One is silver and the others gold

Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the others gold.  This was a favorite camp song from my childhood.  I have had this little song in my head this week as I have learned how to solder silver and create a pendant… my new silver friend…

Soldering opens up a whole new world for me. My new best friend will require some new equipment including a torch. Don't tell Mark.

and as I went back to a dear old friend, a golden beading technique which allowed me to complete my Bead Soup Blog Challenge in time hosted by Lori Anderson

I will not reveal what I made from the products that were sent to me by  Amanda Tibbetts until Challenge Reveal Day, which is March 3rd, but I will tell you that I  would never have finished this project without my trusty old friend, the floating bead necklace, which I learned ten years ago at Studio Baboo in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Back then I was a full-time teacher.  One unbelievably snowy winter, I was sitting around the house on a three-week forced vacation called snow days with my three antsy sons, when I realized that I needed desperately to calm my mind and pour my enormous creative energy into a new hobby.  I discovered beading.  For the next year and half,  I learned several dozen techniques, but non as useful and versatile as the floating bead necklace.  It is my old stand-by.  It is by far, my most consistent seller and it has bailed me out of quite a few creative dilemmas.  Just a sampling of some of the jewelry I have made in the past few years using this technique.

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Jewelry makers, teachers, mothers, tennis pros… we all have our favorite tricks of the trade… the ones we know work and we can fall back on when we need an old friend.


Private Universe

I was teaching tonight. I showed my students, who are training to be science teachers a movie about student’s misconceptions. The premise of this fascinating film is that all of us form private theories about nearly everything (based on our experiences) and often those private theories are full of misconceptions and misinformation.  As a teacher, it is our job first to uncover this misconceptions and then help the students discover for themselves the truth.

It seems to me the classroom problem is in fact,  not just a dilemma for teachers, but for all of us who struggle to conduct our lives and businesses in a  meaningful  way.  I often think I am communicating clearly to my friends or my family, my clients and employers.  I see the world one way and I am sure that my perceptions are shared by these other people.  But they don’t agree, in fact, I am not even sure they hear me.  The techniques I use in a classroom to remedy this situation don’t often translate to the outside world.  Here is how it might look:

Teaching Scenario 1: Jewelry Business

Show them the necklace. Ask them the following question.  “What do you think this necklace is worth?”

They might answer, “I could buy on ebay for $25.00”

Follow up with a question to challenge their private theory.  “What if i told you I spent four hours making it and the cost of my materials were $10.00. Do you think I should charge only $25.00?” Let them feel the necklace.  Show them the technique used for making it.

Allow them to try making it to see how difficult the technique really is?

Teaching Scenario 2:  The value of eating healthy and practicing preventative medicine

I have been preaching healthy eating to my children ever since they were old enough to eat solid food. Two of my three kids get it.  In fact, my youngest son completely gave up all sodas, limits his snacks to one a day and reaches for bananas, peanut butter, carrots and yogurt when he is hungry and my husband and I are not available to cook. My middle son, on the other hand, flat out rejects all my preaching and teaching.  He has to learn everything through personal experience.  His private universe has recently intersected with his little brothers and mine in fact.  In the past two years, I have lost a great deal of weight and in general have been experiencing very good health.  In the meantime, his 13 year old brother is getting far more buff than he is.  I have watched my son start investigating healthier eating habits.

Tonight the teaching went like this?

Mom, I have got a really bad cold?  What can I do?

I start rubbing the bridge of my nose.  He gets on the internet and researches head colds and it shows a person rubbing the bridge of their nose.  He starts rubbing his.  Then he looks at me and says” You do that all the time.  I just thought you were crazy.  By the way Mom, can I borrow your Neti pot as well. ”

You get the picture.  Teaching and learning take time.  Human interactions are very complex and fraught with dangers. Do any of us take the time to interact in this fashion with our friends, partners, business associates? My friends and family think I am too pedantic as it is.  They will never let me get away with this behavior.  They will roll their eyes in their head as they hold on tight to their private theories on jewelry, health and life.





