Jan 31, 2012

The start of a Marigold flower

Last weekend I took 2 workshops with Bead Master Huib Petersen. He's a genius! He can bead every flower, every critter you can think of. We were supposed to bead an Anemone.
I finished the leaves (very challenging piece of beading!) and started the flower (2-drop peyote). I soon got stuck with my first leaf and Huib asked me if I knew how to read the diagram. "Uuuh, obviously NOT".
Well, I finished half a leaf. I'm happy.

The second day's project is called 'Talons' and these are kind of a dragon tail links.
What a brain challenge!!
3-Dimensional Right Angle Weave. I think this is the most challenging piece I've done ever. Squares, triangles attached right, left, up or down. What is this man thinking!

After spending 9 hours at the workshop, I finished one whole link and another half.
I hope to finish it somewhere this year. But I learned more from Huib than I imagined when I signed up for these classes. Thank you Huib!

The main reason I took the anemone class was.....I needed a Marigold flower for my mask. And see, here's the start....

Happy Tuesday!

Jan 22, 2012

Well, well, we even enjoyed the snow.....

.......for an hour.

By the time we bought our snowshoes last winter, the snow was gone. So now that the snow has finally returned we had to venture out - sun or no sun. We got about 10 inches of snow on Friday.
Ruba's facilities Friday night.
Although the light on the pictures suggests it is late afternoon; it's not! It's 11am, overcast and more snow in the air.

Fort Sheridan watertower

Some light far far away in Wisconsin. Not here.
 Jan en Tine: zijn jullie niet reuze blij in Florida? Mmmmmmmm 28oC en strand!

Our winter neighbors.

Jan 18, 2012

Party in AZ

Saturday, our last day of the Kate & Kyle adventure in Tucson, turned out to be another highlight. While Gabri finished her first horned bracelet and immediately jump-started a second, Jeroen joined Kyle's photo workshop with Doriot, Robin, Diana, Jean and new addition Sarah Imholt. After exploring the all powerful trinity of aperture, shutter speed and film speed, we played with different lighting and it was Jeroen's turn to model his serial killer mugshot in front of the camera in stead of behind it. 

A field trip to Tucson's Arroyo Chico resulted in coyote sightings, rock star in prickly pear pictures and a cover for the soon to be released new album, book or movie (still to be decided, but Kyle and Photoshop can make either one happen within minutes) by Augurk LikKen. Kate's pool and street front became the exciting set of another Cassidy photo shoot, involving dress up in extravagant dresses for all the ladies. First up was red fury Doriot, complete with jump cables, a crow bar and a cookie sheet. Whether in a red or blue dress, she scared the hell out of the Mormons doing house calls in the neighborhood. Next up were Sarah and the $150 bottle of scotch, a killer scene by Jean in the middle of the street and both Diana and Robin hugging trees each in their own way. 

The backdrop of palm trees and dusk skies made for a very interesting atmosphere. I'm not sure the neighbors agreed, but hey.... they should be grateful for not receiving the house call that afternoon. And I wouldn't argue with these ladies..........

 And for the final shots in the street: bring in Kate's Mazda Myata. Kate rocking it on top of the trunk, and Gabriella glamouring it in another smashing dress, pink this time. 

To top it all off, Sarah served up her first surprise to the group: we already enjoyed her company, but she quickly yoga-ed herself like a pretzel upside down in the Myata to add a surreal element to Gabri's glamour shoot. 

Sarah had another surprise up her sleeveless silk dress when she started directing the evening shots of Kate at the pool. She was precise, concise and clear in telling Robin as gripper, Kyle and Jeroen as flash holders, and Kate as model what she wanted when. And the shots are just beautiful. 

More sleeveless dresses meant more surprises, as Kate's house started to fill up with a dozen roller derby girls dressed to kill and to do another Cassidy shoot later that evening at their training track. Doriot had exchanged the jumping cables and crow bar for tools to make a killer chicken salad and all was good. Oh wait, what would such an evening be without a belly dancer? Sure enough, Kate invited a belly dancer over for a poolside performance. Serious party in AZ.


Jan 16, 2012

Hunting down evening dresses

Friday, day 2 in Tucson. After yesterday's photo shoot, one can easily get used to seeing Gabri in an evening dress. It's very pleasing to the eyes. And why wait for the occasion if you can create one any time? She looked smashing in the vermillion dress in the desert, but also while in line for the restroom in Poco and Mom's messy kitchen where we had breakfast, or when licked by a horse. This clearly asks for more, so today is devoted to hunting down the local antique and thrift stores for some prom dresses. Unsuccessful, but we do pick up some interesting finds: Jean scored five (!) polka dot dresses and books on distilling your own alcoholic beverages and on the Male Motor from 1927 (don't ask, just frown). Kyle invested in shoes that he hopes will take him through 2015, and Gabri found an antique lead spool with antique tiny glass beads from "Tombstone I was told". Having visited Tombstone Arizona last year, we'll gladly accept that story. Topping this was her one suit sailor outfit with 1980s shoulder pads for $3.50 (50% off on Friday); definitely party worthy, but I also see some Helmut Newton or Pierre et Gilles inspired photos in the future.

