Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Imperfection is Perfection

One of the best friends anyone could hope to have I've only met once.

When I first started beading, Mecca was the Bead and Button shopping days.  I had NO idea what I was getting into, but I was starting out like gangbusters with my business, had a wide-open budget, and lordy lordy, stars in my eyes.

Allegra is the dearest of dear to me -- a friend, a surrogate mother, a confidante, a teacher, a mentor. It was no surprise when I knocked on her hotel door and we literally jumped up and down like school children. Two happier people were not in that hotel (including the ladies buying up all the beads!). She, her husband, and a small group of friends who bonded when Yahoo Groups ruled and Facebook didn't exist spent glorious days shopping and relaxing over occasionally raucous nights dining out. Our lovely guide, Ann, lived in the area and knew allll the good places, including the hotel that had, tucked away in a quiet corner, the equivalent of a $100,000 wedding dessert table full of chocolate this and chocolate that and omg that chocolate-filled-chocolate-covered thing over there! I don't know which was worse, my bead budget that day or my dessert tab. We had coffee afterwards to be all civilized and proper (however giddily), but believe me, there were some serious delicacies going down!

Maybe I'm exaggerating about the cost of the set-up but you know those shows, "Four Weddings", where the brides try to outdo each other and some have more money than sense? It was like that without the $100,000 bill! Gorgeous venue, quiet music, and a long bar full of delicacies. We were the only ones there, so it was our own fairyland. And did I mention the chocolate?

Those few days were when we knew we were EXPERIENCING LIFE!  We knew we had to savor every. single. second. because it would be impossible to encounter all of those things for the first time again ... to see those smiling faces for the first time again .. to learn and to laugh and to love for the first time .. to be blessed with joy the way a group of people like us, who were just meant to be together, could be so fortunate.

What does that have to do with my word of the day, kintsukuroi? Well, it has to do with what I'm trying to do with my life now that I've had surgery and am improving and healing yet am afraid I'll never find joy again. I feel broken and lost and quite often sorry for myself. Feeling exactly that way tonight, I got out of bed and wrote this blog post (so please excuse the grammar and typos!).

Again, Allegra. 

Allegra took me under her wing from day one on the Yahoo Groups and taught me more than she will ever know, both about beads and about life. For instance, she taught me there is no such desirable thing as a perfect Persian rug. A Persian rug is meant to be perfectly imperfect, and precisely imperfect. Traditional, hand-made Persian rugs have intentional flaws because the Muslim artists feel that only Allah is perfect and has the right to create perfectly.

That makes me think. Why am I trying to be so darned perfect?

Now, it matters not whether you believe in God or Allah or the Great Spaghetti Monster. The point is perfection shouldn't hound us like dogs nipping at our heels, forcing us on and on to be the epitome of "this is sublimely exceptional perfect", and often losing our way in the process.

Yet so many of us push ourselves that way, don't we?

What we should be asking ourselves is...


Another word Allegra taught me was kintsukuroi, a lovely Japanese word that also embraces the imperfect by making broken bits, cracks, and chips even more beautiful and embracing the flaws. Combine the idea of the Persian rug and kintsukuroi, and you have a pretty good road map for life. 

We all knew those four days were going to end, but while we were together, it felt blissfully like time stopped, and I've only had a precious few moments in my life like that. All of us knew this was special, imperfectly so. We lost one friend to cancer. Another is fighting cancer. One drifted away. Ann and I still shop together whenever I can make it out to Milwaukee, which has been a while, but she's a dear and I love her, and I hope to see her next year at the show.

Allegra, though -- she is indeed one of a kind. Like the ropes binding the pier above, she was the glue, the one with the funniest anecdotes and the most interesting stories, the one we were all drawn to. She knew which bead artist to visit and in what order, she knew when to put our feet up and tell more stories, and she taught us all what a Scotch egg was. She was just -- perfect. But if she were here, she would remind me of those beautiful rules of imperfection ... and I love her all the more for it. 

I pray with all I have that I will get to see Allegra again. It's been sixteen years since that trip, and a whole lot of frayed threads and cracked porcelain have happened during that time. Somehow I wonder how we stand it. But then I think of my little boy painting joyfully over vases that were supposedly already perfect, my dropping dozens of 3 mm gemstones all over the floor over and over again, and Allegra's rug with the flaw you can barely see, but is comforted that it's there. These flaws -- they keep us human. Imperfectly so.

One of my original blog headers sums it up well. Life should be full of beautiful experiences and pretty things. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be valued or important. We don't have to worry about the chocolate dribble on our cheek or being afraid of a Scotch egg (they're delicious, by the way). We're all there for the moment, and life is full of moments, I like to think, rather than a long tedious, stressful path we never deviate from. 

