Monday, December 31, 2012

The Wren's Gift...

Last night when we returned from working at the Shop, we discovered a wee Carolina Wren fluttering around the house.  It came as a surprise, as neither of us recalled a bird flying in.  None of the windows or doors were open and we don't have a chimney for it to have flown down.

Wide-eyed, the cats starred at the feathered creature with rapt attention.  Being indoor felines, they had never been so close to a bird before without a pane of glass being between the two.  Babette's natural hunter instinct flared and she almost had a second dinner.  Luckily we were able to escort the bird out a window without too much trouble.  Before it plunged out into the blustery weather, it hesitated... looked back... and then flew.

As I prepared for bed, I discovered a feather on my pillow.  It was small and in the dimmed lights, it would have been easy to miss.  I gingerly picked it up and set it on the shelf for further investigation in the morning.

I'm sure that if we examined every duct and triangulated our entry times and checked all the possibilities over and over again, we might be able to figure out a real world way that the bird got in.  We could prescribe a method of how it managed to be inside the house flying between the high cabinet tops and ceiling fan blades, but then it would be less miraculous.  Why strip that magic from the everyday?  The world is already so factual and jaded as it is.  This little winged thing was a symbol of good tidings and of wondrous things to come.

The wren's gift serves as a reminder.  Sometimes small things matter.  Sometimes we escape the clutches of peril and doom and get a chance to fly again.

Happy New Year, my friends!  Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts over the years and carving out a little niche in the great expanses of the world wide web.  May the new year ahead give you wings to soar!

Double Happiness...

We at Allegory Gallery are so fortunate to be able to share Jessica Wiesel's latest show, "Double Happiness".  The exhibit is comprised of small-scale fabric pieces created with embroidery and applique techniques.  Jessica infuses them with a sense of whimsy and magic.

If you're around, please show your support for the arts in Ligonier and come out to the opening reception!  The opening reception is Friday, January 4th from 5PM to 8PM!  The artist will be in attendance!  She's coming all the way from Asheville, North Carolina... so let's pack the house and give her a warm welcome!

As an added bonus, Amy Yanity (author of "The Weather Inside Her") will be doing a special reading from her forthcoming book, "Tom None".  Flush with rich detail and laced with natural observations, this fantastical search for identity marries the hero's quest with a powerful coming of age story.  Amy will kickoff the reading around 7PM.

Don't let the snow scare you off!  We'll keep it nice and warm in the gallery and offer an assortment of snacks and beverages.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Amy Yanity at Allegory Gallery...

As a special treat, Amy Yanity, the poet of "The Weather Inside Her" and author of the blog, "The Maple Line", will be doing a reading of passages from her forthcoming novel tentatively titled, "Tom None".  This local wordsmith and teacher will be conducting her reading in conjunction with Jessica Wiesel's art opening, "Double Happiness" on Friday, January 4th at Allegory Gallery.  The opening reception is from 5PM to 8PM and Amy will be doing her reading around 7PM.  This is sure to be a magical evening!

Saturday, December 29, 2012


We just got in from Florida!  I apologize for my absence here while I was away, but my connection to the internet was not the greatest and there was a little niece and nephew who needed to be played with! Our flight home was delayed two days because of the blizzard here in Pennsylvania.  Luckily we had a place to stay in Florida and we were able to cram in a few more family activities before heading back to the frozen North.  I'll update more with what we got up to in the Sunshine State in the coming days.

The Reveals of both the holiday gift exchanges will have to be delayed a few more days.  (As will be the replacement gifts I have to send out still yet.  Sorry!)  I'm itching to open the packages, but it was pretty dark when we rolled in and I want to take nice pictures as I open things up.  So, to be completely fair... how about I schedule the Reveal date on my end for January 1st?  Start things off right and wipe the karmic slate clean for the New Year.

Speaking of the New Year, if you're around the area and want something to do for New Year's Eve, we have our annual get together.  It's informal and fun.  Just email me ( and I'll give you the run down and send you directions to the house.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Okay... so I know I'm supposed to be all happy and excited to leave on vacation, but I feel like my head is in a vice.  I just opened up the kiln and saw that a few of the holiday gifts I was making (not to ruin the surprise, but these cute little porcelain bowls) had exploded.  I tried to do a technique of applying the glaze directly to the greenware to skip a step (apparently this can be done with the right glaze) but something went wrong and the glaze acted as cement glue for razor sharp pieces of broken porcelain.  Maybe I didn't let them dry long enough or there were air-bubbles or.... I don't know.  Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket.  Ugh.  Ugh.  Ugh.

