Craft Studio: Boho necklaces

24 02 2019

I created some boho (bohemian, hippie style) layered necklaces yesterday! Here’s the first one I created for my sister, Debbie. We were inspired by some beautiful, but pricey, layered necklaces in a catalog. First, I started with a sketch that utilized the beads I had gathered from my stash (first photo shows project in progress). Components: faux leather top cord, brass chains, painted jasper stones, hematite and glass beads (The colors look more saturated in sunlight!) I’ll be making many more of these to sell in my online store (details to come soon!).

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. 

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Timothy Chambers: Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome

29 06 2014

Artist Timothy Chambers is our cover feature for the July/August 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. I interviewed and photographed Timothy for this feature.

Timothy cover

 

Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome 

It was a breezy Sunday in May when I drove out to bucolic Berryville, Virginia, to meet Timothy Chambers and watch him paint a plein aire landscape. Tim has Usher syndrome, a condition characterized by hearing loss and progressive vision loss, but it certainly hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his passion for painting. He is funny, a great storyteller, a gifted artist and amazingly optimistic.

What is your earliest memory of hearing loss and vision loss?
In kindergarten, my teacher noticed that when she was facing me, I understood her. However, when she turned away from me toward the chalkboard, I did not. She brought this to my parents’ attention, and we visited an audiologist who confirmed that I had hearing loss, and fitted me with a set of hearing aids.

I then had speech therapy in first and second grade with Mrs. Mary Beard, who was amazing, as I have always been told that I speak much better than I hear. Although I began wearing glasses and contact lenses in middle school, it wasn’t until I was 30 years old before any doctor suggested that I had retinal issues.

Timothy Feature Page 1What was your first reaction to the diagnosis of Usher syndrome?
At the age of 30 and on the heels of coming in second place in an international portrait competition, I went for my annual routine eye checkup. It started fine, but routine quickly turned to horror when the doctor’s face went from relaxed to concerned. “Something’s not right. You need to see a retinal specialist.” The feeling was dread, it was silence, it was fear, it was unfamiliar, it couldn’t be. Please, no…

My wife (and best friend) Kim and I were referred to a retinal specialist in Washington, D.C. My worst fears were confirmed. I had Usher syndrome, a degenerative disease in which one steadily loses their hearing and vision. Unfortunately, my specialist lacked any sense of bedside manners. In an effort to provide him some background about me as we considered a plan of action, I brought a portfolio of my portrait paintings for him to view. He flipped through a few pages then thrust it back into my hands, and with the warmth of a surgical knife, said, “Find another profession.” Ugh. That hurt. To this day, I cringe when that tape plays in my mind.

Tim and wifeHave you availed yourself of any hearing or visual assistive technologies to help you live and work successfully with your dual loss?
I can get by fairly well with hearing aids and quite a bit of lip reading. Hearing over the phone, or without being able to see someone’s face, or being in a loud environment is really challenging. However I’m surrounded by people who don’t mind repeating things.

I have a good friend, Mike, who’s been incredibly thoughtful. Mike has provided me with updated computers and large monitors. But other than that, I haven’t made use of any visual aids… yet. Though I do enjoy a good pair of sunglasses with amber tint which works best to reduce glare and increase contrast.

My greatest asset is my wife Kim. She’s thoughtful in looking out for me. She makes sure that cabinets are closed, and teaches the kids to move their toys and shoes out of the way. Outdoors, she always alerts me of steps, curbs, anything I could trip over. She makes my life so much easier. Besides, it’s nice to have a beautiful woman by my side. Even my dog knows to get out of the way when she hears me coming.

What is the psychological impact of living with Usher syndrome?
It took me a couple of years to learn to deal with the news of the disease and the dual sensory loss. My worst fear was that I would lose my sight and hearing completely, and be relegated to a rocking chair, waiting for someone to come touch me and say hello. I feared that my life would become nothing, that I would have nothing to offer. I feared that I would be forgotten, dismissed, losing all dignity, a mere inconvenience in the lives of those who could still live fully. It was a deep fear, and it would take time for me to release it and trust that God truly does have plans for a future for me.

The original diagnosis and advice (“find another profession”) played mercilessly in my head, paralyzing me at times. In fact, I didn’t get a full night’s sleep for almost two years due to waking up in fear of what lay ahead.

Finally, it was our family physician who helped me get over the fears. He said, “Tim, this is an issue of faith and trust. You’re healthy. Go live.”

It wasn’t until I began to take my physician’s advice and begin to trust that God is greater than everything, including my disease and all my fears, that I began to move past the fear.

I recall sharing the original physician’s diagnosis with Dr. Irene Maumenee, head of Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins—one of the leading eye centers in the world. Her response was, “Find another profession? Why? You paint until you can’t!” Even now, as I write her charge, I get shivers of joy and thankfulness. Yes, that is how we should live, echoing Jonathan Swift: “May you live all the days of your life.”

I left there with a new lease on life. Instead of living in dread, I began to live with optimism again. Though fear might be a part of the battle, it need not prevail.

