Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trial by Pearls

If you've kept up with me out here for any length of time (or even if you've gone back over old posts), you know I love to knot pearls. I've been doing it for a long time, I occasionally teach other people how to do it, I've done it from scratch with new pearls and I've cleaned, disassembled and restrung and knotted old, stretched strands to look like new again. But I've never had a strand put me through my paces quite like the graduated strand I received from a lovely and patient customer I encountered at a show last fall!

They arrived in their original blue velvet box .. a tender little strand with obviously stretched silk needing a little care and attention. Knowing what I know now I'm sorry I didn't look at them more closely before cleaning and cutting the strand apart. The first thing I discovered upon removing the old thread was the pearls were not real. This was a surprise - with the naked eye (my naked eye, to be exact) - they looked real. In fact, I'm still searching for any information on the company whose name was on the inside of the box they came in (Styled by Crosby is what it said) .. more out of curiosity about the surface treatment than anything else. Most old faux pearls I've seen look fake. But, the fact that the pearls weren't real wasn't the problem .. what I discovered was that the holes in the larger center beads were too big for the size D silk thread that would look best with the smaller 4mm beads that made up the bulk of the necklace. I didn't recall that the knots near these larger center beads were problematic in any way before I cut the thing apart, so I haven't a clue as to how this issue was addressed previously. I looked closely at all the little lengths of silk I'd pulled out of all the pearls and couldn't find anything that looked out of the ordinary.

And after attempting to knot the strand twice - once with size D, once with size E - I was stuck. No matter how careful I was near the larger beads, the knots would just slip inside the holes and disappear. As pearl holes are notoriously small, I've never needed a size larger than E before .. and didn't have any larger than E except in black, which wouldn't do. And besides, anything larger wouldn't fit through the 4mm beads.

I kept the customer apprised of my progress .. and lack of progress .. as I continued to search for some way to make this work. If I encounter this problem while stringing stone or glass beads, I just add very small seed beads, liquid silver tubes or little rubbery spacers that separate briolettes on higher end strands (which I always save for this purpose) .. but while the holes were larger than normal pearls, they weren't large enough to accommodate any of these. I told the customer I was considering something a lot less conventional (and much more drastic) like stuffing the holes with something like white two part mold compound or polymer clay.

Fortunately, I didn't do anything until I sent an inquiry to a jewelry forum in which I occasionally participate. It didn't take long for suggestions to come pouring in. And I must say I am somewhat embarrassed not to have thought of the solution offered by most people, which was to add another needle with doubled thread when approaching the larger beads. Simple, elegant, nothing new to purchase .. and no need to muck around with the pearls (a thought that troubled me greatly).

Easier than it sounds though .. and I spent last weekend with some beads other than the pearls experimenting with this process. After playing with various combinations of doubled thread (and then doing a dry run with just the nine center beads), what I ended up doing was using size D to begin; then four beads in from the center I added size E for three pearls; I then cut the original D thread and added a second size E for the center and the two pearls on either side of it; then worked backwards to a combo of D and E, then back to one long D to finish up. The combination of the two doubled E threads (four strands of thread total) made knots perfect for those middle three pearls, but was way too much thread for any of the others. The process took me longer than it might normally because I applied a thin gum arabic beading glue with a fine brush to all the knots that had an added tail of thread in the pearl behind it or had a double strand cut away from the knot .. and I gave the glue a good ten minutes to set before proceeding. This process necessarily weakens the strand at the center, but one doesn't expect a lot of rough tugging and pulling on one's pearl strand; so I can only hope that it will be just fine.

As this was the third time I'd knotted the strand, I held my breathe through the center nine pearls .. but I was really pleased with the end result. All the pictures here were taken after I'd finally gotten it right. If you have any knowledge of the company name, please let me know .. I'd still love to understand that great surface treatment! Otherwise, I'm just going to thank my lucky stars for Orchid and all its kind and helpful followers, be grateful for having learned such a nifty new trick .. and hope I never encounter another strand that needs it!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Gallery Event - March 6

Which, in reality, doesn't look much different from the installation photos, does it?!?! Though there are a few shots here with people other than the artisans milling about - just to prove it was an actual event with real guests!

