Can a bead room be a metaphor for one’s life?

Anyone who knows me will say “Andrea’s life is an open book!”  I am not very good at hiding my feelings nor keeping my insights to myself.  Today, I am sharing another part of my life… my workroom. Now you might be asking yourself, “How can a person create in such a chaotic environment?” Well, I must admit, it ain’t easy.  But I really don’t know how to simplify my life, so somehow I manage.

I am out of workspace! Time to find a surface in the living room

If a picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture is a metaphor for my life, well what more is there to say…. except somehow I meet my deadlines, continue to produce and have fun doing it.  In the next week, I will be revealing a creation that was part of the 2012 Bead Soup Blog Party.  This was my second foray into this design challenge.  Thanks to Lori Anderson of, beaders and jewelry artists from around the world trade beads and challenge themselves to create a piece with the goodies they got from their randomly assigned partner.  More on my partner later in the week.  Thanks for not giving up on me.  With my renewed inspiration to create, comes a renewed inspiration to write.


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.





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.


The Value of Having a Mentor

Twenty one years ago, I walked into a classroom for the first time. I was the mother of two children. How hard could teaching 20 children be? I had already spent ten years as a succesful journalist. Teaching was a second career. I wasn’t young, but to the students I was fresh meat. My students seemed determined to make me leave the field of teaching by the end of the first year, atleast that is what I thought as I cried to my husband each and every night. Why had I decided to be a teacher? Why couldn’t I impart all of my knowledge and passion to eager minds? What made my first year so horrible was that I didn’t have a mentor. If someone had just guided me a bit, helped me through the myriad of issues that teaching entails, that would have made a difference. I currently mentor new teachers now in a program at Florida Gulf Coast University. I am determined to help them avoid a few of the pitfalls that I fell in, such as starting off too leniantly. You can always get nicer, you can’t get stricter. So what does this have to do with beading? This summer, I have discovered the wonderful world of beading bloggers, thanks to Lori Anderson and the Bead Soup Blog Party.

Through this event, I have found mentors… wonderful jewelry designers who are lightyears ahead of me and are willing to guide me through some of the obstacles that they successfully overcome. So check out my mentor’s etsy stores and blogs. Support their beading or jewelry businesses, including Lori Anderson, whose blog is mentioned above. Charlene from the Bead Dreamer is helping me with my blog and with ideas on how to improve my etsy shop. Check out her shop at Christina Miles who gave me tips on photography and Marsha Neal, who inspired me by teaching about the Etsy Treasury (a wonderful marketing tool that I will try as soon as I revamp my Etsy store. There are others too. Thanks to all you Bead Mentors for paying forward and inspiring me to do the same.


I believe in evolution

I believe in evolution –this is not a political statement.  Although as a science teacher, I really have studied the evidence presented by scientists on evolution and I have taught it as part of the earth science curriculum.  But I am not talking here about human evolution, I am talking about my evolution as a jewelry designer.  I finally photographed a few of my signficant early pieces in my growth as a jewelry designer.  My very first piece, which I can’t part with, the bracelet I made for my son to give to a girl on Valentine’s Day, when he was in seventh grade. I worked feverishly on it up until the day before, when he announced to me that he decided to break up with her.  I have kept that bracelet to remind me of all the hearts my Danny is going to break.  My first efforts at bead weaving…edges curling, half completed spirals, hundreds of dollars spent on lessons and materials producing products that would never be worn, let alone see the light of day.  Then there are the pieces, where I thought I had a great idea, but the execution of that idea quite what I had hoped for… so into the junk pile it went. Finally, there are some pieces that are just dated.  Now I have not been beading that long, but like clothing styles, jewelry styles come and go and some of them are more likely to be worn regionally like my hippie Unakite necklace, which was popular in Charlottesville, Virginia, not so in Southwest Florida.  So take a journey with me down ten years of jewelry making.  Its ok to laugh.  Its even better if you want to say “my she has evolved and adapted over time.”  Lol

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I created this blog a month ago so I could join in the Bead Soup Blog Party.  I cannot begin to describe the benefits I have received from being part of this creative community.  At first, I became overwhelmed, “How on earth, can there be so many talented artists who in addition to making their beads or jewelry, also have time to take beautiful pictures, post them on several different mediums, keep up with life etc.  Would they include a bumbling new blogger and help her along.” 

Yes, they did.  Since joining this party, I have learned to create an Etsy treasury (still have not done yet), learned to properly use Facebook for business, learned abit about marketing properly for blogs and getting others to notice your blog and your jewelry. I have added a signature to all my emails which will help promote my business and I have learned about the generosity of so many people, who don’t consider each other as competition, but as collaborators in the making of beautiful jewelry and educating people about our craft.  So thanks to Lori Anderson and all of you out there who have willingly participated and helped others like me. 

