Thursday, February 14, 2019

Demi Round Beads

At first I wasn't sure I was going to like the Demi round beads.  As I've tried them in different types of projects I have decided I really love them.  There are a few specific uses in which, in my opinion, they are really an improvement over other bead options.

They really work well to cup a round bead in a design when making an angle.  With a pearl or druk, when designing a curve, the demi round really aids in the look and function of the design.  I used both the Demi 11 & 8 in this design called Arabella.  Arabella works equally well with Paisley Duo and Zoliduo beads.

On a brick stitch edge for bead embroidery, I have found I like the Demi round size 8 bead.  It works up as with any size 8 seed bead on the edge, faster than with an 11, yet the slim look of the thinner bead is much more attractive to me than the traditional size 8 on the edge.

For a pretty chain, called the Bicycle Chain, I prefer the Demi 8 to the "O" bead often used for this chain.  The smaller size works up easier to get the stitching nice and keep tension tight.  I use the Demi size 8 with a size 15 seed bead replacing the "O" bead and size 11 seed bead.  It really is a sweet chain for this sparkling pendant.

In this spiral necklace design, I wanted a tiny splash of color without taking up much space.  What a perfect place for a Demi size 11 bead.  This piece, called Spiral Dreams, uses the Demi to add just a touch of color in a small space making the design more interesting.  When a size 15 is too small, or in this case, to add contrast without taking up more space, the Demi bead solved a design issue in style.

And from Diane Dennis, I learned that they are great in a herringbone chain.  Yet another perfect and interesting use for the Demi Round.  For this chain, the size 8 demi round was used with a size 11 catch bead.  It would work equally as well with a size 11 demi round and a size 15 catch bead for a more delicate look.
So, give them a try!  You may find that you enjoy using them as well in may places to add a touch of color or for a new look to an old design.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Mountain Girl Anniversary

It has been nearly a year since Regina Payne released Mountain Girl to the bead world.  I have had so many people ask me why I'm making so many Mountain Girl bracelets or ask me when I'm going to do something new, I thought I'd write about the topic for this blog.  It has helped me to reflect on my year of making Mountain Girl.

I think everyone in the bead world must know the story of Regina Payne's Mountain Girl bracelet.  The condensed version is that after hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, she wanted to do something special to raise funds for the people of the island.  She did a step by step tutorial on Facebook to produce this stunning bracelet with donations going to help.  MANY others from the bead world joined the cause donating items for a drawing for those who donated to help Puerto Rico.  It is a wonderful example of people coming together to help out.  Regina wanted to do something special and ended up with a spectacular demonstration of what people can do when they pull together.
Regina's Mountain Girl tutorial

I started my first Mountain Girl bracelet on October 2nd as Regina posted pictures on Facebook with the tutorial.  I worked each day to keep up as she posted steps.  I captured the daily lesson to have all of her steps for the future.  It is a beautiful design.  This is my first Mountain Girl.

October 10th, my husband Jack died.  I was almost finished, ready to edge the cuff.  My work came to a halt as events took over my life.  I returned to my Mountain Girl on October 24th.  I only needed to put on the edge and the clasp.  During the gap, I did almost no beading.  I certainly did no creative beading, no designing, only some therapeutic work requiring no real thought.  Frankly, until just a few days ago I had not done anything 'new'.  I'd look at new beads, and just go blank.  I continued to bead.  Lord knows I have enough kits from many different talented bead artists ready be made to allow the process to get back to creativity to take a LONG time.  

So, back to my Mountain Girl story.  Timing is everything, well almost, the design is perfection!  At this point, I think I've completed 10 of the cuffs.  I'm tethered to that point in time, October 2017.  All was right in my world.  I was preparing for a bead show and proposing to teach at several other events.  Since that day, when I need some bead therapy, I make another Mountain Girl.  I've made for friends, I've made for family, some sold, some I've kept.  The design I was creating at that point in time has become my mental salvation, my go to, my rock to occupy my hands and create beauty without frustration of designing.  Mountain Girl will all come together to a beautiful result.  That helps me.  For some deep reason I don't quite understand, I'm linked to it.  As I said, I'm tethered to that point in time.

