A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).

Monday, January 31, 2011

Toast and Taffy, Right Where You Need It

I'm totally into ceramic beads right now, and Mary Ann Carroll's are some of my favorites! I've combined two of her beads in this toasty little bracelet--the big textured focal (like a waffle!), and the little button-shaped bead with the dollop of turquoise in the middle. My Mom said it reminded her of saltwater taffy--what do you know, it DOES look like a piece of taffy! That makes me like it even more. And here it is on your wrist, so easy to nibble on if you have the urge. It's so tempting.

Toast and Turquoise

I've combined the ceramic beads with bone beads, turquoise magnesite half domes, and a little disc of turquoise sitting atop a wood disc (I used the same technique as for the necklace I posted about earlier--I did a mini "snake" and fastened the discs to it with a headpin). The bracelet fastens with a brass toggle clasp I made myself. All metal is solid brass, lightly antiqued and hand-polished.

I made one other bracelet. SLAVED over it. And I hate it. Not sure what to do with it. Tried some ribbon on it and it just doesn't look good. Hate it when that happens.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pinocchio Becomes a Real Girl

And he didn't even have to go to Switzerland.

Yesterday I painted one of my mannequins, Ebony. She was jet black when I got her, and I have wished many times that she were people-colored. So yesterday I took the plunge. I sanded her down with fine grit sandpaper to give the surface some tooth, and mixed up a nice nut brown skin color. Now she looks exactly like one of those chocolate truffles with the powdered cocoa on the outside. She looks like a real, headless, brown girl.

I am renaming her Alfre.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Shops, New Stuff!

Wanted to share some things with you I recently purchased from some Etsy shops I haven't bought from before. Pretty excited about them!! Check this out:

From JodyPoesy (hand-dyed 1/2" rayon ribbon--they're more substantial than they look in the pictures):
"River Rock"

Totally excited about this one below, saw a treasury on Etsy yesterday in these colors and now I want to do something with it:
These are from Beadfreaky:

And these are from WhiteCloverKiln:

LOVE this one

I also found a new silk ribbon vendor that I'm dying to try, but I need to use up what I have first! Check out Flame Kissed Art Glass (the links will take you to their website, as opposed to their Etsy shop). Look at these cool colors (IN LOVE with the one below):

"Burnt Ember" (bought it)
"Painted Desert"
Thrilled to find such gorgeous silk ribbons which may not, one hopes, entail the same kinds of shipping and "communication" issues as other silk ribbons, whose maker shall remain unnamed. They are also very affordable. The pics above are just a small sampling of the silk fabulousness. Gawd, just writing about them makes me want to buy them RIGHT NOW. Maybe I will.

OK I just did. Anyway, I hope you will visit these awesome shops and find something you love!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Backside to Write Home About

This is what I've always wanted, but it's just not going to happen. No matter how many hours I spend on the glute machine. Both sides of my family tree are replete with people who could, and perhaps did, wear their pants backwards without any discomfort at all. If my pants didn't have a zipper on them, no one would know whether I was coming or going.

The backside below is perhaps more interesting:

I told you it wasn't pretty. I'm sure I will do better with practice. You can see my base piece in this case is just a snake shape length of heavy gauge brass wire.

I added one more little bead last night to fill that empty spot. It was kind of hard to do--I wanted to use a smallish bead, but it's hard to fasten something small to this without it spinning around to the wrong side. So I created a little mesh framework first with wire, and then fastened a wood roundel to that instead of just to one of the main pieces. You can sort of see that in the middle, where there's some wire going back and forth.

Here's the finished piece, on a more interesting background than yesterday:

I also added a little wire to another bare spot.

I made these too:

Big prehnite rounds, with pewter Bali-style beadcaps from Happy Mango Beads. Hand-formed sterling silver kidney earwires embellished with Czech glass from BeadandRibbon on Etsy. Beadcaps on the bottom are my little nickel beadcaps. Hand-forged sterling ball headpins.

At some point I'll probably post a little tutorial on those coil crimp ends I used on the necklace.

OK, time to bathe. I'm going out in public today.