May you find your bowl with cracks and chips and paint it gold.


Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Stay Optimistic

If we think this way, the troubles of today matter a lot less, don't they?

With all the scary weather and the uncertainties of the world, why not cut this out and put it on your fridge, in your wallet, on your computer .... or make someone else's day change by taping it to the mirror in a public restroom, the bulletin board of the library, or leave it with the tip for your waitress.

Love to all, and stay optimistic.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things.... Etsy Finds

I haven't done this in a while! And NO, please no .... do NOT buy anything on this list for me (husband, you are included in this). I just wanted to showcase some things I love and of course would love to own, but paying the bills gives me a feeling unlike that of accumulating things.

However, if you have a birthday or other special day coming up (like, oh, Thursday), maybe these will inspire you to treat yourself!

This beautiful agate is sooo amazing. My problem -- it's a cabochon, and I haven't the capacity right now to either prong bezel it or seed bead bezel it. But it's gorgeous, isn't it?  Look at the bits of druzy!
 By SemiGemstone.

I love houses -- old houses with lots of potential. We very nearly bought a 120-year old Victorian when we moved to the Eastern Shore until we got a structural engineer in and as the saying goes -- "You don't old an old house -- it owns you." With me seven months pregnant, ripping up floors and sanding and all of that normally fun stuff we would have loved to do had to go to the way side. And I also believe that everything happens for a reason, because that teeny tiny town is 20 minutes from where we live now, and life would have been a LOT different, especially where Zack and school is concerned.

So I can love this polymer clay piece by Ms Place.

It's fish cakes night! Yay!

I just love FishCakesOhBoy!! In fact, I bought a lot of magnets for teachers over the years and received a print as a gift (oh boy!). Zack has two magnets on the fridge -- "I love bowties" and "RAWWWR!" -- which if you know Zack -- well, they're perfect.

I absolutely LOVE this print. MUST put on the Christmas list. After all, who doesn't want to know The Meaning of Life?

Oh my! People think I'm crazy for buying Other People's Jewelry (but I do, or did, a LOT). I wish my things were innovative enough that other jewelry designers bought them (the ultimate compliment!). Anyway, this is an amazing necklace -- anything this style I'm in love with. This is made by MayaHelena.

And one final lovely! I would love to try my hand at making one of these from Heidi Kumli's kits, but she's taking a break from Etsy at the mo and I have no idea if she's gone gone or if she's on a Facebook group, but I'm sad. No idea how much it cost but I waited too long! AGH! But isn't it pretty?

So there, eye-candy day! I hope you enjoy and visit the artists to see more of their beauties!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Austism -- a post by Zachary Anderson

Recently Zachary had to write an essay on the following question. He wanted to share it with you.

Describe an experience that had a significant impact on you. The experience can be an achievement, a personal challenge, a failure, a trip, a realization, etc. What did you learn from this experience? How has this experience influenced your development as a person?

For the longest time, I didn't know what was wrong with me. I wasn't the same as other kids and other kids didn't seem to understand me. In 3rd grade, though, I found out I had Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum.

When I found out that this was a syndrome other people had, I realized I wasn't weird, and that made me feel more positive and confident because I knew I could do whatever I wanted in life.

While I was in 3rd grade, my mom bought me a book called "All Cats Have Asperger's Syndrome" and I read it to my class. After I finished reading, the teacher asked if anyone felt they had any of the traits mentioned in the book, and almost everyone did. This made me feel more connected and at ease with them because they understood me better.

When I found out about famous people with Asperger's Syndrome, including Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokémon, I knew that I could be great in life because many people with Asperger's Syndrome already are.

I learned that anyone, no matter what, can make a difference in the world or in someone's life.

I made my main group of friends in 5th grade, and I've been friends with them ever since. I've invited them to my house get togethers and even had a birthday party. My mood has improved drastically since 5th grade.

A personal challenge that changed me was at an overnight camp called Echo Hill. I had to climb 45 feet up a tree to get to a zip line. I'm afraid of heights, but I was determined to zip line. About a quarter of the way up, I started to panic, even though I had a harness. My group, though, knew I could do it and they kept encouraging me to keep going. I kept going but I couldn't see through my tears. My group told me where to put my hands and feet so I could keep going. I reached the top, but without the encouragement of friends, I couldn't have done it. I'm so glad I managed, because the zip line was amazing!

I've overcome many physical and social challenges and made many friends. Doing this was no easy feat. Many hardships got in my way, but I overcame them. My friends, teachers, and parents helped me through any trouble....