Designing new work from a group of beads is often frustrating with a result being a pile of Fireline pieces and nothing else.  For 11 months, that did not soothe my soul.  I have gone back to 'fix' several designs that needed something to make the design work right.  Several pieces that could have gone in the book were put aside for later because of something I didn't like or maybe because it was to similar to something already going into the book.  So to others it looks like there is something new.  It is not new.  I have fixed several of those things.   Nothing I would call new.  This piece, called Marquee, is actually something done when the Quadra-Lentil first came out.  As a Trendsetter, I often tried something that didn't quite work and set it aside.   When the new Czechmate diamond was released, my problem with the original was solved and this piece was born from the dust of a prior piece.  Not new but recreated.

Still kind of stuck, this summer I tried an Inspiration Kit from Kinga Nichols to spark my mind.  I don't really love what I've done.  The kit from Kinga is beautiful and inspirational.  My mind was not in that place to create.  It is ok and may have started a spark.  I did discover that I really like Demi Round 8's for the brick stitch edge.  They work up quick yet are thinner so I think look better than a standard size 8 seed bead.  Also, this is bead embroidery not bead weaving.  My weaving design mojo was still missing.

I'm happy that I had Mountain Girl and so many other kits from talented bead artists to occupy my hands and mind!  If my design creativity stayed tethered to that point in time, so be it.  I'm was happy with that.  Yet, as I got closer and closer to a year of doing Mountain Girl, I started to feel a gentle pull of ideas for something new.  Time will tell if it continues.  This piece, named Arabella, is all new, it came from a spark of inspiration, a drive to create, and desire to make something new from a pile of beads.

All is well, I'm enjoying my beading, I'm enjoying travel, I'm enjoying the events associated with the release of my book, Lush and Layered Bead Weaving. I'm enjoying my pool and house.  I love walking my new neighborhood, the wildlife is wonderful to see.  And when my hands wish to be busy and my mind does not, I still have Mountain Girl.

My favorite Mountain Girl.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Healing Pool

When I started to look for a new house, I could not decide about a pool.  I could see good and bad aspects of my own pool.  So I ignored the issue figuring if it was supposed to happen it would.  Well it did.  At first it was too cold for me.  Then I was so busy with house repairs, Bead and Button show preparations, and the pending book release, that I didn't do any more than look at the water when it was on each day.

Just before Bead and Button, the book arrived!  I was thrilled with the result.  Now I'm ready for Bead and Button.  And I continued to ignore the pool.  (Yes I know, the wording on the book is a mirror image, that is how I took the picture, standing in front of the mirror.  I could NOT believe how many people asked about that.)

Bead and Button happened, it was quite grand with a formal book signing, selling out all my copies the first day, and having so many people come to me to sign their copy.  It was also a little bitter sweet for me as normally after such things, I would be telling Jack, he would ask about the event and we would share the exciting moment.  I miss our talks and expect I always will.  However, overall, a great Bead and Button year for me.  The book and good friends made it all memorable.

And then finally, with summer, I discovered the pool.

After an hot humid day doing various things out and about, I'm usually hot and sticky.  I often go for an early evening walk just before or after dinner.  Why not try this pool thing that came with the house?  So bathing suit on, rinse off at the pool shower, and walk slowly in.  Kind of nice.  I will have to try this again.

Kitties are quite sure that I'm nuts to get in that big puddle of water.  They love their corner with the tall grass, chasing lizards, and love looking around 'their' yard, but the water is not for them.  This is GiGi near 'her' grass.  And, Peaches staying as far away from water as possible on her march around the enclosure.

So, many more pool dips later, I decide that this pool thing is truly kind of nice.  I have resistance weights, might as well try those.  Also nice.  Just splashing around from side to side or end to end, also, kind of nice.  Drying off in the sun after a dip and having a sip of liquid, also quite nice.

So this summer something unexpected happened, I like this pool thing that came with the house.  It is quite relaxing.  I love sitting outside  listening to the birds, often watching boats on the lake, and enjoying a dip and maybe some light exercise in my very own pool.  Life is good.  The cats still think it is bonkers.  


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lush&Layered Beadweaving

Great news!  My book is days to release, well just under a month yet but that is days in my calculation.  It will be available at the Bead and Button show.  Here is a sneak peak at the book.  I'm so excited!  I don't have one yet but seeing this helps to make it more real.  My samples have been returned too.  It was great looking back at the pieces I created that were over a year in the making.

