Sunday, June 25, 2017

Lampworking (?!)

It's been a long time, friends. Sometimes the muse escapes us. Sometimes when our surroundings change, the muse does not approve.

Sometimes maybe we just get lazy.

I've been experimenting with lampworking glass beads recently. I drool over them incessantly on Etsy. It's always been on my bucket list to learn now to lampwork. A friend asked me a while ago what was stopping me.

Fair point.

Enter the homemade lampworking set up. Have the hood vent to keep from asphyxiating myself with fumes. I buy individual propane bottles at Home Depot and use an inexpensive Hot Head torch tip. Glass (ohhhhh the glass) from

And I just practiced. 

A lot. Eventually, I started playing around with sculpting and shapes.

Glass flowers

Sculptural owl heads

Boston terrier for the seester

Liddle kiddens

And I spent a bunch of free time on lurking on boards. 

I even got a used Chilipepper kiln on Ebay (which is engineered inside of a red carry-able toolbox and is adorable) to make sure that the glass was properly kiln fired and wouldn't become unstable and shatter in months or years. 

The real fun is when I started feeling confident enough to use them in my own jewelry pieces. 
Not the focal; that's amazonite. But the two big beads above it, those are mine.

Now it's June in So Cal and it's 100 degrees every day. Given that my "studio" is in the garage, working next to a hot torch is practically unbearable.

This gives me more time to use the already kiln fired beads in designs. Right? Of course right.

More designs forthcoming.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I went into my shelter rotation with the firm resolve that I was not going to adopt anything, no matter how cute or little or sweet or flat-faced.  (Pugs and bulldogs are my special weaknesses.)

For the first week, it was easy. I played with the kittens and few dogs that we examined to later spay and neuter, but had no qualms about placing them back into their cages without a second thought.
Then I met Brambleberry.

She was a fully grown white cat with grey splotches over her back and head. When I say white, I mean that her fur was supposed to be white – but it was hard to tell because of all the flea dirt caked on her skin. Her nose and the inside of her ears were not the healthy pink I expected, but a pale cream color that divulged just how many fleas she had been feeding – enough to make her anemic. I could count every vertebrae in her spine, and her gaunt sides nearly touched each other due to the lack of fat in her abdomen. 
When I performed my exam on Brambleberry, she purred. And when I sat for a moment, she leapt into my lap and purred all the louder.

And the little bugger had me hooked.


I fell in love with the flea-bitten, anemic, malnourished old cat, spayed her, and took her home with me the next day. [This part sounds easy, but in between there were two days of fights and begging and tears in order for me to convince my landlord/roommate to allow this new tenant in our apartment.]

The third day after I brought Brambleberry home, I noticed some strange, hairless lesions on the tips of her ears.

“It’s ringworm,” I said, cursing, and brought her to the Dermatology department at the OSU Veterinary Medical Center, where they cultured the lesion and diagnosed her several days later with a rare form of ringworm called Microsporum gypseum. Loaded with anti-fungal shampoo and oral medications, I secretly thanked God that I had adopted Brambleberry before the lesions on her ears had become evident. The shelter has a strict no-tolerance policy for ringworm cases because it is highly contagious and can spread to people as well. Because of this, they euthanize ringworm-positive cats.

Brambleberry’s coat filled out, her ears grew the fur back, she gained several pounds, and all of a sudden she no longer acted like a sedate old cat, but like a wild monster. She woke me in the night with dreadful crashes as she failed leaps up onto shoulder-high shelves on the walls and would playfully wrap herself around my arm, gnaw at my fingers, and bunny-kick my elbow in the attempts to “kill” what I can only assume was a strange sort of rabbit in her hazy cat imagination. 

“This is not an old lap cat!” I complained bitterly to family and friends.  This was a juvenile cat – surely no more than a year and a half. Now that she was free of the fleas and eating well, her energy levels returned to the level of the young cat she actually was. 

One morning, I awoke to find Brambleberry limping on her right hind leg, barely putting any weight on it at all. “She’s luxated her hip,” I thought despairingly, and brought her back to the vet hospital, where x-rays confirmed that she had, indeed, luxated her coxofemoral joint completely out of its socket. 

While she was having tests done, Brambleberry was also diagnosed with a ventral body wall hernia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. 

