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).

Friday, February 26, 2010

An Experiment

When I finally figured out how to get my butane torch to work on making sterling silver ball head pins, I went hog wild. My heart skips a beat when I see that silver melt into a little ball and start crawling up the wire. (I LOVE FIRE.) I already had a pile of my steel "barbed wire" rings (with which I had also gone hog wild), and had an idea. I've seen other metalsmiths do amazing things with double ended ball heapdins, wrapping them hither and yon onto their jewelry to make really stunning pieces, and I thought I would wrap such things onto my barbed wire rings to make all manner of jewelry components. I love the dark annealed steel with sterling silver. The earrings below were originally intended to be connectors in a necklace with a larger, similar component for the pendant, but there was just too much going on. They became earrings instead. The pendant was awaiting some pewter beads from Happy Mango Beads, which I got today in the mail. So hopefully the pendant will be strung and completed tomorrow.

I will probably do this again with copper (unless you all say "Um, WTF?"), once I get my propane torch going. It's still in the box in the bag. I'm a little chicken. I'm not going to say I'll fire it up this weekend because I said that last weekend and I think the weekend before that. I'm just going to wait for the propane to call my name.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My New Local Dealer Lampwork Provider

I was feverishly scrabbling through Etsy the other night looking for a place to get my next lampwork fix some beads (I like to spread my business out between dealers artists, you know, so they don't think I have a problem feel all pestered) and lo and behold there was a lampwork artist in the town where I work. Holy crap, I said. Score! I said. No way! I said. I wonder if she's still awake right now? I said. Etc.

So I sent her a convo asking if I could shop with her in person. Of course she said yes.

Everybody, meet Pat Redinger of BeingBeads! As described in her profile, she is a self taught glass beadmaker and has studied with Kevin O'Grady, Al Janelle, Andrea Guarino-Slemmons and Jim Smirchich. She has also studied wire work with Lynn Merchant. I have no idea who any of these people are but I am sure you glass types will be impressed. She is also a delightful lady, and I'm not just saying that because she has boro beads.

I arrived at Pat's house a little after noon on Friday, and after pawing through her stash, I clutched the beads below to my breast and wrote out my check with my other now less trembling hand. I drove back to work, with the beads clutched tightly in my hand (it was kind of awkward because I drive a stick), enjoying a mellow glow. The glow lasted well into the afternoon (these beads pack a punch), until I saw Barbara Lewis' enamel giveaway. Then it was shot all to hell. Thanks Barb.

Loving this "lizard skin" pattern. I love lizards.

I forced myself to buy these blue ones. They're gorgeous, but I'm at a loss with blue. Might have to just hoard them.

Fortunately, taking photos of them brought some of the glow back. This instant gratification shopping--being able to actually fondle the beads BEFORE you buy them, and WHILE you're buying them, and then IMMEDIATELY AFTER you buy them--is beyond compare. I highly recommend it. Pat is going to make me a special set for a project I have in mind. But shhhh--I'm not telling you what it is. I don't want you all breathing down my neck if I don't do it right away. You're like that.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Just When I Was Enjoying My New Lampwork Addiction

Along comes Barbara Lewis with a new kind of crack for me to try. Enamel Crack. She and Kelley Wenzel went to the same Crack Dealer School. Send the kiddies free crack, get 'em hooked, and then they'll pay you whatever you want for it. For the rest of their miserable lives. This is the fiendishly sly ploy behind Ms. Lewis' giveaway.

Well, fine, Ms. Lewis. I'll take your free crack. And I'll be back for more.

Here's a photo of the free sample of "Mandarin Orange" up for grabs:

Soooo pretty. Something so pretty must be harmless, surely? But it's not. No. It's. Not. You'll cash in your 401K to get this stuff; run right over the top of your own grandma on the way to the Enamel Crack Store; hock your diamond wedding ring to get more. It's dangerous.

But I don't care. I don't care I tell you!! I want it!!! I WANT IT!!!! I WANT THE ENAMEL CRACK!!!!

Please, pick me. Please? Pretty pretty please? I mean, I need something to tide me over between the boro beads. You know, man? I'm in bad shape. Bad shape. I haven't bought any lampwork in like four hours.

