Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mystic Success

Ever since my shipment of Reichenbach glass arrived on the scene I have been on a mission to master this glass. My Type A personality would not allow me to sit idly by and let this glass win. Nope. I had to figure it out and make it work. I would not rest until I made beautiful beads with this glass that was near close to driving me away from the torch forever out of sheer frustration.

Pearly Pillows - made with Mystic Pink and Mystic Beige

My previous post was a good start. I figured out how to avoid the devitrification for the most part but I was still unsatisfied. I knew the glass could give me more and I wasn't happy with only pressing once or twice. I always need to tweak it a little here and there to get the shape just right.
Simply Pink - made with Mystic Pink

Then it dawned on me. Maybe this glass likes to be encased. Duh! Should have thought of that weeks ago before I wasted a few rods making ugly devitrified and generally unappealing beads. So here is the magical secret to making Reichenbach's Mystic line of glass smashingly beautiful with all its streaky and pearly qualities: encase it!
Mystic Forest - made with Mystic green

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mystic Devitrification

Being married into a German family I've been hearing for years just how superior the Germans are at just about everything [eyeroll]. I figured they must make some pretty spectacular glass too so I went ahead and bought myself a sampler pack of Reichenbach 104 to try it out.

Although I have seen many a marvelous beads made with this glass, my experience was not the elated euphoria I was hoping for. I was instead met with devitrified disappointment. All of the 'Mystic' glass rods I used devitrified and formed a pitted, bubbled, white chalky residue on the surface that was anything but the "shampoo" sheen I was anticipating.

evil devitrified beads

I scoured the Internet for all the information I could find on staving off the evil devitrification monster and stumbled upon Pat Fratz's blog post about working the famed EDP (Effetre 'Evil Devitrifying Purple'). So I went back to the torch armed and ready with new information and a totally different approach.

Much success ensued and I had my moment of euphoric enthusiasm after all. The key to working with any of the Reichenbach 104 Mystic glass colors is that you need to treat it a little bit like EDP. It does not like the rapid heating/cooling/re-heating process. It also doesn't like to get too hot and worked for too long. Get in, get shaped and get out. Don't futz around, and don't press it too often.

I remade the same beads and just modified my process. Instead of pressing after each "step" I only pressed twice - once to initially size up the footprint, and then at the very end for final shaping. I worked it much cooler and much faster - no futzing around. Keep an even heat and modify your flame chemistry to be ever-so-slightly reducing. Scale back the oxy just a bit for a soft bushy flame, but not enough to create a full-blown reduction flame.


pretty mystic beads
And voila! Pretty mystic beads without the hideous devitrification.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Educated

A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take part in a glass workshop taught by Michal Silberberg - one of my very favorite glass artists. I kinda felt a bit like a teenage girl with front row tickets to a Bon Jovi concert. Totally giddy. I've been a longtime admirer of her work and was thrilled to hear she would be in town. Although I admittedly did question her why on earth she came all the way across the pond to Minnesota of all places? Family. A-ha!

stringers!
The workshop was put on by Star of the North Glassworkers - the Minnesota chapter of the ISGB (International Society of Glass Beadmakers). In order to sign up for the class I had to become a member first. Yippee! I am officially a member of a glass club. What a great group of talented artists and some very fun people.

class beads
Having been completely self-taught through painstaking hours of trial and error and a little help from the internet and YouTube, I was excited to take a real class from a real instructor and get some great hands-on experience. It really is amazing the little tips and tricks you pick up just from watching someone in action.

I learned so much from this workshop. Not just the 'big stuff' that was actually being taught, but all the little nuances that go into the process by just observing other glassworkers. I literally felt my brain exploding with new information to take back to the torch with me, and I have to admit there is a definite improvement in the technical execution of my work. I am one very happy customer.

