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Bringing The Beads Back to The Bench…

I haven’t done any beadwork in quite awhile since I have been teaching myself some metal techniques. Today I brought the beads out again in order to work on my Artbeads Blogging for Beaders Project for Summer.

I doubt I will finish both pieces today…actually I know I won’t, esp. since this beautiful weather is calling me outdoors!

I have to admit something: I have WAY too many supplies. I am serious!! Not exactly a bad thing – but over the past two and a half years, I seem to have had more time to BUY beading supplies than MAKE jewelry! Plus I scope out suppliers, buy wholesale and volume discounts and close outs – well, you get the picture. When I sat down to look at colour options for these two necklaces, I had too. many. choices.!!  In a way it was overwhelming – too many possibilities! I spent a half an hour this morning just looking & considering colour schemes!! I came to the conclusion for example, I have way too many gemstone beads in the hue of ORANGE!! I went to get large guage headpins and paused to consider dozens and dozens of different metal components. And I am organized – believe you me – it’s just too many choices staring at me. At this point, I think I could open a small store…if I had the time! HA!

Anyway, I mean that somewhat in jest of course – but still…anyone else feel the same way – even some days?? The possibilities are endless when it comes to beads…I thought I was limiting myself by not buying glass anymore but nope… 🙂

Happy Creating! I should be posting this project within a couple of days…

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Playing Catch Up…

I am so severely behind with my blog posting. In March, my family & I ended up travelling home to Nova Scotia to attend a funeral. That wiped two weeks out of that month and therefore made me behind on my projects for my “Jewelry Sabbatical“. The 13 hour drive however, gave me a lot of time to think & refocus, and my priorities have shifted a bit. I had a brain wave for the engraving collection, and that is still in conceptual stage while I wait for some logo templates I ordered. I also had a clearer idea about which direction to take the website, so I have been working at updating the look of the site and the overall branding of heavenlyflower.com – all tasks that are severely needed & overdue – I just didn’t expect to be working on that element at all this year! Blame it on retrograde if you must, but these days I just feel motivated to work on getting projects cleaned up, completed and continuing on past goals (like the website). It’s not exactly spending all my live long day at the bench as I had planned, but I am happy with the direction things are headed so I have to go with it. For the first time in 8 years I feel like my goals & dreams are in reach. I tend to go with my gut day to day and this is no exception. Perhaps taking the pressure off this year helped my business goals come in clearer focus. Now to not self-sabotage…a topic I will leave for another post.

I will still be blogging about my new found adventures in creativity as planned however I do have a few topics revolving around the handmade market and business that I will also be writing about as it pertains to what is on my mind these days.

I am also happy to announce that I will be participating in yet another Market Mommy Blog Party next week. Stop by the blog and participate. There will be prizes from fellow mom entrepreneurs as usual. I will be giving away gift certificates! 🙂

Finally: while I was organizing photos I came across this photo of my oldest trying her hand at what mommy does. 🙂 I don’t want them to “hurry up and grow up” but I do welcome the days when I can share my passions with my two girls. This was taken back in October, before my creative space/playroom was finished. She was just newly two years old when this was taken.

The piece I was working on:

The finished project:

More goodies to follow…including my adventures in brass last month!

Come Tour My Workspace…

The creative madness (um, I mean, magic…) unfolds in my head. But I have never in the 10+ years of jewelry making & paper crafts had a proper work area to transfer those ideas into the tangible world. I’ve always lived in apartments for my whole adult life; and when we bought our house 3+ years ago, two children have been born since so I have been working from the kitchen table. 🙂

As summer drew to a close and my youngest was gaining independence, I decided it was time for a proper workspace. But what would work? Where? I needed a place that I could multi-task: make jewelry, fill orders & prep them for shipping, take photos (I was so sick of setting up and tearing down my photo box), and also work on my other creative endeavours which include cosmetic making, paper crafts, candle making…on top of this, I needed a way to keep the girls occupied while I work. So the space would also have to act as a playroom.

Upon pondering on my open-concept home, it became clear that one room would be perfect: the laundry/mud room.

What? You say. A laundry room. Sounds silly doesn’t it? Here is where ” outside the box”  creative thinking is key.

Our laundry room is very large. In the initial plans for the house, it was supposed to be three smaller storage rooms and an exit to the garage. Thankfully, the original owners opted to make it one large back room. Prior to last August, this room served as a laundry room and very large bathroom for my cats; and because the kitty litter was there you really did not want to spend a lot of time in it, let alone have babies crawl all over the floor.

