Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mah Crafty Space

Those of us who clutter and embellish and adorn the world with previously un-thought of creations seem to have a need for a corner, a room, a table that becomes our work space. I have a love seat. I sit on one half of it and I put stuff on the other half of it. This is what it looks like:

I can hardly believe it myself, but that is my bottom half strewn about with my paper cutouts for collage, or my "paper dolls" as my mother calls it. I made the table with beer bottle caps for my husband last Christmas, the opening in the middle is just big enough for a beer in a cozy. I'm surrounded with yarn and magazines and glue and other necessities of life, content as a wren in her nest. It's sad, really, just sad. but when I'm sitting there, I'm happy, all I need is around me, and if my husband and son are home too, well, usually there's no place I'd rather be.                                                                                                                                  

Monday, November 2, 2009

Confetti and Other Things

I love to cut pictures out of magazines and then stick them together in other ways. I call it collage, but it can be seen as simple rearrangement of fragments of ideas. My favorite materials are catalogs, but I like magazines and I collect and save a wide variety of different topics.

What to do with the collages I make is sometimes an issue because while they all have a theme, their use is not always apparent. For instance, I made a Christmas theme one last year, scanned it into the computer and put "Have a Very O'Bryan Christmas!"on top of the picture and used it as the inside of my Christmas cards. Friends and family were baffled. Did you cut out every single one of those Santa Clauses, they asked. Well, yes I did, and the reindeer antlers and a lot of other things besides. I find it relaxing to dissect the printed pages into useable for something else files. I have a load of envelopes with sorted out in theme cutouts. My father asked me one time if it limited my creativity to have just one theme at a time to look at. I thought about it for awhile, then dumped all the cutouts into a tray. While it did suggest things I hadn't thought of, I was soon sorting again because I needed an envelope of various kinds of florals, and snarling at Dad under my breath.
Here is something I did for Halloween this year

Isn't he cute? And the whole can came out good, I thought. It's a can that used to hold breadcrumbs.
Here's another view:
That's the other side. Just a bunch of pictures cobbled together in an artistic fashion, maybe, to tell a story.

This is the goth can from my store, It's a little harder to get pictures with a dark theme, so it took several magazines of unusual types to get the pictures for this one. And the piece of a bird wing I found just like that on the ground outside my house.                                                                                                                

Friday, October 16, 2009

How I spend my time

As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time on my computer. My favorite forum is over at the AntiCraft, and I post and laugh and cry and talk to my friends over there. I also spend a lot of time at etsy, working on my store and looking at what other people have made. This is an endless source of fascination for me, the creativity and genius and genuine dedication of the sellers there, and the encouragement and feedback of the buyers. I thought today I might showcase some of my favorite things-
just saw this today:

this is from                                                                                               
I thought it was a nice sentiment, clever on the anatomical heart too.                                                           
Everything in the shop is handmade with a twist, like an etched metal bracelet that has actual buttons on it   , nice twist, you see? go visit them. you'll love it.                                                                                            

This amazing spiderweb for the corner is made by Kay is the proprietor of celadon and her work never ceases to amaze and delight me, and I chose the web for my blog today, but she has made some new pieces for the holiday, can you imagine glass stars? go see her store, you will love her stuff, and she is just as lovely in person as the beautiful objects that she makes.  
This most excellent chainmaille bracelet is called "Byzantine" and is made by This artist is another friend of mine from the AntiCraft, and even though I know she uses her knitting needles as mandrels for cutting rings, the results are fabulous, and much better even in person than in this picture.       

This is one of mine, I call it "these links are made of what?" because they are made with soda can tabs and beer can tabs and whatever other ones I can get my hands on. They are 100 percent post-consumer and are currently staying the heck out of the landfill and on people's arms. Or necks, I've made a couple of neck rings like this too. My newest venture on etsy is a shop called, it's all recycled items and stuff made out of things that might otherwise be thrown away. So go see, I think it's fun, and I really like the WarKitten logo artwork drawn by my oldest son.  Thanks, Scott!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloween is Teh Scary

Halloween is sort of my favorite holiday. I love it because you can dress up and stuff and nobody thinks you're wierd. I, however, never seem to make it to the dressing up stage. I think up an awesome costume and then something happens, like I'm missing something and then poof! it never happens.

