Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fun in the Sun

Spring used to be my favorite season. Lately, however, summer is taking its place. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that my oldest daughter is out of school. Come fall, I'll have a kid in first grade and another beginning his educational career in preschool - a nearly empty house! For now, though, I have all thee babies home with me every day.

We've been doing lots to stay busy. They love the little kiddie pool, and we sectioned of a part of our back yard that we now call "The Playground." In addition to our pool and playground days, we have "Craft Day" which is my favorite part of the week. We went to A.C. Moore's, Michael's, Dollar Tree, and Wal-Mart and stocked up on all those fun things kids like to create with, like foam stickers, color-by-number, perler beads, and more. Every Wednesday they get to pick one craft project and we spend the morning creating works of art to show Daddy when he gets home. My oldest daughter is turning six in August, and she is at that fun girly age, so once a week we do our nails; of course, my son and youngest daughter have to join in and get their fingernails and toenails filed too! Then we have doctor appointments, eye exams, hearing tests, and best of all, mini vacations to keep us going all summer long.

I'm having a great time, and cherishing the days I get to spend with my kids at this young and innocent age. What does this mean for my shops, though? Well, I'm getting in torch time whenever I can, so I have a growing collection of new beauties to list. When the school season begins again and I have that interesting new quiet time, I'll be able to photograph and list my sparkly creations. Don't worry, though, I still have many beads for sale in my shops!

To leave you all with a little teaser, I'll just say that right now I am having tons of fun with fine silver, cubic zironias, and antique keys, and I have many ideas in mind for beads to come.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Studio - Part 6

This post is the conclusion of a series of blog postings beginning here. At the end of the last post, I had nearly completed my studio.

After I moved all my things over, we hooked up my gas line and checked it for leaks. Then we tested my ventilation. Everything was working perfectly. The only thing left to do inside the studio was set up my glass storage. Sorting and organizing 175lbs of glass seemed like quite an obstacle.

I searched the indispensable for storage ideas. Finally, inspiration struck. A couple years ago we had purchased a closet organizer from Lowe's. It was 31" high by 12" wide by 12" deep - the perfect size! We went there and bought four of the units, brought them home, and assembled them. Then we stacked 5" lengths of pvc into the units. It worked wonderfully. I spent an entire day sorting and organizing my glass into the pvc, and spread out my frit on top.

The next day I got to try it out. I spent 3.5 hours at the torch - my longest session ever! The glass storage worked perfectly and I had a wonderful time. Being in my studio was amazing. The ventilation meant no painful bulky respirator on my face. All my tools were at my fingertips. I didn't feel all gross, dusty, and dirty like I did in the garage. Here are some of the beads I made:

We still have to paint the exterior of the studio, so it isn't technically finished. However, it is totally torchable and I know that I will spend countless happy hours inside the clean, creativity inducing environment. I couldn't be happier.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Studio - Part 5

Click here to go back to part 1. When I ended, the panels had just gone up over the insulation in my studio. See more construction pictures below!

My 8' tandem four-bulb cold-start light:

My husband and I were finally able to get in there and do some work. First, we tiled the work table and the wall around it (the butterflies I stenciled didn't survive the grouting later). We got the white tiles on clearance at Lowe's for only $0.08 each!

The floor was next (tiles on sale for only $0.57 each at Lowe's):

Then came the paint on the walls, piping in the gas through the wall, the grout around all the tiles, and duct work. We're not so sure about the ducting yet. We still have to test it. After all that, of course, I couldn't wait to start moving stuff over:

Next I moved over the rest of my stuff and got it organized enough for the time being:

Read the conclusion of my studio next time.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

BOGO Artfire Sale!

We're going on vacation! We are leaving for a week to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I want you to celebrate, too! Instead of closing my shop, I decided to offer a BOGO 33% off* sale in my Artfire shop! This is ONLY available at my Artfire shop and will start 6-9 and end 6-16. The catch? You'll have to wait until I get back from vacation for me to ship your purchase on 6-17.

You can find these and more in my shop:

Warm My Heart



Smoke in the Window

*Second item of equal or lesser value. Excludes tutorials. Discount will be given as refund after payment is received.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Studio - Part 4

If you haven't read parts 1, 2, or 3, you're going to be pretty lost. You can go back and start with part 1 here. At the end of part 3, I just tucked myself in for a long winter's nap. You can read what happened next by reading on below.

I did a lot of reading that winter. The more I read about ventilation and safety the more I realized I was not in a safe torch environment. We bought three box fans to help circulate the air, and I bought a respirator. It wasn't a solution, but it helped. We talked about setting up a studio. We would have to buy a building and customize it to meet my needs. The problem was, we were trying to sell our house. It didn't make sense to spend all that money on a studio when we were going to be moving. We put the house on the market before our third was born, but it didn't sell, so we took it off right before she was born. After a few months we put the house back on the market, and then off again because school had started, and then on again, and off again... You get the idea.