And apparently my readers need to become followers of Ms. Lewis' blog so I can get the enamel. So, hey, buddies of mine! Hey, do a girl a favor--follow Barbara's blog! I'll share the Enamel Crack with you, I swear.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My New French (Speaking) Lady

I was delighted to discover the other evening that my blog has acquired another French (or French-speaking) lady. I love French (and/or French speaking) ladies. I would like more. A French man would be very nice too. Yes indeed.

Welcome to Isabelle di Martino! I poked around on Isabelle's brand new blog and her shop to find out more about her, but to no avail. She may be Swiss. Or perhaps Belgian. Or perhaps Senegalese. Dying to know!!! I need a Belgian lady. And an African lady. And a Swiss lady. I don't think I have any.

Anyway, I invite you all to stop by her brand new blog and give her a follow! She has some very unique and exquisite bronze and copper pieces on display, with a really modern, organic flavor to them; her post of today includes some really beautiful pieces (I especially love the first one, pictured below, with the mother of pearl insets).

I hope Ms. Di Martino isn't upset that I put one of her photos on here. Looked for a way to contact her but I would have had to set up an account on the site where she has her shop and there was just too much French. I didn't want to accidentally subscribe myself to the Crepe of the Month club or something.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I've Been Featured!

Carol Grand of The Grand Design favored me with a Valentine's Day feature on her blog! She chose my convertible necklace-bracelet in red glass hearts as her topic. Carol regularly features artists on her blog, and also has her own Etsy shop, also called The Grand Design. She has some VERY cool steampunk flavored items in her shop. These glass fuse earrings are one of my favorites:

Aren't they cool? Thanks to Carol again for the mention! Stop by and visit her blog and her shop!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not What I Had Originally Planned

Well, this wasn't at all what I had started out to make. I was determined to use my bronze Summers Studio pendant, but it just didn't work out. So I will continue to hoard that one until I can devise the PERFECT setting. I was so looking forward to using that, I almost gave up halfway on this one. I hate having to start over with a design idea. And I wasn't thrilled with this disc of chrysocolla, it was just so plain. In the process of creating a bail for it I got carried away adding gewgaws to it (there was epoxy), and I like it a little more. (For more info, CLICK HERE).

I had started out with bronze-colored chain (I left my brass chain in the ammonia fumes for a LONG time, until it turned sable brown), so I decided to stick with that. Used some of my hand-forged beadcaps that I had also bronzed in the ammonia fumes, and then spent ALL day trying to figure out what else to do with it. Finally settled on these great wood wheels from Beads and Pieces (fabulous wood bead selection). And of course, being me, I had to add just one more thing. So I dangled some little turquoise glass roundels partway along the chain to keep it from being too naked. I did have some brass spirals on there too, but then there were just too many curlicues everywhere and I took them off.

Didn't have time for the new torch yesterday. Frankly, I'm a little nervous. Making fire with something that's delivered in a truck is a little daunting. My cigar lighter torch is much less threatening. Bic is harmless. You light them at concerts. Unfortunately the thing I just made (above) was not on my to do list, so I can't cross it off. So the list is the same length. Long. I guess I should add it on there and THEN cross it off. But my list would still be the same length. Damn.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

All the Charm of Barbed Wire, But Without the Pointy Parts

I saw a nifty pendant somewhere (can't remember who did it, or I'd give her credit) where the artist had made some simple ring-shaped connectors out of wire. Looked sort of messy, like a bird's nest with an unfortunate big hole in the middle. I wanted to do earrings with them, so yesterday on my lunch hour I set about figuring it out. I couldn't get that same messy look, although I was able to make a ring shape. So to bump up the messy factor (judging by my house and my car and my hair you'd think I'd be really good at messy wire work) I sort of wrapped the end of the wire around in an irregular fashion. Well I'll be darned if that doesn't look like barbed wire, I said. Hmm, not quite the nature-inspired look I was thinking of. More a self-mutilation-inspired look. But people are into that, right?

I had been wanting to combine some vivid teal green/blue colors with the steel, so this is my first pair. Going to do it again with fuschia, and white and amber, and green, and...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tender Shoots

This necklace is something a little new, like the first tender shoots of spring in their delicate celeries, sages and celadons. It features translucent prehnite spheres with their characteristic green grass clippings inclusions, sterling silver many-petaled bead caps, petite button pearls in muted, iridescent sage, leaf and fern charms in silver plated pewter, and hand-forged sterling silver chain and S-clasp. (For more information, CLICK HERE). It measures just over 16 inches, a little over choker length. It is meant to be worn with the fern bead sitting over the right collar bone, but can be worn in any position. (My unfortunate "Marie Antoinette" mannequin below demonstrates).

