Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shop #1, Bumbershoot Designs, is open!

Bumbershoot Designs on Etsy is open! Click on the Etsy dot to the right to see what's in the shop so far.

We also will be opening a supply store on Etsy for jewelry, paper and mixed media arts. We're a few weeks away from that opening, and moving closer every day. Shop #2 will be called Bumbershoot Supplies.

We are all VERY excited. We have many more designs to add, including jewelry, paper and fibre arts, and we will continue to add items every day until we're fully loaded! We're adding the jewelry designs first. Click on over and have a look, and let us know what you think.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mercy in the rain

Wondering where the quote in the banner comes from? We plan to offer various rain-themed inspirational quotes in our Bumbershoot banner over time. Jim gets credit for recommending this as our original banner quote.

A gift from the Bard to all of us, from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

PORTIA: The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yet more snow...but a little spring too

From sunny skies at Alki Beach, to this:

Our poor hummingbirds:

I know this is nothing compared to what many parts of the country receive (I grew up near Buffalo), but it's been a lot of cold this year for Seattle.

But I know spring is coming. Just a couple of days ago I was walking at Discovery Park and the place smelled like the inside of a greenhouse, all wet and warm and green. And, it's only about 1 month until the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

So today, in anticipation and for inspiration, I spent some time with tulips.

Like this:

And this:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Alki By and By

Last week we went to Alki Beach to see the place where the first white settlers landed in Seattle, intending to establish their community. It was 1851, November, in the middle of a torrential downpour when the party came ashore, only to find one building with 4 walls and no roof for the two dozen men, women and children. Mary Ann Denny sat down on a log with her two young daughers and infant son and cried.
"Alki" is a Chinook trading jargon word meaning "by and by" or "eventually". The settlers called this place "New York Alki", capturing their dreams in the name of their new community.

You can see from this photo that the central core of Seattle is not at Alki Beach. If you look closely, you will see the Space Needle peeking out from behind Duwamish Head, the land that is curving out on the right side of the photo. It turns out that the original party spent only 4 months living at Alki Beach before they decided to move across the bay to the area we now know as Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle.
Driving down the road a couple of miles to Duwamish Head, you get these sorts of views (see the Space Needle on the far left of the first photo):

We had a beautiful day for our visit, dramatically different from what the original Seattle pioneers experienced. Warm and cosy in the Alki Bakery, eating raspberry coconut muffins and drinking tea, gazing out on sunny Alki Beach, we read first hand accounts of the original settlement, and reflected on the spirit of Seattle's founders and just how much the city has grown and changed since then.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The sinful seamstress

I've been reading a lot of Seattle and Pacific Northwest history recently, and one thing I am really struck by is how prominently women figure in it. I don't even have to go digging to get at the women's history, it's readily available and included in the books I've found.

The title of this post is directly taken from a chapter in J Kingston Pierce's book, "Eccentric Seattle", one of the books I've enjoyed recently. He is referring to German immigrant Dorothea Georgine Emilie Ohben, known in Seattle as Lou Graham. From all I have read, Seattle was a pretty crazy place, well into the 1930's at least, a real frontier town, with all that you might expect from a frontier town. When Lou arrived in 1889, it was shortly after a series of reforms had (temporarily) closed all the gambing joints and various vice dens and the city was hurting, since vices paid for much of Seattle's revenue at the time. Lou set up shop in downtown Seattle, at the edge of the then red-light district and soon business was booming. Her business was regarded (at least by some) as a class act, a place for intelligent conversation, and a fine place to meet if you were a representative of Seattle city government (drinks were free to them). Lou paid the city large sums in taxes and fees. She also helped out some prominent Seattle citizens by making loans to them during the terrible country-wide economic depression that began in 1893.

A couple of tidbits about Lou: 1) Pierce notes that she loved jewelry and particularly loved diamonds. She even had a pair of gold garters in which diamonds were embedded. 2) As necessary, her girls described their occupation as "seamstress". The sparkly button bracelet shown above came from reflecting on these two tidbits.

Obviously I don't condone the activities in which Lou was engaged, but I find it interesting to think about her contributions to the growth of Seattle, and I wonder about her as a person and how and why she ended up where she did, doing what she did. By the way, Lou's original establishment still stands in downtown Seattle - it is now the Washington Court Building.

The bluest skies are in Seattle

The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle.

