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, August 28, 2011


After a very chaotic week, we are leaving to go camping. 
Enjoy your Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Waterfall Bracelet

Some of you have followed this project, which started with a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge, then progressed as I continued beading at home.  Now have have finished the project:

I lengthened it into a bracelet and embellishing it with freshwater pearls, labradorite, and peridot.  I used labradorite and peridot chips for a more natural feel.  I used freshwater pearls with a little bit of texture to the surface for the same reason. I made the clasp out of a lampwork bead in my stash that reminds me of a waterfall:

Thank you all for your encouragement!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Polished (or How Engineers Speak in Private)

The other day, I was walking with one of my favorite co-workers (let's call him Ed). Ed started working at our company when I was one month old. He knows his stuff. Ed is very humble, but he is almost always right. I can't tell you how many times I've bought him coffee because I lost a wager to him (engineers tend to make bets about things like thermal coefficient of expansion, porosity, and heat transfer).

The landscaping where we were walking had some areas that were covered with river stone. As we walked and talked, I kept finding pieces of jasper, which I picked up and showed to him.  (I've mentioned in other posts that I have a terrible tendency to pick up rocks).

Ed speculated that it was a hard stone because of how shiny and polished looking the jasper was, even in its raw form. I replied that I thought jasper was soft because it is a semi-precious stone, and I seemed to remember that one of the defining characteristics of semi-precious stones is that they are softer than precious stones.

Ed, who has over 40 years of experience working with metal and glass in engineering applications, explained that hard metals are much easier to polish than soft metals. Hard metals also hold their polish better than soft metals. He was wondering how it was possible to polish a semi-precious stone if it is soft. I told him I would do some research on it.

I found a great website about polishing rocks in a tumbler. When you polish mixed rocks in a tumbler the ones with the highest hardness will have the most glossy finish. Also, it is more difficult to polish softer stone; very soft rocks, like limestone, will never develop a glossy finish.

Interesting, but how do rocks compare to metals for hardness?  I looked up the hardness of various metals at this helpful site.   

Jasper has a Mohs Hardness of 7, which makes it one of the harder semi-precious stones.A steel file, which is an example of a very hard metal, had a hardness of 7 or 8.

Aluminum, which was Ed's example of a metal that does not polish well or keep its polish, has a hardness of 2.5 to 3.  That puts it in the same range as limestone (hardness of 3), which is a stone that does not hold a glossy finish.
So, in summary, I pick up a rock and show it to Ed.  Ed notes that it is shiny and is able estimate its hardness is the same as hardened steel - and he is exactly on the mark!  Meanwhile, I have to look all this stuff up to re-trace what he just knew.  I can't believe how well calibrated his engineering sense is!

Ed was right, as usual :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Waterfall Inspiration

Several days ago I took a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge with my beading. I shared my travels with all of you, but I never showed you what I made when I was sitting by Horsetail Falls.

 While I was watching and listening to the water thunder down into the pool, I became very interested in the look of the plant life growing on the basalt cliff face.  I liked the texture of the basalt, the line of the water, and in between, trailing along the edge of the falling water, the wildflowers and moss.

I decided I wanted to make something that would capture the way the cliff, the plants and the water all looked together.  The first thing I did was put together some color mixtures.  I had brought at least 12 boxes of beads with 20 colors each to choose from.  Here are my grays and greens.  I was sure to include lots of cube-shaped beads in my grays to mirror the basalt formations in the cliff (maybe I will write a post about basalt sometime - it's very interesting).
Then I was stumped for a while.  How was I going to portray a waterfall?  I had just finished a big project - a necklace inspired by the ocean.  I wanted something a little smaller and simpler this time.  After some mental debate, I decided I wouldn't worry about what my creation would be used for.  I just concentrated on the waterfall and beaded.  Here's how far I got before my legs fell asleep (I was sitting on big fallen rocks at the edge of the pool).
The next day I filled in a little more and added white for the water:

Now that my beading was looking more finished, I once again started wondering what I should make it into. It's really too long to be an earring (although waterfall-inspired waterfall earrings had a certain appeal). Necklaces are really my "go to" comfort-zone type of jewelry, but it felt awkward to try to make this piece into a necklace.  I finally decided that it would be easy to lengthen the random netting and make the piece into a bracelet.  I'm also thinking of adding some semi-precious embellishments, like fresh water pearls in the white (water), peridot in the green (plants) and my favorite stone, labradorite, in the grey (cliff).

What do you think?  Is bracelet a good choice?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lost Dog Redeux

A few weeks ago, I posted about a stray dog we found in the road while we were going to the beach.  Once again, we find ourselves with a stray dog on our hands.