It happened well one time, though, a number of years ago. Here's a picture I call "Halloween with the Master"

Yep, that beautiful sexy witch is yours truly, and the teh scary man is an actor friend of mine who was really good at the scary makeup, he'd actually already lost the prosthetic chin by the time this picture was taken. It was the best party I've ever been to, though, for a lot of reasons.                                                                

So, I've been making Halloween stuff this year, here are the tiny earrings:

and the spider, yes he's purple. I was going for non-threatening, and the flock has since expanded to include silver and gold. That's my witches' hat he's perched on, isn't it the best?   He has a stickpin in his butt, that's the silver thing you can see under him, so you can wear him on your shoulder, or on your hat, for that matter.

Little tiny pieces of paper hold endless fascination for me, so I make sure I have as many of them as I can find room for in my filing system. That means that I have millions, maybe literally. This is what I do with them:

Amazing, right? And incredibly useful. I didn't even make that one for me, and it's got can tabs in it already. Oh well, guess I'd better make another one.
To buy any of my stuff, go to

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's a funny thing to be famous for

I got called "the lady who makes the skullies". Isn't it a funny thing to be famous for? But I make them, and I sell them in my etsy store, and I've sold quite a few sets between the new store and the 2 other stores that I attempted to use, but never loved. Not like I love my new store. Ampersand is the symbol for "and" that sort of resembles an ess or an eee. &&&&& that guy right there. To me it means "this and that and the other thing" and what it really means is that I can make and sell in the same store anything I can dream up, it's not a jewelry store, it's not a recycled items store, it's not a de-stash store (though I'm considering that one seriously). My mind races sometimes with all the possiblities out there, things that can be made out of other things and then shared with the world. I keep my prices small so things will leave me and go to good homes quickly (not having a lot of success with that one yet) and so that I can move along to my next idea. Currently I'm causing confetti all over my house cutting pictures out of magazines and catalogs to feed my decoupage/collage habit. Hopefully you will see the results of the storm soon!                                   

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coca Cola and Beer

There is a jar on the coffee table in the living room that has been there forever. It occasionally gets full, gets emptied and goes right back where it was. This is the repository of the sacred can tabs. None shall pass out of my house, all must go in the jar. You can never have too many can tabs.

Why? Well, they are useful items, to be sure. And I have always wished that I could make them into chain maille, but that almost, almost eluded me. Then the AntiCraft had a contest. Make a hat for Vlad the Impaler. He was a soldier, he wore maille, didn't he? out came the trusty crochet hook and some generic black yarn and this was the result:

Sort of like maille, right? And I won 3rd place in the contest, btw. And I was off and running again.
I love to recycle objects, not only does it save the landfill, it saves my wallet and makes me feel like I'm teh genius for coming up with this stuff. So then I learned about plarn.
Plarn is yarn made from plastic bags. The cheap liquor store near my house uses solid black plastic bags which is unusual, and they coincidentally sell both coke and beer, so I was all set for designing more craft projects with the materials at hand. Here was the next project, made with black plastic bags and can tabs:

It's tiny, about the size of a folded in half dollar bill, but it sold in the etsy store!
This summer, I was longing for a purse, so I made this one:

and of course there is the bracelet, currently for sale in my Etsy store, go look!
I will keep saving those can tabs, there is someone who is inspiring me so much in the art of can tabistry, you can see her stuff here:
The Art of Can

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Labor of Love

Hey, remember when I mentioned that a friend had asked me to make a snake? And how it got ripped apart and re-made like three times? Oh, I didn't mention that part? Hm. Well, it did. Because it had to drape around her neck in a graceful fashion, and when I bent it, the inner curve pleated up and there was just no living with me until I fixed that problem. I got some more beads much smaller than the original beads but the same colors, and used them on the inner curve/belly. Nice. Then, how do you make a snake head? As it turned out, you make it separately and then sew it on and bead over it and pray. You pray a lot. So, today it arrived in the mail to its new home, so I think I can post some pictures now. Heh. You're gonna love it. Now I have to make another one for me---

This is how it grew, a plate of beads and some skullies to keep it company while I was otherwise occupied. Looks like a snake, doesn't it?

