Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview Series: Week 19 – Bits Off the Beach

Greetings one and all!

Another technical diffuculty came my way a couple of days ago, in the form of my computer making scary noises and then not working.  I have a functioning "rig" right now, and I ordered new parts for a new system to build.  Until that is built, I won't be posting much on Facebook (as I've indicated), though other than this little blurb at the top of these lovely minnerviews, I have them all set to post on time – for as many as I have at current.  Until I have the new computer built and set up, other posts will be sporadic.

But, that's another story, and shall be told another time.

Today, I bring you Jo of Bits Off the Beach, who offers findings of beautiful beach glass and beach seeds crafted into gorgeous jewelry and such.  Unlike most jewelry makers, her materials are not ready to go – quite a bit more work and artistic wonder goes into these pieces, as they are hand-drilled for perfect placement and effect.  But I'll let her share the details!

Name: Jo Watkins from BitsOffTheBeach
Craft:  Jewelry + plus whatever :)
Favorite material (or medium, whatever you want to call it!):  As the name implies, I love using the bits of things I find on the beach.  Sea Glass,  Sea Beans, Shells, Pretty Stones, Driftwood.  Add some of the gorgeous beads and charms that are available and you have endless possibilities.  Most are one of a kind as each piece is shaped and colored differently so they all call for using them differently.
Most Popular Seller (whether it be online or at shows): Sea Glass necklaces with assorted sea themed charms  have been the favorite, with my sea glass earrings running a close second.

Sea Glass Necklace in Pastel Colors of Aqua, Green and Yellow Beach Glass
A very simple design with stunning results!

Mine-ICON What got you into your craft?

BitsOffTheBeach The over abundance of bowls and vases filled to the brim with sea glass and shells etc.and wanting to share them in a different way.


Mine-ICON How did you learn your craft?

BitsOffTheBeach I took a class in  Basic Jewelry Making back in school (umpteen years ago)  and the rest is mostly self taught through trial and error.
The first necklace I made was from the very first sea bean we found. It looked just like a miniature hamburger and we had never seen anything like it.  We talked to the locals in Hawaii and they said it was good luck to find one. Once I got home I researched what it was, cleaned it up and I surprised my husband with a necklace made out of it. He has worn it for almost 12 years now.  I have had to restring it a couple of times but it is still that original little hamburger seed.


Sea Bean Necklace, Hamburger Seed and Crystal Sterling Silver Pendant Jewelry
I've never seen a seed like this, but if it brings good luck, sign me up! It's wild!

Mine-ICON What about YOU? Who is the artist behind those wonderful items?

BitsOffTheBeach I grew up living on the beaches on Bainbridge Island Washington. They were the perfect playground as a girl and I got my love of all things beachie from a pretty young age.  I constantly had my pockets full assorted treasures that I had collected. Now I have "addicted" my husband to the past time too and we spend many of our vacations and a lot of weekends enjoying just walking along the ocean's shore and seeing what has washed up for us that day.


Silver and Black Beaded Earrings, Espresso Bean Bead in Flat Black
I usually eat Espresso beans covered in chocolate, or drink the Espresso… but they are really quite lovely in raw form!

Mine-ICON What is a typical "working" day for you? How does it usually start and end? How many hours do you spend crafting? How many hours do you spend on other things? What about distractions? I know we all have them! Do you usually accomplish all you wanted to?

BitsOffTheBeach Monday through Thursday I try to spend at least the morning either working on my shops or getting the word out on what I am doing.  Then I take a break and get the chores done around the house, cleaning shopping, laundry, gardens etc. After that I feel like the day is my own so I can work on new pieces or ideas without feeling the pressure that I should be doing something else, and I can just enjoy the process. On nice days, ( sometimes rare in the Pacific Northwest ) I will take whatever I am working on outside and work at the picnic table on the deck and soak up some sun at the same time.
Weekends vary depending on what we are doing. I try to spend time with family and check in on the shops just in the morning and later in the evenings.

Mine-ICON What happens when you Oops? Everyone gets one sometime or another! Do you get frustrated and destroy/start over, or do you go with the flow and see what comes out in the end?

BitsOffTheBeach A lot of my designs start out with an" Oops". I get an idea in my head as to what I want to do with a piece  but sometimes it doesn't translate into the piece well. If it is just something simple to fix ( an extra jump ring, or adding or subtracting some elements),  I can usually figure out what is wrong and work with it until it is what I envisioned. Sometimes when the first idea doesn't work another idea comes along from the mistake that even looks better, but there have been a few  pieces I have totally taken apart and started over with. I love it when those ones finally comes together and it becomes something amazing.