How do you compensate for both vision and hearing loss?
I’ve had a few audiologists say that one hearing aid would do me fine, but I always hear much better with two. Digital hearing aids are such a blessing. Audiologists are able to fine-tune the instruments to really hone in on what you can hear. Transpositioning is a wonderful technology, as it moves sounds outside of your hearing range to within your hearing range. Regarding my field of vision, it’s a definite challenge. I have to do a lot of scanning, and memorizing where things are really helps out a lot. I’m comfortable in familiar environments. Being in a new place or a place I haven’t been to in a long time can be stressful until I learn where everything is.

Last year, my doctor at Wilmer Eye Institute, Dr. Hendrik P. M. Scholl, told me that I have about a 17-degree visual field in each eye. That’s really small considering normally we have about a 200-degree visual field. When he told me that, I actually felt like a walking miracle, considering I’m able to do a lot of things with such a narrow range of vision.

For example, I still play tennis. The funny thing is, I can hit a ball coming at me 100 mph, but I have a difficult time finding the ball on the court two feet away. My friends help me with comments as, “Tim! nine o’clock short range!” to help me locate the ball. The perplexed look of bystanders is priceless!

Having a extremely narrow range of vision requires extra planning. Whenever I move I have to carefully look to my left and right to see if anybody’s coming. Going down the steps can be challenging because I can’t see the shadows that indicate the steps. I never know if I’m going to miss a step; falling kind of hurts, I try to avoid that!

Honestly, I am just very thankful that I still can paint. I don’t take it for granted, and each day I wake up and I can see, I smile and think “Yes! I can see!” It’s a great way to start the day to be able to see and hear and move. I’ve learned to give God many thanks for the told simple things. It doesn’t take much for me to be content like it used to.

How did you prepare—if one can prepare for such a thing—for losing so much of your sight and your hearing?
Honestly, I don’t think you can be prepared. I asked Dr. Maumanee, “Should I start learning Braille?” She replied, “No, you really can’t. When the time comes,
then you can go down that road.”

I remember seeing a book some time ago titled, Just Enough Light for the Step That I’m On, by Stormie Omartian. That’s how God has covered me; he doesn’t give me a beacon to shine a mile down the road, but he always provides enough light to get by right here, right now.

I’m going to take one step at a time, and try to enjoy the moment. And who knows? As Clint Eastwood said, “Tomorrow is promised to no one.” Enjoy and make the most of today.

How does the limited field of vision affect your everyday life?
I don’t yet walk with a cane or any other visual assistance, so to everybody else I look completely normal. My disability is invisible to them. But what they don’t know is that I can’t see anything except what’s right in front of me, which means I walk into people, cut people off, get too close to people, and so on.

For example, I would walk into a store, I see a line, and I get in at what I see as the end of it. Somebody taps me on my shoulder and says, “Who do you think you are? Cutting in front of people? Think you’re better than us?” Oftentimes, there’s not enough time to explain, so I get some dirty looks.

Every day, Kim and the kids—Lindsie (31), Drew (19) and Chloe (13)—are my eyes and ears, always working doubly hard to watch out for me. I marvel at their patience, repeating things over and over. Every day is an adventure.

I would imagine that one of the biggest changes you faced was giving up driving and the lack of freedom and independence that followed. The worst! Yes, it was hard, but it’s also a relief! I hated giving up independence, and I hated having to be a burden to everybody else, but I also didn’t want to cause an accident and hurt someone.

It’s definitely been an adjustment, especially for Kim, being the only driver at home. I have to do a lot more planning, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice when someone offers a ride. I keep a running list of things I need, so that when a ride becomes available, I’m ready. I guess I have to think a little bit more about details than I’m used to. Kim’s been great, adjusting without complaint.

Your father, William T. Chambers, is also a portrait painter. When did you discover you had talent?
I always loved to draw, and my parents gave me plenty of paper and writing instruments to draw with, and of course I learned a lot from my dad. I still do. Growing up, I spent most of my time playing outside. During the school year my favorite class was art. I would always go way overboard on the assignments and just loved it. My friends and I used to dream that we would play for the Chicago White Sox or the Cubs, but I always knew that I was going to be an artist.

Tell me about your art education.
My art education isn’t straightforward. I had a few scholarships out of high school to colleges, but I quickly realized I wasn’t going to learn anything. My dad had set a high standard of instruction for me.

During my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, my dad found an apprenticeship in an arts studio in Minneapolis. I studied with Richard Lack during the day, and took courses at the university in the evenings for two years. I began studying with Impressionist Henry Hensche at the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1983. It was there that I found my love for color.

Also, it was at Provincetown where I met Cedric Egeli, who invited me to study with him in Annapolis, Maryland. Cedric and his wife Joanette, both amazing artists, had a profound influence on my art. Cedric is a thinker, who believes understanding and keen observation are essential to good painting. Throughout the years I have continued to paint with them in the summers on the Cape.

I also studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, as well as with Sebastian Capella near San Diego.

How has your condition challenged you in your portrait business?
One question people ask me is, “Well, how in the world do you handle a portrait sitting?” People expect a portrait artist to have the best vision in the world, but I still can create beautiful paintings, even if I can’t always see where I’m walking. It’s a funny paradox. Kim and I go to portrait sittings together. I follow her around—she knows what I need to do and what I’m looking for. We set up, I get to know my surroundings, I get to know my subject, and I get to work.

