Monday, January 24, 2011

So You Want To...Self-publish a Book

Ten years ago I self-published my first book, Bead Crochet Ropes. I had to use a traditional printer and order 5,000 copies of it. This month I self-published my third book, Triangular Bead Crochet Ropes, and used an internet print-on-demand service. What a difference ten years makes in technology.

Anyone can be an author and have a published title for very little cost today. It's not the printing, but the content that makes an attractive book. You can provide great craft ideas, however it takes a good editor and layout stylist to put those ideas into a professional format. My layout stylist didn't know anything about bead crochet. She did have a good idea of how people processed information and rearranged my information to fit that model. She also made sure I had standard structure and left lots of margin space. My editor checked grammar, spelling and standard usage. If beads were called out as 11/0, then the text needed to be 11/0 throughout the book. I could have edited my own work, but I tend to see what I think is there and another pair of eyes sees what is really there on a page.

Starting at the very beginning, you will need clear, clean photos at 300 dpi. They need to be sized for the space they are to occupy. Photoshop, or other photo editing software, can fix small things, but the original photo has to be sharply in focus. Graphics and/or illustrations should be created in a software package that will also give you a 300 dpi result. You want smooth lines, not jagged, pixilated illustrations. I use CorelDRAW, but there are other layout programs that will give you good results. Just remember that the final product will only be as good as all of the small pieces.

The last part is Adobe Acrobat or native layout software that can transfer all of your pages into a 300 dpi PDF format. Print-on-demand services need standard files that they can print from. What you upload to the service is exactly what gets printed. The ones that I investigated did have additional services that you could purchase to help with cover layouts or content. I spent 20 years in the printing industry, had a working knowledge of what I was doing, and didn't feel the need to pay for extra help.

My research narrowed print-on-demand services to two; Amazon & Lulu. Both pay decent royalties and appear to be relatively easy to use. You can order one or any number of your own book(s) at cost. You could set up a discount code for a craft store to order copies at wholesale. They really do print only the copies that a customer buys. The only reason I chose Amazon was that I already had 2 books with them and could take advantage of their huge customer base.

Judith Bertoglio-Giffin, international author, artist, designer, and teacher has been beading for over 25 years. She teaches beading workshops nationwide and online workshops with CraftEdu that include advanced bead crochet techniques. She emphasizes many of the creative approaches to the craft. Judith’s other beading passions are free-form peyote and bead embroidery.
“The journey of creation is as important as the finished piece.”

Online Workshops by Judith Bertoglio Giffin

Monday, January 17, 2011

Discovering the Treasure in Failure

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
-Scott Adams

As a creator, I’ve learned a lot about destroying. In order to create, we must destroy. It is a part of the creation process. Destroying makes the space for new creation.

We destroy a hank of beads so that we may order its pieces into a necklace. We destroy old ideas to make way for new. We destroy empty space to fill it with a new painting. We destroy a design that doesn’t work in order to create a new one that, hopefully, works.

I was faced with this last dilemma recently. Off and on, for the past 8 months I’ve been working on an intricate piece. I’d made prototypes out of rope that indicated that my idea would work and I was so excited. However, to see if it actually worked, I had to weave it together. After 60+ hours I realized that what I had created would not work like the vision I had in my mind’s eye. So I had to rip it apart. Did I mention it was 60+ hours of work over 8 months time?

I’ve come to realize that destroying is as much a part of creating as the act of creation. I used to resent having to destroy my failed beadwork, regarding those precious hours spent making it as squandered and meaningless because they lead to failure. I saw it as a waste of time. As I’ve matured, I realize that time is only wasted if I refuse to learn from the errors I filled it with.

When possible I save my beaded failures to refer back to what made them fail. In this case, I’d woven together a costly amount of beads that I needed to un-weave so I could use them. I spent hours pulling apart lovingly crafted rows of weaving.

For the first time in my 20+ years of beading, the destruction process fascinated rather than frustrated me. I felt I was watching portions of my life in rewind. As I unravelled, I relived the hours spent weaving while watching a Frank Zappa concert DVD with my husband. Then came memories of my trip to San Diego as I tore out loops made during the summer. Backwards I wove through the section of rows completed in July when we lost our Greyhound. Then the part I’d made during the last weeks of our Dalmatian’s life in March. I deconstructed the parts that I’d shared over lunch with two bead artist friends at a French restaurant. And finally, the very first rows I’d made (while my head spun with excitement) became shreds of thread and loose homeless beads.