I am starting to set up book signings.  The first official one will be at Bead and Button, Friday, June 8th.  I plan to have books at my table for Meet the Teachers too!!!  And of course on my artist table in the big show room while my supply lasts.  The show will be a great event for me!  I hope to see you and say HI.

In addition to the book, I will have kits of a few projects in the book.  There will be no pattern with these kits, the pattern is in the book.  I'm working as fast as I can to make a few more kits from book patterns.  Already done are some kits for Persian Rug, Dream Deep and Magic Carpet Ride.  I hope to have at least a couple more by the show.  There will be limited quantities of all of my book kits.

After Bead and Button, I have a signing at The Beaded Garden in Oxford, FL on June 28 and at Beads! Tampa on July 7.  The Bead Society of Central Florida at their 2-5 August retreat and Texas Coastal Bead Retreat 25-27 October.  More are going to be scheduled very soon.  If you want me to come to your favorite local bead store, tell the owner.  And stop by to see me at the big Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee this June.  #beadandbuttonshow Bead and Button Show

So check the video above, order the book Kalmbach Publishing, or plan to come to one of my book signings,  and share my excitement.  

Here are some pictures of three more of my favorites.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Spring is Coming - A Time for Change, Hope, and Renewal

A Time for Change, Hope, and Renewal

Moving on to a happier place isn't a straight path.  There are twist, loops, dead ends, and hills to climb along the way.  My journey without Jack is moving forward.  He is with me in so many ways and I can feel and hear him when I stumble or shout for joy.

As part of my journey, I have continued to work on a plan started early in 2017, before the day my world changed.  I want to discontinue shipping of product and the whole cost of goods sold part of my business.  My goal is to reduce my inventory in 2018 to close that part of my business at the end of the year.  I don't know if I will reach that goal, but nevertheless, that is my goal.  To accomplish that, I have been running some great sales of 50% off kits and at or below wholesale lots of some beads.  I have lots of clasps discounted.  I will have some Swarovski in larger lots as I get them counted.  I do it all as I have time.  These sales are mostly in my Etsy shop.  Etsy Shop

Slowing me down is a good news story.  After the sale of our home in Groton, MA, I was able to make a change in Florida I'd only been able to dream of.  I had looked and considered a move several years ago but could not afford it.  Yup, crazy as it sounds, I've bought another house here.  It is about 8 miles from my current house.  It is on a lake.  When I walked into the house,  I teared up when I saw the living room.  It was an overwhelming feeling of "this is right".  I tried to discount it at the time as emotional.  It is emotional, why not?  But we went back to see the house a second time and I felt the same.  Now I'm in the middle of something I would not have chosen to do, fixing things up.  I thought I wanted something 'move in ready'.  This property needed a little updating and TLC.  It is quite therapeutic to get things ready to move in.  The neighborhood is great for walking and sitting on the dock is quite serene.  I'm not there yet but it is now part of my daily routine to do something in the new house while getting my old house ready to sell.  My fall house guests who are teaching at The Beaded Garden in Oxford, FL (The Villages), will be in for quite a change of venue.  Yup, the secret is out.  I host the national teachers at my house for the store.  Oh, let's not get too carried away, I don't cook much, but have a great guest room.  The house comes with cats.

Needless to say, the time required to make this happen, is slowing down some of my plans to close out inventory in 2018.  So we shall see what happens over time.  I'm hopeful but also realistic.

More happy news relates to my book.  I had quite a thrill looking at the proof of my book!  The final copy will be so exciting for me to hold.  It is scheduled for release at Bead and Button in June.  I am using the book patterns to make up some kits for the big Bead and Button show in Milwaukee.  These will be limited  in quantity and not replicated.  I'm trying to use up some special inventory, have some unique kits available, and, at the same time, promote the book.  These kits will come without patterns.  The patterns are in the book.  So if you are going to the big show in Milwaukee, come see me!  The two pictures below are samples of two that I will have.  Needless to say, I'm picking my personal favorite designs for these kits.

My book signing is set for Friday, June 11, 2018, on the show room floor in the Bead and Button area.  I will also have an Artist sales table in the designated area toward the back of the show room.  And of course, I will be at Meet the Teachers.  Receiving this flyer from Bead Smith in one of my orders was quite exciting.  Sherry Serafini's book just released is on the other side.  That sort of blew me away.  I am starting to schedule Book Signings for after Bead and Button.  Locally in Florida, the first official event after Bead and Button is set for The Beaded Garden on June 28 from 3-5pm.  The book is available now for pre-order on Amazon and Kalmbach the publisher.

