Friday, September 23, 2016

Hello There

I'd like to start off my introduction by saying how delighted I am to be a new member here at Art Jewelry Elements. When I was first approached by Jenny Davies-Reazor to join I was flabbergasted!
Jenny did an interview with me back in April, you can read it here. I was completely amazed when she asked me for the interview.  Well, when she contacted me to join the AJE team-I was over the moon! Then all of a sudden, the little demon of self-doubt popped up and said NO: it's over your head, you're not capable, you can't do it right now, it would consume too much time, blah, blah, blah.
Guess what? I won. Beat that little demon right back into his box on the shelf.

So, here I am-Cathy Spivey Mendola, jewelry and fiber artist. I have had a long journey of creative endeavors over the years. Like my fellow newbie member Cooky, I was a nurse. Even while I was working as a nurse I was creating. I made teddy bears, rabbits and sheep as well as making dried and silk flower wreathes and arrangements for a local business.  Once my daughter was born I became a stay-at-home mom and the creative juices started to flow a bit more.
Frida Art Quilt, Circa 2007 With Minimal Beading

In the last 26 years I have made children's clothing, art dolls, jewelry, ceramics, mixed media paintings, collages, assemblages, art quilts, felting, knitting, etc, etc etc. Actually, it would take less time to list what I haven't attempted creatively over the years.  You can check out my blog to link to more of my past creations.
Beaded Buddha Art Quilt, Circa 2015 With Millions Of Beads

I just recently moved to NC from the Chicago area. I was very fortunate to have been a member of the North Suburban Needle Arts Guild; Womens Journeys in Fiber group; and a couple of smaller groups, one of which was a bead/fiber group named the Crazy 8's. Being a member of these groups helped me expand my skills in fiber arts as well as jewelry on top of making many great, creative friends along the way.

Beginning in 2013, a friend of mine and I decided to do an art journal. I had been feeling stuck and a little confused about the direction in which I wanted to go, artistically speaking. I thought joining with a friend would help keep me accountable. This wasn't your typical journal, this was a creative exploration that we came up with--try new techniques, new ideas, new media, and especially try all those new products we tend to buy and never use!

The very first month of the journal I decided to teach myself how to do a beaded peyote stitched bezel.
The Beaded Bezel That Started It All Done On Wet Felted Fabric

That was all it took. I became hooked on beading and bead embroidery.
Even though I had been making jewelry for years I had never really used seed beads (gasp!) except to embellish art quilts. I had never even WANTED to use them in jewelry! After I made several bead embroidered pieces to use in my art quilts I decided to try making a bead embroidered breast plate for the Shaman sprirt mask that I was making for our yearly project with the Womens Journeys in Fiber group. Once I created that piece I became obsessed with making pendants for necklaces.
Breast Plate For The Shaman Spirit Mask

I have had a lifelong habit of collecting sea shells, rocks, driftwood, anything I come across at the beach. So naturally, I started using these bits of found treasures in my beaded jewelry.
I was fortunate to have my beach themed jewelry featured in the summer issue of Belle Armoire Jewelry.
Belle Armoire Jewelry Summer 2016 Issue

Ammonite & Fossilized Shark Tooth Pendant
Now that I have joined the AJE team, I have a newfound love and appreciation of art jewelry components as well as my found treasures. I will keep exploring and expanding my beachy themed jewelry but I am also looking forward to using ceramic, glass and polymer clay components.

After AJE's headpin challenge last month, I realized just how much I have missed working with metals. It was so energizing to combine bead embroidered elements with the metals.  My enthusiasm for jewelry making has increased exponentially since joining, so stay tuned for more mixed media creations from me. I am really looking forward to being a team member here!

Beaded Moon Goodess Necklace

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Finger Lakes Fiber Festival

On September 17th, I took a trip to the Hemlock Fairgrounds for the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival.  I'd never been to a fiber festival so I wasn't entirely sure what I'd find there...but I was hoping to come home with some gorgeous wool roving for my needle-felting projects.

Scenes From The Festival
I was pleasantly surprised to find two barns and a tent full of vendors, some cute animals, demos and lots of gorgeous scenery.

