Pandora jewelry is like the iPhone – hack your bracelet!

I make jewelry as a hobby, some bead stringing, a bit of knotting, some wire work.
On an internet forum I’m on, we talked about Pandora Jewelry. Pandora is known for their bracelets. The most popular bracelets have a sterling silver base, a fat chain. You buy glass beads, metal beads, enamel beads and charms to add to the bracelet. There are a multitude of charms designed to commemorate moments in your life, getting a degree, getting married, learning a sport – that sort of thing.

The product is nicely designed and good quality. The glass beads have an art glass appeal; they look like Murano glass beads. Everything in the product line fits, both from a design and a construction perspective. And you can buy the bracelets everywhere, in Pandora specialty shops and department stores (in the US), online. I am not going to link to the product as I’m not interested in Pandora jewelry links coming from my site. The links are easy to find, if you are not sure what Pandora bracelets look like.

I like the product, somewhat – but there is something about the product that makes me uncomfortable. When I look at Pandora jewelry I think – damn, what an amazing business plan, marketing plan, their pricing. The supply chain works beautifully. And there is something about the pieces that make you want to stay in Pandora’s world. What is going on?

Pandora jewelry is designed to keep you in the Pandora world. You are never done. You can start small, a bracelet, a bead or two, a charm, and add to it. New beads and charms come out, periodically, that you can buy to celebrate the events in your life. Marking your life moments with a charm (in my opinion, a too obvious charm) is appealing. People like to commemorate events in their lives. You can take beads and charms off and add new ones (I think you can, I don’t have any Pandora jewelry). Your friends and family can give you a new bead or charm – you can buy them everywhere. The design is such that everything goes with everything. The design is recognizable. You can look at a Pandora bracelet from across the room, and you can recognize the Pandora of it – brand is big with them. From a design perspective, I don’t like the metal on the glass beads, but this is another opportunity for branding; the word Pandora is on the metal surrounding the bead hole.

What it feels like to me, more than anything – an Apple consumer product – iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes. Everything Apple is deliberately designed, and designed to work together. Life is good for you if you never stray from the Apple space. And you are never done with Apple – you can upgrade your device (not exactly like Pandora) and get something else on iTunes. Your friends and family can give you an ITunes thing. This is not a perfect comparison because so many of ITunes things are thought to be cheap enough that you buy them yourself. People are also not sentimental about an electronic thing the exact same way they are about jewelry.

Pandora is like that. It even has something of a proprietary aspect to it, just like Apple! Their beads have an unusually wide hole, to accommodate the fat Pandora chain, so your standard Murano glass beads are not going to fit. This is an imperfect analogy, but you get the idea – though by now, there are bead shops that sell beads that will fit on a Pandora bracelet chain.

Pandora jewelry has a sameness to it. This works well from an “everything goes with everything” perspective, but the look borders on sterile, safe. Where are the square glass beads, the oblong beads, the knobby beads? Where are the beads that aren’t all shiny and new? And I don’t think you get much, for what you pay for – but one can say that’s the same for all jewelry, for all consumer products – perhaps for all material goods. You always pay for the brand. If you ever go to a bead show, you realize how much the markup is on jewelry, and I don’t even have a wholesaler’s license.

In my ideal world, Pandora bracelets would be the gateway drug for getting people to experience more in the world of jewelry. Go to that craft fair, go to a bead show, haunt the internet for wonderful things. See what else you can put on your bracelet. Hack your bracelet!

Until I buy a Pandora bracelet chain to hack – here is a simple bracelet I made, using glass beads I bought from a vendor at the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival – recent link – Palo Alto Clay & Glass Festival 2014. I’m not sure of the year, late 1990s to 2000s, maybe. The rust colored sparkly beads are goldstone. The bracelet is strung on sturdy stretchy elastic – designed for jewelry making. I’m also showing some earrings I made, using glass beads from the same vendor.

Bracelet and earrings I made.  Photo, July 2014

Bracelet and earrings I made. Photo, July 2014

Hack your bracelet.

Philadelphia, This Year

As big cities go, Philadelphia is quite nice, even nicer now that I go in on the train via the adorable Colmar station.  This is where I’ve been, this year.

Reading Terminal Market –

This is a farmer’s market in a permanent indoor space, in a lovely historic building next to the convention center.  The food is good.   The shops are good.  There is a local winery store, Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars, a local winery with excellent wines,  I almost wept when I stopped there.  Given Pennsylvania’s ridiculous liquor control laws (don’t get me started) and the local culture, I’ve mostly given up on the wine thing here.  Blue Mountain makes great wines, though it’s not easy to buy their wines, given that it’s a local winery and Pennsylvania’s liquor laws and the local liquor stores are so terrible.  I had the Chambourcin which was excellent, also interesting because I was not familiar with the grape.

Reading Terminal Market, fish sign, April 2011

Reading Terminal Market, Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars sign, April 2011

Philadelphia International Flower Show –

“Springtime in Paris” was the theme for 2011.  The flower show is huge; it takes over the Philadelphia Convention Center.  The show consisted of a number of gardens with a Paris theme and a market where you could buy things.  I had a good time, though I learned why it is never a good idea to go on the weekend.  It was very crowded

Through Rose Colored Glasses, Philadelphia International Flower Show, March 2011

A Bed of Roses, Philadelphia International Flower Show, March 2011

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Street Fair –

Another Paris and French themed event.  It was not crowded in the morning, but more crowded as the day went on.  The food was good, the performers were good, the sights were good, some interesting arty things.

Butterfly Puppet, Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Street Fair, April 2011

Ferris Wheel, Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Street Fair, April 2011

La Ville Radieuse (The Radiant City), a Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts 2011 Collaboration

On the day I went to the street fair, I went inside the Kimmel Center, a performing arts space, a spectacular building with a hundred fifty foot barrel-vaulted glass roof (  There was a site installation, La Ville Radieuse, by Mimi Lien, an artist and set  designer.

The interior of the Kimmel Center was magical.  There was a replica of the Eiffel tower, all in lights.  Above me, moving on wires was a plane, trains, and a dirigible.  My photographs do not do it justice.

La Ville Radieuse, Kimmel Center, April 2011

La Ville Radieuse, Kimmel Center, April 2011


This mini sculpture park is at the Marriott hotel, next to the Reading Terminal Market.  I had to do some research to figure out who made it. I like the work, and it was a great place to eat lunch when the Reading Terminal Market was very crowded, on the day I went to the flower show.

World Park, Cast concrete, fiberglass, stone and glass mosaic, landscape,15′ x 88′ x 96′, Philadelphia, PA. Commissioned by Marriott Hotel, 1995, Ned Smyth.

World Park, 1995, photograph taken March 2011

World Park, 1995, photograph taken March 2011

World Park, 1995, photograph taken March 2011

The Fabric Workshop and Museum –

Contrary to the name, this is not a fabric workshop and museum; it is a contemporary arts gallery and museum, focusing on different types of materials.  I love it.  You can’t take photos inside, so I have no photos of their exhibits.   You can’t even walk around the exhibits yourself.  After you pay your admission fee, a nice person escorts you around the current exhibit, and you can stay as long as you like.  I think this is because the work is not protected and, while not fragile as in “you touch it, it breaks”, it would be easy to disturb the work.  I love the exhibits and hope to get there more often.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum, April 2011

2010 Retrospective, gallery trip to Chelsea, New York City

In April, 2010, I took the bus into New York City, to see art.  NYC has the most extensive collection of contemporary art galleries in the world.  I like contemporary art.  On my rare art trips to New York City, I used to go to the galleries in the SoHo neighborhood, Manhattan, which was good.  But, many galleries have moved to the west Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan.  On the brochure I picked up (published by Art in America, International Review – –  there are over 200 galleries listed.  Here’s a good gallery link –

I generally regard New York City as Gotham City, but I seem to have developed some peace with the place.  It helps that New York City is much safer than it used to be, and I finally figured out how to use the subway, which is also much safer than it used to be.  It seems silly to try to find a cab unless you have to, and I find riding buses to be confusing.  Subways are easier. I rode the subway in London – how hard can it be in New York City?  Not hard, since I read up how to do it ahead of time.  I learned the weird little quirk of the New York City subways – north is “uptown”, south is “downtown”, and pay attention to the entrance you take down to the subway.  If you go into a subway entrance for “uptown”, you can’t generally cross over to “downtown” and vice versa.   With those two things in mind, I was all set.

West Chelsea is fine, lovely in parts, and appropriately warehouse looking in other parts, which is great for gallery space.  It’s an upscale area now.  I had a fantastic wonderful time.  I found a pocket park.  I had lunch.  I walked by the Hudson River at the Chelsea Piers.  I went to about 20 galleries.  There are so many more galleries to go to, next time.

Here are some photos.

“The Commuters”, George Segal, Port Authority Bus Terminal, New York City. Photograph, April 2010.

Street Scene, 8th Avenue, Chelsea, New York City. Unlike most of my photographs there are some people in this picture. April 2010.

Rooftop garden, Chelsea, New York City. April 2010.

Lovely tall buildings, think it’s 8th Avenue, Chelsea, New York City. April 2010.

Coffee Shop, Chelsea, New York City. I like the sign. April 2010.

Building behind screen (construction), Chelsea, New York City. I like the interplay of the screen and the light. April 2010.

Chelsea Park, New York City. A very pretty pocket park. April 2010.

Jack Shaiman Gallery, W 20th Street, Chelsea, New York City. Most of the galleries are on the streets, not the avenues. April 2010.

ZietherSmith Gallery, W 20th Street, Chelsea, New York City. Most of the galleries look like nothing from the outside. It’s helpful to have a good map. April 2010.

529 Arts Building, Chelsea, New York City. The streets have an upscale warehouse area look to them, which I like. April 2010.

View from lunch at Don Giovanni. The umbrella looks like a sculpture! New York City, April 2010.

Interesting architectural detail. Chelsea, New York City. April 2010.

Street scene. Think it’s W 22nd Street. Might be W 25th. Chelsea, New York City. April 2010.

Hudson River from the Chelsea Piers, New York City. April 2010.

At the rehab place last May, beautiful grounds and bad art

In May 2010, a family member of mine ended up in a rehab facility. Thankfully, there was a complete recovery from the injury.

The rehab place is a very good place, very well known. I thought the care was very good. I was glad we could get in.

The grounds, though not large, were beautiful, well landscaped, with secret little nooks and places where people in wheelchairs could gather.   Being out there was restful.

The grounds of the rehab center. May 2010

Flowers and a path. May 2010

Secret garden. May 2010

Secret garden, and a glider. May 2010

Then there was the statue. I’m sure the artist and the donor were well meaning, but to me, the work does not evoke real and honest emotions. It’s sentimental,maudlin. The sculpture also doesn’t make sense, as a family member pointed out to me. Why is the little girl still clutching her crutches, wouldn’t she drop them?

I think the style is supposed to be reminiscent of the social realists. I’ll quote “hard-edged muscular forms popularized by Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco” — This was a style for paintings and murals, not as far as I know, a 3D work. This looks like an appropriation of a style without everything that goes with it. It doesn’t provide the impact, the political punch, of, for example, the murals of Diego Rivera.

I’ve been in enough hospitals and public spaces to have experienced my share of institutional art. While the art is not generally controversial — that doesn’t mean it has to be bad. You can evoke an emotional response, if that is your intent, without resorting to a little girl in a dress and crutches being lifted by a social realist character from the 30s wearing workman clothes. Just stop.

The statue


Clutching the crutches


I’ll close with several photos of the beautifully landscaped grounds.

A space big enough for wheelchairs. May 2010

Lovely grounds. May 2010

In the Land of the Cute, second in a series

The first entry in this series was published on my blog on November 25, 2009.

I go for walks in the small Pennsylvania town where I’m currently living.  On my walks I discovered little figures, lawn ornaments, nestled on people’s properties, on their lawns, on their gardens, on a step.   This is public art. The figures are positioned so you can see them from the street.

Last year I looked for things that photographed well. This year I included some works that didn’t always photograph well, because I liked them.  Several of the works are not exactly lawn ornaments — you’ll see.

What I found the most interesting is that the effect of these works is, often, not what I think was intended!

Follow me on my journey.

This winged creature is either resting in the sun, or perhaps that flower is really, really heavy. What could be in that flower? July 2010.

An assertively cute rabbit, only a little worse for wear. Again, the flower motif. July 2010.

I think this is an angel, hard to see, flickering in the summer sun. It works better for this figure, if you can't see it all that well. July 2010.

I like this rabbit, but the little creature is becoming more and more wraithlike. Is the rabbit crossing over to the other side? July 2010.

Look closely at the lower left and mid right of the picture. Then ask yourself, in what possible universe could these two disparate beings exist -- together? July 2010.

This huge balloon is an advertisement for a car wash. Driving by is a surreal experience. July 2010.

A frog family, hard to see -- the green of the frogs blends into the green of the plants, rather like frogs that breathe. The frog family is a little worse for wear, but bravely sticking together. July 2010.

This beautiful work is an actual sculpture, not a lawn ornament. It is on the grounds of a church, but it is in an awkward spot, next to the electric box. Perhaps the sorrowful angel would be a bit happier if she was in a better space. Thanks to my cousin for pointing this out. November 2010.

A charming decorative ladybug, a good fit for the garden. But, it's so hard to see. You have to wonder, why did they bother? July 2010.

I’ve tried to photograph this dragon several times, but it's always hard to see. Then I realized -- it's hard to see in "real life". An interesting piece, but way too much going on. July 2010.

Another unusual juxtaposition of creatures. As before, in what universe could these beings possibly exist -- together? September 2010.

This little pig is adorable, and it fits the space. I like it a lot. October 2010.

Like the white rabbit (image 4) these birds look like denizens of the afterlife. The rope is to secure the shades of the porch, but it also looks like the owner is trying to keep the birds from flying off. November 2010.

November 2010. This is wonderful piece, perfectly situated. Is this lion guarding the place or trying to get out? Hang on, I'll cut a hole in the fence and let you out, little lion. Then you'll be free.

In the Land of the Cute

I take walks in the small Pennsylvania town where I’m currently living. I’ve noticed that this town has something I had not seen in years, little figures, lawn ornaments, nestled on people’s property, on their lawns, in their gardens, on a step. The figures are positioned so they can be seen from the street. The intent, I believe, is to be charming, sometimes cute. You do get the cuteness, but you also get effects that are sometimes strange.

These are my favorite pieces. I describe the piece and then show you the picture.

This is an assertively perky figure, all bushy tail, alert posture, slightly startled pose. It’s also very worn and needs paint. The combination make the figure somewhat unsettling, as if the creature was trying to keep up that perkiness, no matter what the cost. I thought it was more interesting to see the figure from a distance, so I didn’t zoom in.

Squirrel, Pennsylvania, October 2009

This is one of my favorite pieces. I like the look of the angel, the lines, the sweep of the wings, the angle of the folded hands. The tipped flower pot nicely frames the angel. The shape of the plant complements the shape of the angel. The green and white colors provide a nice contrast. But you have to ask yourself, who is the angel praying to?

Praying Angel, Pennsylvania, September 2009

This little bunny is worn, but still cute, in a genuinely nice way. I think it works well in the space.

Rabbit, Pennsylvania, October 2009

I thought that I would see more figures in birdbaths and water fountains, but this is the only birdbath sculpture I found on my walks. This work is on the sweet side, and appears to be influenced by Disney, though it’s nicely done. The fairy is easier to see if you click to get the big picture.

Fairy and Frog, Pennsylvania, August 2009

The frog is chipped and needs some paint, giving it a “don’t mess with me, I’ve been around” look. This is a scary frog.

Frog, Pennsylvania, October 2009

Although this picture is flawed, I wanted to include it. I think the frog, though hard to see in this photo, works very well in the space. The frog is a little scary looking, but not as scary looking as the other frog.

Frog under a Tree, Pennsylvania, October 2009

There’s a lot going on here. We’ve got a kitty, a little house, a flag, a bent tree, and two people (elves?) clasping each other. While somewhat odd, even for the Land of the Cute, it has its own charm.

Kitty, surrounded by many things, October 2009

This is an advertisement for a garage. It’s a wonderful piece, perhaps crafted by the owner, funny and engaging. It’s more a work of folk art than a lawn ornament.

Person sculpture, advertising a garage, Pennsylvania, October 2009

Lest you think there is no such thing as an animal sculpture in an outdoor space that isn’t “cute”, look at this wonderful frog sculpture in Rittenhouse Square, Center City, Philadelphia. There’s something interesting and wonderful about the size, shape and look of that frog. This frog is not a resident in the Land of the Cute.

Frog Sculpture, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, November 2009

Chihuly at the de Young – the landscape

I went to the San Francisco De Young museum last Sunday (September 21, 1008) to see the exhibit, Chihuly at the De Young –

There are critics who hate Chihuly’s work.  They think it’s bereft of ideas.  It’s decorative, overblown, and “beautiful” without saying anything.

I think Chihuly’s work is beautiful – yes.  His installations put you in another world.  There’s a lot of it  – form, color, texture, imagery, light reflecting, all that.  Unlike some of his critics, I find them to be full of emotional resonance, and I also think there is more to them than simple beauty. 

To start with, I’m not sure that Chihuly categorizes his work as “art” and not “art”.    I think he knows the difference between a decorative work and a work of art (if you can even use such a term), but it’s not a dialogue he chooses to engage in.  So, he’ll do an art object that is, for want of a better word, “decorative”.  He’ll make an object that complements a room.  It’s decorative, for ornamentation.  Then, he’ll take that same object and change it.  He’ll change the scale, add to it, and mass it. He’ll put a hundred of them together.  Sometimes he’ll put them in a landscape.  The objects are transformed.

I think his chandeliers are examples of this – are they animate, inanimate, flowers, snakes?  There’s also this weird Baroque sensibility going on.  When he hangs them outside, over the canals in Venice – you ask yourself – what are they?  Are they Venetian crafts, are they plants, are they snakes, are they constructed, what is it?

In some works – such as the room with what looks like large glass reeds – he pares it down.  The reeds are huge, and glowing, but fairly simple.  He takes a landscape full of repetition – the reeds – and he changes it.  He adds light, color, and he blows it up – the reeds are huge. I think he plays on what it means to be a landscape.  It’s familiar and unsettling at the same time.

He plays with size and scale.  One of my favorite rooms was a room which had two boats – one with glass balls, and one with what looked like flower/plant things, all in boats.  What’s really interesting was the scale.  The glass balls in the boats appear to be so much bigger than the organic looking things in the other boat.

I think Chihuly’s work deals with 2 things
– what does it mean to be organic
– what does it mean to be a landscape

He also play with design.  He likes design.  I like it too – I like seeing a color, a pattern get transformed – in his 2D drawings, the Indian baskets and blankets he collects, and the glass that he does, as influenced by the baskets and the blankets.

I think he’s also not afraid of referencing something domestic and pretty, like a family garden.  In the last room of a show, he makes a garden.

It’s also bravura work, but there’s bravura work out there, even in contemporary art land – I’ll leave it to the reader to come up with examples!  Bravura is fine with me.  

I loved the show, and it belongs here – it felt like home.

Chihuly at the de Young - Ceiling

Chihuly at the de Young - Ceiling

Looking at a ceiling covered with glass objects.  It felt like being under water.
Chihuly at the de Young - Glass Reeds

Chihuly at the de Young - Glass Reeds

The Room filled with Glass Reeds
Chihuly at the de Young - Floats and Flowers

Chihuly at the de Young - Floats and Flowers




Floats and Flowers – in Boats      







Chihuly at the de Young - The Garden

Chihuly at the de Young - The Garden




Closeup of the the Garden Room






amarez – mszv