Friday, September 29, 2006

Fashionable Friday -- Of Jewelry and Adornment

Just a brief column this week; I've had quite a long day getting everything just right for today's webpage update. The above photo is part of the fruit of my labor. I just love how the earrings look against that little dish! Such pretty colors...

Today, I feel like rambling on a bit about jewelry in general. You surely don't need me to tell you that jewelry is very popular right now. Many people have turned to beading and jewelry-making as their craft of choice. Magazines on the subject abound. Even JoAnn's has realized the popularity of beads, expanding their once-small selection (mainly consisting of those cheap bulk bags) to several aisles of interesting beads, including some very high-quality selections.

On the one hand, it's discouraging to face so much competition in the jewelry market, but on the other hand, it's very nice to see that so many people are learning what I've known since childhood -- beads and jewelry are cool!

Although wide-spread obsession with making jewelry may be a relatively recent thing, a love of jewelry dates way, way back. Archeologists have discovered prehistoric beads of stone and shell. The Bible tells us that the golden calf was made from the gold of melted earrings. The Norse goddess Freya lusted after a particularly beautiful necklace the dwarves had made. Tribal peoples the world around have ancient beading traditions.

Jewelry has a way of making you feel special. Most women, after all, are thrilled to receive a gift of jewelry from their beloved. Western culture uses rings to symbolize marriage. And at times, jewelry is used to commemorate other milestones in life: class rings, pearls for a girl's coming of age, and birthstone-bedecked rings, bracelets, and necklace for mothers.

But beyond that, the simple act of wearing a piece of jewelry merely for its beauty is a wonderful feeling, too. Jewelry, whether it be gold and diamonds or beadwork, adds that special touch to any outfit. Even jeans and a casual blouse can be dressed up with the right accessories. Jewelry draws the eye, adds that little bit of visual interest, that little extra punctuation. Of course, some of the more elaborate jewelry out there does more than that, taking over the entire outfit and shouting "Look at me, I'm HERE!"

We can already see the jewelry-making craze die down a bit, as some people filter off towards the new trends of knitting and quilting, but a love of jewelry will remain behind. Years from now, those who put down their beads to pick up some yarn will come across a beader and smile, thinking "I used to do that" and maybe they'll pick up the beads again.

I, of course, refuse to put them down in the first place!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Oh, happy day!

There's nothing quite like opening your mailbox and finding beads. I just got my order from Out on a Whim, a box chock-full of new seed beads. Oh, such colors! I decided to order a lot of neutrals, but also a few nice greens and purples and such. Lots of exciting new things to jazz up my Fall and Winter line. Even some of the neutrals are spiffy, with shimmery coatings and the like. I can't wait to play with these!

I haven't done as much beading as I expected to this week (I've been reading instead, shame shame), so tomorrow will be a jewelry-making frenzy, to ensure a plentiful update.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In the works!

I have a great bracelet in the works and several more items floating around in my head. It feels good to be back to my usual creative ways!

Not really a whole lot to blog about, everything is in a very quiet state right now, maybe the calm before the storm? New items will of course be posted on Friday, look for some rather different bracelets and maybe a necklace or two.

I had a custom order this week and it got me thinking about all of the beads that I don't use, but should. I think lately I've been limiting myself far too much, using mostly seed beads, Czech glass, and crystals. I have all these nice stones and vintage beads and shaped seed beads, I should be experimenting with them. Keep an eye out for the results of these experiments!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday is Fashionably Purple!

Purple is big right now. Maybe even huge. At the mall this weekend, I saw a dazzling array of purple clothes on display, even a few lilac-hued dress shirts for the men. Before I fell in love with green, purple was my favorite color, so I've been quite happy for the excuse to buy and work with purple beads.

Fall and Winter are a time for dark colors, so deep purples are a great choice. Purple Dream (pictured above) mixes dark with light for year-round wearability. Deepest Purple pairs Purple Velvet Swarovski crystals with icy silver for a wintry look. And Rumpled Velvet adds hematite for a dark and dramatic look. Purple is scattered throughout my site in other items, sometimes in shades of tanzanite, or amethyst or even perriwinkle.

I see purple as the perfect color for evening wear. This daring dress would look splended with a purple choker. Of course, for cooler weather you might want a shawl or jacket to warm up your otherwise bare arms. Why not knit or crochet your own with some beautiful purple yarn?

