here in Idyllwild. I just love my hats, because I use lots of pretty colors and then make huge pompoms for them. Fun! Anyway, when I saw the flower loom I picked it up and read the description, which basically said that the loom was intended for making raffia flowers.
I was not impressed with that idea, but the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I was to own this small round loom—too small to knit hats, as it only has 12 pegs, but who knows what I might do with it using wire and beads? So I bought it (for $4) and brought it home.
That's when I thought of using 20ga or 22ga sterling silver wire to make a flower, finer gauge wire such as 24ga to wrap tiny seed pearls in the center, and then turn the flower into a wearable pendant. I made the flower, and as soon as it popped off the loom I knew that I had to do more: shape all 36 flower petals and hammer them, really make it special. So I did... and, once it was finished, I actually liked it a lot.
It's kind of a girly design (for me, anyway); not at all ethnic or bold or earthy, so it doesn't really represent the type of wire art that I typically make. But I thought it was a fun design and that others might think so too. Funny enough, I tried teaching it at Brea Bead Works a few months ago, and nobody signed up for the class! Still, I thought it was an ideal project for a magazine, so I sent it to B&B, and now it's been published.
I hope you enjoy the article. Please write to me and tell me what you think!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Online Workshops with KC Willis: Cool Collage Camp!

I'm so excited to tell you about my friend KC Willis, and her terrific new online workshops!
You've probably seen KC's amazing cowgirl and Victorian collage artwork in a gallery or shop, or heard the name of her business—Lipstick Ranch—or read about her somewhere. She's an artist with a very distinctive, vintage-Old-West style that I just love.
By her own admission, KC will coffee-stain just about anything (even the stray threads off her sewing machine); she also allows the family dog to chew holes in her fabrics before washing them and using the tattered pieces in her collages. This is an artist who loves researching the personal stories of her subjects as she incorporates their photos in her work, adding handwritten quotations as well as carefully selected vintage buttons, lace (coffee-stained, of course!), paper ephemera, and more.
I admire KC so much because she's a savvy business woman as well as a very talented fiber artist; her finished pieces sell in stores across the US and she's created a distinctive brand image that sets her apart from every other collage artist that I've seen.
KC has a following, of course—women who collect her work, and some who'd like to make their own fabric collages using family photos and mementos. Until now, she's never really shared in detail her methods of collecting materials (sources, etc.), staining and altering them, designing, assembling, and creating her beautifully layered art. But I have some great news for you if you're interested in learning from this talented artist: KC is teaching online!
That's right—just go to and have a look around. I  believe that once you view her 40-second promo video (click here), you'll be itching to join the group and become a Collage Camper yourself. As for me, I can't wait to join in on the fun.
The great thing about these online workshops is that you can view them at any time in the privacy of your own home, join in when you feel like it, network with other "campers" (or not, your choice), share photos of your work, and ask questions of other members as well as KC herself. She's very actively involved with her workshops, ready to help, give advice, answer your questions, and provide lots of encouragement.
I hope you enjoy KC's new site. Perhaps we'll all meet up in camp as we make some "cool cowgirl collages" together!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sombrero Ring Workshop great fun!

We had so much fun making Sombrero Rings and Basket Rings during my day-long workshop on Thursday, at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations in Palm Desert.
Pictured above you can see Dale Wigley's bold, beautiful rings; below are more rings made by my students.
Of course, the rings look best when artificially aged in liver of sulfur, and then polished. You can see samples of that on my Web site:
I really enjoy teaching students who take a bold, fearless approach to creating. The ladies who participated in my workshop on Thursday were creative and fun-loving, and completely unafraid of not only making but also wearing big, chunky rings. My hat's off to them!
Today I enjoyed spending the day with my friend Jill Kirby, who participated in my class on Thursday and then drove up to my house in Idyllwild this morning to learn to make my brand-new design, the Bird's Nest Bracelet.
We just had a delicious dinner (feta fettuccine verde) at my favorite restaurant on the hill, Cafe Aroma. Yumm! Now we're back, and tomorrow morning I'll be sad to see Jill leave for her home in Arizona. I first met Jill when she took part in one of my Wild Wire Women retreats around this time last year. I thoroughly enjoy teaching these retreats and having lots of wire-crazy women in my home for a weekend of jewelry-making madness. If you're interested in learning more about my retreats, click here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Basket Rings Workshop @ Monica's

Just a quick post to let you know that I'm offering a couple of basket ring workshops at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations in Palm Desert this Thursday. You'll learn two similar-but-different woven-wire ring designs, including the one pictured above.
I love teaching at Monica's because it's a beautiful store with a generous selection of beads, findings, books, patterns, fabrics, and more. She provides a well-lit, spacious classroom for us, and her employees are the bomb!
I hope you can join us for class this week. There may still be a few openings.
For information, call:
760 772-2400
ps If you like making beautiful rings but can't make it to a live workshop, I have a wonderful DVD called Rings of Beauty that you will love.
For information, click here.
For a FREE clip from this DVD, click here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gem Cuff Bracelet Workshop so much fun!

