Friday, December 19, 2008

Inspiration strikes!

I've continued to ponder the 'tropical holiday' theme, and I know where I'm heading now.  In my last post, I spoke of spending time at the coast every year.  During those holidays, we explored the reef whenever the low tide was at the right time.  Some of my favorite memories involve snorkeling in pools around brain corals.  The big ol' blobs hosted the most abundant and fantastic array of fish.  

Most days, we would be fortunate enough to see at least one scorpion fish.  When we saw these, we would always back up slowly and admire these very poisonous and fantastic fish.  The bold stripes and the long, ribbon-like fins always inspired awe and respect.  

I want to make a necklace inspired by these fantastic fish.  I just picked up some colored polymer clay to play with, so I think I'll use a mix of hand made beads (woohoo!) and strips of peyote to imitate the fins.  Of course, by the time it's done it will have evolved somewhat from this original brainstorming!  

I'm excited. :D  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's time to vote again in the Etsy Beadweaver's December challenge!  Visit the EBW blog and cast your vote.  

My entry: This choker fit for an icy queen!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tropical Holiday

The next Etsy Beadweaver's challenge theme was announced a couple weeks ago or so.  The theme is 'Tropical Holiday' and pieces will be submitted by February 5th (an extra month for the busy holiday season!)  I haven't had much of a chance to think about this theme until today.  
Today, I did start to think about what a 'Tropical Holiday' means to me.  As mentioned previously, I grew up in Kenya.  (The picture to the left is my dad, sister, and I - holding the stick - in Kenya back in the day.)  We lived first at latitude 2 degrees North, and later at latitude 26 minutes North (~ 1/2 degree).

The pin shows the location of our first home, in Logologo, Kenya (Google Earth got the spelling wrong - at least it is improved from the previous spelling - Lokuloko- yikes!).  The picture below shows a ground-level view, during the rainy season.  Normally, you wouldn't see any green on the ground. 

The picture below shows our house where we lived later, at the bottom of the Kerio valley, a very steep valley within the East African Rift system.  We were on an agricultural development project, with a yard full of papaya, mangos, bananas, pineapples, and oranges.  I grew up thinking of apples as an exotic fruit.

I went to school at latitude 55 minutes South (almost 1 degree South).  (It was a boarding school, which I totally loved.)  We crossed the equator every time we went home.  If that ain't a tropical childhood, I don't know what is.  The picture below was taken when I went home for the summer after I had started college.  I swallowed my pride, and took a very touristy picture at the Equator sign.  (I'm on the left.  We wore long skirts because it would have been totally culturally inappropriate where we lived to wear pants, shorts, or short skirts).
So, what does a tropical holiday mean to me then?  Well, a very normal holiday to say the least.  Every year, we went to the coast for a couple of weeks.  There were cottages available for us to stay in, and we could stay there making our own food and cleaning ourselves for two weeks, or stay in a fancy hotel for maybe 3 nights for the same price.  We took the 2 week option.  My dad would walk down to the fish market and find something fresh to grill.  Coconut trees grew in the yard, and the fruit was free for the taking.  There is a fringing reef just off the beach that we would snorkel in almost daily.  By just off the beach, I mean that at low tide, you could just meander through very shallow water to the front of the reef.
Another bonus of staying in the cottages is that we essentially had a private beach.  It was technically public, but the only public access was by walking from farther down the beach.  We were able to avoid the most intense of the hawkers, and more importantly the very frightening western tourists (think large frames, sunburnt to maroon, far too little in the way of swimsuits, and very little understanding of local culture, all on a crowded beach).

I'll have to keep thinking about how I can translate all of this into a beadwoven piece!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Free shipping!

Friday through Monday, Dec. 1st I'm offering free shipping on all orders from my Etsy shop.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Snow Queen

I finally listed my EBW December challenge piece!  It's been sitting around finished for quite some time now, but between school and trying to find a dark background for pictures, I didn't get it listed 'till just now.  

