Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rained out!

The second day of the Old Saybrook fair-- a.k.a, the only day I could accompany Rob, Lauren and Sara--was rained out by torrential downpours, thunder and lightning.

It's too bad, since there were many talented crafters around that I didn't get a chance to check out! And there were a coupe of brave souls who attended and tried to hop between tents when the rain would pause (momentarily).

The vendors were released at the three-hour mark, after surviving the first band of heavy rains, with warnings that another belt would be soon approaching. (The weathermen really missed the mark with this forecast-- at 9 a.m., there was only a 30 percent chance of showers!)

Lucky for us, we have a brand new tent this year, accompanied by sidewalls (last year's tent didn't have sidewalls, and we had to make walls out of plastic tablecloths and masking tape when we got caught in a bad, bad, bad rainstorm in Clinton). So luckily... we had a sturdy tent working in our favor.

Stop raining!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Dragonfly Dilemma

I'm undecided. The original photo is shown first.

The second, tweaked in Photoshop by desaturating the dragonfly but keeping the setting sunlight on his wings.

I feel like I am leaning towards the original. What do you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hummingbirds-- A Work in Progress

Yesterday I stayed late after work to try and photograph the hummingbirds. We luckily have a pretty brazen little crew working three feeders at this building (maybe they know we are animal-friendly!), so it wasn't hard to get close. I opted for my macro lens, which I now regret since I think my mid-lens would have been slightly better. (I was thinking the macro would be great for bringing out the details in their feathers.)

Unfortunately, at 4:30 p.m., the feeder was already in the shade, with only the feeder in a ray of sunlight. I opted to go without the tripod, and stood as still as I could waiting for the hummingbirds to get used to me.

Luckily, it only took five minutes for that to happen, and they seemed as interested in me as I was in them. About three females and two males zoomed in and out. I concentrated on photos of them landing on the feeders, due to the lighting. (Since it was not as bright as I hoped, I needed to keep my shutter open longer. However, this downside means that the shutter speed couldn't be fast enough to stop-action their wings.)

As I clicked away, the birds took great interest in the sound my camera was making. Soon, one of the males got a great thrill of flying right past my right ear, almost daring me to move! Surprising myself, I didn't! (This is from the girl who will flail her arms and run away from the hum of bees--though I am getting better with bumblebees.)

While I'm not entirely 100 percent satisfied with what I captured, I am happy that my luck with hummingbird photos is improving. I think the ideal situation is to have the feeder in direct sunlight, in order for me to shoot quickly. And I really should break out that tripod, to take less pressure on NOT moving whatsoever.

I decided to desaturate these photos to a -32 value. I had best luck photographing the females.

Ah! The elusive hummingbird tongue!

A little stop action on the wings.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There's a heat wave a comin'

But this post has nothing to do with that!

The hummingbirds at work are getting braver. Today during my lunch break, I decided to crochet on the porch. A hummingbird feeder is located there. Those little boys and girls were just buzzing around and fighting each other for a spot on the feeder. They didn't seem to care I was there at all! I'm hoping I can use this newfound interspecies trust to try and photograph them again. Hummingbirds have always been a tough one for me because I'm very critical to how the photo turns out. I really want to stop the wings in motion- so far- this hasn't happened.

What was I crocheting? I've been hard at work on creating a crochet rabbit. I hope to post some photos soon!

Some new photos from the weekend...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day 4 of Being Lonely

Being lonely makes me clean.

A lot.

My husband has been on the road since Friday night for business. He won't be home until Thursday. The first few days weren't so bad because I was distracted with school (but it was lonely going to bed alone at night.) Now that I'm entering my fourth night alone, the silence of the apartment is really obvious.

So ... I clean. Given the state of the apartment usually, you'll be able to tell that I'm never lonely! But tonight I avoided the obvious pitfalls of laundry and dishes and decided to tackle our "office" space, which is usually our disaster area and dumping ground. In the room, we have two desks that face into either corner. When you walk in the door, there is a large table from my grandfather's kitchen that I kept for posterity. This was pushed right up against Rob's desk. The only problem was its immense size in such a small space. It had to go, but I've been delaying the inevitable for some time (ohh... let's see... about three years!). This past weekend I toyed with the idea of running to IKEA and buying a new bookshelf to replace its spot, but the last time we tried to buy bookcases from there, they were just about 5 inches too long for my car... and wouldn't fit.