Jewelry Show Disasters Part 2

In Florida, October through April is considered the craft show season.  While I am still not ready to commit the $300 plus to enter the bigger shows,  I am always looking for smaller venues during these months.  Sometimes, they are too small.  Take this past weekend for instance.  My son’s Middle School was hosting a Flea Market to raise money for their science field trip to the Keys.  Well, the price was right $15.00 for a spot and it was benefiting my child’s school– “a win/win”  you might say.  Now this week was a typically insane week involving work, family responsibilities and an unexpected visit from one of my 9 siblings.  I pulled everything together late Friday night including making up Halloween earrings and school spirit jewelry for the 800 or so families that have children at this school.  At the crack of dawn, I woke my husband up to load me into the car and drive me to the Middle School Parking lot.

Andrea at Middle School Flea Market photo shot by Mark Trank


My Competition Photo shot by Mark Trank

When we arrived, I noticed that all the other people set up were basically selling chaserai –old shoes, old toys, old clothing and old household items for 50 cents to $1.00 each.  I was still undaunted.  My beautiful jewelry would still make great holiday gifts. And I wasn’t planning to lower my prices to $1.00. I did not have time to go to the bank, so my dear husband ran off the bank to get me money, in case I needed change.  Round trip one for the first hour.  After  Mark went home the second time, I proceeded to set up meticulously.  And then the winds came.  My jewelry stands were flying, my jewelry was flying and I had forgotten the duck tape.  So I called Mark up and he ran around looking for suitable weights and the duck tape needed to hold jewelry stands.  Trip number 2 to the craft show. By this time, he gave up on going home and sat with me.

During the last hour in which no one even came over to see my jewelry, he asked me three simple questions.  In the sweetest voice he could muster, he asked “how many degrees do you have, my dear?”  I knew where this was going, but I played along.  “Three,”  I answered with a sigh.  “Tell me what those degrees are in?” he asked.  “B.A. in Speech Communication,” I said. “From where?” he asked rhetorically. “University of Virginia,” I announced with a laugh.  “And your next degree?” Mark asked.  “Masters in Science Education,” I laughed.  “And where is that degree from?” he mocked. “University of Virginia,” I answered a bit more quietly.  “Your third degree?” he asked.  “Educational Specialists in Curriculum and Instruction,” I announced. “From where?” By this time, my voice was a bit tight. “the University of Virginia.”  So how is it that a girl with three degrees from one of the highest rated Universities is stupid enough to try and sell her Jewelry that looks more like art to a crowd that won’t even buy items for .50?” he concluded.  “Maybe you should stick to art shows!”  This coming weekend, I will be at the Alliance for the Arts Annual Festival.  Last year it was a good event for me.  By the way, I did sell two people some jewelry.  Both happened to be teachers and both were my student teachers that I had supervised.  So my education degrees came in handy after all. Tonight we were discussing this event and I had to laugh, when Mark said”  What’s next, a truck pull in Okechobee?”


I won jeopardy tonight

So  I am sitting here unable to think about what to write about and as I am thinking, I am watching  Jeopardy.  I guessed the bonus round before the contestant did.  He won $50,000.  I had the satisfaction of knowing the phrase first.  It was Job Fair…. a fitting phrase for many people alive in the year 2011.  Struggling to earn a fair living is on my mind a lot these days.  You see, I have three degrees and have had many different careers.  (B.A. in Speech Communication from the University of Virginia, a M.Ed. in Science Education from the U.Va. and an Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from U.Va.) 

I was a journalist following my first degree and I made a decent salary, but my life changed.  I wanted to have a family and globe trotting around the country to cover all the bad news was not conducive to family life, so with my husband, I re-evaluated and pursued a new passion… the environment and education. 

Lobbyist for the Sierra Club, founder of a small recycling organization, environmental educator and finally after two more degrees, high school science teacher.  That is how I spent the next fifteen years.  In the meantime, I gave birth to three sons and my life changed again… for the better I must admit.  What was important in my 20s and 30s took a back seat to having a good home life with Mark and providing my children with every opportunity to grow up to be caring, healthy, successful young men.  One of my young men is successfully launched, the second is applying to college and my third spends a little time as possible with me…. my life is changing again. 