Lava Rock Earring Wire Wrapped in Antiqued Copper - Chunky Style - Mother's Day
I've never worn lava rocks, but I do think they are incredibly stunning when presented well – like this, for example!

Mine-ICON What is your design process like? How many tries does it take to be happy with the final product?

BitsOffTheBeach I usually start with the focal piece, like a piece of glass or sea bean then see what colors and finding work best with them. If it is complicated design I usually try it out with an inexpensive wire to see how it looks first and then replicate it for the final product with a better metal.  If it is a simpler design I just go for the good stuff the first time, though I have come to regret that a time or two. :)
Right now I am putting together a sea glass and silver bracelet.  I first gathered everything and laid it all out together in my little tray to see how it looks. Now I need to get the glass drilled and put it all together... which leads me to your next question…

Handcrafted Turquoise Stone Bracelet, Links of Gold and Natural Stone
It's so rare to see someone work with natural Turquoise, instead of the picture perfect blue variety.  It's such a beautiful stone in its natural state.

Mine-ICON What is your greatest roadblock, be it government regulation or that little frustrating thing that just likes to sneak up and stop you in your tracks? Broken needle? Jump ring jumping out of your pliers? Thread knots? Cats? Dogs? The family hedgehog rolled about in your yarn basket?

BitsOffTheBeach My biggest heart break (roadblock) is breaking a piece of glass. Here this beautiful piece of sea glass has spend years and years growing smooth by the oceans currents until it is just perfect, and when I try to drill it for my piece it snaps in two. It is so disappointing.  I learned about better drill bits now and I rarely break them now, but it is still crushing when it happens.

Mine-ICON All important pricing... Do you have a formula? Do you wing it? Do you feel your work justifies your prices?

BitsOffTheBeach My pricing is based on the cost of the material,  wires, beads, chains, etc that are used with my  beach findings. Plus my time for the creative process and the time it takes for the not so pleasant bookkeeping part of the business.   I rarely ever add in the cost of the glass or sea bean unless it is a very rare color or unusual piece.  The time I spend on the beaches looking for the perfect treasure are priceless to me and I am happy to share that with others.  
I love each piece that I make and believe my prices are fair. A lot of my pieces I am a little bit sad to see sell, like sending a favorite child off into the world. And I hope they all go to good homes.

Purple Sea Glass Charm Necklace - Hawaiian Sea Turtle with Beaded Pendant on Sterling Silver Chain
I fell in love with this beauty.  Purple sea glass is very rare to find, and this design puts it on prominent display so well!

Mine-ICON And of course, is there anything else you'd like to say to our "viewers at home"?

BitsOffTheBeach My shops are at
Bits Off the Beach on Zibbet
Bits Off the Beach on Etsy
or you can find me on Facebook.


Thank you, Jo, for sharing the beauty that nature offers us in your work, and your wonderful story with us all! Be sure to visit Jo's links to her shops, and like her gorgeous work on Facebook!

Until next week, thank you one and all for reading!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Interview Series: Week 18 - Weirdsville

Many apologies for not being around last week, and for the sketchy details left on my Facebook page.  I'll explain it all now, since it won't take too long.

My internet service provider, Pembroke Telephone Company, has a history in my location of iffy service.  We (my mother and I) think that it has something to do with the wiring – our road is dirt/clay/sand, mostly sand, with ditches on either side.  Since the wiring is buried on the sides of the road, when the company that "cares" for the road (and I use "cares" loosely) digs out the ditches, we suspect that they strip the insulation from the wiring.  This means, that when it rains, gets windy, storms, or threatens to look like rain, the internet service plummets.  We pay for 6Mbps Download/512kbps upload, and when it rains, gets windy, storms or threatens to look like rain, I might get one tenth of that service at best, but typically, I get no service at all once the wires are wet or are being hit by wind.  Recently, our house was fitted with Fiber Optic cables (which we have been promised for about a year, and finally now have), but I don't think that they are functional yet.  Since my area has had rain pretty steadily for the past two weeks or so, I never know when I'll have internet, or what quality it will be.  Since I need the internet to retrieve the images and links I put into my interview posts, I have been unable to do much of anything recently.  Gaming has been a nightmare, and so I've mostly been on the internet to look up things, place orders my mother asks me to, and talk with my long-distance boyfriend while working on some other things I've been putting aside – such as a scarf I've been meaning to finish knitting, some inventory recording/organization, and some paperwork that I didn't want to do since it's… well… paperwork.