Anyway, so the things I were going to send out have been delayed another week from when I get back.  I feel crappy about it, but at this point there's nothing I can do.  So sorry Lorelei and everyone in the gift exchange!  I will make it up to you though!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


When I signed up for Lorelei's gift exchange and created my own exchange, it was before we had plans to have a big family Christmas down in Florida.  I thought that we would have a nice, quiet holiday at home and that business would go about as usual.  But with the recent development, I realized that I wouldn't be home until LATE the day after Christmas.  So, I will most likely do all my reveals on the morning of December 27th.  I'm sorry if this threw a wrench in anyone's plans.  Just think of it as the day after the day after Christmas reveal!  Everyone I've partnered with should either have their exchange gift or be getting it shortly!  Hope everyone has a very happy holiday season and that it's full of happiness and promise.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Frost Pattern...

It has been a relatively mild winter so far, but there have been a couple of mornings when everything is covered over in a patchwork of crystalline frost.  I'm no lover of the cold, but I appreciate the networks of wintry iciness.  I like the seemingly random geometric patterns and the idea that they grow one frozen water molecule at a time.
When I opened the latest Lucky Mag, I saw these very Nordic Whistler Print Bandeau headbands by L. Erickson.  Being that my head is shaved, this isn't a very practical fashion accessory for me, but I still liked them.  The pattern on it reminded me of the frost I had seen earlier in the day and I knew that I wanted to make something with this wintry motif.

Since we've opened the store, I've been familiarizing myself with seed beads and various stitches.  I'm new to this form of jewelry-making and am slowly adding to my knowledge of the craft.  When I thought about the frost growing, one molecule at a time, it made me think of peyote stitch.  The pattern develops slowly and one bead at a time.

I didn't have a pattern to follow for this graphic snowflake design, so I winged it and graphed it out myself.  I have never done anything like this before, so it took a couple of tries to figure it out.  I thought it might be as simple as drawing a bunch of circles on a piece of scratch paper and figuring out the pattern that way, but I quickly learned that it was hard to spatially plan without a more consistent grid.  I didn't have any peyote stitch graph paper, so I found a piece of regular graph paper and meticulously drew out the staggered pattern of the stitch.  It was a learning process, but I think I created something similar and captures the vibe of the original print without copying it exactly.  It was a really helpful exercise to wrap my brain around the stitch conceptually.  It's unfinished, but I'm quite pleased with it so far.

Sneak Peak...

Here's a sneak peak of the next art exhibition at Allegory Gallery!  We'll be featuring the work of Jessica Wiesel in her show, "Double Happiness".  Jessica is a talented artist who hails from Ohio and has a degree from the Columbus College of Art and Design.  Her work was most recently seen in a show titled, "Wondrous Creatures" at Hotel Biron in San Francisco.  If you're in the area, mark your calendars now and make a point of coming out to see the whimsical and fantastical show!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2nd Annual Ornament Swap Blog Hop hosted by Sally Russick...

The lovely Sally Russick of The Studio Sublime hosted the Annual Ornament Swap Blog Hop again and I was lucky enough to be able to participate this year.  The rules were simple enough... create an ornament that includes at least one art bead and exchange it with a partner.  Sally paired me up with Therese Frank of Therese's Treasures!

Before I reveal what Therese sent, I'll show you what I made for the exchange.  I stayed up late in the nights working on this bad boy.  In working on it, I was reminded of a Paul Klee quote.  He said, "Drawing is like taking a line for a walk."  I sort of felt like I was taking the beads for a walk.  I didn't know how it would turn out or even how to do some of the techniques I attempted... but things just fell into place.

The focal is a ceramic snowflake pendant by Gaea.  I wrapped filigree around it and then embellished it with peyote stitch and Swarovski crystals.  From the core of the ornament, I hung a crystal coral branch, a bronze coin (that I made), a polymer clay bead from Heather Powers of HumbleBeads, and an AB crystal drop.  I attached the ornament to the beaded loop to hang it from the tree with a bead that I enameled.
Here's a close-up detail of the focal of the ornament.

