Starting Last October

It all started to come together one October afternoon last year (2014), when I went to hang at the Sarafina Art House for their Grand Opening. I had taken a couple of needle felting classes with Sara, artist and owner of Sarafina Fiber Art, and was completely hooked.

If you have ever wanted to do needle felting, watch some of her needle felting videos and get some of her supplies, and you’ll be hooked too!Sarafina Art House Grand Opening

Not too long after the grand opening, I was asked if I would be interested in joining the Sarafina Art House staff to help fill orders, and help with keeping everything stocked around the shop.

I look back now and realize how badly I needed to be working around people outside of my home studio.

Sarafina Art House Inside

I had NO idea what I was getting into, but I had a gut feeling if these people were just as fun as they were at the grand opening, and had that kind of energy and humor that you see in Sara’s videos, I was going to really like working there.

And in fact. I love working there…

Sarafina Sara and Jennifer

In the Art House, creative ideas and projects flourish as much as these Sarafina Basket Bunnies

Sarafina Basket Bunnies

And every day Milo (below) and his buddy Finley come to work every day and hang out with us.

I love working in a place that has dogs.

Milo of Sarafina Fiber Art

So if you have been wondering where I’ve disappeared to, it’s just to work.

In a really fabulous, cool, fun, inspiring – not in my house kind of work…

If you are ever in the area, you should check out the Sarafina Art House at 1752B Appleton Road, Elkton, MD 21921.

Current Sarafina Art House 2015 hours Wed-Sat 10am-5pm EDT.

There are lots of great artists with work in the gallery of the Art House, so if you need a gift or just want something special for yourself – stop by!

Now this girl is off to go make some more beads, as I have the Bead and Button show in two weeks in Milwaukee, WI!

Bead Fest Philadelphia August 2014


Bead Fest Philadelphia is HERE!!! August 22-24, 2014 is when the exhibitors are there selling all kinds of bead and jewelry making goodness!

Darlene of D7 Studio carries my work at her bead show tables (Bead Fest Aug 2014 Booth #366), and here are a few photos of the newest beads heading her way for you to purchase!

My recent obsession has been making lots and lots of smaller earring ready components in many color ways!

I had to glaze some beads for an order, and realized I “needed” to make more of different kinds that I am recently obsessed about (the ones with the spirals – lol)…

And that I needed to make a couple of new smaller sized stamps for the disc beads because I wanted to have teeny lightweight beads for earrings.

Now I have to glaze a bunch of them up too to go with all of this brightness…

And if you are looking for a class to take (THERE ARE SO MANY!!!) my friend Staci Smith is teaching this “Painted Polymer Fossil Talisman” which has a couple of my pieces in the kit…

Staci Smith Painted Polymer Fossil Talisman Necklace Class Bead Fest 2014

Staci Smith Painted Polymer Fossil Talisman Necklace Class Bead Fest 2014

And a coupon code to print out and bring with you to the show, or register online and use the coupon code for your $5 day pass (usually $15 if you are not taking classes).

Coupon is brought to you by D7 Studio (for the referring exhibitor section).

Bead Fest Philly 2014 Coupon

Bead Fest Philly 2014 Coupon

Piedmont Woodland Edge Garden

I never remember to take before pics of garden areas that I jump into on an overdue whim (like – it has bugged me enough & I want to be done with the weeds) and I just go for it. This area which was getting ready to burst with garlic mustard seeds, mile-a-minute weed, Japanese stilt grass – among others – had to be cleared…

It took me an entire evening to get this done. My husband came out with the shovel to remove some little old stumps that were quite the tripping or mowing hazard.

I am fairly certain that at some point there was a previous owners pet buried here. So we felt the need to keep these rocks and stump there & plant around it. A fern that was growing in the to be cleared area, along with some Jack-in-the-pulpit, may apples, and Solomon’s seal were all transplanted into this area.

This will be a wonderful shade with dappling sunlight garden!

Here is an opposite end view which shows the area we tackled. And even though we are replacing the stilt grass with Kentucky blue – it is what we feel we need to do to try to keep all of these invasives at bay & to help re-establish garden areas as we can.

I added some violets and wood poppies to this area as well. Sure hope they all transplant well here! Time to consider some reptile and amphibian habitat up there too…

Glaze Firing Ceramic Beads

I find that working in batches is most comfortable for me. I like to make a bunch of pieces, then bisque them, then have my choice of "matching" up pairs, glazing them at the same time, then if they make it out if the kiln, they are tied up as a pair. May seem a bit tedious to some people, but I really find that it soothes my slight OCD tendencies…
And not to mention that fate and pairing up "mates" really makes my inner romantic self pretty happy too!

Having to load a kiln with all of these can be a bit nerve racking as they are pretty tiny, and at Cone 5/6 this Nichrome metal will begin to slump – creating a possible complete meltdown if pieces touch and fuse at 2232 degrees F.
Loading a kiln like this really required a sense of space, balance of weight and how many pieces can fit. And practice for many years helps too…

Luckily only one teeny spot on a piece touched a kiln post. I was SO relieved!

These are all going to the Bead & Button Show with me (booth #610)! I have a few more kiln loads to glaze and fire – so it will be non-stop work when the kids are in school…

I love having an automatic kiln that you program and just check on…

I load the kiln in an hour (up to three), set the program, turn on the kiln vent, then close the kiln room door. If all goes as expected, 24 hours later (8 hours to temperature, then 16 to cool) I get to have a miniature Christmas Morning moment to myself…

This load will come out today! Will post a pic on my Marsha Neal Studio Instagram, Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr in a bit!

A Garden Grows No Matter What

There is that lingering feeling of frustration, forgetting, having to do something that wakes one up at 4am. Seems like I am finding that routine once more – but I think it may be a good way to get things done…

My garden is a good reminder of how life goes on regardless of deadlines and things that come up. It is a source of peace, inspiration, instant gratification (going to the garden center & bringing home a new plant! Love that!!!), and frustration if weeds start to eek in.

I love that some plants go back for generations in gardens – like these Iris from a neighbors grandmothers garden that I was given. But then there are others that barely lasted a season without the deer or other critters eating & killing them… Frustrating at times!

We live on almost an acre in suburbia, mostly wooded but lots of yard and garden too. And I am accepting that I alone cannot keep all of the invasive weeds at bay, and I need help.

Help that makes me cringe – but it needs to be done. Since my main side hill garden is a slope – it needs to have ground cover. And thistle, Japanese stilt grass, garlic mustard, and various vines, sticker bushes, etc are taking over my attempts to plant and successfully maintain a "native plant garden". And the deer eating the foliage of those native plants – and the voles eating the roots of many in winter – just is not helping!

So out come the plants I want that are viable. The rest are composted if not planted on the opposite side yard where our property ends and the neighbors downhill slope begins. Then out comes the tiller, the rake, the weed killer and in goes the grass (this is the "plan").

Then as I can, I will create a better plan, divide up those perennials, and take back areas on my side hill for gardening and get rid of the grass. The problem I have with this lies within the grass not having any ecological value. But it will allow me to get rid of the invasive plants by mowing and focus on the large areas of garden that do remain and making them better ecological niches.

Because really – I would rather spend my time in the garden looking for fairies and smurfs than trying to pull out thistle and stilt grass…

Now back into the bead studio while the kids are in school so I can get orders completed and Bead and Button Show inventory created (booth #610).



Ceramic Artist. Garden and Nature Enthusiast.

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