The winters were getting to me. Last winter I had to stop lampworking in November and couldn't start again until mid-April because it was so cold. I'd had enough. I decided there was no point in waiting. We haven't sold the house and had no idea if we ever would. I was working in unsafe conditions, I couldn't see the frit, shards, or other fun things I had to use in my beads because it was all stacked in piles, and I couldn't use any of my 175lbs of glass because it was piled into plastic storage containers. I was working with shorts, and that was on the few occasions I could even work at all. I gave my every hour to my family. I took care of everything when my husband went out of town every week. I couldn't even go to the bathroom alone. I had no time for me. It had to stop.

Two weeks later we started building my studio.

We bought a building kit from Home Depot and my dad put it together with his helper. They did a lot of extra reinforcing to make it super sturdy.

The floor framing:

Back wall is up:

Sides are up, and roof framing is done:

My ventilation system in the works. It's a furnace fan given to me for free by my Heating & Air neighbor:

Outside view:

The fan boxed in to create stronger suction:

The walls are insulted and paneled to keep me toasty in the winter. Panels going up:

The studio construction continues in part 5!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fabulous Friday Weekly Promo Sale!

This week's item is only going to be on sale until Wednesday evening. That's because my wonderful husband and I are leaving Thursday for a week-long celebration of our 10th anniversary!! We're going to be spending some time on the beach, so in honor of our trip, I've chosen this bead for the Weekly Promo Sale:

Beach's Bounty in Green

You can buy this incredible sculpted shell at Artfire or Etsy for 15% off - only $12.75. Don't forget to type FFWPS in the comments box to get your refund!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Studio - Part 3

If you haven't read parts 1 & 2, please start by reading part 1 here. When I left off, I'd just had our first child and had turned to beading to help keep busy. The story continues below.

Almost exactly two and a half years after our daughter, we had a son.


He was tiring! He didn't want to sleep through the night for the longest time. I'm not a "lack of sleep" person - I need my rest! I decided, although I rarely spent the money, that I deserved to treat myself to some beads from my local bead shop. I was looking around and stopped dead in my tracks when I saws a sign for an introduction to lampworking class! I immediately asked the price and then I signed up. She didn't know when they would hold the class; apparently I was the only one interested and the teacher couldn't hold a class for one student. They needed three. She told me to keep checking in.

I called every week. No one signed up. Finally, she told me she had someone else interested in the class, and they set a date. Then the date was postponed. Ahh!! When the day finally arrived I was beyond myself with nerves and excitement. The bead shop owner introduced me to the other student - it was her daughter. She explained that she knew how badly I wanted to take the class, so she signed her daughter up and asked the teacher to hold the class for the two of us. I'm still thankful.

With a flick of the hand the hot head roared to life. The moment I put the glass in the flame, everything in my life came together. I knew why I had struggled. I knew why nothing seemed to fit. I knew why my life had taken the course that it had. I knew what I was meant to do, and I walked out of that half-day class with a hot head kit and a feeling of completion.

Now to set up a work area! We had no idea what we were doing! It's amazing how many times my husband and I have just flown by the seat of our pants yet everything turned out ok. We bought a card table and cut some plywood to fit. Then we screwed a clamp onto it and attached my hot head to the plywood. I ordered a bulk propane hose and we stole the bbq tank off our rusted grill and hooked it up. We set this all up in the doorway of the garage, and I had a fiber blanket beside me. I splurged and spent $100 on single rods of glass in basic colors. I promised my husband that it was just that much money at first, and after that I could just replace what I used, which would be very little. Ahhh, how blissful ignorance really is (she says, thousands of dollars later!).

My first beads were so tiny! The first "focal" I made was a whopping 1/2". We couldn't believe how big it was! My spacers were about 2-3mm on average. I would lampwork on Saturday and Sunday for an hour and a half (I still had to nurse my son every two hours!). Once I had about 30 beads I took them to be annealed.

I had about two months of lampwork time before I got pregnant with our third child. It was difficult not being able to lampwork. In the meantime I was saving every penny of my birthday and holiday money to buy my own kiln, and I achieved that goal. Then I upgraded my torch to a bobcat, and bought an oxygen concentrator. Then I started buying other things. I bought tools, frit, and all kinds of things to help me expand my ability. If my husband said anything to me, I would remind him that I was very pregnant and unable to lampwork, or even breathe in peace. Buying glassy stuff was the only way for me to feel connected to the torch at a time when I couldn't fire it up. He didn't say much. He's a pretty smart guy!


By the time our third beautiful child, a girl, was born, I had gathered quite a bit of yummy glassy goodness! I was, however, still working in the doorway of the garage. I had about two months of lampwork time after I had recovered from my third c-section before it got too cold. The garage was freezing and I'm cold-natured. I had to wait three long months before I would lampwork again.

Part 4 is here.