Sharing My Favorite Creative Work

(C4ward March Blogathon Day 3 post, a day late because Monday is my insanely long day with no breathing room)

What should I show as my favorite creative work? In what area did I DO my favorite creative work?

Was it this pair of chainmaille earrings?

Sterling & Niobium Chainmaille Earrings

Sterling & Niobium Chainmaille Earrings

Or these earrings made from one of my favorite pairs of lampworked beads?

Lampworked glass bead earrings

Lampworked glass bead earrings

Was it this paper I did for my first art class on German artist Käthe Kollwitz?

Käthe Kollwitz image

Käthe Kollwitz Self-Portrait

Or perhaps the debut performance of the dance troupe to which I belong at TribalCon last month?

I can’t decide!!


Don’t forget the attitude!

Three years ago, at the first show that Andrea and I did together, we saw the importance of a good attitude to having a successful show. This weekend's show is certainly testing our resolve at sticking to that principle. It's pretty tough to remain cheerful and friendly when the chill has penetrated your very bones, you lost feeling in your fingers hours ago, you dread having to visit the porta-potty again because you'll have to bare your backside to the elements, and the many people that walk into your booth and say very nice things about your work then walk on without pulling out the wallet and taking a piece home.

So you look for what there is to be happy about. We did get into the show, even though we are pretty much newbies on the circuit. It's an opportunity to test out some of our new display and booth arrangement ideas. It's a local show — we get to sleep in our own beds with our own critters. We made SOME sales :-). Lots of people were asking if we'd be back tomorrow (of course; we're not going to bail out when we committed to the full two days). We got to meet and pet and snorgle LOTS of wonderful dogs throughout the day!!! We get a free cupcake to split tomorrow. We get free coffee and/or donuts tomorrow. It's supposed to be warmer tomorrow. We fall back to standard time tonight so I get an extra hour's sleep. The show doesn't open until 11 a.m. so I get yet another extra hour's sleep.

How'm I doing?

All set up, come on down!!

This weekend is a biggie for us — it's Copper Dancer Designs' first big outdoor festival! We're heading over to Chastain Park for the second annual Chastain Park Arts Festival tomorrow and Sunday. It's going to be coooooold, I expect, with tonight's low at freezing or just below. By the time I get there tomorrow around 9:15 or so, it'll hopefully be back above freezing. The high is supposed to be in the low fifties, but that's pretty darn chilly when you're standing or sitting around.

We set up for the festival this afternoon. It was in the low fifties, but it was damp and cloudy and a bit breezy. I wasn't miserable — I've been MUCH more miserably cold in my life — but it wasn't exactly pleasant. Once we got the tent up, we at least had some shelter from the breeze, and when the drizzle started we were under cover. We're confident now that the tent walls will block a decent breeze, which is comforting. Gary and I had to leave at 4:30, and leave Andrea to finish putting things out in the increasing drizzle (which was mixed with SLEET at points, eep!). The setup looks good, and this gives us a chance to work out more kinks in it, and get a better idea what is working and what needs changing. We can also get more pictures for our show applications for next year.

Oh, yeah, and hopefully we can sell some jewelry items and make a little money, too!!


No, not THAT kind of quickie ::frown::. I spent all evening doing all the show prep stuff that I know not to put off until the last minute but do so anyway. I always end up cleaning the last batch of beads on the last night, and then they have to be sorted, culled, placed into sets, inventoried, placed into the right place in the display boxes. Everything has to be fit into as few boxes and totes as feasible, and then eventually put into the car. Oops? Did I say put into the car? That didn’t get done yet. It may wait until morning.

Heck, I’m not even sure what I’m going to wear tomorrow! I just know that I better be at the Cobb Galleria by 8 a.m. ready to unpack and set up because the doors open at 10, and we HOPE there will be lots of customers looking for unique handmade holiday gifts…

The Great Cabochon Experiment

I was told several years ago that if you have round beads that have broken in half due to thermal shock, you can use your kiln to slump them down into little oval cabochons and thereby make use of otherwise wasted glass. This certainly appealed to me, being one to not waste anything. I mean, other people have nubs and shorts of glass that they are always trying to get rid of, but MY shorts get used up until there’s essentially nothing left.

Of course, the people that have slumped their beads were doing it with “soft” glass, aka COE 104 Effetre/Moretti/Vetrofond glass. Did that stop me from trying it with my poor borosilicate bead halves?

