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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sneek Peak at Next Week

27000696-00s8 Firepolish - 20 mm Spiral Barrel - Crystal Celsian (1)
s21886 Ceramic Cabochon -  Round Zen Moon Face - Dark Grey (1)Ooooo - scary beadies! Mostly seedbeads next week - more Toho 11/0s - but also some honkin' big firepolish and we're planning to moon you with these moon faces. ;-)

Happy HOoooLLow Weeny!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fall Bead Fair

It's that wonderful time again! The Toronto Bead Society puts on a bead fair twice a year. The fall show being an extra special two whole days!

Before you head down, please note that the show is in a new location this year. Click on the picture above for more details, a list of vendors and classes, and of course a map to the new location. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh My!


I don't really get my latest infatuation with pink. I've NEVER liked pink. I was too much of a punk as a kid - and well, still into my twenties to give it much thought. It could be that with two little girls, who absolutely adore pink, I'm now surrounded with pink daily.

In any case, I love these beads - And I haven't yet even seen them in person. With my nasty cold, and the kids various illnesses. I've been keeping my germs away from the store, which I'm sure you all greatly appreciate. :-)

However, I think I'll have to pick up a few when I'm in tomorrow, and see what sort of girly inspirations I can create for you all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blogging for Bliss

I was thrilled this morning to receive my package from - The other day, I ordered a copy of Tara Frey's Blogging For Bliss. I've always much admired all of those creative blogs out there with the fabulous photo's, inspirations, and seemingly endless creative energy. The book doesn't disappoint, and is filled with techniques, and profiles of some of the best bloggers out there. If you're thinking of starting your own blog - I highly recommend picking up a copy.

Armed with Tara's techniques, and Dwyn's past blog posts about photography - you'll be well on your way to being a blogging diva - that's my plan anyway ;-)

You can find tara's blog here

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

November is Quickly Approaching--Can You Believe It!

Before I launch into a look at the month of November just a quick note about Michael David Sturlin's classes last week--they were FABULOUS! If you missed him this year do not worry he will be back next October with new classes. The students-and the staff- had a great time, he is a fantastic teacher. Thanks Michael! Stay tuned for details on next years classes.

Can you believe that it is Halloween this weekend? I am all set here at home but am shaking my head trying to figure out how it got to be the last week of October already? Even though the month is ending we have a great week ahead of us and November also looks great.

Dwyn has a 4 hour Introduction to Glass Bead Making from 4-8pm on Tuesday October 27th.

Wednesday Stephanie Dixon will be here with her Turquoise Lustre Blooms Necklace from 6:30 to 9:30pm.

Saturday October 31st we have 2 classes--first we have An Introduction to Chinese Knotting with Angela Peace from 10 to 1pm

And we have Fusing for Fun with Kathleen Kroeger from 2 to 4pm.

Suzanne McNenly is back on Saturday November 7th for a Photopolymer Plate Workshop from 10 to 5pm.

Angela Peace is back on Sunday November 8th with Snake Knots and Phoenix Cord Knots from 1-4pm.

Monday November 9th we have Wire Working and Wrapping 201 with Robert Burton. This is an intermediate level class, the 101 is highly recommended as a prerequisite.

Tuesday November 10th is Heather Bell-Denison's Charmed I'm Sure from 10:30 to 5:30pm. This is a beginner level class.

Friday November 13th Angela Peace is back with a new class Beyond the Button Knot. Participants need to be able to tie a double and a single button knot. Snake or Phoenix knot knowledge is useful, but not essential for this course. This is an intermediate level class.

Saturday November 14th Marilyn Gardiner is here with two classes. First from 10 to 1pm is the Copper and Denim Bracelet.

Then from 2 to 5pm is the Crossover Bracelet. This is a beginner level chain mail class.

Sunday November 15th Catherine Winter will be here with her How to Have a Successful Craft Show Workshop from 1 to 4:15pm.

Also on Sunday November 15th we have a 5 hour Introduction to Glass Bead Making with Amy Waldman-Smith from 11 to 4pm.

And that is only the first half of the month!

We will at be the Toronto Bead Society Show this weekend. This is always a great show and we hope to see you there!

From Saturday, 31 October 2009 - 10:00am
To Sunday, 01 November 2009 - 5:00pm

Same great show, new location.

1929 Bayview Ave.

directions can be found

We have Happy Hour Torching this Thursday from 5 to 9pm, buy one hour get one free. Make sure that you call and reserve your torch in advance.