I am scheduled to teach 3 classes at the Bead and Button show.  At this point, to be honest, one or two may be cancelled due to low sign up.  So do not delay if you are considering classes!  Our cancel date is coming up fast and I will make a decision soon.  At this point, Stained Glass is the only class I can confirm will be held.  I'm excited about it as it will be fun to custom design color kits for the students.

I am hopeful for more sunny than cloudy days in my future.  And at some point, I will start designing again.  I have been in a design void now for months.  When I sit with a pile of beads, I find I am empty of new ideas.  In the mean time, I am enjoying working on my rather large pile of UFO's and kits and working up other designers patterns.  It is all good.

I hope to see many of you at Bead and Button or elsewhere, Bead Cruise maybe?   I look forward for the opportunity to reconnect and to say HI to you!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Looking Forward

I have a lot to look forward to in 2018.  I'm so thankful for my many friends and family who have helped me so much the past few months. 

I just ordered a new Fitbit as I've worn the old one out.  I hope to wear this one out too!  It is fun, if I've been sitting too long it nudges me to move.  

I will be travelling a bit more for fun.  The time to do some of the things I've dreamed of doing is now.  I'm very fortunate to be able to do so and to have a good 'beady' friend who also loves to travel that I can be with.  One thing on my list is to return with Beadventures to the Czech Republic this fall.  That is the trip this year I am most excited about.  Beadventures to Czech

My book is pending release this summer.  The projects in the book are the result of 2 years of designs.  The book is available for pre-order now on Amazon.   PreOrder my book on Amazon  It is exciting.  For a year, when Jack and I spoke each morning, he would ask me what I was going to do for the day.  I would say "work on my book".  He would reply, "oh, something different" and chuckle with his deep voice.  I'm happy he saw the cover.

I have 5 classes scheduled at the annual Bead and Button show in June.  I am looking forward to that big event.  There will be a book signing during the show.  I will have a sales table in the show room and a Meet the Teachers table Friday night.  My personal favorite class this year is "A Moment in Time".  The other classes I'm teaching can be found on the Bead and Button show web site.  Bead and Button Show classes.  Registration is Tuesday, January 9th at 12 central time.

I expect to do some travel associated with the book and teach while visiting stores.   As always my teaching schedule will be announced on my web site.  My classes scheduled

I am looking forward to designing new projects and to getting projects published.  I am continuing with Starman as a Trendsetter and have a few ideas in the works.  I look forward to showing you many new projects in the coming year.  I have been quite enamored with the Hubble stitch.  My Pinterest has a whole page dedicated to Hubble.  Pinterest page for Happy Hubble  I love this necklace, which now belongs to a good friend, the Lampwork by Natalie Zhitomyrsky Etsy shop at GLASSFANATA.  Isn't it pretty?  More to come.

Bead Happy!!  I do.  Marcia

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The House that Jack Built

The story of the house that Jack built                             Written by Marcia Balonis, November 2017

About 1975, Jack had a dream.  He wanted to build our home up on a hill.  We were living in an apartment in the farm house and did a lot for the owner.  She agreed to sell us the land to build the house.  The whole of what is now considered Skyfields area in Groton, MA was once her farm.  That purchase was completed about 1979. 

During the late 70’s Jack also teamed up with a close friend who owned a lumber mill.  Jack and Bob dropped pine trees all over the area to clear lots for others for the pine which was then hauled to the mill.  One weekend a month for about 5 years, Jacks' logs were cut into desired boards.  The other three weekends, he worked for Bob on other paying wood jobs.

Yes, a long time.  To cut the logs into boards, he needed to have his design to include the detail of what was going to be used where.  He did the plans and calculated the board feet needed for floor, walls, inside and outside, posts and, well every board that went into the house.  Much of the design was based on “Your Engineered House” by Rex Roberts of Groton.  There are notes in the book which I made to discuss points or questions from my read of the book.  There are significant variations in Jack’s version of the house.  Most significant is the whole basement.

Finally, the wood is ready, it was sent to another mill to plane most of the boards to be used.  We were also clearing the lot and stacking up the hard wood for burning later.  That took many months.  The area was ready to start.   Foundation went in.  The dream started to shape up.