Friday, January 21, 2011

All Excited About My New Thing

I never know what to do with disc beads, especially the ones that are cooler on the flat side than on the edge. Just sort of hanging them hasn't appealed to me, and often the holes don't afford much room for the heavier gauge wire which I prefer. I was recently asked to do a tutorial (haven't done it yet, I'll let you know when and where once it's up) using some glass disc beads, and had to puzzle over that for a long time before I thought of a way I could make the most of them. I went over and over the "engineering" in my head for a while, and decided it might work. I thought I would do a prototype with base metal, and some disc beads that have been sitting on my work bench FOREVER (see, keeping them where you can see them is important--if you keep looking at them every day, you'll eventually get an idea) first, just to make sure I could make it work. It worked! Here's my prototype below:

I'm a little underwhelmed with the photo, it makes more of an impression in person. I'll need to retake the photos with a different background--I was in a hurry this morning and didn't have time to paw through my backgrounds like I usually do. I also forgot to take a picture of the backside, which I wanted to show you. It looks like the backside of everything I've ever tried to embroider. Let's say the backside is very "abstract" and "organic" looking. I can't decide whether to put another little doodad inside that sort of empty space in the middle, I can't find anything that doesn't make it look too busy. Maybe just a spray of ball headpins in there. I might change out the chain as well for something with bigger links that would be adjustable. I don't have anything like that so I'll have to make it.

The swirling discs are raku lampwork discs from Blue Seraphim on Etsy--I love the navy blue with the latte color. There's a little purple, lighter blue and green in there too. There are large wood discs underneath them from Beads and Pieces. They are attached to the base (an abstract shape in brass wire) by hand-forged 20 gauge yellow brass ball headpins that have been antiqued in ammonia fumes and then hand polished. The focal section is attached to the rest of the necklace by 8mm Czech glass rounds in Montana Blue, with my brass beadcaps, also antiqued in ammonia fumes and then polished with steel wool and my Dremel. Four strands of brown Greek leather on each side are attached via handmade brass coil ends, and these attach to short lengths of chain.

I have some other disc beads I'm dying to do this with now--some gorgeous turquoise discs I've had forever but not used because just stringing them seemed such a waste (the flat side is gorgeous), and I couldn't figure out how to use them flat because the holes are so small. I think I'll make another piece like this with them. I have some other slightly different turquoise discs that would mix well with them. I've also gone on a ceramic button-buying spree, with the same idea. I think maybe I'll just make a whole collection of this kind of stuff. It'll be My Thing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Think I'm Going to Keep the Wild Hare

I am again having a more-productive-than-usual weekend. I've made two bracelets and two pair of earrings and it isn't even midnight yet on Sunday. And I even fit in a visit with Mom, some errands, and vacuuming on top of it yesterday. I used my first bugbog seed. Very proud of that. They have the most perfect, smooth finish, but they still look like the natural element they are. They are a lovely, pale shade of dove gray. And whaddayaknow, they matched (matchingness!! KJ, there's something so satisfying about it, isn't there?) my lampwork spacers from Beingbeads perfectly! So of course I had to put them together in a bracelet, with matching deerskin lacing in chestnut. Here it is:

"Riding My Chestnut Horse Under a Cloudy Sky with My Heart on My Sleeve."

Then I was putting together another bracelet (the one below), when I accidentally gazed upon the lovely pair of copper kidney earwires I had gotten from Missficklemedia with the little sky blue bead on them, and then my eyes moved from there and accidentally ended up on one of these blown glass beads below, and I thought--"THAT would look really cool with THAT! And THAT! So I changed gears and quickly put THAT, THAT and THAT together and there they are below:

Blown Glass in Azure and Sea Green with Copper
I then resumed work on the bracelet (way) below, which meant making some more components, antiquing them and tumbling them. So while I waited for the tumbler to do its thing, I made these earrings too, which had been waiting on my work bench:

Lampwork glass by Beingbeads (again) on Etsy, in mauve, grape and fuchsia, with that fascinating snakeskin pattern. The "scales" are outlined in little filaments of vivid goldenrod, which sort of pick up the "Picasso" treatment on the little blush beads on the earwires. More accidental matchingness!! The Matching Fairy is with me today.

Totally Girly Snakeskin Earrings
And then finally I was able to finish the bracelet below.

Tough Girl Copper and Brass Bracelet

I had made these rings in the car last summer, and had been wanting to use them in something composed entirely of metal. I got crazy and wrapped some of the copper rings with brass wire. I left the brass rings as is. I look tough with it on. Probably throw it in the tumbler one more time for high shine.

Phew. Time for dinner.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Was Going to Just Show You Porn

But then I up and made this stuff so I'm showing you that instead. (The porn just made me feel dirty anyway and I don't always enjoy that). I also thought of showing you pictures of some beads I bought but I didn't have time to take pictures.