I still have not solved my photography conundrum, but I will post a picture of my first foray into wire wrapping cabochons.  I took a class last week from my friend, Babs Snyderman of Bab’s Beads in Fort Myers, Florida.  She is an accomplished jeweler and a very patient teacher. 

My First Wire Wrap. The Cabochan is Petried Wood. Wire is silver-filled.

 I have since worked on two more cabochans.  I am very proud of the second one.  If I ever figure out my lens conundrum, I will post.  One thing I have learned in all my years teaching, is that if you don’t immediatley practice a new skill, you will never remember it.  So I am determined to make many more wrapped cabochans in the next week to solifidy my learning.


A Trip Down Memory Lane

I have been on a cleaning craze since the beginning of school.  I have almost made it into my beadroom… first it was one of my son’s rooms, then it was my closet.  I found the sweetest pictures of my three boys when they were little.  But I have also uncovered some of my failed beading projects.  I will photograph them and put up a slide show of them tomorrow. 

Returning to my roots as an educator, I think the slide show will show how learning progresses up a ladder.  In teacher terms,  “scaffolding” to help a student learn.  It seems as I read many blogs of my fellow beaders, most have scaffolded themselves from the very simple to a more sophisticated form of beading.  For me, it has taken me from simply stringing into the use of fibers, seed beads, sewing, braiding, Kumihimo, knotting and crocheting.  But lately I have had a hankering to learn more about wire wrapping.  So tomorrow I am so excited to be taking a class from a wonderful Jeweler and teacher Babs in Fort Myers.  I will hopefully have a product worth showing.


Custom jewelry costs more than costume jewelry

Its been quite a day.  My mother fell this morning and cracked open her head.  Heads bleed quite a bit.  Luckily, my brother took her to hospital quickly and she received stitches.  When I visited her later in the day, I realized she was ok because from her bed, she was pointing to my step dad directing him to brush his teeth and floss.  When her bossiness returned, I felt a bit relieved.   However this is not the theme of tonight’s blog.  I cannot seem to get away from my teaching roots and so I am taking the time to educate whoever wants to listen why custom jewelry costs more than costume/mass produced / jewelry produced in third world countries.  Here is an excerpt from a conversation I had with a potential customer who found an item I was willing to make for $50 on etsy for $30

–Customer: “I was just wondering if with multiple orders there was a way to calculate some sort of discount.”

My response: ” I am so glad we are having these conversations. People don’t understand.

Point 1:Beads are not sold much cheaper in bulk than the prices you are seeing on Amazon unless you purchase lesser quality beads that have uneven holes, broken pieces or are not what the picture shows.  Sometimes the beads are passed off as semi precious gems, but are dyed less valuable stones, etc.

Point 2: At a minimum each women’s bracelet you are proposing will take 50 to 68 beads(I just counted). If we go with rondelles, we are doubling the amount of beads because the beads would sit side by side. So if each strand of turqoise  I purchase contains around 16 to 20 beads and costs 5-7 dollars/each, we are talking at a minimum 20 dollars for the beads.  Other supplies include a button: $1.00 to $2.00, leather $1.00, thread $1.00. So costs of materials are around $25.00.

Point 3: In general, to make any money from a craft, one needs to triple the costs of supplies, which would put this bracelet at $75.00 and that does not take into consideration the two to three hours need to make the bracelet. 

Point 4:Duplicating hand-made jewelry is  not like duplicating a photo or a painting, where you make one and then you can reproduce more in bulk by a method that takes less time. Each item a jeweler makes is still going to take approximately the same amount of time.

Conclusion: So making in bulk does not lower costs in this kind of work. What works best for a custom design jewelry artist is to have customers willing to pay what the item is really worth or if you give them a deal for the first item they 

These leather and stone wraps are all the rage. They look so simple, but require two needles weaving thread back and forth over each stone and going around the leather

 become regular and repeat customers.


Moonstone versus Sunstone


I am an Earth Science teacher by trade, so when I go into my favorite bead store, Bab’s Beads in Fort Myers, I always ask Kerry,the owner,  to tell me exactly what each stone is and the chemical compostion of the stones.  He had recently picked up some gorgeous moonstones and sunstones.  “So what are they made of?”  I asked.  Flippantly, he answered, “The sun! The moon! Why do you need to know?”  “Look it up please,” I insisted.  When he read the chemical composition of moonstone, it contained elements that made up the mineral feldspar.  When he read the chemical composition of sunstone, it sounded like the mineral quartz was part of it (aluminum silicate).  How ironic,  the sun and the moon— quartz and feldspar.  It has long been debated in earth science circles which of the minerals… quartz or feldspar is most common in the earth.  They are both incredibly abundant and its fascinating to me just how many different beautiful gemstones are in the quartz family or in the feldspar family.  I know it sounds science geeky to be excited about such things, but it was my interest in the earth and its beautiful rocks and minerals that sent me in the direction of jewelry design.