Avoid Getting Eaten by Lions

ImageI was driving around by myself in South Africa’s Kruger park, taking photographs of the wildlife when I came across two lions. I rolled down my window and started taking photos with my SLR. Since an SLR requires you to hold the camera to your eye and look through the viewfinder, I couldn’t see the lions directly, only through the lens. The lions were about 300 feet away from me when I first saw them, so I zoomed in to the max to get a good closeup. I began tracking one of them as he moved, and I’d zoom out as he got a bit closer. After a few minutes, I realized I was zooming out a lot and the lion must be quite close to me. I pulled the camera away from my face and found myself about 10 feet away from the lion, including the space taken up by my passenger seat. My passenger window was rolled down, so there was nothing between me and the lion except air. “Did I look like lion food?”, I wondered. I knew that if the lion was planning to attack me, he could jump ten feet much quicker than the speed at which I’d be able to reach across to my passenger seat and roll up my window. There was nothing to keep me from being lion food, other than the lion’s lack of hunger or disinterest. I decided that panic would do nothing for me, so I might as well keep taking great closeups even if I was about to die.

The lion got closer and closer, and then the most marvelous thing happened. He came inches away from my passenger door, and then suddenly plopped himself on the grass and proceeded to take a nap! He lay there purring like a kitten and he looked so sweet that I was tempted to reach my arm out and pet him. I’ve touched lions before, in wildlife sanctuaries. Those lions are still wild, but they’re well fed and not likely to attack you if you don’t upset them, but this lion was the king of his jungle and I was just potential lion food. But there he was, so calm, and I really wanted to touch him. He wasn’t even hungry!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI was prevented from following my desire by a little factoid in the back of my head. “Lions are cats.” Maybe he wouldn’t eat me, but if I dangled my skinny arm like a piece of string in front of the giant sleeping kitty, and he happened to wake up, he’d probably swat at the string the way kittens swat at yarn. So though it would be awesome, having the big cat swat at me out of curiosity might mean the loss of my arm, which I need for driving, holding a spoon, and stuff like that. So I watched him a good while, and decided to keep my arm for another day. Not to mention the rest of me, which I’m quite fond of. But next time I get a chance, I’m going to pet another lion. They feel just like stiff carpets! And if I’m lucky, I won’t get eaten then either.

The Answer to “Too Much Jewelry”

family heirlooms1The other day a woman said the oddest thing to me… she said she had “too much jewelry”, so she couldn’t possibly buy another piece. Many a woman would argue that there’s no such a thing, but if you truly believe you are in this predicament, I have the answer for you, so please read on.

In my travels around the world, I’ve acquired many pieces of jewelry that are beautiful and interesting, but end up not getting much use because I simply forget to rotate my pieces. I wear my favorites the same way we all end up in our favorite old jeans or shoes, when we have a closet full of other things to wear. As I look through my exotic collection, I feel so fortunate to have visited so many places that others in my family might never see and I wish I could share my experiences. And then I realize, I can share them. All I have to do is… GIVE IT AWAY! Open up that box of treasures, pull out a few favorites (or a dozen favorites, since I have tons of family), and lovingly choose which piece goes to who. After all, I know my sisters and nieces enough to know their favorite colors. And I even know who saw these pieces on an occasion when I wore them and heard her sigh “Oh that’s so pretty”.

In a sermon I heard long ago, the preacher remarked that the three kings from the east had opened up their personal treasure boxes and given things that cost them dearly to the Christ child. They hadn’t gone to Walmart or even Bloomingdales. They didn’t go to the mall to shop. They had given something personal, something that they had originally intended for themselves. That story stuck with me, and one Christmas when I was low on funds, I decided to open up my treasures and gave them away. My mom, sisters and nieces were delighted and I even had some non-jewelry treasures for brothers and nephews (I don’t have children). Since then, I have kept up the tradition of giving away what I love instead of shopping for generic items at the mall (OK, I do buy my maglites at the mall, but they’re fantastic tools that my relatives of both genders love). And now, I can keep buying wonderful new things in exotic lands without ever having the problem of having “too much jewelry”.

Helping One Woman… at a time

ImageI have a passion for connecting and for helping others. Today I had the great fortune to do both. I met a woman at a lunch networking event, who mentioned that she was going to another event that evening, and that the purpose of that group was to help women. That’s all I knew about H.O.W. in that moment, because the woman left before I got the chance to talk to her. I had the name of a restaurant, and a time. I ran with it.

