Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Sunday! Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and there's still loads to be thankful for :) Before I go into discussing where we'll be right after Thanksgiving, let me first say that Paul and I are very fortunate people. Sure the job situation isn't where we'd like it to be, but we have a wonderful marriage, loving and supportive family, great cats, a nice home with lots of fruit trees, a full glassblowing studio, working vehicles, 3 good computers, and more. It's a lot to be thankful for, really. I know it's easy to lose sight of what we all have and what we really "need," so it's good that Thanksgiving rolls around right before we give gifts to others :)

This year (like all years) will again be spent with family in Murrieta, and we're bringing the mashed potatoes... I'm always on mashed potato duty because I make them a certain way: creamy but not homogenized, sauteed onions, garlic, parmesan, sour cream, oregano, butter, and pepper. Ingredients, if I'm forgetting any one of you, don't worry, I'll remember you on Thursday when it counts ;). We always make a ton, and Paul helps mash them (he's both the brains and the muscle in this operation). Fortunately for all involved, after our family meal we split up the leftovers, and we get enough yummy turkey and fixins to enjoy the next 2 days. Which makes me want to digress...but I'll wait a moment. This is a spirit-filled time of year, so let's take a moment for reflection and appreciation.....done yet? No? Ok, another minute or so.....

OK! So where will you be after Thanksgiving? Will you brave out into the malls and stores for Black Friday deals? Do you have cleats and mace ready? Just kidding, but it's still always bad enough to keep us away :). We try to do most shopping online, since it's actually good for the environment, you know USPS and the UPS trucks are going to drive by your house anyway...
Plus since we've joined ArtFire, we've met a lot of sweet and very talented artists and crafters with quality goods who we'd really like to support. Vote with your dollar, I'm voting for the cottage industries of America :).

Anyway, where we'll be is the Norco Hillside Farm Christmas Art & Craft Show! We're really excited, as this is a long-standing show in its 25th season, run by people that donate nearly all the proceeds to different charities, and even bake cookies for the months before the show to sell and raise money for another charity. I hear those cookies are pretty tasty, too... Anyhow, we'll have a booth there among many other talented handcrafters and artists, and we hope to do well. It's a 5-day affair, running November 27th-29th, then December 5th-6th. We're going to be exhausted! Wish us luck?

On to our Handcrafted Holiday feature for Thanksgiving!

Keep this in mind for next year, it's adorable AND made from real leaves!
This and the one below are arrangements by New Hampshire Woods Creations, floral designer Allison Kelley.
See the Pinecone Wreath with a Twist below, too, she makes some really cool arrangements from plants and trees, and she grows some of them herself.

This is pretty interesting, and would be a great festive addition to any wall or door. The stars are cut birch bark. I like this design because I've had wreaths that shed over the years (in storage, when a door it's hanging on closes, etc.), and this one doesn't look like it would drop anything, functional and lovely!

If you'd like to see more of Allison's creations, please visit her at New Hampshire Woods Creations.

Well, it's been fun chattin, but we need to get back to work today, big show coming up! Thanks for taking the time to read our blog, I hope you enjoy it :) Come back soon, won't you?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Artfire Trade & Stay Event!

Good evening! This one wraps up the first day of the Artfire open Trade & Stay event, that runs from November 1 to November 7, and is open to all members. You can see the thread here:

I've already gotten to trade for some great hand sewn pouches, one a clutch :) and a neat doodle pouch for my niece, like this one:

Doodle pouch by Apriloriginals

I also am trading for some lovely prints by original artist Laura Malinor, my favorite here:

Sea Foam and Seashells, Laura Malinor

Check out the thread if you're interested in bartering, otherwise just check out these great vendors because they have lovely goodies that I'd pay money for if I had it! :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
Been really busy lately, what with preparing for Halloween and now gearing up for Christmas... But for today it's about tonight's holiday! We've got the candy ready for the kiddies (the good stuff, chocolate and whatnot, not those Smarties, I hate those!), though we didn't decorate much this year. Work's been very hectic, so it suddenly dawned on me Thursday night that this was Halloween weekend. Yesterday was all about running errands and some sidetracking from my new Farmville farm (thanks peers and your pressure :P).
So in the spirit of things since I didn't decorate at home, I'm going to mention someone who makes some very cool paper goods for the holidays, and this one was no exception. Her name is Jamie, and the crafty woman behind She's Batty Designs on She made a really cool haunted house card with a family of ghosts, but somebody snapped it up before I could get to it or snag a photo. The one pictured above is still available, and you can check out her other neat stuff at the address in the corner of the photo, or by clicking here: She's Batty Designs. Show some Halloween love and go on over! She's even offering free shipping for the next 2 months... :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Autumn is Here!