“You are a lemon,” I told my cat as I loaded her into the only carrier she tolerated, the cardboard top-loading one we had received from the shelter.  With the load of new problems she had, it seemed likely that she had been hit by a car before we met, sustaining trauma to her hip and abdomen which caused an unstable hip joint as well as the hernia. 

In cats, a hip luxation is a problem, as their anatomy does not readily allow the femoral head to slide back into the hip socket. Once it’s popped out of joint, it is mostly likely to stay out of joint. Because of this, a surgical procedure called a femoral head osteotomy is recommended in these cases. This surgery removes the head of the femur and allows the rest of the femur to form a false, fibrous joint with the hip socket that eventually is completely pain-free. While an animal may limp for the rest of its life because one leg is slightly shorter than the other, they are free from the chronic pain that leaving the luxation would cause. Cats especially are great candidates for this procedure, as they are so lightweight that the alteration hardly slows them down at all. 

I now had a choice to make. My new cat had a quartet of medical problems. I am a vet student with enough loans to keep me going for the next thirty years. If I were the vet and my client came to me with this cat, I would agree that returning her to the shelter was a reasonable option. 


When your heart is firmly held between the paws of your own pet, it is not so easy to rush to the reasonable options.

Without hesitation, I chose the surgery that would keep my kitty comfortable. I chose to keep the cat that would certainly be euthanized should I return her to the shelter. I chose with my heart and let my head have a rest. 

Four months later, I have never regretted this decision. Not while Brambleberry is gnawing on my ankles during yoga. Not while she stalks me from across the room, leaps up and swats me on the cheek and runs away. Not while I hold her as she yowls to clip her needle-sharp claws. 

Because sometimes the little monster still jumps up on my lap, purring and kneading with the little white paws. She follows me about the apartment, commenting as we go with little “mrrps” and “brrrrrs.” She tastes my yogurt for me and dashes into the refrigerator every time it is opened in the hopes that canned tuna will magically rain from the sky. She lies on her back, legs flopped to the side, and watches as I cook, study, or clean. 

“You picked the right owner, you lucky bugger,” I tell her. Brambleberry blinks her eyes at me and bats at my hand with a velveted paw.  

Someday, maybe she will be an old, sedate cat. 

Today, she is a monster-kitty. 

That’s okay, too.

PS: It's been over a YEAR since my last post, which coincides nicely with the beginning of clinics last year and the end of my clinical year now. I am graduating next week with my DVM degree and I will be a real live veterinarian!

-DR. Chelsea Stevens

Friday, April 5, 2013

Break Bead Fast

I gave up buying new beads for Lent. It was a rough 40 days. Now that Easter has passed, I am nearly overwhelmed with the knowledge that I CAN HAVE ANYTHING - if I can pay for it.

Now I wonder if I will be overwhelmed with the possibilities presented by so many new beads! I had been drooling over Indonesian glass, bicolor Czech glass, pyrite-encrusted quartz, and some delicious  alien pod-berries by Karen Elmquist. I have now bought them. Anticipaaaaaaation!

I cannot wait for the day that, as a designer, I have a specific image in my head that I am able to accurately recreate in reality. Sometimes I come close. Those are good days.

I am so psyched by this new necklace! A rare example of having the knowledge I needed to make exactly what I wanted.
I made the cloud shape from 16ga copper wire, pounded it for a bit, and then soldered the puffy curls together. I am proud of that. Plus new Happy Mango beads, a pinch of Czech glass, and a colorful range of rainbow amazonite.

The "petrichor" stamping is a subtle Dr. Who shout out, as well as one of the 100 most beautiful words in the list curated by Robert Beard. I've been hanging onto these letter stamps for a while now, hoping to find some beautiful words to stamp - I'm a little jaded by the cookie-cutter word stamps out there ["love" "live" "laugh"], so I had to come up with something really good. Found it! Expect more word stampings shortly.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Writing Stories

To prove that I actually am still alive, I am posting an excerpt from the novel I started in November for National Novel Writer's Month. It's not finished yet - I know most of the important bits, but I still have to fill in the bridges in between.

How do I have time to make jewelry, write, AND study for school?

Heck if I know.