Sadly not all my class beads survived the kiln. The alien lost a leg and my poor owl split right down the middle, but they have a new future and a new hope. I'm gonna bust out the glue and make myself some new torch mascots to hang out in the studio with me so I don't have to be all alone. Besides, I'll feel just a little less crazy talking to some new buddies instead of just talking to myself while I torch.

my new skills

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ready for Ragnar

I am about to embark on an adventure that seriously calls into question my sanity, or lack thereof. I never thought I was easily subject to peer pressure but apparently my good friends can talk me into doing the craziest things by cleverly disguising them as "health and fitness". We all know I can be a bit of a fanatic when it comes to health and fitness. And I am also easily fooled.

note important item: painkillers
Tomorrow I pack myself into a van with 5 other insane individuals and begin Ragnar, Great River. Six more just as insane people will make up the rest of our team in van 2.
12 runners. 200 miles. 30 hours. What on earth was I thinking?!?

If you've never heard of Ragnar that just means you are not a crazy person. I'd never heard of it either until my runner friend said "hey Leslie, you wanna be on our Ragnar team?" Of course I said yes.

The race is relay style. Each person runs 3 different legs of the 200 mile race. Knowing my limitations, I made my commitment dependent on getting to pick my own leg. I am runner #3 - the easiest leg of van 1. I may be easily fooled, but I am not completely stupid.

feed me
As luck would have it there was a complication with our first exchange point so they moved it - to my benefit of course. I lost 2 miles off my first run and they added it to runner 2. Muah ha ha. Fate is on my side. This can only mean good things. My new total mileage is 5.3 | 3.0 | 3.4 for a total of 11.7. I think I'll make it.

The gear and the snacks are packed. I'll see you after the finish. Go team Pavement Pirates!

Check out this ESPN video to get the full gist of what is this craziness called Ragnar.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Zentangled

I didn't know what it meant when I first heard it either so I looked it up.
Zentangle is essentially doodling with intent. Who doesn't love to doodle? I thought it might be fun to try doodling with glass. I grabbed myself some fine stringer, some scraps, some dots and some liquid stringer and just started having fun.

The results were pretty cool and most definitely unique.

Now they may not be considered a true Zentangle in it's pure form, but I figure it fit the definition close enough. Glass doodles. I most certainly had fun with this new series and I hope you enjoy them.



Pieces will be going up for sale in my Etsy shop throughout the week. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Technical Difficulties

I may work in the IT field but I am not a network administrator. I just play one on TV at home. To quote the user's at my office, "it's broken". What exactly is broken I'm not sure, but we had a power blip on Monday during some fantastic thunderstorms and all went to pot on my network.

It seems my router is confused and my Netgear Stora device is possessed and taking over the network. It is broadcasting itself as my website and not letting any Internet traffic out. So if you are trying to access my website (beadbijoux.com) - which I am sure you aren't as I really don't get a lot of traffic on it - it is momentarily down until I can figure out what exactly is wrong. Or until I drive myself over to Best Buy and buy a new router. Which I will probably do on Sunday.

In other exciting news - not that the previous news was very exciting - I have started up a little monthly glass challenge with my glassy friend to help get the creativity going and expand our skills. Fun stuff. As soon as I find where I misplaced my camera I will get some pictures posted and show off the goods. And after I get this whole website debacle taken care of.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Too Many Passions

I've come to the realization that I just have too many passions. There are simply not enough hours in the day or days in the week to do absolutely everything that I want to do. How is one supposed to fit it all in?

Last month I finished up my health challenge which turned me onto cooking. As if I needed another thing to get excited about. I have never had so much fun in the kitchen before in my life. Felt a bit like one of those super chefs throwing in a little of this and a little of that and coming up with amazing and healthy recipes for my family. (which by the way, I managed to lose 5 pounds and 7.5 inches on that challenge!)

We live in Minnesota and the snow finally left for good and the forecast calls for no more overnight frosts so guess what I want to do now? Plant and play in my garden. I suddenly have all these ideas for new flowers, transplanting existing flowers and essentially digging up half the yard and moving stuff around.

Last week it was cold and rainy so I found my way back into the studio and decided to clean the place out. It is amazing how once everything is cleaned and organized my creative mo-jo comes back and I suddenly feel the need to light the torch or cut some glass. Now I'm on a glass frenzy and the ideas are coming faster than I can possibly write them down or try them out (keep an eye out for some new listings later next week. I've been a creating fiend).