So what will you miss about summer?

Autumn is indeed here, and I'm pretty happy about it. The studio isn't air-conditioned, so it's sooo much nicer to be sitting in front of a torch when it's cool outside. It really is. I'm happy :)

With the fall comes harvest festivals, a great season of craft fairs, holiday shopping, and careful planning for all of us, I'm sure. I'm going to try to send out Christmas cards again this year, but I think I'm writing them over the next few months and then having them all ready-to go before Dec. 1. When do you actually put them in the mail though?

Paul and I are working on making our glass display a bit snappier, so look forward to those changes. I've got some new designs too, so our season is just beginning. It's exciting, but what I'd really like is a comment or two on this blog post ;) SO Share with us!

Now that the sweltering summer heat is mostly gone, what is the best thing about summer that you'll miss till next May?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Birthday Fun!

Yay, it was my birthday! So now I'm old enough to know better, but still young enough to be out after it gets dark... though not much longer ;)

Paul and I had lots of fun this week (Birthday Week is a tradition with the two of us). I got new glass colors such as a lovely pink, a purple and sky blue, among others. There just aren't a lot of bright pretty colors in Boro that are easy to work with, so this was a nice treat as long as I baby the colors in the flame...

We also had a great time visiting the Arboretum (probably the LA one, it's in Pasadena) with our Aunt, and that was a real treat. There are lots of cool plants, trees and animals there, and we got to see some cute squirrels foraging, peacocks avoiding the hands of small children, and very adorable turtles (maybe box-variety) swarming in a pond. Despite the heat, the animals were out and doing what they do best. Well, I'm assuming that's what they do best; I know peacocks aren't that good on a unicycle, anyway. Squirrels do water-ski though, so...?

Here's a photo taken on my phone (non-Iphone, I'm afraid) of a waterfall on our hike back down to the Peacock Cafe.

Folks were also wishing me a happy B-Day on my Facebook, but I'm afraid I'm just not young enough to be fluent at FB yet... Oh well. I can always tweet about it, right?
Oh yeah, and to top off the birthday week this evening, I found my first non-brown hair. I was hoping it was a cat hair that just somehow made it to the top of my head at the part, but it was confirmed by Paul that no, it is indeed attached, and yes, it's lacking pigment... *sigh.* I think it's due to my exciting job, so maybe I should start looking at retirement, yes? :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I'm watching golf...

And apparently it's not common for Tiger to be behind, but lo and behold Y.E. Yang is in first place. No, I normally wouldn't be watching golf on tv, but hubby has convinced me it's interesting for now, and I'm taking a break from the studio for a few minutes anyway.

Relaxing, wearing my Cool-Tie (Thanks Linda L.!) but I think I need to rinse it out... It's an awesome little crafty invention that has gel inside it to hold cool water against my neck, thus enabling me to pursue my flamework passion later in the day. It's actually quite nice outside, but for some reason I'm still hot, so enter the Cool-Tie. Anyone else enjoying this lovely weather?

Ooh, come on Tiger, this 16th hole eludes you, but you can catch up! I know, the game will be over before I finish this blog post, but we recorded it so I don't want to look and spoil it for Paul.

Show Update: We started participating in the Riverside Certified Farmer's Market, and we really like it. The management is great, organization seems flawless, and lots have vendors have been really nice and helped make us feel welcome. I like having a booth in our own city, and packup is at 12n, before it gets sweltering here. Customers have all been nice, I think the best crowd we've had yet :) Plus we've learned a lot from participating in other shows so far this year, so we know what to expect and are fairly good at setting up our booth now. Paul is really fantastic for setup and breakdown, and he's a good boss. He's got it down to a science, perhaps an art. I know, I'm very fortunate to have such a sweet beast-of-burden ;) And he's cute, too!

Beginning Hole 18: It's so close! Yang by 1...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Artfire and Salsa!

Good evening! Today's topics: Salsa and my new love: Artfire!
I'm on a salsa-making kick, and this new batch tonight is #8 in the last month or so. I toned down the onion and garlic for Paul, but it's still pretty good. I'm so into fresh salsa now it's ridiculous. I'm off to make the new batch of enchiladas after I post this...