I wanted to show the back of the piece as well to reveal some of the construction of the piece.

And here's what Therese sent!  She did a wonderful job at creating such a beautiful piece.  In her note with the ornament, she said that she used a modified pattern from named Tricia's Pendant.  It features a glass ab made by Susan Kennedy of SueBeads.  On the other side, there's a rivoli.  Both sides are just lovely!  There's also a lampwork glass bead from Sue between the core of the ornament and the wire hanger.  Check it out:

Didn't she do a nice job?  I love the combination of cool silvers, watery blues and the pearly whites.
Here's the other side!  Pretty all around!

Here's a list of all the participants:


Friday, December 14, 2012


Here's a quick glimpse at two of the projects I've been working on lately.  I've been working on a bunch of other things too!  (Some of them are projects that I can't show right now... but soon!)

A bowl of black cherries?  No!  They're new polymer clay beads that I made.  Notice how they have a nice satin sheen and that's not from a coating, but from hand-polishing and buffing them.  (Yep, I'm pretty sure I've worn off a fingerprint or two.)
One of the other things that I've been doing a lot lately is enameling iron components and building an inventory of candy-colored pieces to work with and sell in the shop.  I try to jump on the torch at least an hour a day... but often find myself working until I run out of gas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Other Side of Morning...

The days (and nights) have been long lately.  I often find myself working through the night until the windows start to lighten with the pink glow of dawn.  It's that time of year.  The holidays are just around the corner.  Being in retail, we're scrambling to collect as many proverbial acorns before the cold season sets in.

We'll be going to Florida for Christmas and taking a week off to meet up with my siblings and parents.  We really shouldn't leave.  It's the last big hurrah before things start tapering off for the winter.   In theory we should stay to sell as many holiday gifts as possible, but this will be the first time that the whole family will have been together for Christmas in 25 years.  It's hard to believe that it has been that long.  It's also the first time that all of the siblings' Significant Others will be under the same roof at the same time and William will finally meet my parents.

I'm looking forward to the trip, but at the same time I get knots in my stomach when I think about it.  Not only is there a lot to do before we leave, but there's another person lurking under my parents' roof that William will meet that I'm not thrilled about.  In fact, I dread it.  That person is... "me".  Not the "me" he knows today, but the "me" of adolescent angst and rebellion.  My parents, particularly my father, have a magical power to transform me into that petulant, bratty, awkward, emotionally unstable teenager all over again.  I can feel my face breaking out already and my voice cracking.

But... maybe things will be different.  Maybe that me of yesteryear will stay hidden in the past.  Maybe now that my brother is back and old wounds are finally healing, things will change.  We were all grieving for so long in our own ways, that maybe this trip will signify a new chapter – a new dawn – in our lives.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Fanciful Interludes...

Will you be in the area tomorrow evening?  If so, you should stop by!  Shirleah Kelly will be debuting a new show at Allegory Gallery!  The show is called, "Fanciful Interludes" and will include ballet-themed photographs.  The show is simply lovely.  Shirleah does a masterful job at capturing both the strength and vulnerability of the human architecture.

The opening reception starts at 5PM and ends at 8PM.  We'll be serving local wines from Royal Welsh Winery AND there will be a book signing at Second Chapter Books.  Lonnie C. Rittenour will be signing copies of "Poems Of The Hunter".

It should be a wonderful evening in Ligonier and if you're around... you should come by!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Metal Clay Component Destash...

It's my nature to hold on to things.  I remember a friend coming over to the studio and looking (with horror in their eyes) at the piles of papers I have accumulated.  They asked, "What are all those for?"  I replied back that one day I intend to collage again and these were supplies for that fateful day.

Needless to say:  I have a lot of stuff.

Fast forward to a few days ago.  One of the girls that helps out at the store was putting something away when there was a minor avalanche.  Beads and pendants started pouring down from the shelves.  And that's when I realized that I needed to make room.  If not actual room... mental room.  The solution comes by way of a destash.  I'll be parting with "wholesale lots" of metal clay components that I used to carry in my personal shop.

We're working on some new designs for Allegory Gallery and I want to get rid of the stuff that we've been holding on to for awhile.  Really, it won't do anyone any good, if I just sit on the pieces for years and years.  I made these pieces to be used and transformed into jewelry.  This goal won't happen if I hoard everything I ever make.  Some of the pieces included in the lots will return in new incarnations on the Allegory Gallery site and some of them will be retired and never made again.  I might even have a mold-breaking party.