My first attempt was in my own kiln, which wouldn’t get above 1700 degrees. That isn’t hot enough to slump boro. Although the little bead halves looked a tiny bit flatter and more polished, they still had their little grooves on the backside.

Then I took them over to my parents’ house to use the big guns, er, kiln (my mom’s pottery kiln) on them. I was figuring what the hell, let’s give it a shot, so I set it to ramp up to 2000 degrees and let ‘er go. Four hours later, that kiln had topped out around 1930 degrees, and I had no clue whether the beads were slumping or not. I said to hell with it and cut off the controller to let them cool down overnight.

When I went back and pulled them out the next day, they were definitely slumped into nicely shaped cabs…but almost all of them had turned from their nice bright boro colors to a cloudy yellow!! Dismay!!!

According to my friend Jo, that was the silver in the boro color reacting at such a high temperature with the clear, and there is nothing to be done at that point. I still ran the cabs through the kiln one more time on my normal boro striking cycle, which may have helped a few of them, but most remained that cloudy baby-poop yellow.

Conclusion? EPIC FAIL.

Show Prep

Unlike you may think, I don’t torch right up until the night before a show trying to make as much product as possible. Tonight, in fact, was likely my last session on the torch before this weekend’s Down the Street Bead Show.

Anything that’s made on a mandrel — that means beads — has to be cleaned after it comes out of the kiln and off the mandrel. That means hauling out the handy Dremel and zapping all the bead release out of the middle, under water. Yes, it’s messy! Once the beads are cleaned and dried, they have to be sorted and culled. The wonky ones go into the Infamous Wonky Box, first-quality experiments go into the Orphans box, and sets have to be matched up and grouped together before going on display. Sets and focals also have to be inventoried and priced. The beads have to be placed into the appropriate box or on the rods for the big upright display so that when we get to the show, we just put the rack together and it’s ready.

Actually, I had intended to just do pendants tonight, since they are not made on a mandrel and therefore don’t need bead release cleaned out. All I have to do is pull them out, rinse them off, and voila! ready for inventorying and tagging. But I realized that I had most of a really cool twisty remaining from torching last week, and that I should really finish off that set. So I did regular beads, and teeny beads for earring pairs, and a small focal bead to use it up. Then came the pendants — two hearts and two stones. I’m hoping that the odd lot batch of Solara I got recently strikes as nicely on pendants as on the two experimental beads from last week. If it does, it’ll be used for a lot more heart pendants!

Branding & Being a Polymath

My business partner Andrea commented on Twitter this week that

I totally fail at branding. I tweet about rescue dogs, academia, early music, lampwork and jewelry, words, health care, and politics.

She’s not alone — I could almost have written that tweet, though mine would have said “I tweet about rescue cats, computing, lampwork and jewelry, bellydancing, chainmaille, and teaching.” The same thing is true of my blogging, as you know if you read Art of the Firebird regularly. I blog and Tweet and post about whatever I damn well please, which means I may focus on beads one day, cats the next, and my sore abs the third.

Of course, this goes against everything you see from the self-proclaimed “social media experts” who state that your Brand must be tightly focused and contain nothing extraneous or unrelated to your major product. By this theory, my blog/website/Twitter/Facebook should be focused only on my lampworking/jewelry business because everything else confuses my branding. I should have another set of accounts for animal rescue, and yet another for teaching matters (okay, I DO have a separate web site for the teaching, but still…).

I suspect that the people who say this either a) don’t have a real life into which they fit social media and marketing, or b) have no clue about being a Polymath (or, as Barbara Sher terms them, a Scanner). It’s just not realistic to manage multiple blogs or social media accounts for different things. There’s the time factor, of course, but there’s also the “keeping things straight” factor. Sure as anything I’d mis-post half of what I write to the wrong place.

I’m NOT only a lampwork glass artist, or a chainmailler, or an animal rescue activist, or a computer scientist, or a professor, or anything else. I’m all of these, and more. If I limit my postings to only one aspect, that isn’t the true me. Any polymath will tell you that we can’t be limited to one thing — even my brother the social media maven doesn’t manage to limit his Twitter and Facebook to one focus!

In truth my “Brand” is ME, ALL of me, and that’s what my blog, and my Twitter account, and my Facebook account, reflect. So SEO/marketing/branding rules be damned, I’m branding the Polymathic Me, all of her, because that’s what makes me unique!

