Starting anew is always a good thing! Here is Vol. 1 of "Artful Living on the Bluff" for you to enjoy. While I am not contributing new material to this blog, please feel free to look around and then visit me at the new and (hopefully) improved "Artful Living on the Bluff" blog at

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shipping and Eco-responsible supplies

I try to live sustainably and responsibly but I must admit one sin (among many, I'm sure) - I use bubble wrap. Bubble wrap is most definitely NOT environmentally friendly. Made from plastic and not recyclable, it's a baddie! But anyone who ships stuff and wants to make sure the items reach their destination safely knows that bubble wrap rocks. There are many websites dedicated to creative ways to re-use old bubble wrap and some companies to which you can ship/give your old bubble wrap. I am happy to take old bubble wrap from anyone who wants to send it my way. But when I run out of it, what can you do but use the new stuff??

Well, yesterday I found my answer in the form of CareMail products made in the USA by Henkel. This surprisingly affordable alternative is itself recyclable, it is made from post consumer fibers and material harvested from well-managed forests. No old growth wood has been used to make it and it can be re-used or easily recycled. It's also made in the U.S.A. which is important to me. Unfortunately, I still use some plastic in my packaging but I'm getting closer all the time. So, while I don't like big box stores too well, kudos must be given, in this case anyway, to Staples for carrying a friendly alternative.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Common Sense

I got this in an email today. I try never to comment on politics or religion in this blog. I also try not to rant about the import of living sustainably, of recycling and my fears regarding the general state of the world (terrorists, global warming, epidemics, animal cruelty, lack of affordable health care, etc. etc. etc...) I don't go into the reasons behind why I don't teach anymore (full-time or substitute). But when I read this email, I felt a need to share it - it is about the death of common sense presented as an obituary which first appeared in the Indianapolis Star circa 1998 and was written by Lori Borgman (check out her website - you'll be glad you did). It is a sad and all-too-true commentary on our society today. I've been fortunate to have traveled a great deal in my life - 48 countries on 4 continents. It has shown me that Americans, in general, are particularly guilty of crimes against common sense. Although maybe it's just because I know too many Americans to be objective - I am an American, after all. Anyway, here is the essay:

"Common Sense - An Obituary

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has
been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since
his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
Why the early bird gets the worm;
Life isn't always fair; and
Maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more
than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing
regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual
harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using
mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student,
only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job
that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to
administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents
when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and
criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took
a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own
home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to
realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her
lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common Sense was preceded
in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his
daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now,
Someone Else Is To Blame and I'm A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

MUIR Necklace for a Celtic Sea Goddess

Here is the first project into which I incorporated kumihimo. The kumihimo rope was paired with a polymer clay focal made by Susan Louise. I was thinking about entering this piece in the Etsy BeadWeaver's February challenge, but there really isn't enough beadweaving (which includes bead embroidery) to merit it. I call it "Muir" in honor of a Celtic sea goddess.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seeing RED for Valentine's Day (and some PINK, too)!

I'm in the midst of posting new items in my vintage shop - CarawayCache - on Etsy. You'll find lots of cool new items being added in the next few days so be sure to stop in! There will be red and pink items in all shades - jewelry, ephemera, supplies... Maybe these will tempt you!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Ode to my new Kumihimo Bobbins

I have been looking for a good online source for bobbins to use for my kumihimo ropes and, lo and behold, I found some!! Yesterday, after stopping by the gallery to see my jewelry display, I stopped by a bead shop and they actually had the exact bobbins I was looking for. These things ROCK!! They are made from a soft translucent plastic and feature a lip which locks over the fiber both protecting it and keeping it from slipping while you are weaving. I know the title says "An Ode..." but I'm not a poet so these photos will have to do!

My First REAL Gallery Showing!

I have been involved in a few group shows and annual juried events but this is, in my opinion, my first REAL gallery show. Twenty pieces of my beaded jewelry will be on display at the Quad Cities Airport in Moline, IL until the end of February. Since the curator sets up the shows, I was not allowed to stay and "help" with the installation. I'm sure this is because we artistic types can get a bit persnickety about how our artwork is presented - it has to be LOTS easier to just bar us from "helping". :)
So, Dan & I took a road trip down to see it for the first time. I was really pleased with how it looked! Here are some photos of the gallery space, some of my pieces and some from an artist named Dawn Wohlford-Metallo. She is a mixed media artist working primarily in paper pulp and I really love her work!

