Saturday, June 30, 2012

Memoir Excerpt -- The Irregular Sheets

Last year I entered my first writing contest.  I didn't win, didn't EXPECT to win, but it was the action of mailing it off that made it worthwhile.


I found it difficult to write about a specified topic, just like I always found it hard to read an assigned book in school.  I love to write, and I adore reading, but being TOLD what to read or write -- that's an entirely different thing.


The topic given by the contest was "tell us when you first knew true love".   I immediately knew I didn't want to write about having a baby or getting married, but something else entirely.  Before either of those two things could have happened, I had to learn to love myself.  It was a battle I very nearly lost and if I hadn't somehow struggled through it, I wouldn't be here to write this now.


I decided to go ahead and share the story here. It's certainly not the most interesting story I could tell you, but it's absolutely a turning point in my life.





I knew true love when I smelled the irregular sheets.


In 1999, I spent a miserable, lonely day moving my paltry belongings from a catastrophically failed relationship into a house I was fairly certain I couldn't afford.  The house was old and quaint, an adorable 1940's cottage.  Every room was tiny, which seemed fitting, considering how small I felt, how battered my emotions were, how incredibly microscopic I felt in the grand scheme of life.


A year ago, I thought I had it all.  I'd graduated from a stellar university with a promising future.  I'd found what I thought was the strength to leave a complicated three-year relationship only to fall right back into the same pit I'd just climbed out of.  


"I'll take care of you," he said.  


"I'll treasure you."


" I love you.


The relationship started with sunshine and promises.  Weeks passed, then months ... a year.  As if on a predetermined schedule of existence handed to me at birth, life started derailing right on schedule.  Slights, then fights.  Slammed doors; nights left to steam alone in bed; angry, nasty taunts.  


A couple of shoves.  


Insults.


Lies.

And then, the ultimate denouement -- I was told to move out.


As miserable as this man had made me, as unequipped as he'd been to sustain a lasting relationship with so much as a house plant, I was still utterly and completely crushed.  I'd been chosen and then abandoned by people for years.  Years.  Even my childhood had been a series of neglect, upheaval, and complete crazy-making. 


I was thirty years old and I'd finally hit rock bottom.  Rock bottom had been searching for me for those thirty years, sometimes fading into the background, but all too often rising up to yank me closer to the depths of dashed hopes and anguish.  Rock bottom was being too confused and tired, too miserable and beaten down to consider anything as dire as suicide.  Rock bottom was being forced to live.


The irony didn't escape me.


Struggling to hold myself together, I reached out to a co-worker to help me look for an apartment.  The idea of walking into empty rooms alone was more than I could bear.  We quickly discovered that living in a university town meant skyrocketing rental prices, so I attempted the previously unimaginable -- I started house-hunting. 


Newly out of college and with no savings, my price range hit somewhere between "tenement" and "does not exist in this market".  The first house my agent showed me had plastic sliding doors, three windows, and a resident mouse.  The second house had so much mold and mildew in the basement that both the realtor and I bolted up the stairs and out into the dirt yard gasping for breath. The third house showed promise until we climbed the stairs to the second floor and realized no one taller than 5'8" could possibly live there in an upright position.


Hot, dirty, and dejected, we drove through the neighborhood toward the agent's office.  As we sat at a stop sign, still trying to catch our breath from the moldy basement, the heavens opened up and the angels did sing -- another real estate agent was right at that moment hammering a "For Sale" sign into the yard of an adorable white cottage.



I was all for accosting the agent then and there, but apparently, that's not how things are done in polite society.  My realtor made a phone call and we set an appointment for the next day.


For the first time in ages, things didn't look so dismal.


I'll never forget walking into that house.  Only 888 square feet, it was a haven built for one.  A miniscule fireplace, but plenty of windows.  An adorable little kitchen and a narrow but deep back yard.  Two tiny bedrooms and one dollhouse-sized bathroom.  It even had a sweet dining room just big enough for a table for two -- should I ever find a "plus one".


