Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bead Craziness!

So, I love beading. I love looking at beads in stores, arranging them on my Beadsmith to find the right combination of beads, color, size, etc. and I especially love seeing the receiver's face when I give them my special creation. However, sometimes I spend so much time (and money) making a necklace or bracelet that I want to keep it for myself. I've always had this trouble with my art (not just my jewelry)...I wonder if other artists do? I feel like no one else will be able to truly appreciate all of the time, sweat, and love put into whatever I made. Of course, I also create stuff that I like, so when I finish it...well, I like it!

I started beading when I was maybe 8 years old. Someone who worked at my dad's office taught me to use a beading loom. A couple of years later, when I got a little better, she surprised me with my own little beading loom that her husband made. Over the years, my style has changed quite a bit. I went through a "choker" phase in high school and made tons of choker necklaces for myself. I remember one with a blue dice in the middle! I had another made of a mismatch of colorful beads that I loved. Now my style is a little more sophisticated. I love wearing and working with different stones the most, but they can be a little spendy at times!

Last weekend, I took a trip to Baltimore to visit my husband, who is performing in Around the World in 80 Days at Centerstage Theater. He has discovered quite a bit of Baltimore just walking around during his free time. In his exploring, he found a bead store that he insisted on taking me to. I knew it would be dangerous. I spent 1.5 hours looking at the beads and only went up to the register with a small tray. Yet, the beads still rang up to $80 or so! I had to put some back, but I still came home with a good amount of beads. Since I've returned to Chicago I've been beading like crazy, inspired by my new finds.

Because of my beading frenzy, I've decided to hold a sale on my Etsy site. All shipping is free within the U.S. until Dec. 21st. But that's not all....I also have a surprise gift I have made (not jewelry) that I will randomly give away to one person who orders between now and December 21st. I can't say what it is, except that I made it and it's pretty cool! Check out my new creations!

My new finds:


This is how I decide what a necklace will look like, before I string it:

And sometimes I have accidents. SIGH

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Circles can be found in many structures of life: the moon, the Earth’s orbit around the sun, a fruit, a flower, etc. A circle represents wholeness and unity, and therefore, is sacred in many cultures. The word “mandala” comes from the Indian language of Sanskrit, and loosely means “circle.” Here are a few examples of circles have spiritual or ritual significance:

- Tibetan monks and the Navajo create sand mandalas to demonstrate the impermanence of life.

- The creation of mandalas are often used for focusing attention and to aid in meditation.

- Labyrinths are a type of mandala used for “centering” in many cultures.

- The architecture of cathedrals, mosques, and stupas are also built around a center with domes or circular designs.

I’ve become very fascinated with Mandalas over the last several months. I’ve started using them with my students to help focus attention, meditate or reflect, and they are great for self-discovery! Coloring in a mandala pattern or creating your own has a calming effect, so it is great for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or even anxiety or people with Emotional Disorders, I believe. I have also tried creating my own mandalas during meetings to help me to pay attention better. Researchers have found that people who doodle during lectures (only when information is given orally!) are able to gain more information.

I also agree that mandalas can be great for self-discovery and as I start to create more I see them change over time. Carl Jung, a psychoanalyst, believed that the mandala represented the unconscious self. Many people believe that when a person draws a circle inside a square, it represents the self.

I cannot show any of my own pictures yet, because mandalas will be a theme in my Christmas presents this year! I hope to start creating some for my Etsy site very soon. However, here are some examples and some coloring pages you can print out to get you or your young friends started, until you are comfortable making your own.

Tibetan Mandala:


Sand Mandala:




Mosque dome:


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Theater, Education and Liberation

For those of you interested, the Goodman is hosting a hands-on introduction to Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed and the complementary critical pedagogy of Paulo Freire on Saturday, December 5. Email to register by Dec. 3. Unfortunately, I will be out of town that weekend, so let me know how it is, if anyone goes!

Teachers for Social Justice

Ok, I am totally energized! I attended the 9th annual Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ) curriculum fair this weekend and it keeps getting better every year! They had so many more workshops, exhibitors, and resource tables than ever before. This year TSJ members made some awesome t-shirts, so, of course, I had to get one. I also had to buy a beautiful necklace from Maya Essence. But most importantly, I met and networked with some amazing teachers and activists!

I attended an excellent workshop in the morning, titled "Exploring the Roots of Youth Violence: Curriculum Development Project." The Chicago Freedom School, Project NIA, TSJ, and Chicago Youth Igniting Change are partnering to develop a youth-led action research curriculum guide! The workshop was packed with a diverse group of youth allies who were interested in the deeper questions about the root causes of youth violence; how the economy, racism, justice system, etc. intersect with youth violence; what the link is between power and violence, and so on. The workshop participants had some great questions and ideas to add to this curriculum, and I am also hoping to get involved, and will send them my "Clothesline Project" that my students did a couple of years ago. The curriculum guide is scheduled to be ready in February and there will be grants for anyone who is interested in implementing the curriculum...and you can bet that I am going to be applying! :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Peru Pics

So, I've never taken a photography class in my life, but I think it is incredibly fun to look out for neat "shots" and pretend like I know what I'm doing as I'm squatting, arched over, and balancing on one leg.... I am especially inspired by fall leaves, bold colors, streaming sunlight, and cool structures (bridges, stairs, etc). Of course, it doesn't hurt to just have amazingly beautiful sites, which you can find all over Peru!

