Michelle's blog

Portland Independent Artisans Cooperative

I've been very busy since the last time I posted. I've managed to spend some quality time with my torch, but the bulk of my time over the summer I spent helping form and launch a new Etsy street team called the Portland Independent Artisans Cooperative, which is the first Etsy street team to be formally organized and registered as a business entity.

The reason we (my fellow Portland Etsy artisans and I) did this is we wanted to promote quality Portland handmade wares in an online venue. We have some very talented artisans, a wide range of products, and we're growing. Our new website at www.pdxindie.com has a web feed of all our Etsy listings for fans of RSS, as well as a photo gallery and artist blogs. I hope you'll check it out.

Mandalas - Marking My Crossroads

skyisland mandalas: I spent the month of July working on mandala patterns in lampworked beads. The mandala based on the numbers four and eight is an old friend of mine; my senior project in college was a collection of large, organic mandala paintings of leaves and ice and snow and rock.skyisland mandalas: I spent the month of July working on mandala patterns in lampworked beads. The mandala based on the numbers four and eight is an old friend of mine; my senior project in college was a collection of large, organic mandala paintings of leaves and ice and snow and rock.I'm not exactly a child of the 60's, although I went to a school that seemed like the last oasis for offspring of flower children, where the high schoolers with long hair -- boys with untrimmed beards and girls in peasant skirts or patchworked overalls -- celebrated alongside us younger free spirits at the school's art festivals, taught us folk dancing and drawing, and hung out with us in the park playing games right up until the banjo-playing, comic-strip-illustrating, dancing-on-the-playground hippies were suddenly gone after one summer in the 70's and the next fall kids came back with spiked black hair and black fingernails...

Oops, sorry for the nostalgic digression. What I really meant to emphasize was that all the grooviness that lingered in that school exposed me to more than I thought it did at the time. Different ways of living, thinking, and doing art.

Tatting Challenge Results

The results came back this morning and I was surprised to find my piece was picked by all three judges for first place!

One of the judges said she picked my piece because "not only is it a stunning piece of work she's put a lot of time and care into it (mind, they all have!)".

Her last comment was hardly an overstatement. There were some very inventive and beautifully crafted pieces in the challenge and I've obtained permission from their creators to post their photos here.

Lamplighter's light shadeLamplighter's light shadeSecond place went to Lamplighter for a beautiful lampshade incorporating TotusMel's medallion as a strong focal point.

Each judge chose one of the submitted pieces for third place. Those winners were Wenchie for her SteamPunk Hair Stick, MadArtJewelry for her Flies' Time Necklace and IndustrialFairyTale for her faux Ivory and Medallion Choker.


IndustrialFairy's chokerIndustrialFairy's choker MadArtJewelry's necklaceMadArtJewelry's necklace Wenchie's hair stickWenchie's hair stick



I was so excited I've already spent my winnings in TotusMel's shop on a lovely choker and pendant for me and a bracelet for my daughter.

TotusMel is planning another challenge, so keep an eye on her blog if you'd like to participate.

Utter Frenzy - Tatting Challenge Piece and a Blog Feature

I've been working like a madwoman this month, although from the number of beads I've listed it's really hard to tell what's been going on behind the scenes here at skyisland.

First, I was just featured on Pretty Little Love Objects.

Second, I just finished and submitted the necklace shown here to TotusMel's tatting is not a lost art challenge.

The point of the challenge was to take a hand-tatted medallion made by TotusMel and sold in her Etsy shop, where she presented a choice of size and color for a tatted medallion to use in the challenge and open season on design. My obsession with lampworking and beading led me to design a focal bead style specifically to fit the medallion. It took a month of experimentation to produce the bead I chose to use in this necklace.

I painted the tatted medallion with acrylics to give it a watery feel, then set the lampworked focal into a beaded bezel and beaded and strung the necklace with vintage seed beads and crystals, czech glass, and bali silver.

She's already planning her next tatting challenge, and I'm already dreaming up new designs to mix with her lovely work.

Finally, the Perfect Excuse!

My husband and I have known for a long time that we're procrastinators. Luckily, we accept each other just the way we are.

He's learned to work with his tendency to procrastinate in ways I haven't. I've just become used to setting my own priorities. First, it was my mother (one of the worst procrastinators I've ever met) who set them for me, then her voice in my head. I was in the process of replacing that with my own voice when I got married to my ex-husband and got entangled in a cult, so they set my priorities until a couple of years ago when I extricated myself from both and found myself clueless about how to prioritize the things I decided are important to me.

Much less important are clean dishes and a spotless floor. Much more important is running my own business without anyone snooping into my minute-by-minute activities. I revel in the freedom to waste my own time reading blogs or interacting with other artists in forums. I revel in the freedom to help start a marketing cooperative for Portland craftspeople who sell on Etsy. I can admit to - nay, relish! - the fact that two weeks ago the dishes in my sink had mold growing on them!

