Ticking Off a Bucket List Item: Bead-a-Palooza in Tucson!

Well, I just experienced an ultimate “bright, shiny objects” event: I took a stroll through the gem and mineral shows in Tucson, Arizona last week with my long-time friend Ginny.  This renowned event has been on my radar for years and, now that I’m an Arizona resident, I can indulge! And, I used my trusty smart phone camera to share the abundance of gems, minerals, beads, findings, and other beautiful objects on display. Believe me, just as our tour covered a slice of the whole, these photos capture a mere fragment of that slice. The mind boggles at the possibility of hitting every venue!

Here’s your head’s up: at the end of January and the beginning of February of each year, international and national vendors gather in Tucson, Arizona to sell their sparkling wares. It’s a wholesale event for the most part, but there are vendors who do sell to the public. It’s a combination of sales and exhibitions and the venues are spread throughout the city. The Tucson shows are part of a larger exhibition/sales universe, but they are the Big Kahuna of the gem & mineral events in the U.S.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

So, what do you think about trays filled with sparkling gems? Don’t you just want to pick them up and let them trickle through your fingers? I can’t say that it’s show etiquette, but it’s certainly a temptation. Did I purchase? Nope. I may have a modicum of jewelry-making talents, but setting gems is not one of them.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

There were yards and yards of bead strands in every conceivable type and color spread throughout the two venues I visited. The trend in matte-finished beads surprised me, but waxy, matte-like finishes are a rising trend in kitchen and bath design for natural and manufactured stone counter tops. Well, duh, makes sense then.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Here I offer you only a portion of the rainbow array of wire-linked bead strands. The greens and blues really spoke to me. I wish I’d had a good reason to buy yardage because the selection was stellar, but alas, I decided to stick to my buying plan/budget–a not fun, yet necessary strategy when visiting a bead mecca or even a quilt show!

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Here we have a bonanza of gold and silver findings which provide decorative elements to jewelry design. Love, love, love them!

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

I’ve got a soft spot for Swarovski crystal beads, especially this latest generation of crystal-bedecked beads. This vendor took those beads in a new direction for me:  multi-colored ones! She said some of her designs are directed specifically for collegiate use and thus the school colors and sports gear (i.e. those baseball/tennis ball beads) models.

Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows 2016

Ah, my favorite photo. I could dive into this pile of colored-glass beads. I have a recurring fantasy of wearing all of them at one time stacked on my neck, running up my arms, and wrapping my ankles. Ludicrous and heavy, but fun! Thanks for the fun day Ginny!

Narrowed signature



Filed under About, Crafts, Inspirations

Back in the Saddle: BSOz Rides Again!

Hello? Anyone out there? (Should I pipe in Adele’s Hello for appropriate thematic music?!?) I know it’s been many months since I last sat at my computer to compose a blog post. Many things have happened in that interval. My husband and I packed up and sold our home in Northern California. Our new outpost is the Phoenix area of Arizona. Why not? Change is good, albeit temporarily disorienting.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Saguaros

I’ve had many mini moments to share, but never quite got to the composition phase. Today, Monday, is a writing day. I’d like to share a beautiful spot I’ve come to enjoy here in Arizona, the Desert Botanical Garden. The collection of desert flora and fauna completely blows away the idea that a desert environment is lifeless. Sure at summer’s peak, it’s a tough place to survive, but the adaptations to the arid climate are surprisingly lush, green, and vibrant. I’m always amazed by the desert’s greenness–no, it’s not the intense emerald of the British Isles, but it’s its own shade of wonderful.

Desert Botanical Garden: a relaxing vignette

Here’s the photogenic Queen Victoria Agave. I’m not sure why it’s got a royal title, but does grow like a crown.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Queen Victorian Agave

While strolling through the gardens I came across a gallery opening for Dyana Hesson’s paintings. Wow! She’s a master of catching sunlight and her brushstrokes are so clean and precise. Dazzling, dazzling paintings!

