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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Southwestern Necklace

I've been been on a southwest jewelry kick lately.  Seeing this necklace reminded me of some charms I bought ages ago.  So I pulled together the charms and a bunch of gemstone beads, mostly leftover pieces from other projects:
I stuck with coral, malachite, lapis lazuli, yellow jasper (I think?), and, of course, turquoise, strung in a "random" order.  Of the charms I chose five -- a bear, a deer, a gecko, a rabbit, and my beloved coyote (the subject of my senior thesis). 

I made the process of stringing the beads far more complicated and convoluted than it needed to be.  I started with my patented technique for creating a pseudo-random look; I had five kinds of beads -- round coral and jasper, and malachite, lapis, and turquoise chips -- and strung them in groups of five, varying the pattern within each group, until I ran out of lapis.  The necklace was too short, so I looked at what else I had -- five round turquoise beads and five yellow jasper chips, so I added five more malachite chips and five pieces of coral chunks, or another 20 beads total.  I had already strung about 60 beads, so I inserted a new bead every three beads, choosing the type based on its neighbors.  For good measure, I added two more on each end, and another coral chunk in the middle where there was too little red.  Still too short, so in addition to sandwiching each charm between two silver* Bali spacers, I added more spacers every five beads.  A few more chips at the ends, and I finally had a necklace the right length.  I especially liked the way it looked with a white shirt and jeans.

*Are they real silver?  I bought hundreds of spacers at a bead show years ago, and the seller swore they were real silver.  But the price was too good to be believed, and they've never tarnished like real silver.  On the other hand, they've never discolored like silver-plate or base metal, either, so who knows.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl is the first novel in a young adult series about a human boy stumbling onto , which was inevitably compared to the Harry Potter series.  However, that does a disservice to Colfer, who has created a world with a completely different vibe -- one much more technologically detailed and action-oriented, where the focus is less on good v. evil and more on caper v. counter-caper. 

Artemis, too, is no Harry; instead he is an anti-hero, a borderline antagonist.  The scion of what used to be an exceedingly powerful and wealthy criminal family, he has a missing father, an insane mother, and a formidable intellect which he plans to use to regain his family's status.  He decides to capture a leprechaun (or rather, a member of LEPrecon, the recon wing of the Lower Elements Police) and ransom the fairy for a large pot of gold.  That fairy he captures, however, and the entire LEPrecon division, turn out to be far more resourceful than he expected; hijinks ensue.

While this book did not engage me as much as Harry Potter books did (I'm not rushing out to get the rest of the series), it was enjoyable and well-written.  The fairy world Colfer created is an interesting twist on traditional fairy tales, and some of the characters were quite fun. Artemis is kind of an over-privileged jerk, and it was good to see his plans go awry; he still comes out on top (not really a spoiler), but there are hints that over the next few novels he matures and develops an actual morality.  I suspect Beadboy2 will enjoy this book when he's a little older.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Jewelry Round-Up

I made this "jet" collar way way back in law school (my own design and everything!):

But why stop at one?  I figured a long "jet" necklace with a tassel at the end would be fun too.  I strung the beads together and added a tassel.  Too late I realized I should have added the tassel before tying up the beads, so I set aside the rather messy looking thing.  Years later I find it again, but rather than restring it and do it up properly (I'd much rather work around mistakes than redo them, for good or ill), I covered up the junction with one-cut shiny black seed beads.  I added more to the tassel itself for embellishment.  The whole thing took just one hour.  And fourteen years.

Have you seen Sita Sings the Blues?  You really should, it is funny, heart-breaking, and utterly beautiful visually.  When I picked up the DVD I couldn't resist two little Sita charms to make earrings:
They are quite heavy, though.  I may have to turn them into necklaces.