So here it is, in all its icy glory, a choker fit for a Snow Queen!  

I used a variety of clear, silver lined, and opaque white beads, along with three larger foil-lined clear glass beads as centerpieces for three netted icy flowers.  Hanging from each flower is a small section of tubular herringbone, with coraling beneath that to create icicles.  In between the flowers are strips of freeform netting.  All this was hung from memory wire strung with silver lined beads.  You can find this necklace listed here.

ps..  the black background is the cover of one of my sketchbooks.  

Also, this past week I was featured in a treasury created by Ileana of enchantedbeads.  I didn't manage to get a screenshot of it, but thanks to Ileana anyways!  Check out her shop for some beautiful beadwoven brooches and more!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This has been a good week for me in the world of treasuries! Between the main Treasury and Treasury West, there are 3 currently running Treasuries featuring my work, and 2 created by me. That makes 5 currently running njema treasuries! Wow.

For your viewing pleasure:

Live here until 5:23 AM on Tuesday, FrancescasFancy curated this treasury, titled 'Peppermint Twist.'  She featured my Red and White Beaded 'Double Circle' Earrings (whoa, those could use a new name!)

Live here until 9:08 AM Tuesday morning, mamabetsy curated this treasury, titled 'f o n d memories.'  She featured my Offset Squares Herringbone Cuff.

Live here until 1:50 AM Tuesday morning, thebeadedlily curated this treasury titled 'A Room to Paint.'  She featured my Bright Stripes Peyote Cuff.

In Treasury West, you'll find this list of delightful items I curated. Live until 12:47 PM Monday, you can check out the artists of these 'Colors of the Earth.'

I don't know about your locale, but here in Indiana it's getting cold and gray, prompting me to curate this treasury titled 'Need me some SUNSHINE!' You can view it here until 7:08 AM Tuesday morning.
So go ahead, visit these treasuries and give them some comment and click loving! And be sure to check out all the wonderful Etsians who saw fit to feature me this weekend. I'm sure they wouldn't mind a sale or two...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas Ornaments!

Here's the ornaments I've finished so far, hooks and all!  I just got the wire this week, and formed it into some simple little hooks.  It took me a while to figure out how to do hooks.  I didn't want to use cheap craft store wire, but sterling silver was too expensive, both for my budget, and for the price I wanted to keep the ornaments at.  Finally, I settled on silver plated wire.  A nice compromise, I think, for this purpose!  So far, I've only gotten the blue and silver ornament listed, but look for the other ones soon!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

(yes, my full name is Virginia, and no, I've never believed in Santa Claus.  And yes, I had a very fun filled childhood and have no interest in squelching anyone's joy!)

Here's a bit of a 'get to know me' blog post!

Warning:  A bit of an odd (maybe controversial?) topic today. :D
But lets have a little fun with this...

I don't really get the deal with telling kids that North-Pole living, Toy-making, Magic sleigh-riding Santa is real.  Maybe it has a bit to do with my upbringing regarding Christmas.  I grew up in the middle of the desert in Northern Kenya.  My neighbors were dirt poor semi-nomadic camel, cattle, and goat herders.  Being just a little north of the equator, December/January was dry season - the hottest time of the year.  Christmas time was all about church for our community - the Christmas play was performed by excited and animated adults, with a mean Herod, an angel with a booming voice and violently flapping arms (the words "fear not" seemed like a good introduction in this portrayal), and complete with live donkeys
 wandering across the front of the church.  On Christmas Eve, church went from about 7 or 8 until midnight, and Christmas morning everyone was back again for another 4 hours of singing.

In this context, it wouldn't have made sense for my parents to present us with the typical 'Santa' story that most Americans get.  After all, if he goes all around the world delivering toys to all children, why was it that my neighbors would get just one new outfit that they knew their parents had saved up for?  Why the discrepancy between what wealthy kids got and what poor kids got?

Santa wasn't totally out of the picture for my family, though.  We learned the historical story of St. Nicholas, and how that evolved into the present day story of Santa Claus.  And we DID 'play Santa.' We would label some gifts as being from Santa, but we all knew it was pretend.  We were good at playing pretend, though!  Aren't most kids?  Why do adults feel the need to convince kids that Santa is real when kids can have just as much fun knowing it's pretend?  I was in the US in 5th grade, and was surprised when I got in trouble for telling my 2nd grade cousin that Santa wasn't real.  First, I had no idea that people *actually* believed the Santa story.  And second, I was a big fan of knowing the truth.  I thought she would want to know what was true, and didn't expect to get in trouble for being honest!  

My biggest question today is this: Why can't we let the Santa story be a 'play pretend' story?  Would that *actually* take any of the joy out of Christmas for children?  Based on my own experience, and the wonderful ability of kids to make believe, I don't think it would.  So why is it important to adults to do so?  (Really - this is an invitation for discussion) :D

And what does this have to do with creativity?  Maybe imagination, the ability to create worlds and ideas, but still have a grounding in reality.  I think that's important for me as an artist and a scientist.  I had the best time making believe as a child, but was still very interested in what was real.  I still love having a mix of getting lost in creativity and learning fascinating information about how the world actually works.  

On another note, here's my newest cuff!  Bright Stripes Peyote Cuff.  This equatorial girl is NOT excited about the grayness this Indiana winter is already bringing.  Ah, for the sunshine and heat of the Kenyan desert this time of year...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Time to vote!!

It's that time again.. Go to the EBW blog and vote for your favorite in this month's challenge, themed 'Ancestral Expressions.'

Friday, November 7, 2008

After a school-induced hiatus...

I've been neglecting my blog lately.  That's what happens when a student sets realistic priorities!  As well as being busy with school, my creative focus lately has been on Christmas presents.  As people on my list just might be able to find this blog, I'm not going to upload pictures of those until after the fact. :)

I *can* tell you that I've been working on the herringbone tapestry of my grandpa I showed you the pattern of in a previous blog post.  I know that he won't find this blog!  (Several years back, he wrote one or two emails, which I think is the extent of his internet experience.)

My exam this morning marked the end of one period of constant work, so I took time to day to do some much needed updates to some of my Etsy pictures.  

Though I listed all of these pieces ages ago, my photography skills have improved somewhat since then. I thought ya'll might enjoy the updated photos of these items!

I still have a number of pottery items that I have never added to my store.  Maybe I'll have time for that soon!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Whaddaya know?

I just took a look through some posts on the Art Zoo, and found that on October 16th, they featured my Evening Elegance Herringbone Cuff! :D  So here's a quick hooray for that!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Orange & Blue

With all of my brainstorming, you might think it would be difficult to settle on a direction.  But with budget constraints, I needed to choose a design using beads I already had in my collection.  So I went with this orange and blue bangle!  Go gators. :)   It is now available for purchase in my Etsy store.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Herringbone, and some 'in progress'

I've just discovered herringbone within the past month, and it's my new favorite. 

I finished this wide cuff over the weekend, and it's now available in my Etsy store!  The inspiration for this came from a hotel carpet.  Inspiration is everywhere!  I finished it off with three brick stitch buttons, which can go on the top OR bottom of the wrist, depending on what look you want. 

Okay, so I'm pretty proud of this cuff.  Plus herringbone just feels so cool!  Very flexible.

And...  a herringbone rope necklace in progress.  I've got three ropes done, and one more that I want to do before combining them and adding some sort of a closure.

Continuing with 'in progress,' this peyote cuff is mostly done.  I just need to add a closure, and maybe add a little bit of a 3D flair..  But I'd need to buy specific beads for that, and right now my 'fun budget' is going towards christmas present supplies.  So eventually you'll see the final version in my Etsy store. :) Patience! 