Cuzco Lights

Morning sun at Machu Picchu

Tree at Machu Picchu

Dad taking pic

Red plant at Machu Picchu

Door at a mansion outside of Arequipa

Diving condor in Colca Canyon

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Men's Necklaces

My husband (Usman) has been very encouraging of me making and selling my jewelry and even set up my Etsy site for me! For the last few months he's been asking when I am going to make him a necklace, so, I finally did. He likes it, or so he says! ;) So, I think I will start making some men's/unisex jewelry - stay tuned!

Blog - 25

Blog - 27

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baby Shower Gift

I went to a baby shower for a co-worker this weekend and she didn't have much on her registry - just the basics. So, I decided to be creative and make something that would go with her theme (yes, I know that zebras and giraffes do not go with palm trees but that is the print on the blankets and baby items!!). Luckily, she had an open space in the nursery that she didn't know what to do with and was about to just buy a mirror - perfect! I left space for photos, once the baby is born!

I drew the pictures, cut them out with an exacto knife, and found some printed paper for the background....



baby pic frame

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pressed Flowers

When I was young, I loved to walk around our house clipping my mom's beautiful flowers for my flower press. I would lay the flowers out between pieces of paper and cardboard and screw my press together tight...and then impatiently wait for 2 weeks to see the magical creations. Sometimes they turned out great, other times they were a little moldy or brown. Now, my press is packed in some random box at my parent's house. I hadn't used or even thought of my press in years until my parents sent me a birthday package this summer. There were a few art/crafting books and a microwavable flower press!! No more waiting! I went slow this first time, so it took a little longer than it should, but I didn't burn any flowers and I could press them and make a card in the same day!

I spritzed the cloth with a little bit of water, put the flowers and leaves in the press, and microwaved them for not more than 30 seconds at a time (so you don't burn them).

Between each heating, I opened the press to let the hot air out, which aids in the drying process. I repeated this process (in shorter episodes as the flowers were closer to being pressed) until they petals and leaves felt like paper and could not be bent without breaking off.

I decided to make a birthday card with one of the flowers. I used tweezers to handle it because of it's delicate nature now. The flower is stiff and does not droop when picked up.

I used Elemer's glue to secure it to the paper and then added a little note!...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

For the Love of Food!

It took me MONTHS to make Usman's (my husband) birthday present. I've been cooking like a mad woman and taking pictures of all my meals since the spring, with the idea that I would make my husband a cookbook for his birthday. Both of us are somewhat disorganized with our recipes. I have a recipe box with some written down, some are printed and then folded up in the box or stuff inside books, others I go look on the website I found them. Usman usually cooks his mom's recipes, which are typed in Word, with his laptop sitting on the kitchen counter, just waiting for a spill! He also has some written in his college poetry book, and other folded up and stuffed in the book. Needless to say, it can sometimes be hard to find the recipe we are looking for. Even if I know that it is in my recipe box, there is not system and I proceed to take out all of the index cards and flip through them to find the recipe I want. There's also the problem of me not remembering which recipes Usman likes and which he thinks are my "bland farm food."

So, I set out to fix this problem and began documenting my delicious creations (and some not-so-delicious creations which didn't make the cut). When Usman was home and I was forced to take the picture with him in the kitchen, he would roll his eyes at me and ask whhhhyyy I have to take pictures of every single dish I make. He would also politely remind me that the food was getting cold. :)

Finally, I could stall no longer and had to put the book together with the recipes I had. I used Tastebook and found the site quite simple and the finished product is neat and visually pleasing. The only thing I didn't like about this site is that you cannot use your own photos for the cover or the tabs. You can add more recipes though, which I will definitely be doing in the near future, as a friend just recommended 101 Cookbooks to me and all of the recipes I have tried are FABULOUS!

I believe Usman likes the finished product as well, although he was a little skeptical as to why I was giving him more work to do! ;)

Here are a few pages from the book...

Of course, I had to include a recipe for my special popcorn so Usman can make it when I'm not around!

I had to start getting creative with the pictures after taking so many!

IMG_7943 well as creative directions for "serving"!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Peruvian Textiles

I just returned from 2 weeks in Peru with my Dad and I am still in love with the handwoven textiles. I couldn't resist and had to buy just one! I bought this from a store in Ollantaytambo (near Machu Picchu) that helps native women preserve the traditions of Quechua weaving and pays fair wages through the Awamaki Weaving Project. You can meet the weavers on the website as well. They are all fairly young (I believe their group leader is 16 yrs old)...Felicitas Rios Cjuro is the woman who made my weaving!