There was a beautiful display in one of the barns of the entrants to the 2016 Skein & Fiber Arts Competition.

Skein & Fiber Arts Competition
And there was a lot of yarn, wool roving, tools, clothing, handcrafted toiletries and more for sale...

Beautiful Things For Sale

Roving, Locks and Wheels
In the Fiber Tent, I got to meet Ann of Nyala Farm.  Ann makes wonderful needle-felted pieces.  I LOVED the Medusa sculpture! 

Nyala Farm
Fleece competition and where fleece comes from...
Fleece Competition 
And here's what I came home with.  Some pretty bits for needle-felting, multi-needle holders, a cute felted hummigbird (it's a gift), and a fiber fest pin (I collect pins).

I have no idea what I'll make with any of it, but discovery is half the fun!

Happy Felting!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Coexist Beads - My Everyday Wear

Several years ago I came across this brilliant assembly of necklaces in Showcase 500 Beaded Jewelry by Lark Crafts.  Titled the "Coexist Prayer Beads" by creator Nancy Meli Walker, for some reason this was the first piece in the book that I noticed, and as I flipped through the rest of this fantastic showcase, I realized that I was still thinking about this collection of simple and meaningful necklaces.

For me, the historical, cultural, and human ties to beads and beadwork are impossible to separate from my own work.  I feel that it is extremely important to spend some time investigating the role that beads have played throughout our history, and that includes the role that beaded items play in the realm of religion and spirituality.  A few years ago I picked up a copy of A String & a Prayer by Eleanor Wiley and Maggie Oman Shannon, which is a fantastic modern investigation on the role of prayer and meditation beads, along with a guide to creating and using your own.  In my head, the bead strings were connected - I needed to make my own set of "Coexist Prayer Beads" - an assemblage of pieces that resonate for me on a more personal level...and so this project was born:

How do you go about gathering ingredients for something like this?  For me it's very important to have some sort of memory or other connection to the major components of each piece, along with finding tactile pleasure in the bead or other material that makes up the bulk of the necklace.  Today I'm going to share some of the pieces that I've created so far, along with components and materials I have gathered for future creations.
There is one necklace I wear 7 days a week - my medic alert.  I've worn a medic alert since the age of 7, and this particular tag since a few years after that.  I keep it tucked inside my clothes on the long stainless steel curb chain.  The contents really needs an update, but in reality I will likely just get a second tag and wear both on the same chain.  5 days a week, I also have to wear a lanyard type necklace to hold my work key fob - currently I'm wearing it on this lanyard of rich purple button and coin pearls. 

This vintage glass necklace was found in a baggie at an antique mall for a few dollars one day.  When I got home and pulled it out, I realized it was fully intact except in one area where someone had lost 2 small and 1 large bead link - they sewed the missing section together with thread.  I pulled it apart and inserted this Green Girl Studio chameleon bead - it ended up being the perfect fit, and this is probably the necklace I grab most often.

I think of this piece as my own personal "rosary" - a tool for assisting with the mindful management of my own thoughts.  It consists of a bronze octopus coin with labradorite by Cynthia Thornton, a bronze urchin component by Lesley Watt, and a pewter fish link by Green Girl Studios.  These pieces are paired with iolite, labradorite, and fire prehnite beads, along with copper, niobium, and gold. I feel that my major inspiration - the sea and her creatures - resonate in this piece.
When I was a kid, one of our neighbors made rosaries and would pass along her left over supplies to me.  I have been intrigued with them since then, and when this lovely bronze cross and center medal came to me, I decided to make my own.  This is modeled after a traditional Catholic rosary, but of course the materials and sentiment resonate with me on a more personal level.  Sue Kennedy made me the "our father" beads to coordinate with the vintage glass oval beads I wanted to use, for an even more personal touch.  Incorporating my friends creations into my everyday wear is important to me.