I can see directly in front of me what I’m looking at; I just can’t see off to the side. But then again, a portrait is about the person in front of you. I just have to work at it a lot harder than I used to. With some customers, a friendship is established. After receiving a portrait that exceeds their expectations, I share with them about my condition, and they want to know more. But, if I share that I have an eye disease with a new client, most will view the combination of an artist with an eye malady as incompatible, and will politely show me the door. What a pleasure it is to produce a beautiful portrait for a client to cherish.

The truth is that a good portrait or painting requires a lot more than vision. It involves one with a heart and mind that truly is excited about life and is able to recognize the essence of it.

Tim Paintings

What attracts you to portraits? Do you paint other subjects?
I love painting landscapes, but portraits present the greatest challenge to an artist. My dad always said that portraiture is the king of art. He’s right. To capture the essence of a person is no small feat. I love getting to know my subjects, who they are, where life has taken them.

I’ve been asked what happens when I meet somebody who’s not pretty or handsome. I’ve never met somebody who is not beautiful. Every person whom I have painted, I look at in wonder, knowing that they are uniquely created by the hand of God. My goal is to learn what makes them unique, and to convey that in my painting.

Has developing your artwork into a means of earning a living changed either your work or your process?
That’s a great question. Yes, it has affected my work. Obviously, with a portrait, what I’m really painting is what is in the client’s mind, their expectation. When I paint a child, I am painting the mother’s perception of that child, not mine. I could have a portrait that a dozen people see in my studio, and they say, “Oh my goodness, Tim, you nailed that portrait.”

But then the mother might look at it and say, “That’s not my daughter.” Of course, it looks just like her daughter, but that mother knows something about her daughter that I haven’t quite yet captured. It could be something that’s in her mind, that no longer exists in her daughter. My job is to know what she’s thinking and then capture it. I spend time interviewing my subjects before I paint them.

With a landscape painting, the viewer is not as critical. My dad says, “Nobody’s going to say that tree is in the wrong place.” I can also take liberties with color, which excites me.

Define your painting style.
I define my work as Impressionistic with a complimentary focus on form and draftsmanship. I prefer a looser style, but then again I still have to have enough detail to capture a person’s unique likeness in a portrait. I am drawn to the freshness and vitality of a painting sketch, and I don’t possess the patience to finish something with a lot of detail. To this day, I still try to find that balance between a very loose painting and one that has sufficient detail. If I go too far in detail, I think the painting begins to look overworked. Students will ask me, “How do I know when my painting is done?” My answer is, “When you have achieved the concept that first struck you about your subject.”

Do you work on one painting at a time? What mediums do you use?
I’m at my best when I take one painting from start to finish. I usually have a few going at once though, because it allows me to step back and see the progress of them or what I could do to improve them before I jump back into them. I like working in oils the most, but also very much enjoy pastel and charcoal.

Describe your favorite portrait.
Two that come to mind are my portraits of Charles “Chuck” Colson (Prison Fellowship Ministries and Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon), and some outdoor family portraits.

Painting Chuck Colson’s portrait was a wonderful challenge. My goal was to convey the man who had such a great love for people, but was also a great statesman. He was gracious in giving me A Creative Life from page 13 plenty of time to interview him. Mr. Colson always wore a suit and tie, but if you look at his portrait, he obliged my request to remove his jacket. This gave him an approachable look, for he was a very kind man. When I arrived for the sittings, he would help me carry my equipment.

At the unveiling, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Prison Fellowship Ministries and Colson’s 75th birthday, many people exclaimed how the portrait really captured so many different things about him. That’s what a portrait artist wants to hear.

What is the best advice you were ever given as an artist?
I’ve been given plenty of good advice. Here are a few: Work hard. Love what you do. Listen to what your teacher says. Don’t defend your work. Just listen, trust, and do. Get your big shapes and masses right. My advice to other artists is all of the above plus you need to love what you are painting or the painting won’t work.

How do you maintain the demands of being a self-employed artist and raising a family?
It’s not easy, but working at home really helps. When you have your own business, you have to wear all the hats, and you can never just leave your job at work. At least I can’t. But then again, I really love what I do. It’s who I am. I get excited about the colors, shapes, and the people I see. I’m always painting in my head.

In our home, Kim is the one who holds everything together. I couldn’t live without her. I love spending time with my kids, knowing what they’re up to. Kim does well with details, where I am more of a big picture person. We’re opposite, but as time goes on, a very good fit.

Tell me about your newly-launched online painting school.
I really enjoy teaching. I started teaching about 20 years ago, beginning with a weekly drawing class in my studio. The most amazing thing about teaching is seeing people enjoy the simplicity of creating art, even on a basic level. The other amazing thing is what I learn. It’s one thing to know a concept intrinsically, but it’s another thing to articulate it so others can understand. I love the challenge, and it makes me a better painter.

I started IguanaPaint Academy (www.IguanaPaint.com) four years ago when families began asking me if I would teach their kids art. The parents were saying, “I have a child who’s gifted in art but I have no idea what to teach.” I started with local workshops, but then some students couldn’t attend and asked if I could teach them long distance.

We launched IguanaPaint’s first courses this past January 2014 and we now have students from five continents! In addition to my drawing courses, we have courses in filmmaking, video, colored pencil, photography, and even an Art of Engineering course.

What is your dream as an artist that is yet to be fulfilled?
To have an established gallery or company sponsor a series of paintings from travels around the world; I’d like to record a response to the beauty of those different locations and people. That would be incredibly exciting.

What inspires you?
Honestly, being alive. I love light, I love new things, I love stories. One of the great definers of life is perseverance. Life is hard. Loving people is hard. Learning to know what’s important and keeping things simple seems to help me enjoy life and find the beauty in what I see.

Cindy Dyer is a freelance graphic designer, artist and photographer in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit her blog at cindydyer.wordpress.com. She can be reached at dyerdesign@aol.com.





Recycled Mosaics by Daniel Scott, Jr.

4 04 2013

I interviewed fellow graphic designer, Daniel Scott, Jr., for our artist feature in the spring issue of Celebrate Home Magazine. I first interviewed Daniel on my blog two years ago. You can read that post here.

Daniel’s work is simply amazing! He creates these beautiful pop-art works of art with tiny slivers of product labels. Learn more about his work beginning on page 66 of the issue, which is free to download in the links below. He has beautiful prints available for purchase; see the store link on page 80.

The more clicks we get, the better we do with promoting and getting advertising! We thank you for your support.

Single pages version: Celebrate Home Spring 2013

Reader spreads version (my favorite!): Celebrate Home Spring 2013 Spreads

Order a print copy (at cost, plus shipping): http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/540569

You can also view it on issuu.com here.

DanielScottArt

 





Spring 2013 Celebrate Home Magazine: Artist-in-Residence

4 04 2013

Camilla and Jim Houghton’s laid-back Florida home is featured in the spring 2013 issue of Celebrate Home Magazine, now available for FREE download in the links below. Read my interview, “Artist-in-Residence,” starting on page 12 of this issue.

The more clicks we get, the better we do with promoting and getting advertising! We thank you for your support.

Single pages version: Celebrate Home Spring 2013

Reader spreads version (my favorite!): Celebrate Home Spring 2013 Spreads

Order a print copy (at cost, plus shipping): http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/540569

You can also view it on issuu.com here.

Photography © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

ArtistInResidence





Heading into the drawing studio…

21 11 2012

This process reminds me of drawing portrait studies and nudes in college. We started with marker sketches, then evolved to charcoal sketches. I did some decent work then, but this artist is just phenomenal. He makes me want to pull out my drawing stuff right now!





Craft Studio: Bedazzled beaded bracelet in blue

28 10 2012

Last weekend during my beading birthday bash I created this cuff bracelet for my friend Dawn. I used a blank wire cuff, 24 gauge non-tarnish silver wire, and an assortment of beads in various shades of blue. The star of the show was a piece of inexpensive square glass—the kind you get in bulk bags to fill vases. You can buy the bracelet blanks at Michael’s in a two-pack for $2.99 (you’ll get one of these and another style that I haven’t found a use for yet). I just discovered they’re available in a blackened-silver and a bronze color, too. It’s an extremely easy project and takes an hour or less to complete!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: Necklace for Paula

31 03 2012

Last night I showed my friend Paula how to make the crochet wire + bead necklaces that I’ve been creating since last spring. She came up with the idea of crocheting just the center part of the necklace and attaching a chain instead of chain-stitching the rest of the piece. I thought it was a great idea—it would be easier to control the length and the necklace would be less resistant to metal fatigue in the crochet-only areas (plus—less beads, less wire and less time!). I made the simple matching earrings for her. This piece contains beads made of glass, hematite, cracked glass, glass pearls and metal. Paula has lots of experience in wire-wrapping, bead stringing and other jewelry skills so I learn far more from her than she learns from me.

© Cindy Dyer (with assistance from Paula)





Buy me this.

14 02 2012

(The cabinet, not the book; although while you have your wallet out, I would kinda like to have the book, too. And really, what’s another $14.91?). I’ve looked high and low for a reference to the woodworker who created this whimsically wonderful piece of furniture. How could you not smile if you could wake up looking at this piece every morning? This work of art graces the cover of the book, 500 Cabinets, written by Ray Hemachandra and published by Lark Crafts.





Re-post: Playing with Totally Rad Actions—Portraits of Lauren

1 02 2012

Originally posted March 3, 2010

Using an image I shot of my niece, Lauren, I have applied nine of my favorite Totally Rad Actions from photographer Doug Boutwell—just to show you some of the effects you can achieve with portraits. I love his action names, too—Prettytizer, Cool as a Cucumber, Not-So-Magic Glasses, Rusty Cage, SX-70…

The first photo in the series is a “normal” shot (with minor retouching, but no action applied). Some of the actions were used at 100% strength; some were dialed back to about 60-75% strength (particularly in the case of Technicolor Dream World, Grunge Rock and Pross Crossessed #1). I just love these Photoshop actions—they’re well worth the investment if you want to take some of your photos to another level with very little effort. And no, I don’t get a kickback from endorsing Doug’s store—I just love to share a great product when I find one! I don’t use them in my garden and nature photographs, but they’re great used occasionally with landscapes, portraits and architecture—and when you want to add an artistic effect to a dull “record” shot.

Go play on his site here and try out his “recipes” for cool effects. Now I’m thinking I might have to add his “TRA 2—The Revenge” to my arsenal. When I ordered my actions and had a little problem completing the download, Doug was very quick to respond personally. Very nice guy with very nice products!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.






FAVE: Ashley’s DIY slate cheeseboard

30 01 2012

How cute (and inexpensive) is this idea? Click here for directions on how to make it. Thanks for sharing, Ashley (of Sugar & Cloth)!





What are they? Gold-filled?

28 01 2012

I’m not overly fond of Michael’s craft stores in general (they’re only reasonably priced when you use a coupon and they vary their clearance markdowns on the exact same item from store to store, which is so frustrating), but sometimes they’re the most convenient place to shop for craft supplies. I liked them much better when they used to let you use the coupons on books. They changed that policy several years ago, unfortunately. My preference is Hobby Lobby, but the closest one to me is an hour away (and they let you use their coupons on anything as long as it’s not already on sale, including those overpriced crafting magazines).

While we’re on the subject of prices—look at the regular price and the clearance price on these glass beads. Save a whole $1.50 on these gems today! (Photo shot with Michael’s iPhone)





Re-post: Rhymes with orange

19 01 2012

Originally posted January 30, 2009

For several months now I’ve been trying to catalog my images better, bit by bit (there are thousands and thousands of photos). While organizing my garden photos folder I noticed that I have a plethora of orange-hued flowers so I put together this collage of all things orange-ish to brighten your winter day.

Tangerine. Coral. Day-glow orange. Push-up popsicle orange. Sunset. Pumpkin. 70s shag carpet orange (I did window display at a department store while in college and there was multi-shaded orange shag carpet in each window. Do you know how hard it is to design around that color scheme? I covered it up every chance I got—with a decorating budget of zilch, unfortunately. I asked for $5 once for a huge set of markers and my boss freaked out).

Orange peel. Safety orange. Salmon (did you know that the “l” in salmon is silent? The correct pronunciation is “sam-uhn.” Don’t believe me? Click here).

Frou-frou-big-bowed-bridesmaid-dress-apricot (yes, I had to wear one once upon a time).

Carrot. Persimmon. Vermilion. Orange-red. Rusty can orange. Burnt orange. Tomato. Panama Brown orange (the color Dad insists his old diesel VW Rabbit was—sorry, Dad, it was orange).

After a week of designing at the computer in a cold basement, pausing only to look out at winter gray skies (save for that remarkable sunset on Wednesday), I needed a jolt of color to inspire me. What better color than orange?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

rhymeswithorange





Saturday night beading marathon

9 01 2012

My sister Debbie hosted an all-night beading party this weekend. All but one beader stayed past midnight to help usher in Debbie’s birthday on Sunday morning. We started at 5:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon and disbanded after 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning! I made all of these earrings, plus a few more pairs as well as started a crochet silk thread and bead necklace (still unfinished because I got distracted by making all these earrings!).

You must forgive the rudimentary lighting on these pieces—they were lit with what I had available: a torchiere lamp, the dining table overhead lamp and a small flashlight. I also only brought over my little Nikon Coolpix L110 and set it on macro mode (with very good results). Debbie’s friend, Karen, served as my trusty photo assistant and was the lucky recipient of all the pieces below except the square green earrings. I made them specifically for her partly because she said she didn’t think she would look good with “dangly” earrings (she does) and partly because she re-sorted an entire box of my beads that I turned over onto the tile floor (no, not intentionally), scattering tiny baubles to the four corners of the room. How could I not reward her after that fiasco? After she said that she thought dangling earrings made her look like a “lady of the evening,” I asked her if dangling earrings were the only thing that she thought would separate her from being either a working mom or a working girl. I looked under the table to see her wearing low-heel preppy moccasins, and told her she didn’t have appropriate shoes for the latter profession, so it was safe for her to wear the earrings. We got several miles of laughs out of the dangling earrings–working girl scenario.

We didn’t have the lighting down pat for the top two earrings (shadows are way too prominent), but figured it out after that. Fun was had by all but I must confess that I barely made a dent in my bead stash. Beaders Anonymous, anyone?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Curse words from the craft room

20 12 2011

Last night I crafted these for my friend Judy to give as gifts to relatives this Christmas. She picked out the styles and together we figured out how to do them without instructions (eek!). I know how to make some projects, but this was my first attempt at making “cluster” beaded earrings. I just know you’ll love the first pair and if even one of you ask me to make a pair for you, I will gather my beads and head for the hills. Before I run, I will unfriend you on Facebook, screen your phone calls and block you from e-mail. You know I will.