And I'm in the throes of making a bunch of ornament-stars both for gifts and to put in my store.  Here's the first four!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vote Vote Vote!

It's time to vote in the Etsy Beadweaver's October Challenge!  So go to the EBW blog, and pick your favorite. :)  

And in other (very exciting) news, I'm a winner! :)  I showed up for the BAO trunk show last night, saw some very cool art, and won a door prize!  Not just any door prize, but this incredible pendant by MAKUstudio.  I've been looking for a special pendant for a special purpose, but was going to do without for budget reasons.  This fits the bill EXACTLY.  I don't think I can describe how incredibly exciting this is for me.  I can't wait to have this in hand, pick out the perfect seed beads, and dive into the special project I have in mind! 

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ancestral Expressions

The November challenge theme was just announced - Ancestral Expressions.  This is, so far, a thought-provoking theme.  There are so many roads I could go down with this one!  My first thought was a Gators themed cuff (yes, as in University of Florida).  There have been 5 generations of Gators in my family, starting with great-great-grandaddy Rolfs (Peter Henry Rolfs) who was the Dean of the College of Agriculture.  In fact, the horticulture building on campus in Rolfs Hall.  Then I thought I could do an agriculture themed piece.  Or maybe something Brazilian inspired, as PH Rolfs founded an agricultural college in Brazil.

Then there's this plant pathogen, Sclerotium rolfsii that he was the first to describe.  Perhaps this picture of mitosis in the plant could be some inspiration for me. :) (Picture taken from here)
Then, there's the other side of the family.  I have some Irish roots through my grandmother, and have a grandfather who has been a professional musician for over 70 years.  In fact, I've already converted a photo of him playing saxaphone into a pattern that I might bead up for a christmas present.   

So there are my ideas so far - something orange and blue (go gators!), Sclerotium rolfsii, or Grandpa playing the saxophone.  Or something agriculture-themed.  I probably won't do something Irish themed, because I'm more intrigued by my other ideas. :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Mane Event

The theme for the EBW October challenge was announced on August 29th - Animal Instincts.  My immediate thought was the obvious - some sort of animal print peyote cuff.  Then I thought about what it would mean to *use* my 'animal instincts' to create an entry.  Sarah (thebeadedlily) wrote a post about wanting shark teeth.  That reminded me that I have some shark teeth, maybe I should use those!  But no, I couldn't do that for this challenge, that was gonna be her thing (you can see her amazing piece here).  I'm sure I'll use them at some point, after all, it's been on the back of my mind ever since I collected them.  Just not for this challenge.

Eventually, I remembered that I have these little wooden animal beads - giraffes, zebras, lions, and leopards.  Along with these beads, I have several large bone and wood beads.  All of these were picked up in South Africa by my husband's aunt, and eventually made their way to me.  

Those beads, along with a melange of brown-themed seed beads, a couple of large glass beads, and some tiger's eye came together in this truly OOAK necklace, 'The Mane Event.'

Sorry, I just couldn't resist the bad pun. :)  As well as featuring lions (among other animals!) this necklace is reminiscent of a lion's mane.

Starting October 9th, visit the Etsy Beadweaver's team blog to vote for your favorite entry!  I (of course) hope you pick mine, but it's okay if you choose to vote for one of the other marvelous entries.  ;)

Question of the day: Besides something animal-themed, what other roads could you go down with the theme 'Animal Insticts?'

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bead It Forward

For the past few years, Jeanette Shanigan has been collecting and sewing together beaded squares into quilts.  These quilts are then donated to Bead Artists against Breast Cancer for their annual auction.  You can check out previous squares and find the information for how to contribute to this project here.  This year, the theme is hearts.  Several members of the EBW team are trying to get enough squares together for an entire EBW quilt.  

Here, at long last, is my contribution:

1) Asymmetrical heart in peyote

2) my first foray into the world of herringbone!  A very simple heart pattern, but I like how it turned out. 

