Engineer by day, beadweaver by night (mostly), I like to look for answers to questions.
How do things work? What inspires you? What do you wonder about?
Explore the journey to creativity together.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Finally Finished!

Have you ever had one of those projects that seemed to take forever? 
Me too!  I wrote about my summer project and how I was having trouble finishing it.  All your encouraging comments helped me focus on getting it finished.

Yesterday, I pulled my kitchen table outside onto my deck.  I worked in pleasantly warm sunshine, filtered by my leafy grape vine.  I finally finished my project and this morning I listed it.

Thank you everyone for your encouragement.  It meant a lot to me.

Has anyone ever encouraged you when you were stuck?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beach Adventures

Yesterday I had an adventure. My kids were good helpers when we cleaned out our storage rooms. As a reward I promised to take them to the beach on Saturday with their friends. The weather here in the Willamette Valley just finally turned hot and sunny after one of the coldest, wettest springs on record, so it was a great time to head over the mountains to the beach.

Here is the scene as we picked up our friends. They have a great view from their front yard. You can see Mt. St. Helens as a ghostly presence between the power lines in the center. Yesterday was what our friends call a 5 volcano day - they could see Mt. Ranier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood.

So we packed up the mini van and headed out - 4 kids, 2 dogs and 1 adult. I knew I was taking on a lot - the Oregon Coast is beautiful, but if you don't respect the elements, it can be dangerous. Follow the rules, and you will have a great time. With kids, they get so excited they will sometimes forget the rules, so you have to ride herd on them and make sure they stay within earshot. Not always easy when you are close to the surf. In any case, the kids all understood they would have to be very cooperative to make this trip work.

At our first stop sign (the intersection of two windy little country roads) we saw a dog running around in the road. It almost got hit several times in the space of a few minutes because it was trying to approach the cars. I parked, got out, and called the dog. It ran right over and jumped into my arms. The dog had a collar but no tags, and obviously came from a loving home. We loaded it into the back of the van so it wouldn't have to interact with my dogs. Here is a picture my son took. The kids and I decided to take it to a local vet. She said she would scan for an ID chip and take it to animal control if needed.

The drive out was very pleasant. It was bright and sunny and we listened to good music. I play a game where I set up the GPS on my phone to monitor our progress toward our destination give it to the kids. They really enjoy watching the map scroll by as we drive.

Finally, we reached the coast! It was beautifully sunny on the west side of the Coast Range too. There were lots of people - it was hard to find parking. Our destination was Three Capes Loop. The tide was out when we arrived, so there was plenty of beach. The kids ate a sandy lunch, then started some engineering projects.

Quick! Build a trench! The ocean is coming! Oh no!

In addition to the engineering projects, the kids chased away the seagulls that tried to eat our lunch, flew kites, got the kites all tangled up, and danced in the ankle-deep ocean waves (under close supervision). I was a little too busy to get photos during this time :) Some of you already know that I love to collect rocks on the beach. I didn't have a chance to do that either, but I did get one picture.

On the way back, we stopped at Cape Meares. The updrafts at the viewpoint were so strong, spray from the surf was sprinkling down on us, a good 200 feet above the ocean! We got a glimpse of a bald eagle, but I wasn't quick enough to get a picture. The kids slept most of the way home. (I had to stop to get coffee for myself). If this wasn't an inspiring (but tiring) day, I don't know what is. I will leave you with some pictures from the view point.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Long Lost Rocks

I'm going to warn you right now – I have a strong inclination toward collecting rocks. I also enjoy admiring rocks. I think I inherited this trait from my mother. I'm the kind of person who sees something interesting on the ground and feels an overwhelming impulse to put it in my pocket. When I go for a walk on the beach, I come back about 20 pounds heavier because of all the stuff I've picked up, most of it rocks. My husband doesn't feel this way at all, but he tolerates my idiosyncrasies and only teases me when it is absolutely necessary :)

Two years ago we went camping near Bandon, Oregon, on the coast. While we were exploring, we met a rockhound. He gave us some tips on where to hunt rocks. The kids were really excited, thinking they would find gold and get rich. We didn't find any gold, but we did pick up some cool rocks.