This week we seem to not have as much rain in the forecast, so the phone/internet cables have a bit of a chance to dry out, bringing me better/faster internet.  Until the Fiber Optic cables are fully functional from service provider home to hubs to individual customers, it's going to always be this way: When it rains, gets windy, storms or threatens to look like rain, I'll have crappy internet service most of the time, or no service at all.

SINCE this week doesn't have so much in the forecast, I'm going to try to queue as many interviews as I have ready.

Like this week's, where I bring you something COMPLETELY different – something unlike this blog has ever featured, and something so unique I doubt I'll ever see anything like it again!  Aptly named "Weirdsville", this week's artist brings us weird things of all kinds, in many different mediums.  I'm not sure I can even try to explain his work, so I'll let him do the explaining, and I'll also let his work try to explain itself!

Without further kvetching about my internet, I'll let Lee of Weirdsville from Zibbet take the stage!


Name:  Lee Widener
Craft:  I do artwork with markers, and I also make assemblage sculptures.
Favorite material (or medium, whatever you want to call it!):  My favorite medium no longer exists. When I started doing marker art, there was a company called Design that made the best art markers on the planet. They had the most colors, their ink saturation and blending was superior, and their prices were great. Then Prismacolor bought them out and promptly discontinued them. Today you can find sets of Design Art Markers on Ebay for huge prices.
Most Popular Seller (whether it be online or at shows):  DancingRainbows at Zibbet. Her Sun Catchers are just gorgeous. And she photographs them so well, they really have a dynamic energy.

Alien Landscape in My Right Shoe
I think I would be terrified of an alien colony moving into my shoe, but this is just so awesome that I don't think I'd mind too much!

Mine-ICON What got you into your craft?

Weirdsville Wanting to be like my idols. I'm a big fan of underground comix from the 60s and 70s, and a lot of my artwork is just my version of that kind of art. I also have a unique point of view. I saw that nobody else was doing quite what I wanted to do, so I had to make it a reality.


Mine-ICON How did you learn your craft?

Weirdsville Reading, observing, trial and error. I'm not trained at all. I look at art and comics and try and figure out how the artists do what they do.

Some Weirdos Show the Space Creature How to Have Fun - Original Cartoon Art
"Getting Smashed" indeed! This looks like a lot of fun, truth be told!

Mine-ICON What about YOU? Who is the artist behind those wonderful items?

Weirdsville I'm an old guy who recently lost his job. I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, so I'm spending it doing things I've always wanted to do. I grew up in the midwest and now live in Oregon, which is a marvelous place full of creative people, many of whom are a bit off kilter, so it's a great working environment.
I'm also a writer of "Speculative Fiction," which is a catch-all term for anything weird- horror, science fiction, paranormal, adventure. I gave up writing for a long, long time to try and make it in the "real world," which was the biggest mistake of my life. I started writing again a couple of years ago, and am having a modest amount of success.

Mixing Bowl From Hell - Original Psychedelic Underground Outsider Art
I… I'm not sure what to think of this, but I'm sure going to check my bowls for holes, legs and fire before I bake again!

Mine-ICON What is a typical "working" day for you? How does it usually start and end? How many hours do you spend crafting? How many hours do you spend on other things? What about distractions? I know we all have them! Do you usually accomplish all you wanted to?


WeirdsvilleWhen I'm drawing, I try to stay focused. It take me between two and four hours to sketch out a picture, ink it and then color it. Three drawings in a day is a job well done. If I'm working on my sculptures, it's a lot of stop and go, because I have to wait for glue to dry. I'll work on several at once- adding a new piece to each one, and then I go and do something else for several hours while the glue dries. I'll go write, play games on Facebook, do some research for upcoming projects, look for places to promote my work. I'm a bit of a night owl, so I might be at my table at two in the morning gluing things together.


Classic British Horror Comic Book - Chiller Pocket Book 9 Man-Thing
Classics are almost always the best. I've never been a comic collector, but this would make a fantastic addition to anyone with a collection!

Mine-ICON What happens when you Oops? Everyone gets one sometime or another! Do you get frustrated and destroy/start over, or do you go with the flow and see what comes out in the end?

Weirdsville I did a series of sculptures called "Alien Landscapes in a Jar" utilizing a lot of empty jars I had laying around. They were hard. Trying to put little tiny objects in a certain place inside a jar that your hand doesn't fit into is an exercise in frustration. I'd often drop things in the wrong place and have to take them out and start all over again. I have tongs I use to try and place things with, but they're big and clunky and didn't work all that well. If I ever make any more, I'll get some long tweezers.