On to my new love, Artfire. I've been on Etsy for less than a year and am already sold on Artfire's upgrades since I checked in out in December. It was a bit clunky then, but has since made serious improvements with cool new features still on the way. It is still a very young site, but already has addressed's shortcomings in its first year of existence.
ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

I've set up shop over there and put most of my attention into it these days. I had a problem with a buyer's shipping fee and they had addressed my concern on the forum on a Thursday night within 6 minutes of posting. This is Staff we're talking about, being responsive and helpful. They got to the root of the problem and even have a phone # you can call during regular business hours. It's my new home on the web, since you can also link to your blog and other online goodies straight from your online Fusion Studio :) We've even got an updated website: , and the Online Shop link takes you to our shop. Very cool. They are a great asset to handcrafters everywhere, and I hope you check it out after being here. Thanks!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Handcrafted Holidays: Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

To all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day! Now don’t say we never gave you anything : ) . We already called both our fathers and should see them within the next month or so, traffic permitting (one’s a trucker). The other one we should see near our next show, and his birthday is coming up. Our family is one that lumps celebration occasions together: We’re efficient! So, that will be coming soon, as we also don’t feel the pressures of society to celebrate all at once like the masses…Conformists… Hallmark didn’t win this round :P Oh, and now that we’re into Etsy we have access to all kinds of handmade wonderful cards. I’ll be stocking up soon in time for the birthday/Christmas rush.

Well, today is more or less for resting, as we got lots of yardwork done yesterday and some great glass pieces that included some wicked flowers and a cute flower brooch. It’s summer, so yard-inspired glass is where it’s at. The apricots are juicy and delicious, and the plums are not far behind. Peaches, well I think those don’t usually ripen till July anyway, but we’re waiting with baited jam jars… Paul made some great medium salsa the other day, but we went through 40 ounces of that in a heartbeat (a week), so now if I want to make enchiladas I’d better whip up a batch of my own. Again, have a great Father’s day and visit Etsy for handmade cards to express how thoughtful you can be that won’t be mass-produced as 50,000 other dads are reading the same card… lol. Here are some of my favorite shops for cards so you have options for the next holiday:

All Handcrafted Goodies, Too:
Ideadesigns Lovely Cards, Invites and Scrapbooking Bits
Freedom To Express Beautiful Photo Cards
Farouche Personalized Cards, Tags, and Notes

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Peaches! Oh the glorious peach tree… Every year since 2004, our peach tree has been a strong producer that brightens up the whole garden. The jasmine and lilies can be languishing under unruly tangles of weeds and that peach tree will still be going strong, with a load of delicious freestone fruit. They’re fantastic for eating right off the tree, but not the best peach variety for pies (though we’ve made them anyway), because they are very soft and juicy. They do lend themselves very well to jam, however, as our friends and neighbors can attest. Sweet, sweet peach tree.

Plums… Yes the plum tree has also been there all along, through rainy seasons and dry spells, through my bleeding heart sympathy days that didn’t allow Paul to cut it back much that first year or two before I finally agreed it was best for the tre… It’s stood by us, and the peach tree. This year there isn’t much fruit (we may have thinned it out a little too well) but the ones that are on it are looking BIG and the first one to be eaten so far was delicious. Its little sister the Pluot tree is still doing very well too, with a bigger load than any tree in the yard in only its second year. This 60+ year old soil is just the bees knees ;)

Apricots – see the buggers are already trying to get to them! We love the birds, but come on, fruit season only comes once a year for us. Paul suggested a seed-filled decoy at the far end of the yard, and we might just do that. Foil strips are looking good, mylar perhaps? I’m told something that is reflective and flaps in the breeze will scare off birds. These are our garden's very first avocadoes ever! The photo that follows is representative of what happened to ALL of the nectarines…*Sigh.* There’s always next year. Nectarines :(

A jalapeno just tempting me…to make it a jalapeno on-a-stick! Destined for yummy salsa soon…

There were a few critters about in the garden, but that's for another blog post, maybe next time?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Hard Glass?

Well, the weather outside is delightful... And I figure, why not take a moment to discuss the glorious benefits of hard glass?

This is prompted by the concerns of customers that our glass pendants are fragile. Well... Ours are actually quite strong, and can withstand a good amount of abuse, just short of dropping them onto a hard surface at some distance :) Paul and I perform strength tests on our glass designs before we sell them, because we have nieces and want to be sure our designs are safe. Most of my new designs are worn overnight to ensure they are not carelessly broken easily. Aside from a dragonfly wing jabbing into my neck(and not breaking, mind you), I’ve been very successful with this :)

I think people are just so used to the cheap imports that aren’t properly formed and annealed. This is a crucial step, and something to consider when you buy handcrafted local art glass vs. manufactured mass-produced imported glass. Yes, it’s cheap, but you really do get what you pay for. Our glass art is made to last, not the art equivalent of a single-use camera :)

Additionally, we use borosilicate glass in our Shepherd Creations (had to add that at some point, right?), which is more durable than “soft” glass. Glass itself is a fantastic medium capable of transforming into sculpture, beads, pendants, vases, just so many options in glassworking! Soft glass is created in so many more colors, but it’s much more sensitive to rapid heating and cooling, and you pay for it in the way of flying bits of hot glass when you treat it the wrong way. Boro is sooo much more easygoing, forgiving, and really quite durable. It’s what your traditional baking dishes are made of, and you know those don’t always break when you drop them either.