This is a finished shot. See the little wire around the inner curve? To make it lay flat.

At first, I didn't think it would squiggle, but it did! Yay!

And, this is hiss cute little face, complete with mouth deliniation. I don't know his name, but I'm hoping that Labrys will tell it to me soon.

Monday, October 5, 2009


This is a random beautiful picture.

My father's father was a tinker. In generations past, a tinker was a person who did not have a career and work the same job for 40 years and then retire with a gold watch. Grandpa Max was a radiologist during WWII and he was a groundskeeper for a public park when he died. In between, he did lots of different things to support and care for his large family, my father was one of 11 children. There was no shame in his profession of tinker. It was a profession that had a name.

I think that I am a tinker too. In my life, I've been a pharmacy technician, a bridal consultant, a stay at home mom, a sales rep, a professional shopper, a drugstore manager, see, the list goes on and on. I've never had one career that felt like my life's work, and I have worried about that from time to time. I never had an "aha!" moment when my life was changed forever by the discovery of a yet unexplored field.

I like to learn things, and I know at least a little bit about an enormous amount of things. I'm an armchair mechanic. I like to visit other places in my mind through other people's travel photos. I discovered once that I knew very little about how motorcycles work, so I watched American Chopper for months. That one paid of when #3 son decided to be a motorcycle mechanic. I like thinking about Egypt and King Tut's tomb. I learned all about Michelangelo one summer.  Lots of different topics, I know, but each one useful in its own way. Today I learned that you can make a working model of a Transformer out of paper. And it's only 8AM!

The thing that ties my life together is the creating of objects that have never existed before. Even if I make something from a pattern, that item has never existed before. I chose the yarn, the size, I made the inevitable mistakes, it is entirely my own by the time I'm done, and I am glad for that birth. Sometimes it takes literally years for something to be completed and used for its intended use. Sometimes it never gets used. Sometimes it's used differently than I had originally thought.

I never, ever lack for ideas. I feel a little dry, well, I jump on the computer and look at a blog or a community or a website that has nothing whatsoever to do with what I'm trying to work out. I have an enormous collection of pictures that I add to constantly, randompictures over at Live Journal is a constant source of amusement to me, you never know what you're going to see there.

This is a market in Nepal, boy don't I want to go there, just lookit the beads!!!!!!!!
So this is my tinkering life. Next time somebody asks me what I do, that's what I'm going to tell them.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Letting go of my babies

How did this happen? I made a beautiful bracelet to sell. I always knew it would leave the nest.
but look at it!
Isn't it the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? Well?
And ingenious, don't forget ingenious. A simple beaded bracelet with different components that slide on and off, an infinite number of things you can do with it. See, those are the slides at the bottom, and my favorite of them isn't even in this picture. How can I bear to let it go? And it's not the only piece that I feel like this about. I'm so lame sometimes. I'm in love with photography too, and I am so reluctant to give up my sandbox. What do I made to photograph shit in for fall and winter? Maybe I could keep the sand and change from shells to rocks and stones and crystals.

what did you say, you're in love with the bracelet too? think I should list it so you can buy it? well, okay. maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What You Can Do With an Etsy Store

What can you do with an etsy store? Well, the sky is the limit, my friends, and I'm slowly, slowly scaling the mountain. I have to sell stuff to make room for the stuff I keep on making. Oh, you can say "well, you make jewelry, that doesn't take up much room" and you would be WRONG! Jewelry making requires huge amounts of room, what with all the boxes of beads, findings, threads, broken jewelry to make other jewelry out of, and the fact that I never throw anything away, no matter how useless, because soon as I do, I will desperately need it. My crafting does not stop at jewelry.