My mother, who has alzheimers is declining rapidly.  My brothers and sisters are at odds over how to care for them.  I am trying to earn a living a new way…making and selling jewelry. 

Maybe it is my age, 52, maybe its the times… economic woes, divided country, a society that seems to value voyerism more than living full lives….   But I am feeling a bit discouraged. Millions watch the fate of Amanda Knox ( Don’t get me wrong, I am glad her nightmare is over) and millions watch a You Tube video about a woman who hears for the first time.  (  I am happy for her too) But really, is this productive use of our time and our minds?  Or are we all so overwhelmed with life’s difficulties that we sit  in front of our computers and TVs hypnotized…. hoping for some instant way to get fame and inspiration.  Well, I for one, am going to get off my duff and create some jewelry tonight.  Keep moving, keep plugging away.  By the way, here is what I created this weekend.  I am still getting the hang of taking good pictures.  Please write back.  I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

I am still experimenting with creating a style for my photographs and jewelry.  Haven’t yet decided on what works?


Risk versus Reward

I currently have two teenager boys  living at home, so I am constantly reminded of the risk taking behaviors of adolescents.  But now it seems,  according to new research on the teenage brain, that this risk taking behavior is actually an evolutionarily developed advantage for helping the teen transition from the safe home life to the “big, bad world” out there. In fact, according to author David Dobbs in the October 2011 National Geographic, the teen risk-loving behaviors are not the result of the “puny brain” or “work in progress”  brain, but rather the “result of teens weighing risk versus reward differently than adults. ” (pg. 54) Reward can often involve the elevation of status among their friends.  So today, I am looking at my two sons differently. I am figuring out more rewards that I can offer them for “smart decisions.”  I am also pondering why so many middle and high school teachers use punishment rather than reward to motivate teens.   Even on days like today, where I spent most of my time in my studio creating jewelry, I am also thinking about education.  I am as passionate about the right way of teaching as I am about creating jewelry.

Here are my designs today and here are my wishes for teachers of teenagers.

1) Please don’t belittle teens (especially not in front of their peers)

2)Please don’t automatically assume they are lying, cheating or stealing.

3) Please allow them to explain why they are not cooperating, not completing the work or not paying attention to you.

4) Please try to motivate the teens with interesting and relevant assignments

5) Please learn about the teenage brain so you understand what motivates them and what doesn’t

6) Please take a risk and try to be different than most teachers of teenagers and I guarantee the rewards will be great.  Believe me, I know.  I am still in touch with many of my former students who rewarded me with their love and attention while I was teaching them and continue to reward me by staying in touch.



The Big Boy Expo or Nothing Ventured… nothing gained

I ventured out today to sell my jewelry at a very unusual venue… The Big Boy Expo.  Now you might ask “what was I thinking?” Well, there is a story here.  It all started two days ago, when the house phone rang.  We never answer our house phone, but Mark, my husband, decided to pick it up.  On the phone was a very nice woman, who tracked me down after searching the web for Fort Myers Jewelers.  (that’s the good news… my name comes up in a search of Fort Myers Jewelers). She had purchased space at an event in Fort Myers for this weekend and was looking to share her space because someone backed out.  Now, there are many events at the Germaine arena.  In fact, I kept seeing advertisements about a Women’s Event that focused on fashion and health.. so I automatically assumed it was this event.

So I called her up and said yes and then I looked up the event and found the description “It’s the perfect opportunity to show off your guy stuff… All those gizmos, gadgets and thingamajigs guys can’t wait to get their hands on.” Now that doesn’t sound like a women’s fashion event. However, I am a woman of my word.  I could not back out on this very kind lady now.  I started rationalizing how this event  might be a success… my thinking went like this.  All those guys have to have women either at home or being dragged out to the Big Boy Expo… maybe they will flock to my booth and buy my beautiful jewelry.

The weather report called for off and on thunderstorms throughout the day.  Have you ever experienced a South Florida thunderstorm in September?  We are talking pretty much hurricane without the hype…. torrential downpours, instant flash floods, frequent lightening and wind that can blow down outdoor tents and send them into the next county.   I remained optimistic.  I had less than 24 hours to get ready, so I frantically sent out an SOS to all my new Bead Soup Blogger friends, who gave me helpful suggestions for last-minute pricing. I threw together my display, which I hadn’t used in six months.

