Featured Designer ~ Kay Howard

Kay Howard truly designs Art jewelry. She uses museum quality beads and the finished products belong in a museum too. Her necklaces aren’t simple accessories; each is a magnificent design, from which you would “accessorize” with clothing. Each masterpiece evokes confidence. Every title takes you to a foreign culture: “Four Bone Dragons”, “Olmec”, “Persia”, “Bat in Flight”, “Dzibilchaltun” (I don’t have a clue what this means but Google informs me that it is a Mexican Maya archaeological site).

Her big, bold and dramatic pieces incorporate new, vintage and antique beads: natural and organic materials, semi-precious stones and occasional touches of metal, Czech glass and one-of-a-kind recycled glass. Naturally, she pushes the limit of clasps so Kay is always on a quest for better and better clasps!

A 5th generation Texan and child of the 50’s, Kay Howard says, “I create large scaled, dramatic STATEMENT pieces. I create what I enjoy wearing. My work is for the Strong, Independent, Creative CONFIDENT Woman.”

Kay’s work is influenced by ancient cultures, current surroundings and her architecture and interior design background. With her Bachelors and a Masters Degrees in Interior Design with a minor in Architecture Kay Howard taught Interior Designer at the University of Texas at Austin and owned her own interior design practice. “Working with the Art Elements and Principles of Design or over 40 years has trained my eye to select items that relate to each other well. Texture is a BIG part of my work. I am influenced by EVERYTHING I see. With me it’s a combination of INSTINCT and DESIGN TRAINING. I use my Design Training in the selection of every single bead I select and in the composition of every necklace.”

Kay’s description of her workspace sounds all too familiar: comfy sofa, collapsible table, “HUGE bead board”, tools at her side, stashable storage units (stuffed of course). “I lay out everything on my bead board before I ever begin. That is where it is designed. When I know exactly what it is going to look like, I start constructing it. I seldom design as I go.”

Visit Kay Howard Originals at

“If I were a bead, I’d be an Ancient Magnificent Baltic Amber Cognac Colored Nugget.”
– Kay Howard

Category : Featured Designers

Little Nepalese Girl


During a recent bead-buying trip to Nepal, while I was walking from my hotel into Thamel (which is the area of Kathmandu where the millions of shops, restaurants, rickshaws and people are; where business happens), I took this photo of a little girl.  She was carrying a bucket and most likely doing her morning chores.  I enjoy photography and I take a lot of pictures when I travel, so it’s not unusual, since I have a bead company, that someone uses one of my photos as inspiration for a jewelry design, naturally it flatters me!  But this time I was asked if it was okay if my photo be painted. My friend and artist, Tracey Ethridge, did a beautiful job of capturing the mood, the motion and the innocence of this little Nepalese girl and I feel tremendously honored to see my photograph as an oil painting.

Category : Our Adventures

“You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.” – John Mason


Disputes over property rights can get nasty, and copying others’ work is nothing new. In the 1800’s Vincent Van Gogh copied the works of other artists, including Rembrandt and Jean-François Millet, using their works as his “subjects” and to improve his own technique. In Van Gogh’s own words:

“If someone plays Beethoven, he adds his own personal interpretation; in the music, especially in the singing, the interpretation also counts and the composer doesn’t have to be the only one to perform his compositions. Anyway, especially now I am ill, I am trying to create something to comfort me, for my own pleasure. I put the black and white by or after Delacroix or Millet in front of me to use as a motif. And then I improvise in colour […] seeking reminiscences of their paintings; but the memory, the vague consonance of colours while are at least correct in spirit, that is my interpretation.” (source: VGGallery)

Why the lack of tension (or at least any nasty dispute) between Van Gogh and the artists he copied? Maybe because profit and fame weren’t at stake?  (He only sold one painting in his lifetime.) The war against piracy has evolved since Millet and Van Gogh’s days. Some of you may remember SPA’s “Don’t Copy That Floppy” anti-copyright infringement campaign in 1992, and by now we are all familiar with the FBI warning accompanying the movies we watch, threatening criminal charges, jail time, fines, blah blah blah. The launch of Etsy in 2005 provided an amazing world stage for artists and their handmade crafts, meanwhile facilitating a new wave of piracy.

This topic has been especially heated this year with Urban Outfitter’s “copying” of pendants by independent designer Stevie K (read about it at The Consumerist).  Bloggers took to their keyboards, tweeters tweeted and Regretsy soon followed with a report unveiling that maybe the designs weren’t so original after all (read Regretsy’s report and The Consumerists follow-up). The world wide web continues to amaze in its enormity and the viral nature of content.

The Internet makes it much easier for more people to easily copy and steal others work, but it has also made it possible for a lot of independent artists to share their work and even quit day jobs to pursue their dreams.  The power of the Internet also plays a role in preventing or at least halting art piracy. Artist Lauren Nassef’s work was stolen by Samantha Beeston who actually won awards and prize money for her text print patterns that blatantly incorporated Lauren’s art…  Then comes the fame, web presence and can you guess what happened next? Busted! Do a simple Google search for “Samantha Beeston” and plagiarism is number one in the results… that’s embarrassing! (Read more and see their work side by side at Book By its Cover and Lauren’s Blog.)

Copying anther’s work and being influenced by their work are two entirely different things, but sometimes there is a gray area between the two. If ever in doubt, just ask, express what’s on your mind, get an opinion (people love to give them!). The Etsy and greater handmade artisans community is just that, a community; it is always better to ask than to step on another’s toes and potentially feel the wrath of Twitter and attract that not so good karma.

Thoughts? Opinions? Please share in the comments!

Additional Links:

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”  – Judy Garland

“You MAY copy this image for the sole purpose of displaying on your blog or website IF it is linked back to this flickr group You may NOT use any piece of this image for your own artwork or any other publication or reproduction.”

“You MAY copy this image for the sole purpose of displaying on your blog or website IF it is linked back to this flickr group You may NOT use any piece of this image for your own artwork or any other publication or reproduction.”

Category : Meanderings

It’s not (only) about the beads…


A couple months ago, while traveling through Lander, Wyoming, Dan and I ran into an evangelical healer from Texas.  He was an older gentleman and very well traveled, so naturally, with a common interest, we became fast ‘friends’.  He asked a question that no one has ever asked us before, “What is the best food you’ve eaten during your travels?”  What a great and thought provoking question!  That got us thinking and we chatted with this guy for a very long time about nothing other than the foods of the world!

Just recently when we were putting together our itinerary for the Asia bead-buying trip which we are currently on, we were trying to decide if we should journey further than Southeast Asia and do a little business in Nepal.  I recall saying to Dan, “The only really good reason I can think of that we should travel to Kathmandu is to eat at that fantastic Israeli restaurant, OR2K.”  And so we booked the flight.  Oh and sure, we bought beads while we were there too.

The photos shown here are of the meal we ate just yesterday.  Click on the picture to read about the dish.  We were in Bangkok at a very small restaurant named Krua Apsorn.  The famed food critic, Killian Fox, named this place as one of the 50 best places to eat in the world (and the best place in the entire world to eat curry), he is right!  They also had the second best mussels in the world, next to Whidbey Island’s Penn Cove mussels, which seriously can’t be topped.

As I type this we’re on a flight from Bangkok to Bali and of course we are looking forward to eating the wonderful Indonesian food, but the dish that comes first to my mind is ‘babi masak bawong bombay’, I enjoy saying the name as much as eating it – try saying it a few times!  Every morning we have mei goreng, a spicy noodle dish with greens and maybe a shrimp or two, mud-like Bali coffee and sometimes even a doughy pineapple pancake.  Lunch is typically cap-cay (pronounced chop chai), which consists of veggies in broth with rice on the side, then we add a little red chili soy sauce.  Or sometimes we have Balinese spiced fish grilled in a banana leaf – you eat this with your fingers.  Oh, and I could never forget the ginger ice cream, pisang goreng (fried bananas), love that stuff!  Yes, Indonesian food is fun!

We all have to agree that food is an important part of our daily lives, but I have to admit, with me it tends to border on obsession.  And the five pounds I gain during every trip is proof of this (not proud proof, just proof).

A few of my favorites around the world:  Turkish food – tomatoes, eggplant and lamb, and lots of it!  Cod cooked under a thick layer of onions at a seaside village in Portugal.  Razor clams in Chile.  Goulash from the Czech Republic and those hearty pork dishes from Germany.  REAL Mexican guacamole!!  Ghana is a great place to eat Lebanese food, actually the Lebanese control the food industry in Ghana which is great, since I honestly don’t like Ghanaian food (fish bone salad & white yams, yuck.  ANY Italian food – need I say more?

Okay, enough food talk, sadly enough I’ll soon be back home working on my diet.

Category : Our Adventures