It's no surprise that eyes would fall into the jewelry that is most significant to me, is it?  The focal bead on this necklace is a Nazar that a friend brought back from Turkey.  Paired with enameled eye chain, brass links, vintage glass beads, and brass eye "ball" dangles - this is my favorite thing to wear when I feel vulnerable in any way - surely all these eyes will repel any negativity, right?
This agate cicada is paired with an enameled flower, pyrite skull, and flat Picasso marble knotted on silk.  Cicada's are symbolic in many cultures, but mostly I just find them fascinating.  I picked this cicada up at a show several years ago...that just happened to be a year when the periodical cicadas were hatching.  It was such an overwhelming experience - you couldn't step outside without being pelted with the blundering insects.  You couldn't escape the noise without covering it up with something else - I found the entire experience humbling.  What a fantastic reminder that nature continues on, even in the midst of a huge city.
Of course I can't leave out my mala beads.  I have a traditional rosewood Hindu mala, along with this Tibetan style bone mala.  This strand of cedar berry "ghost beads" and strand of tiny wooden people also feel like mala's to me - a strand of meditation beads where the material the beads are made from is as significant as every other aspect of the strand's construction. 
I have many other items collected - some made by me, some made by friends, and some made by nature.  There will be more additions to my collection of coexist prayer beads in the future!

I've been seeing this term tossed around lately on the internet - Every Day Carry.  This appears to apply broadly to those things you don't leave the house without, come hell or high water.  I've realized that these pieces have become my Every Day Wear - I can't leave the house without at least one on.  Even if I'm wearing a larger beadwork necklace, I'll wear a special charm on a chain too, or something else that coordinates.  It doesn't matter the day of the week, where I'm going or what I'm doing, I just can't make it out of the apartment without some item of jewelry that resonates with my spirit.  I'm sure you have something like this that you wear every day too - maybe it's a watch, wedding ring, or earrings you've had for years.  That item you fiddle with when your hands are idle.  That accessory you feel naked without.  Something that means more to you than just "jewelry".  What is your Every Day Wear?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Exploring Needle-Felting

I've been a bit stressed out and needed something to do other than beading.  I figured giving needle-felting another go was a great idea because of all the stabbing I'd get to do, lol! I decided to finally open the Zombie Fuzz Butt kit I purchased from Purple Moose Felting!
The Kit
This kit is fantastic as it comes with everything you need to make your own mini horde (3) of needle-felted zombies!
Inside the Kit
Lots of wool roving, tips and there's also full color instructions.  Please note, the needle holders were an extra purchase.  You'll receive one needle with your kit.  I do recommend buying the holders too as they make the process more comfortable for your hand.

Forming the Zombie Body
The first hour of this project was spent just making the base of the body.  Lots and lots of stabbing (I was starting to relax) and turning the project over and more stabbing.  I watched Criminal Minds during this stage...seemed appropriate.

It's really quite neat watching this wad of fluff turn into a firm shape just by stabbing at it with a special needle. 

Once the body is complete you attach the head.  The real fun starts once his head is firmly in place.  The instructions show you step-by-step how to give him bulging eyes!  They also provide you with step-by-steps for facial features and lots of suggestions for little tweaks to make him uniquely yours.

The Details
I found his mouth to be the most difficult part since I chose to go with teeth.  I need a lot more practice before I'm any good at small details like that.  

Ready To Eat Your Brains
I do love him though...even if he keeps trying to eat my brains.

After I finished my new zombie friend, I wanted to give 2D felting a try.

Buzz Buzz
I purchased a couple of tile kits from FiberThyme's Etsy shop.  These are reasonably priced kits that include general instructions (no step-by-step photos), wool roving and the felt with the sketch already drawn on it. 

Building My Hive
I really enjoyed this process...more than the 3D felting!  Since the sketch was already on the felt, it was kind of like color-by-number felting.  Again though, I had some trouble with the fine details but I guess that just improves with practice.

Got Honey?
I didn't add the second bee since I was happy with the tile with just one..and truth be told, I didn't want to end up adding another massive bee to the piece.

I'm officially hooked on needle-felting!  I still have more kits to play with and I spent Saturday at a fiber festival in the Finger Lakes (check back Thursday for a post)!  I'm also going to join the local weaver's guild in Rochester and have signed up to take a scarf felting class this winter.  

If you haven't tried needle-felting, you should give it a whirl!  

Happy Beading...errrr felting!