My husband had plans to move his computer gear into that room as well, so a plan formed. Cat litter was moved out of the room entirely. One side would be set up with carpet tiles so the girls could have a play area. The other side, my desk/work station. The room was already equipped with lots of cupboard space and counter space which would house all my creative products. And bonus – I could also get the laundry done as well! Perfect solution for a busy mom who rarely made it down the stairs to do the laundry…

In October we set up the space; and I did some more organizational arranging last month when I realized I was going to take a jewelry sabbatical.

The space esthetically is nothing to shake a stick at: I do hope to do some painting and refreshing in the future. Functionally however, it is a dream come true.

Above is a view of my main workspace. We have three of these flea market tables and one works well for a large work area. The other desk/cabinet was here when we moved in; not great looking but it’ s free and functional! You can see my shipping materials in the hanging file above the table. My light box for photo taking is in the middle and that small fridge at the very left keeps any cosmetic concoctions or supplies that need to be kept cool (and my husband’s beer!). See those two carpet tiles missing at the top left of the carpet? Spilled beer. Sigh. They will return after we can get the smell out. LOL!

The fridge sits on my cart that holds my “hardware”: metal working materials, polishers and all of my engraving fonts. I also have a printer that comes in handy when I am not at my usual computer.

And of course…my daughters’  toys…they never stay in one area. 🙂

The above view is of the entrance to the room. My work area is directly behind me. You see my oldest on her slide on the right. My washer & dryer that I adore; and the cupboards above are great places to stash my supplies for making cosmetics, their packing materials and misc. supplies such as mixing bowls, the ever useful Popsicle sticks, etc. That blue thing on the floor is a tunnel in case you are wondering. Endless fun for babies. 🙂

A view of the play area. There are lots of baskets and bins to store their wooden blocks, musical instruments, and pretty much any toy that I don’ t like to have under foot in my living room. 🙂 That cupboard is where I keep my beading supplies and craft paint; we’ll get a peek inside shortly.

Inside my jewelry cupboard…at least the beading side of it…still room to grow! *grin* It could be neater but it will do for now.

My very useful “built-in” bookshelf that holds paper,  books, jewelry (those two large binders on the right of the third shelf houses my completed jewelry ready for shipping), my engraving plates and charms in metal and wood, and that wooden case is where I keep my hole punches and rubber stamps.

I found this scrapbooking cart at Costco awhile back & although I do not scrapbook, it’s handy for holding all my decorative paper! On top is my Provo Craft Cuttlebug.

The room also came equipped with ample counter space. Here in one corner is my microwave for flower pressing & melting soy wax for candles.

Above the microwave you see my main cupboard filled with cosmetic making supplies. I haven’t delved into making mineral makeup as of yet; just soaps, lotions, scrubs, lip balms, etc etc….

This is a fairly messy end of the room…but I wanted to show two of my three pantograph engravers….my husband’s computer gear is to the left of them (that’s our router stuck to the wall) and recycling bins underneath…it’s a hot mess at the moment so I’m only showing off the engravers. 🙂

Here’s a closer look at my workspace…the wicker baskets above hold remnant fabric, candle making supplies (mostly holders), extra shipping materials, and packing supplies. I use my old laptop downstairs if I ever want to look up something on the internet or get info off our server. That little box on the wall was a great find! I forgot to take a photo of the inside…but I got it at Ikea for half price. It is supposed to hold CD’s, but I keep my inks, pigments, embossing powders, glitter & stamping pads in it. Robbin is kept neat & accessibly hung on dowels and wire off the top rack.

(That hook rug raccoon was a creation of my late mother’s when I was a child. It always makes me smile to look at it).

This little photo box was such a great, inexpensive investment! I still believe natural light is the best light for photographing jewelry, but if I waited for great weather to take photos outside in this climate I would be unable to take photos year round! My photos still could use work but they have improved dramatically since buying this light box.  Underneath I keep props for photos as well as other jewelry making materials.

It’s always great to have a whiteboard to stay organized and brainstorm! Mine is under-used this month; I must remedy that next month.

Thanks for taking a peek at my workspace…it may not look like much, but my girls & I love to spend our time down there. Hopefully it will inspire you & your creative space however big or small!