So, take a look and see if there's anything you might like.  They're priced at least half off of the original prices.  CLICK HERE to visit the shop and take advantage of the major Destash in progress.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Poems of the Hunter...

Things have been buzzing along at Allegory Gallery.  On Friday (December 7th from 5PM to 8PM), local photographer, Shirleah Kelly, will be debuting her latest show!  The show is titled, "Fanciful Interludes" and will showcase her stunning, ballet-themed photos.

But that's not all... as an added bonus, her friend and writer, Lonnie C. Rittenour, will be signing copies of his book, "Poems Of The Hunter" at Second Chapter Books.  Come by and enjoy the fun!  Same time.  Same place.  Two stores.  Two events.  One location.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Black Beach Bonfire...

When I was younger, somewhere between high school and college, I was invited to a party on a "black" beach.  We were in Florida and I had never heard of a black beach there before, so I was curious to see it for myself.  When we got there, I couldn't help but think how the sand looked less like "The Dunes of Midnight Obsidian" in my imagination and more like the "salt and pepper" of reality.   It was a fun time though and there was a bonfire.  I remember gazing at the red-gold embers swirling in the air and drifting into dark of the crashing ocean.  The sky above the water was speckled with stars and it looked as though the embers had some how magically traveled billions of light-years and transformed themselves into these pinpricks of light.  At that moment, it seemed like it was the beginning of the universe... and in someways, it was.  It was the beginning of the journey into adulthood.

I wanted to capture that feeling and energy.  So I put together a blend of blacks (both shiny and matte), pearlescent whites, golds, reds, and coppers.  This is the first time that I've put together a Premium Mix that was based solely on color and not on a blending of shapes and textures; the mix is composed of size 8 Japanese Miyuki seed beads and is sold by 10 gram tube.

I so rarely have time to make anything finished these days.  I wanted to do something with this mix though.  It's not anything fancy, just the seed beads strung up on Memory Wire with Swarovski crystal dangles, but it was fun and quick and I was glad that I could do something with this mix.

CLICK HERE to find out more about the Black Beach Bonfire Premium Mix.

New Premium Czech Glass...

I just added some new selections to the Premium Czech Glass category in the Allegory Gallery online store.  We have quite a bit of it in the physical location and I wanted to start offering more of my favorites online.  CLICK HERE to see the new additions.

Pink Lemonade...

When the weather gets chilly and overcast, it's hard not to imagine sunnier skies and a warmer season.  A 30 degree average temperature with skies the color of overcooked ground beef will do that to you.  And when I do think of those hotter days, I also think of that pitcher on the table that is almost always full of a cool refreshment... pink lemonade.

I can't remember where exactly I got the recipe – maybe Martha Stewart or the Food Network – but it never disappoints and is quickly building strong associations with carefree leisure time in the sun.

The "recipe" isn't so much a "real recipe", as it is handy additions to jazz up regular lemonade.  I try to use Meyer lemons if I can find them.  They have a sweeter flavor that's less acidic.  I toss in a cup or two of crushed seasonal berries, like raspberries or strawberries.  The berries give the lemonade the distinctive "pink" look.  I also toss in a couple of wedges of lime to add a floral note.  But the secret to make this a really refreshing beverage is the mint.  As mean as it sounds, I bruise the leaves to heighten the flavor and really make them aromatic.  The mint leaves have a cooling effect.  Hot mint tea, surprisingly, is often drunk in the scorching desert because of this.  Other additions, like lemon soda or club soda can be added for sparkling effervescence.  (Alcohol, like vodka, can be added for a different kind of effervescence.)  But the latter suggestions of making the pink lemonade fizzy or tipsy-inducing are completely unnecessary.

To commemorate this lovely beverage that conjures images of weather not requiring three layers (or more), I created a Premium Mix.  I couldn't help it.  I was at the store and looking out the window and saw an homage to gray on gray.  I just needed something that was bright and refreshing.  The Pink Lemonade Mix was just what I needed... short of a glass of this sweet nectar.

CLICK HERE to check out the Pink Lemonade Mix.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Time is the rarest of birds... at least for me it is.  Some people seem to have a menagerie of gilded cages, stocked plentifully with this exotic creature.  For me, I play the role of the White Rabbit more often than not.  I'm constantly running around behind schedule or trying to meet a deadline.  That rare bird alights for a moment and then is off again, me chasing after it.