It was a fabulous evening .. everything looked so professional, colorful and artsy, there was great food, laughter (as promised), intelligent as well as silly conversation, lots of wonderful folks pumping us all up with praise .. and a few things even sold! Well, it's a month long, so there's plenty of time for more of that.

Here are a few more pics to add to those from the installation post. Several of us arrived early, and I used the time as an opportunity to take a few photos before people began to arrive. I really wanted to capture a few shots of the tile floor, which lends itself so well to the environment - a piece of art unto itself!

The photo with Mary Ann's pottery in the left foreground shows one segment of the downstairs gallery at Creative Spirit from one end to the other. There's a hospitality area down on the other end where a couple of tables were heaped full of fruit, desserts, crackers, cheese, wine, home made salsa and chips (from the Cantina Grill behind the Gallery), wine, punch and all manner of munchables. There's another long interior gallery off to the right.

This empty gallery shot is taken near the center looking into the interior gallery .. that's my jewelry in the case .. and you can just see some of Bill's bowl's and his table, Sally's series against the back wall, and a few of Steve's things on the left interior wall ..

Once people began arriving and milling around, I only took a few shots .. mostly those that included an artist or two in them. This one in the inner gallery shows Deb Monteith (in the black cut-out top) ..

This one has June Ross (in blue on the left), and a friend of the group's, Mary Harding (with her back to the camera)- a jewelry and ceramic artist.

And this is just another shot of all of us!! Who doesn't like a party! Kyle Hartman is on the far right .. he'd put together an incredible historic preservation exhibit called "This Place Matters" in a smaller gallery down near the food. Lots of photos of wonderful old buildings, most of which are still being used, with a person or persons in front of the building holding one of Kyle's "This Place Matters" signs. What a great idea!! : )

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Quick Correction

Should any of you actually be interested in visiting Conrad's website, the URL is I apparently fat-fingered the keyboard the first time through!

A Gallery Installation!

My local artisan group (one of two great artisan networking groups in which I enjoy membership) spent several hours last Saturday setting up for a group exhibit at the Creative Spirit Art Center in Potsdam, NY - which runs from March 6 to April 3. The exhibit's Opening Reception is scheduled for this Friday (March 6) at 7 PM. There'll be music, food and the pleasure of our company as well as some smiles, awe, and amazement over our collective creativity. We're a talented bunch .. even if I do say so myself!

Creative Spirit, while off the beaten path on a side street in Potsdam (Raymond Street, off Market .. around the corner from the University Book Store), is quite a large and impressive space. At street level are several large rooms full of jewelry, pottery, textiles, photography, woodwork, music, books, greeting cards and glass, among other wonderful works of art .. the Artisans of the River Valley exhibit is located on a lower level, spread out among multiple light and airy rooms. What you're met with as you descend the stairs to the lower gallery is a fabulous mosaic tile design on the floor that wends its way through the gallery .. a work of art all on its own!

This is Steve Kroeger - who has an incredible skill for expressing light, shadows and reflections in his works.

This is Deb Monteith who, prior to just recently, was creating works involving primarily the St. Lawrence River and its surrounding environs. She's recently experienced a renewed burst of creative energy and has shifted her focus. In the photo above she's placing a placard with a piece of poetry on it that goes with the large canvas to her left. The beautiful wooden cabinet in the center (the doors on the sides swing open) is one of Bill Smithers' pieces ... that's my mom reflected in the mirror. As mentioned in the previous post, she was visiting this past weekend and went with me to this gallery installation extravaganza.

John Miller III lining up a display of his Thousand Island Picture Paddles .. if I remember correctly, there were several other free standing versions of his paddles in other areas of the gallery. The little sculpture is one of Wayne Brown's whimsical structures made of forgotten, scavenged and recycled machinery and obsolete tools.