... all of this because I found out I had Asperger's Syndrome and realized that I was wanted and not weird.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sometimes we need a that friend.

Today I had the chance to make a quick visit to a friend suffering cancer. First, her cancer was misdiagnosed as a spider bite. Then she found out it was a form of skin cancer. It's on her finger, which rather sucks, because she's in the medical field, and if the skin graft doesn't hold (and it's dubious right now) her job may become NO job.

I'd mentioned on Facebook that I have eight friends with cancer, and if I could, I'd get a tiny teardrop trailer and make a massive road trip, from Maryland to Oregon and spots in between to cheer them up.

But it doesn't take an epic road trip.

It's easy to get lost in the workaday world, and days turn to weeks that rapidly turn to months. So today, why not get a pretty card and send it to someone? They don't even have to be sick; you may have just lost touch. Email is quick, but snail mail, especially unexpected cheery snail mail, can make a person's day. And if you can, why not stop by, with a coffee or a great book or a movie?

PapayaArt is one of my go-to shops for unique cards.

Let's make a Bucket List to check our calendars each month and pick a person to spoil a little. Be a friend.

I guarantee it won't be forgotten.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Story from Zack -- Why Woodpeckers Bang Their Heads on Trees

A while ago, Zack and I got into a conversation about woodpeckers. He brought it up because he thought they were rather fascinating birds. I asked him WHY they were fascinating. Here's his story that was published in his school newspaper; it's a little shorter than the original version due to newspaper space. Enjoy!!!!

The woodpecker, also known as Dryocopus pileatus, bang their heads against trees because they are diehard heavy metal fans. But not just ANY heavy metal; only heavy metal bands comprised of squirrels. Yes, squirrels.

Compared to human heavy metal, squirrel heavy metal is like cutting down the squirrel's tree while they're screaming at each other and throwing acorns around at each other. This says two things about the woodpeckers' personality; a) they have horrible taste in music and b) they are not the sharpest beak in the forest.

"Hey. I'm with the band, dude."

"When is the gig? I'm ready to ROCK!"

When a woodpecker pecks, it's usually out of view. This is because they're a bit afraid of people and they hang out where the squirrels are -- in the trees. Squirrel bands are in trees because they are conscious about the feelings of humans. The might be out of fear, though -- most people only hear a few pecks at a certain moments, but around squirrels, woodpeckers peck on one tree for hours at a time. This is because heavy metal songs composed by squirrels are VERY long, but no human has ever heard an entire one. The record for the longest time listening to a heavy metal song made and performed by squirrels was 30 minutes. The person only lasted that long because his eardrums eventually burst and his brain melted.


For some reason, the squirrels aren't affected by their music, but they ARE affected by the constant head-banging of the woodpecker. When a woodpecker pecks, to us it sounds like, well, a beak on wood. To squirrels, it's like someone banging on a wall right next to you at twenty beats a second.

Quite a dilemma.

But let's not focus on that. Let's focus on the beauty of the Dryocopus pileatus.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Welcome to the Bead Soup Blog Party, Bead Hoarders Edition!

SO! It's finally time for the Bead Soup Blog Party (BSBP) Bead Hoarder's Blog Hop!

I first want to thank all participants. It was a bit daunting dusting off something I've done for years after many years of making nothing at all but a good-sized dent in the bed, and it was equally daunting to even MAKE jewelry when I hadn't touched my tools for a long, long, long time. Everyone I've come in contact with over the years on Facebook during these parties couldn't have been sweeter. So...

The Bead Soup Blog Party began in 2010, ran twice a year for short time, and then for some reason it quickly exploded. The last few BSBP's had upwards of 500 people covering every continent except South America and Antarctica. A book was written, a bunch of us in the Bead Soup Cafe wore green ribbons and met each other at the Bead and Button Show, and it was the thing I felt I brought to the beading community -- creating an online community that connected friendship, lots of countries, thousands of beads, and creativity. Thank you to all of you for sticking with me even during my hiatus!

This party involved a person sending a hoarded, much-loved bead or beads to their partner. That meant sending a bead that was special to you, sending something you really loved, to someone you didn't know, as a gesture of goodwill and as a sort of Pay It Forward. I thought the world could use some Random Kindness about now.

Let's get started, shall we?

read details about these beads at

I had two partners. First is Audrey Belanger from Canada. She and I have been friends since even before the parties, and I got a lovely package from her, not just with beautiful beads, but body sprays, chocolates, and lip balm. You can see a comprehensive set of photos and descriptions by clicking here (but do come back!)

I'm very happy you're here!

The first bead I worked with was the purple Donna Millard lampwork bead.