Gabri finished a stunning, vermillion (what else is there) horned bracelet that will be showcased in Kate&Jean's new bead book. Robin Douglas continued her intriguing chain mail work in silver, Jean fiddled with some beads and Jeroen with a gun and a camera (see the earlier 'Hummers' post).

The party is complete with the arrival of Doriot Lair from San Diego and Diana Cannon from Chicago, all in time for dinner at Delectables, shots of whiskey and pickle juice, a party in the Barbie Coach and for Saturday's photo class by Kyle.

Drinks and beading

Jan 15, 2012

The 'No Name Will Do It Justice' Experience

Just returned to a winterish Illinois from our four day trip to Tucson and our heads are spinning, our hearts filled and our creative senses nurtured. Too many impressions to describe in a single blog post, so I'll try to post one blog per day in an attempt to cover at least most of what this trip was about. So let's start with day 1, Thursday. We already posted about the pretty amazing photo shoot of fierce desert fairy Gabri by Kyle Cassidy in Sabino Canyon, and the result is in quantity as well as quality. Among Kyle, jewelry designers Kate and Jean Power, fantasy novelist Emma Bull and flash holder aka assistant aka light shedder Jeroen we have more than 1500 shots taken that day.

Photo by Kate McKinnon 

But the quality of Kyle's shots is even more impressive, capturing a radiant beauty in Gabri in a vermillion dress against the backdrop of a breathtaking landscape.

Photo of Gabri with Jean Power and Kate McKinnon triangles by Kyle Cassidy 

While this was all happening, other interesting things popped up, mainly involving jumping cholla cacti, Emma Bull's story telling (which deserves a dedicated blog post) and stop signs in the middle of the desert.

Jean Powers exploring the wonders of a stop sign 

 Exhausting, impressive and wonderful at the same time. We leave Sabino Canyon to visit Emma Bull's home and writer's retreat with she shares with husband and fellow fantasy novelist Will Shetterly, some horses and the best cat in the world.

The house is on the far outskirts of town, at the foot of the Catalina Mountains where Ken Thomas famously shot Kyle's hat. We are licked by horses, drink a terrific scotch and oh well, life is great.

And while Kyle and Jean have their butts frozen off watching the local women's roller derby team with Kate's daughter Bri as the jammer, GABROEN join Kate and Robin Douglas for a nice nouveau Mexican dinner at Tucson's downtown Poca Cosa. And that was only day 1.

Jan 14, 2012


Never mind it's January. Today was a beautiful day and Kate McKinnon's garden is still humming with various sorts of hummingbirds. But don't be fooled by their cute features and angelic wings; these tiny birds are fierce protectors of their little space on earth. Their piercing eyes seem to see right through you, their bills like spears ready to strike. They are like the chihuahuas of the bird kingdom - what they lack in size, they make up for in attitude.

And those nectar bird feeders may not be of the most beautiful design, but it sure must feel good to be eating and at the same time getting an upside down fisheye perspective of the world you just defended. Great little creatures. I'm happy to have temporarily shared their space.

Jan 12, 2012

Another marvelous day in the desert

GABROEN made it out to Tucson for another fabulous inspiring visit to Kate McMedema's creative retreat in the Sonoran desert city. We flew in yesterday night into Phoenix, making the 100 mile drive south to Tucson on a dark desert highway lit by a slightly waning moon. No warm smell of colitas rising up through the air, but still a nice dry air that immediately transitions all your senses from damp to crisp. We share Kate's retreat with the mighty Jean Power and Kyle Cassidy, and all of us meet fantasy novel writers Emma Bull and Will Shetterly for a Southwest breakfast. The breakfast place is packed, could be most famous for the fact that the restroom are in the kitchen, but the chile rellenos was pretty nice and seeing Gabriella in a fire red prom dress in this place was kind of surreal and wonderful.

Why was she wearing a prom dress? Well, the main goal of today was her first modeling gig with awesome photographer Kyle in Sabino Canyon, creating hero shots for Kate and Jean's new beading book.

Both Kyle and Gabri did an absolutely stunning job, shooting over 800 pictures of beaded jewelry with the red dress as the common theme. She was radiating, like a fierce desert fairy, and the beauty and force are bouncing of the pictures. I was the humble holder of the flash, happy to shed light on all of this. Stay posted for more desert greatness.

GABROEN on behalf of Jeroen

Jan 8, 2012

Beading With Friends

Today was the monthly 'Beading With Friends' at NanC's. These get-togethers with fellow beaders always guarantees plenty of food for thought; today's contemplations were coming from reading the book 'Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery' by Leanne Prain. Some quotes from this book reflect why I love to bead, embroider and all the other things I do.