I decided to avoid that and kept thinking. Then it dawned on me. About a month ago on my way to the trash room, I discovered a baker's rack waiting to be put on the curb. There was nothing wrong with it- it was in excellent condition. Not wanting something useful to be thrown away, I dragged it out of the trash room and back down to my apartment... where it proceeded to sit in front of our coat closest for the last month.

Tonight, the two ideas connected.

So I spent the better part of the early evening hauling everything on the table out to the living room. I then disassembled the table, and dragged it out. I vacuumed, then brought in the baker's rack. I originally thought a good amount of craft items that are currently at home in the living room could be stored here, but after organizing, resorting, and bringing back in the items that were already from the office, there wasn't room for anything new. But the result is already dramatic. The room seems more open--even lighter--without the large table in the way. And things seem slightly more organized-- for the moment. (The table will be going to storage to stay until we get a house... hopefully someday soon.)

But I think besides getting a clean apartment, being lonely helps me remember why I married my husband. Too often we let life get in the way. Our day jobs monopolize our time, and I get on such a bent to still have rewarding experiences outside of work that I too often fill up my spare time with other activities. Which isn't a bad thing -- just I've filled my plate a little too much. (My eyes are bigger than my stomach, as my grandmother would say.)

If anything, I think time apart makes us appreciate each other more. I've been pretty stressed out and pulled in too many directions for the last seven months. And in return, Rob has been very stressed with his job, too. We kinda got in the routine of living, but not really enjoying or living in the sense that we should.

Now I feel that when Rob comes home, I'll listen more closely and smile a lot more.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Interview with Patricia from Crowley Manor

I can't remember how I found Crowley Manor on Etsy, but I'm very glad I did. I purchased my first package of soaps from them back when I was an Etsy newbie. I fell in love with the photographs promoting the products, and once I received the soap, I fell in love with that, too. (I even keep it in a special spot so that way it can stay dry when not in use and last longer.) So I was very happy when Patricia from Crowley Manor agreed to do an interview for the blog. I can only hope my creative ventures will be as successful as hers someday!

Jen: How did you decide to begin making soaps? How was Crowley Manor formed?

Patricia: As long as I can remember, I have felt the need to create to be content, I draw, paint on silk, owned a stained glass design studio, designed unique one of a kind handbags (another shop on Etsy It is what drives me and defines me. The longing to put out a great product, and most importantly to bring a smile to the receiver of the product, is the driving force.

One day I decided it would be fun to try soapmaking. Colorado is a very dry climate, and very unkind to my skin. I buried myself in books researching the soapmaking process, took classes with a certified soapmaker who specializes in certified organic products, began studying herbs and essential oils and their effect on the skin and how people respond to scents, and how it may set the mood for a moment or a day. Also, knowing that goat milk is a wonderful humectant and very close to the skin’s natural ph level , I choose to also offer goat milk soap. I am also aware though that some of us, wish for natural products which are vegan as well, and therefore, I aim to keep all of us happy!

Long story short, I didn’t wish for store bought goat milk and researched dairy goats, ones which had the highest butterfat content (for the creamiest soaps and if by chance I ever find the time, I will also make Chevre cheese) I searched for just the right goats for over a year, crossing Colorado from one end to the next, as I wished to see the stock first hand. I fell in love with the Nigerian dwarf breed, due to their demeanor, size and that almighty yummy milk! My husband is the Crowley part, of Irish decent, I could not use Crowley Castle as it still stands (one wall of it) in Cork County, Ireland dating back to the feudal era. So, the next best thing, we would be Crowley Manor. It’s all in fun and certainly better than “Goatzilla” as my dear husband would have had us call the herd.

Jen: What does your soap differ from others?

Patricia: My soaps differ in that they are made up of basic ingredients: Organic extra virgin olive oil, Rice bran oil, palm oil, coconut oil and sodium hydroxide (needed to saponify the base oils). It is the catalyst in soapmaking, the other goodies added in there, would then be the essential oils, sometimes botanicals, and in some instances due to some clients wishing for something which is not available in essentials oils, I will oblige and produce a soap made with safe fragrance oils (phlatate free), but of course my nose certainly prefers the essential oil blends. I have to laugh because sometimes I get calls or messages from friends and clients alike who tell me they don’t want to use up the soap but sit there and just smell it, whenever they feel the need. I chose those base oils as I feel that calibrated correctly in their percentage usage, they make the skin very happy and can be used by the pickiest skin and sometimes simpler is better.

