Starting a career later in life–A new appreciation

In the book, Humans of New York, an older British denizen of the Big Apple, with bright red glasses framed by a head of white hair,  reports:

“I used to be obsessed with cooking. It was all I thought about. I did cooking shows on the BBC. I wrote 27 cookbooks. I wrote a whole cookbook just about garlic. Then one night, I was editing the proofs for my 27th cookbook, when I picked up a marker and drew a mermaid on a piece of scrap paper. I looked at that mermaid, she looked at me, and I never thought about cooking again. Ever since that moment, I’ve thought about nothing but art. I was sixty years old when I made the switch. I’m not sure what caused it. It was either menopause, a psychotic break, or a muse bit me on the bum!”

Clearly, this explaIMG_0563ins it all–why some of us come to our true field of endeavor later in life than others. For me, after a lifetime as a “health and communications policy wonk who writes” — well at age 58, to be precise — I walked away to pursue a new direction as a beadweaver of beautiful art jewelry. I had that “psychotic break” or had the “muse bite me on the bum” as described. AND, similarly, I haven’t looked back for one moment.

It’s been a roller coaster ride, for sure. But it is meaningful in a way far different from speechwriting and hearing one’s words spoken on C-span or in a keynote address; having a press release (about someone else) picked up by a major news outlet; or seeing one’s words in print ( over the name of someone else, of course).

After creating intellectual property for years, I now have tangible, touchable results of a diffOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAerent brand of creativity. Instead of weaving words to form coherent sentences, paragraphs, articles, I weave (well, sew with needle and thread) tiny beads to form a coherent whole. And, for once, I am not constrained by the rules of grammar and syntax. My beadwork, in contrast, often runs riot, in a freeform madness. Sure, it most often lives within the rules of color and is bounded by the stitches I use, but otherwise, constraints, restraints, and the need to live within the mind and structure of others is OFF!! And it is so very liberating!

So, hooray for that muse who bit me on the bum….or WAS it a psychotic break?? HMMMM…… And today — as every day — I celebrate those willing to take that leap of faith, to follow their muse at whatever age and in whatever endeavor. Hooray for the creative, the daring, the artful!

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Doing the ACC: My published account

The following article was prepared for and published by the Baltimore Bead Society in tis summer 2014 issue.  It was prepared in response to a request to describe my experience as an artist at the American Craft Council 2014 Baltimore show.

The American Craft Council Show: A Beadist’s Perspective

      I’ve been a patron of the American Craft Council (ACC) show in Baltimore for over 15 years. I’ve been a card-carrying member of the ACC for a decade. As thea fine, beading design, I’ve applied to ACC shows for 6 years. And, after some flat-out rejections and a slow rise up the waiting list, I’ve been an artist-participant in the last 3 ACC shows in Baltimore.

Getting off the waiting list is nerve wracking, to say the least. This year, a space opened up many months before the February show dates. And that was a good thing! I was able to participate in the “Charms for Charm City,” PR activity to highlight Baltimore and the ACC. Only one other bead artist—my friend (and show house-guest) Beth Farber, joined in. The others participants were well-known, well-respected gold- and silversmiths of whom I have been in awe for years.

It was pretty heady stuff, particularly when one of my pieces (a “charm” bracelet featuring two large, beadedIMG_6198 black-eyed susans, the Maryland State flower) was modeled for 2 weeks prior to the show by the Deputy Mayor of Baltimore! Adding to the excitement: my work (and a picture of me holding several of my “Edgars” (Poe) charms) was featured along with the charms of 3 other artists in a page-2 article in the Sunday Baltimore Sun on the last day of the show! Best of all, though, my first sale of the show was to a member of the ACC Board who bought one of my small Baltimore Aquarium starfish charms to wear as a necklace.

What does one learn at the ACC? First and foremost, this show, perhaps more than most other shows, is intensive—and the intensity doesn’t relent after years of doing the show.