On the Road to Roanoke


  • Even after rush hour ends, Atlanta traffic, even in the off-direction, is no fun.
  • There’s a Carhartt outlet at Commerce. I wonder if they carry women’s stuff.
  • Bulldogs are loveably slobbery fun to pet.
  • Playing tug-of-war with a 40 pound bulldog is a good workout for your deltoids & such.
  • The guys at Mountain Glass Arts don’t see me very often, but they do seem to like it when I (and my credit card) stop by.
  • Burger King’s food hasn’t improved in recent years.
  • What goes up, up, up on I-26 must eventually come down, down, down into Tri-Cities.
  • Andes Mint ice cream sandwiches are rather tasty.
  • It gets dark early in east Tennessee.
  • I-81 still has its share of crazy drivers after dark.
  • Sometimes it’s just as well to have snacks in the room instead of going back out hunting down a real dinner.
  • Three-Buck-Chuck Merlot is just fine when that’s all you got handy.
  • CSI trilogies are intensely creepily good at revealing that some people in the world are real sickos.
  • Some people out there are even worse procrastinators than I am.
  • My husband is still good at putting one over on me, though I’m still good at finding out prematurely that he’s done so.

I Don’t Do It Alone, Part II

Besides Gary, there’s one other critical person associated with my business — my occasional business partner Andrea, of Four Tails Lampwork. Although we have separate online businesses, we team up to do shows, and that works out VERY well for us.

One reason is that our styles of work are complimentary but not copy-cat; she works mostly in soft glass and I work mostly in boro, and we both exploit the characteristics of our chosen glass as much as possible.

Having a second person there to “share the load,” so to speak, makes doing shows when both of you have a full-time Sort-of-Day Job possible. At our last show, Andrea’s job actually got seriously in the way to the point that on both Friday and Saturday she couldn’t get to the show until mid-afternoon. Without the partnership she would have had to cancel, but with two of us I could handle things (with help, of course, from Gary) until she got there. In return, I got to sleep in a bit on Sunday, which I muchly needed! It also makes it possible to make a bathroom run without worrying, or to take a walk around to peruse and schmooze the other vendors.

We also have complimentary strengths and weaknesses. She’s better than I am at the schmoozing; I’m better with the numbers. So Andrea does the bulk of the meet-and-greet and I handle the accounting, and we’re both happy.

Of course, we get along very well! If we didn’t, none of the above would matter at all because we wouldn’t be able to work together!

ALMOST Indestructable Mandrels

I work mostlywith borosilicate glass (better known as Pyrex), which tends to make me a mandrel-killer. These mandrels are stainless steel TIG welding rods so are meant to handle heat…just not the kind of heat I need to make that glass MOVE where and how it’s supposed to move.

I burn through 3/32″ mandrels routinely when working on bigger/more complex beads or when trying to do two or three basics on a single rod. I can even burn through a 1/8″ mandrel without any real problem. I haven’t quite burned through a 5/32″ mandrel (the ones I use for Pandora/Troll type beads) but I’ve come unnervingly close.

Trying to make small beads with small holes for earrings and such calls for a 1/16″ mandrel. With ordinary mandrels they are an exercise in futility for me. Fifteen seconds in the flame and POOF! PLOP! There’s my molten glass on the tabletop with a mandrel bit sticking out each end, destined only for a watery grave.

Then AuraLens came out with their “Almost Indestructable Mandrels” in a variety of sizes, including that impossible 1/16″ size AND two even tinier sizes. Their website states “Imagine being able to make three or more borosilicate beads on a mandrel and not having the mandrel melt from excessive heat.”

“Suuuuure you can,” said my Inner Skeptic.

I asked Mike Aurelius if that claim was for real. He assured me it was, so I promptly ordered three dozen 1/16″ Almost Indestructible Mandrels. I don’t make tiny beads every session, so it’s taken me a while to really give them a workover.

The verdict from here? “Almost” is the operative word. I’ve destroyed several of them so far, but I’ve had to work at it harder, quite a bit harder, than with regular mandrels. If I use a little common sense and turn my flame down a bit (which I should do for the smaller beads anyway), I really can make three nicely shaped 9-10mm or so earring beads on one mandrel and not melt through it. For me, they are worth it. If you find yourself being a mandrel-killer, you may want to
check them out yourself.