The 6 Characteristics of Highly Creative People

I found this article several years ago, after looking up the exact wording to one of my all-time favourite quotes by Thomas Moore. The article spoke to me so much I cut & pasted it for future reference. I found it the other day while cleaning out folders on my hard drive. I thought I would share it here as I’m sure many of you can relate, esp. other “innerpreneur” types like myself. Unfortunately I am not sure what website this originally came from, however I was able to give credit to the author.

by Michelle L. Casto

Thomas Moore said, “We are all poets and artists as we live our daily lives, whether or not we recognize our role and whether or not we believe it.” Human beings have an innate need to create. Even you! There is a continuum of creativity, ranging from being slightly creative to highly creative. The good news is that you can learn to be more creative by observing creative people and modeling yourself after them. Artists, writers, and creative types seem to have similar characteristics. Some of the personality traits listed below may seem eccentric, odd, even “out there”—but that is where creativity lies— in the outreaches of our consciousness, in the depths of our souls. If you had the opportunity to speak to Picasso, Walt Disney, or Jane Austen, you would probably find out that they are ordinary people, much like you and I. The difference is that they have allowed more of their soul to come out and play and have freed themselves of convention and restriction. Creativity is essentially the art of discovery and an act of faith. When you create something— a work of art, book, software program, dance routine, or role for a play, you discover parts of yourself that you never knew existed. Creative people have a strong need to express more of who you really are and often have to fight for that right. The character Isabelle in the movie, Fire and Ice, has a great outlook on what it means to be creative, she says, “To create, sometimes you must rebel.”

1. Unconventional
Creative people do not feel the need to conform to society’s standards. They often swim against the current and flow with their own way of thinking and living. They have original ideas that literally turn the world upside down and right-side out. Take for example, the 16th century Italian astronomer, Galileo, who proved that the earth revolved around the sun (instead of the other way around), which was revolutionary in his time.

2. Individualistic
Creative people want to find out what the truth is, and they have a strong need to decide for themselves what works and what does not. Often they are ahead of their time, and much of their work is appreciated/acknowledged after they are dead and gone. Many writers are famous for marching to the tune of their own drum, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote the book, Self-Reliance, and Robert Frost who penned, “two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less-traveled.”

3. Inventive
Creative people live in the world of ideas, and don’t always have the best interpersonal skills. Because they are so highly intelligent, and live in the realm of possibility, they are constantly coming up with bright ideas. They also take notice of what is missing in the world and/or what could be improved. Take for instance, Thomas Edison, who invented hundreds of things in his time, his most famous invention being the light bulb. He saw that there was darkness and then created light.

4. Driven
Creative people cannot “not do something”-they are almost compulsive until they can bring their internal vision into fruition. They have that “fire in their belly”—a passion to contribute to the beauty and betterment of the world. Because of their high drive, they can produce a lot in a relative short amount of time. Talk about drive— the material girl herself, Madonna, has not let public praise or criticism stop her from being a super star. She is a modern day Diva, multi-talented as a singer, dancer, and actress who has released hundreds of songs, albums, videos, movies, books— all the while reinventing herself as someone new.

5. Visionary
Creative people have a guiding vision in their head, heart, and soul that they are often called to bring to life. Who else but Michelangelo could look at a large piece of marble and “chip away at everything that wasn’t David?” According to him, “I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” One of his best-known works is the immense ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which took him three years to complete, where he often had to work upside down for hours at a time. If you ever have seen any of his work, you can easily see that it is a vision to behold.

6. Intuitive
Creative people are very in touch with their inner selves. They pay attention to the signs, synchronicities, symbols around them, and make use of that information in their work. They often act as a channel, where ideas and inspiration come from a higher plane. They allow the work to guide them to where it needs to go. The work clearly originates in their soul, not from their ego. Talk about ideas coming from out of the blue, remember how the scientist, Isaac Newton “discovered” gravity? He was sitting under a tree and an apple fell on his head! Had he not made a connection with his intuitive nature, he would have missed a major theory about the world we live in!

As you read this, do you find yourself relating to some of these traits? If so, it is time to start creating. Getting started can often be the hardest part, because we often limit our creativity by listening too closely to our negative inner voice. But so did all of these examples of creators. Even the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh struggled with that, but he created a remedy for that, he said, “If you hear a voice within you saying, you are not a painter, then by all means, paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Robert Henri says, “When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature.” Once you have created, you now have to put yourself out there for all to see. This is where your faith comes in to support you. Remember that if you are creating from your soul, it will not matter whether other people accept your work or not. You are simply doing what you are called to do as a human being, create.