Here is the gallery space at the airport - it's very nice! Notice my handsome husband in the second photo:

Here are some shots of the jewelry I have on display:

And here are some shots of some of Dawn's pieces. I especially love the mobile - but it's not for sale - dang it! Where would we hang it in our 750 sq/ft house anyway??!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The start of something new :)

Yesterday, I told you about Susan Louise - a talented polymer clay artist (and my friend). I also showed you some pretty amazing sculptural cabs she made for me. After taking the photos of the cabs yesterday, I realized that one of them was a perfect match for my first kumihimo rope! So, here's my recipe for a beautiful project: Susan's polymer art, a bead soup called Antique Copper from Beverly Ash Gilbert and my kumihimo rope - WOOHOO! I can't wait to get started!

Friday, January 8, 2010

VICTORIAN TREASURES Inspiration Kit Give-away

Time is running out for this inspiration kit called "Victorian Treasures". The listing in my vintage shop, CarawayCache, will end today. I have always liked this kit and thought that $10 was a really great price for such a collection of vintage treasures!! So, I have decided to have my first blog give-away ever! Never having done a give-away before, I'll be flying by the seat of my pants on this one :) So... any comment left on my blog in the month of January will be put into the pot for a drawing at the end of the month. The winner will recieve this sweet inspiration kit:

This kit is made up of lots of fabulous vintage treasures. It includes the pretty reproduction Nabisco tin, silk carnations, an antique hook-n-eye card, small skeleton key, wooden spools of ribbon, embroidery floss and thread, 3 vintage fire-polished crystals, a set of 6 vintage celluloid beads, a collection of vintage buttons, a quartz crystal point, 3 sea shells and a handmade white doily. These treasures are carefully wrapped and tucked into the Nabisco tin which measures 3" x 4" x 2 1/4".

Good luck and spread the word! Thanks!

Polymer Art by Susan Louise

I have mentioned my friend and polymer clay artist, Susan Louise, in past posts. She is incredibly talented and I love her to pieces! Over the past few months, I have been helping her set up an online presence - an Etsy shop, website, blog - and helping her get used to taking her own photos of her work. In payment for my time and guidance (such as it is), she made me some sculptural cabochons to use in my beadwork. Typically, these become brooches or pendants but I told her I just wanted them to have plain, flat backs so I could use them in my bead embroidery projects. I thought I would share some photos of this fabulous booty - maybe make you drool just a bit. :) But before I do, I want to be sure to let you know how to contact Susan because I KNOW you will want some of her lovely polymer art for yourself!! You can find contact info for Susan on her website: There you can find links to her Etsy shop and blog. She has recently made a move to Tampa for the winter and is in need of a boost in her spirits. I hope you will help out by sending some nice comments or "hearting" her shop or following her blog. Thanks in advance!

Another kumihimo project...

Well, I tried my hand at another kumihimo project but it certainly didn't turn out like I had hoped!! I decided to experiment with some fringy fibers and included two types of fancy yarns along with some ribbon of various sizes. These are cords and fibers I started with:

I got it all set up and settled in to watch "Julie and Julia" (what a great movie!!)...

By the end of the movie, my second rope was finished - here's how it turned out:

The fringy cords completely overwhelmed the ribbon-like cords! I still like the looks of it - it's sort of wild and exotic - but the beautiful golden browns of the ribbons were almost completely lost. Still, I'll have fun coming up with a pendant to go with it. So, now I know... And this brings me to another conclusion about kumihimo: I had thought I would make ropes to go with my pendants but instead I'm finding that I'm making pendants to go with the ropes. That's sort of an odd turn of events. :)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Raven Steals the Sun

Here are a few shots of a new pendant I have been working on called "Raven Steals the Sun". The focal for this was once a pin or a magnet which I found in one of those lots of junk jewelry I love to buy. The picture relates part of the Native American tale of the Raven who brought light to the world. It will be available in my caraway shop on Etsy tomorrow.

My first kumihimo rope project!

I finished my first kumihimo rope last night while watching "Enchanted" (one of my favorite movies - yes, I'm a Disneyphile). I love how it turned out! I started with 6 foot lengths of the string and ribbon and ended up with a 3 foot length - enough for two necklaces - I'd better get the pendants done to match! Anyway, here are some photos of the finished piece:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I have been admiring the kumihimo ropes made by my friend Suanough for some time. Finally, I decided to go to the local Hobby Lobby and buy myself a kumihimo disc and give it a try. I was happy to find the discs were inexpensive and came in a 4-pack (kumihimo party...anyone...?). I picked up some 1/8" ribbon and some craft string in nice shades of turquoise/blues along with some floss holders. Anyway, I started on it last night and - WOW! - it is so quick and the results are really nice! I'm hoping to make kumihimo necklaces to match my bead embroidered pendants. I like that fact that they resemble peyote ropes but with a lot less time. Here are some shots of what I am working on: