Friday, April 18, 2014

Freeform Friday: Skeletons in the (bead) closet...

 Now - we all love beads.
Seed beads. Czech glass. Gemstones. Artisan beads. Polymer, ceramic, lamp work... Metal, Bali, Hill tribe... bicones, super duos, magatamas... lentils, daggers, rondelles, briolettes... Sorry I got lost there for a sec. But I know you are with me.

These last 2 weeks have been a flurry of productive time for me - getting ready for Spring festivals and shows. And as such I have been in the clay cave (basement ceramics studio, you know) for much of the time. Once tiles and pendants are glazed I can create new wearable pieces in clay, gems and polymer.

What's your point, Jenny? Oh - well... I have nothing really unique and new to show you from the jewelry studio - yet. But I do have a few skeletons that I recently uncovered, and thought I would share.
Zoey guards the entrance to the Studio Closet of Doom

Ah! The Chaos! The treasure! The perils that await our intrepid explorer! 

Spiral rope in 2 pieces. That's NOT supposed to happen. St. Petersburg stitch? chain? (w/ blue teardrops) app 3".
Tubular/circular peyote. Yes, that is a taped together toilet roll. Ha. I wanted to make amulet bags. Still do, actually. 
Here we have unearthed evidence of my love-hate relationship with seed beads.  While I am currently loving seed beads, these false starts are at least 10 years old. And yes - I had them packaged with their ingredients, like space explorers in cryogenic chambers. Just chilling, waiting to be revived. 

 Egads! A relic from the past! The tins that used to arrive via post with a CD inside for AOL. Whoa. That places this artifact in the popular culture timeline. What's inside?!

Why its more seed beads! A blue and silver peyote soup in progress as a bracelet. Not very old - as it includes a stoneware cab made within the last 4 years. Was I planning on stitching a bezel onto the bracelet? We may never know. And on the right - I don't even know what stitch that was GOING to be! Its a lovely raku leaf pendant from a mother/daughter team based in Washington state. We carried their pieces at the Shepherdess ( San Diego, CA) when I worked there  - like 12 years ago! 

Speaking of the Shepherdess/San Diego years... this wasn't really hidden as I go to this tray often. When I worked at the Shepherdess I was the lowest bead girl on the totem pole. I spent many, many days tubing seed beads. After I punched in I would be handed a tray with half a dozen gram bags... of beads. To tube. Scoop, scoop, tap, scoop, lid, hammer. Repeat. The left overs were bagged and sold on the cheap. Yes, I personally felt compelled to adopt many, many bags of orphaned 11's, delicas, 8's... I do still use them in pieces today.

And now - a little bead confessional:

1. Vintage/antique crystals from necklaces I took apart to repurpose. I was in my teens. Still have these in my stash. 
2. Bells. While I wasn't hippy enough as a teen to wear bell anklets, I love these bells, man. 
3. Hand painted beads fro Peru. I think I was in high school when my older sister travelled to Chile and Peru. These aren't my style any more, but I still have them.... 

What skeletons are in your closet?

What projects are buried treasure waiting to be rediscovered and reworked? 

What tools or materials did you purchase with good intentions and lofty creative plans - that have  languished in solitude? 

I myself will definitely revisit the peyote in the round. Peyote stitch is the one stitch I feel comfortable doing... and I would love to make amulet bags with a wee ceramic icon or charm tucked inside. Maybe I will look at the St. Petersburg (?) again; I like the drops on the edges, and I have seed beads friends now! Thankfully Kristen has done a AJE tutorial on spiral rope so if THAT urge flares up I can tend to it... 

Please share your skeletons with me! I don't want to be lost and alone amidst the abandoned projects... 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Throw out that expensive camera

I refer to my iPhone 4S as a camera that is also a phone. With a few easy to learn skills, it's difficult to take a bad photo with an iPhone and several other brands of phones. I'm often surprised when people share bad photos they've taken with their phone, because these phones take such great pics. I share photos of my work taken with my phone all the time. I even use them in listings.

Don't get me wrong. I also use a nice camera to take product photos...specifically a Canon EOS Rebel XTi that I got about 7 years ago with a macro lens I've had for a little over a year. Since I got this phone, I find the process of taking photos, uploading to the computer, editing, then posting them online to be TEDIOUS. I've never had a desk job and find that I have a difficult time working on the computer more than 1 hour at any given time.

For example, I like how my headpins look held as a "bouquet" in my hand using my phone and  natural light, cropped, with no other editing:

Better than the photo of them in the photo tent using a macro lens:

To try to help you take better camera phone photos, I grabbed a couple pieces out of my jewelry box. I purposely took bad photos, then took better photos to illustrate the difference. 

Example #1

The first photo has at least two major problems. While there's natural light, it's direct late afternoon light, which is harsh, casts lots of shadows, and adds a lot of gold to the photo. Since I prefer to do as little editing as possible, the golden glow and shadows are unacceptable. The other big thing that's wrong is that the photo is just plain boring. The shot is too wide. 