You can add a touch of purple to your current wardrobe with the perfect accessores. Earrings are a subtle touch, and I'm fond of these, with their stylish vintage beads. For a wilder statement, go with these vampire kanji earrings. How about a nice purple hat to keep your head cozy on a brisk Autumn day? Complete your outfit with an eco-friendly purse, and now you're fashionable and conscientious!*

In my hunt for purple, I came across a few non-clothing items which still look great. Apricot-Plum lip balm comes in purple heart tin and surely tastes quite purple, too. Meanwhile, the purples in this soap are so beautiful that I wish they were clothes or jewelry, so I could wear them!

I could go on and on and on, but really, I encourage you to get out there and search for your own fabulously purple treasures!

*The creator of these bags doesn't currently have her web store set up, but she assures me that she has some purple bags, and I like her idea so much that I had to share. Enjoy :)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fashionable Friday -- Fashionably Late

I'm experiencing technical difficulties with the items for this week's Fashionably Friday column, so I won't be able to post it until sometime this weekend. Thank you for your patience!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The end of my pirate days

Alas, I didn't bead like a pirate after all. My best idea involved some beads that I've been saving for myself, and I really needed to be practical and make some more website stock. Of course, just because the holiday is past doesn't mean that you can't still enjoy pirates. Shala Kerrigan at Bella Online posted some great Jolly Roger bead patterns. I intend to modify them to make myself a bracelet, as I wear skulls year 'round.

In the meantime, I'm working on a lovely collar which will be featured in this week's Fashionable Friday column. I hope to have a couple more new pieces for Friday's update, too, whether or not they fit the column theme. With the holiday season approaching, I really want to increase my stock.

With that in mind, I think it's time to go do a little beading!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bead Like A Pirate!

Arrr, ye probably already knew this, but today be Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Ok, ok, I'm not going to write my entire blog in bad pirate-speak. But I do enjoy this corny holiday. Who doesn't like to let out the occasional "arrr"? I even intended to dress like a pirate today, but since I'm not going anywhere, it would be a bit of a wasted effort. The cats don't care how I dress, after all. They'll shed on my clothes whether it's jeans or a pirate shirt. Instead, I'm thinking of beading like a pirate.

How does a pirate bead? Well, that depends on how much rum she's drank!

Having a hook might make beadweaving difficult, and that eye patch really messes up depth perception, so I'm guessing a pirate might stick to simple stringing. Stormy seas make for many bead spills, so the smart bead pirate would work on a towel or vellux pad to catch those stray beads.

And what kind of beads would a pirate use? Why, whatever she could plunder!

Trade beads immediately come to mind. After all, people traded with them, so they were probably occasionally found on ships that pirates raided. If you take a look at this pic of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, you'll see that the beads in his hair have a definite trade-bead look.

Recycled glass beads from Africa have a nice, rough look that brings to mind antique beads without the price of trade beads.

Afghani jewelry has a mysterious, antique aura about it, and I think any pirate wench worth her salt would enjoy wearing it. Big pieces can be worn as-is, whereas pendants and the like could be worked into beaded creations.

Coins, naturally, are a great accessory for every pirate lass. If you can get real coins, that's even better, but the imitation coins will do in a pinch.

Of course, what pirates really love is GOLD! But for those of us who don't make a living out of plundering, real gold beads can be just too expensive. To get the gleam of gold without breaking the bank, might I recommend vermeil?

Don't limit your imagination to the materials I've listed, though. A pirate might just as easily wear some nice, chunky stone beads, or tarnished brass, maybe some precious Venetian blown glass beads. Because honestly, who's going to tell a pirate -- armed with cutlass and flintlock, naturally -- that she can't wear something?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fashionable Friday -- The Old Black

I'm sure we've all heard it at some time or another, even those who don't follow fashion very closely at all: "X is the new black" where X = whatever color is hot this season. Honestly, who do they think they're kidding? Black is queen of the fashion world for good reason. There is no color which is more dramatic and versatile than pure black.

As such, whenever I hear about a "new black" I have to ask myself, "What was wrong with our old black?" After all, there are those who say that every woman should own that perfect little black dress, and that it's acceptable to wear just about anywhere. Black can be formal, casual, or artistic. Many colors have come along to challenge black, but it cannot be dethroned. Today, I am honoring black by making it the subject of my very first Fashionable Friday column.

One doesn't have to go far to find black on my website. After all, it is one of my favorite colors and I consider it the perfect neutral. Midnight Cascade (seen above) features a wide variety of black, silver, and hematite-colored beads. Remember, monochrome is in for Autumn and Winter! For a more subtle jewelry statement, might I recommend the Black on Black spiral rope bracelet?