Six a.m. Saturday morning.  My husband has been coughing most of the night.  I was pretty much packed up, but someone would have to carry it out to my car, drive me  there and help me set up.  Sick Mark got elected. One of the joys of being married to me for nearly 30 years.  We showed up just as the skies were blackening.  Never a good sign.  Another bad sign, the information said a table would be provided, but unbeknown st  to my space sharer or me, that was for the inside vendors.  So guess who got elected to go back home and get me a table.  The day continued on like that. There was the trip to Walmart to get me tarps in case the rain came and to the Smoothie place because I didn’t bring enough food or drink. All day long,  my sick husband running back and forth.  At one point, the sky looked so threatening, he went to the car and fell asleep thinking he would have to rescue  me at any moment.  Well the rest of the male population was smart enough to stay home or just visit the vendors inside.  At one point, I was sweating so badly, it was like being in my own rainstorm. 

So by now, I am sure you are wondering what was gained.  Here is my list.  I met some nice people who were also struggling to make a living at their craft.  We told stories.  I learned that juried shows might not accept my tent because its blue.  I learned that I need to get weights to hold down my tent in case of inclement weather.  I learned that sharing a booth might not work because my table was facing sideways and I need to face the crowd for them to see what I am about.  I also need a banner. i have gained knowledge of all these things and a few pictures of my rudimentary set up.  So like all adventures, there is something gained and guess what else,  its poured all over Fort Myers except where we were set up at Germaine arena.  By the way, I did not sell one item, but gave out a few business cards.  When I got home, my 13 year old looked up at the sky and said ” Mom, look a double rainbow!!!”  I am thinking that means the pot of gold is still out there.


Can you keep a secret?

Bead Soup Stewing

When I was a little girl, I had the hardest time waiting for big news or keeping a secret. If I found out what one of my brothers or sisters were getting for their birthday, I kept trying to talk about it subtley… dropping hints. Invariably, I would spill the beans. So now at age 52, I still have a hard time keeping a secret, especially when I am very excited. My excitement is over the Bead Soup Blog Party. In ten days, all 300 plus beaders who joined the Bead Soup Blog Party 2011 will reveal what they made with bead ingredients that they received from another beader from somewhere else. My ingredients stewed in their beautiful heart case that they came in from Jayne Aka Boot-C for more than week. In fact, during that time, I couldn’t get myself to make anything. I started cleaning closets and cleaning my bead room. Finally, on labor day, I got inspired.

Now I am not going to reveal what I made until September 17th (I promise), but I will tell you a few of things I learned about myself during this wonderful, challenging process.

1) I love symmetry. I was challenged because I could not place the ingredients I had in any symmetrical pattern. There was a little bit of everything, but nothing I had in my studio were exact matches. So how did I meet my need for symmetry while expanding myself? You will have to wait until September 17th to find out! (Hold me back)
2) This is my most creative piece. Why? Because necessity is the mother of invention. Because the first five tries were failures. Because scientific experimentation nine out of ten times disproves rather than proves your hypothesis. It reminds me of why science is such a creative process.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”— Albert Einstein
“Results! Because, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won`t work.”— Thomas A. Edison
Thanks to the All Result Journal Blog for compiling a list of great quotes on science and mistakes. Thanks to Lori Anderson for organizing this event. And lastly, thanks to nature for helping an impatient, impulsive girl grow up abit.