We wrote a contract immediately.  There was only one catch.  The owner couldn't move out for two months.


Two months.  Two torturous months living holed up in a room in my ex's townhouse.


Could I do it?  Could I handle the put-downs, the new girlfriends being trotted in front of me, my inability to feel the slightest bit of self-worth?


I had no choice.   I had no where else to go.


Living with family was not even on the table.  Most of my friends still lived overseas, still enlisted in the Air Force, where I probably should have stayed.  I couldn't afford a hotel for two months.  I had to swallow what little pride I had left and fall deeper and deeper into self-loathing each and every day.


I nearly didn't make it.  To stay out of the way of the ex-boyfriend, I woke up at 5am to go to the gym, went to work, drove back to the gym again as soon as work was over, and then limped to my personal room in hell to swallow a handful of pain killers left over from a recent surgery so I could fall comatose and forget where I was.  I lost too much weight.  More frighteningly, I lost time.  I found myself sitting at a traffic light with no idea how I'd gotten there or what road I'd just driven.  I was close to a catatonic state most hours of the day.


Finally, moving day arrived.  All my possessions fit in the back of a pickup truck with room to spare.  With a promise of marriage given early on by the ex, I'd sold or given away my entire household when I moved in with him -- furniture, dishes, anything remotely useful to a new home owner.  I had nothing but a couple of suitcases, boxes of beloved books, two cats, and fear.


I spent the first three days in my new house in a haze of cleaning, painting, hammering, patching, and organizing.  I visited a furniture store for a mattress and sofa, the grocery store to stock my empty fridge, and the hardware store to buy light fixtures and paint.  I spent that weekend -- Thanksgiving Day weekend, interestingly -- building a nest for the broken-winged bird I'd become.  I needed to heal, and I needed a home.  I needed a safe haven, and it needed to be mine and mine alone.




I had decided to give up on dating.  One failed marriage and several disastrous long-term relationships were enough.  The pain and anguish were just not worth it.  I needed to learn to love myself and figure out who I was when not defined by the man I was with. In a fit of pique, I decided if I was going to spend my nights alone, then I deserved luxurious high thread count sheets -- even if all I could afford were the irregulars from the discount store.


That night I lay on my back in my tiny bungalow, clutching my irregular sheets up to my chin.  I watched traffic lights pass across my ceiling.  I buried my face in the sheets, taking in a deep breath, smelling the calming scent of fresh laundry.  I'd expected to dry tears on my sheets that night, but instead, I felt a strange calm.



 
Suddenly, I got a chill as I realized in a moment of crisp clarity -- this, this room, this house, was all mine!  


I couldn't control the grin on my face.  I knew tears hadn't been completely vanquished, but I felt myself fall in love with my house, my home, and I felt I could learn, over time, to fall in love with myself.


All it took was the spark of hope from the smell of irregular sheets.





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Lori Anderson creates jewelry and bead kits as well as collaborative mixed media art with her son, Zack.  Visit her shops by clicking here.  She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm  and author of the book Bead Soup.


Join her at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cup of Bead Soup Mini Blog-Hop with Lea Avroch!

If you've been a follower of my blog, you're already familiar with my Cup of Bead Soup project.  In 2011, I purchased beads, sight unseen, from various bead makers and tasked myself with creating things with components I didn't choose myself.  It's been a fantastic way to push my design skills and break out of making the same old/same old.  In essence, it was a one-woman-production of the Bead Soup Blog Party.


I changed the process for 2012 to include three additional designers, the same set of beads, and made it a mini-hop.  Each Cup of Bead Soup, you'll have the chance to sign up to participate and be chosen randomly.  The Cup of Bead Soup has a fee associated with it that goes directly to the bead maker.  Support Handmade!

(feel free to grab this button and link it to your store!)


To refresh your memory, this is the handmade lampwork bead Lea Avroch sent us....