In that first pair of earrings, each of those little beads has to be mounted on a headpin and a loop created to attach to a very, very tiny chain. When you attach them, they will fall off at least three times per bead. You will drop them on the floor, not find any of them (and pray that your cat doesn’t hoover them up), then have to start over with a new headpin, bead and loop. And when that happens often enough, you will utter words that will make a sailor blush. The process will take up more than two hours of your life. Just one pair of earrings. Two hours. (I tried to entice her with simple designs by promising to make her 20 pairs of them—she wouldn’t bite. And really, I could probably make 50 pairs of simple earrings in two hours!)

When you finish making this pair for your friend, and she says “Only two pairs to go,” you will tell her, with nary a blink from your weary eyes, that she will pick another style or suffer the consequences. And so she does, and in the process, you learn how to do two other styles that are not quite as torturous to your eyes, hands or psyche. Then you will fall asleep at 1:00 a.m. and pray that those teenagers appreciate that more than five hours went into creating these beauties, and that their aunt did not buy them at Claire’s Boutique in the mall. Even though you picked out the most complicated designs ever, I still love you, Judy.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Re-post: Just how many hats does one girl need?

6 12 2011

One of the blogs I subscribe to is The Jackie Blog. This morning I received a post from her titled, “Enraged Knitting for Beginners,” which I thought was funny and it reminded me of my experience with trying to read crochet instructions. My friend Nanda tried to teach me knitting a few years ago. I got the hang of it (if only briefly) and made what amounts to a not-so-absorbent coaster (I was aiming for a scarf, actually). Crocheting seems so much more productive and efficient to me. Knitting seems like 800 steps to gain a couple of inches. Maybe it’s just me.

Remind me to show you a photo of the technicolor eye sleep mask I crocheted for Michael on a flight back home from visiting my family a few years ago. Just 20 minutes after he said, “man, I wish I had one of those eye thingies so I could go to sleep,” I completed my version of a sleep mask for him. He did not hesitate to put it on and promptly drift off to sleep. This was particularly funny to me because it looked like a coat-of-many-colors-pre-teen training bra over his eyes. To create it, I crocheted two 3-inch circles and connected them in the middle with a one inch chain. I crocheted two long chains and attached them to the side of each disk so he could tie it around his head. (I had to tear the yarn to make each component since you can’t bring scissors on board.) I really didn’t think he would actually wear it, but he apparently has no shame. What a (sleepy) trouper he was (is)!

Below is a re-post of my crocheted hat obsession from September 2007. Now that winter has arrived and the garden is tucked in for the season, the yarn and crochet needle should be making an appearance soon.

Just how many hats does one girl need?

24 hats and counting, apparently—then add a few questionable scarves to the equation. Many years ago, in my formative teenage years, my mother taught me how to do a chain stitch, as well as single and double crochet stitches. That was the extent of my crochet education. (My younger sister, Kelley, never advanced beyond the chain stitch, but I must admit that she can make a really, really long chain stitch!) Sidebar: My Grandma Hester taught me how to use the same stitches to cover aluminum bottle caps. When we got a pile completed, she hooked them together and made dandy little trivets—now available for just 25 cents each at a yard sale near you.

So every few years, tempted by the yarn aisle at a craft store (honestly, what aisle does not tempt me?), I would buy a skein (or two or three) and attempt to make something wearable. I recall almost finishing a project (or two or three), but mostly I remember lots of half-finished unidentifiable yarn projects in a plastic bag in my closet. Fast forward to Christmas about four years ago—we were visiting my family in San Antonio, and on the drive up to see my younger sister in Dallas, I decided that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” and bought some yarn and needles. I have to do something when I’m in a car for six hours—if I’m not driving, that is. Picking up crocheting again seemed logical. I could arrive in Dallas and still be social, creative, and productive—with something tangible to show at my destination.

I decided I would attempt to make yet another (likely-never-to-be-finished) scarf. With my crochet skills a little rusty, the yarn began to curl and I couldn’t keep it straight. My mom (a.k.a. my crochet guru) said, “well, if it’s curling—make a hat!” Hmmmm…how does one make a hat? I started a chain stitch, then a single crochet, and let it weave into a circle until it began to resemble a yarmulke—since I’m not Jewish, I continued crocheting past that stage. I asked her, “How do you make it go down to form the sides of a hat—do you go tighter or looser?” Since she replied, “Yes” (a non-answer), I asked her if she had ever actually crocheted anything. That’s when I learned that although she knew chain, single, and double stitches, she had never made anything! All these years I had just assumed that the afghans, ponchos, pom-pon hats, placemats, and tissue holder covers on the couches, backs, heads, tables and toilets of friends and relatives across the country were all lovingly crafted by my mother (all of which are now available for just 25 cents each at a yard sale near you).

I just began to wing it, and I stopped at the precise moment it resembled a hat (see photo, second row, 2nd hat from left——this is my first hat). I did this without any instructions, unless you count my mother’s advice. Mom wasn’t much help past the yarmulke stage, and reading crochet pattern instructions would make my brain hurt.

Never seen a crochet pattern? Here’s just a sampling of the (it’s Greek to me) language of crochet: to shape crown: Ch 1. Rnd 1: Work 7 sc in first loop to form ring. Rnd 2: Work 2 sc in each st. 14 sts now in rnd. Rnd 3: Work [1 sc in next st, 2 sc in foll st] to end of rnd. 21 sts now in rnd. Rnd 4: Work [1 sc in next 6 sts, 2 sc in foll st] to end of rnd. 24 sts now in rnd, etc.