Desert Botanical Garden: Dyana Hesson exhibit

Here’s her show biography–I admit I got a little lazy here with the documentation and photographed it for you.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Bio of Dyana Hesson

Now tell me, does painting called That Way call to mind the work of a renowned quilt maker? I see Jane Sassaman’s jagged edges and lovely curves.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's That Way

Now this painting is one of my favorites for capturing the grayed green common to desert plants. Plus Hesson focuses on the juxtaposition of vegetation with dangerous jagged edges and a tender colorful blossom. The painting is called Beauty and the Beast.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Beauty and the Beast

This series of photos builds to a spectacular painting called Sakes Alive, There’s Five!, a depiction of freshly bloomed cactus flowers. This may be a bucket list item for me:  find/buy the cactus plant that blooms with these beauty-queen-worthy blossoms. In the first photo I wanted to show you Hesson’s precision painting.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Look at the way the light falls on the petals. Wow!

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Are you ready for the whole image? Here she is, Sakes Alive, There’s Five! I could handle installing such a lovely painting in my home. Could I afford it? Nah. (The painting is very large, but here in WordPress, it’s coming up smaller than the detail shots. Oh well . . . )

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Dyana Hesson’s paintings typically start with photographs. With smart phones at the ready, we are indeed one step closer to creating our own artwork in paint or fabric.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Purple prickly pear cactus

Here are a couple of cacti that have purple and reddish varieties. The one above is a prickly pear (another future purchase for my cactus-garden-in-the-making), but I’m not sure of the name of the variety embedded below–it’s a tall one though at 8 to 10 feet.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Cactus

Now here’s something fun. I’ve been to the garden 3 times now and have seen a roadrunner twice. Beep-beep! Road runners are wonderful to watch as they really do call to mind the the coyote’s famous foe in Looney Toons cartoons, but they are much prettier with striking plumage patterns and head comb. I am a fan!

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 9.41.16 AM

Regards from Arizona! I do have it in mind to be a more regular correspondent, stop by!

Narrowed signature




Filed under About, Inspirations, Places

Third Time’s the Charm? Another Flower-Themed Post

Dale's roses

I do have it in mind to share a quilt project I’ve been incubating for about eighteen months, but not yet . . . I got distracted by a visit to a very special garden located nearby. A quilter’s garden as a matter of fact! This particular quilter, Dale Fleming, is an incredible textile artist and a rather gifted gardener as well. With our California drought continuing unabated, the thirsty European-style garden is become a scarce commodity, as it should, and Dale is about to transform her plot of dirt into a water-wise landscape. This visit was her last hurrah before she overhauls her plants. (And, wouldn’t you know, we experienced a rare rainy day while we were there.)

Dale's roses 2

Dale's rose 3

Dale's rose 4

Clematis is an usual flower for a California garden, but here various purple varieties glow.

Dale's clematis

Dale's clematis 2

Dale's clematis 4

Dale's clematis 3

The roadside view of the garden is a delight: it is a little wild, meandering, and with a typical Dale touch, inventive with its plant choice and placement. I could see myself whiling away a few hours with a good book and tasty refreshments in her garden retreat.

Dale's garden

Dale's garden 2

These are Nigella–Dale says the seeds are edible, like poppy seeds.


Dale's garden 3

Here’s a before/after series of a Knautia blossom. The seeds are tasty fare for chickadees.


Dale's garden 4

The after: the flower in full bloom.


Dale's garden 5

I will mourn the passing of Dale’s Euro-style garden, but I suspect her water-wise interpretation will be just as wonderful. It’s no surprise that, for many quilters, their creative lives balance textile love with green thumbs. Dale is clearly one shining example of that sorority. Thanks for the tour!



Filed under About, Artists, Inspirations

Sunday Afternoon with Flowers . . . More Springtime Blossoms, New Color Array

Okay, I couldn’t resist. Here’s what I spotted at a flower stand that runs alongside the Market Hall in Rockridge, a Oakland, CA neighborhood. Is this a fabulous color palette or what? This particular tiny flower shop excels with its flowery vignettes.

Flower Walk

Now tell me, who could possibly walk by without stopping? A feast for the eyes!

Flower Walk 3

Peach and tangerine with accents of multi-toned green.

Flower Walk 4

Focus:  the Gerbera.

Flower Walk 5

Even closer, just the merest touch of pink on this gerber daisy.

Flower Walk 6

Now this is a treat:  a blossoming stem of a variety of magnolia–a distant cousin.  I’ve never seen this flower before.

Flower Walk 2

Parting shot with narcissus. Hope you liked it!

Narrowed signature


Filed under Inspirations

Other People’s Flowers: A Springtime Photo Essay

It’s been a while since I’ve added to my posts and I thought I’d give you a visual essay today just because it’s a beautiful day and I want to share it with you.