My first sketch of this design included some irregular jade chips and glass beads as well, but it was just too busy when I laid it out. Ended up with just three elements. I hope somebody out there has a diaphanous (I love that word almost as much as atavistic) gown in asparagus to wear with it.

P.S., thanks to my new followers! welcome aboard.

P.P.S. OMG I almost forgot!!! After my torch/copper debacle (it was a real non-event), gave the micro butane torch Number Two a try with sterling silver. Worked like a charm. What a thrill to melt metal in my kitchen and see it curl up like a little potato bug. It's like I'm MAGNETO!! I have POWER OVER METAL!!! The pearls on this necklace are attached with my very own made-by-moi sterling silver ball headpins!! My little cigar lighter torch worked all the way up to 20 gauge wire. Didn't try 18, probably work on that too.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kelley's Bead No. 1

Today I finished my first piece using one of the fabulous beads Kelley Wenzel of Kelley's Bead Studio sent me. Her bead is a plump egg shape, mostly clear with a graceful swirl of diaphanous sandy ribbons inside. The "ribbons" inside Kelley's bead reminded me of the web-like pattern of sand-colored veining in aqua terra jasper, and I thought her glassy clear bead would be a nice contrast to the opaque and semi-matte jasper.

I thought an asymmetrical necklace would work best, as I thought the visual weight of the lampwork bead could carry one whole side of the necklace by itself, and giving it its own space would make the most of it.

I used the last of my most recent batch of copper bead caps, more aqua terra jasper in big 12mm rounds, a little amazonite roundel on the lampwork side to bring the sea green into that side, and four strands of Ornamentea's fabulous "borneo" rolo chain in copper. The little fluorite round was mostly added as a spacer to get it to the length I wanted, but I think it looks nice. Turned out to be about 17 and 1/2" inches. The length is a bit of a challenge, because you have to remove even numbers of links when using double strands of the rolo chain, as the links alternate orientation.

I don't know which of Kelley's beads I will use next. I'm really drawn to the one (see two posts ago) with the swirls of mauve, lavender and green on a sand background. I'm ALL about sand right now. Probably because it's winter and I despise winter. Winter is seven months long in Montana. Summer is one month long. Spring and fall are just minor variations on winter. I live in Montana for complex psychological reasons I am not even going to begin to try to unravel (i.e., my Mommy lives here).

OK, time to make more bead caps. I am SO not in shape for that kind of thing right now.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Look What I Bought!

I just couldn't wait. I started circling over Kelley's shop this morning and there were GORGEOUS BLUE BEADS!! I've been neglecting the color blue and that was going to be my next thing. I warned her. Or tipped her off, rather. And there they were. ADD TO CART.

There was another set of beads in a barely-there palette of cream-to-creme brulee, lavender, and sky blue. I love subtle shades, and these beads are so versatile in their coloring I could combine them with all sorts of things and they would be spectacular. I love how clear they are--I think it will be a nice contrast to the usual opacity and semi matte finish of the types of gemstones I use. ADD TO CART.

And then to just really cement my dedication to using lampwork, I bought a couple more from another seller, LA Jewelry Designs.

I've been really into this slatey teal color lately. Haven't used it yet, just...collecting things. I love colors with a lot of gray in them. ADD TO CART.

OK, just had to share. Best go get busy with the pendant I'm making with the first of Kelley's beads.

She Likes Me!! She Really, Really Likes Me!!!

Remember when Kelley Wenzel of Kelley's Bead Studio blogged about sending some beads "way up to the Tundra?" Well, guess who the lucky tundra-dweller was? Guess. Just guess. Seriously--just guess.

Yes, it was Moi. Me. Me me me me me!! All I can say is SCORE, MAN!!!! DUDE!!! SCORE!!!! GET OUT!! OMG. OMG. Get. The hell. Out.

DUDE!!!! SCORE!!!!!