Happy Beading

Monday, October 26, 2009

Taking Great Photos. Part 9: On to Photoshop - Levels Part 1

Alrighty then - on to Photoshop and just what can we do to tweak a photo.

Generally speaking, you can't make a great photo from a truly cr4ppy one - just like you can't make great meal with inferior ingredients. And you can't "make data up" - if you start with a tiny, postage stamp picture, you aren't going to get a big, beautiful image. I trust all you took last week's topic to heart and now understand that we will be ONLY working with copies of the originals - and leaving the originals intact - in case we need to go back, change, fix or use for some other purpose.

I am personally using Photoshop CS2 - version 9.0.02. This is at least two versions out of date - but you don't have to have the latest version to do good stuff. You can get a free trial from Adobe, the manufacturer, and they also have scaled down versions - like Photoshop Elements - which will do pretty much everything you need. I don't have that installed - so I can't speak to what it does. Those of you who do, can follow along and post comments about how it differs.

I also use Corel Painter - which I adore - but frankly admit that I don't use it for this. There is other image editing software out there - ranging from equally expensive (Photoshop new is about $700 US) to free. If you are looking for free for Windows - GIMP is a very powerful photo manipulator - ported from Unix - and it's free.

So, I will be talking about Photoshop, but I will try and keep it as generic as possible - so that you can look up how to do the same actions in your own software.

I consider cropping - trimming the photo for composition and to eliminate ugly background elements one of the most important skills you need - but I seldom do it first - so I'm going to leave it for later.

Today - we're going to start with "Levels" - and just cover about half of it - as it was a busy weekend and promising to be a busier week, and I'm short of time this morning. ;-)

Using "Levels" lets you see and adjust the tonal range (light and dark) (and the colour balance) of your image by giving you control over the distribution of light and dark pixels in the image. This roughly breaks down into shadows, highlights, and midtone ranges. We'll be using a "histogram" to visualize this data - much like a graphic equalizer allows you to visualize sound data for balancing sounds.

A histogram literally is a graph - showing the number of pixels in the image that are at that specific intensity level.

So let's take a look. Open a photo in PS (Photoshop) (or your choice of software) and access the levels by selecting Images, Adjustments, Levels... or by pressing Control + L (press down and hold the key labeled "Ctrl" and then tap the "L" key.)

This will give you the Levels dialogue box, and show you the histogram for that picture. (I can't begin to describe how freaky it is to be manipulating image of my computer screen. It is totally confusing. I keep clicking on images to close boxes.)

Let's zoom in and look at that closer. See the histogram - and you can see how this is a graph.

From the left, there are a few pixels in black and dark shades in the image, so the graph starts out low, more pixels in the mid-ranges - so the curve goes up like a mountain, and some, a few, in the light tones and highlights. Ideally, a histogram is more or less like this, like a bell curve or a mountain range. What is should not be is a big freaky spike in the middle - or one end or the other, and nothing down on the plains. That tells you that you aren't getting a good range of data when you take your pictures. Sometimes, it's unavoidable - but if you get it all the time - you need to re-think your photography set up.

The black, grey and white triangles that I labeled "sliders" show where that data is - shadow, midtone and highlight. You can manipulate the darkness and lightness of your image by sliding those back and and forth - left and right. To do this - click on the triangle with your mouse and drag it to the side.

Like so.

For this one, I dragged the white triangle to the left, and everything got lighter.

For this, I dragged the black triangle to the right, and everything got darker.

Yes - there are OTHER ways to do this (changing the brightness/contrast - Image, Adjustments, Brightness/Contrast) - but it's good to have multiple ways to do the same thing - and this gives you finer control. And there are other things you can do in this dialogue box too.

Let's look at some less well balanced photos and see this in action a little better.

This picture is dark and gloomy. But by sliding the white triangle to the left - the entire image has brightened - colours are revealed - and the bead looks much better.

This sculptural bead is all washed out and too light - making it hard to see any detail.

Sliding the black triangle to the right brings up the detail and makes it much more interesting. The background drops away to all black - but that is a good thing for this picture.

Again - a light bead on dark background. And just look at that histogram - blech! Lots of black - a few midtones - where the heck are the highlights?

White triangle to the right, and now we have some shadows, highlights and some definition to the image.

