Down to the Wire…

‘Tis the night before Christmas…and all through MY house, we are definitely “stirring” (probably, even the mouse).   Seventeen coming for dinner tomorrow…should be cooking…but instead, I have been doing the usual wrestling with camera and photo-editing to come up with some photos that truly convey how busy my Santa’s workshop has been!

This season’s ornaments are done.  The photos (as usual) do not tell the tale well.  I have an old dresser in my studio.  In it, I keep all the random stuff I find …it is a true treasure chest of inspiration.  The brass stampings, cloisonné disks, and vintage beads all came from there…the silk tassels and beaded chain were an unrelated, but totally fortuitous purchase from a summer rock show in Massachusetts…

The “black hole”  posted on Instagram a few weeks ago has been transformed by what seems like a million vintage sequins and pins into a wreath that just has to make one smile…I mean, really?

The house is well and truly decorated.

It will be a lively crowd.  Not too traditional…though, there WILL be ham.

Hopefully, a grand time will be had by all.

Savor this season full of family and good times…the new year will bring a fresh start and new work.  Enjoy and take care.




Season’s Greetings

IMG_5691The sun finally came out…and, so…voila…maybe a reasonable(?) set of photos of this year’s ornaments!  I hope your holidays are full of family, friends, and fun.  I will be back in the New Year…the studios are ALMOST together…am truly looking forward to a fresh start and some new work.




IMG_5715ps:  My resolution for the New Year?   Finally try to learn how to use that camera!  I can probably even find my manual!



Late Again?

Given my stated intention to start posting again in a somewhat regular way (was that already two weeks ago???), I guess one might say this post is “just a bit late”.  My only excuse is that I am doing my best.  I am no longer the only one with an idea about how the day should go…and most of my days rarely wend out “according to the plan”.  I am trying not to feel guilty about the things I don’t get done… That said, there HAS been some progress on the project front.

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Crocheting the scarf together is a “slow go”…  At this point, though, almost all of the squares are joined along two sides.  I am thinking that joining them in the other direction will go much faster, as the piece gets more and more “fabric-like”.  Here is hoping, anyway…It feels good in my hand as I work on it.  I am thinking to add an edge all around…with little circles on the points?

This is also the time of year that I begin to think about my holiday projects.  For many years now, I have made an original ornament from something culled from my stash.  These are my special gifts to my family…and sometimes, for a friend or two.  If I start thinking about it early enough, make a plan, and actually BEGIN, I find I enjoy the whole process immensely.  There is no time pressure.  Usually quite a bit of handwork is involved (the best part), and I love the quiet work in the midst of the ever-growing craziness as the holiday approaches.  I pulled out a few possibilities as I was unpacking.  They were sitting out on the table for a while.  One pile kept calling to me.  So, I think this year, the ornaments are going to have a bit of an Italian flair…


The starting point was the fabric:  a wonderful piece of Italian silk found years ago at my favorite flea market (STILL miss that place!).  It was probably a manufacturer’s sample, maybe for men’s ties?  It is not very big, but there are about 12 wonderfully different color combinations all on the same piece.  I am thinking that playing with these could be fun.  Not sure what will happen with the organza ribbon.  But, it looked like a party…


The beads are from my stash.  I have been collecting and holding on to these for a long time.  They are old, probably from Murano. ( Can you see that strand of oval millefiore beads in there?  I wonder how many tourists manage to leave Venice without buying at least one of those!)  Again, not sure how they will end up in the thing.  Liked how they looked lying on the fabric, though…


I re-“found” these as I was unpacking.    More treasures from the Elephant’s Trunk…One summer a vendor at the market showed up pretty much every week with a few!!! boxes of these.  He had bought the contents of an old jewelry shop.  Boxes and boxes were un-earthed in the basement!!!! never-opened!!!  Some weeks I managed to walk right on by him, but more than once, I stopped, looked, and bought a few(?)  He thought they were from the 40’s…  They make me smile; they remind me of some very good days…


And then, I added these to the mix: more treasures from my stash…the colors are good…

So, all of the above will sit out for a bit on one of my old silver-plate trays (part of the process).  As I finish organizing my studio, it will be sitting there.  Out.  I will be thinking about the pieces and parts.  Passing by.

I have a trip coming up which is always a good time for some handwork.  If I am ready, the fun will begin…stay tuned.

In the “Nick” of Time

IMG_5411Like many, I assume, there are things I love doing for the holidays, and things that get done because others in my family love them, or would sorely miss them, if they didn’t happen.  Given that I am having Christmas dinner for seventeen in a room that just barely got finished (dark cranberry red has given way to shell pink; wainscoting and trim, a bright, soft white), doing “my things” for Christmas has been a challenge.  But, my ornaments are finally DONE!  Cut out and sewn “on the fly” between painting and unpacking sessions… stuffed with polyfil on the plane to California… beaded in the early mornings with coffee while everyone else slept, during our visit…”feathered”, over the last week at odd moments…”winged”, the last few days…signed and dated yesterday…DONE!

IMG_5405I like them.  The inspiration for them was a small scrap of fabric that came in my box of shibori silk scraps from Carter Smith.  It was an oddly-shaped piece of  embroidered brocade that went from rose through violet, to blue.  With strategic arranging, and choosing to use a scrap of a lovely red-violet shot silk for the other half of the heart, I was able to make twelve.  That is a good number.  My kids love getting “first pick”; three, for family, a few for random acts of gifting…and, hopefully, several left, at the end for me.

I love that each heart is different and yet, part of a collection.   Carter’s brocade set the scheme; the purple silk was from my stash; the vintage metallic inset, a victim of the randomness of an ice-dyeing session… voila…twelve hearts, each related, but unique.  The cut glass bead  embellishments were also from my stash.  To travel, I had to “pre-edit”.   I took two small plastic containers, each with six pie-shaped sections with snap-tight lids.  I filled them with some sparkly violet, green and multi-metallic larger beads for around the edges of the heart, some seed beads to anchor them, and, some oval beads from an old mother of pearl necklace…and hoped for the best.  In some ways, the limitations inspired some unusual pairings.  That was good.

Once I got home, figuring out what to use for “wings” was a bit tough.  I guess the choice of feathers (now that the hearts are finished) seems obvious!  But, it took me a while and some grazing among my stuff to settle on them.  That green feathered hat gave its all!  It looked like a “ratty” old thing, but it yielded many, many beautiful feathers: some, striped, some a bright green, others, various shades of dark green…all, just the perfect size.  They were gathered and stitched into wings, then attached in pairs to the back of each heart.  Small sequinned disks (bought in a street market stall on my trip to Amsterdam in October) and a dome-shaped brass finding anchored the wings in place…

IMG_5418I am not sure if others find these ornaments to be “odd”.  For me, they are the result of a creative journey which happens during a special time of the year.    I hope you have traditions that make your holidays special too.  Enjoy.



Stubborn to the Bone


I DID get them done…just under the wire…am about to pack them away:  this year’s Christmas  ornaments.  Usually, I have devised a clever title, and a way to date and sign them…this holiday, I was happy to just FINISH them…  Now, on the other side of all the chaos of packing and moving, they make me smile!  YES!  I won!  Chaos lost.

Constructing them was a very simple process.   I began by beading the brass bells, using a fine gauge wire and small beads, “sewing” in and out of the perforations.  Some were vintage seed beads; others were not.  All were from my stash (hooray!).

I then strung series of beads on 26 gauge wire, trying to create sets of each combination.  I generally made as many in any one series as my pile of any given bead would allow.  (Using up the stash!  Points for that.)   As the number of sets grew, I began to “wire” them together with a short piece of scrap wire to keep them all together.  They were so lovely.  And, it turns out, this was probably the only kind of project I could have done given everything else going on.  I carried them back and forth between houses, laid them out wherever I was and just worked on them as I could…strand by strand, set by set.

When I was “done”, i.e. tired of stringing and getting close to “the DEADline”, I laid all the sets of different combinations out on my table, undid the scrap wires and just played with combinations of bells and beaded wires.  In the end, I had about 15 “ornaments”.   To finish, I joined them together with a large wire link, and added the final silver bead collar and string.  Victory.  Still smiling.



Finding an Antidote

So, I am finding that working is better than not.  I have been snatching time here and there…now is one of those more “there” moments (the moving truck is in my driveway, meaning this will be short and sweet).  But, above is just a glimpse of the pieces and parts (gathered during many summer Sundays, while trawling the flea market) that I have been putting together to make my family ornaments for this year’s Christmas holiday.  I am truly liking how all these very simple found pieces are turning into something quite complex and unique.  All are constructed in a very simple stringing process on a brass wire…but, what fun coming up with the combinations!  Not sure how all will come together in the end…but, so far, so good.  Sometimes, being a stubborn sort is a very good thing.


Suite Complete…

I am not sure why, but one of my most treasured Christmas traditions is making a holiday ornament for those in my family.  For me, sitting down to work on them is the official start of a wonderful family holiday.  (My kids live on the other coast, so visits home are rare and very special.)  Maybe it is the contemplation that comes as I am working on the things.   I believe that every handmade object holds the thoughts of its maker, held long after it is finished.   Maybe it is just the joy of the work itself.