Still, I've never understood why I am the way I am. I have a huge list of things to do, that I want to do, that are important and that I know will make me happy once they're done, yet I don't do them. Why, oh why do I get so easily distracted from doing them and commit to yet more activities to prevent myself from getting around to that ever-growing list?

International Criminal in My Own Backyard

Yes, it's true. This past week I've been fairly involved, offering moral support and doing a bit of sleuthing because one of the lampworking artists on LampworkEtc.com, where I spend a good deal of time sharing and learning, discovered that several members of our community had been victims of fraud.

The whole thing has unraveled into something resembling one of those bizarre late night crime shows.

A popular (alleged) lampworker on Etsy, it was discovered, has been buying up large quantities of beads on eBay and directly from lampworkers online and at shows, then breaking sets up into singles and small sets and reselling them at shows and on Etsy for a profit, claiming they're the work of her own hands from her Milan, Italy studio (while simultaneously claiming on another Etsy shop that she was a pastry chef in Texas).

Once the discovery was made, artists from all over came forward to identify their beads, and their work was verified in many cases by the wonderful paper trail of eBay's sold items and from their own photo archives. It was a bit of a shock, to say the least, that someone would have the brass to claim other's work as her own on a venue like Etsy, but she'd done it dozens of times. Sadly, although multiple complaints from those whose work she claimed as her own were submitted to Etsy, her Etsy bead shop is still open.

Her face should be on an FBI wanted poster for internet fraud.

A lot of people were hurt, their good reputations and talents used by this person. But ironically, where compost is thrown, flowers do indeed bloom when the light of the sun shines. From our online community of LampworkEtc.com, word spread to the self-representing jewelry designers' community and to IndiePublic. People started coming to read and to ask, who really made the beads I bought from Ullja?

Heat Wave

It's not officially summer, but it sure feels like it. The shockingly high temperatures have left me feeling like a slug, although I did get some yardwork done yesterday with the kids, and this morning had the old shed doors taken away so I can have my backyard deck back for summer lounging. After we replaced the doors with a real operational door for easy access to my studio, I'm afraid the old doors just sort of laid there.... for a long time... just taking up space. But now they're gone, woohoo!

The lavender trees are in full bloom, as are the azaleas, which got me in the mood to mix some frit and try to get a summery feeling in my beads. My current spacer sets are more colorful than usual, and I'm feeling like I'm finally breaking out of the funk I've been in. I tried my hand at murrini this week but the results were horrifying so I'm not showing anything until I've worked with it a lot more!

Project Wonderful

On the heels of my rant about self-promotion, I realized I've been thinking of advertising for the last year and for one reason or another, it hasn't happened. My son's troubles at school, the damages to my home by a bad contractor and subsequent loss of my home, moving and setting up a new studio, more assessments for my son and finally some good solutions for him, then the implosion of my web site and having to rebuild it... so many things going on, I was torching part-time at best.

Things have settled down to a nice routine now and I'm getting time at the torch most days, so I decided to try a little advertising. Project Wonderful seems to have hit the scene at the right time. Its structure is perfect for my type of business and I can set limits on expenses, so I can dip my toe in the water and see how hot it is.

So, for May and June, if you got here from my ad, I'll throw in a bonus bead when you order. Just add a comment here letting me know your order number, which web site you came from and how you ended up visiting it.

A Long Rant

Advance warning: this is a bit of a rant. Sorry!

I was sitting in a waiting room the other morning and I had a few minutes to kill, so I picked up a magazine I would never have read if it weren't for my doctor's strange (to me) tastes in periodicals. The magazine was called Details. It appeared to be some flavor of GQ for the young and hip male. Still, I did learn some important facts about tooth whitening processes.

The article that really caught my eye was Welcome To The Age of Self Promotion. Sadly, to me, it proclaimed that hard work isn't enough to get ahead. You have to tell everyone how great you are. Be a walking resumé. Do that whole social networking thing. Make yourself appear to be indispensable. Invent the internet or something, or at least tell everyone you did so they'll vote for you.

OK, that wasn't fair to Al. He didn't really make such a claim. It was a bad game of telephone.... but it does illustrate the point of the article.

People will make themselves bigger than life. They'll go on about their knowledge and achievements to anyone who'll listen, hoping it will filter up and help them climb over the people who are actually doing the work. I'm not ragging on legitimate bragging rights here. I'm just reminiscing a little about the corporate world I left to become a bead-maker. There are some loud people out there, basically starting rumors to put themselves in a positive light. I'm not sure if they believe they have the skills, or know they don't and think it's ok to get other people to believe they do.

My Sister, an Editor's Pick in Beads 2008

I was very excited to find my sister, The Beadwife, was featured in the Editor's Top Picks section of Beads 2008, an Interweave Press special issue. Her set Fallen Sky is featured in page 16's Oceanic bead theme, and a set of her beautiful Peach Romance beads (pictured here) and a capped Lilac Romance focal are featured in the Organic theme on page 17.

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