Experiment with this - and you can also slide the grey triangle in the middle from side to side for different results too. When you get a result you like - click on ok and save your image. If you mess it up beyond recognition - click on cancel. Or click on auto to have PS take it's best guess at what it should be. You might like the results, you might not.

Play with this for a bit - we'll carry on next week. Now that you have a rough idea of what the controls do and why - stop worrying about it and just play and go for a result that you like!

Next week - we'll tackle those little eye-dropper dealies in the bottom right of the box and see what they do!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Are you a Clueless N00b?

Having trouble staying on top of pop culture? Do friends hip comments on current events leave you feeling out in the cold? Do you roll into work on Monday, after a lovely, technology-free weekend at the cottage, only to find your co-workers spouting opinions about things you've never heard of? In the wildfire world of the internet, if you snooze - you bruise.

So check out this site next time someone someone throws you a current event curve - you can quickly get up to speed and dazzle them. The Internet Meme Database takes those items that are most obsessing folks, and puts 'em in one place - with a "for dummies," no-assumptions approach that will have you up to speed faster than you can say Konami Code. They are documenting internet phenomena: viral videos, image macros, catchphrases, web celebs and etc. And it all makes for fun reading. ;-)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sneak Peek at Next Week

New colours from Swarovski - Cyclamen Opal - very pretty - and Greige - a warm grey - very much a warm neutral.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Corsage Project

Nathalie asked yesterday about how the Corsage Project went this year. It was a huge success - but I am sorry to say that donations were down in terms of the number of donors. We still had a large number of items donated - don't get me wrong - but they were largely donated by just a handful of people - which was a little disappointing.

I believe over 300 girls were outfitted - the number rises every year. It's good that more and more girls are being helped and are graduating - it's sad that the number that need help isn't going down.

And my apologies - I did not manage to get photos of the pieces this year. It's just that the timing was off in terms of when they were delivered to us and when they were picked up. Also - a significant number of them were by me - and it felt too much like self-advertising to put up a page of photos of my own work for that purpose.

Thanks for asking Nathalie!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Links from Yesterday and Seafoam

Have a look at the links our customers posted yesterday:

Yay for eye candy!

Here's something else to get you inspired - Seafoam, one of my favourite colours. I went on a little seafoam hunt through the shop, and I rediscovered these lovelies :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Wednesday

It's Wednesday, and I'm finally feeling better - wow, that was a nasty one I tell ya. Between the kids, my self, and hubby - someone, if not all of us have been sick for almost an entire month. I was really starting to go a little loopy. I didn't get a chance to plan in advance my blog posts for this week, so today will be a linky love day.

What I want to see is your sites! Comment below, and send us your link to your etsy site, your personal website, or your blog. We want to see all of your creative sites. Don't be shy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Michael David Sturlin is here this week!

If you have already registered for one of Michael's classes I will be posting the information about the kits and fees in today's blog. If you have not, there is still a bit of space. There is only 1 space left in the Hand Crochet Chain Class on October 22nd and 23rd.

The Quick Clasps and Findings Workshop on October 24th and 25th has about 4 spaces left. If you are interested call the store to register before it is too late!

Kits: The kit fee for the Hand Crochet Chain class is $80.00 (+ tax). This will include the wire and the specialized crocheting tools. Students should however bring with them a plastic box or container for all of their wire clippings and magnification--which Michael strongly recommends. Students will be using our studio chain nose and round nose pliers as well as cutters. If you prefer your own tools you are welcome to bring those along.

The kit fee for the Quick Clasps and Findings Workshop is $100.00. This includes all of the wire and specialized goldsmithing hammer, saw blades and rulers. All other tools will be here for student use and are optional for purchasing. The cost of the additional tools are about $100.00. Students should however bring magnification.

Next week Dwyn Tomlinson has a 4 hour Learn to Make Glass Beads course from 4-8pm.

Wednesday October 28th Stephanie Dixon is here with her beautiful Turquoise Lustre Blooms from 6:30 to 9:30pm.

Saturday October 31st we have two classes. We start with Angela Peace's Introduction to Chinese Knotting from 10 to 1pm.

From 2 to 4pm we have Kathleen Kroeger's Fusing for Fun-A Fun Introduction to Fusing Glass 2 Hour Workshop.

Don't forget we have Happy Hour Torching from 5-9pm, buy one hour get one free. Make sure you call and reserve your torch.

Happy Beading

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taking Great Photos. Part 8: Get it off the Camera! Organizing and storing your photos.