My little "mostly functional" window (which occurs between the malaise/fatigue/pain/debilitatingly low blood pressure of the perimenstrual period and the irritability/depression of the premenstrual period) just happened to fall on a weekend this month, and I seized the opportunity to make four pendants and four pairs of earrings. I am, frankly, shocked at myself. This is unusually productive for me. I've had these items on a to-do list from anywhere between six months to three weeks. I was tied up with custom work for a while, and with watching reruns of CSI that I've already seen at least twice, so they were on a back burner.

I did up this little green flower a few months ago, when I was doing my wired briolette flower thing, and it sat on my glass-topped Japanese-style work bench with a copper toggle clasp ever since. I had a vague idea what I would do with it, which did not include most of the elements in the photo below. The coppery brown pearls were a spur-of-the moment addition, and then I decided to use this wonderful copper-colored silk string (which was billed as some sort of brown, but it's really more of a copper), instead of only chain, but then it just looked too flimsy so I added a strand of green pearls to make it feel more substantial. And then the green pearls echoed the copper pearls, which was unbearably exciting, and there you have it. Copper beadcaps, connector rings and toggle clasp by MOI. Copper rolo chain from Lima Beads, I think. The flower is made from Czech "dagger" beads in green "lumi" finish. The two glass rounds are the same color and finish.

Pond Blossom Pendant

I've had these little earrings in mind for the last couple weeks. I pulled out some of my pewter charms from Happy Mango Beads that I had bought in pairs, intending to make earrings from them, and put them on my work bench. And there they sat. And one day when I was idly perusing my junk pile (also on my work bench) I saw some spare coral dangles I had done for a bracelet but not used, and some blue glass beads lying around, and EUREKA!!!! Genius struck. Unfortunately, when Motivation struck some time later, I ducked. Which is why it took me a couple weeks to get to these. I needed to make the ball headpins first, and I was low on wire, and then they had to be pickled, and then antiqued, and then wrapped, and then cleaned up by hand, and then tumbled. That whole thing did not appeal to me. But then this weekend, I acquired from some unknown source the proverbial "wild hare" (something I sat on apparently) and I became a dynamo. This was the eventual result of that long, tedious process and my fit of dynamism.

Happy Little Handbag Earrings

I rather like them. I love red with light blue. They're like little handbags. The boyfriend applauded my initiative, getting ready for Valentine's Day sales (hearts). I looked at him blankly. I then discovered much to my astonishment that I had made not one but THREE pair of heart earrings. Well, I'll be. I'm such a born marketer I even do it by accident.

Klimt in Black Pendant

The pendant above was designed around Kelley Wenzel's fabulous etched black raku beads, the bebe version (I was determined to stop hoarding these beads, so to compensate I blew them all in one piece. And now I need more). I love the matte black finish--it's almost charcoal, I'm a big charcoal fan--and the Klimt-like spots of rich color. I've combined them with butterscotch-stained wood beads, some little dyed donuts in olive green (not sure what they're made of, I'm guessing bone or wood, I cannibalized them from a store-bought piece of jewelry), more of Kelley's bebe beads in translucent grape, little seed beads in matte black, and pewter and sterling silver accents. The longer portion of the pendant is on knotted silk string, the shorter is on fine-gauge black Greek leather (although you can't see it). I finished it off with black silk ribbon (first time I ever used ribbon in a piece of jewelry). Oh, duh, the pendant is a "Tuareg ring" pendant in pewter from Happy Mango Beads. Isn't it cool? You could do some serious damage with that on your finger. Most likely to yourself. ("Hey, you like my cool ring and my eye patch?")

I've had these cool Czech glass beads from Happy Mango forever, bought them back when I was into squares and rectangles (and then shortly thereafter inexplicably lost my taste for squares and rectangles and never got it back), and have always wanted to use them. I pulled them out and put them on my workbench, as I am wont to do, where they sat and sat. Then one day I happened to glance from them to the heart charms that were also sitting on my bench, and EUREKA!!! Genius struck again. But not the Motivation so then blah blah, etc. And then this weekend I finally stuck them together. With some earwires that were also sitting there on the bench with their little olive green accent beads.

I Heart Paul Klee

These beads remind me of a Klee painting.

The wild hare continued its frenetic romp in my nether regions so I kept going. This pendant had been on my to-do list for some time as well, and these delicious carnelian wheels had been in my stash since a bead show late last summer. The turquoise (a LONG and gorgeous strand of graduated discs I got for a great price from Fire Mountain Gems) had been in my stash since summer as well. This was more of a traditional design (silver, carnelian and turquoise, ho hum) so it didn't take as long to put together. I have been perversely using these pewter sun totems in pieces that evoke anything but sunshine, so I restrained my natural contrariness and forced myself to be literal. Just this once. I'm not knocked out by the design, it's fairly run-of-the-mill, but I just love the focal and the carnelian. I have more of that carnelian, and some green aventurine in the same size/cut.