  • Setting up a booth takes time: sitting in lines of cars and vans waiting in line patiently (and some, not so patiently) to drive onto or near the show floor to dolly in deposit boxes and crates; the process of unloading and getting the car parked offsite; setting uphoto-3p in a 10×10 space, without getting in the way of others doing the same; steaming drapes, hanging photos, lighting and banners; laying foot-saving carpeting and foam padding; taking time to drink lots of water and high-five other artists who you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Wholesale days can be slow, but they can be profitable. What a kick—after 3 years at the show—to have my very first significant sale to a museum store! What they called a “small order” was, to me, a very nice one!!! The name of the game: get business cards; get names; share your line sheet, your cards, your passion; and smile, smile, smile. (Oh, and don’t forget, in the haze of the after-the-event exhaustion, to follow up, follow up, follow up!!!)
  • The 3 days of retail can be a zoo—crowds, strollers, talkers, gawkers. Pace yourself but stay engaged in the traffic, whether it stops or passes you by. The rollercoaster continues. People you’d never expect to do so often make the largest purchases (and the converse!) Be patient, be happy. So smile!! Some try to bargain with you over a pair of $75 earrings! But smile!! Lines often heard (and often a signal to move on to other potential customers): “I just got here and need to look around,” “Oh, I bead or I have a friend who beads (or fill in another craft), but not like this.”and the ever-popular “Oh, you’re local! I can come to your studio” and its companion “Oh, you have a website! I can buy from you there, right?” Keep smiling!! And remember to change shoes to take the pressure off the feet and back; keep drinking bottles and bottles of water to stay hydrated in a humidity-free environment; make friends with your neighboring artists to cover for you when you sprint to the bathroom after all that water.

Without question, each year is roller-coaster of emotions: heady and humbling, feeling as if I belong one moment and out of my depth the next, full of hope and fear about my place in the artistic community. It’s the high of a great sale and the low of a bad day. Questions abound: Will I make back my costs? Will my feet and back survive the long days? Is wholesale worth doing? Will retail customers come? Is my work—and, by extension, am I—worthy?

Ultimately, for me, it is all worthwhile. As an inherently outgoing person, I thrive on the human contact that shows provide. I revel in the opportunity to “tell the story” of my beadwork. ACC, in particular, represents validation of beadwork as art; of my work as a collectable and wearable. It’s a 5-day opportunity for me to rub elbows with sister and brother artists of remarkable talent (including a number of whom have been my mini cheering squad, encouraging me to “go for it” and apply to shows in the first place). After a few years at the ACC, I can say that that the smile comes naturally as I have become increasingly recognized and accepted as an artist of merit, not only by those who choose to purchase my wearable bead art, but also by a growing number of art and craft makers who count me as a valued colleague. And my husband is happy, too. After all, as an ACC artist who is there to sell, sell, sell, I’m far too busy to play the role of patron and buy, buy, buy!!


I’d rather be in the studio…..

How readily we can be distracted from what our creative muse is yelling in our ears.  Instead of heading to the studio, we can mull over the likely choices for a dinner menu — and do so at 8 am.

For me, today, the distraction is of a different order of magnitude. Today, I’ve turned 65..entering my 66th year on this earth.  And it makes one muse, perhaps more than any other birthday of note, whether 18, (when you can vote); 21 (when you’re able to drink legally); 30 (when Abbie Hoffman said you no longer could be trusted; 40 (when you start thinking it’s time to dress like an adult); 50 (when you realize you’ve been around HALF A CENTURY!); 55 (when AARP sends you a membership application; and  60, when you start thinking about retirement……

Turning 65 is a point of demarcation if there is one in our lives. You’ve been eligible for AARP for a decade; the Medicare card arrives in the mail; the jokes begin to fly and you begin to wonder……..

  • Is this all there is?
  • Have I made the most of what’s come before?
  • Is the best yet to come?
  • Is this what middle age feels like or is this old age?
  • Where do I go from here?

And,  you muse, cogitate, reflect and make some basic decisions that you thought about but didn’t embrace in the past…..You decide

  • To exercise more and eat a bit less
  • To enjoy every day more and without complaint
  • To travel as much as possible for as long as possible
  • To accomplish at least one good thing for others and one for yourself every day
  • To play as hard as you work
  • To engage, enjoy, and embrace life with abandon — well, within the dictates of reason and good taste, at least.