I turned some the beautiful beads I got from Handloom Batik at the Quilt Fest into a necklace:
I opted for a black leather cord, loosely knotted to set off each bead.  I didn't have a long enough cord, though, so I tied two pieces together, using that technique where you knot each cord around the end of the other (rather than tying them together, if that makes sense), so that you can slide the knots back and forth to expand or contract the necklace:
It's usually used as a closure, to make the necklace big enough to slip over the head and then cinch it tighter around the neck, but I used it in the center to hold the cross pendant:


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Special Topics in Calamity Physicsis a super-literate, dense but highly readable first novel.  It's a coming-of-age tale, a gentle romance, a murder mystery, and a whole lot more.  Blue van Meers is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a peripatetic single father, who decides to accept a year-long position as a professor of Political Science so that Blue can spend her senior year in one school, a highly regarded prep school.  Blue quickly becomes enraptured by a mysterious, fascinating teacher and her little cluster of over-privileged students/groupies.

Actually, trying to summarize the plot is difficult because there is so much going on.  We learn in the first chapter that the teacher commits suicide during the year (or was murdered), a death that overshadows the whole book.  But Blue also struggles with the social hierarchy of the school and with the supposed "friends" she spends all of her time with, a world completely alien to the highly intellectual, insular world her father raised her in.  Then, of course, there is the relationship with her father -- he doesn't like her new bourgeois lifestyle at all, while she slowly realizes that he is not the paragon she thought he was.

What ties these story lines together is Blue herself, specifically her growing up, if that makes sense.  Blue is an undeniably intelligent girl, and capable of great insight into the people around her; but she is also a teenager, with all that that entails -- self-absorbed, clueless, smug, blind to the faults of those she admires, willing to overlook the obvious in favor of what she wants to be true.  She is more than strong enough to overcome the (admittedly extreme) trials she suffers her senior year, but it is still vicariously painful to see her learn about frenemies, fickle teenage boys, and fallible fathers.

This book is also tremendously, overtly literate.  Narrated by Blue, it purports to be a syllabus, with each chapter named after a major literary work that thematically suits the events she describes.  She peppers her story with reference after reference to books, articles, research papers, scholarly concepts, films, and so on (only some of these references are "real"); there's even a final exam at the back of the book for us to fill out.  It's not just a narrative trick by Pessl; this style suits Blue perfectly, because a lot of her self-image is wrapped up in her intellectual abilities, much like her father.  Fortunately, she has a level of humility and insight (true insight, not the superficial insight her father is so enamored of) that keeps her from becoming unbearable.  It's a real pleasure to see this unusual girl grow up.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Altered Die Charm

The 2012 issue of handcrafted jewelry had a little section dedicated to pendants, earrings, and rings made from altered game pieces which fired up my imagination -- I'm thinking of a necklace with all sorts of charms and tokens.

First up was a die.  The article in question (by Candie Cooper) was for a pair of earrings made from altered dice with charms and beads.  I decided on just one die for a pendant, strung on a headpin rather than suspended between two brackets.  The first step was drilling a hole through the plastic  die, which was quite easy after I spent over two hours slowly drilling through sea glass and seashells for another project:

The next step was to color the die.  Cooper used alcohol inks to achieve a pretty, mottled effect, but I didn't have any and I wasn't inclined to buy some just for this.  Acrylic paints seemed too thick and likely to chip, so I headed to the internet, assuming there would be tons of inspiration and ideas for altered dice.  Only there wasn't any; surprising, given all the altered dominoes out there, not to mention other game piece jewelry.  Instead I found ideas on gaming boards, where people were looking to customize their D&D dice.  One woman said she had luck using Easter egg dye, and I just happened to have exactly that.  About 24 hours of sitting in pink dye resulted in this:

Now it was time to embellish each side. Rhinestones:
(A bit of extraneous crazy glue ended up dulling the sparkle of one; too bad.)

A paper flower:

A bit of dictionary page with a touch of gold solid oil paint:
(It still bothers me to cut up a book, even if it is a redundant, out-of-date dictionary.)

Gold paint on the remaining uncovered pips:

I sprayed it with fixative, and then strung it on a headpin with a few pretty beads:
As you can see, like an idiot I glued the dictionary fragment on its side.  Oh well.
My ideas for the rest of the necklace:
*An altered domino (a mini one so it doesn't overwhelm the rest)
*A scrabble tile with a metal bracket finding thingie, like the rings in the magazine
*Monopoly charms, especially the iron and thimble, from an old game set I found in the basement
*Clue charms, if I can get some
*Various arcade tokens
*metal jacks