Handmade Happiness

I picked up a magazine today called Natural Awakenings.They have a web site at . In the magazine, I read an article entitled Handmade Happiness. The theme of the article was that making things by hand enriches one’s life and contributes to a greater sense of well-being by giving us “a sense of competence and completion that may be difficult to find in our digital ephemeral world.” (Judith Fertig) The author goes on to explain that the arts and crafts movement is particularly beneficial considering that “Modern Life offers a million distractions, a million ways to kill time.” (American Craft Council) I took up jewelry-making a dozen years ago to help me deal with the constant stress of teaching and raising three active boys. I also needed something to do other than watch tv during a three week winter storm. Like many crafters, I came into it accidentally. But once I started I could not stop. If the act of making and selling my jewelry stops feeding my soul and becomes a burden or “too much like a job” then I might have to take up something new like auto detailing (my husband would love that considering how poorly I take care of my car). There is a lot of creativity in this as well. Lol


My Bead Soup Ingredients Arrived Today


I love interacting with people, I don’t always love interacting with technology.  Case-in-point, while working today at my friend’s store, the cash register roll jammed,  the inventory reader had an error message, my cell phone kept disconnecting while my friend was trying to help me navigate a complicated sale and I couldn’t ring up several sales.

So when I arrived home and saw this adorable package waiting for me, I just knew that my day was about to improve….my bead soup ingredients were here all the way from Oklahoma via Jayne aka BootC It got better when I opened up a pdf tutuorial produced by Christine Miles, who showed me how to improve my photographs.  So here are my beautiful bead ingredients in much better photographs. I think…


It arrived in a Heart.  How cool is that?

When I spread out ithe beads, it looked liked palm trees and Florida skies

 Then I tried a technique that Chris taught me in her tutorial about cropping close and then expanding the photo, so here are my close-ups.

Lampwork beads the color of the Palms

Does this not look like a cool insect you would find in Florida. Did Jayne know I was a former science teacher?



A beaded bead made of semi precious stones and copper wire

 Thanks you BootC.  I think I am going to name my piece Oklahoma’s Majestic Palms.

Reveal Date is September 17


Promises, promises

I promised my children that I would watch them play tennis.  When I sat on the side of the court, I was not allowed to comment or laugh or look at them or say good shot.  So why was I there? I guess they needed me right?  I promised my brother that I would come over and help with my mother… even though I have to be at the University tomorrow for the beginning of the semester.  Why am I doing it?  Because my mom has Alzheimers and everyday she forgets a bit more. I promised my friend I would cover her store because she bought a house and needed the day to move even though I have to work my night job three nights this week. Why?  Because she treats me well and I want her business to succeed.  I promised my girlfriends to arrange the tennis round robin.  Why?  Because I feel guilty when someone gets left out and I know I will make sure that doesn’t happen. I promised my husband I would not spend money this month even though I keep seeing the coolest beads I want to buy.  Well, you know why?  You are all struggling artists and it sure is hard to make living this way. And I promised whoever reads my blogs that I would post a picture of my new  improved and much more efficient technique for doing wrap bracelets.  It uses one needle, instead  two.  So here it is.  Promises, promises, promises…

Making Jewelry on my fancy frame made of cardboard, bead mat and rubber bands


Round up of weekly challenges

Its Sunday night… time to get ready for another week.  I will only mention the challenges related to my jewelry making in this blog.  I would have to write many more paragraphs to tell you about children challenges, aging parent’s challenges, friend challenges, aches and pain challenges… life.  However, when it comes to my business, I actually welcome the challenges and find that rather than see them as obstacles , I view them as exciting and inspirational. 

Challenge #1) Camera lens problems.  Talked to my hair dresser, Hector, who is also a photographer.  We did all sorts of experiments to try and pinpoint the issue… problem with camera, problem with lens, operator error.  No luck, we still could not get the focus to work.  Talked to my friend’s daughter, Jaime.  She showed me how to put the lens on manual.  However, my eyesight is so bad and I wear glasses that progress from closeup to far away, I couldn’t focus on manual. (see earlier post The Learning Curve to see how bad the pictures came out). Then I tried to find a local camera repair center.  Only two numbers were listed on the internet or in the phone books.  Both were for security cameras.  Both claimed there was not a camera repair shop within a 100 miles.  I found one Ritz Camera Center still open in this area 20 miles south and took my camera in.  A knowledgable salesman (now that is a novelty) found the problem immediately.  Somehow my focus got shifted to the right and then locked in place.  He fixed it and then showed me what to do if this should happen again.  10 hours of hunting and I had the solution.  If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again… as my mom used to say all the time.