Michelle L. Casto is a whole life coach, speaker, and author of Get Smart! About Modern Romantic Relationships, Get Smart! About Modern Career Development, and Get Smart! About Modern Stress Management. Her coaching practice is Brightlight Coaching, she helps people come up with bright ideas for their life and empowers them to freely shine their bright light to the world. Contact her for a free 30 minute coaching session: www.getsmartseries.com and www.brightlightcoach.com

Contributed by:

Michelle Casto
©2003, Michelle Casto
Website: Get Smart! LearningBooks, Seminars, and Life Coach

Finding Inspiration…

Newton’s first Law of Motion: “An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion…” So too does this apply to inspiration. I found myself  “stuck”  as of late to get jewelry making again. Out came the supplies & I sat down…but nothing came to me. No inspiration. I’m into jewelry making for the expression: the creative outlet; not just to mass assemble pieces for sale.

Over the 12 years that I have been making jewelry, I know a thing or two about finding inspiration for my art form. I was foolish to think I could just sit down and start again after a 10 week hiatus! So here’s what I do to get myself inspired again:

1. I get organized.

Regardless if you make jewelry, paint, knit, sew, etc., your supplies are bound to get messy despite your best attempts to keep it neat & tidy. We wouldn’t be creative individuals without a bit of chaos thrown in! So I take some time to sift & sort through supplies. Sometimes an object just needs a new place in the storage containers or on the workbench in order for it to spark some creative juices. Touching & feeling the textures of the medium you work with (for me it’s mostly semi-precious gemstones) can also kick start the process.

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2. I go shopping.

Whether your budget is big or small, buying new supplies or simply browsing at your LBS (local bead shop)/supply store can be a wealth of inspiration. It also keeps you up to date with what’s new & exciting. Besides this, I like to window shop at the local mall. The window displays tell a lot about what’s “hot” for the season.

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3. Check out the trends online &  in magazines

This is a given, I know. For jewelry making, I like to check out the trends by browsing online jewelry shops, or department store catalogues. It’s also great to read trend reports on fashion sites. I tend to shy away from actually making anything based on trends, but it still serves as inspiration. Checking out what other talented artists in the handmade realm are making aids in finding creativity for me. Not just the jewelry, but the handmade goods on sites like Etsy & Artfire are sure to get the ideas flowing.

4. I look around me

Absolutely, hands down, the best form of inspiration is my environment. Whether it be the colours & textures of my children’s clothing, the vibrant colour of a fresh salad straight from the garden or the mixture of my own personal decorating style around the house. All these things serve as the best inspiration of all, because it is something intimate to me, that is easily relatable. Working with what I know helps my creations evolve with a sense of ease, & doesn’t end up looking forced or mechanical.

The change in seasons is a huge help as well. I am someone who is drawn to nature well, naturally! I think we all are in one way or another. Maybe you like to sit and meditate or read outdoors, go hiking in the woods, plant in your garden or play a seasonal sport. I know for me, this time of year the flowers in full bloom & the lush green foliage acts as a catalyst for me to create jewelry pieces that are vibrant & alive with colour: turquoise, orange, yellow, etc. I have some magnificent orange dahlias blooming out front that serve as the inspiration for my current work in progress.

5. I look at what the birthstone of the month is

Most of my jewelry is based on the metaphysical properties of stones, so I enjoy making jewelry themed around birthstones. This helps give me a benchmark as to where to begin. For example for June, I could concentrate on making pieces featuring pearls & moonstone to help get me going. Even if you don’t make jewelry, the colour of the birthstones may help give you a place to start your knitting or embroidery.

6. I Draw

I can barely draw a stick person mind you, but this is all the skill that I need to record any ideas I may have. As I become more aware of my environment in a creative sense, I will get flashes of ideas. It’s great to put them down on paper for future reference. It sounds cliché but a pad of paper & a pen by your bed really is a must. I can’t tell you how many times I have had brilliant design ideas just as I am nodding off to sleep or waking up, only to forget them later when I have the chance to actually put those ideas to use. Right now for me the best time for ideas is as I put my girls to bed. I lay down with them until they fall asleep, so this is great time to just close my eyes and think. I then draw them out on paper once I am free to get up & start my evening.

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Of course some of my favourite pieces have been created out of spontaneity, and following the steps above I believe can help you create unique items regardless of what your creative medium happens to be. What are some of the ways you find inspiration? Happy Creating!