The organizers of the dinner were confused by me because I was carrying my jewelry box under my arm (I hate to leave shiny things in my car), and I was very confused by them, but after clearing up the fact that I wasn’t there to sell, or to eat dinner (because I’d already eaten), I stayed. The purpose of the group, I learned shortly afterwards, is to make a difference in the life of a woman that has suffered a great loss or tragedy. The means to help these women is very simple; a monthly dinner in which all attendees donate to a fund, which is then given to the chosen recipient. The recipients are chosen by drawing, from nomination slips filled out the previous month by those attendees. The recipient this month was a woman named Gail. Her husband had suffered a heart attack, that led to surgeries that resulted in brain damage. It was truly touching.

Aside from my wallet, I opened my treasure box. People with big problems need beauty in their lives, so I decided to give some away. Gail has a lovely daughter about to graduate from high school, who I could tell even at a distance, was a big fan of all things blue. So I dug into my stash of bracelets and found a couple blue ones to choose from. The happy smile on her face and the big hug she gave me were worth more than what I would have received in money. And to top it off, I met a fabulous woman named Cassandra, who has just moved to town and will hopefully become a real friend.

I highly encourage you to join your local chapter, or start one, or make a donation to the organization, regardless of your gender. We may not be able to help everyone, but we can indeed help one woman at a time.

Please visit their site at: http://www.helpingonewoman.org/


I’ve been a 9-5er for most of my life, pursuing my artistic passions on the side. The value of a paycheck can’t actually be measured in money, funny that! Conversely, the key to not losing your soul while “working for the man” is to keep your values. Don’t become so obsessed with dollars that you forget to stop and smell the roses (travel, go to concerts, take a painting class, etc.) Most of the people that surrounded me during my years in the tech industry spent their life sitting behind a desk and cashing in their vacations instead of taking them. Now many of those people are sad because the big house they bought is underwater. But my year living in Africa, no one can take that away from me. And if I’d been a starving artist all my life, I wouldn’t have that year to look back on. I am rich in experience, and it was getting a job that gave me the ability to afford the experience. So yeah, get a job!

Fire and Air

A stable one. 9-to-5. With health insurance and a 401k. GET IT NOW.

Stop angsting over whether your Art or your Muse will survive Selling Out. Stop saying that your delicate artistic expressiveness can’t cope with an office job. Stop being allergic to money and then wondering why you can’t make rent and your lights are always being turned off.

Please understand that I’m not angry, and I’m not yelling. I’m Italian, and it’s how we talk when we get passionate. We get loud, and we curse, and it’s okay.

You can’t hack a “soul-killing” office job? You know what’s soul-killing? Having to sell your instrument or live out of your car. Believe me, the logic that office jobs and Working For The Man ruin one’s artistic creativity is a fiction created by idiotic trust fund kids with big ol’ safety nets beneath them, or people with rich spouses who…

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Thank Heaven for Little Girls, Who Love Art

ImageMy cousin Hector has been making Stained Glass art (Tiffany lamps, jewelry boxes, mirrors, stained glass windows, etc.) for decades. He created this recently, out of art glass. It was purchased at an art fair by a little girl, who will undoubtedly treasure it for the rest of her life. Fortunately for the little girl, her grandmother loves art and didn’t think $150 was too much for a jewelry box for a 9 year old.

10 Great Ways to Get Noticed as a Blogger

Many crafters are trying their hand at blogging, but most don’t know where to start. After all, artsy people are often “head in the clouds” types, instead of practical “tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, tell ’em, tell ’em what you told ’em” practical writers. We hope this will give you all some ideas of how to improve your blog and reach a wider audience.

A Plier Primer

Bent nose pliers

Bent nose pliers

New to beading? Confused by pliers and the fact that each beading book refers to them differently? Here’s a list of the most essential pliers and tools needed, and information on how to use them. See the gallery below for tool pictures.