Bill Smithers .. woodworker extraordinaire .. fussing (as we all were that day) with a table of his turned bowls. Another of Wayne's fanciful creatures is in the foreground; others of us are milling around working out our own displays. My display cabinet is on the other side of that wall with large shell painting ..

Last fall - back when we knew we were all going to be participating in this exhibit - the director of the gallery explained that anyone requiring a display case for small items would have to provide something of their own. As it happened, I had met a young woodworker at a show we both did at Clarkson University - we happened to be side-by-side. He had wooden toys, small jewelry and trinket boxes, cutting boards and other small things at the show; but he also had a portfolio full of furniture and cabinetry that really demonstrated his talents in the extreme.

I have a truly inexpensive, flat, 24" square tabletop display at a small gallery down in Lewis Co. .. I felt this exhibit, however, required something a bit more ... artsy and elegant. So I called this young man and told him what I needed .. I sent him a check for the lion's share of the cost (based on his estimate) while I still had money in my business account (!!). We went back and forth a few times - he, sending preliminary plans based on my initial description of size and design; I, returning comments and edits on the design until he was set to begin.

We had discussed my needing the cabinet for this exhibit, so he had completed it for pick-up on Feb 21. I sent a small check representing the balance, but didn't pick it up until last Saturday on my way back home from the exhibit set-up. Turns out the gallery had an extra display case; and as it provided a bit more room than the 34" high, 14" square display cabinet I had commissioned, I decided on using theirs instead of mine.

Mine is now slated for a space at Mare's Wares Pottery .. sometime in June when the summer resident population (and sales) pick up. I had told him I would love to have something in a Mission or Arts and Crafts style .. he came back with a computerized design that included a little Mission flourish around the top:

I responded with a photo of a Mission-style mirror I had seen at Cherry Tree Design's website and asked if we couldn't do something like that instead .. including the little flair of the post extensions at the top. And the photo below is what I got .. it's absolutely stunning (the photo doesn't do it justice)!! And a spectacular value for a handcrafted piece of cabinetry.

I spent a lot of time looking for something like this online .. and the closest I could find was almost twice the cost, not nearly as handsome, and mostly metal and glass. This one is oak. Should you wish to see some other things of Conrad's, you can view some of his portfolio at Tell him I sent cha!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Time passes, things change ..

A lot can happen in two months. While sales are usually slow (if not totally non-existent) this time of year, it's generally a time of renewed creativity and production. I lost this time last year to my thyroid - pretty much the entire winter and early spring was a wash due to lethargy, anxiety, apathy and a total lack of motivation .. all because of a little butterfly shaped endrocrine gland in my neck. Who knew one little organ could cause so much trouble?

This winter the flow of creativity and production stopped due to my dad's on-going ill health and resulting death on January 18. It seemed like things were going along swimmingly, but the body and brain are strange and wonderful things .. they often react in totally unexpected ways. Most of the stress I experienced was worrying about the effect my dad's death would have on my mom and a brother who lived with them. While it takes time to assimilate these kinds of life changes, the waters seem to be calming a bit. After a fabulous visit by my mom this past weekend - something she had never been able to do in the past due to her care taking duties - I'm feeling a whole lot better, and she got a much needed break away from her usual routine and environment. Some interesting things are happening in my brother's life as well .. so perhaps despite the fact that a part of our lives which was so familiar is gone, we've all found a little peace to help get us to the next chapter in our lives.

I'm still moving a little slowly .. but the days are getting a bit longer, we've had a couple brief thaws to remind us this dark and snowy period doesn't last forever, and some promising artisan things have been happening to propel me into a more creative state of mind.

If you're interested in shorter, but more frequent posts, check out my relatively new Facebook profile (Karan Marie Cross). I find it easier some days to make a quick note there, and I'm sure you'll find it likely that show dates and links to show events will find their way to Facebook in a more timely manner .. at least during this period when I'm still trying to gear up and get back into the swing of a routine.