No, I’m not going to resolve to wear purple — I already do.  I’m not going to resolve to dance as though no one were watching — I already do.  I also sing in the shower, in the care, and at every possible opportunity when with my adorable 1-year-old grandson.  However, I HAVE made some further resolutions, and hope to hold myself to them all, among them:

  • To curb my tongue more
  • To judge less
  • To forgive more
  • To stop carrying perceived wrongs around like old luggage
  • To laugh, smile and giggle more often
  • To take myself with a large dose of salt!!

It won’t be easy, but it will be done.  At 65, it IS possible to teach at least THIS old dog some new tricks!!  Right???



So far, I’ve got a few shows on the books…with, I hope, a few more on the way.  I’m wait-listed at more than I care to count…

Here’s what I’ve got right now:

  • Feb. 21-23, 2014      38th Annual American Craft Council Show,  Booth 316, Baltimore Convention  Center, Baltimore, MD
  • May 3-4, 2014          A-RTS@ Rockville Town Center  (MD) Fine Arts Show       
  • May 24-26, 2014      Paradise City Arts Festival, Northampton, MA, Booth #130       
  • July 26-27, 2014      Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, Chase Center, Wilmington (DE)  
  • Oct. 10-12, 2014      Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, Rittenhouse Sq., Phila. PA
  • Nov.  8-9, 2014       Pennsylvania Guild Fine Craft Fair, Lancaster (PA)  Booth TBD

You might say I’m gonna be busy, and you wouldn’t be wrong!  The good news is the hiatus between ACC (NEXT WEEK!!!!!!!) and the shows in May …that is a hiatus UNLESS I’m called off the waiting list for Paradise City in mid-March…..

Now back to work….beading madly for ACC show.  Come visit!  It’s one of the shows that can’t be missed! I was a patron for years before I was accepted as an artist and can attest to the incredible quality, variety and absolute brilliance of so much of the work there!!!  If you’ve never been a patron of the arts before, the ACC show is a brilliant place to start becoming a collector of the finer things….

Tempis Fugit!

It has been a while since I’ve blogged.  Perhaps it’s because I haven’t felt the desire to share what is going on.  Perhaps it is because I find my life to be mundane and not worth discussing.  Or perhaps — and most likely — it’s been because I’ve been absolutely slammed with work….and not of the beading kind….

Whatever the reason, it’s time to get back to chatting.  I’ve been busy, yes.  But at least some of it has been in preparation for the upcoming American Craft Council show in Baltimore.  I’m proud to say that I was accepted for the 3rd consecutive year, after so many years of trying and hoping and creating.  The show runs February 19-23.   The first two days are wholesale days; the retail show is February 21-23.  The venue is the Baltimore Convention Center.  And I will be in BOOTH 316.

One of the reasons I’m so very excited about the show is that I’ve participated in a very limited promotional activity.  It involved creating “charms” to wear…whether as part of a charm necklace, bracelet, or as a singlet on a chain.  I apparently am the ONLY bead weaver involved.  All the other participants are goldsmiths or silversmiths.  So I’m excited.  The show hoped to get themed charms that are relevant to Baltimore/Maryland.  And, at least from me, that’s what they’ve gotten.  I share a picture of a single item….black-eyed susans that are the Maryland State flower.

Preparing for the show is always stressful….Do I have enough material?  Do I have the RIGHT material?  Will ANYONE like my work?  Will ANYONE order any of my wholesale products?  Will I actually not LOSE money at the show?  Will the show be both a critical and financial success or failure?  I’m trying to keep the glass half full rather than half empty, but it is always a challenge…..

New banners, new lighting, an upscaled display (a few additions and a few deletions), and tiny little silver “thea fine” labels for the OOAK pieces.  Gotta get line sheets done for wholesale (and that means pictures and text need to be created!)  The new logo–while on the banners–won’t be on the business cards or other disposables.  It will have to wait until the current “stuff” is used up before I create new consumables.  No sense in tossing hundreds of business cards with the old logo.  Details, details, details.

And now, before I do ANYTHING else, it’s time for breakfast, the New York Times and a newsletter to be written for one of my two last non-bead-related clients.  I’m “retiring”this year from my role as “policy wonk who writes” and I am so very happy about it! I’ll miss the people and the challenge, but I’ll be gaining so much time for my love of things beady…..

I leaveImage with the picture I promised.

Too long away from the blog…….but why?