The days now seem like a Gerhard Richter painting... less like the photorealistic ones and more like the abstract smears and blurs.

But... even though... there is a whirlwind around me, there is also a sense of peace.  The peace doesn't come from a place of calm or a perception of static serenity, it comes from an in-the-gut feeling of right.    It's kind of like asking the Universe for a sign of confirmation and then seeing the most dazzling sunset or thinking of a good friend you haven't heard from in awhile and getting a surprise phone call at that exact moment from them.  The only difference is that this feeling of right is less cinematic and more subtle.  It feels like a seed inside, growing and developing, slowly setting down taproots and connecting.  There's a lot of hard ground to break, but the little tendrils covered in tiny white hairs keep digging, keep persisting.

And then you realize that it feels right, not because you're any closer to capturing that elusive bird, but because it dawns on you, that you have changed and continue to change... your life is transforming into a place that bird can call home.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Allegory Gallery Facebook Giveaway...

Earlier in the week, Allegory Gallery's Facebook page celebrated 700 likes!  What an amazing thing!  We appreciate all the wonderful support!  Wow!

As a way to say THANK YOU for all the awesome likes on Facebook, we decided to host a little giveaway.  It took me awhile to find just the right prizes, but I think I found some really cool ones!

So, here's what you can win:

1 bar of Possum Hollow Farm Soap courtesy of Song of Sixpence
1 signed copy of "Use All the Crayons!" by Chris Rodell
1 bag of (your choice) of toffee from Naughty Toffee
1 bag of the "Enchanted Glade" Premium Mix

To enter to win this giveaway, all you have to do is actively like the Allegory Gallery Facebook page and comment on the giveaway post.  A winner will be randomly selected next Saturday during the Small Business Saturday festivities.

CLICK HERE to visit the Allegory Gallery Facebook Page.

OH!  And spread the word!  The more likes we get, the more giveaways we'll have.  For every 100 likes, we'll have a new giveaway!  And the more likes we get, the bigger the prizes will get!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Holiday Gift Exchange Participant List...

The randomly selected participants for this year's Holiday Gift Exchange are:

Ellen Lyn
diane hawkey
Amber Dawn Inventive Soul
Boot ~ C
Christy Porter

Thanks everyone for commenting and throwing your hats in the ring!  I'll be sending you each an email, please make sure to respond back with your contact information!  I've already started working on the gifts and I think they're pretty cool!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Have you ever put something away for safe keeping... only to get swept up in the everyday demands, causing you to forget where that safe place might be?  I got this amazing bronze octopus bead by Anne Choi after Bead & Button.  It came to the store, so I tucked it away in a pocket in my camera bag.  I carry my camera almost everywhere!  So I thought it'd be a good place to keep it until I brought it home to join my collection.

The day was rough.

And when I got home, I remembered that there was something that I had to do, but I couldn't remember what it was.  Every time I took out my collection, a little voice in the back of my head said, "Hey!  Something's missing!"  And I'd think about it and think about it, but couldn't quite place my finger on it.

That is until my camera battery ran dry.  I meant to charge it the night before.  I even placed the battery in the charger.  The only problem is that I plugged the wrong plug in.  So when I went to take a picture today, I needed the back-up battery and dipped into my camera bag.  That's when I found this prized beauty!

I'm not forgetful.  I tell myself that this little octopus was just in character and was hiding, as the creature it was patterned after is wont to do.

Beaded Links...

Do you ever challenge yourself to see a pendant as a bracelet? Lisa shares her latest project using a large metal pendant as a bracelet focal.  
Tammy interviews luxury jewelry designer Rebekah Lea.  

Erin Siegel takes us on a blog hop full of creative and gorgeous earring designs 
Cyndi is soooo excited to let you know that Chapter three of her new book is completed and ready for download. The name? "Bridging the Gap." Are you curious...?  

Carmi continues to explored the endless ways to incorporate t-shirt yarn into her projects! 
An unusual copper bezel is the inspiration for this "Coronation" themed resin beauty.  

Andrew has been hard at work creating four new Premium Mixes!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Artsy Things...