News sources are replete with stories about our drought issue here in California. It’s indeed challenging and requires long-term solutions, but when we do get rainfall as we did yesterday, it’s so easy to forget how much water we need when we are gifted with a shower of water.

There’s no late afternoon adventure I love more than chasing flower photo ops in my neighbors’ yards after the clouds have lifted and the raindrops catch the light of a brightening sky. Just before sunset is the perfect moment.

Other People's Flowers

Droplets gather on an unfurling petal of a rosebud. We need to catch and save every drop!

Other People's Flowers

Love, love, love the many wonderful colors found in roses.

Other People's Flowers

My favorite neighborhood rose bush–if only my neighbor knew how many of my floral photos include her exquisite blossoms.  Don’t you just love the first blooms of the season?

Other People's Flowers

It’s difficult to mess up a straightforward rose portrait, I think the challenge is finding a new perspective on a blooming flower.

Other People's Flowers

This is actually from my yard: raindrops on a Purple Smoke Bush. The leaves looked like they were bedecked with crystals.

Other People's Flowers

May the sun shine on you today!

Narrowed signature


Filed under Inspirations

Media Finds: Artists at Work

Have tools, create art?

Have tools, create art?

Dilettante here:  I wish I were completely, perfectly, soul-satisfyingly proficient in an art form, but I cannot settle down to one pursuit and thus I’m a wicked dabbler. There are those, though, who do and they are extraordinary. Lately, I’ve found a wellspring of artists profiles on cable  TV and I thought I’d share some of the artists who’ve tantalized me with their skill and accomplishments.

How did find these artists? Well, that discovery was an unexpected boon from my husband’s channel-surfing habit. I don’t know if you’ve come across NHK World, it’s a Japanese TV network, but do give it a try if you can. Albeit funky at times, the cultural programing is remarkable and even mind-blowing. The other finds are serendipitous as well, but from more conventional sources like PBS and YouTube.

Mika Toba & Katazome Textile Dyeing

Meet Mika Toba, a woman artist who uses an ancient Japanese dyeing technique called Katazome to create fabric panels. The program we caught was called Creating a Zen World. The segment follows Toba as she conceptualizes a major commission for a Zen temple called Ryōan-ji in Kyoto–parts of it date to the 12th century, but the temple itself was constructed sometime after 1450. Toba’s completed screens would keep company with the work of revered artists and craftsmen of bygone times. The segment shows how Toba is more than up for the task from her initial renderings of the zen-like landscapes that would be dyed onto the screens to her dogged commitment to following age-old techniques and materials to complete her commission. She has singlehandedly kept artisanal workshops in Kyoto from shuttering in order to help create her art.

What is remarkable about the Zen temple commission is that she created scenes on both sides of the wall-sized screens. But it’s Toba herself who intrigued me more. I cannot help but be swept up by the single-mindedness of her vision and commitment, which is really what a dabbler/artist lacks, or at least experiences only spasmodically. I let life intrude and she, well, she doesn’t. After that fun ride on Toba’s Katazome journey, I’m an NHK fan. You will be as well if you are the least intrigued by Japanese art forms and cultural eccentricities–witness the segment on all manner cosmetic brushes each with a very specific use!

Mika Toba & her Katazome art--visit her website to learn more about this incredible artist

Mika Toba & her Katazome art–visit her website to learn more about this incredible artist

Sharon Isbin, Troubadour

Photo by J. Henry Fair and posted on Isbin's website

Photo by J. Henry Fair and posted on Isbin’s website

My husband and I caught this artist profile one evening on PBS, Sharon Isbin, Troubadour, although I suspect it forms part of a larger public television series. Sharon Isbin is a classical guitarist who is not only an international performer and Grammy winner, she also is the director of guitar for the Aspen Music Festival and The Julliard School. I was enchanted by her maverick take on guitar music. Rising through the ranks as a woman in a musical form dominated by iconoclastic guitarists like Andres Segovia is not her only grand achievement, she also experiments outrageously with musicians from all backgrounds and styles. The results reflect that diversity–some are great and some are odd, but why not? It was fun to see her interactions with rock musicians and avant-garde composers.