3) Two-drop peyote with a freeform heart attached to the top.

4) Regular peyote black background with two red hearts attached to the top.

And here they all are together!  Which is YOUR favorite?  I'm torn between the asymmetrical heart and the herringbone heart.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Green Peyote Triangles Cuff

I've dipped my toes slightly further into the peyote triangle pool, and came up with this cuff.  Since adding it to my store about a week ago, it has already been featured in two treasuries, as you can see in the post below!  

I had fun with it, and it has sparked new ideas to store away in my list of things I want to make. That list should probably start materializing on paper before my brain gets too crowded.    
This cuff is available for purchase at my Etsy store!  Here is the direct link to this piece.

Speaking of my mind getting crowded with ideas - I've been on a designing spree for flat cuffs (in a variety of stitches).  However, I have a slight problem in that I don't have the beads I want for actually making them.  I also don't really have spare change to purchase said beads.  On top of that, I don't have much spare time between attempting to keep up (more like catch up!) with readings for my classes, plus doing some teaching.  You know, grad school. :)  

Someday, I hope to be able to share those cuffs with you!  In the meantime, I'm strategizing over how to save up and use my spending money for beads. :)  My husband and I have alloted ourselves monthly 'spend on whatever we want' money.  We're having to be thrifty with me in grad school, and the job market the way it is right now, but having that set amount worked into our budget is... nice.  It's guilt-free bead money!  (Little though it may be)  Now if only the sales would just start rolling in....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Treasury Thank-you's

A big thank-you to everyone who has featured my items in a treasury the past couple of weeks!  I know there is at least one treasury which I didn't get a screenshot of, but still a big thanks to those curators as well!

And now..  Thank you to Kim of RegalBeads for featuring not just one, not two, but THREE of my items in this lovely treasury entitled 'Stained Glass'!   Included here are my Stained Glass Cuff, Green Peyote Triangle Cuff, and my Pink Ruffled Circle Earrings.
Be sure to check out Kim's shop for her lovely beadwoven items!

Esther of GreenEnvyDesigns also included my Green Peyote Triangle Cuff in her lovely treasury 'Foraging Etsy's Forest'.

This treasury entitled 'OMG Beads! EBW Team Beauties' from a couple weeks ago features my Midsummer Night's Dream Necklace.  Unfortunately, I failed to record the curator of this treasury.  :(  If it was you, give me a holler so I can properly thank you!

This Treasury entitled 'Just a Preview' was (I believe - correct me if I'm wrong!) curated by Ileana of EnchantedBeads.  It was a pre-voting preview of some of the entries for the EBW September Challenge, and feature my No Shades of Gray Cuff.

A big thank-you to everyone who has featured my work in your Treasuries! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stained Glass Cuff

Once upon a time, I made this pair of stained glass earrings, using the brick stitch.  They sold at a rodeo I went to back in June.  But I liked them, and kept the general idea in mind.

Finally, a week or so ago, I finished this brick-stitched cuff, my Stained Glass Cuff.  I like how it turned out.  
I tried to keep the colors both quasi-random and quasi-regular.  What I did was have two piles of bead containers - 'used' and 'unused'.  I actually did a good job of keeping on my tray only the colors I was currently using.  Then when I finished a diamond, I put those beads away, and the container went into the 'used' pile.  Once all of the 'unused' had moved over to 'used', it became my new 'unused' pile.  Kinda silly?  I like the look of randomness, but at the same time, I couldn't bear the thought of using MORE of one type of bead than all the others!  Or, heaven forbid, have adjacent diamonds of the same bead!  (It was hard enough to convince myself that it was okay to have two of the same color touching)

Random regularity will bother me if it's not of my own making.  For instance, bathroom tiles.  If there are a bunch of tiles in repeating size patterns, I always look for repeating color patterns.  I think that they should be laid out in repeating patterns so that I can find the patterns!  Is anyone else weird like that?