It's been a busy week for artsy things in the area.  The first event that I attended was a program at Artworks in Johnstown about how to increase visibility for one's art organization.  The presentation was put on by Ed Huttenhower of the Small Business Development Center at St. Francis University.  I felt it had some really helpful tips for establishing a small business and was a great opportunity to meet other individuals interested in promoting their groups.  It was a nice chance to check out the facility and it was particularly nice to see some friends and customers of Allegory Gallery there.

The second event this week was held at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.  They have a monthly event called, "Art On Tap".  It was a really fun event with live music and was a great way to meet people interested in art.  It reminded me a little of being back in New York with all the art openings and cultural events.  I met a particularly charming woman named Barbara Ferrier, who was instrumental in bringing the ballet to the area.  This ties in nicely with our next exhibition at Allegory Gallery, where we'll be showing ballet-themed photographs taken by Shirleah Kelly.

Another nice thing about the Art On Tap event was that I saw several familiar faces from the Botanical Society of Westmoreland County.  Earlier in the week, I attended a meeting on rain gardens.  That presentation was put on by Kathy Hamilton of the Westmoreland Conservation District.  It was really interesting and there are a couple of places on the property that might do well with this addition.

I feel really lucky to be a member of such a rich and exciting area.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Handmade Gift Swap...

Lorelei's Blog
I was selected to be a participant in Lorelei Euto's 12 Days of Christmas Handmade Gift Swap!  Hurray!  I'm really looking forward to this.  I think it'll be a lot of fun and I've got an idea of what I'm going to make for everyone.  (I would tell... but I don't want to ruin the surprise!)

Holiday Gift Exchange...

I thought it might be a little fun to have a Holiday Gift Exchange.  I haven't done one of these swaps for awhile, so I thought that I'd bring back the tradition this year.

So... here are the details:

*  I wish that I could do a gift exchange with everyone out in the blogosphere, but I'm pressed for time this year and will have to limit it to nine (9) participants.

*  While I love sending and getting things from all over the world, I'm going to limit it to US participants.  This is so that I have ample time to send everything out without worrying about postal delays.  Not only that, but it can add up and get quite expensive.

*  To participate, leave a comment on this post with your email address.  I'll randomly select the nine (9) participants at the beginning of next week (Monday, November 12th at 12:00 Noon EST) and post them here.  I will then email the winners of the selection with my contact information.  Once you've received my email, write back with your own.

*  Once we've successfully transferred contact information, then the fun begins!  We exchange gifts!  Make sure that your gift arrives by December 20th, as the reveal will be posted here on the 21st with all nine gifts!  Don't worry about having to make or send off nine holiday gifts, you'll only be required to exchange gifts with just me.

*Gifts can be handmade or purchased.  The beauty of getting a gift is the surprise!  So there's no stipulations on what to send.  (Though I will say that you'll get something beady from me!)

Pretty simple!  I think it could be a lot of fun!  It's very festive and I like how I'll be able to exchange gifts with at least a few readers.  Thanks so much in advance!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Calendar Pre-Sale Continues...

Have you selected your 2013 calendar yet?  If not, think about showing your support for the arts by getting one by Sheila Thornton.  This portable calendar features the stunning plein air paintings showcased in her most recent solo show, "Sheila Thornton: Pennsylvania Landscapes".  Her work is simply magical.  They seem to glow from within, like little light-filled jewels.  The calendar will also include three never before seen paintings.

We're currently doing a pre-sale of them to help diffuse the printing costs.  For a limited time, we're offering them at a special promotional price ($2 cheaper) to say thank you for making this project a reality.

Whatever profits we make from the calendar will go directly into helping fund the "Spring Event".  This will be the biggest event we've done so far and it's not inexpensive to put on.  We'd like to keep the event as affordable as we can make it and allow as many people to go as possible.  So these efforts now will help keep the cost down later on.

Just think... for the price of two Starbucks coffees, you could be facilitating an amazing creative opportunity of a lifetime!  CLICK HERE to find out more about the calendars and to pre-order your's today!


