Beau Dangles

Handcrafted Jewelry — Designed to be Different


The Unopened Year

The festive season is well under way, filled with celebration and gift-giving. What are you wishing for?

The best gift I receive each year is a box brimming with new days. They don’t come in ribbons and wrapping paper. No gift tag saying Love, Santa. No rush delivery. No last-minute knock on the door. They’re just there.

For me this gift arrives with the Winter Solstice when Old Sol brakes, changes direction and gears up for his climb back north again. Tomorrow, December 22, is the first day of a fresh year. I get to open the best present of all.

No matter what I did with last year — whether I spent it wisely or frittered it away — I get another new one. And for the most part I get to choose how I will use it.

I know this special gift is limited. I know my days will run out. But fear of losing them won’t delay the inevitable — it will simply rob me of the joy of those that remain.

Too often we face the new year as if it is a race. We vow to become a better person. Make more money. Spend “quality” time with family. We often list all the things we didn’t do last year (or didn’t do well enough).

Perhaps one resolution is all we really need. To live each day as though it matters.

Because it does.



The Possibilities of Less

Do you ever long for a bigger stash of beads? More wire? Better tools? Do you dream of all the things you could create if only …  ?

I do.

But something weird happened lately that changed my mind.

My first show of the season was quickly approaching when a dreadful truth hit: I don’t have enough new pieces. 

But that wasn’t the worst part.

I had only a skimpy supply of materials with me: wire, a few pieces of old jewelry, some glass beads, and a couple of Swarovski pearls. A gloomy prospect.

Why, oh why, I whined, hadn’t I brought more stuff? 

Like Mother Hubbard, I gazed at my almost-empty cupboard. Impending doom settled on me.

I needed new work. And I needed it now.

Out came the hammers and pliers and wire cutters. I hammered and texturized. I twisted and bent. I strung beads and coiled wire.

It took awhile, but after several mistakes I got into a creative vibe. Where I’d seen limitations I began to see designs. Lots of them. It was like someone sprinkled magic dust in the air.

By the time I finished I had 10 different pairs of earrings. Amazing. Who’da thunk all those pieces could have come from so little?

Best of all? At the show last weekend those earrings got the most attention — and brought the most sales.

Go figure.  Sometimes less really is more.   🙂

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Hamster Brain

Scientists tell us we have three brains — the lizard brain (lust and anger), the dog brain (love and loyalty) and the human brain (thinking). Overly simplistic but it conveys the basic idea: different parts of the brain handle different functions.

Somewhere along the way those folks in the lab coats missed the hamster brain. If you have one, you know whereof I speak. You start to make a decision and suddenly you can’t. It’s not even a hard decision or one of those things you really should sleep on (or a least take a nap) before you commit yourself.

No, hamster brains make you fumble and stumble around on decisions that a normal 3-brained person would have dealt with last week (or yesterday). Yet here you (and I) are mentally spinning round and round on that wheel like a deranged rodent.

My hamster brain took over this morning. I was trying to describe where I make my jewelry. How hard could that be? Hard, apparently. My hamster brain ran amok.

Studio? No, no, no. Far too pretentious. It sounds like you’re much better than you are. How about work bench? Doesn’t that sound more like you’re repairing cars? Or building cabinets? Okay, what about table? I sometimes bead at a table. Are you using veggies in your work? What’s wrong with you? This is so simple. Be creative! Think outside the box!

By the time I’m a few minutes into this inane conversation the hamster brain has won. I’m indecisive, undecided and hoping my dog brain will eat the little rat for lunch.

All this nattering did have one good outcome: I’m heading to my studio/work shop/shed/table/work bench/whatever to make something pretty.

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100 + 10,000 = Wow!

This marks my 100th post. Who’da thunk I’d find so many words? I hit another milestone a couple of weeks ago when the number of site visits sailed past 10,000. Amazing!

It took three-and-a-half years but that ain’t bad for someone who didn’t know where she was going when she started.

The blog was an experiment. Could I do it? (Check that box.) Would it encourage me to do more beading? (Yup.) Have my sales increased? (Yes!)

By my way of figurin’ it’s a success.

Have you been thinking of starting your own blog, opening a shop on Etsy or Artfire, booking a table at a craft show, calling a store to carry your jewelry?