Challenge #2.  How to make the wrap bracelets a bit faster with just one needle.  If any of you have delved into the wrap bracelet craze, you know it can be a frustrating endeavor… first you have to make sure your thread is centered (I only have two hands, I need a third to hold the thread together) and  then you have to go back and forth between two needles going the opposite direction. Needles get mixed up, the thread tangles and you need to secure the project so it doesn’t move while you are working. Its one of the reasons why I was unwilling to lower my price for this bracelet for a customer.  (See earlier post on Custom versus Costume Jewelry).  But I saw a picture in a magazine of a bracelet that appeared to be made with just one needle, so last night when it was quiet at the gift shop I work in, I started fiddling with this new technique.  Voila… it worked. Its a bit of different look, but I like it.  Let me know what you think? I will photograph it tomorrow with my now working lens.

Challenge #3)  I joined the Bead Soup Blog Hop Party for the first time this year.  There are more than 300 beaders who are part of Lori Anderson’s annual event.  My first challenge was connecting with my partner.  She lives in Oklahoma and I live in Florida.  Check out her blog page  We haven’t really formally connected but I am sending her a surprise and she is sending me one;  I will give you a hint on what I am sending her.  What does Florida have that Oklahoma doesn’t?   Lori introduced us to the coolest photo editting site  Picnik which will help us hide our pictures.  I started playing with it tonight.  How cool?

Looks quite professional doesn't it?

 That’s all for now.  Hope you got through all my verbage.


First Day of School

First attempt at Wire and bead Crochet Nice Huh

Two of my three children went back to school today.  The third is out of school, on his own.  As I was helping my middle son clean his room yesterday before he started his senior year at high school, I was likening this process to what I go through between big beading projects. De-cluttering, cleaning up, starting fresh… all important steps for getting the creative juices going. I am participating, for the first time, in the Bead Soup Blog Party organized and sponsored by Bead Artist Extrodinaire Lori Anderson at So I am going to clean my room before I begin.  My son did not believe me that this was a necessary step for being successful as a senior in a highly competitive program about to apply for colleges, have a bar mitzvah, write three major papers, take two IB tests, and ofcourse, his most important priority, have fun. Oh well, it takes age to produce such wisdom.  He told me yesterday that “I should look now, because it will be back to the way it was in three days or less.”  So today before he came home from school, I snuck into his room and admired the floor without papers and dirty socks, the shiny trophies from his entire childhood of sports and I thought whether he admits it or not, this is going to help him accomplish his goals this year.

As for my goals, I am going to post the pictures of my work in progress from two days ago.  I am going to gather the beads for the party.  Keep reading my blog for updates and I am goinng to finish a necklace that is sitting on my workspace waiting for the clasp. 

Second attempt was the worse than the first


My third atempt kind of looked like an earring


 She thinks she’s got it


To Be or Not to Be?

I have been in a car fourteen hours during the last 24 hours, so I have had a lot of time to think, not much time to bead.  When I think, I often ponder…. do I want “to be” a designer, do I want “to be” a jewelry maker, do I want “to be” a teacher?  So many choices, so little time “to be” any of these things as long as I am “a mother” — the road trip to FSU was designed to inspire my 17 year old son to get motivated about college.  Then it was rushing off to pick up my 13 year old son at a baseball tryout, where he was faced with “to be” or “not to be” a travel team ball playeror play tennis, a sport he excels in. In the meantime, I heard from my 21 year old about his first day on the job. Helping my children sort through their lives, while I still try to figure out my own. I am constantly faced with choices to make (and I realize that I am lucky enough to have choices) about directions to take in my career and life. 

I have so many ideas that I want to pursue.  Watching the cloud formations during the fourteen hour car trip, I thought about designing a piece of jewelry inspired daily by the different sky.  Then I remembered the Bead Soup Blog Party sign up was today.  I want to do that too.  Oh, I have to get ready for a presentation tomorrow morning about Preventing Bullying in Middle Schools. 

But I signed up for the Sunshine Artist Magazine on-line to see if I want to start selling my jewelry at local art shows on the weekend, but my son wants to do tennis tournaments on the weekends.  I have the solution…. I will split myself into five different people and sleep no more than 2 hours each night and I will have all of this accomplished by 2012 Lol.