 The latest exhibition at Allegory Gallery is "Transformations".  The work presented is by Maryland-based artist and jewelry-maker, Kelly Russell.  In her latest show, she delves into the mysteries of alchemical symbols.  Throughout her work there is but one constant.... a sense of change.  It appears in the graphic depicts of the symbols, but it also manifests itself in the shifting colors... moving from cool to warm.  Scattered throughout the work are also symbolic butterflies, totems for transformation.  Just by looking at her work and not knowing any personal details, it's easy to see that this artist is at a huge crossroads in her life and about to spread her wings.
The opening reception is tomorrow evening: Friday, November 2nd, from 5PM to 8PM.  Her work, both collage and jewelry, will be on view and available for purchase.  The work is simply breathtaking and makes you ever curious.  Please join us at Allegory Gallery and show your support for the arts in the region.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween...

It's a quiet evening and so different from many Halloweens of years past.  It used to be all about costumes and parties with scary finger-foods.  But now it's more of a reflective holiday for me.... it's about remembering those who have impacted my life and have since passed on.  They say that this time of year is a time when whatever boundaries dividing this life from the next are at their thinest.  Spirits are abound and messages can be shared.

So this is my message to those who I've loved and lost... thank you for being in my life and for making it all the more rich by knowing you.  I miss you and love you.

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Have fun and take a moment to honor the memories of those people who have left this world, but are not forgotten.

Four New Premium Mixes...

I find myself compulsively making these premium mixes while I'm at the store.  It's extremely relaxing to summon an image to mind and then try and create a blend reflective of that mental picture.  Scissors in-hand, I walk around clipping strands and filling my bowl.  The best results come when I have a personal connection to the reference and hold it in my mind while gathering... sometimes whispering the name repeatedly.  It may sound bizarre, but I think it's helpful.

The concept of a "deeper well" is one that I come back to time after time.  An artist can lead a solitary life in the studio, diving into a personal headspace that can only be translated with the work produced.  The "Deeper Well" is sort of a manifestation of that place we go, deep inside.  I see it as a place that's cool and dark... perfect for seeing sparks of imagination.  I actually wrote about it in my second blog post  back in July of 2006.  CLICK HERE to read that blog post.  In creating a mix that represents this highly abstract concept, I turned to a blend of deep blues, cool grays, luminous blacks, and sparkling silvers.  CLICK HERE to read more about the "Deeper Well Mix".
When I started to learn more about plants and mushrooms (particularly edible ones), something happened.  It was an odd sense of independence that came with a closeness to the secret knowledge of nature.  Suddenly I was "free" from society and could live off the grid and amongst the wild.  Nature was generous and provided ample things to fill one's stomach with, but nature does more than just feed the body – it feeds the soul.  Thusly the idea of this mix came about... the "Good Earth Mix".  It's a combination of golden yellows, young greens and old browns.  CLICK HERE to learn more about this particular mix.
In creating these mixes, I went from as far as one can go within to as far as one can go outwardly.  I thought about the frontier of space and how the telescope pictures reveal an amorphous rainbow of inspiration.
 The "Nebula Mix" attempts to bottle and harness that otherworldly beauty of the stellar photographs with a blend of oranges and greens with a subtle sprinkling of blues.  This mix is vibrant and playful.  CLICK HERE to find out more about this particular blend.
The last blend I worked on is called the "Regina Mix".  The word "Regina" means "Queen" and I wanted to make something as richly decadeent as befitting a queen.  This mix is composed of a blend of scarlet reds, fiery oranges, and sparkling golds.  CLICK HERE to read more about this regal mix.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Slow Comfort...

When it starts looking like this outside (see the snow?), I fire up the crock pot.  We're fortunate enough to have electricity and while at the grocery store, I went with my instincts (and thrifty nature) to go for the deeply discounted meat department as opposed to the emergency rations aisle.  Luckily the power stayed on and I didn't have to break out the grill in the middle of a hurricane with snow.
With the beef, I slow-cooked it overnight in a sweet and tangy tomato sauce.  (Think of the sauce as a hybrid between marina and barbecue sauce.)  The extended cook-time over a low heat in combination with the acidity of the tomatoes and the apple cider vinegar, helped keep the meat extremely tender and succulent.

When the sauce is as good as this, I firmly believe in a "flavor-soaker-upper".  My go-to side-dish is rice.  With an Asian mother, every meal was served with rice.  But I wasn't feeling the rice, bread or pasta.  Instead, I made spiced sweet potato fries!  Before baking them, I tossed them in olive oil and dusted them with a combination of brown sugar, corn starch, ground pink peppercorns, cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and salt.  Eaten as a snack alone, a squeeze of lime over these tasty morsels sends them out of this world!  The blend of flavors of the sweet potato fries and the slow-cooked beef was simply delicious and did well to keep the snowy cold at bay.