And the hills the greenest green, in Seattle.

Like a beautiful child growing up free and wild,

Full of hopes and full of fears,

Full of laughter full of tears,

Full of dreams to last the years in Seattle, in Seattle.

Recognize that song? It is the theme song to the TV series "Here Come the Brides" that ran from 1968 to 1970 on ABC. The series was based on a piece of Seattle history: Asa Mercer's efforts to secure brides in the east for eligible Seattle bachelors. According to J Kingston Pierce's book, "Eccentric Seattle", the original party of white settlers arriving in Seattle in 1851 were evenly divided between men and women but after about 10 years, as the number increased to 200 or so, men outnumbered women about 9:1. Asa set out to solve Seattle's "woman problem". It turns out it was not an easy task to convince unmarried women to leave their homes and make the journey to the Pacific Northwest. Asa's first trip to the east resulted in 11 women returning to Seattle with him and his second trip, right at the time of Lincoln's assassination, resulted in 34 new recruits (he had planned for 500). These are "the Mercer Girls", upon whom the TV series was based.

Creativity is a funny thing. It's the first line of the song above that gave me the inspiration for this bracelet:

The song got me reflecting on whether or not the bluest skies really are in Seattle. I'm betting there are lots of places with amazing skies, but what I do know is that after weeks and weeks of rain, when the sun comes out, the sky does look pretty blue! (Check out the photo in the previous post...) It's all relative, I guess.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Soarin', flyin'

As I do several times a week, I walked at Discovery Park this morning. Discovery is a true natural jewel in the Seattle park system, and I treasure my time spent there. But today was very, very special. As I came out of the woods, heading for the bluff and that magnificent view of Puget Sound, I saw two eagles. You can regularly see eagles surfing the air currents that come in from the water, and it is always a thrill to see those magnificent birds. But today they were so low, just above the tree tops and very close to the edge of the bluff, that I thought for sure I could reach up and pluck them out of the sky. They were not too big, and beautifully sleek. What a breathtaking experience to be so close to these magnificent creatures, in flight yet! Eventually one landed in the top of a nearby tree, and I stood for a while, just to watch. Sadly, I did not have my camera with me (I promise never again to go to Discovery Park without my camera). But I wanted to write about this because I don't want to forget how privileged and inspired I felt to have had this experience today.
The photo above was taken at Discovery Park several days ago and the eagles I saw today were surfing right above the tree to the right of the picture. Just imagine that!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Let there be light!

One of the most gratifying aspects of working with old glass is its capacity to reflect and enhance light. Some pieces can look like they have their own internal light source.

There is a subtle internal glow in the earrings above and the aquamarine flower beads in the bracelet below. In both of these, the backs of the glass pieces are coated with gold foil, creating a warm glow, a shimmering effect. Looking at these pieces is rather like looking at a fire, constantly shifting patterns of moving light.

It is a constant source of pleasure to work with these materials. Even as our grey winter days persist, it is a beautiful way to experience light.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Amazing Buttons

Vintage buttons are simply amazing to me. So much history, craftsmanship, so many stories packed into a small and often little regarded item. I also love the old button cards themselves, the designs and the artistic way the buttons themselves were presented.

I love the one below because of the gorgeous graphics, the flower-like button presentation and the name. I did a bit of research and learned that Lady Washington Pearls were made by the American Pearl Button Company, located in Washington, Iowa. These buttons are beautifully carved around the rims. They were likely made in the 1930's.

I have been collecting vintage buttons to use in making jewelry for Bumbershoot Designs and also for our soon-to-open supply shop on Etsy, Bumbershoot Supplies. These are some lovely ivory china buttons I found at a wonderful local antique shop, Antika.

These were made in France, likely 1940's. They are a glorious rich ivory, in perfect condition on their cards. A great find. They pair beautifully with antiqued brass, vintage rhinestone buttons and 1940's Japanese glass pearls, as below:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Seattle Cupcake History

OK, here's something I bet most of you don't know about Seattle. This year is the 150th anniversary of cupcakes in Seattle! Yes, it is true. According to the book Eccentric Seattle, by J. Kingston Pierce, baker Jacob Wibbens baked Seattle's first cupcakes in 1859. Pierce says that Jacob announced "...that each one contained a prize - everything from a 20 cent silver coin up to a $20 gold piece. Within a short time, his stock was gone, 'many people buying more cupcakes than they could eat in three months of Christmas days' according to one account."

