Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas without Snow

Before we moved to North Carolina from Northern Michigan, we did a bit of research on line. Wikipedia was a great help with all kinds of information on population and weather, transportation, location, you name it. It was a big help in deciding where to live.
Then after we found jobs, we looked at the city itself. At the time, we looked at the town we were going to work in. There were pictures of events and one of those was the annual Christmas parade. "Look at that!" I exclaimed. "The people are wearing sweatshirts!!" It was hard to imagine a Christmas parade that wasn't so cold you needed electric socks. (yes there really are electric socks and they work great)

It seems that almost every town around us has a Christmas parade. It's so charming. It seems more people are in the parade than the people watching it. There is every princess of any event possible riding in an open convertible and waving. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Dancers, Church groups, Bagpipes, Bands, Shriners in mini cars, Monster trucks, some Floats, and all the Local Politicians. Throw in a few fire engines with sirens going, and some police cars, and you have a two hour taste of The South.

It may not snow here, but Christmas in the South is a special flavor. My husband says it doesn't seem like Christmas without snow, and I say what makes up for the snow is all the lights and decorations people put out.

Nearby, we have a town called McAdenville. (check out the link!) The entire town is lit for the month. Everyone there has Christmas lights. Everyone. I have heard they don't pay their electric bills for the month as the city (??) pays for it. Cars line up all the way out to the highway to drive through. We avoided it for a few years thinking the traffic was too much. Then we 'toughed it out' one year. It's awesome. Not only is the city totally lit to the point you keep saying 'wow!' But the people in the traffic driving through are celebrating. There are open wagons, trucks with their truck beds full of people, people walking, cars with people out the sun roofs, all calling out "Merry Christmas!"
Very very awesome. Well worth driving in traffic, and you want to drive slow anyway since it's such a memorable evening.

So we gave up snow but we have found some wonderful ways to enjoy the holiday season... and wearing sweatshirts while we're at it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Masked dots in lampwork

These are so much fun to make. You start with the base bead. In this case, I started with gray glass. Then you dot in a pattern.I started with a light turquoise. You melt that in. Then you overlap the existing dots with a new color (in this case the pinkish coral) and melt that in. Then you can add the light turquoise again. Then onward... The result is a pattern that is created by being covered by another color. I think the best example of a new pattern is the bead that is the second from the right. You can go on and on in covering the dots alternating two colors. The best bead artist to do this, in my opinion is Brad Pearson. Click on his name to see some incredible examples of masking. The first time I saw this technique was when I met Brad at a glass 'gathering' . I have one of his early beads made in blue and white, and it's a treasure, displayed with other treasures. Brad's marbles are beautiful examples of masking also.
This is a good bead to make when you want to get to that 'zen' kind of place in melting glass. You can go to infinity and beyond......................

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Memories of Melting Glass

This image was 'lifted' from another site. It is a little gift shop in Houghton Lake, MI. It's so typical of the area when we moved there in the late 1970's. The area was rather desolate, 'up North' as we called the area. Where the up North boundary is, who knows? It seemed dark there after living in a much more populated area. Dark and cold, with more winter than I'd ever experienced. And it was a small town. Very few stores, one movie theater that showed the same movie for a month before they got another. Nothing really much to do except outdoor type sports. We went ice fishing and cross country skiing.
My husband and I would want a fast food burger and sometimes would drive an hour to the closest McDonald's to get one. The stores closed on Sunday but one grocery was open from 1-4. If we weren't organized, we'd have to scrounge for food on Sundays. If you needed clothing, you ordered it or you drove for an hour to a store to buy something.

When it was time to buy a gift for someone it was difficult, unless you had time to go 'down state' to a shopping center. So upon occasion, I'd shop at the tourist stores like this one that is pictured. This little shop was actually about a mile from where we lived and just shut down maybe 7 or 9 years ago. They sold moccasins. I'd take my daughter there to buy little white moccasins with soles and beads and fringe. She loved them when she was a little girl. I loved buying them for her. When the owner of this shop passed away, a surprise was given to our community in the form of a very large endowment for scholarships. Who knew that the little old lady running this shop had left so much for our students! To this day every student who lives in that particular township can receive some money toward college.

One shop I loved. The Fife and Drum gift shop is long gone. There is no picture to share. But it was a teeny shop that housed another big surprise. The front of the shop was the normal 'stuff' Little boxes made of cedar, postcards, ashtrays, shot glasses, pencils, trinkets with the name of the lake. A bit of jewelry here and there. Wandering into the second little room was amazing. A Christmas tree filled with glass ornaments. Intricately made trees, bells that rang, candy canes, icicles, stars, snowflakes, manger scenes, all made of clear glass. Behind a screen, wearing dark welding glasses, was an older man working with glass behind a torch. He melted these clear rods into his beautiful ornaments. People ordered them from all over the US. I didn't know that at the time, (nor did I know his wife had a large organ in the very back room and she would practice it when there were no customers).

My husband and I were scraping along paying college loans and surviving on small beginning teacher wages and there was no extra for glass ornaments. I looked at them often and finally began to buy one every year, which was all I could afford. I kept thinking 'someday there will be no more of these ornaments'. My kids gave them to teachers for Christmas gifts, some kids gave them to me too :-) and every year, I bought one, plus an icicle.

The older gentleman finally closed the shop. I think it's still empty although maybe something is there now. That teeny store. I used to think "I want to do that!" "Sit behind a screen and melt glass into beautiful creations" I would take my kids to watch him, and some teachers would take their class to see him melt his glass. The man never spoke to us, he just quietly sat and wove melted glass into filigree-like art. In some way this man was an inspiration to me to begin to work with glass. I think of him. Especially every Christmas when I unpack those special white boxes, marked with 'Fife and Drum' and hang my clear ornaments next to lights on our tree. The glass reflects the colors and sparkles like ice.

I've been making glass icicles. They are nothing like the beauties in the white boxes. Maybe sometime they will be. It's a struggle and I think of how easily this man melted and twisted the glass. A hidden gem in a little town 'Up North'