OK - I guess we've messed around with the camera long enough. Now we're going to move the pictures over to your computer and carry on from there.

I won't go into the "how" of that here - as "your mileage may vary" and your camera will have it's own instructions - which I presume you will have figured out by now - unless you are one of those people who are about to attend the graduation of the daughter who's baby pictures are still on your camera!

Most camera's have more than one way get the pictures off - I can hook mine up with a cable, or slip the postage-stamp sized card out of it and plug it directly into my computer and read it like another hard drive. This is the method I prefer.

There are also a great many "photo organization" software packages out there - and I don't use any of them. You may already be using one - and if it works for you, fine. I, however, find that they are slow and cumbersome, and don't seem to match my ideas of how I want to sort my pictures.

Instead - I treat them as regular files and create a directory structure that I sort the pictures into by category, with subdivisions by year, and again for special projects, as I see fit. Mainly - I'm sorting by how I think I will use them later and how I am most likely to want to find them.

So, for my personal stuff, I have a directory structure that looks, in part, like this

  • archived_photos

    • 2007

    • 2008

    • 2009

      • lampwork_beads

        • horse_beads

        • sets

        • tutorials

        • dichroic_focals

      • lampwork_jewelry

        • 2009

        • margs_dragon_necklace

      • non-lampwork_jewelry

        • 2009

        • inspirations

        • commissions

Etc. etc. etc. Generally - I can find a photo pretty fast when I go looking for it.

The photo viewing software I use is a product called Firehand Ember Max. If you google it, you can download it from a large number of places. The author of the software is deceased now - but it is an excellent and wonderfully simple and easy to use piece of software and I use it all the time. (I love software that does one thing, and does it superbly, rather than "bloatware" that tries to be all things to all people and does everything mediocre.) It has some limited editing capabilities - and can do a nice slide show too. You can view thumbnails of the entire directory, plus the directory structure on the side (which I have blurred for this picture - nobody needs that much detail about how I store my pictures!) (And before anyone points out that Windows now does this, I was using this long before Windows did this, and Ember is faster. And Ember won't write over a file with the same name without asking me first, telling me which file is older and/or larger, and giving me a thumbnail of the two so that I can compare - and then it will just rename it automatically if I want. )

Notice the word "archived" at the top of my directory structure.. These are the originals - and I never, never (except by accident!) edit these. Instead, I make copies if I want to modify them - which I then store in another directory, or one related to the project.

Professional grade cameras will give you some options in terms of the file formats that they record in - one of these is called "RAW" - which is the "raw" - untreated - data direct from the camera - which photographers then "develop" (there's another hold-over from the old, analog photography world) - based on how they want to use the picture. RAW files are HUGE, absolutely massive - they store every tiny smidgen of data that the camera could gather. This is all well and good, but I'm afraid that I am simply still storing the jpeg files that my camera produces, and so far, this has worked well for me. If you want to start printing professional posters and large format images - you'll want to look into this - but for our purposes - we'll go with jpegs for now - but the largest we can.

Most professionals scorn jpegs - saying they are "lossy" - and they are right. In order to understand - you need to know how a jpeg works. Jpeg is a compression algorithm - image files are large, and jpegs do a wonderful job of squeezing them into smaller files.

The way it works is more or less like this. Take this pixel-ly image - this is zoomed down to the pixel level - if you were to describe this in computer terms, you could look at the pixels and, starting at the top left, and going right, describe it as:
  • dark grey
  • dark grey
  • dark grey
  • medium grey
  • medium grey
  • medium grey
  • ...
  • next row,
  • dark grey
Compression is when you take that same process and add some shortcuts, so the information now looks like this:

  • 3x dark grey
  • 3x medium grey
  • 4x light grey
  • 2x light blue-grey
You can see that the data can be fit in much less space.

What the jpeg will do - if you want the file smaller - is do some averaging, so that the above might turn into

  • 3x dark grey
  • 6x medium grey
  • 3x light blue grey
The overall effect, when viewed at normal sizes, is very much the same. But it "throws away" that extra information - so that when you save and close the file - you can't get that data back.

Oh, and this does NOT happen everytime you view the file - and to the lady who tried to tell me that the reason her old photos online looked so bad was because they had been viewed so many times - "Noooo - it's because they are just bad photos."

Most good software (i.e. Photoshop) will not actually discard the data until you close the file, so you can edit and save repeatedly without the quality of your file degrading.