Where to get cupcakes in Seattle? We make our own and we also enjoy cupcakes from Trophy Cupcakes and Verite Coffee and Cupcake Royale. I'm sure there are more. Any recommendations?

At Bumbershoot Designs, we feel compelled to honor this landmark in Seattle history, so we are going to do two things:
1. eat a lot of cupcakes this year.
2. Make necklaces from these wonderful lampwork beads made by Seattle glass artist Natasha Puffer. Truly the finest cupcake beads I've ever seen. Good enough to eat. Look for them in the shop.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Don't put away those woolies yet! We have had two more days of snow here in Seattle. Of all the winters I've been here (since Nov 91), this one is the coldest, with the most episodes of snow. We haven't had a lot of snow the last two days, not like at Christmas when we were snowbound for 9 days, but it is still cold, cold, cold. A good day for this:

I crocheted this scarf with Noro's Kureyon sock yarn, very simple single and double crochet pattern and to me it looks just like Discovery Park in the fall (I'll post more about Discovery Park later, it is one of Seattle's jewels and I get a lot of inspiration there). I love the fringe, alternating shades of dangling green vintage Japanese crystal beads. Perfect for cold, wet, grey, cold, did I say cold? days - they wink and sparkle like mad. Just like little pine trees, only shiny. I feel warmer just to see them.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Vintage inspiration

Last night, my daughter and I went to see Gee's Bend at Taproot Theatre. Lucky me, my daughter is a City of Seattle Teen Tix reviewer, so I got to go along with her on her press pass. Some time next week her review will be posted on the Teen Tix blog.

Wow! That's my play review! I am such a fan of these quilters, and was fortunate to see their quilts at the Tacoma Art Museum in 2007. These women are so inspiring on many levels, and the play was very effective at communicating their grace, beauty and strength. After the play, I felt uplifted, like I had found my center again. One of the things I was reminded of is that even in the darkest times, even under the most limited circumstances, it is still possible to create great beauty. The spirit of these women sings from their quilts, all the louder when you understand their history. I am moved in the same way by the beads and other vintage materials I work with. They remind me that even during times of great stress in the world, artisans and craftspeople still moved forward, continued to shine their light.
The play runs through Feb 28, with some of the quilters present after the play on Feb 18 and Feb 21 (the Feb 21 is an additional date, according to our program materials received last night).

Friday, February 6, 2009

Seattle Rain

It's raining today, first time if a few days that it has really poured. Rain comes in many forms here. Today, it looks like this:

and like this:

and like this:

and like this:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mira la luna

Mira la luna.

In Seattle every February, just when you think you can't take the grey/green/wet chill a second longer, a wonderful thing happens. The sun comes out. Always in February, it seems there are a few days that are pure treasures, when the sky is blue, the air is a bit milder, the buds that have been only potential become something more. If we are really lucky, this will happen during a full moon, and then the evening is just as spectacular as the day. The twilight slowly deepening and the moon rising, during the depths of our February winters, were the inspiration for the mira la luna jewelry I made from the vintage glass rings I love so much.

My husband gets the credit for naming these pieces. Mira la luna. So soft, so roundly romantic. Just makes you want to take a breath, relax, and do a bit of moon watching.

February moon cycles for Seattle Metro can be found here.

For a wonderful Seattle moon picture, go here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

glass rings

I love, love, love vintage glass rings. They represent glorious little bits of history and are wonderful to use in jewelry designs.

There already are some pieces in the shop made with the lovely green and blue rings shown below. My "mira la luna" jewelry is made using large and small pale blue rings, which came from Japan in the 1930's. My daughter Emma says that the luna bracelet makes her feel happy just to look at it.

My best information on the green glass is Czech in origin, 1960's in vintage. It's a very light, lime-y green and works really well when designing for spring. The other thing about glass rings is that while they look fragile, they are strong, and they are incredibly light, so they are a dream to wear. The tulip bracelet is available in my Etsy shop.

These cobalt blue (below) are very special and are my most recent purchase. They were made in the mid to late 1800's in Europe, likely Germany. These are the most exquisite creations, as I hope these photos show. You can see the hand of the artisan in each one through the bubbles and the roughness of the circle join, as well as the unevenness in size and width. Look for jewelry from these beads in the shop soon.