Now let me tell you -- this is a LARGE bead -- 1.25" (31mm) in diameter.  I know from my own paltry experience at lampworking that this sort of bead takes a lot of time to finesse.  It's also made with a reactive glass which is a LOT more expensive than normal glass rods. 


With beads of this size, I'm careful when designing a bracelet.  If the rest of the bracelet isn't similarly weighted, the bead will constantly roll to the bottom of your wrist where you can't see it.  This is exactly the sort of bead I would have used back when I regularly made this style of chain maille bracelet:


However, sterling silver jump rings of this size and weight have made me shelve this design for a while, which is really too bad, as it was really popular.


So let's try a pendant, something I don't often make.


I pulled out 12-gauge sterling silver, and lady's and gentlemints, that is SOME sort of hard wire to bend and wrap, even at dead soft!  Cripes.  But I persevered, shot a piece of silver across the room when I cut it (reminder -- safety glasses for everyone within range), and made a wrapped loop, strung on the bead, and make a large loop beneath the bead.  


Next came the fun -- embellishing that silver loop.  I decided on teeny tiny gemstones (and by tiny, I mean 2-5 mm).  Citrine, phrenite, mystic topaz, and garnets, to be exact.  I went for faceted rondelles, smooth rondelles, and smooth rounds for even more texture.


I usually use 28-gauge sterling silver when I make intricate wrapped projects like this, but I didn't have any.  I had just bought a roll of 26-gauge nickel silver from Fire Mountain Gems on a whim, and decided why not, let's try it.  I'm happy to say it worked out well, although it was a bit stiffer than sterling.  If you want to oxidize nickel silver, I've found my Liver of Sulfur doesn't work well but JAX Brown, which is usually for copper and what not, rocks.


And here's about two hours of work:




As you can see, I went to town wrapping a base and a cap out of the thin wire, and continued the texture by wrapping the wire around the bail.  


Some tips if you want to make this sort of pendant:

*  Wrap the strung gemstones once around the wire base, and then come BACK in the other direction to fill in the holes.

*  You're going to have to work that thin wire between beads like dental floss between teeth sometimes.

*  It's going to look like a hot mess while you're working on it, but about halfway through, you'll start to see it all come together.


And now see what the other designers made!

and please visit Lea Avroch at the following sites:

I'm going to take a hiatus from Cup of Bead Soup until the Bead Soup Blog Party is done so stay tuned for September when we'll have FIVE slots (INTERNATIONAL INCLUDED)
with a lampwork bead set by Juls Cannon.


Thanks for visiting!


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Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm.   


Join her at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!

Have you had enough of Zack yet?

No?  Well good!  Because this weekend, while we beat 100+ degree heat, we're going to make pendants.  I am FINALLY pulling out the resin and Zack's artwork will be encased with sparkly bits, buttons, who knows what else!  So stay tuned ---- this will rock and rock hard.

(Zack in 2010.  He was into art even then.)


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Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm.   


Join her at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Zack -- Has Hammer, Will Make Jewelry

Yesterday I posted about my son Zachary's new Etsy shop for mixed media art, ZackAttackArt.  He's REALLY gotten into the swing of mommy's work and I decided what the heck, let me hand the little guy a hammer.


I pulled out a strip of copper and a round of nickle silver and ImpressArt letter stamps from PJ Tool & Jewelry Supply the guys who have been so fantastic about sending me stamps and tools to give away here on the blog.  Zack decided he wasn't just "Zack" but "Zack!", complete with exclamation point (the new stamp sets not only have the alphabet, but include cool symbols, too).




First, I gave Zack a texturing hammer.  I love this hammer from Beaducation because the heads screw off and you can get nine total surfaces.  Sure, I'd love a full set of Fretz hammers (I own one Fretz riveting hammer and it is a DREAM -- absolutely perfectly balanced) but for the money, this texture hammer is pretty cool.


I taped the copper strip to the bench block and let Zack go to town.  That's blue painter's tape, and it comes off well, even if you hammer on it.


I showed him how to finish the edges of the strip with the plain rounded face of the hammer, and then I did the filing.  


Next, I showed Zack how to lay out his letter stamps in a row, find the center, and how to line them up on another strip of tape.  He's using the new short-handled stamping hammer from PJ Tool & Jewelry Supply.  I LOVE this hammer.  After stamping his name, he stamped stars below his name.  After all, if your name ends in an exclamation point, you MUST have stars!




Today, Zack and I sat down with a packet of rivets and beads and finished his key chain.  I did all the riveting, using brass rivets and a punch I bought recently from Ornamentea.  Zack chose a star charm and a red lampwork bead and I got to work.


After a bath in Liver of Sulfur, this is the final result.....




He's VERY proud of his creation.  Even though I filed the edges and did the riveting, he did all the hammering and all of the design.  I'm tickled pink with my kidlet.


You'll have to wait a little to see what I made for myself!  :-)



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Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm.   


Join her at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ZackAttackArt



Some of you already know about this from my post a few weeks ago on Facebook, but Zack has his own store on Etsy now!  It's of course run by me, but the art is a collaborative effort between me and Zack.

To start off, we did a limited run of "surprise me!" bookmarks and they sold out almost immediately (thank you, friends!).  Today I listed one last bookmark, the cute one with the owls....



It's made on heavy-weight cold-press watercolor paper, has rounded corners so they don't get messed up in your book, and is made with a wash of watercolor, stamped ink, and colored pencils.  They're signed and dated on the back.  


Here are some of the others that sold, along with the sweet owls:




Zack and I take turns on the art work.  We dig through my folder of ephemera and stickers and cut things out, stamp things, draw things. 
  

There's a lot that goes into his work -- first, we cut paper to size.



And then we go through a ton of art supplies to rival any Michaels out there.


Rubber stamps, ink, Prismacolor colored pencils...


Some very cool metallic Faber-Castell colored pencils...
(can't have too may colored pencils!)


And, of course, palettes of paint -- regular and shimmer.
We haven't broken out the watercolor tubes yet but that's coming. 


The above photo is of Zack with his art on exhibit at the Art Academy Museum when he was in 2nd grade.  That painting (and several others!) are framed and displayed throughout the house.


He even has little Moo business cards now, so if we see you at BeadFest in Philly in August, you might just get one!


Stay tuned for more art updates!  You can also sign up for his RSS feed at www.ZackAttackArt.com



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Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm.   


Join me at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Etsy Finds -- The Bead Soup Blog Party Edition

It's hard to believe, but there are 399 participants for the 6th Bead Soup Blog Party!  This will be the first party to have THREE separate reveal dates -- July 28th, August 11th, and August 25th.  It's also the last summer party -- from now on, there will only be one BSBP a year, in the Jan/Feb time frame.


While entering everyone into groups on several spreadsheets, I visited dozens -- well, hundreds! -- of shops, and today I'm going to share a few with you.






Bronze clasp by Thea Too



Earrings by Spice Box Designs



Hand-cast pewter by Lynn Davis


Polymer clay by tooAquarius



jewelry with found objects by lilruby


I can't wait for the reveal days, can you?





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Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm.   


Join me at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry" by Lorelei Eurto and Erin Siegel

I'm excited to be involved in the Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry Blog Celebration (which includes a cool challenge via Polyvore.com).  Lorelei Eurto and Erin Siegel, along with contributors Maire Dodd, Tracy Statler, and Denise Yezbak Moore, created a unique beading book that focuses on various types of cording, ribbon, and fiber to make beautiful jewelry.  It's a pretty awesome book!



The book has a ton of design ideas that will appeal to virtually everyone.  Silk thread for knotting gemstones, elegant velvet ribbon for a lariat, leather in earrings -- there are all kinds of things to look at and inspire you.