As I ripped, cut, and pulled, I experienced–in the most tactile way–my methods of ensuring my work for posterity. I also cursed them. Overkill here and there, as I sawed apart six and seven passes of thread through one bead.

From this destruction emerged not only the space for my revised design, but also (and this came as a surprise) a more compassionate view of myself. Unwinding months of my life captured in thread and glass offered me a broader perspective of myself. As if watching a film, I saw a woman – in between the mundane and sublime moments of her life, the peaks and valleys, the joys and losses – quietly, methodically building something of beauty. Small and striking. Maybe not a masterpiece, but a creation that would mean something to her, and hopefully to others. I saw someone wanting, from the depth of her heart, to create beauty: beauty that will last and adorn and inspire others to create more beauty. Each fragment of thread and released bead illuminated that part of me that thrives on inspiring beauty, creativity, and excellence in the world.

It was an enlightening time of destruction. And at the end of it I felt wiser, more confident, and more excited about rebuilding my vision in a new way. Not a moment has been wasted.

Artist, designer, and color expert Margie Deeb is the author of several beading books, including the popular The Beader’s Guide to Color and The Beader’s Color Palette. Her color palette book was named the Best Craft How-To Book of 2009 by the prestigious Library Journal.

Her articles regularly appear in Bead & Button and Beadwork magazines, and she writes regular columns for websites and magazines. She has appeared on the PBS show “Beads, Baubles, and Jewels.” Visit
Margie’s website for her books, jewelry, and more. She teaches color and design courses for artists, interior designers, and bead artists all over the U.S. Her color and beading classes are available online at CraftEdu.

About Margie Deeb

Margie Deeb's Online Workshops

Monday, January 10, 2011

Starting With Needle Felting

Somewhere you may have seen some cute little needle felted figure and thought to yourself: “I can do that!” Yes, you can!! Needle felting is fun and it is easy for even a beginner to have very successful results!

Needle felting is the process of using the barbs on the needles to force fibers together so that they can felt. The more you poke the fibers with the needles the denser and more firmly felted the fibers will become. Easy!!

So where do you start and what do you need?
The basic tools and materials you will need are felting needles, fiber and a work surface

• Felting needles are a unique tool that comes in different sizes and with different numbers of barbs. For a beginner, the most useful of available needles would be the #38 star needle. While most felting needles have triangular tips with barbs on the three edges, star needles have four edges. The more edges and barbs the faster the felting!
The #38 star is not the perfect needle for all needle felting tasks, but it is by far one of the most useful and all you really need to begin needle felting.

• There are so many types of fiber available for felting that it really would take a long time to discuss them all. I’m sure you don’t wish to endure the confusion of all that information, so let’s stick to the basics and discuss the most commonly used fiber for felting: wool. Even with wool there is a great deal of variety. Every breed of sheep produces wool that has unique characteristics and I’m sure I could confuse you just detailing all those varieties, but that really is more than a beginner needs to know. The two most commonly used wool fibers used for needle felting are Merino and Corriedale. These are named for the sheep breeds. Merino is extremely fine and soft to the touch. It is my preferred fiber. Merino fiber when needle felted produces a very smooth surface. Merino requires more effort to needle felt than does Corriedale. Corriedale is not as fine as Merino, but it felts beautifully. For the beginning needle felter, Corriedale is a wonderful choice! Both Merino and Corriedale are available in a lot of colors!

• You must have a work surface, something that will allow you to thrust your needles through the fiber and not hit your table or, worse, your hand. Most beginning needle felters use a thick, dense foam pad for their first work surface. Such pads are readily available at fabric and craft stores and will certainly do the job needed. If you really enjoy needle felting and plan on doing more, it is worthwhile to invest in a Clover Brush Mat.

Other tools and materials that you may find useful are:
• Scissors – while you rarely actually cut the fiber that you needle felt, when finishing a piece, scissors can trim those flyaway fibers that just never seemed to felt down.
• Needle and thread – these can be used to define a mouth, secure beads for eyes, create divisions in paws to give the look of toes.
• Beads – to be used as eyes or embellishments.
• Chenille sticks can be used for beginning projects to make legs strong enough to support the weight of the figure. If you continue with needle felting and like using an armature, you should eventually switch from chenille sticks to stainless steel or aluminum wire.
• Long straight pins are useful for pinning portions of your felted creature together so that you can firmly felt the pieces together.

