Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Beading on the job

Once in a while I print art or sewing-related stuff on my office computer (shhh!), but otherwise, I don't mix the kinds of work (paid and unpaid) I do.* Today I had to attend a conference-type event at a big hotel in the way far-west suburbs. I dreaded driving to the hotel and sitting through the sessions [long story--I'm usually okay with this stuff], until I decided to pack something to do with my hands while I was there. I told myself that I probably wouldn't even take the stuff out of my backpack, but ten minutes into the first session, I whipped out the Zip-loc back with my bead embroidery, and I happily, happily worked on a beaded button cover. Somebody else at the meeting was knitting, so I didn't feel bad at all. (Actually, I still felt pretty guilty, but my whole being so resisted sitting there at all that the trade-off [looking inattentive versus running out of the room screaming] seemed worthwhile.)

(Okay, this is a goofy thing to say. I wear the clothes I've sewn to work almost every day, and I cartoon in any meeting where I don't have to talk or make sense, so I'm constantly mixing the two. But I don't sew in my office.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Beading Boy

My mother is visiting us from Olympia, Washington--near Shipwreck Beads, the hugest and most intimidating bead store I've ever seen. Mom loves beads but doesn't like Shipwreck (neither do I, but not because of the size), so whenever she comes to Oak Park, we go to our neighborhood bead store, Bead in Hand. This time I dragged her and Elliot to the new, much fancier bead store in the next town over, just to see what it was like. I felt guilty going there, because I'm worried that they'll put Bead in Hand out of business; I promised myself that I'd just look there and then buy what I wanted at Bead in Hand. As it turned out, the new place was no great shakes, and the prices were considerably higher than at "our" store. I did pick up some French coil, something I hadn't seen at Bead in Hand, and some paper that would work for origami.

As we were shopping at the new store, Elliot kept asking whether we could go directly to Bead in Hand when we were done at the new place, something I hadn't planned on doing. I finally got him to tell me why he was so eager: he wanted to make himself a necklace.

Now, Elliot is a magpie of the first order: he has been buying beads since he was about four, and he's almost always reluctant to make anything with them (though he has made some lovely things for me over the years). He mostly likes looking at beads, touching beads, and imagining what he could do with them--but then not doing what he imagines. He also pores over the Shipwreck catalog the way I used to memorize the Penney's Christmas catalog. It's a little obsessive. I was surprised, then, to hear that he wanted to make something for himself to wear. Turns out his schoolfriend Luke, who is a couple of years older than Elliot and the athletic hero of the kids at their Montessori school, has been wearing a choker with greyish beads and lots of little skulls.

Curious to see what Elliot would put together, I told him he could spend $3. A minute into the shopping process, I saw that he wouldn't be able to buy much for that, so I upped his limit to $5. He was able to get just two little skulls (but they were really cool) and a bunch of miscellaneous bone and glass beads. He wanted to get letters spelling out "El Loco," but he didn't have enough money. I picked up 50 mauve pearls to string together with the French coil, and we headed home.

The next day, it became clear that Elliot didn't have nearly enough beads to make his necklace (is his neck bigger than either of us realized? He is growing so fast....). I also realized that I would never be able to work on my own project if I didn't buy a lot of plastic beads with holes big enough for Astrid's blunt needle. She was driving me crazy because the beads she had were too small. (I was not going to make the mistake I'd made early last summer, when I gave her a smaller, sharper needle. If I was sitting right next to her, what trouble could she get into? This was my brilliant question to myself right before she pierced the skin between her thumb and index finger. "And the award for Mother of the Year goes to....")

So we headed back to Bead in Hand for $5 worth of plastic pony beads for Astrid, another $4 of ponies and colored letter cubes for Elliot, and some sterling clamshells and S-hooks for the necklaces I was working on. We got home and beaded happily for about 90 minutes, long enough for Elliot to finish his necklace (which he's been wearing nonstop) and for me to complete two necklaces with hardware for opening and closing (a first for me, as I always make things that are stretchy and go over the wearer's head.)

I felt a little surprised that Elliot wanted a necklace, but when I thought about his friends (all of whom are between 7-11 years old), I realized that he's one of the few boys who *hasn't* been wearing a necklace or rings. His best friend, Atzin, wears two or three rings at a time. So I guess it's not the landmark that it feels like. He seems happy, both with his handiwork, and with his "look," so I feel happy, too.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I bought a big box of terracotta-colored Sculpey last month, thinking that I was going to make Elliot a chess set for Christmas. (I don't play chess--I have tried to learn it several times over the years, but I always get bored and frustrated. Elliot loves chess, so my good-will gesture was going to be a themed set for him....I couldn't even get as far as settling on a theme, so I gave up on the idea a couple of weeks ago. Sorry, El.) In the meantime, I have let Elliot and Astrid loose on the terracotta Sculpey, and I have made *way* more buttons out of it than I will ever be able to use.

During my long commute to work last week, I got the idea to recreate (in terracotta Sculpey) the Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde, Colorado, on some kind of glassware.

Before I admit that I know Mesa Verde isn't really terracotta-colored, some history: I grew up in Denver. My family visited Mesa Verde when I was about ten, before I developed a moderate fear of heights--otherwise I never would have been able to climb the ladders up to the Cliff Dwellings. I don't remember what I thought of them at the time; I do remember being very hot and probably car sick from too many hours in our 1968 Chevy Malibu station wagon. Now that I live in Chicago, I have completely romanticized all of those family vacations in Colorado and New Mexico. Hence, my temporary obsession with recreating Mesa Verde on a little glass.

I work across the street from an IKEA store, the source for so, so many cheap and plain things made out of glass. We've already made several sets of Sculpey-draped salt and pepper shakers (some of them are very cool), so I picked up just a couple more sets of those. I got eight votive candle holders and eight little spice jars. I printed up some photos showing Mesa Verde from different angles (just to refresh my memory....that's when I realized that Mesa Verde isn't the color of terracotta).

My finished jar looks so little like Mesa Verde that I know I'll have to explain it to anyone who sees it, but Elliot was enthusiastic, which is usually enough to keep me going. I haven't put it in the oven yet--I'll wait until we have a whole cookiesheet's worth of stuff to cook. When it's done, I'm probably going to fill it with cumin or some other spice that's good in southwestern food. Somebody might get it for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Halloween was a month ago, but I've been trying to think of ways of beginning this blog (feels so momentous), and I've decided that pictures of Elliot's and Astrid's costumes might make an auspicious debut. The name of this blog is "Seis Manos," which means "Six Hands," because so much of the sewing and making I do involves Elliot (age 9) and Astrid (almost 4), too. Elliot gave me lots of ideas for his knight costume, some of which showed how he overestimates my sewing skills (a form of flattery, right?). Astrid just knew how she wanted to look in her Zardo Zap costume (she's a space alien from a Wiggles DVD): shiny, shiny, shiny, and she wanted to wear green eyeshadow. I think her face in this picture shows that she got just what she wanted.