Now, I’m smart enough to know what the abbreviations mean, but if I have to keep reading something in order to make it (sort of like having to read an entire software manual—who really enjoys that?), it kind of zaps the joy out of creating for me.

So, I confess that I am crochet-pattern-challenged, and must do it by sight, trial, and error. If my goal is a hat, I crochet until it resembles a hat and then I stop—ditto with scarves. Something must be working with my rather crude system because here I am—24 hats and 7 scarves later. I can make a hat in about an hour and a half (pretty quick results to satisfy a creative streak). It started out with simple hats made from one kind of yarn and has evolved (as you can see in the photo) into fuzzy trim and appliqued flowers. I cannot make a simple hat—it has to be embellished now. You’ll notice several of the hats are plain—this was practice until I had the shape down pat. Then I got brazen and started adding fuzzy borders, balls, bric-a-brac, and brims.

I crochet on road trips and instead of telling someone how many miles it is from here to there, I tell them, “That’s about a 3-hat trip for me!” Making hats (too many) is something to do during winter when I can’t putter around in the garden. Some I make as gifts, but most I hoard for myself.

And for an amusing take by another blogger on what not to crochet, go to the site below. Also look at “Top Posts” on the right and see some other funny crocheted items; the “Thongs” posting is funny, particularly the responses from readers.

http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/2006/05/28/tissue-box-covers/

http://whatnottocrochet.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/thongs/

.24-hatsscarf2.jpg





Leaf casting

4 08 2011

Updated 8.04.2011. Originally posted July 2008. This is one of my top visited posts of all time with 10,259 visits on this blog and 1,272 on my gardening-only blog!

My friend Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. We have used Portland cement type 1 for our earlier creations, but then started making them with Quikrete instead. Several artists recommend using vinyl patch instead because it’s stronger, lighter in weight and picks up more detail from the leaf texture and veining. It’s also more resistant to flaking and cracking associated with traditional cement mixtures. The next batch I make will be with the vinyl patch product!

This site here has step-by-step instructions (plus a youtube video). The steps are the same no matter which product you’re using.

Click here for Craig Cramer’s blog posting, “The Secret to Great Leaf Casts.” He recommends using Quikrete. Click here for another site with an extensive gallery for inspiration. David, the artist, recommends waiting 30 days before painting your creations. (I’ve never waited that long—don’t know if I would have the patience!) He mixes Quikrete with his concrete mixture, but I’m not sure what the ratio is. At the very least, his photo gallery will endlessly inspire you!

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger the leaf is, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis  suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach with hosta leaves here. They have created some really beautiful (and large!) ones using Gunnera leaves, which grow well in the Pacific Northwest.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only. Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my Pearl Ex pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth (and end up using our fingers) to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. We find it best to paint the leaf with black acrylic craft paint in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color when they are applied.

The metallic pigments are stunning and you can get a variegated look using various colors! If you try this style, you’ll need to seal the front of your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. I seal the front of the leaves with Krylon’s Make It Last!® Sealer, which has a satin finish and dries (for handling) within two hours.

Don’t expect the colors to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. Remember to seal after every repainting. Even if you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

If you want a solid colored metallic leaf, you can use inexpensive acrylic craft paint instead of the powdered pigments. First, paint the front and back of the leaf solid black (the leaf is porous so it will soak in the black) and then paint the entire front with your colored metallic acrylic paint. After everything is thoroughly dry, seal the front of the leaf with the Krylon Sealer.

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

Whichever method you decide to try (Portland cement type 1, Quikrete, Quikrete + vinyl patch, vinyl patch only), I’d love to see your results and will share them on this blog!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms

2 07 2011

Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms was one of the exhibitors at the annual Hearing Loss Association of America Convention, held last month in nearby Crystal City, Virginia.

HAYLEIGH’S ROCKY START
Before Hayleigh Scott was born, a sonogram revealed that she had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which displaced her organs. Her parents, Rachel and Andrew, were given options to terminate one baby, in-utero surgery, or to just “watch and wait.” They opted for the latter, with much prayer and support from family and friends. Her twin, Vienna, was healthy at birth; Hayleigh was not. She was in the ICU for two and half months and had to be quarantined for the first two years of her life. They noticed her hearing loss when she was 18 months old. She was diagnosed with severe-to-profound hearing loss and has been wearing hearing aids (and decorating them!) ever since.

AN ENTREPRENEUR IS BORN
When Hayleigh was five, she decided she wanted to show off her hearing aids with some “bling.” She started drawing sketches with her sisters and a few years later, their mom helped them make the designs into jewelry. With the help of her mother, father, twin sister Vienna and younger sister Sarah, Hayleigh turned this kitchen table venture into a full-fledged business, Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms. She encourages her customers to celebrate their uniqueness by embellishing their hearing aids and cochlear implants and not trying to hide them.