One of the things I've enjoyed working with is waxed linen.  "Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry" covers the knotting technique I used in this piece of jewelry:




The polymer clay is by Barbara Bechtel and I made the lampwork beads.  The bird is by Mamacita Beadworks (she's also making my new jewelry tags!!!) and the bar connector is by Green Girl Studios.  You can see I used a combination of overhand knotting and overhand knotting after sliding a bead onto one of the threads (you can see that on the pink Czech glass rounds).  


I have just started using cord in my jewelry and this book will certainly help jump-start my creativity! I recommend it to any level beader.




You can jump start YOUR creativity by visiting the official Polyvore Challenge page (click here!) via Beading Daily.  You'll learn about how to win a free book, get to visit with the authors and contributors, and hop through the rest of the blogs in the blog party!


Enjoy!



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Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm.   


Join me at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A New Look!

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I am thrilled beyond words with the work Brandi Hussey did for my blog, aren't you?


If you haven't visited Brandi's blog, you need to NOW.  She has so much information to offer!  Her color palettes are amazing, her eClass on PhotoShop Elements is terrific, and she used to make gorgeous jewelry before changing career paths.  She's in my book, "Bead Soup", too!  And obviously, she's super-talented in the graphic design category, too.


I absolutely LOVE the banner.  I sent her a bazillion photos, and she really picked the ones that are quintessentially about me and what I love.  The vintage typewriter -- my love of writing.   The pink hair -- it's become an identity now.  The artwork -- those are Zack's bookmarks from his shop.  The beaded bracelet shows one of my lampwork beads.  And finally, my shoe collection, which has spawned several blog posts and is also part of my identity.   Fun hair, fun shoes, fun purses, fun jewelry.  That's my style.


I REALLY love the bars to the right instead of in the header.  It helped me clean up the side bar a bit and gave me room to grow.  And it feels cleaner in here, too -- she must have dusted when she was working!


Please be sure to visit Brandi's blog and give her some love!








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Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm.   


Join me at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fun with Zack -- and fruit.

Father's Day in Maryland dawned beautifully.  The weather could NOT have been balmier or better suited for a day on the back porch.


Zack is a NASCAR fan.  Sigh.  It's not my fault.  Neither Rick nor I have any interest in NASCAR but Zack loves everything with wheels and can tell you more information about vehicles than you ever thought could fit in his little head.  So Rick found a NASCAR version of Monopoly, which thrilled the kidlet, and playing board games was the mission of the day.


Zack got silly before we settled in....



Yes, a frisbee for a hat.  At least it was on his head and not on the roof.  I didn't need to climb out the bathroom window and traverse the shingles to rescue anything THIS time.  I did that once when Zack had a play date and I was a total rock star afterwards in those kids' eyes.






As most Monopoly games go around here, we had to call a permanent pit stop and end the game or we'd still be out there racing around the board. 


Monday Zack and I drove to Annapolis to run errands and made a stop at Whole Foods.  Mmmmm, summer fruit! 


Zack wanted to adopt an apricot.  No, not eat it -- adopt it.  He was petting it and asking what sort of animal felt like an apricot, and weren't apricots CUTE?????  


Me, I'm partial to cherries.



Then we had an impromptu game of soccer. 


This particular Whole Foods has an underground garage and a moving walkway that leads down so you can take your cart with you.  Zack loves to "ride" it, while I take the stairs (exercise, any way I can get it).  I got to the bottom first and all of a sudden heard a shout from both Zack and another woman.   And suddenly I was blocking a watermelon with my foot before it could smash into the wall.


Apparently, the woman forgot the watermelon was on the bottom rack of the shopping cart before she got on the moving walkway behind Zack.  The watermelon must have heard that Zack was adopting fruit because it jumped free and beaned Zack in the back of the legs.  He jumped and the watermelon kept going (did you know watermelons bounce?).  The woman was mortified but Zack and I were in stitches.  She said she'd never seen a kid jump so fast.


Zack -- you can't have a boring life with him around!




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Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party tm.   


Join me at the Facebook group Bead Soup Cafe for bead chat, swaps, challenges, and lots of eye candy!