There is THE YARN. Anybody with a yarn stash knows exactly what I am talking about. It's ubiquitous. It's everywhere. It takes up huge Rubbermaid totes that keep ending up in the leaky, rusting shed. That is not my fault, nor does it hurt the yarn, but still. and there I am at midnight with a flashlight, yet again. Then there is the storage of half made projects, or things that did not work out quite right. Then there are the finished objects, or fo as we call them, that just need one little thing to make them finished, but somehow there is never time. Yarn is a committment.

I like broken furniture. Or it would seem that I like broken furniture for the amount of it that I have, inside and out , is simply staggering. Well, you could sit on that chair I guess, but don't rock, don't tilt it back on 2 legs (I know it won't hold you. I built that cheap-ass chair and I'm no mechanic) but keep it there at the table to hold knitting magazines on the seat and photographs, the pens that seem to leap into existence every time I look away, a pack of gum and the pretty turquoise foil that just needs to be made into something---.

I'm lucky. My family loves me. They pat me on the head and they say "This is Mom/Rowan and she's nuts. But we love her". Thanks, guyz. really.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Too many projects, running out of plates

This may not sound like a real problem, but it is. And solving it requires me to place unwavering faith in my cat.

This is Dinah, and in her world, the floor is made of lava. She moves around the house from chair to table to ledge, the dryer and so forth, only coming to earth near her food bowl. Then she settles down in the kitchen on a step stool to listen to the cupboards. Really.

I made things with beads, tiny little seed beads, and I dump them into plates. Oh, you're seeing where this is going now, right? Yep. Too many plates of beads. And a cat that doesn't walk on the floor. I tell myself that if I find them on the floor in the morning it's my own damn fault. Dinah, bless her, has the delicate feet of a dancer and exquisite balance to boot.

My ongoing project lately has been a fascination with tubular peyote stitch. I started beading around pens. A friend inquired "Since you can bead around a pen, can you make me a snake?"

Oh, maybe, says I, send me a picture. And at that point, I lost it. I got all carried away with myself and her story about the snake and the next thing you know, I've got a lifesize bull snake with pink crystal eyes. It was hard. It was all kinds of things I never thought of before. I didn't charge anywhere NEAR enough, but I learned a huge amount in the process.

I will post pictures after it has got where it's going, I took a bunch before coaxing it into a box for shipping.

Meantime, here's one of the bracelet that was inspired by the snake inspired by the pen.

anything else you want to see, go to and look in the store.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Look! I knitted a sock!
Everybody takes pictures like this.
I think it's because we can't wait!

Learning to knit was on my bucket list. I know my mom could knit, but her patience ran out with teaching me stuff around 7th grade home ec class. My mom can sew like nobody's business, and she did her best to teach me. I thought I had the hang of it, the apron I made for home ec class came home to be hemmed on Friday night, and I got up on Saturday morning to discover that she'd taken it all apart again because it was "messy". Made me sew the damn thing all over again. The bad, bad feelings from that never went away, so teaching me to knit was out of the question, and on the bucket list it went. For someday. hopefully before I kicked the bucket.

The ancient grandmother of a boyfriend taught me to crochet when I was in college, and I made miles and miles of chains and granny squares and pinwheels and bright sweaters that got worn once and taken apart again because I just don't like loud sweaters. Piles of afghans. And then the Moorestown Mall almost burned down.

I worked in the mall, at AC Moore, the most awesomest craft store of all time. It was the only one like that at the time, the mall store was store #1, and I was a tee shirt designer. Among other things. And then a bathing suit display in the sporting goods store caught fire in the early morning just before Christmas, the sprinklers went off, and suddenly I was on my own couch for a couple of weeks with pay, with nothing to do. Time to learn to knit. it was 1991.