Sometimes, life has the habit of escaping me….I get bogged down in the hum-drum of the everyday–laundry, dishes, shopping, cooking–and in things editorial–writing for several clients–and my passions are set aside for hours, sometimes days.  I’m on deadlines again for a client, one of three monthly deadlines for the same client, AGAIN.  So the blog, the beads and one part of my creative drive have been sidelined.

But I am standing aside from the newsletter I’m writing to tell you where I’m at with the beading business.

Projects are on the table….triangle bracelets and 3-d earrings, a freeform blockbuster necklace (a tempting preview is shown with this blog),  beaded beads that will form the basis of a chain for another freeform piece featuring Chinese writing stone as a focal.  Perhaps most exciting is a special project I’m working on for the upcoming ACC show in February in Baltimore.  YES, I AM THERE AGAIN IN 2014.  [I can even tell you that I will be in BOOTH 316.]  Can’t tell you the details; can’t tell ANYONE the details, because it is all very hush-hush…and it is a lot of fun as the creative process moves forward.  Stay tuned for details…As soon as I can share pictures, I will, but, for now, let it suffice to say that it’s an ongoing source of merriment….

AND the booth is morphing yet again.  The Abstracta tinker-toy system is gone. Sold to another artist who, I hope will use it wellImage.  For now, it’s all about Dynamic Displays for some shows (yes, there’s another picture); clips and glass and wonderfully collapsible tables for others.  I’m breaking out some new flooring for ACC (with the hope that it will be both comfortable and attractive; hard to get both when standing on a cement floor for 5 days!) AND I’m going to be dropping a bit of coin for new fabric banners of my work that will include my new simple tf logo…..searching out the best possible (artistically and economically) sources as I write.

Moreover, I will be teaching in 2014!!! Accents Beads (Rockville MD) and Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen (Lancaster PA)  More on that on my website AND here on the blog as we move onward.  That means KITS and instructions.  And, to humor my son, it also means Etsy is in my future…Just need to get out from under all of the OTHER deadlines…..

So it goes….Hanukkah is past (feels as if it never happened); Christmas is on the way (not that we celebrate). The NEW YEAR is imminent. and our beautiful little grandson will be talking and walking before we blink twice!….Where is time going?  DANG, I better get to work!!!  SO SHOULD YOU!2013boothR

What it takes….why it costs

photo-3As a bead weaver, I’ve heard a litany of critiques about the price of my jewelry.  The classic runs something like the following:  “Your work is beautiful, but why is it so expensive?  After all, you’re just using glass beads and thread.  It’s not like you’re working in silver or gold….What’s the deal???”

As a result, I often second-guess myself about pricing….But NO LONGER!  One of my Art Girls colleagues shared one of the best commentaries about pricing of our art.  It was written and widely circulated  by the gemstone cutter extraordinaire, John Dyer.. He explains that many of us actually aren’t charing ENOUGH for our work because we’re only charging a per hour rate while working on a piece.  We THINK it would be a reasonable rate on any job….

Here it is:

If you want to make a real living at jewelry (or any other independent endeavor) you need to consider that there is a lot of other stuff that goes into your craft as well.

  • Are you billing for time spent on Facebook? (Advertising) Billing for time spent talking to the client and designing the piece? (A genuine part of the time spent to “make” it!)
  • Do you bill for time spent doing accounting? (You have to do accounting if you are going to be legal and pay taxes and also have some clue if you are actually making money or not.)
  •  Are you charging for the time it takes to talk to all the people who don’t buy anything? For answering all those emails? Charging for time spent receiving packages, packing up merchandise, filling out paperwork, going to the post office and shipping it?

Of course you can’t charge directly for most of these things, but the reality is you need to charge AT LEAST 3 times what you need to be making per hour when you are actually doing something you can charge for.
If you don’t do this in the long run you won’t be able to survive. In reality you should probably charge anywhere from 4-5 times a “fair wage” because at most 1/3rd of your time is going to be billable. It will probably be far less than that.
If you did have a “normal” job your employer would have to pay you for every hour spent at work no matter what you were doing. (Even going to the bathroom!) Since your employers are now your customers what you charge them needs to reflect all that you do, not just the small part that is working on their piece of jewelry. No one else is going to pay you for doing the other things…
A number of years ago I heard that an independent contractor (in any trade) needed to charge a minimum of $35/hour to survive (because of all of the costs and non billable hours that they spend on work related things). This was so long ago that no doubt inflation has this at around $50-$45/hour now.
Sure your overhead might be low, but you have to make a living or you aren’t doing anyone any good in the long run because you won’t be able to keep doing what you love and providing people with the jewelry they want.
A clue that you either don’t manage money well or that you don’t charge enough is if you never have money to buy any inventory for stock or the new tools you need.
Charge a fair price and accept that numerous people will always think things should be cheaper. They just don’t have a clue all the work, sweat and tears that go into it.