Yesterday we had guests over.  As we were visiting, I noticed a dog wandering around our front walkway.  I thought maybe he was one of the neighbor's dogs.  I went out to investigate, and found he was very friendly, relatively clean, and healthy.  The funny thing is, he looks very much like the dog we found on our way to the beach.  Kind of an odd coincidence, huh?

Dog from Beach Adventures....   Dog We Found Yesterday

No one was out looking for him, so brought him inside to keep him safe from traffic.  We sent the kids out to canvass the neighborhood, but he does not seem to belong to anyone.

We have two dogs of our own.  We had to do a little dog juggling until they all got used to each other.  The stray dog (the kids have started calling him Frosty) is a very friendly, mellow dog.  Our dogs were feeling a bit threatened to have a new dog in the house, though.  We had to get through the barking and eyeballing stage.  Eventually, they started playing together.

We will take the dog in to the vet today to see if he has a chip.  We really like him.  If we can't locate the owner, we may offer to adopt him.  But as sweet and trusting as he is, I am thinking he has an owner somewhere.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Do You Know What Makes You Happy?

I took a day of vacation on Wednesday of this week. I didn't use my day off to go out and have fun. Instead I worked with my husband and kids to clean out one of our hallway closet and the kids' room. We dragged everything out onto the front lawn, sorted it, got rid of a lot of stuff, then put it all away again.  (By the way, I am only showing "after" pictures because the "before" pictures are too embarrassing.)

It doesn't sound like a very good vacation, does it? I probably would have been a lot happier to get out in the sun, go up to Mount Hood or take a bike ride or something fun, right?

Not so. It turns out all of us working together was some nice family bonding time. Every time I walk past the kids' room or put something away in the closet, I feel happy and satisfied. Tonight we will have many of our friends come over, and they will be able to hang their coats and bags up by the door (this area was dominated by coats that are now hanging in the closet).

Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard, researches happiness. His findings indicate human beings are not very good at predicting what will make us happy. I know I would not have guessed using my vacation to tidy would make me happy, but I even less stressed at work for the rest of the week.

How about you?  Have you ever been surprised that something made you happy?  Or maybe something that was not as satisfying as you thought it would be?  Does being happy affect how you approach your art or craft?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Beading in the Columbia River Gorge

Yesterday I found myself with an unexpected windfall - a whole day of freedom.  My kids went to visit the grandparents and my husband had to work.  Don't get me wrong - I love their company!  It's just that I don't often get to decide how to spend my time by myself, without input from others.  After some debate with myself, I decided to go out to the Columbia River Gorge, which is about an hour from my house to find a scenic spot to do some beading.

The morning was overcast, but warm and dry.  I always feel excited as I enter the Gorge and the cliffs and bluffs come into view.  The Gorge is a huge place.  I decided to take the Historic Columbia River Highway until I found "a good spot".  This highway is beautifully constructed and passes many major waterfalls.  Here are some images of the highway:

The first few waterfalls I passed were impossibly crowded.  Bridal Veil Falls was closed for a wedding.  Wahkeena Falls and Multnomah Falls had absolutely no parking available.  In fact, it was a bit of a traffic jam to get past them.  But the next stopping point was Oneonta Gorge.  I knew it would not be a great place for beading, but it is a really magical place, so I stopped.

I love this place - the tall cliffs covered with mosses, lichens, ferns and wild flowers are amazing.  I was really tempted to get my beading stuff and sit on that log by the stream, but I wasn't ready to settle down yet.

I had been following the trail on the west side of the gorge.  It petered out, so to keep going, I needed to cross the stream.  Unfortunately, I didn't plan ahead for this, and I wasn't exactly wearing water shoes:
Fortunately I made it across without getting wet.  It was a lot of fun to step across from stone to stone.  Once on the other side, I was able to continue down to a big log jam where the gorge narrows dramatically.  It was so worth it!

My next stop was Horsetail Falls.  I love the shape of this waterfall.  It isn't the tallest or the grandest in the Columbia River Gorge, but it sure is beautiful.  I brought my beading stuff down to the edge of the pool and sat down to do the beading.

I spent a couple of hours sitting at the edge of the pool and beading.  People came and went.  One fellow went swimming in the pool.  Most people only go wading because the water is very, very cold.  In the summer streams like this are mostly melted snow and ice running down from the Cascade Mountains.  This fellow was looking for crawdads.  He would catch them, admire them, and then release them.  His dad let me take a picture of one of the bigger crawdads they found.

Eventually my legs fell asleep, sitting on the big rocks at the pool.  It was time to move on.  The sun had come out while I was beading, so I decided to just enjoy the day for a while.

How about you?  What would you do with a day of unexpected freedom?  What places do you find inspiring?