 Embroidery is offering meditative calm, a necessary respite from the chaos of everyday. It allows us to be silent but not subservient - Leanne Prain -

 Embroidery requires thought, care and commitment, which are qualities that make relationships lasting and meaningful. - Ivava Olenick -

 I embroider as an antidote to the heightened pace and fleeting nature of contemporary dating and modes of communication. - Ivava Olenick -

 Last summer I created this embroidered piece, called "The story of my life". Once I got going, I quickly realized that this canvas, but also any other canvas, is not large enough to capture that story. :)

So I hope many more canvasses will follow as my life's story continues to evolve.

 GABROEN on behalf of Gabri

Jan 6, 2012

The heat is on

Today was unseasonably warm around the Midwest, with temperatures approaching 50oF (10oC) and plenty of sunshine. I like to think that the sun decided to shine a little brighter today. Just because it's nice to think so. And today's sunset certainly inspired (or should I say ignited) such a thought. The sky seemed to be on fire, and it felt like the heat was on.

I was walking on campus, from a meeting back to my office (close to a mile apart), and was taking this picture with my company blackberry. You need authorization to take pictures on campus, and I would not be surprised it's also prohibited to use company phones for such personal pleasure, but what the heck. If the sky is on fire, one should break the rules. And any day the sun decides to shine a little brighter, I'm sure I can count on some forgiveness.

Jan 5, 2012

Masked beading

As most of you probably know, I LOVE to bead. And I love BEADS, these tiny splashes of color, shimmer and shine! I started stringing my first beads into a necklace about 5 years ago, a couple of months after arriving in the USA. Since then, I have made dozens of necklaces, bracelets and earrings, evolving from straightforward stringing to much more intricate bead weaving and embroidery techniques. Some of these pieces I still wear today, some I gifted or sold, and some I just look at.
Over these years, my sources of inspiration are evolving as well, and with that I am working on a transition from crafter of functional, wearable jewelry to a creator of art. Art in the sense of how Wikipedia defines it: 

"Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions and intellect." 

Last February I created my very first non-jewelry bead-piece; an aquatic basket with fish as a Pisces present for Jeroen's birthday. 

And recently I embarked on a much larger adventure, picking up wooden masks from the African Festival of the Arts on Chicago's south side. I am going to use these as a blank canvas. A canvas as a template for beads, fabric, leather, and anything else that fits my inspiration. The mask I started working on right now is a mask from West-Africa. The first step was some good old cleaning, sanding and repairing the major cracks and dents. E voila: a blank canvas. How exciting!

I'll keep you posted on my progress in the coming months through GABROEN posts. As someone said: 2012 is going to be my year. We'll see about that, but 2012 is going to be the year I created some beaded masks, some pieces of inspiration, some pieces that will definitely affect my senses and emotions, and hopefully those of many other people as well. I can't wait.............

GABROEN on behalf of Gabriella

Jan 4, 2012

Parents in the attic, uh... arctic

On their way to Florida, Jeroen's parents made a short stop in Chicagoland for New Year's Eve. They used our loft space annex guest bedroom, which also doubles as an attic with the hot water and central heating furnace. And Jeroen's dad Jan the chemist/physicist/scientist/know-it-all was quick to analyze that hot air goes up, so it is nice and toasty up there. In contrast to outside, where temperatures started off unseasonably mild with highs of 48oF (9oC) on December 31st, but dropped to arctic conditions with wind chills of 10oF (-13oC) during the day on January 2nd. Or as Jan put it: "This is the coldest place I've ever been".

So we picked December 31st, the warmest day, to drive southwards all along the lakeshore, taking a quick stroll beautiful Glencoe Beach and ending up in downtown Chicago.

The weather held up for us to comfortably explore Millennium Park, in particular the amazing art piece Cloud Gate, dubbed by Chicagoans as The Bean. The curved surface creates nice photo ops of distorted and sometimes surreal reflections of Chicago's downtown skyline in the back and spectators in front. See if you can spot Gabriella with her arms spread wide in this picture...........

After Millennium Park, we walked up north to Michigan Avenue's "Magnificent Mile". With dropping temperatures and the After Christmas Sale going on at Eddie Bauer's, the polar hats were in high demand by the family. Some look better in a polar hat than others; Jeroen's mom Tine does not want to be found dead in such a hat, but for Jan form always follows function.
New Year's Day was mainly spent puttering indoors, but the new hats did come in handy when we took a walk on our local beach at the end of the street on January 2nd. The arctic temperatures did not seem to bother a Mexican Hairless, as long as she is dressed in her fleece jumpsuit and fire red balloon shoes - that's a topic for another post.

Jan and Tine left 4am (!) on January 3rd to a somewhat warmer Florida Gulf Coast, but that cold spell is not going to last long. Nonetheless, we're looking forward to see pictures of Jan in his shorts and  Eddie Bauer hat............