So consequently - I make copies of my pictures before editing, and edit only the copies, so that I always have the higher quality image to come back to - should I need it for other purposes.

And with regards to storing your images - I find it hard to find them if I archive them off onto CDs - so I just keep buying bigger and bigger hard drives. With terabyte harddrives going for under $300 - it's cheaper to just add hard drives that spend time messing around copying files off the computer and back. CDs - or better, DVDs - are fine for an offsite/off computer back up - but keep a copy of your files where you might actually use them - and you will find that you do use them more often. ;-)

Sorry - we didn't get to the photoshopping this week. Next week. ;-)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rent Your Rocks

Got an elegant little "do" to go to and just don't feel like shelling out $10 grand for jewelry? (If you do feel like shelling out $10 grand for jewelry - call me - please!)

Well - you can rent your rocks, just like the movie stars. And some stunners they have! Remember - Tourmaline is the October birthstone - slip this little baby on your finger for a week for a the equivalent of a measly $390 Cdn. Oh, plus the traveling to the UK costs. Apparently - you can rent anything there. ;-)

Check out the bracelets too - what a yummy collision of colours!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spring Colour Report

Splashes of sunshine for spring 2010
New York Fashion Week, September 10 – 17, 2009

Designers bring splashes of sunshine to the runway for spring 2010. Vibrant brights add a sense of excitement to the color palette, while practical neutrals provide a safety net for cautious consumers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No power, limited internet

Sorry for no blog post yesterday. With the kids being so sick, it was inevitable that Dan and I would get it too. Yesterday was not good at all! Later yesterday evening, as I was sitting down to send out the email newsletter - our power went out, and stayed out for about 4 hours.

This morning, we discovered that our internet was mostly down in the store. I say mostly, as wireless connections work fine, but any of the wired computers (which is all except for 1) has no internet access. Probably a blown hub, but hopefully the tech person will get it up and running soon.

Please keep in mind, that since we only have 1 computer with internet access in the store, we may be a bit behind in responding to email inquires. Lee can only do so much :-) So if you do call - be especially nice to her. And yes, she likes chocolate as much as the rest of us!

Our regularly scheduled blog post will come later tonight or a double tomorrow - we'll see how the day goes ;-)

Power out

Jen has been without electricity since mid-last-evening. Hence - no newsletter last night. If we don't hear from her this a.m. - we're sending in the dog team!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Fun Continues this Week

The next couple of weeks are just as jam packed with classes as last week. Wednesday October 14th we have Wire Bead Crochet Basics with Stephanie Dixon from 6:30 to 9:30pm.

Friday October 16th Angela Peace returns for the first of a series of Chinese Knotting classes, Introduction to Chinese Knotting from 3 to 6pm.

Saturday October 17th is Charmed I'm Sure with Heather Bell-Denison from 10-5pm. This is an introductory level course.

Sunday October 18th Catherine Winter is here with How to Price your Jewelry-Starting a Microbusiness from 1 to 4:15pm.

Monday October 19th Robert Burton's Wire Working and Wrapping 101 class begins. This is a beginner class and runs for 3 weeks from 6 to 9pm each week.

October 22nd and 23rd Michael David Sturlin will be here teaching his beautiful Hand Crochet Chain from 10 to 6pm each day.

October 24th and 25th will Michael's second class at Beadfx, Quick Clasps and Findings. This class will run from 10 to 6pm each day as well.

Tuesday October 27th Dwyn Tomlinson is offering a 4 hour Introduction to Lampworking Class from 4 to 8pm.

Wednesday October 28th Stephanie Dixon is here for her Turquoise Lustre Blooms class from 6:30 to 9:30pm.

Saturday October 31st Angela is offering her Introduction to Chinese Knotting class again from 10 to 1pm.

We have a new class on Saturday October 31st with Kathleen Kroeger from 2 to 4pm, Fusing for Fun. This is an introductory level class, students will have time to make 2 pendants or 1 pendant and earrings. This is not a comprehensive introduction to fusing, but rather a fun class designed to make a few pieces.

Thursday is Happy Hour Torching from 5 to 9pm, buy one hour get one free!!

This Saturday October 17th we will be attending the Fleece Festival in Woodstock. The show runs from 8:30 to 6:00pm. Admission is $6.00 for those 16 and over, free for 15 and under.
Information for the show can be found on their website at Hope to see many of you there!

Happy Beading