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Water, Sand, Shells, Rocks, Beads

This is a reprise from an entry I wrote for Art Jewelry Elements quite a while ago... I wanted to share it on my own blog, mainly for archival purposes, and to continue this thread of exploration into rocks and shells, in future posts. Enjoy!I collect things from the shorelines where I have lived. Shells, stones, feathers...When I was small I was fortunate to live on or near the Gulf Coast. I have many memories and sensations of sand, sea and surf. The smell of salt water, the sea critters I encountered: crabs, starfish, and even dolphins. It was magical. This has been a source of inspiration for me...Gulf Shore Days - me sitting on a rock
My friends  
Me and my sister  
Beachy Beads!
More Beachy Beads!
No less magical were the shores of Lake Superior - the largest fresh water body of water on Earth - we moved there when I was bout 9 years old. A true Inland Sea - full of majesty just as powerful as any salt-water ocean. Here I encountered places and stones of astonishing color and texture.
Rocky shore
Water worn rocks
I have many memories of living in Lake Superior country...
Me, age 11 or 12
Me and my sister an... yes I really did run around barefoot all summer.
Me again, meeting Paul Bunyan at Hiawatha Forest...
My baby brother Jake asleep fishing, while one of the great ore boats passes - little does he know here, his little rock perch is about to be engulfed in a wave from the wake  of this mighty ship. But don't worry, he survived and is perfectly okay now. :)
But mostly I remember the ROCKS - like the ones I collected at Agate Bay or Pictured Rocks shore...
Rocks
Rock-strewn shores
Rocks
...polished by water
Superior-tumbled rocks
Rocks bathing in the watery froth of Superior
A glimpse through the crystal clear waters
Sorted rocks - amazing color!
I sometimes step back and wonder at how incredibly similar the shores of the Gulf Coast Ocean are to the shores of the Inland Sea - Lake Superior, or as I have come to know it:  Kitchigami.
Though I no longer have the actual shells I collected from the Gulf Coast, I do have several stones from Kitchigami. They are incredibly important to me, and they are my muse...
My collection: nature inspired forms, colors, textures... my source and my creation
What are you sources of Inspiration? I'd love to hear about them!

Coloring Porcelain

I recently became fascinated by the work of Chris Campbell and her use of Mason Stains to color porcelain, as shown in this beautiful platter she created...Urban Conflux, by Chris Campbell I was very pleased to see that she offered an online lesson in coloring porcelain. I eagerly read it and followed up with other research. Then I ordered a small set of stains to start my own experiments...
Using small bits of porcelain, and with the proper precautions of wearing gloves and a dust mask, I mixed and wedged several color samples. 
I got a huge kick out of making a rainbow palette of beads...
I next played with techniques to combine different colors to make multi-colored beads...
I barely dipped my toe into coloring porcelain, but I see tons of possibilities here! After I get through Bead Fest in August I plan to spend more time playing - stay tuned!

Quizzical Old Sketches...

In cleaning up my files I came across a folder of old sketches - from about 5 years ago... Many of these I posted years ago on my sketch and meditation blog Postreason. Makes me think its time to revive that old blog and start sketching...
Ocean Embracing Sun
Worlds Becoming
A series I called "Heart Buds"...
Curious swirling spiraling sea creatures...
Pod shapes and segmented forms...
View Through the Portal
Glowing Moon Flower...
Strange segmented shapes, worm holes and planets, oh my!

Starry Road Studio at Bead Fest Philadelphia !!!

Coming SOON! I will be a vendor at Bead Fest in Philadelphia August 23 - 25. I am SO excited. This will be my first bead show, and this is a BIG one! Come see me at Booth # 373, along with my daughter Nellie Thomas and her WoolyWire.Be sure to print out the pass at the bottom of this post - it will save you $10 - you get in for $5 instead of the regular $15 rate.
Here's your pass - be sure to bring this for your discount!
Hope to see you there!

Rainy Days, Sunny Days

We've had a LOT of rain. And storms. And the occasional outburst of sun. Today is beautiful - sunny and temps in the 70s. Here's a few photos of our place and some things I've been working on this week.
Stormy skies yesterday.
 I stayed indoors, using the rainy time to get studio work done - like last night.
Today I woke up to beautiful crystal blue skies...
...so I opened up all the windows! 
Casey keeping watch (sleepily) from the loft above.
Outside the front door - the big green tarp is covering my slab roller. 
Gotta put that into gear today and get some pendants and connectors made.
Stuff I've been working on...
A new WoolyWire order for Lima Beads - with new packaging!
Coming soon to our WoolyWireEtc etsy shop: Beads for WoolyWire - 
Tube beads to wrap WoolyWire onto to add beautiful color and texture to jewelry designs.
Here's some samples with WoolyWire - I love how these look!
 I spent some time earlier this week photographing beads I made just before moving. Many of these are styles I will be taking to Bead Fest Philly this August, where I will be vending (yay!).
I also made some new things, including OWLS!!! Plus more whales and other goodies...
Little Owlie Beads!
Urchin Blossoms - a new set of beads I'm working on.
That's it in a nutshell - I'm really enjoying being here, even the rainy days. :)

Creation Station

I'm now settled at my home in Western NY. Finally got a temporary studio set up. I will be here until the new studio is built. It is very tranquil and peaceful - I'm loving it.