Jen: Where do you get the ideas for your soap scents? Do you have a favorite?

Patricia: Ah… soap scents, my mind always wonders… happy, sad, energized, relaxed, depending on my mood, I begin playing with the essential oils, or driving in the mountains I want to relay a certain feeling. Imagine the warm sun on your skin…maybe transports you to the tropics. Close your eyes, can you smell the ocean, or the scent of sweet almonds and oranges. Perhaps it’s in the midst of winter and you can’t wait to get home and away from 6 feet of snow piling up outside, turn the key, open the door and a wonderful aroma of hot tea and cinnamon wafts through the room…that’s how the ideas pop into my head. My favorites in the winter Oatmeal Milk and Honey, it is a very comforting winter scent or the Fireside Orange Spice, Spring I enjoy the Into the woods unisex bar or Lavender and for those hot summer days the citrusy bars such as Lemongrass, or Royal Riverbend are my favorites.

Jen: Can you tell us more about your goats? They look adorable!

Patricia: We began with two goats, Crowley Manor Lilly Blue gave us two babies this past spring and I have retained both and will begin showing them next year. The boy “Tsunami Joe” who is also the namesake for some of the man soaps will be a herd sire, along with Velvet Acres Nitro (he is all black with a little white on the face and frosted ears) another little buckling. We also have Bedazzle who goes by Cookie and is very much an “in your face goat”, then there is Sundance known as Sunny who is my milker and is the most vocal one of the herd. Last and not least there is Cocoa Royalle who was also born to Lilly Blue, Cocoa is the wild one who believes that walls are made to be walked on, and springboarded off. She is like a Ninja. Her coat color is interesting. It is the color of Cocoa with a white outline of a cat on the side of her body.

Jen: How did you learn about Etsy? What is your favorite Etsy feature?

Patricia: I came across Etsy quite by chance a couple of years ago, I was googling something, found a shop of interest with a link to Etsy and the rest is history. There is not one particular feature that stands in mind at this time, as again that will depend whether I am chatting with other etsyans, or answering and reading through the forums, but I can say that Etsy is a very positive experience for me and that I am making friends worldwide who would never entered my realm had it not been for Etsy and I am very thankful for all whom I have met thus far.

Lastly, Thank you so much Jen for contacting me. You have no idea how honored I feel that you took the time to ask me to be a part of your blog. All the best to you and yours.

To see more Crowley Manor soaps, visit the store below:

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fun with Photoshop

I used the watercolor feature in Photoshop to jazz up this photograph I took of a petunia back in April. In the past, I haven't altered photographs with Photoshop in this way. But now I'm finding an interest in it, especially when it gives a second chance to photographs. In this example, I feel the colors pop more thanks to the intensity of the shadows the watercolor feature offers. The original photo is below.
I think the watercolor version makes it far more dramatic. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Crazy Cakes

Some highlights* from pastry school...

German chocolate cake with marzipan decorations (and a big fondant rabbit)

Our Christmas Log... in July (marzipan flag)

Swedish Princess Cake... with princess removed. Instead, I "glued" chocolate dipped pretzels along sides of this dome cake to fashion a nest.

*Thanks to Pia for the last two images.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Coming back from a loooong weekend...

One of the most difficult things for me is to readjust my thoughts for my 9-5 job after I've been spoiled with a long weekend. I guess what makes it hard to sit still at my desk is the freedom I had all weekend to flit about like a hummingbird from one project to the next.

How about I work on my crochet blanket?

How about I make that bracelet I've been thinking of?

Let's start this new crochet pattern! Field trip to the bead store!

I just really enjoy the freedom to do what I want.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

See what team members are making!

Check out what members of the Connecticut Etsy Team are showcasing this weekend! I even wrote one of the shopping adventure posts.

Happy Fourth Everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Interview with Laurie, at Isinglass Design

This week's interview features Laurie of Isinglass Design, based in Arkansas. This skilled artisan has been making glass beads for nine years. I was lucky to come across her gorgeous beads during Etsy's recent YART Sale (Yard Sale, but for Art). And my most recent treasury was highly influenced by the color of her fish lampwork bead (see the photo below!). It's easy to see why I'm so impressed!

Jen: How did you get started making lampwork beads?