These photos were all taken on my kitchen tile. So to correct for the shadows and gold color cast by the sun, I moved to an area that wasn't in a patch of sun. That is the ONLY difference I made. These photos are completely unedited. However, it's still boring (and completely uncropped). 

This next photo, the key is still in direct sun, but I've angled the phone and come in as far as I could for a more interesting shot. It makes a big difference to the interest level of the key, and the glass looks really sparkly in the sunlight. However, I do NOT like the shadows being cast for a product shot. If it was simply an "artsy" shot to share on Facebook or Instagram, this would be totally acceptable. 

The next photo of the key is close-up, slightly angled, and out of direct sun-light. The ONLY editing I did was to crop it into a square-ish shape. 

When trying to get up close and personal with your jewelry (or other product), it's best to get the camera as close as possible then crop further if needed. Do not use the zoom feature. Here's an overdramatized example. 

Original unedited uncropped photo taken too far away:

What happens when keeping the camera at the same distance but zooming in instead:

What happens when you crop the original photo taken at a super wide angle. The quality isn't perfect (because I cropped this an excessive amount as an example of the difference), but it's a heckuvalot better than the photo above.

Do you know how to crop your photos on your phone? 

On my phone, when looking at a photo, it looks like this. Click on the edit button at the bottom. 

Then perform the correct function. Crop is that overlapping square symbol on the bottom right. Flipping the photos (which I clearly did) is bottom left. 

Example 2:

What's wrong with this photo? Golden sun casting shadows. Some areas look washed out. The angle is too wide. 

The color and light is better, but the angle is too wide. And it looks like maybe I didn't focus this one where I wanted the focus to go. 

How does one adjust the focus? I can tell you how to do it on my phone, but it's kind of tricky to show it. Use your finger to touch the area of the screen on the object you want to focus on. The other thing this does is automatically adjusts the color/lighting to the object your focusing on to (usually) make it better. 

Here's a screen shot of the camera working on focusing right after I've touched a spot on the screen. The yellow square is the area I am having the phone focus on. Once it's focused, the square goes away. 

The next photo the bracelet fills the frame and isn't bathed in bright golden light. 

And remember that if you do super tight photos, you will want to show multiple views. 

And for the final example, I photographed this gorgeous beaded necklace by Kristen Stevens using one of my Nightmare Insomnia beads. Shadows, sun, too far away to see any of the detail that makes this necklace so special. 

The next one it has been removed from direct sunlight. The lack of shadows helps show a bit more of the detail, but it's still too far away to really draw the viewer in. 

And here is the focal portion with the camera held as close as possible and at a more interesting angle than straight above. You can now see more details in the piece than before. 

The above photo was cropped in Instagram. I used zero filters on it. If I'm selling a piece, I prefer to use no filters so the color looks as accurate as it possibly can. 

However, sometimes I use filters when I'm just showing a piece. I mostly like how the filters highlight certain areas of the photo and add a small border without any actual work. Below are three different filters of the photo above. Having comparisons like this can show you exactly how the filters change the look of the piece you're photographing. The change can be subtle, or striking.  




In the above photo, we get a good look at the focal. But what about the rest? We (your potential customers) want to see the beading. And the clasp. So change the view, rearrange, move the phone. Here's another view of the same necklace above. The focal is blurred and moving off into the distance. The beading is front and center. Notice the empty space in front? All these aspects of the photo work together to create interest, tension, and to keep the viewer's eyes moving. 

And here is the same exact photo, but using the XPro filter on Instagram. It makes the background fade away and adds more emphasis to the beading. I love this look! 

Will I ever really throw out my digital SLR camera? Heck NO! But knowing how to take great photos with a smart phone really makes having an online presence easier. 

Go forth and take great photos!

-Jen Cameron

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Flame Off 2014

Show season is in full swing, and after reading about Diana’s adventure at Bead Fest, I thought I’d share my what I was up to this weekend at the UK Flame Off. 

It’s a wonderful show, headed up by Martin and Teresa from Tuffnell Glass and is everything to do with beads & Lampwork. 

This year, it took place at the Uttoxeter racecourse in Staffordshire.

The event starts on a Thursday with private classes, and the visiting artists were Melanie Moertel from Germany,

Helen Gorrick from the UK, 

J C Herell from the US, 

and Michal Silberberg from Israel. 

On Friday, the show is opened up to the public with the visiting artists demonstrating throughout the day. Downstairs is bead makers heaven, full of artists selling their beautiful handmade creations, suppliers selling tools and glass, and a huge free taster area, where anyone can come and have a play on the torches. It’s staffed by experienced lampworkers, so even if you’ve never touched a rod of glass in your life, you can take home something you’ve created on the day. There were plenty of pro’s to watch too if you weren’t brave enough to have a go!