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Getting my Groove On…

Well it’s offcial. I sat down last night I finally made my way back into jewelry making after a 10 week hiatus due to the birth of my second daughter. I am elated, because the hiatus was more like, one year after my first! It was just a couple of pairs of earrings but it was enough to get the creativity flowing & have the ideas come rushing forth. Here’s what I’m working on today, I think I’ll call it, “orange crush”:

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They are vintage orange beads with a gold AB finsih on one side. I got these at an online aution get this – over 11 years ago!!! Yep. I thought they looked cool but in over a decade I was at a loss as to what to do with them. I’ve been hanging on to them ever since: something about them told me when the time was right, I would use them. Trust me, there have been many time when I have considered destashing them or giving them away! Stay tuned for the finished piece…

100 Days of Creativity…

Driving back to Montréal from Holidays in Nova Scotia, I had a lot of time to think about what I want for 2009. Besides the usual growing family happiness & prosperity bit, I realized that my creativity suffered in 2008. I had most of my attention on my daughter, and convinced myself I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to be creative. I would be creative on the computer: editing photos, working on my website, etc…

The only problem with this plan was, this was not tactile creativity. Although photo editing can be fun; staring at a computer screen did more soul killing than building for me. I realized, that if I were to keep on top of my creativity – which is my unwind, my meditation, my zen – I would have to make jewelry design more of a priority in 2009, even if the logic in the back of my mind is telling me I should be cleaning the house or finishing my website so to market all the things I make.

So, after being very inspired by the Starving Artists Jewelry Team I joined on Etsy, I decided to embark on 100 days of creativity: a piece a day, made & listed on Etsy until I reach 100 listings. Ok, so I cheat a bit here. I had about 30 pieces to begin with in my Etsy shop, and there are days when I get inspired to make 2 or 3 pieces in one sitting, and some days I don’t get to make any because my motherly duties come first. But the general idea is, 100 pieces of jewelry to signify 100 days of putting this side of me to the fore front. I am creative through & through, and without it I feel very out of sorts; it even led to depression in my early 20’s. Hell, I’m even left-handed! The touch, the colours & textures…this is so a part of me as breathing, it needs to be nurtured like a new born baby.

At first, I got off to a slow start. I had not been making jewelry regularly for so long I had a bad case of performance anxiety. So it meant unlisting and rearranging a few things I already had on Etsy. Finally, I was forcing myself at 10pm to make one piece. Even though my body was screaming go to bed – you have to get up early tomorrow. Even if it was a simple pair of earrings; just something. And you know what? It was the best thing I have ever forced myself to do. All of a sudden, the business ideas starting coming to me…the next step for marketing, where I want to take it, where I want to be in March (when I have to take another hiatus to play new mom all over again). I feel totally clear-headed, and directed. It was all because, I needed to reincorporate into the mix the one thing that inspires me, motivates me, gets me excited: making jewelry!

Now this probably sounds completely hokey to some (most?) of you. For goodness sake, you are making jewelry, you say…body adornment to pretty up one’s vanity…but no, I don’t see it that way. We all have talents; this happens to be mine. I believe in wearable expression: not wearing jewelry to hide our self-hatred or self-believed ugliness. It is to express, to inspire and heighten one’s self. I, as the artist, express myself with each piece. The wearer interprets the piece in the way that it makes them feel when wearing it. Maybe it reminds them of someone, something…this is my goal, that you enjoy wearing the piece because it goes with such-and-such outfit…and then go farther to wear something that is infused with the good intentions & energy of the person who made it. You know who made it. It is a one-of-a-kind, not just something off a conveyor belt. In our throw away society, materialism means so much, yet so little, as we will discard what we buy just as fast as we swiped the plastic to purchase it. I am hoping, especially in this economy, that the sentiment of cherishing the goods we buy because of the hard work that went into it – you for making your dollars – me for making the jewelry by hand – is brought back. This is not just for myself, but for all those who work away in the Cottage Industry. We are not driven by money, but by enjoyment, & a deeper need that so needs to be fulfilled again in this day & age.

My jewelry making philosophy is outlined on the front page of my (incomplete!) website heavenlyflower.com

Please check out the goodies in my Etsy Shop. I am almost half way to my goal! Even if you don’t buy you can look & appreciate. I hope it inspires you to evoke your own creativity, however you choose to express it.

Oh, and on the business side of it: once I get the 100 pieces complete I will then use this as an online portfolio to promote myself while I work on finishing the website. Don’t worry, I’m always thinking… 😉