Why not do it today? Just stand on the edge of the pool and jump in — just imagine where you might be this time next year if you take the plunge. Amaze yourself. 🙂


Looking Beyond Beads

Where do your ideas come from? It’s natural to look at what other beaders are doing — in magazines, online, at shows.

But is the work of beaders the best place to generate fresh approaches to our own work?

During the metal working course I took this summer our instructor, Linda Chow, suggested that instead of looking at what other jewellers have produced we look further afield — to nature, to books on architecture, to everyday objects like chairs or tables or parking meters.

The morning after her suggestion I found myself at the kitchen table sketching cross-sections of kiwi and bananas — discovering in the process some clever ideas for earrings. After class that day I wandered around campus, picking up leaves and some unusual seed pods — and doing more sketching.

Last weekend at Culture at the Creek in Airdrie’s Nose Creek Park I found myself studying the work of self-taught artist Becky Kundert whose booth was near mine.

These three pieces — particularly the red and blue — intrigued me. Ideas began to tickle my imagination. A day or so ago I pulled out several kinds of blue beads and soon found myself with a lovely necklace design that I probably wouldn’t have found but for Becky’s piece.

So, stuck for ideas? Take a look at what artists in other fields are doing. You might just find the inspiration you’re looking for. 🙂


Bead Barter

At a recent show one of my favourite wood artists, Bob Bryce, suggested a trade: a pair of my earrings for his wife in exchange for one of his gorgeous tool caddies. I’ve never used a caddy and I wasn’t too sure if I’d use this one, but owning one of Bob’s pieces made me say yes.

My new caddy
The day after the show I unwrapped the caddy and set it on my work counter. I pulled my jumble of tools out of the wicker basket they call home and began placing them in the caddy. It turned so smoothly. Then I picked up a project and began to work, using the tools, spinning them around. Ooo, this is so much fun! 

Thanks, Bob.

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To Bead or Not to Bead?

Silly question 😉   My answer? Bring on the beads! That said, some days it just ain’t possible. This past week, despite my best intentions, my beading quotient is way down.

A huge storm — wind, thunder & lightning, and brutal hail —  hit our rural community back at the beginning of August. It caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to homes (broken windows, disappeared shingles, metal roofs that peeled back like sardine lids and vinyl siding that looked as though a convention of crazed woodpeckers had attacked), vehicles (how about 800+ hail dents in your new pickup), and crops (some just aren’t worth combining).

We got off lucky. No damage. But it got us looking around at our home in the woods. Them’s mighty tall spruce — many within striking distance of the house. Ditto for the garage and the outbuildings. Some years ago the top of a tree blew off and speared the roof of one of our sheds like a lance so it’s only a matter of time.

For the last 10 days or so we’ve been giving these beauties a hair cut, trimming their tops. It’s not our first choice and this will probably shorten their lives. But it’s either that or cut them down. Fortunately there are many younger spruce on their way up.


Topping Trees

While my Good Man is scrambling 60 or 70 feet up the trunks and I’m laying out guy lines and pulleys on the ground, my mind occasionally slips into Bead Mode. Once this job is done and the last of the spruce gum is off my hands and the twigs are out of my hair, I’ll be back into the bead stash!

I'd rather be threading beads than come-alongs & snatch boxes.

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Who’da thunk I would end up a beader? Certainly not me. But then odd things happen when you’re not paying attention.

It began the day the man who shares my pillow each night asked me to bead him a hat band. How hard could that be? I thought. Even kids can bead.

To my surprise it was much harder than I imagined. And much more fun. By the time that hat band was finished I was a gonner — the Bead Bug had bitten.

I’ve fallen hook, line and bauble for beads. For their colors, shapes and sizes. For the feel of glass and stone and metal, of wood and fiber. For the excitement of watching a piece come together as I add each bead to the unfolding design.

Beads are one of the earliest forms of human decoration and have played a role in almost every culture. Some of the oldest beads date back to the Neanderthals, about 38,000 BC. Working on a piece I sometimes find myself thinking about the beaders who’ve gone before, ones whose stitiches I now use in my own work — African, Russian, Scandinavian, Ecuadorian, Native American. I’m weaving myself into an ancient tradition.

I enjoy designing and wearing jewelry. My greatest enjoyment, however, comes from seeing other people wearing my creations — a necklace, a pair of earrings, a bracelet. Some glass, some metal, some stringing material. Yet woven together they can bring smiles, laughter and joy.

Who’da thunk?