There was no contractor per se.  Jack did that himself.  We obtained multiple estimates on the various components to include carpentry, electrical, masonry, plumbing and anything else required.  The carpenters name was Barry.  There are a lot of unique features of the woodwork which Jack and Barry worked out.  We walked from the apartment to the house daily to see what had been done.  More than once, when Jack saw Barry the next time, he would have an idea of something else to be done.  The built in wine rack and glass holder is but one example of the special touches created.

The house that Jack built is nearing completion with some very unique elements.  The mantle in the living room is a beam from the first parish church steeple of Groton.  The steeple was removed, and the beams sold for new work at the church.  Some nails from the church are remaining on the mantle.  The cobblestone fireplace in the master bedroom is made with authentic stones from the old rail yard in Plymouth, MA.  Jack grew up in Plymouth and a friend was able to get those stones when the rail yard was demolished there.  The fireplace itself is a heat-a-lator model.  If there are still little bricks in the base openings of the fireplace, they were put there to prevent the kittens from running from one room to another.  Kittens were in the house in 1990 or so.  The fireplace is another of the many energy efficient elements of the house.  The front light is an authentic old street lamp from Groton which Jack was able to obtain from the town when they were removed.

At the base of the driveway are some granite posts.  Sorry to say, I don’t recall where he obtained those.  The granite back steps were from the foundation of the Haney property from an old barn long gone.

The living room stove is a wood or coal stove from an old general store in Brighton, Maine.  He bought it after hunting one winter.  The little one in the basement will also burn wood or coal.  The big basement wood stove was all set up to add heat to the house, shop, and greenhouse for the plants with piping.    

The windows are fixed.  Most of the walls do not go to the ceiling.  This is for air flow.  There are vents all along the back of the house designed to be opened in summer along with the vents up high on the front of the house.  This air flow worked to cool the house.   Drapes pulled at night to retain heat, opened to capture solar heat during the day.  The overhang is specifically designed to block sun in summer and welcome it in the winter.

The greenhouse or spa area was mine.  I spent hours with my plants in that room.  There is a powerful fan, sealed for winter, in the greenhouse.  And there is a 4th heat zone out there.  

The stained-glass piece inserted over the door in the master bath was something I designed and was made by a local artist.  The antique black glass doorknobs throughout the inside were collected from a local old colonial.

The porch over the garage was also my space.  I love bright open rooms.  From this room, the view is spectacular and I so enjoyed many stunning sunrises.

The back office or corner bedroom, has little cabinets at the base of the closet.  They were built to keep ammo and originally guns out of sight. The pantry includes the step shelving so that you can really see everything in the pantry not have to move things all around to find a desired can of something.  The little corner alcove in the pantry for brooms.  Near the back door a special place for coats and hats not kept in the closet. 

The rounded wall, circular stairs, and diamond artistic wall were all design elements which Jack and Barry discussed.  I came to love the circular stairs and wall.  Walking up and down that set of stairs is easier for an older person.  Like the rest of the house, it is solid.  For me, I was able to just lean a bit on the rail to stay stable.

We moved into the house in fall of 1982.  I left when Fort Devens closed for work in 1993.  In the early years we travelled back and forth every few months.  For a time, Jack looked for work in Colorado but then decided he wanted to stay in Groton in HIS house.  I continued to pay the mortgage, worked hard, changing jobs may times, and dreamed of returning.  Over time that changed.  But I was always able to come home to our dream for our visits and to do special projects. 

Jack loved watching the birds each winter and feed them faithfully.  I have watched many come by to check for food this fall only to find nothing but a few bread crumbs.  The hangers off the front on the pullies and other stakes were for the many feeders.  In the summer, he hung plants.

Jack was blessed to have good friends who helped him as his health declined to do the many chores.  I am thankful for those who made it possible for him to stay here, in his house.  Many friends and family have helped me with the massive clean out as well.  A big part of me would love to return to wrap myself back in our dream, but that is my past, and I move on to a future with a big hole in my heart.

Jack with his nieces, 2017.

There are fixtures that need changing to be pretty and things to upgrade.  But even today, 35 years later, this house still has the warmth of the beautiful native wood, the work of a master carpenter, and the love of the owner.  It is the house that Jack built.