Essential Pliers

  • Flat nose pliers are flat, with squared ends. You can use them to open jump rings and attach your findings. Since the edges are square, you can also use them to bend wire at right angles.
  • Chain nose pliers have tapered tips, which let you squeeze into tight places, like in between chain links (I’m guessing that’s why they’re called chain nose). Note that chain nose pliers are not the same thing as Needle nose pliers. The latter have longer jaws. Needle nose pliers are used by electricians and other people needing to reach spots that are obstructed by something in front of them. I haven’t seen a jeweler use them, so don’t worry about buying a pair.
  • Round nose pliers, also called Rosary pliers, have cone shaped jaws. These pliers are used to wrap wire in circles, coils or for bending wire in rounded angles (as opposed to a 90 degree angle). You’ll need to do this to make the loops that will attach pins onto a chain, or when you become more advanced and want to connect one piece of wire to another, or when you want to make swirls or clasps. The tips are very small, and can be used to make tiny loops, but generally, you’ll be placing the wire somewhere near the middle. Try to loop your wire in the same place so that your P-loops are of a consistent size.
  • Flex wire cutters – These are side cutters for thin gauge flex wire). If you bought your side cutters as part of a kit, they will be appropriate for thin gauge (flex wire) or medium gauge wire. Flex wire is nylon coated wire, which is about the same thickness as fishing wire. It is most commonly used for making illusion style necklaces. The light lime green pliers with black tips, seen in the gallery, are thin gauge cutters. Do not use these pliers for cutting anything other than flex wire or you will damage them. They are not strong enough for cutting medium gauge wire.
  • Side cutters (also called straight cutters, and sometimes mistakenly called flush cutters, see below for the difference) -This is the other wire cutter that is frequently included in a kit. These cutters are for cutting thicker wire such as 20 gauge wire that is frequently used for wire wrapping. The lilac pliers with the stainless steel tips are for medium gauge wire. If you are cutting wire that is heavier than 20 gauge, the pliers that come in kits are probably not strong enough. I’d suggest going to a hardware store or the gardening section of the department store for heavy gauge cutters. You should have at least two side cutters, one for flex wire and one for wire up to 20 gauge. **Note that neither of these pliers should be used to cut memory wire, which is made from stainless steel. Cutting memory wire with regular pliers will break your pliers, so only use memory wire cutters for cutting it.
  • Crimping pliers are used to squeeze metal crimp beads onto cords or nylon coated wire when making “illusion” style necklaces. If you squeeze crimp beads with chain nose pliers, they won’t maintain their rounded look and might slip out of your grasp or even break. These pliers are a bit costly, but totally worth it.
  • Bent nose pliers generally don’t come with most kits, but they are incredibly useful since they make it easy to see your work because the bent tip means your hand is out of the way. They are also more comfortable for turning your wire (rotating whatever is held between the jaws) during wire wrapping.
  • Flush cutters let you cut wire very closely at a 90 degree angle. This is useful when you want to cut wire close to a loop during wire wrapping.
  • Nylon Jaw Pliers have smooth nylon tips on top of stainless steel jaws. You can use them to make smooth bends in your wire, for claps or other decorative wire wrapping work. You can also use them to straighten wire, but the nylon is not very tough, so don’t pull the wire taught or it will cut grooves in the nylon tips.

Non-Plier Necessities

  • Calipers are needed to measure your beads and often come with plier kits.
  • Tweezers are useful for picking up or placing small beads. Tool kits often come with tweezers that have a bead scoop on the other end.
  • Files are essential for getting rid of the sharp bits of cut wire. They come in many different types. You’ll usually need 2-3 to smooth out the sharp spots.
  • Bead reamers are like a file, but used to sand the inside of beads. This makes the hole in the bead bigger so that thicker cord or wire can go through it. Be careful when using a reamer with glass beads or pearls. It can cause them to break.
  • Tool Box or Bag – You’ve got to keep your tools somewhere right? A small box or bag is great because it provides protection, organization and lets you grab-and-go for those times when you want to take your tools to a class or work with other crafters. I keep a 2nd set of tools in my car so that I can always make adjustments for my clients on the go.

Etc., Etc., Etc.

This list does not contain all of the pliers you’ll ever want or need. There are several others that are very useful (like Split ring pliers), which I haven’t included. I will write a separate article on those as time permits. In the meantime, these will get you started on your beginner beading and wire work.

Happy Crafting!

Wire Wrapped Czech Buttons

wire wrapped buttonI’m teaching wire-wrapping to a local artist (yes, I’m aware it means more competition!), and today she brought me some Czech buttons that she wants to incorporate into her jewelry. I wrapped this piece for her from a single, uncut length of brass wire. Because the button already had a flower-like design, I decided to follow the lines of the leaves/feathers.

The brass wire she brought me was considerably harder than the silver and copper wire I usually use for wrapping. I actually hurt my thumb from pulling the wire with it. Since I avoided cutting the wire, the wrapping was a little harder when wrapping the sides, top and bottom, but having the length needed for following the lines and making my swirls was easier. It also helped to reinforce the back of the button and keep it in place.

I was happy with my results. It reminds me of old jewelry worn by the Czar. I’d say it was a productive day. And since I did all the wrapping (my student insisted on waiting to do her wrapping at home), I’m no sure how much she learned, so maybe I won’t have too much competition after all! 😀