Hang On, Hellbenders...

All things considered, we're doing pretty well.  We sustained minimal damage and are very fortunate that nothing major transpired here.  I look at pictures from New York City and my heart goes out to them.  I used to live there and know that despite the tough exterior and bravado, the City can be a fragile place.

Although we've been blessed, not everyone in the area has been so lucky.  The recent drought conditions combined with all the heavy rains has caused some heavy flooding.
Gentle creeks have swollen ten times their normal size and rush rapidly.  A few of the local bridges have been closed, because they're submerged.

While I was driving along the detour, snapping pictures when it was both safe and convenient to stop, I thought about the hellbenders.  I've mentioned them before on the blog and how the creeks in the area are home to the rare giant salamander.  It's one of the few places in the world where they are breeding in the wild.  The water has to be pristine and be slow-moving.  So along with everyone else... hang on, hellbenders!

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Do You Know...

I've been using a lot of vintage components in creating my new Premium Mixes and have received a few curious emails asking how I know that they're actually "vintage".

Firstly, there's a lot of debate on what qualifies as "vintage".  Some say that it's seven years or older, but not over 100 years.  Then it becomes an antique.  Some say that it's 15 years or older, but generally most people agree that it's 20 years old or older.  I have even heard a definition that related not so much with the age of a material, but with the ownership.  For the purposes of this post, I'll go with the definition that it's 20 years old or older.

I also must preface this post by saying that I'm no expert, but a lover of beads who likes learning and have picked up a few things along the way.  There are others out there who are way more knowledgable than me.

One of the biggest clues in the quest for authenticity is from the vendor you purchase from.  Part of the fun is tracking down reputable sellers and talking with them.  Some of them bought the items directly from the factories when they were made and know firsthand.  These dealers are usually full of interesting stories.  Other vendors have bought from warehouses and distributors that deal with buying up and liquidating (literally) tons of beads.  Ask your vendor what they know about the beads and where they come from (and take it with a grain of salt).  Sometimes they know and sometimes they don't.  And sometimes folks will say that it's something that it's not to increase the perceived value by increasing the age.  There are a lot of reproductions out there these days and fakes can be deceptively convincing.
Look at the packaging.  Sometimes when I find vintage beads, the packaging is not always in the best condition.  In some cases, things have been sitting in a warehouse for over 50 years!  A lot of dirt and dust can accumulate, and sometimes things disintegrate and fall apart.  If everything is pristine, ask if the boxes have been cleaned or replaced.  For instance, if someone is trying to sell you antique Victorian beads in their original packaging that didn't go into distribution... chances are, they won't be in vacuum-sealed plastic.  Not unless that particular Victorian manufacturer had access to a time machine.  Things will be wrapped in paper or fabric.  I have even found things that were packed in sawdust.

Also look for identifying maker's marks or origins.  This is extremely helpful in narrowing down when something has made.

It might be tempting to peel off those paper labels, but they tell a lot.  For instance, this hank of yellow plastic beads could have been made last week.  The fact that the original paper tag remains is highly educational.  From a time perspective, it says that they were made before 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell.  It also indicates condition. Even if something is old, doesn't necessarily make it valuable.  If the condition isn't good, it could mean that finishes can flake off, disintegrate, rub off, or with certain types of plastic... weep.  An authentic tag in good condition is highly suggestive that the beads were stored in optimal conditions and the chances of them having problems is lower.

So what do you do if you don't have a helpful tag or the original packaging?  It gets trickier, but it is possible.  With beads in vintage jewelry pieces, sometimes depending on the signature design of the piece, an origin can be deciphered.  Also, look at what the beads are made of.  Some materials were only used at certain times... a lot to do with what was popular and in vogue and what materials were available at the time.  Take for example Victorian Mourning Jewelry; with the English Queen Victoria in mourning over her Albert, a lot of the symbolic, carved jet components became extremely stylish and highly desirable.

Sometimes the shape or coloring give clues to when it was made as well.  Just as the materials give hints, so do the way that the beads look.  The beads were designed to be used in contemporary pieces, and therefore reflect that time period.

It's a lot of fun finding out the stories behind the beads and tracking down their provenance.  Using them add so much to designs – they give history and deep roots to any piece.