I tossed my friend the pitchfork and went to grab the antiquated shovel. With stellar teamwork, we finished the job before we could finish the rest of the song. Aaron dumped the last wheelbarrow full of manure; I reclaimed the pitchfork and followed him.
            Planting the tines of the instrument in the dirt, I held onto the wooden handle and swung lightly away from it. “I’m going to play with the prince!” I announced in a happy sing-song voice. “He’s having a birthday party and I get to go!”
            Aaron grunted. “I heard about that,” he said, setting the back two wheels down with a bang.
            “There will be honey mead!” I sang. “And sucket candy or even succade! And I will have a new dress to wear and I will go and I will dance and I will eat all of the pastries! And it will be the most wonderful day!”
I stopped.
Aaron was just looking at me, his face solemn. “Are you serious? You really want to go to the Prince’s Picking a Wife Party? To be considered for the part?”
I smiled, flattered that he thought that I was a serious candidate. “Nope. I want to go to the party so that I can make myself sick on ├ęclairs and hob-nob with royalty. If I snag a dance with the prince,” I shrugged, “That’s all gravy.”
“What if you catch his eye, Eleni? What if he decides that he wants you? You’re going into the lion’s den thinking of wine and chocolates with no thought about the fact that there’s a lion in there!”
“He’s a prince, Aaron. A human. He’s not going to eat me.”
Aaron’s lush mouth pulled together in a decidedly attractive pout.  “Do you like him?” he demanded.
A lone butterfly winged into my chest. He’s jealous! I thought. The idea made me smile all the more. “I’m not afraid he’ll eat me up,” I said, grinning a little inanely.
“Maybe you should be.”
“Maybe you should keep me occupied that night, then,” I suggested, letting my grin become provocative and pressing myself towards him.
Gently, Aaron extricated himself from my sudden nearness. “Eleni,” he said, his voice soft, careful.
I felt cold where his body had been touching mine moments before. Cold and rebuffed. I shook my head like a horse bothered by a fly. So he was jealous but he wasn’t going to do anything about it. What was his problem?
“You know the prince is an a—“ he checked himself. Swearing in front of me now would only add to my annoyance. Aaron knew that. “A donkey,” he amended.
“A donkey and a lion, is he?” I scoffed. “So what if he is? I guess I can go dance with a donkeylion for a night, a night of cream puffs and free champagne. Right? ‘Cuz I’m nobody’s girl. Right?”
I was punished for this with a sullen silence.
A flame of anger flared into being within my heart. “Are you going to tell me I can’t go?” My voice was low, the threat there nearly tangible.
“What? Eleni, no. Don’t be stupid. I’m not going to tell you that you can’t do anything, got it? But I will tell you that you shouldn’t go, and you know it.”
Hands balled into fists, I felt my skin sparking with rage. “And you tell me just why I shouldn’t go, Aaron. Why shouldn’t I have a night of no worries, of dancing and drink and happiness? Is it because you don’t want me to be happy without you?”
“It’s because I want you to be happy!” he argued. I saw the muscles in his jaw clench and contract. He was mad, too. Tough.
“Do you?” My voice leapt an octave. “Do you really know what you want? Maybe you should think about that first, Aaron, before you try and help me figure out what will make me happy, alright?”
His eyes shone with some deep emotion that I couldn’t fathom. I saw frustration, and that I knew. I saw it taut along the muscles in his neck, still jumping in his jaw. But there was something else, too, and this something else slowly drained the fight from him until he stood, shoulders bowed. Limp. Defeated. Impotent.
I felt a sneer curl my lip. I knew that it was bad form, but I couldn’t stop myself. “I guess I’ll see you later then,” I dismissed him. “Maybe after the party.”
Silent, he turned and walked away.
I was all geared up for more yelling. I wasn’t expecting Aaron to give up that easily. It took me a couple of hours of violently wrenching weed roots from the ground to work off the rest of my pent up aggression.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Go Ahead - Judge the Cover

Lela: I know, right? I was inspired to take that shot after I got a look at Kathy Van Kleek's stash on one of her blog posts.
Janet: Done and done. You're the best!
Sue: My thoughts exactly. And you feel good about recycling / salvaging, too! The exam went pretty well, in the end. Yay anesthesia! Or, more appropriately, yay anesthesia to be over!