With these tools and materials you can create just about anything!! While beginning needle felting is not particularly difficult there is a lot to be learned about controlling the density of your fiber and using the needles to best results. I have numerous crafting classes available now for beginners, intermediates and advanced students and will be adding more! Every one of my craft tutorials will teach you skills that you will be able to use in whatever project you decide to make! Come join me and learn this exciting, versatile and fun craft! Watch my craft video on making basic shapes on YouTube:

Harlan is an artist, instructor and the author of “Needle Felting – to the Point”. She lives in the woods of Michigan with her husband Jack and son Jackson and their menagerie of cats and dogs.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Polymer Clay Toolbox

I’m frequently asked by beginners to supply a basic polymer clay toolbox! What do I need, just the basics, to begin working with polymer clay? It can be confusing – after all, it seems like we can use pretty much everything in our toolbox but before investing in every tool, let's go over the most basic toolbox.

  • A work surface – This protects your work surface and provides a good flat working surface. Ceramic tile, marble, tempered glass, formica – all of these are good surfaces. I prefer formica. It is very lightly textured so the clay will be easily lifted off of it without sticking and stretching. Some very soft clays will benefit from the coolness of marble. If you live in Arizona and it’s 90 degrees, marble is a very good choice!

  • Blades - A long, flat blade is a definite necessity. Not a craft knife or a wallpaper scraper blade, but a razor sharp blade for cutting is what you’ll need. Many manufacturers sell these blades now (we were the first to market them!) in the polymer clay section of most any craft and hobby store. My preferred blade is the Nublade – it’s rigid and sharp.

  • Acrylic rod – I pre flatten my clay with my acrylic rod. The clay I use is stiff and if I pre flatten clay from the package – before I run the clay through the pasta machine - conditioning is not only much faster but it also saves wear and tear on that pasta machine.

  • Pasta Machine – I consider the pasta machine to be a necessary tool in this basic toolbox. I cannot imagine working without one! Conditioning the clay, rolling flat sheets, it’s such a time saver, and makes so many tasks so much easier and faster. It lowers that frustration level! The best machines can be quite expensive so you may decide to make a small investment in a less expensive machine (use a coupon at Michaels or Hobby Lobby). This investment can be as low as 20$. If you catch the polymer clay bug, you’ll invest in a better machine.

  • Needle Tools – For drilling holes in beads or even cutting shapes, you will need a sharp needle tool. My preference is the Kemper Pro Tool. The needle comes straight out of the handle so you will drill straight through any mass of clay.

  • Scalpel or Craft knife – This is what you’ll use to cut out shapes from a flat sheet of clay and for fine trimming.

  • Curing – I have a dedicated oven but that’s not what you’ll want right off the bat. Buy an aluminum pan, fill it with baking soda or polyester batting and slide it into an oven roasting bag. This is a curing chamber that you will slide right into your home oven and will keep outgassing from collecting on the sides of your oven (it will collect in the bag!)

  • Polymer Clay – There are many brands of clay out there to choose from. I won’t say “don’t use this” absolutely because your choice depends on what you intend to do with the clay. Ideally, you will try them all! I would recommend a consistently durable clay – Kato Polyclay, Fimo, Fimo Soft. Certain Premo colors are very durable but others seem to be weak (white, translucent) so bear that in mind. Sculpey III is the most fragile of all polymer clays so, generally speaking, it's not one I recommend. Cernit is very strong but the colors are translucent, not opaque, and without adjustment may not yield the best canes. Whatever you choose, buy colors in the same brand to begin with. If you cane, you’ll want clays of the same texture and feel (as much as possible) and clays that cure at the same temperature. You don’t need to buy all the colors, remember that you can mix colors – Magenta and Blue make Violet (not red and blue!) Yellow and Blue make Green. Red and Yellow make orange. So, you could begin with as few as 3 colors, and black and white.

For just about any beginner project, this is all you should need - it’s a basic toolbox. So, if you’ve always wanted to know what you need to start that journey in polyclay, here’s a good start. All you need now is to put those tools to good use. Hope to see you in an online class soon.

Donna Kato is a polymer clay artist, instructor and author who has written 3 books – The Art of Polymer Clay, The Art of Polymer Clay, Surface Effects and The Art of Polymer Clay, Millefiori Techniques. With Van Aken, International, she has released a polymer clay that bears her name, Kato Polyclay. She is a founder of CraftEdu.

Donna lives in Florissant, Colorado with husband Vernon, a Border Collie (Zoe), an Aussie (Doc), Ditto the Cat, and 6 horses.

Pictured: Hollow Pendant