Laurie: I began experimenting with hot glass with my daughter in 1999, so I’ve been making glass beads for about nine years, and jewelry for seven. I found out about the idea of making glass beads kind of by accident. I was working at a festival, and in the off season there was a lot of unclaimed mail around. I stumbled on a Lark Books catalog that had a glass beadmaking kit. It took me about two years to decide to give it a try. My daughter and I helped each other learn, one of us reading and correcting while the other one was at the torch. She's a fast learner, so I learned a lot from her!

Today, I continue to find glass, with its malleable colors and endless possibilities of form, to be a wonderful vehicle of creative expression. There isn't enough time in this life to learn everything there is to know about glass- I think that's what keeps us all hooked- there's always one more thing you want to try and figure out. And there is an element of surprise to almost everything. The colors react and reticulate with each other in unexpected ways, so there are often “happy accidents” when you open the kiln several hours later.

Jen: Can you tell us more about lampwork?

Laurie: Lampworking is the art of forming molten glass over an open flame. In the case of glass beads, colored rods of “soft” glass, most of it made in Italy, are torch-melted and applied around a steel rod or mandrel. Many different tools are used to shape the glass, from scissors and graphite paddles, to ice tongs and spoons. The beads are then slow cooled (preferably in a kiln) to ensure the stability of the glass.

Jen: Out of all the beads you create, which type is your favorite to make?

Laurie: I'd probably have to say fish beads, though on any given day there might be something else I just have to make.
Making the beads is my first love, but I have to do something with them, so I make finished jewelry pieces too. It can be fun making beads to use in a specific jewelry design. Often bead making and designing go hand in hand. I find that if I don’t have a picture in my head of what I’ll do with the beads, I come up with sets that don’t make sense. I do have some special designs that I use non-traditional sets for such as my mosaic necklaces and asymmetrical designs. But making one-off pieces like pendants, fish, butterflies, or cats is my favorite. They allow me the most artistic freedom.

Jen: Where do you find inspiration for the beads you create?

Laurie: There are so many influences and inspirations I could point to over the years, from my mother’s constant craft projects to my childhood in New Orleans, the work of other hot glass workers and onward. It seems like every time I leave the house there is something out there that gives me a new idea. Even TV shows can do it- color combinations, what people are wearing, etc. I have actually written a couple of pieces for my blog that show some of my inspirations, one of them carrying the reader through from the picture that inspired me to the finished product. Third try was the charm!

Glass has become sort of my obsession, so I’d love to visit one of the great glass centers such as Venice and the island of Murano. Of course, I’d settle for Seattle, city of my birth.

Jen: Is making glass beads your "day job," or something you do on the side? How long did it take to make your dream a reality?

Laurie: Making and selling glass beads is now my only job- not to say that I shouldn't be looking for something part-time for the slow months. I made beads for about two years before I ever sold one. After that, I just kept practicing for another year or two, until I visited a farmer's market in another city, and then discovered my local one. I was pretty much hooked after the first day when I realized that there was really a market for what I did. It took me another year or so to make this my primary job and then, when both of my part-time jobs disappeared at once, I was kind of stuck. In a good way!!!

One of my secret goals in selling is to keep things affordable so that everybody feels like they can have artisan-made glass jewelry. I love to see pieces go away. And the farther they travel the better. Since I sell locally, I sometimes see someone wearing one of my older pieces. That’s always a thrill.

Jen: What is your favorite Etsy feature?

Laurie: My favorite thing about Etsy is the sense of community. This is my first real foray into the Internet world, and it's been a nice experience. I joined my local street team- AREtsy for people in Arkansas, and they are amazingly supportive. I'm also a member of two glass street teams- the Creative Glass Guild on Etsy (CGGE) and LEST for lampworkers.

I love having such control over my shop. I'm always messing with things there and tweaking. It lets me personalize the shop so it really feels like my place.

Jen: What do you feel are the advantages to artisan-made glass and jewelry?

Laurie: Because it’s one-of-a-kind, artisan jewelry is made with a lot of thought, talent and even love, and that makes it so much more special than production stuff. When you wear it, you feel a special connection to the one who made it. When you meet or talk to the artisan, you may get an interesting story that you will think of every time you wear the piece. Nobody else will have (or have seen) anything quite like it. And, it supports artists, who usually need the help.

To see more of Laurie's work, visit her Etsy shop:

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