So after picking up those crinkly paper ribbons and flowers at the thrift store last week, I was inspired to do some creative wrapping brainstorming.
I ran around grabbing things I thought might look cool combined with brown kraft cardboard jewelry boxes. This included paper scrapbooking borders, strips torn from an antique dictionary with subtle brown aging on the edges of the pages, dyed paper ribbon, white and ivory ribbons in assorted styles, wooden beads and buttons and lots of brown gardening twine.
I was going for the soft - vintage - ivory - bohemian - rustic vibe.  Also, I thought it might be nice to show at least *somewhere* examples of how I wrap items for shipping. This is, of course, without the bubble wrap. But I gotta say, these little boxes do a lot to cushion fragile items from the Post Office.
Oh, right, and I am immensely proud of those little wooden buttons. The story: I found these cute little bebe log slice coasters at - you guessed it - the thrift store several months ago. There were probably 25 of them glued tightly onto a larger rustic wooden slice as the bottom of the coaster. With some effort, I was able to pry some of the little wooden slices off and then I was a little stymied. They felt too rough to use in a necklace . . . so I sat on them for a while, as I do with so many things. 
 I was browsing on Etsy one day when I found these cute wooden buttons and I thought "Ooh, I love these! They would look so great with my packaging!" Then I thought a few more moments and thought "Heeeeeeeeeeey . . . " And I got out my drill. End. Of. Story.
 I just *love* seeing the creative ways people package their pretties to send to their new homes.
 I also find it really interesting how the way I package items to ship has changed along with my creative style over time. That's why I don't like to specify how items will arrive - in a box, most likely. Wrapped? Of a certain. But with what materials? Can't say for sure. Just let the creative muse do its thing!
 Like it? Love it? Want some more - oh. I mean - have more ideas for me? Want to share your own wrapping ideas?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rock Shop + Thrift Stores

After an exam, I always have the need for shopping therapy. However, as I am a grad student and have virtually no money, I try to stretch my negative dollars by shopping at second hand places and thrift stores. Today seemed to be a "cool stuff to package stuff in" sort of day.

Today I found this unopened box of paper sunflowers from the pottery barn and new rolls of colored paper ribbon. Also, a handful of honkin' huge sea urchin spines.
No, really. Huge. See?
Then I drove to a local rock shop that I found online after reading about the glories of local rock shops. I really shoulda taken pictures. The place was a rock tumbler's dream - full of bins brimming with slabs of rough stone - jasper, quartz, flint, obsidian + mas y mas. The owner was super sweet, too.
I got three slabs of beautiful drusy agate slabs. I'd love to get into cabbing, too. Still - one thing at a time.
They had a bunch of rough specimens, too. It is tough trying to catch the flash of mexican fire opal, but I did my best. Truly delicious.
I'm new to the thrall of opals, but I'm a fan.
What else? Yeah, and a handful of rough North Carolina emeralds. Hardness of 8. Debating if I have the patience to try and drill 'em . . .
Bonus shot: the really yummy stuff I've been organizing. Indian brass, ammonite, African trade beads, artisan lampwork glass, artisan ceramic beads, raw rubies, ocean amber, Roman glass, fossilized bone and belemnite . . . oh yeah.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Putting Holes in Things

I have decided reply to comments in my blog rather than in the comments, since *I* always forget that I have commented and often miss the reply by other bloggers.

Sue- thank you for your solidarity! Maybe we can switch earring pairs and finish the other one's off. ;)
Richelle - I think asymmetry may be the key to staving off insanity - as long as one is properly organized enough to be able to *find* coordinating elements!
Shreen - knitted things are probably even worse, 'cuz I imagine a slipper takes a while longer than an earring to produce.
Monica - welcome to my blog and thank you for the compliment!

Modeling one of my new soldered-ring necklaces with the lovely Shreen.

I have a new toy! One of several that I have been picking up recently. Just wait 'til my new bracelet mandrel comes in.

I have a happy new drill press – er – dremel press. I was inspired to acquire one by the lovely Pipnmolly, as well as the intriguing bone shard fossils I had recently acquired that were practically begging for holes.
9 fossil bone relics of the miocene epoch
I can now put holes in things. Most things. Quartz things are too hard, and by that I mean they take too long and I don’t have the patience for them. Plus my diamond drill bits are just regular hardware store quality and I don’t have supreme faith in them.

Lesson here? Sparkly rocks are not easy to drill. *sad face*
Fossil bone earrings, Long dangly rustic wire wrapped fossilized whale bone shard - Secrets of the Deep
I am nearly vibrating with the excitement of being able to gather tumbled beach stones to drill and use in pieces. I made one trip to the river near my house and found mud, copious amounts of beached algae, large snails, and horrifying quantities of poison ivy. There were no tumbled stones. 

So now I need more things to drill!