Tangelo Sunset

Well, these earrings were already half done--they were just waiting for earwires to get tumbled--so I went ahead and threw them together. Ceramic rings (make me think of moldy Cheerios, or even better, snake bagels), little matte aqua glass tile beads, and copper accents. NEXT!!

I was coasting on adrenaline now, and it was still daylight, so I made this:

Winter Seashore
I had been visiting this fossil coral drop in my stash fairly regularly (I'm obsessed with barely detectable colors, which unfortunately do not photograph well), stopping to caress it wistfully in its plastic bin labeled "pendants", when it seemed time to move it from the bin to the work bench. There they await their turn. Or they go back in the bin. I really wanted to do something with this stone--I had gotten all in the mood for neutrals after doing Christine's bracelet (see my December 26 post)--and I knew what beads I wanted to use already--but I couldn't come up with a clever enough bail for it. Tried this and that, and didn't want to just do a ho-hum wrap job on it, but I couldn't think of anything revolutionary so I just did a ho-hum wrap job on it with some little hammered ball accents. It would just have to do. Here it's combined with both smooth and carved bone beads, labradorite, a little bit of Greek leather in a wheat color, hand-formed sterling silver S-clasp and connector rings and this really cool silver plated box rolo chain from ArtBeads. I just got a little of it because I didn't know how big it would be and now I wish I'd gotten a lot more. It's so cool! It's like a square silver snake. And the links are open which is nice.

Lastly, I wired up these ceramic hearts a couple weeks ago but didn't have any regular French earwires to put them on. I finally got some more done up so I patched these together. I don't know why these big blobby hearts are appealing to me. Something so homely about them, and I couldn't resist these green ones. So Wicked. They're like really bad livers.

Really Really Wicked

After that, I only had enough steam left to take pictures, but not enough steam for mannequin pictures, pricing or writing descriptions. Dressing my mannequin takes a lot of energy, especially if she's wearing anything with buttons. I've switched her to tube tops. And of course pricing (which includes costing out all the materials in each piece) is unbearably tedious and exhausting. That had to wait for Tuesday. And then I had to redo part of the Klimt piece because I wasn't happy with it and I didn't get to that until last night...

So now that all this is out of my system, I am taking yet another vow to create simpler items. That I will probably break. It's probably because I have too many beads. Someone should take away all but three of my beads and then I could maybe do it. I would probably put them all in one earring and then beat the living crap out of the person who took my beads until they gave them back. So that wouldn't work. Anyone have any ideas for achieving self-restraint? Maybe I should do yoga. Tie one hand behind my back? Only use my feet? If I made jewelry with my feet it would have to be simple because I don't have much dexterity with my feet. Or any. Or at least I don't think I do. I've never actually tried. I don't think I would want to wear jewelry that had been made by feet. I don't like feet. At least not other people's feet. But I digress.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Eagle Has Landed

The handmade bun is out of the oven.

Houston, we have lift-off.

The payload is delivered.

Now that my metaphors are thoroughly mixed, I will show you pictures of the large custom bridal order I just finished and shipped off to a secret location. The order included pendants for five bridesmaids with four pairs of earrings (one has virgin lobes), pendant and earrings for a best lady (instead of a best man--the groom must be a charming metrosexual), a mother's pendant (with earrings) and a mother-in-law's pendant (more virgin lobes so no earrings), bride's pendant (yet more pristine lobes--what gives? they got something against holes? holes are good, just look around. if there were no holes how could the beer get out? where would you put the pie? where would you bury the bodies?), a gift pendant for the wedding planner, and two flower girl pendants. Whew.  They turned out rather nice I thought.

The bride's colors were pewter and dark apple red, so we went with larvikite (black labradorite), garnet Czech glass, Swarovski Black Diamond crystals for sparkle, and antiqued silver. A couple of the pieces had black in them (best lady is wearing black).  I'll show them to you.

The bridesmaids' pendants:

The Best Lady's Pendant:

The wedding planner's pendant:

The earrings (including mom's earrings):

The mother-in-law's and mother's pendants:

The flower girl pendants:

The bride's pendant (went with bright silver on that one to compliment her dress):

Whew!! I had no idea my attention span was that long. Thank God the bride is not a procrastinator--she gave me lots of time to get this done. Hope she sends me pictures of everybody!

Now back to my own devices.