I managed to sneak off my stand a couple of times and get around to visit a few people for a catch up and a stroke of their beads. Here’s a few of my favourites…

Madeline Bunyan makes the most amazing silver glass beads, I got these beautiful birds from her.

And I adore her goddess beads!

Jennie Lamb works for hours at a time to create incredibly detailed huge statement beads in the most beautiful colours. These are cored with slightly smaller than standard silver ends, so you can imagine the size of them in your hand!

And Pris McGirr, also works in silver glass to create wonderfully colourful focals.

And last, but by no means least, my best bead fair buddy,  and next door vendor, Laney Mead, a sculptural lamp worker, creator of the beautiful flowers in my Spring Fever challenge necklace, and some of the funnest beads in the place!

After a little bit of shopping and a good look round, I went outside to see the Glass hub in action. Here you can have a go at glass blowing and create a bauble. I had a go at this last year and it was a lot harder than I thought! 

My bauble is the white speckled one on the front left… not bad for a first attempt, although I did have a lot of help! ;)

After a fantastic first day, it was back to the hotel for some much needed sleep and back again in the morning for more of the same. 

Most of the day was spent at my table, but in the afternoon, my hubby took over for an hour, so I could go upstairs to watch J C Herell demonstrating enamelling on beads. We got great seats a couple of rows back and watched her creating a poppy bead with graduated enamel background. 

The demonstration was beamed on to a big screen so that we could see all the details as they happened. She was great fun to watch and very entertaining, and I’ve come away with the urge to get back to my torch and put some proper time in developing my own work!

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, and there is a wonderful atmosphere with so many people passionate about creating artisan work in the same room! I learned lots, caught up with friends and met some wonderful new ones, spent too much, and can’t wait to do it all again next year!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PMC Class Update!

Remember when I took that PMC (Precious Metal Clay) class with Donna Penoyer?  I got my pieces back, and thought I would update you with the results. 

This is how they went to Donna - dry, but not fired.  She fired them at her studio, and when they were ready I went to pick them up.  Unfortunately, she was out of town so I didn't get to see her studio.

This is how they came back to me, after she fired them and polished them.  I asked her to just leave them polished so I could use the liver of sulpher (LOS) on them myself.  They are very very shiny!  It's hard to tell how shiny, because we have not sun while I am writing this!

And here's how they look after LOS and polished with steel wool.  I was slightly worried because I thought, what if I hate them after I used the liver of sulpher?  But I don't, I like them.  It gives a nice colorful patina on the silver if you don't polish it with the steel wool, I supposed you would need to seal it with Ren Wax or PermaLac if you wanted the color to stay?  I any event, I like them.  The tentacle will be a necklace and the odd shell-like construction will probably sit around in a box! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Scenes from Bead Fest Spring 2014

On Saturday, Colin and I headed out to PA for Bead Fest Spring.  I wasn't vending so I just wanted to spend the day with bead friends and do a bit of supply shopping.  We arrived around noon and had lunch with a few friends before we shopped for a bit.  At 2:00 we met up again and chatted and went through a pile of metal goodies that Heather Marston brought for us.  Thanks Heather!
Shout-outs to Staci Smith (wish I could have kept all those rings she made, lol!), Linda HanesMelinda Orr and Heather Marston!
I headed over to the artisan section after our meet-up and found Yvonne Irvin-Faus/MyElements and Michelle McCarthy/Firefly Design right next to one another.  We goofed around with some of the cutest ceramic lollipop pendants that Michelle had in stock.
Marti Brown/The Dragon's Odyssey was in the same section!  I buy all my niobium findings from Marti as you can't beat her selection and quality.  Not only is niobium easy on my ears but the colors tend to go nicely with my raku pieces!  Marti also makes fabulous polymer clay pendants!
Heather and Harry/HMB Studios was right across from Marti, Yvonne and Michelle.  They always have yummy lampwork beads in an assortment of fun shapes and bright colors.
Around the corner I found my buddy Diane Hawkey along with her super fun head beads!  I came home with a blue one!  Tracy Bell and Brenda Schweder were next to Diane and they were playing with lots of wire!
I eventually made my way over to Meg Fillmore Mullen/Bead My Love to bask in all her seed beady goodness.  I was so excited to see that she had turned some of my ceramic cabochons into kits!  When I need seed beads, Meg is my go-to gal.
I also visited with several other friends, including lampwork artist Donna McClaren/Beaded Chic (she brought her lovely daughter with her to help) and many more (I was too distracted at times to take photos).

It was a nice relaxing day for me and while I enjoyed not having the stress of vending, I think I'm going to take this show on next year.  I love being behind the booth and spending several days with my fellow bead people.  I look forward to seeing them all again at Bead Fest in August!

Happy Beading!

Diana P.
Suburban Girl Studio LLC