Free Malheur NWR

Backyard and Beyond

NWRIt has now been more than two weeks since a ragtag group of armed men took over buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Our nation’s representatives in the west have long been terrorized by a right-wing movement which wants to convert public land to their own profit wholesale. This has been well-funded by extractive business enterprises and their ideological drones. The foot-soldiers may be crackpots, but what they represent is the worst of American history. For it isn’t enough that ranchers, miners, and foresters are subsidized to profit obscenely on the nation’s patrimony with grazing, mineral, and logging rights. They want it all, unconstrained, just like it was before the federal government moved in to stop the wholesale exploitation of natural resources and animal life, the devouring of the common heritage of us all.

A nasty mix of racist, fascist, paranoid delusional, and religious extremisms, the “patriot”/”militia”/”sagebrush…

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Bead Loom Tapestry

Bead Loom Tapestry Cuff

Mom passed in September, just a few weeks shy of her 92 birthday. She taught me to embroider, and I have never been able to get close to approximating her extraordinary technique and craftsmanship. She bought me my first loom when I was a Girl Scout. One of those ‘make a potholder’ kind of looms that I still think about today.

My work continually evolves. First stringing beads. A failed attempt at wirework. Then off-loom beadweaving–peyote, brick stitch, herringbone stitch, right angle weave. Then kumihimo. Then bead embroidery. And now bead loom work. The latter has been my focus this year, and especially the past few months. Much to learn. Always ways to improve.


Looking forward to another year of learning and continue to develop the skills my mother taught me. We love you more, Mama.


From Matthew Wills’ extraordinary blog, Backyard and Beyond.

Backyard and Beyond

BombusA bumblebee rumbles into the heart of the flower.

k10219Identifying bumblebees of the genus Bombus is not an easy task. In their new identification guide, Bumble Bees of North America, Williams, Thorp, Richardson, and Colla note that color patterns “can be strikingly variable within species and strongly convergent between.” As an example of the variability within a species: for the Yellow-banded (B. terricola) they show five queen bee patterns, five worker bee patterns, and seven male bee patterns; they also note its similarity to five other species. Oy! From my limited experience, I’d go with the bee systematist they quote: the genus is “morphologically monotonous.”

This guide uses color patterns, but also tongue length and cheek size to break down the forty-six species in North America north of Mexico. (Also used to differentiate these are male genitalia and genetic evidence, things even more remote from field observation.)…

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Too Too Too Hot


It’s been in the low 90s in Portland for the past several days. And even though we have light rain today (and magnificent thunder and lightning at 2:30 this morning), it’s still in the low 90s. It will be in the low 90s next week, too.

Clearly, I’m a wimp. That wimp will be spending the next 24 hours–prostrate–in front of a fan. Difficult to weave from a prostrate position. So my already warped loom is sitting idle and is likely to remain so until we’re back in the (mid to low) 80s.

I always feel resentful when the temperatures get this high–and yes, we do get temps in the 100s. And I resent it then, too. In the 1970s, I moved here from Texas to get away from the heat. It feels like the universe is playing some cruel joke when the temperature soars in Portland. Reminding me of the ubiquitous air conditioning in Texas.

On Learning

SONY DSCNever one to be bothered by such boring activities as engineering, I have beaded my way across many projects without too much concern. If I didn’t like where a project was headed, I just started over. And after several attempts managed to create something I liked. On the other hand, I recently acquired some beading software to help with loom and square stitch design, and have come to realize the value of prototyping.

On the left is my Beta version, designed on software. Difficult to get an accurate representation of seed bead finishes in software. And shades of white and off-white that seemed to have high contrast on my computer screen didn’t seem so easily discernible in real life. Still, I decided to keep going. In addition to color and composition, I learned that there is a large price to pay for too many passes through a bead and not fully comprehending how to weave in loose ends. The result, I discovered, is munged up beads that don’t lay flat and rows upon rows of beads that fight with each other for limited space. All good to know.

Much happier with v1.0. As with all one-of-a-kind pieces, there will not be a v1.1 or 2.0. Instead, I’ll take the key findings (so to speak for my pals who speak jewelry) into my next project–a necklace that combines loom and square stitch.

BTW, v1.0 is entitled Sacramento from the Air, a nod to a number of flights to and from Northern California.

What’s Next


A statement and a question…

I just changed my etsy shop’s tagline to jewelry for what’s next. It seems appropriate. Most folks buy jewelry to mark an occasion of some sort. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, holidays. New births, reaching a milestone, starting a new job. And just because.


What’s next also reflects my past year. A transition to full-time beadweaver and gardener. And what’s next remains an ever-present theme. As a bead artist, I’ve journeyed around stringing, peyote and herringbone, kumihimo, bead embroidery, and currently square stitch and looming. Not to mention a doomed attempt at wire working–how I envy those artists who can make a perfect wrapped looped.

SONY DSCWhatever phase I’m in, I find I’m completely immersed in designing, perfecting the technique, learning new skills, and creating new pieces. For every 1 that makes it to my shop, 6-10 remain–probably permanently–in the deep recesses of my not so much box, in the event I can glean something for the next project. Apparently that’s the way it is when you choose to make one-of-a-kind pieces. Each is new and likely builds on previous work. But you never gain the efficiencies and economies of scale associated with production line work. So be it.

3360 SRAJD newlogoThroughout the past year, I’ve devoted more time to the business of jewelry, participating more actively in SRAJD – Self Representing Artists in Jewelry Design – a group of artists who make and sell their own work. I’ve resurrected this blog. Focused on understanding social media. And generally determined that I prefer creating jewelry to marketing jewelry, given the latter takes about as much time as the former.

So what’s next? I’m thinking about expanding beyond jewelry to small bead loom tapestries. But still thinking about it. Mainly because each piece would likely take months to complete and I’m way behind on my goal of keeping the 100 pieces in my etsy shop–so far, the most I’ve managed is 45-48.

No matter what, it’s going to be fun and challenging. Otherwise, why bother adding it to my what’s next list?

What’s next for you?


I vow to nurture our love so it continues to grow and radiate, like concentric circles, to our family, to our friends, and back to the universe where it originated.

Like many couples, my husband and I wrote the vows for our wedding ceremony. The last line of our vows (above) inspired the concentric diamonds in this piece


If I’m not listening to a good book while I’m beading, I’m thinking–sometimes about what to make for dinner or what needs to be pruned in the yard. Sometimes about concepts, such as concentric. Everything begins with a single thought–a seed. When nourished, the seed grows, just as thoughts become a new idea. More nourishment and the idea becomes real. A concept to be shared, improved upon, even disseminated (from the Latin ‘to sow’) to form the basis of new thoughts, new seeds.

And all of that brings me back to my June 12 post

As we think, so we are — James Allen