Of course this was utterly unexpected. It was totally Ninja crack dealer--never saw it coming and now I want more. As I told Kelley, it provoked a multi-stage reaction:

(In chronological order) 1) (get package) mild bewilderment (what did I buy?) 2) (look at return address) deeper bewilderment (I bought that?). 3) (open package, read note, drop jaw.) Get out. GET OUT!!! OMG!! GET OUT!!! 4) (open box, look at beads) SCORE!!! I SCORED!!! SCORE!!! (stand up, do a little dance) 5) (sit down again) Awwww!!! She likes me! She really really likes me! 6) O. M. G. 7) (very) brief moment of stunned silence. 8) dawning admiration for sly and very effective crack dealer marketing scheme. 9) bead fondling. 10) Repeat #9 as necessary throughout the day.

I already have plans for almost all of these beads. She chose them so well, they fit not only into the designs I have in my mental pipeline, they would even fall seamlessly into stuff I've already created. (I'm tempted to take stuff apart and put them in there). I'm so touched at the care she took to look at all the designs I've posted and choose beads that harmonize with my favorite palettes. I feel so special!! And totally seeing what these beads could add to a piece of jewelry. I was actually working up to buying some lampwork but couldn't really picture yet what I would do with it. Now that I have fondled them in my grubby fingers I know how I want to use them. And I'll be circling Kelley's shop like a vulture.

Thanks again Kelley!! You rock!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

From the Ruins of an Opulent Jungle Kingdom

This bracelet makes me think of ancient and grand civilizations, their splendor long passed away, secreted beneath a millenium's worth of lush vines and foliage in the heart of an impenetrable Mayan jungle. Only this small relic survived, a faint echo of their culture's high art.

(Angling for a job writing for Sundance catalog so I'm working on my pretentiousness. How'd I do? Should I add something about fierce jungle goddesses or something? "Unleash your fierce inner jungle leopard goddess with this opulent and rough-hewn wristpiece." Or maybe "I was captivated by the rough, atavistic opulence of this breathtaking piece; under its spell I began a voyage into my past lives and discovered I had once been--yes--the fierce and revered empress of a vast and lavish Mayan kingdom." Still seems a little wishy washy to me. How about "This stunning and opulent royal wristpiece, refulgent with luminous copper pearls and burnished copper, was wrought in the blazing forge of GOD HIMSELF who personally delivered it to me and commanded that I list it on Etsy." Did I nail it? I'm SO into the word opulent today. And atavistic. I love that word. Hard to find opportunities to use it in daily life. Although I have found it on occasion to be a less offensive alternative to the terms "goddamn Neanderthal" and "effing caveman." Mostly because nobody knows what it means. I'm not even entirely sure I know what it means.)

Copper green opal with hammered bead caps, freshwater pearls, moss agate, hand-forged toggle clasp, and fabulous "borneo" rollo chain from Ornamentea. A necklace in the same design is forthcoming soon. As soon as God finishes it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I know you all have been anxiously drumming your fingers and tapping your feet, waiting for me to do something with my hammered bead caps. So was I. The wait is over. I made six pair of earrings on Sunday with them, and was taking pictures late into the evening. Finally got them listed last night. So here they are:

Jungle Kingdom Green Opal and Copper

Desert River Delta Earrings with Verdite and Brass

Industrial Revolution Earrings in Labradorite and Brass (sold)

Pomegranate Bon Bon Dangle Earrings with Red Agate and Hammered Brass

Rock Lichen Earrings in Rhyolite, Nickel and Sterling Silver

Desert Peaks Earrings with Picture Jasper and Hammered Brass

All I can say is my thighs hurt. Punching metal with a hand punch is a full body exercise. It should be called a ThighMaster Metal Punch. The nickel is especially tough to punch through. I have to put it on the floor and put all my weight on it to get enough leverage to get it to go through. I need to gain weight apparently. I'm looking forward to using these same palettes in bracelets and necklaces. Which means my thighs are going to be REALLY sore.

P.S. Fired up the butane mini torch and did NOT burn the house down. I still have eyebrows. It would be about as easy to do that as burning the house down with a Bic lighter. The flame on my mini, or rather nanotorch is similar. (I think maybe we'll take it to the lake this summer and use it to light the barbecue.) Unfortunately the igniter doesn't work (Harbor Freight strikes again) so I have to light it with a match. But I did have fun coloring my copper. It wasn't hot enough to ball the copper though. Guess I need a propane torch for that. It's going to get dangerous around here.