Which is melted with a furnace? The primary difference that gets folks confused is that boro glass is most commonly melted using a torch, at high temperatures around and upwards of 2,000 Fahrenheit. Soft glass, on the other hand, can be melted very easily at much lower temperatures, closer to 1,100 F. Soft glass is the kind used to make large vases and many of the chandelier sculptures you will see in Las Vegas, and it’s often done using a large propane or natural gas furnace. Its low temperature allows you to use just one gas, instead of needing oxygen to help it burn hotter like torchwork.

Soft glass can be used both with a torch and in a furnace, though the torch requires a much smaller flame to melt soft glass than to melt borosilicate glass. Flame work done at a torch also goes into the kiln for annealing, and soft glass is very susceptible to stress fractures due to rapid disproportionate cooling. Glasswork done on a torch needs to be kept warm throughout to avoid creating cooler gradients, and this applies to all kinds of glass, both soft and hard. Soft glass is often melted in pots and then kept hot and remelted while spinning in a furnace, then shaped and cooled, then annealed like borosilicate, just at lower temperatures. There are many types of glass; from super-soft leaded glass you can almost melt with a candle, to the hard glass we use that requires propane and oxygen both to achieve a clean super hot flame. We prefer to use a torch because we are in love with borosilicate. Can you tell?

This is meant to be a brief blog post on how I feel about boro on a late Monday night. I may be even more excited about it when I’m more awake, but we’ll save that for another time. Thanks for reading my blog, and post some comments sometime, won’t you?

Friday, June 5, 2009

June is here!

Summer is on the way, yay! I know, it will soon be too hot for glass or hiking, but it's still nice to have seasons in California. Plus, when it's sweltering outside to the point that even sweat evaporates before it can drip down, we will appreciate how wonderful the winter will be again. Thankfulness, ah yes it is a good thing :)

Since it's such nice weather right now, we went for a mountain bike ride. It was wonderful exercise, but I am not as skilled a rider and still use my front break primarily... Which is apparently a bad thing going downhill? It is, and I have the bruise to prove it! After dusting off and continuing the journey, all was well and we arrived back home safely, much more tired but glad to be getting into shape. We are now looking forward to enjoying the good weather while it lasts, then participating in the Christmas in July fundraiser in Oceanside. I'll post more once we know, and other summer ramblings, so thanks for reading and see you next time!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Whew! Yesterday was the Escondido Street Faire, and boy was that fun! There were about 5 blocks of vendors, with folks on both sides and in the middle, and 2 streets intersecting the main fun with food booths. Paul ended up fetching several treats to keep us going all day, like iced coffee, fish tacos, you know, the important stuff :). I only stole away for about 2 minutes to see what I wanted for lunch, since we were right next to the food section smelling the delicious odors wafting over all morning/afternoon. It is a really well-organized event, and we likely be there in October for the next one. Great compliments and sales all day, with promising show information to keep us busy throughout the summertime. Overall it was a blast, and we were very glad to setup early and break down after the closing time. I think everyone really enjoyed the event, despite the heat wave around lunch time. Above is a photo Paul took of me once we were all ready and the sun was shining.

So what's next? We're considering a few shows like the Lake Arrowhead Rotary Art & Wine Festival and the Christmas in July at the Old Mission Montessori School in Oceanside. Thanks!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hi! This is my first blog, so please check back often for new info and interesting stuff including tutorials, articles, and great new photos, definitely a worthwhile stop...

It was very warm today, bordering on hot. That reminds us that summer is here, especially in southern California. We usually see just the 2 seasons, winter and summer, and winter is most definitely over. Summer, however, is basically upon us. I'll be getting up nice and early to get some glass done before the heat of the days sets in, and I am excited. Summer brings about great inspirations as people flock to the beaches to swim, surf, picnic, and just enjoy the great contrast of heat and cool water. I love animals, and summer makes me especially enjoy sculpting ocean animals, like seahorses, turtles, octopi and fish. I also have some special beach beads I'll post on here, because those are so fun to look at. Photos above are my favorites from the warm weather so far. :)
Sorry to see spring go; besides having great hiking weather with interesting flower to stop and enjoy, it also brought me lots of inspiration for new glass items from the garden such as ladybugs, snails, lizards, flowers and even glass leaves. Oh, and I tried making glass tomatoes, which turned out suspiciously like apples... It was a good spring, but alas, we'll have to wait to enjoy spring again next year.
Between blogs, I'll be maintaining my Etsy shop, so please stop by there for available glass gifts and items, and thanks again for visiting :)
Patrice Shepherd,