Mine-ICON What is your design process like? How many tries does it take to be happy with the final product?

Weirdsville I see it all in my head. When I'm drawing, I sketch it all out in pencil first, and do all the tweaking in that stage. I might start over a few times, or it might all flow. When I'm making sculptures, they just evolve as I build each piece. The scenes are revealed to me as I build them. They always surprise me, so I always love them.


Alien Landscape in a Jar – Catopix
Amazing worlds captured in jars! How can you go wrong? Well letting them out of the jar aside, that is…

Mine-ICON What is your greatest roadblock, be it government regulation or that little frustrating thing that just likes to sneak up and stop you in your tracks? Broken needle? Jump ring jumping out of your pliers? Thread knots? Cats? Dogs? The family hedgehog rolled about in your yarn basket?

Weirdsville My creative process flows pretty freely, but my biggest hurdle is getting the word out there. My stuff is on the fringe, it has a limited appeal, so trying to connect with the right audience is a big challenge. I struggle with it daily.


Alien Landscape in a Can - Eunoit 7
Just as awesome as the jars, with a better chance of escape!

Mine-ICON All important pricing... Do you have a formula? Do you wing it? Do you feel your work justifies your prices?

Weirdsville I keep my prices low, too low, really, for the hours I put into making my art. I want people to buy, so I price low. Maybe that's the wrong strategy, but in this economy it seems necessary.


Mine-ICON And of course, is there anything else you'd like to say to our "viewers at home"?

Weirdsville There's a humorous aspect to all my art. I take an idea and try and twist it- like taking innocent, innocuous objects and trying to make them menacing- The Butterfly of Death, The Cotton Balls of Doom, The Mixing Bowl From Hell. It's silly. I hope people will get a laugh out of what I do. There's enough heaviness in the world. I'm trying to lighten things up a bit. Make people see things in a different way. Smile, people - life's too short.



I can't agree with that last statement more.  Life is too short!  Having an odder look at life, a lighter look, is certainly good advice.  Adding fun into one's life significantly increases its quality, that's fore sure!  So go, everyone! Look at what Lee has to offer – if nothing more, bring one of his eclectic creations into your own world so that it makes you smile when you look at it.

Be certain to visit Lee and his weird creations at Weirdsville of Zibbet!

Until next week! Thank you for reading everyone!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

It Takes Quite A Lot…

… to make me angry.

I stay out of politics.  I vote for the candidate who I feel will do the best by me and mine.  I ignore the bickering, mud-slinging childish antics politicians feel they have to do so someone votes for them.  I read agendas and look at laws.

However there was one comment that President Obama made that made me want to put my fist through my television.

"You didn't build that."

It's all over the news and he's wailing that he's been taken out of context.  Perhaps he was – but he didn't SAY it that way when he originally said it.  I can give the benefit of the doubt when it comes to "ohshit I didn't mean it that way"… but looking at laws, and how regulations that his regime have put in place have been destroying small businesses, even ones that aren't actually businesses yet, I am going to have to say "not this time".

I was OUTRAGED to hear those words, and the words that came after.  (By the way, what do "great teachers along the way" have to do with his backpedaling "I was talking about the roads!" remark?)

Yes, I had great teachers in my life.  Math, English, German, Music Theory, Violin, Viola, Alto-Clarinet, Shop (I will never forget the smell of burning plastic from 6th grade, the wood from 7th, and metals in 8th), Home-Ec (I still can only sort of sew a straight seam, and cooking taught me nothing I didn't learn from my parents on how to prepare food), Computers (Ahh, Basic coding, I will never forget you!), Chemistry, Biology, Physics (in which I learned how to hold a glass of water on a roller coaster and not get soaked!), Stage-Craft (after school in HS, and in college! I still love working with lighting over everything else, though building sets is very satisfying when you see the final product!), and of course I had crappy teachers, like my orchestra/choir director in college who told me I sucked, after driving through a snowstorm to get to rehearsal to be the only viola that showed up, on crutches from a hair-fracture in my foot… and of course the teacher I had for Microsoft Office that same year who conveniently lost an entire box of floppy disks because I did my homework while she taught the seniors (older people who were newer to Windows 95/98 at the time, not college seniors) how to use the Start button in Windows.  Or the English teacher in HS who failed half his class, honor students and all, because he felt like it.  Or the History teacher who was finally fired after sexually assaulting several generations of female students, including giving them better grades for wearing revealing clothing.