Naturally, when I think of black, I start thinking of Goth clothes. This skirt is perfectly Gothic, but when paired with a white or colorful blouse, it could also make a wonderfully elegant statement. But what about accessories? Whether it's for a Halloween party, the Rennaissance Faire, or just because you love the attention, you can't go wrong with a handcrafted leather bat mask. If you're not feeling that daring, but you still want an unusual accessory, this monochrome ring might be just the thing for you.

Fashion writers will probably always tout the new black, but the old one is here to stay.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Things to come.

Tomorrow, in addition to emerging from my hiatus with new jewelry for the site, I'm hoping to start a new series on this blog: Fashionable Fridays. I am not by any means a slave to fashion. Instead I like bending current styles to my own whims, both in the creation of my jewelry and in how I dress. Fashionable Fridays will be all about looking at what's "in" right now, what I think of the trends, and things I've found on-line that hover on the edge of trends.

Sound fun? I think it will be!

I may only be adding a few things tomorrow, but there is a lot of new jewelry on the horizon. Not only will I be expanding my selection of old favorites, but I'll be adding news designs, some of which you've already seen previewed on this blog.

Autumn should prove to be an exciting season for Erthe Fae Designs!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm in love!

I fell in love with a beautiful boy today. I really don't think that the two cats who I already have would be very happy if I brought in a third, but if you'd seen this cat rubbing up against his cage and kneeding his claws because he was just so happy to be coo'd over.

I'm really hoping that someone else adopts him, because if not, I'll have to find a way to work a cat into my life. I've always loved silver kitties, and this one was so friendly that he just sunk his claws right into my heart at first sight. Curse you, PetSmart, and your on-site adoption!

Getting pets through rescue or adoption is a pretty big thing to me. Yes, I did get my Topher-kitty from a friend whose cat had a litter, but I wasn't planning on getting a new cat, it just happened. When I go out in search of a pet, I hit the shelter. There are so many homeless pets out there that it just makes me cry. Lira is a former shelter cat, as is my brother's striking and lovable Manx, Bubba. Both cats have proven to be great, hearty pets. I don't think Bubs has ever had a health problem, and Lira's only emergency vet trip was when she had broken claws from her great escape.

What does any of this have to do with my business? Well, I'll definitely need to sell some jewelry if I want to adopt a cat ;) Oh, and Iggy's coloring is very fashionable. Monochrome greys and blacks are in this season, you know.

Remember, new jewelry will be on my site on Friday, September 15th! I'm looking forward to it, and I hope you are, too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What passes for normal...

Well, with both my vacation and the gem shows behind me, and jet lag finally purged from my system, life should be back towards normal. Of course, normal for me is a little strange, but that's how I like it!

I'm hoping for a week or two of peace and calm to get things done before life goes all topsy-turvy again!

I have a few plans for the next couple of weeks, related to Erthe Fae Designs. Obviously, my main priority is coming back from my hiatus on the 15th with new jewelry. I didn't get nearly as much done as I planned to, due partially to the ongoing stress about my husband's job and the temporary stress when my website disappeared. I do have a few nice things ready though, and lots of wonderful supplies to create new pieces throughout Fall and Winter.

I'm also working on getting my supplies more organized, for ease of creation, pricing, and restocking. While I'm organizing and cataloging, I'll be weeding out the beads that really don't fit with my designs, which I will then sell off at bargain prices. If you're a fellow beader, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for an announcement of when and how I'll be selling them.

Other things are still in the planning stage. Over all, I'm excited to get back into the swing of things and take my business to new and exciting places. I hope you'll come along for the ride!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

September Gem Shows

On Friday, I went to a couple of the gem shows here in Tucson. I set out with my friend Helen, who I've been teaching how to bead. In the process, I've gotten her quite addicted to beads themselves, so we were both eager to get out and get some new supplies.

To my knowledge, there were 4 shows here this September. G&LW had the Holidome and the Rodeway, ABC Direct had a show by the Holidome, and The Best Bead Show was at the Tucson Community Center. Having limited time, money, and energy, we decided to stick with just the Holidome and the Best Bead.

We started out at the Holidome, a show which I avoid like the plague during February. It's basically considered THE wholesale show, and as such, it gets packed full of shoppers, some of whom can be quite rude. My only time there, I found the prices to not be worth the hassle.

The September version of the show was smaller and more managable, although it was still crowded. There was one booth which was so popular that I couldn't even see their wares past the wall of shoppers! I had to squeeze my way through several aisles, and at one booth I was shoulder-rammed by a woman who wanted to see something that was in front of me. Here's a little hint for gem show shoppers: The words "excuse me" will serve you well.