Spring Palette

I've been playing around with a few new colors for spring offerings... here's a palette sketch. Many of these have already made brief appearances in my shop; a few are new. I'll be exploring/adding more in the coming weeks.

 
 

Starry Road - A New Studio in the Works

Ever wonder where "Starry Road Studio" is? Well the physical site lies in the hills of Southwestern NY, also known as the Southern Tier. My husband Don and I have spent the better part of the past decade building our second home and are now preparing to add a new building for a dedicated studio. "Starry Road" is more than a physical site. The name also represents the creative life - the exploration of mythos, spirit, dreams, and of course, STARS (we have a nice little Celestron telescope for star watching). But I will leave that aspect for another time. For now, I thought I'd share a little background about the location and our plans for the studio.First, to set the stage, here are a few images of the Totten farm (I've also heard it referred to as "Tottenshire"), where Don grew up and where his family have farmed for generations. As an Air Force brat with little notion of "roots", the deep generational attachment of Don's family to this place is both astonishing and wonderful to me.The area where we have our house is very rural. We don't see any neighbors or lights from our place up on the hill, and on clear nights the stars are brilliant. One of my favorite experiences is on clear midsummer nights when the fields out front are full of fireflies and the sky above full of stars. It is like sitting in an imax theatre with the universe all around us, the fireflies like twinkling stars below, the milky way soaring overhead. Pretty cool.The lower right photo below is the view from our house looking downhill toward the next hill in the distance where the farm house and barns are located, the main part of the farm. The picture on the lower left is a spot known as the "old sheep barn" - it is a tumble of rugged old stones that once supported a barn for sheep. This is where we are building the studio (located on the same hill as the top photo in this collage). This is summer when the living is very pleasant. Winter is a WHOLE other story - very rugged and downright cruel at times.
Here we are building the house - we had some of the lumber milled from local trees. That's me in the upper left photo (no I don't look like this anymore - this was about 10 years ago when I was SO skinny). That's Don and his nephew Drew in the lower right photo (Don STILL looks like this...grrr). And yes that is an african drum in the lower left photo - we did a lot of drumming back then.
Here are a few views of the house and surrounding woodlands ... This part of the Totten farm - where our house is located - has always been known as "The Johnson Lots". Nobody seems to remember why - maybe the name goes back to a family who lived there long ago. An old foundation of a house is located halfway down the hill next to freshwater springs. Who knows how long ago that house was occupied...? The spot where Don is walking uphill (lower right photo) is approximately where the foundation is located. The arrowheads and other artifacts, such as tent weights and grinding stones, were found mostly on the hill where we are building the studio. Don's father ("Poppy") would find them while plowing fields with the tractor. Apparently there was a lot of indian trade and hunting up there in the distant past (we are near Seneca land).
Okay now that we have the history and setting out of the way, here are the plans for the studio building.  
The ground floor will house the clay and glaze part of the studio, along with a small garage for a tractor. What is the tractor for you say? Um, snow removal for one, LOTS of snow to remove (you have no idea!). And also to keep the road up to the house clear of brush. 
Just outside the door we'll set up a small shed for the gas kiln. My electric kilns will be located on the next hill over - a part of the farm where we have access to electric (grid) power. 
Oh! I did I mention that the house is entirely OFF-GRID??? We have solar panels and a battery house that powers all our basic needs. We have propane for hot water and a small furnace, but mostly depend on a wood stove for heat in winter. In summer it is generally pleasant as the weather up here is typically about 10 degrees cooler than the lowlands. When it gets warm we have ceiling fans that do the job of keeping us cool. We currently use our cell phones for internet but are planning to install satellite access.
Here's the ground level layout. Can you spot our dogs Casey and Sierra?
Here's the upper floor where I will be working most of the time. There is extra space for a spare bedroom or office for Don. Initially however, we will use this space for storage.
That's it in a nutshell. These plans are in development and changing even as I type this. We have yet to price out construction costs, etc. I'm certain there will be modifications as we evolve the project. Stay tuned as I document our progress - there will be updates over the coming months!

Catching Up...

Have you wondered what has been going on with this blog lately? Well maybe not, but here's an update anyway.I've been on Facebook. A LOT. I've found it to be the best venue for sharing my latest news and studio creations, so I've been spending more time there than on this blog - in case you haven't found me there, come see me at my Starry Road Studio page on Facebook. I hope to get back to blogging again though I will continue to use Facebook as my primary social media network.Here's a quick visual summary of goings on the past few months...Making stuff: all kinds of stuff, like these (ceramic, metal and jewelry all by me) :
My daughter Nellie and I have also been collaborating a great deal on her WoolyWire - with new colors and styles (the fiber rolls will soon become WoolyWire):
And I have also been chatting, collaborating and trading with friends about projects like these:
Beautiful new beads by Genea Crivello-Knable that I have recently acquiredMore beautiful beads by Genea

New Metal - Spring 2013

New BRONZE and COPPER components I have been working on lately. Some familiar styles, some new. I'm having a lot of fun dabbling in metal clay. I find that my work in metal is influencing my ceramic style, and vice versa - lots of cross-pollination which I am really digging.These are a few examples of items you will see in my shop over the next few weeks. More in the works!
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