Not a single teacher that I EVER had told me anything about jewelry, crafts, or turning a hobby into a business.

I never LEARNED to make jewelry. I taught myself.  I took tips and hints from online guides, sure, but they only improved techniques I did the hard way.  When I got an idea, I spent yards upon yards of practice wire to learn how to do it.

Business model? Err…  I'm still learning that, seeing as my state wants more than I make to register as a business, so I remain a hobby-level seller until my sales bring in the money I need to register – and I'll register after Obama is out of office, no matter how long that takes, so all of his small-business killing regulations are gone with him – so perhaps I can actually AFFORD to be a business instead of being regulated out of business before I even get started.

That brings me to funding.  I initially spent $50 on my supplies.  I make a sale, I get new/more supplies.  When my mother wants asks me to have something made for her, she buys the supplies, and tells me to keep what's left since she can't use them.  My jewelry FUNDS my jewelry.  I spend nothing that I have not already made.  If it is not in my hands, I don't spend it.  No sales = no new supplies, unless it's from gifted cash (birthday and Christmas alike).

My only "help" has been my cheering section of friends and family.  Does that mean they are creating my jewelry? Does that mean I owe what little successes I have to THEM, when it has been my hands, my mind and my heart creating the jewelry I sell?

I use no government funding, no bank loans, no outside sources.

I am offended, and I stand offended for each and every person I have featured, past, present and future.  We make things with OUR OWN HANDS, and we're now being told, we didn't build that.

I'm sorry, Mr. President, but I stand with that man in Savannah, GA, where my father bought lumber from on several occasions (

I am building something from scratch that probably will do very little for me while I work my rear-end off for many years.
I'm building what I hope will be a blooming small-business in hand-crafted jewelry.

I. I. I.

Not the government.


I won't tell our Commander in Chief to kiss my ass, however.  I am tempted to say something much stronger.

Instead, I will just continue as I am, and know that it was MY HANDS that built my business when it catches on, if it catches on.

Yes, Mr. President.

Yes, WE DID build that.  And you will just have to live with the fact that YOU didn't have a hand in it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When you need just one more…

…of you…


Yes, this is how I feel, the majority of the time.

Then again, by not rushing around like mad, it seems like more does get done.  Even with deadlines, slow and steady wins.  Take the time to breathe deeply and pay attention to what you're doing.  Stress is not an option, even if that clock is ticking.

This is something I have learned since moving to Georgia from Maryland.  Up in Maryland, there was almost always a gun to my head, saying "Get it DONE! GET IT DONE RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
And what came out of it was not what my best is.  Botched work when I know I'm capable of better, utterly STUPID errors that could have been avoided had I taken a moment to look things over. Things were forgotten in the fray, things that should NEVER be forgotten, and would not have been forgotten had I taken a moment to go back and look things over.

This goes for both work and home.

Here in Georgia, I take that time, because deadline or no, people HERE know and understand that things DO take TIME.  More of what I do is done right THE FIRST TIME, when I take those moments to breathe, to check over, to look back.  When there is not someone impatient looming over me demanding things be done RIGHT NOW!!!!!!, then I work better, and I work faster.

Funny how people here, for as much as so many stereotype "Southern People" with "Dumb" and "Slow", have the right of things here.

As Simon and Garfunkle put it:

"Slow down, you move too fast!
Y'got to make the moment last!
Just kickin' down the cobblestones,
Lookin' for fun and
Feelin' Groovy!"
~The 59th Street Bridge Song

Though I don't dawdle when I'm working on things, I do take the time to breathe, break, and look back at things.  They get done right the first time, usually, with minor tweaks.

And more gets checked off along the day, the week, the month, the year, because fewer stress-caused errors = more productivity in less time.

I've also found that people are polite here.  Saying hello doesn't get you dirty looks.  Asking "How are you?" is answered.  People smile more.

Calling someone "friend" does not mean "usable, discard once they have no more use".

A lot of northern people are moving down here.  I'm hoping that the atmosphere does not change; I'm sick of being used by someone else, and if I want to get ahead, I'm not going to use someone else to get there, like I've been used in the past.  That's not how I was raised.

I'm CERTAINLY not going to rush a job for a deadline.  Slow and steady.  Right the FIRST time, not the 26th time after rushing and overlooking.

I still want more of me, so I can do things faster, though.  Just because it WOULD be simpler.


Next week, we return to Minnerviews!  Thanks for reading everyone!