I had fun today teaching my brand-new "bling-bling" workshop, the Gem Cuff Bracelet, at Brea Bead Works. Thanks to Scott and Wendy Remmers for providing such a beautiful workshop space and a terrific source for beautiful beads in their store; check it out the next time you're in Southern California! They're located in the shopping center across from the Brea Mall.
Pictured here you can see the work of some of my students. Everyone did a great job making gorgeous jewelry with lots of bright and shiny "bling" beads (gemstones, chips, glass beads, and pearls) and everyone made something different, with plenty of personality.
Some students used sterling silver wire, and others chose copper instead. In either case, the bracelets look great and I am a very proud teacher.
My next workshop is coming up soon: two wire-woven rings to be held on April 16 at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations in Palm Desert.
For more info, click here or call the store at 760 772-2400.
I hope to see lots of you there!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A visit to the Braille Institute

Pictured here are some beautiful houseplants growing in a greenhouse at the Braille Institute (BI) in Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs area), California.
Yesterday I toured the facility with a group of friends in PEO. We took this excursion as a way to educate ourselves about vision loss or encroaching low vision (probably a fear for everyone, and especially so for bead or jewelry artists!), and to learn about the services and volunteer opportunities provided at the BI.
I was very surprised to learn about the huge array of classes and workshops offered to the public at absolutely no cost to us. Visiting the regional center in Rancho Mirage, we learned that many people lose their sight with advancing age or after an illness or onset of disease such as diabetes. It can be very frightening and stressful to lose such a precious gift as sight later in life, after taking it for granted for so many years. That is why the services offered by the BI are so critical to anyone who is going through this difficult transition.
After evaluating the type of sight loss and reviewing each situation, professionals at the BI direct their clients to various educational and recreational programs, including its vast library of books and magazines on tape, exercise classes, social programs, educational seminars, support groups, clubs, and more.
What really struck me was the sensitive care that volunteers give to their clients, whether they be children, their parents, middle-aged folks like me (I'm 48), or older adults who are suddenly losing their once-perfect vision.
Visiting the greenhouse where beautiful, healthy plants were flourishing from cuttings, we learned that even totally blind people often love their plants and do not want to give them up; although they cannot be seen, they can be enjoyed through scent and touch. It's critical to one's well-being to be able to enjoy the same things after losing or partially losing one's sight.
This includes art. You might wonder why a blind person would be interested in creating art, but again, it just takes a shift in perspective. Art can be enjoyed in different ways, especially 3-dimensional pieces that can be touched and handled. Free classes are offered in a huge classroom at the BI in Rancho Mirage, where students learn to make collages, paintings, pastel drawings, papier mache figures, sculptures, paper arts, assemblages of found objects, and more.
I was truly impressed by the setting and inspired by the possibilities presented to students, and especially by the positive attitude expressed by volunteers who staff the art studio. If I ever do find myself moving from Idyllwild to the desert in the future, I will certainly look into volunteering myself!
Visiting the BI gave me a renewed appreciation for my own eyesight, which has never been 20/20 (I have worn glasses or contacts since I was a child) but has always been perfectly adequate for my needs. While teaching my workshops on jewelry making, I've noticed that many of my students aged 40-plus need reading glasses or magnifying apparatus of various types to continue making intricate works of art. I myself have to take off my regular glasses while I work on jewelry. I still depend on my naked eyes for close-up work, but I have to face the reality that in future I may need to get some help!
For anyone who is starting to experience some trouble with their vision, after recommending that you consult a qualified medical professional I would strongly suggest visiting one of the Braille Institute's regional centers as soon as possible in order to learn about all of their free programs.
I also suggest visiting their "Vistas" stores, where you can find all types of useful items that help with everyday life. If you need low-vision devices such as magnifiers or screen-reading software for your computer, you'll first meet with a specialist who can evaluate your personal situation and suggest the products that will be of most use to you. They will also train you in their use and help you to adjust.
I am gratified to know that art is possible after vision loss! What would I do without art? It's difficult to imagine a world without color, line, form, shape, volume, or design to admire and emulate. That I can still appreciate it, make it, and share it with the world whether I can see it or not is a hopeful thought. Right now, my vision is great (with glasses) and I'm grateful for that! But if I do begin to experience a serious loss of vision, you can be sure that the first place I'll visit (after my doctor) will be my local Braille Institute.
By the way, they exist purely on donations and volunteers! If you'd like to learn more about giving to the BI or volunteering in one of their many programs, click here.
Tomorrow I'm driving to Brea, California to teach a fun class on the Gem Cuff bracelet (pictured below). If you're interested in attending this class, I believe there are some openings.
Call Brea Bead Works at 714 671-9976 to inquire.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring in Idyllwild...