One must not forget my day job, which I am very fortunate in that I really do love what I do. It's what stole me away from the studio last summer to learn and expand my knowledge in our technology conversion.

Then of course the poor neglected scrapbook. Just got the annual photos of the kids done and I am feeling the calling to update my son's babybook (er, um, actually I should start my son's babybook. my girl's is finished but the poor boy doesn't even have a start on his).

Oh, but of course my real passion in life is my kids. I thought once we got out of the baby phase I would have time to myself again, but alas there is really no such thing with children. I want to spend every spare waking moment of the day playing with them and living in the moment because they change and grow up way too fast.

I really need another 52 hours added to my day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sugar, Sugar ...

... oh honey, honey. Sorry for getting that 60s pop song stuck in your head. Moving on. Have you ever stopped to read the ingredients label on the packaged food you buy? It is eye-opening. Having been a vegetarian for 16 years I'm pretty adept at quickly scanning labels for things like chicken fat, gelatin, anchovies, etc. It's actually quite amazing how many things have chicken fat in them. Really.

Since starting this 30 day health challenge I have been forced to read my labels in even more detail. This time scanning for things like sugar, whey, and caseinate. Holy cats that stuff is in everything. How about maltodextrin. What the heck is maltodextrin anyways? It's another one of those man-made artificial fillers they stuff into all the food we eat that is most certainly not good for you.

Sugar is in everything! It's no wonder we have a diabetes epidemic in this country. Even the most innocently sounding foods like taco seasoning, pasta sauce and soup broth are loaded with sugar. Gah. What is a health nut to do? Make your own food. From scratch. GASP.

Just call me Betty. Crocker that is. Yep. I am a cooking machine these days. It is quite surprising how much 1/2 cup of sugar looks like when you are ready to pour it into a recipe, but we don't even think twice about that much already being in the jar of spaghetti sauce we just took home from the store. Ignorance is bliss. Or is it? Much to the dismay of my husband I now thoroughly read every single ingredient on the label before placing something into my cart. My newest find is this little gem called coconut nectar. A natural sweetener made from coconut trees. Sweet! I was in dire need of a granola snack and this did the trick just fine. Nom nom nom.

Admittedly I am still counting down the days until I can put half-n-half in my coffee again. Oh how I miss it so. Halfway through the challenge and I am feeling great and standing firm. 14 days to go.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Road to Good Health

... is not paved with pretzel M&M's and Cool Ranch Doritos. Shocking. Sad. But true. I tried to convince myself that taking my pregnancy indulgences well into my children's toddler hood was going to be totally fine. But the cold, hard truth is that those last 15 pounds of baby weight are not going to just magically disappear without a bit of effort. Bummer.

A dear friend of mine threw down a 30 day health challenge to kick our butt's into shape. Fearing bathing suit season would soon be upon us, and knowing my inner competitiveness, I signed myself up. Sure I can do this. Bye-bye baby weight. Hello smoking hot bod.

No meat? No sugar? No dairy? No processed grains? Oye. More like bye-bye all things delicious, hello food deprivation.

Being the over-zealous freak that I am, I decided I could do one better and start us off with a 36-hour apple cleanse to kick start the challenge and clean out the system. Wow. If there is ever a test of real self-control it is fasting. Because it is an inevitable guarantee that the 1 day out of your entire life you decide to fast, some jerk is going to bring in bagels and cream cheese for the entire office and eat them right in front of you. Pure unadulterated evil.

I survived the apples. Barely. But I did. And now I decided I should chronicle this epic adventure of mine and bore you all with my food ramblings because it is a bit of an obsession right now. The minute you cannot have something, it will become an obsession. It is one of those freaky laws of the universe or something. Today was day 3 of our challenge and things are getting a tad easier. I am still desperately searching for a half-n-half substitute for my coffee. It has become my primary quest in life. At least today anyways. 

Tonight I even branched out into a whole new realm of cooking and made Indian for the first time ever. Holy cats those spices they use are STINKY. I needed to vent the entire house while it was cooking. One would think having been a vegetarian already for 16 years I would have cooked with lentils by now, but this was a first. Dal. Probably the most basic Indian dish there is, but it was good for a beginner. Tasty. Stinky. But tasty.