I decided to make a bead-encrusted bangle from heavy gauge pale lavender wire. I made a loop at one end, planned the spacing of the beads, and went to town with hair-thin sterling wire. The gemstones and Czech glass I used were no larger than 4 mm and in some cases smaller. Four Thai silver beads flanked the lampwork bead. I used iolite, amethyst, pale blue chalcedony, rose quartz, and brighter blue faceted Czech glass beads. Once I finished moving all the way to the right of the bracelet, I went back towards the left with more fine wire and gemstones to fill in holes and make it fuller.

Then I made a clasp and jump rings with wire to match the base. This type of bracelet takes a long time to make, but it's so worth it!

The second piece I made used Audrey's handmade resin pendant. This one took some painstaking work with tiny wrapped loops and very delicate chain on the pendant itself, which involved digging through 10, 242 packages of chain just to find the RIGHT one. How is it the more you have, the more you need?

I started with 4 mm Swarovski crystals in Khaki, Copper, and Dorado 2X. I used jeweler's bronze to link them randomly, connecting a length of delicate chain in between each beaded chain.  The top of the pendant is a lampwork bead that I thought fit the color scheme well and a collection of crystal dangles stacked atop each other to create a backdrop for the bead. I love how it turned out!

I didn't have a bronze daisy spacer or bead cap, so I made one by weaving five large jump rings into a love knot.  And with those crystals being a tiny 4 mm, you can really see here how delicate the chain is.

For the neckline, I didn't want to draw too much away from the intricacy of the pendant. To that end, I added just a few Swarovski Copper crystals, some carved pale green jade, a lampwork bead that matched the pendant, and a button that honest to goodness was just sitting on my desk for four years. I linked that to double love knots of large bronze rings and connected it all to a long length of chain.

I made my own clasp, but I'm not that happy with it and need to practice a bit more.

Now on to the pieces Loralee Kolton sent me!

I will admit this now -- I am intimidated by dagger beads. I have no idea how to work them into a unique design. One night while fighting insomnia, though, I came up with an idea. A simple idea, but an idea. I briolette-wrapped three of them and connected them to small-gauge chain. I needed a way to make them dangle from the BACK of the heart pendant, so I linked two largish jump rings through the holes in the heart and attached a short link of chain to the back of the heart. Then I connected the smaller chains with the daggers to the back. Finally, I dotted a bit of glue to each chain to keep them from flying over the top of the heart if I turned to fast.



I used one of the Lucite nuggets (my favorite part of the package!) and then coated strips of cheese cloth with Fray Check, let it dry, and tied the stiffened cloth above and below the bead. Using Fray Check is a great way to make delicate fabric keep its look but be stronger. I trimmed the cloth, then created an asymmetric necklace with cream and olive Swarovski pearls, Czech glass hearts I forgot I owned, and pale gray and Vitrail Medium Swarovski crystals. Those last were tiny tiny tiny and I have a bunch on the floor now!

One side of the necklace was largely beaded, but the other side! I made a Shaggy Loops chain and then added the tiny 4 mm Swarovski Vitrail Medium rounds as tiny dangles to catch the light in the chain.

The clasp is a pretty lobster claw I'd been hoarding, and you can see I added some faceted onyx in both rondelle and round.

I tackled those dagger beads again and made a matching pair of earrings with 4 mm Swarovski Khaki crystals and those pretty hearts to match the heart pendant.

All together...

Lastly, I combined the beads I got from both Audrey and Loralee to make a bracelet! I was determined to use as many beads as my partners had sent me.

I HAD to use the rest of those awesome Lucite nuggets! I also had planned to use Audrey's fluorite ovals in her necklace, but changed my mind for a more delicate look.

I cut chain in three-loop lengths, wired on the fluorite, and found one of my many hoarded lampwork sets, rondelles that picked up just the right amount of color.  I love the final result!

And that is that!

All of these pieces were made in two days and all were photographed today. I very nearly lost the light on some of them! It always seems that way when I hostess a party -- I'm finding the extra cups, putting out plates of cake, running the Pictionary Game (every drawing looked like a bead with these folks -- go figure!) so I felt really fortunate to have gotten this done and to have made pieces I'm truly proud of with no shortcuts. I'm an hour late in posting (it's 1 AM and I. Am. Toast.) but that's the fun of parties. People stay late, you pull out the reserve box of cookies, get a little giggly and put party hats on the cat. 

And it's all very worth it in the morning.

I hope you'll take the time to visit as many of the people below as you can (skip around -- you don't have to start from top to bottom).  

(The jewelry shown was made by me, mostly for other BSBPs!)

Lori Anderson :: Hostess