My ornaments are not similar to each other in any way from year to year.  I never have a clue whether they will be stitched or constructed; made mostly of fabric, or of something else entirely.  As a matter of fact, that is the first engaging part of the process: finding the stuff that inspires the form of the ornament.  It will be no surprise to anyone that this usually happens at the flea market!  This year, apparently, I am using bells to construct my ornaments.  I found these in a big old biscotti jar…six for a dollar!  (Although economy is not THE driving force behind any choice, it is always a thrill to start with a “bargain” that can be transformed into a treasure.)   By picking and choosing, I was able to put together a pile that varies in color; some look to be copper, others, more like brass.  Corrosion and time have added blue and green to some.  I bought two dozen…then, happening upon them again, bought yet another…I can’t need “just a few more” to finish…finding any in December will NOT be an option.  Guess how I learned this…

I am thinking the perforations in the bells will be perfect for beading “a la Miriam Haskell”. (She often created wonderful pins, wiring small leaves and seed beads onto a perforated metal base.)  Using various beads and crystals will be a way to make each ornament unique.  (Always a goal.)  They will also add color and reflectivity. (Important in an ornament, I think…the better to catch the light and spread the joy.)  And, last but not least, picking and choosing will just make the work more fun.

The brass bows were found in a neighboring jar.   They might become the ornament’s hanging device.   I am not sure about the “one-sided” aspect, though.  An ornament is a three-dimensional thing.  It has to look good from every side.  (Another puzzle to be solved.)   A few weeks ago, I found brass bows of a different sort (they were a dime apiece!  But, there were only seven…so, there could be some choices to be made there.)   The vintage bullion braid came from the same table!  That vendor sure made my day!

As the hunting and gathering continues, I find other things that further define the form the final ornament might take.  The brass and crystal beads could be the bells’ “ringers”…but then that broken string of Japanese beads might add an unusual twist…they reflect the light in such a subtle, but eye-catching way… And then, those old watch hands that look to be ivory (but were far too cheap to be so)…They will have to be in there somewhere, if only to remind me of a wonderful morning spent in the Cow Palace with my kids, just grazing for treasure.  Isn’t it wonderful to be entertained by such a simple pleasure?

A Gift from the Heart

This year’s Christmas ornament was inspired by a stash of great clock gears that I found at the flea market last summer and tucked away until just a few weeks ago.  The way it generally goes is that I find something like the gears, and then keep an “eye out” for other possibilities.  I need about 10 of any given thing.  (One year, the edition was 18!  That was WAY TOO MANY.)  The second find was the great vintage copper stars:  I loved their patina.  I bought them in pairs, thinking I would create a two-sided ornament, with the gears as trim…  That was it!

I raided my stash for other potential goodies, …and the idea began to come together.  I pulled out other random copper stampings, small brass screws and washers, beads, enameled copper “gears”, vintage glass drops, and an old chain necklace…anything that seemed to “go” with my “plan”. how to appraise a domain name .  All were laid out on a silver tray (one of the things taking up square feet on my table in my November 24, 2012 post)  I buy old trays at the thrift store for a few dollars and use them to hold all of the potential pieces and parts of a possible project.  It might sit on my worktable for days, weeks, or months; sometimes waiting for inspiration, other times, just for the time to get to it.)

The final and very serendipitous find, found on the very last day of the flea season, were the vintage clock hands…

Variations on a theme…front view
Viewed from the back. The brass screws were cut off and filed, creating a true two-sided ornament
A closer look
Another ornament, close- up

My kids usually get “first pick” when the ornaments are done;  I always hold my breath, hoping they don’t choose my favorite!

Christmas at My House

I think the only holiday deadline that I missed was this one!  So, enjoy, even a day late…


A window sill skier


A starry night visitor…
My tree top angel
Even house plants do “Christmas” duty
Santa time!
An unruly toy escaped from Santa’s sack!
A good toy…still in the sack, but ready to play…
Elf helpers, hauling Santa’s sleigh

Vintage ball wreath, easy to make…

Just playing around with my camera.  No wise words.

Hearts, no flowers…

Am feeling optimistic…after getting text and the photos!!! actually posted yesterday…all on my own. (Though, I have to confess, how it all came about is still a bit of a mystery.) But in honor of the day, I am trying again. Nothing like success to spur one on to another challenge.

These are part of a set of ornaments made to give to my family. I have been doing this for more than twenty years. They are out on my table because sooner or later I will master the technical complexity of my new camera and then, I will assemble a portfolio of my work which actually looks like the real thing. (Ever hopeful.)

Each summer as I cruise the aisles at the flea market I look for something to inspire that year’s ornament. For these, named Party Hearts, the find was the vintage beaded shoe bows! They are a bit quirky, but always make me smile. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Party Hearts, Christmas 2005

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