If you are here looking for posts about glass, beads or jewelry, I am sorry to disappoint. I will likely be obsessing on this food thing for the next foreseeable future. Or at least until I can put half-n-half in my coffee again.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Liquid Voodoo

Someone, somewhere, has a voodoo doll with our name on it and is having a grand ole time repeatedly dunking it in a bucket of water. I need you to stop. Please.

It all started with a tiny drop of water on top of my husband’s head as he walked under the light fixture in my daughter’s room. Um, that is odd. Upon closer inspection we discovered the entire glass bowl was full to the rim with water and it was seeping out the top. Oh crap. This is a problem. We drained the light and soon determined the source of our issue was an ice dam formed midway up the roof due to all the lovely MN snow this year.

We cranked up the water heater and piped a garden hose from the utility sink, up the stairs, through the house and out the window where Ben was up on a ladder armed and ready. After attacking the dam with shovels and hot water for almost 3 hours, we were saved! Much rejoicing commenced and we were quite relieved to have escaped with little to no damage.

Apparently we were a bit quick in our celebrations. Later that night, it was revealed that another ice dam had formed above our son’s room. Only this time, there was no light fixture conveniently in just the right spot to catch the pooling water, and we were faced with a new dilemma. It was 4am. My husband gently lifted my son from his crib to join me in bed while he worked on the problem. Unbeknownst to him, the little stinker woke right up and thought it was party time in mom’s room. Fun! Not. Ben drilled 3 holes in the ceiling to relieve the pressure and instantly filled 3 buckets with water. Oye. It was literally raining right inside his bedroom.

After a horrid night’s sleep we were in need of coffee to jump start our day. At this point the curse had moved onto me and I failed to place the decanter in the coffee maker before turning it on. Word of advice: if you forget this critical part of making coffee, you will end up with a flooded kitchen floor. Gah.

The day was a rinse and repeat of the previous and after 8 hours of battle, all the ice dams on our roof were cleared. We assessed the damage. It was not good and would require professional repairs. The timing was the worst. Our son’s new big boy furniture was scheduled for delivery the very next day.

Evening rolled by and Ben suddenly realized he had lost his phone in all the chaos. After an unsuccessful search around the house we took the mission outside, where we were once again left with nothing. Just before he was ready to head out into the snow with a shovel and Maglight he decided to switch out the laundry when what do you know? He finds his cellphone - in the washing machine. Freshly washed. Seriously? How did it end up in there? It is a goner.

It stayed with Ben the next day while we cleaned out my son’s room in preparation for his new furniture. Somehow he managed to get the leg of the stool in the bucket and knock it over. 2 gallons of hot soapy water instantly flooded onto the floor. You must be kidding. Thank goodness a lighting fast response by me was able to get downstairs, retrieve 5 towels, and back upstairs in time to soak it all up literally SECONDS before it started running down the floor pipes for the radiators - where it would have completely ruined the hung ceiling in the basement. Good grief.

Unfortunately it found its way back to the kids with my daughter suddenly “forgetting” in all the holiday excitement that she needs to go to the bathroom. She has an accident - a big accident. The kind that saturates the living room floor and soaks all the way through the rug. The kind that makes you ask yourself, “At what point did you not realize you were peeing in your pants and stop yourself? Really?”

It was not done there. Oh no. It moved back onto my son and his brand spanking new fancy bed, sheets, pillows, and irreplaceable comforter that I was so in love with. Around 3am on his FIRST night in his new bed I awaken to his crying - the kind of crying that you just know you can't ignore and have to go check on. I find him lying in a POOL of blood. I freak out thinking he must be near death with all that blood loss, but it was all from his nose. Man this kid bleeds out when he gets a nosebleed. He was covered in it. The entire bed was trashed - all of it: pillows, sheets, comforter, mattress pad - everything. What an insane mess. At 3am mind you. On the one and only night my husband decides to borrow not 1, but 2 of my Ambien and is out cold.

No more liquids please, and thank you.