Although I found most of what I needed -- More Swarovski 4mm bicones for my popular bracelets, and tons of findings that I was running low on -- I found the show to be pretty disappointing overall. I expected to see a lot of the exotic stone beads that I saw in NY. Instead I saw the same stone beads that have been available for as long as I've been beading, plus the ever-popular but way too expensive briolettes, and one or two new-ish stones. I did score a strand of green goldstone chips for only $1 from a very nice vendor who treated Helen and I like valued customers despite our small purchases.

After fortifying ourselves with some tasty lunch, it was on to the Best Bead Show! This is the first year for their September show, and I was interested to see how good it would be, since I didn't recognize most of the vendor names.

The TCC is a lot roomier than the usual Best Bead location, which made for nice, wide aisles and comfortable shopping. The show wasn't too crowded -- I hope that for the vendors' sakes, things really picked up on the weekend. It was nice to be able to get a good look at the booths of Green Girl and Leah Fairbanks, which are usually pretty crowded in February. I was going to take advantage of this lull to get a few Green Girl pendants, but after getting ignored, I decided I'd come back later, and then I forgot to. I guess I'll fight the crowds in February.

I saw a lot of great beads, but because of how much I had to spend to stock back up on crystals and findings, I kept myself on a tight rein. Overpriced leaf beads and whimsical lampworked fish alike were resisted in a surprising show of willpower. My one concession was to buy a lampwork bead from fellow Tucsonan Margaret Zinser. I just love Margaret's beads, and the fact that she's so friendly is icing on the proverbial cake.

A huge disappointment was the almost complete lack of seed beads at this show! A few vendors had a smattering of seeds, but no one had a booth dedicated to them. As Helen and I both primarily weave, it was a big disappointment to only be able to get findings and accents, instead of the backbone of our work. Seed bead vendors, if you're reading this, Tucson needs you -- especially in September!

It is my hope that this September show was successful enough that Best Bead will be back in following years, but not so successful that everyone else will come, too. February is already an overgrown monstrosity, with too many shows crowding into one city and stretching a jeweler's dollar until it breaks. These September shows had a much more leisurely feel to them which made for a pleasant shopping experience.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Big NY Bead Odyssey Post!

That's right, at last a post to show some of the awesome beads that I got in NY, and more details about the stores that I bought them at.

It only makes sense to start at the beginning, so first, some of my finds from a place called The Bead Market (if I'm remembering correctly. I forgot to grab their business card!). This store advertised itself as something like "Long Island's Biggest Selection" and then the sign at their actual store made a claim along the line of "The most exciting bead store in the world!" Well, they were probably slightly off base on the second claim, but arguably right on the first claim.

What was exciting about this store was their large selection of interesting vintage beads for decent prices. I also liked the fact that they had the vintage plastic seperated from the vintage glass. Without even trying too hard, I managed to get a couple coordinating sets of beads going on, which will make planning projects out really easy. Plus I managed to feed my hunger for unusual green vintage beads.

What I did not like about the store was that after making me sort all the individual beads out by price, they dumped them all together in one bag. Of course I don't remember how much each bead cost! Also, while my mother-in-law and I were able to find our way there easily with directions, the store is hidden in a industrial office type area, well off the beaten path, which has to make it hard for them to get random business.

Our next stop was Park Avenue Beads in Wantagh. I don't have any pics of the things I found there, because most of them are presents and I don't want to ruin any surprises! The owner was there, a very nice friendly lady. She impressed me even more when I saw her at the gem show that weekend and she remembered us. She carries some very nice stone beads, as well as some Czech glass, Japanese seed beads, and findings.

After that it was on to my traditional NY bead stop, Ace Handicrafts. Now, some bead stores have a bad habit of being stagnant. You go there and it's the same stuff every time. Not Ace! Every year they've made even more room for beads and have more kewl stuff that I never find anywhere else. As you can see, I had fun arranging the beads that I bought there :) Greys are supposed to be in for fall and winter this year, so I really think the rough silver abalone drops were a great buy. Also, the lovely glass faerie at the top of this post was purchased at Ace, and I found some wonderful silver toggles, which I desperately needed.

Ace also has a fun selection of various other craft items, and display and storage for jewelry and beads. The ladies who work there are unfailingly friendly and helpful, and usually bead-knowledgable, too. As an added benefit, they are across the street from the Witch's Brew cafe, which I really need to go into someday.

The other store we wanted to go to was closed that day, and we never got around to going back.