After we got home, I picked out 4 rocks to try out for props when I photograph my jewelry. You may recognize some of these guys from my shop pics!

The rest of the rocks were in a big bag together... and then I lost track of them :(

Fast forward to today. I took a day off work so our whole family could work together on clearing one of our storage rooms. We found lots of great stuff we had thought was lost – including my rocks!

I'm so happy, I'm going to share some of them with you. If you are not the kind of person who likes rocks (for example, my husband), I understand if you skip the rest. If you like rocks, read on!

The one on the left is a big rock I love because of its beautiful reddish tone, and it's soft, slippery feel. On the right are my two best shells.

I found several rocks with circular depressions or holes in them.

I picked these rocks up because I thought they had interesting patterns on them.

Last but not least, I found a bunch of agates.

How about you? Is there something you love to collect?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Picket Fence Blogs

Several days ago I saw a button on Designed by Dee's blog. It leads to a site called Picket Fence Blogs, which I had not heard of before. It's meant to help people find blogs they might like.

You can register your blog there. Then you put their button on your blog. Every time someone clicks on the button on your blog, it takes them to Picket Fence Blogs and counts as a vote for your blog. Blogs with the most votes are on the front page. They also feature blogs that would not otherwise be on the front page.

I thought I would give it a try. Here is my button:

One good thing about registering my blog is that I was required to think of a short description. This was a really good exercise for me; I needed to describe my purpose succinctly: “Engineer by day, beadweaver by night (mostly), I like to look for answers to questions. How do things work? What inspires you? What do you wonder about? Explore the journey to creativity.”

Do any of you have experience with Picket Fence Blogs? What do you think about it?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What is glass?

Much of the material I use in my beading is glass. I decided I would like to find out more about the science and technology behind glass. The first question I asked myself is, what is glass?

What I found out is that while human beings have been making glass for thousands of years, we have had a difficult time understanding it. The most common and oldest recipe for glass is mostly silicon and oxygen. We add impurities to change the properties of glass, like hardness, brilliance and melting temperature.

Glass can be difficult to classify because it does not quite act like a solid... nor does it act like a liquid. Most people think of it as an amorphous solid, which has different properties than a crystalline solid. Some people say, no it is not a solid, but super-cooled liquid. Other say, well, it's kind of like a polymer, but not really. Other people call it a rigid liquid.

So why all the disagreement? Glass does not fit neatly into our model for solids and liquids.

A good example that does fit the model is water. When water is cold, it freezes into a crystalline form that is hard and brittle (ice). Think of ice at a really cold temperature, for example -40 F. It is a hard, brittle crystalline solid. If you raise the temperature, the ice becomes warmer, but remains hard and brittle until you get to the point where some of the ice starts to melt into water. While the ice is changing form, the temperature stays constant at 32 F until all the ice has changed into liquid water. The difference between water and ice is very clear – water flows, ice does not.

Compare to glass. At room temperature glass is hard and brittle, like ice. But when you heat it, it gradually becomes softer and softer. The temperature at which it first starts to soften is called the glass transition temperature (abbreviated as “Tg”). If you keep heating it, eventually the glass begins to act like a liquid. The temperature at which this happens is the melting point.

Why does glass have such different behavior than water? Science does not have the complete answer to this question. I will describe what I think is a pretty good model that explains a lot of what we observe about glass. Bear in mind all models are wrong, but some are useful.

In ice, all the molecules are locked into place in a crystalline structure. As the temperature increases the molecules become more energetic, but they cannot break free of the structure (some days I feel the same way). When the molecules finally have enough energy to break free, melting occurs all at once. Glass is amorphous, meaning it does not have a set crystalline structure. Instead, the molecules have many different random arrangements. As glass is heated, some of the molecules are able to break free; the result is that the glass softens. As the glass heats, more molecules break free and it becomes softer. At a high enough temperature the molecules have enough energy to break free and the glass becomes completely liquid.