I did knit. I made dozens of tiny little purses with seed beads and bedspread cotton, but no garments. I couldn't hold the yarn right. It felt weird after years and years of one needle to suddenly have 2 and yarn wound around my fingers on the wrong hand. I made one sweater that took 6 months and looked old and worn out when it was new, how the hell did I do that? and why the hell do I still wear it? but I do.

A couple of years ago, my #2 on was on a beanie kick. He cropped his hair off short and wore these tight fitting hats, but the ones he bought never suited him. I could knit, he said, couldn't I figure out how to make him a beanie? Well, it took a while, and I ultimately learned to hold the yarn, but on my left hand, like I crochet but with an extra twist for tensioning. I developed the perfect beanie pattern. I made about a hundred million beanies. Well, probably not, but it felt like it. Everybody got hats for Christmas. Most of them bitched about them, so I made more until I got it right. sort of.

This year, I got some yarn as a gift that was made out of recycled soda bottles. It's made by Caron, it's called Caron Eco and you can get it in your local Wal-Mart, or here
I was consumed with a desire to make socks. For myself. And a friend of mine, Rogue Knits, who you can find here
made these cabled hiking socks. I had to have a pair for myself. So I got out 4 needles the same size more or less, and I went for it.Are they not gorgeous? And they get softer and nicer every time they are washed. I'm in love. I'm hooked. Knitting socks is a strange passion. A lot of people have it, and they are all compelled to talk about it and blog about it and they are EVERYWHERE. I don't know whether to be proud or horrified! Well, that's a long story, and I have to go knit now. I know. It's a sickness. Hopefully there's no cure!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My first blog post

Hi! I want to talk about making things. I want to talk about knitting, beading, decoupage-- well, I've only met one craft that I didn't like. So I usually want to talk about all the rest of them. What do you like? Maybe I'll start.

Today, I like photography. I never was any good at it until I bought the Kodak Easy Share camera to take pictures of the jewelry I made and stuff, and now I don't ever go anywhere without it. I use it to take pictures of things that I see that I'd like to share with my family later, and I actually do use it to take pictures of my crafts. And my husband's incredibly strange garden, which, isn't really so strange if you know Pat, who is, himself, strange. You'll probably be hearing a lot about Pat later, he's a very creative person with a lot of ideas. *sigh* between us, our ideas sometimes take over our house. And potential junk is usually regarded as potentially something else someday, so it does not go out in the trash.

So, since we're talking about photography, have a look at the picture at the top of my post. Isn't that an amazing photograph? I had no idea what I was doing. This was supposed to just be a picture of the wire bead necklace, but I stuck it in the giant clamshell on my mother's porch and put some shells and seaglass sent to me by a friend in Alaska (thank you, Ivy!), and somehow, it just worked! And it's gorgeous! It didn't sell the necklace, though. But it did start something amazing that ultimately led to Ampersand3665. Damn the internet that just won't let you use a name somebody else used a variation of. Oh well.

I have a couple of projects started now. I have a bracelet project that was already a bracelet, but despite the fact that it ROCKED, bore no relationship to real life. So I hacked it apart and started again. Afraid I'll never like it again the way I did at first, but maybe it will be actually wearable. And I wanted a circular peyote stitch bracelet, you know, like a tube? So I made one, and it collapsed when bent. Oh, that's right, you're supposed to put cord or something in the middle. Hacked that one apart too. And there is the really loud green and purple socks on the needles. And the gorgeous, well, potentially gorgeous baby blanket being crocheted for a pregnant friend. Right now, there are 3. Who gets this might depend on who drops a kid first. Is that really all the current projects? Well, there's the etsy store, and this blog. the store is pretty cool, you can see it here- www.ampersand3665/
I'm going to get the widget that connects the blog and the store, but not yet. I'm always frustrated by what I want to do and my abilities to do it. So the store is good, but the blog will get better as I learn.