All of the colors are natural (made from plant dyes) and it is all handmade. The symbols in many of these weavings are symbolic. The sun was very important to the incas, the condor was a symbol of spirituality, they used llamas or alpacas for food, clothes, instruments, etc.

If you would like to learn more about this organization (or perhaps learn to weave through their sustainable tourism initiative!) please visit the website above! They are also accepting gifts for children in the area, if you are visiting Machu Picchu soon.

Peru Textiles 2

Peru textiles 1

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rose Necklace

I was so busy finishing up the school year and reports, followed by a visit from my mom, that I have not had a chance to blog...but I have definitely been making art. I took a beading class with my mom and learned some basic techniques and was so inspired that I made 3 necklaces over the weekend! One of them, I am keeping. I have always wanted a rose necklace but could never decide on one I liked. When my mom and I were in a bead store and I saw this thai silver flower, I couldn't resist! She bought it for my birthday and I quickly strung it and wore it out this weekend - I love it! If you want to see the others, go to my Etsy website:

thai silver rose


Friday, May 15, 2009

Mother bird

For Mother's Day I decided to make my mom a paper mache bird to sit inside (or out!) of her birdcage she has hanging in her dining room. Right now there is a plant in there (very cute decoration idea!) but she loves birds and now she has a new pet! I made a mold using paper and tape, and made wire legs to help it balance (or to allow the bird to grasp something). I used paper towels to paper mache because they are white and help to cover up the print on the newspaper, and it is easier to create a smooth surface because they are thinner than newspaper. I used an elmers glue/water paste so that the little bird won't mold (the easy flour pastes often will mold and you especially have to be careful in the wet Northwest!). Lastly, I used decorative paper and mod podge paste to add color to the bird and finished off with pins for the eyes! I also made a card to go with the gift and to giver her a little hint!

paper mache bird 3

paper mache bird 2

paper mache bird

Mother's Day Card

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Daydreaming about Summer

It's an overcast, windy day today and I can't stop thinking about summer. The weather has been teasing us with some nice days scattered here and there. I'm ready for daily walks, ice cream, bbqs, and discovering new neighborhoods. I was looking through some of my old pictures and came across this set of three photos that I took in the Little Italy neighborhood (near UIC) a few years ago. I had just gotten a new camera and was really getting into photography at the time. I would love to take a class or two someday!

Chi Bike

Chi Summer

Chi News

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Perspective

I thought of Christo and Jean-Claude the other day, but could not remember their names for the life of me. After an hour of searching the internet with "castle + covered + fabric" and + "art + fence + fabric" etc etc etc, I finally came upon their webpage. They use fabric to temporarily change an environment, and allow the viewer to see the environment in a new way. If they wrap a building in fabric, we might pay more attention to the shape, or maybe it takes on a different feeling in that environment. When they created a fabric "fence" along the rolling hills in California, somehow it made the viewer pay more attention to the rolling hills, the sun reflecting or the fabric, and called attention to the wind, which blew the fabric beautifully. Sometimes we just don't notice the world around us and how beautiful it is, and they have helped many people see their environments in a new light. If you ever get a chance to see one of the videos of them creating a work, it is an amazing process and lets you see how the environment affects the artwork and vice versa....something you cannot see completely in pictures alone.

Wrapped Trees - Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Reihen, Switzerland


Running Fence - Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, USA

The Pont Neuf Wrapped - Paris

Sunday, April 19, 2009

One Man's Trash is Another's Treasure....

Since my last blog was about Andy Goldsworthy's work, I was still thinking about how art can be very inexpensive to create, unobtrusive to it's environment (or good for the environment!), and even more accessible than it usually is. This is why I like Earth Art and Recycled Art, which can often be found outside and not in an expensive, ritzy museum. Recycled art can be made from found objects, trash, recycled metal, etc. Recycled art can be anything from a clothing item or accessory (I'm sure you've all seen wallets made from tape or purses made from recycled plastic bags), it can be a sculpture, a 2-dimensional piece to hang on your wall, or a functional object (i.e. a lamp or a coat rack made from recycled objects).

- If you work with children, or have kids, here are some ideas for art projects at KinderArt.Com.
- is a cool website with neat, environmentally friendly gifts. Here are a few of my favorite....

Recycled Bracelet

Recycled Business Card Case

Recycled Elephant Toy

Monday, April 6, 2009

Earth Art

Let me begin by saying that I love earth art and Andy Goldsworthy is in my top 5 favorite artists. He is an artist and environmentalist who lives in Scotland. His work is created completely from the nature and he uses everything from leaves and twigs to snow and stone. While some of his works are permanent, most are not and change and decay over time. Thus, he takes photos of his work to show how they change with the seasons or weather. Some works, he had to re-do several times before he completed the project, because of environmental conditions. I highly recommend the documentary, Rivers and Tides, to understand how he creates his work. Here are a few examples, which I hope will encourage you to explore Goldsworthy's work more on your own....