Without any doubt, spring has "sprung" here in Idyllwild, California!
The blooming daffodils and pink Manzanita blossoms are a welcome site after the dark winter months, and it was delightful to spend some time in my yard this morning snapping photos of the new flowers. Even my rosemary is blossoming with lavender petals, and our mountain bees are busy as only bees can be.
Lovely signs of spring like these cause me to feel renewed hope for the future, and a sense that we're all entering a new chapter in life. Times have been very difficult for us this year, but keeping a positive attitude despite our circumstances can help us to make it through, don't you think?
I find it helpful during the hard times to have something good to look forward to. For instance, once I finish my taxes (ugh!) this week, I'll start preparing my home to welcome four ladies to my next Wild Wire Women retreat, which begins April 23. I love hosting retreats in my home, and, since this will be my first retreat for 2009, I'm especially excited about it.
The participants have chosen some great classes for our weekend:
Friday we'll start with my brand-new design, the Jamaica Me Happy necklace.
Saturday we'll delve into some intense wirework 101 with my 10 Trippy Tricks II workshop.
Sunday we'll tackle two workshops, the Spiral Link bracelet and Fibula pins.
It's going to be a fantastic time. If you're interested in attending this event, I still have two openings (retreats are restricted to six adult female students) and I have scheduled some more retreats throughout the spring and summer of this year. To learn more, click here.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me anytime at

Friday, April 3, 2009

NEW Wire Jewelry Workshop on April 11

I'm teaching a brand-NEW workshop on Saturday, April 11 (one week from tomorrow) at Brea Bead Works: the Gem Cuff Bracelet.
This workshop runs from 10 am to 5 pm, and is just pure fun. No stress, no anxiety about cramming your brain with too much information, no hammering (!), just loads of fun and creativity. We'll use finer gauges of wire than we usually do in my wire jewelry workshops, and the beads, gemstones, pearls, and/or crystals of your choice. Everyone's bracelet will be an original, that's for sure.
I'll talk about color theory and jewelry design before we plunge into creating our very own beautiful cuff bracelets. You get to work with the colors, shapes, and sizes of beads that you prefer. For a supply list, click here.
I hope to see you at Brea Bead Works!
Phone: 714 671-9976

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm now on FaceBook... and news about Cortona, Italy

My friend and student, Marsha Marcus, recently caught up with me in the parking lot outside our local grocery store in Idyllwild. I hadn't seen her in a while, so we had lots to catch up on. She suggested that I join FaceBook, and was quite enthusiastic about it.
So, I took the plunge and created my own page. You can access it by clicking here.
It's kind of fun to see old friends who want to link up with you, and to comment on their pages just as they comment on yours. I've also posted some cute photos of my kitties and a FREE video clip from my Ethnic Style Jewelry Workshop DVD, which you can also access on by clicking here.
The clip shows you how to make figure-8 links, just one of many techniques you'll learn from this DVD. It features four complete bracelets and two of my most popular ethnic-style necklaces, the Ethnic Coin Necklace and the Etruscan Spiral Pendant.
The latter necklace was designed and created two years ago this month, actually, when I was teaching a workshop series in Cortona, Italy through Toscana Americana workshops. I love teaching for organizer Patrick Mahoney; he really knows how to create a terrific tour with a centrally located hotel, amazing meals with wine (at both lunch and dinner, but the alcohol content over there is so low, it's not a problem), and excursions to Florence and other nearby cities, plus a cooking class...mmm good!
Patrick recently suggested scheduling another week of wire-jewelry workshops in Cortona in the Autumn of 2010, and I said YES, let's do it! More details on that as they become available. For sure, we will include a day-trip to Florence (a must-do for the art, culture, food, and shopping). We will have another cooking class, tour the Etruscan Museum located right in Cortona, and naturally there will be plenty of time to design our own unique and beautiful wire jewelry. I have a link to the Cortona webcam in my links on the right.
The picture shown above is a recent one taken by Patrick Mahoney. The residents of his home town were very surprised to wake up to snow on March 21. "A rare event in Cortona," he said, "and a very interesting way to usher in Spring!"
I'll say. Here in Idyllwild, we haven't had any snow or rain since mid-February. It's going to be a very long, gorgeous Spring up here, followed by a hot Summer. Bring it on!