These words have helped me rethink my pricing  They are helping me stop excusing my price structure when challenged by potential customers.  And they are clarifying why so many of us struggle….We need to keep this kind of business model in mind daily as we ply our art, our craft, our passion.

Please do share this widely.  It’s part of the public education about the value and worth and price of creative endeavors such as mine.

One Show More (with apologies to Les Miz) and a Heartfelt Thank You!!!

ImageJust came off the penultimate show of the year!  The year began with a high and after a less than enthralling late spring and summer, the fall has ended the year on an “up” note.  I thank my many clients and supporters for their purchases, their words of encouragement and good will over the course of 2013.  And I particularly express my heartfelt warmth and gratitude to my sister and brother artists for their ongoing camaraderie, good words and creative spirit that imbue every venue we share with the spirit of the arts and the love of creative endeavor.

With one more show to go — next week, FACETS at the Raddisson Hotel in Cross Keys, north of Baltimore, MD — I am already planning for 2014.  I’ve many new “circle the stone” creations in the works; some super one-of-a-kind pieces.  Some favorites will be returning in new permutations; and my wholesale and Judaica lines are growing.  So, as we head into the holidays, I hope:

**You’ll come to visit me and my colleagues at FACETS this coming weekend, November 16-17 (For more and directions, plea visit our Facebook page for the show:

**You’ll be in touch with me via my website ( or by email ( to order special somethings for the holidays ad beyond ….from stocking stuffers or hanukkah goodies like special pearl or swarovski pendants to hang on chains to unique beaded bead pendants; from bat mitzvah beaded jewish star earrings and pendants to beaded dredels; and from light-as-a-feather earrings to blockbuster one-of-a-kind bead woven necklaces.

**You’ll start looking for my Etsy shop as a source for both my bead woven jewelry as well as patterns and kits for those of you who are interested in beading yourselves.

**And above all, you’ll have a happy and healthy holiday season and a glorious 2014.  Hope to see you this coming weekend if you’re in and around Baltimore.  Otherwise, I’ll look forward to visiting with you at ACC in February and around the show circuit thereafter!

Many thanks for your friendship, support, and encouragement!

SHOWTIME!!! (october edition)

It’s SHOWTIME!…..well almost…..

Beading madly–getting ready for Morristown CraftMart 2013.  New booth location this year (Booth 114, along the wall with the bleachers, I think).  New display pieces (simple and clean). New flooring (bouncy, springy wood-looking foam), and a new attitude about shows.  And, best of all, if they arrive in time, new COOL lighting!!!

Many new pieces will be on display, particularly new earrings in new designs using lots of new types of beads….Some far afield from my usual work; some closer to home, but all a lot of fun.  I’ve been having fun creating them for you and those you love and want to gift. Here’s one as a tease…..Image

Show Upcoming!!- This Jersey Girl Returns Home!

Hey, everyone, it’s time for the Morristown CraftMarket Show, and thea fine, beading design, once again, will be there with wonderfully inventive, light-weight, limited-edition and one-of-a-kind beadweaving creations.  New earrings abound, as do some new beaded beads and wandering wonderful freeform necklaces.


Where: Morristown CraftMarket Show, National Guard Armory, Morristown, NJ

When:  Friday-Sunday, October 18-20, 2013 (5-9pm, Friday; 10am-6pm Saturday; 10am-5pm Sunday)

Booth: 114

Hope to see you there, and to tantalize just a touch, here’s a custom necklace and matching earrings I crafted from a broken malachite bracelet a friend purchased in Russia….Let me Imagerepurpose YOUR old, broken or less-than-lovely jewelry into a one-of-a-kind piece of wearable art!

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