The Amped-up Realism of Marcello Barenghi 

Hyper realism of Marcello Barenghi featured on his website

I realized as I was composing this post that there’s a larger story at work with my BSOz adventure here:  I LOVE to see an artist at work. Many times I’d rather experience the behind-the-scenes story than see the result–it’s the struggle that yields to innovation that is compelling for me. And this artist of hyper realism delivers just that:  videos of him making drawings that are as good as photographs. Take a look at Marcello Barenghi’s time-lapse snippets and be awed.

Always a Dancer, Even if the Body Complains

A gallery of ballet dancers UK Royal Ballet from web

Click photo to visit the ballet company’s website

So far I’ve given you a textile art, music, and drawing, and so I’ll close with a bit of sublime dance. This is one of my favorite YouTube clips from the Royal Ballet in London, England. As a ballet practitioner who has run way past her dance expiration date (‘dem legs do creak and protest!), I adore watching ballet class as it should be done. I hope you do too, but know that the big stuff–turns, jumps, leaps–come toward the end of class.

BSOz for you!

Narrowed signature

1 Comment

Filed under Artisans, Artists, Dance

Raw Goods + Quirky Point of View = An Inspirational Trip to Arizona

Folk Art from Scottsdale, AZ, Distrito Restaurant

Hello all, I’m just back from a foray southward to Arizona to hang with family. It’s always fun for me to visit a city like Phoenix with a distinct landscape and a strong sense of its identity. Mostly it’s wonderful to escape routine, although I’m now committed to a strict two-margaritas-only policy after exceeding my meager limits to ill effect one night. Two icy limey margaritas + chips/guacamole = conviviality; 3 = rubbery legs + major headache!

Despite the lingering malaise from my first night’s celebration, I didn’t let that keep me from enjoying the modern Southwestern design style that’s taking over Arizona’s newest restaurants, shops, and public places. The cliche of howling coyotes and desert color palettes have been replaced by an edgier approach that harnesses humble inputs like acid-washed metal and concrete, cutting edge lighting design, and whimsy for new inspiration on desert themes.

Screen shot 2015-02-17 at 8.12.36 AM

Take the Saguaro, a boutique hotel in Scottsdale, and its in-house restaurant/bar called Distrito. The restaurant sells itself on the notoriety of its celebrity chef, Jose Garces, an Iron Chef and James Beard Award winner, but what got me excited was the design of the dining and social spaces, in addition to the tasty fare, of course. Distrito’s decor is emblematic of a Southwestern mod fusion that elevates humble elements to high style.

Elastic Design Couture at Distrito in Scottsdale, AZ

My family—husband, our sons and their girlfriends—thought I was a bit obsessive with my photo taking, but really, elastic yardage? Seriously? Take a look at these iterations of the elastic-as-room-divider application. Brilliant!

Then, take the humble aluminum lawn chair with its plastic woven bands of webbing—the one that pinched badly if your hand was in the wrong place at the wrong time—and imagine using that webbing as fabric. Mind you, a better and tighter weave in a prettier color and made into whole cloth for upholstery purposes. As I’m a huge fan of purple in all its manifestations, I particularly loved the orchid/blue plaid of the chairs next to the warm wood tones of the furniture.

Screen shot 2015-02-17 at 8.10.22 AM

Next, and my favorite detail, a wall of thousands of tiny colored yarn balls lined up cheek by jowl. I’ll think much differently about those bulk bags of yarn balls when I next visit a craft store!

Yarn Art Elevated at Distrito in Scottsdale, AZ

The other artwork was imaginatively curated as well. I got a kick out of this artist, Michael David Little, and his quirky portraits (Brian Claybrook Photography’s post of some of Little’s work). The spaceman was a particular favorite for my family of SciFi fans.

Painting Exhibited in Distrito

Oh, I almost forgot, a larger view of the painted skull display at the entrance to the restaurant, truly Day of the Dead on steroids.

Screen shot 2015-02-17 at 8.11.25 AM

Before I close this installment, here’s a peek at something pretty I spotted while shopping in Scottsdale . . . sublime Oscar de la Renta couture. Boy, that dress takes me back to my childhood ballet dreams. I loved the Bluebird Fairy from Sleeping Beauty and fantasized about dancing in a flower bedecked tutu just like that dress. If only my typically down-home life had space and funds for such a dreamy dress.

Screen shot 2015-02-17 at 8.12.51 AM

There you have it, a visual tour of Scottsdale, Arizona running from the rustic to high fashion.

Narrowed signature






Filed under About, Artists, Food Matters, Places