The gem show was only mildly successful. Although I did meet a friendly fellow beader there, the only decent bead selection to be had was from the aforementioned Park Ave Beads. There were other beads, but nothing that grabbed me enough to be worth the price. There were some very nice minerals to ooh and aah over, and a lot of pre-made jewelry. Lots of very neglectful booth-tenders, too. I decided not to buy from a couple of vendors after spending a long time at their booth, sometimes with items in hand, and not getting a single peep of acknowledgement. I did get some sterling charms (I don't know why, I rarely use them!).

The real find at the gem show, however, was the booth of a nice gentleman from NJ with an awesome Russian accent and equally awesome Russian stones. I purchased a beautiful seraphinite cab from him, a meteorite chunk for Chris, and a leather-wrapped pendant of a nice green mica stone that I swore I would remember the name of and have of course since forgotten.

When the weather was finally managable, we made our way into NYC in search of the bead district. Many helpful friends and net folks had pointed us in the right direction, and so we hit Sixth avenue with empty totebags and full wallets, a position which was quickly reversed.

The bead district is not strictly beads; my quarry was mixed in with trimmings and a few fabric stores. For the most part, the bead-specific stores proved to be my best bet. I wandered into one trimming store that advertised a sale on vintage beads, but I got so many creepy glares from the employees that I practically dragged my shopping companions (my husband and his mother, cheerful partners in my bead search) right back out again.

We were walking down the street, looking for beads, when I saw a fateful awning... "Toho Shoji." I just about did a swoon right there. In we went, to a store full of beaders and designers of assorted ethnicities, and beads of assorted origins. One of the first things I found was a bin of half-price Delicas. Sweet! There were a lot of other seed beads to be had, but mostly either in very small quantities or very large. Since I can get seed beads on-line any old day, I instead focused on getting some interesting pendants and findings, and getting a wholesale buyer card to use on future trips.

While there, my clever mother-in-law scouted out other bead locations for us, finding some in some sort of magazine, and even taking one address off of someone's shopping bag! Also while there, we saw a couple who ended up being in almost every other bead store we hit. Hey, it's nice to know that we weren't the only ones going from shop to shop in search of awesomeness.

Our next major stop was a heavenly place called M&J Trimming. This store has a simply overwhelming selection of buttons, ribbons, trims and accents. Nearly anything you can imagine using to embellish a garment could be purchased in great variety there. This was where I found the basket of $.98 Czech glass. Heavenly indeed! Then when I was ready to check out, Chris announced that he'd found coins for me. Hurray! Along with the coins was an awesome selection of metal sequins, but I exercised self-control and just bought a couple bags of coins.

I heartily recommend M&J not just for beaders, but for seamstresses as well! I can't wait to go back there after I learn how to sew, and pick out lots of beautiful accents for my belly dance clothes!

Our other great find in The City was New York Beads. They had a lot of very cool items there, a small selection of which is in the above picture. There would be more cool items, but somehow a couple of the nifty pendants that I'd picked out never got rung up. Well, at least both Chris and I still got our beetles set in acrylic. I'm not sure what those purple heart beads are, either milk glass or some sort of color-treated quartz I'm guessing. They were only $5 a strand, though, and with how big purple is, I'm sure I'll find a great use for them.

I also got a wholesale buyer card for New York Beads, and I think that in the future I will probably shop there more than at Toho. I found their selection to be more interesting and their prices better. Toho, however, had more unusual findings and would definitely be the place to go if you're looking for supplies for projects from Japanese beading books.

There were many other stores along the way that we went into, but none where I made any big purchases. Most of the stores had phenomenal carved stone beads with prices well beyond the means of this humble jewelry designer. In fact, my one disappointment with bead shopping in NYC was that so many of the stores had basically the same things. I went in hoping to find a trove of cool vintage beads, but instead I found store after store of the same things that I see on table after table at the gem shows. Perhaps I wandered into the wrong stores, but I really felt like Long Island was a better place for unusual beads than NYC was!

I hope you've enjoyed my incredibly long-winded report of bead shopping in NY, and that maybe I've inspired you to have a bead adventure of your own. Where possible, I've supplied the URLs of these great stores. But I also have e-mail addresses, locations, and phone #s, so if you need any more information, feel free to ask!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back home

I got home on Sunday afternoon. I've been absolutely exhausted ever since returning. I'm feeling better today, so I should be able to get the neccessary work done. You know, finishing unpacking, cleaning up the apartment, that sort of thing.

Today I discovered that my website is back up. No idea when, how, or why it happened, but it's there and I can log in to my control panel. Yay! That's so much less work for me to do. This means that I am sticking with my original plan of re-opening on September 15th.

Within the next day or two, I'll finally be posting pics of my NY Bead Shopping Odyssey finds.