She and her two sisters make all the jewelry, which includes more than 50 hearing aid charms (see sample at left). They also create cochlear implant bling, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Their newest creations are colorful and fun Tube Twists (shown at right) and Snake Tube Twists. And they’re not just for girly girls (and big girls)—they create charms for boys and tomboys, too! The charms are reasonably priced—from $10 to $25—and shipping on all orders is free in the U.S. and international shipping is just $5. Hayleigh is committed to giving back to the community she serves—ten percent of all proceeds are donated to furthering hearing research and education of the hard of hearing and deaf community.

A PASSION FOR BUSINESS
Her parents then applied for a provisional patent for her invention. A three-year process, this meant she couldn’t wear the charms, promote them or advertise them during that time. Now that’s what I call an extremely patient entrepreneur. Hayleigh and her sisters are so engaging and lively, and their enthusiasm for their products and their business is contagious! As a self-employed person for more than 20 years, I can relate to their joy and enthusiasm for their passion. Their booth was always busy and Vienna later told me that they did really well in their first time as exhibitors at an HLAA Convention.

Audiologist Douglas Beck conducted an interview last year with Hayleigh and her mother about Hayleigh’s hearing loss and her blossoming business for The American Academy of Audiology website. From that interview, I learned that Hayleigh and Vienna are “mirror twins.” I wasn’t familiar with that term until now. It means they have opposite identical features, like left versus right handedness and their hair parts on opposite sides. Read that interview transcript here. Author Maureen Doty Tomasula wrote about Hayleigh in her article, Sharing Her Special Charm, published in The Hearing Journal in September 2009.

SHARING A COMMON BOND
Hayleigh may not know this, but she shares an honor that I was privileged to receive a few years ago. She is the first place winner in the Student Category of the 2010 Oticon Focus on People Award. Congratulations, Hayleigh! I received first place in the Adult Category in 2008. Hearing Loss Magazine editor Barbara Kelley secretly nominated me for the award. Oticon flew all the winners and a guest to Denver for the ceremony, and I wrote about that amazing experience (thanks again, Barbara!) on my blog here.

To continue in the “six degrees of separation” vein, I met my friend and HLAA member Lynn Rousseau while in Denver at the Oticon Awards event. She was a first place award recipient in the Advocacy Category. We became fast friends and her life story was so interesting that I suggested to Barbara that we profile her in Hearing Loss Magazine. She made her cover feature debut in the May/June 2011 issue, which I wrote about here.

I photographed the entire Scott family (including Hayleigh’s adorable cherub of a brother, AJ) at the end of the Convention. Look for Hayleigh and her family in a future issue of Hearing Loss Magazine!

All photos (except product photos) © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Re-post: Concrete leaf casting

7 05 2011

Originally posted July 2008. This is one of my top visited posts of all time with 8,717 visits to date!

Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. There are many sites that show how to make them. This one has step by step instructions with photos.

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger they are, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis (http://www.littleandlewis.com/) suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach by going to www.marthastewart.com . Do a search for “concrete leaf casting” to find the segment where Little & Lewis discuss leaf casting and list supplies.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only.

Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore Craft Store. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. It is necessary to paint the leaf black (or a dark brown) in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color.

If you try this style, you’ll need to seal your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. The metallic pigments are stunning! Don’t expect them to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. If you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

Here’s another posting I found that lists supplies, steps, and shows leaves painted with acrylic or latex paint.

http://www.garden.org/regional/report/arch/inmygarden/2527

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of cement/quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

UPDATE: Thanks to Kim, a fellow garden blogger, for this link to Craig Cramer’s blog, “Ellis Hollow.” Check out his advicehere.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Craft Room: More wire & bead necklaces

6 05 2011

Must. put. down. the. crochet. hook. now.

Four more bead and wire creations to share…fortunately, they don’t take long to make (1-1/2 to 2 hours, tops) and they make great gifts. I made the blue one and the pink ones as gifts for my mother-in-law, Sybil. The red and orange tribal concoction is for my friend Gina and the green one was a present for my friend Karen (this past Saturday was her birthday). I really enjoy making them, though, because I love playing with color and texture when planning each piece, plus I’m refining the process as I go along. My friend Paula and I took a day-long workshop at the Gem Cutters Guild of Baltimore last weekend and we learned how to make findings, clasps and a host of other silver wire projects (we made a ring, earrings and a bracelet). I’ll share those projects in a later posting.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





More Austin graffiti

6 04 2011

Graffiti on the “permission wall” and an artist in action (the blue building with the mad bulldog is a nearby bar)

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.






Graffiti in Austin

5 04 2011

My friend Sonya took me on a tour of the graffiti walls (some are called “permission” walls, some aren’t) in Austin. This is a shot of one section of a warehouse that we believe is one of the “permission walls” on the south side of town. Permission walls are meant to encourage artistic expression and (hopefully) deter graffiti in other areas. Wonder if it has cut down on graffiti on private property or “non-permission” walls? I’ll post more images from our graffiti shoot, including one of an artist in action (we asked his permission to photograph him), armed with a huge box of spray paint cans in the back of his SUV.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.






Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

11 07 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, discusses the creative process and how to nurture it. For more inspirational talks, head over to TED.