The softening temperature of glass depends on a lot of different things – what the glass is made out of, what kind of impurities are present, how fast the glass was cooled the last time it was heated, and the rate at which you heat it up. Because softening temperature can change so much, it can be tricky to measure accurately.

There is a lot more interesting information about glass - if you all are interested, I will add some more posts on the subject.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Beadwork Project

This necklace is the project I've been working on for the last month or so.

I wanted it to represent frothy waves in the deep ocean. I made a special trip to Shipwreck Beads to find more shell, mother of pearl and peal to put in this necklace. I also got some more glass beads in the shades of blue I wanted to use.

I've used the large beads to make a random netted framework. Now I am filling in with smaller pieces of randomly netted seed beads.

I am almost done; I have about half a round left in the darkest blue color. This project has been unusually slow going for me. I've taken it apart twice now. I am very stubborn, though. I will finish this necklace - maybe this week!

Keep an eye out for a new listing soon :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

There is one day left to vote for the Etsy Beadweavers Team Challenge this month. The theme is "Sizzling Sunshine and "Soothing Water".

One of our team members, beadn4fun, made some treasuries of the entries. Here is a quick preview of the fabulous work our team produced. But you need to go to the team blog to vote.

Click here to vote!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why Does Labradorite Flash?

We all have our favorite stones; mine is labradorite. Labradorite is a transluscent, gray stone. What makes it special is the flash of color - viewed at the right angle, you can see flashes of bright aqua blue, green, yellow or orange. You can see the flash in these labradorite cubes I bought a few months ago.

The flash is beautiful but why does it happen?

This is where my nerdy, engineering background is going to show through. I did some reading on mineralogy. I found out that the flash is called "Schiller effect". To understand Schiller effect, you need to be able to visualize how labradorite forms.

Labradorite is in a family of minerals called feldspars, which are classified by their chemical composition. Feldspars have a crystal lattice made up of silicon, aluminum and oxygen. In addition, depending on the type of feldspar, the crystal may contain potassium, calcium, sodium, or a mixture of calcium and sodium. Over 50% of the rock on Earth is feldspar.

The reason we aren't surrounded by gemstones is that most of these rocks cooled quickly. The molecules in the rocks are most stable chemically when they are arranged in large crystals, but the rapid cooling caused them to frozen in place before they could arrange themselves. Thus most rocks are made of a mishmash of microscopically small crystals. When feldspars cool slowly - for example the molten magma is trapped underground - there is more time for the molecules to arrange themselves into large crystals before they are locked into place.

Now here is the really interesting part: when a mixture transforms from a liquid to a solid, the result can be... complicated. The first crystals to solidify (at a higher temperature) have a different composition than the last crystals to solidify (at a lower temperature). In industry, this principal is used to separate out impurities and create very pure substances.

In any case, as feldspars cool and form crystals, the composition of the crystals being formed changes. In the real world, the temperature of the forming crystals can fluctuate up and down. This helps create layers inside the crystal with slightly different compositions.

Labradorite forms when the crystals contain a mixture of sodium and calcium. As labradorite forms into a crystal, the composition of calcium and sodium varies. The changes in composition forms layers inside the labradorite crystals. The layers inside the crystal affect light as it travels through the crystal. If you look at the layer from the right angle, you see the Schiller effect – the flash of color.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Photos

Up to this point, I've been focused only on list new items, not revising the items I have already listed. Lately I've decided that to try re-doing some of my listings.

Here are some examples:

Stylish Stripes
Old... New...

Grapevine Necklace
Old... New...

Sweet Blossom Necklace
Old... New...

Fall Striped Bracelet
Old... New...

What do you think?

If you want to see more, you can look in my shop. I've finished the first 8 listings.