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).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Little New Work

I've been looking forward to using this trapezoid cylinder by Duane Collins. It took me awhile to come up with a design. I ended up sticking to largely the same materials and color palette as with the raku button necklace. The plummy glaze on this cylinder and the button seems so perfect with peacock pearls and garnets. Here I added some hand-dyed silk strings by Color Kissed Singles in "hickory"--I LOVE the variegated colors, it really does remind me of hickory sticks, with a little bit of charcoal color here and there as if they were snatched out of the fire just in time. I fashioned a kind of yoke for it, and created a bail to hang from that from copper sheet.

The raku is really iridescent--the orange flash you see in the pictures was only visible as I was photographing it with my bright white fluorescent bulbs at an angle. In plain daylight this is a really subtle effect, and it has more of a glassy, plum glow. I added little copper accents  here and there to the silk.

I was also eager to use this white porcelain focal bead I got at a local shop

The pattern in the glaze somehow reminds me of something Asian, so I stuck with that theme. I added a fabulous, carved stone bead from Nepal, hand-carved by men and women at the Swayambhunath Temple, near Kathmandu courtesy of Happy Mango Beads. (I LOVE this bead, I must have more...) Little drilled beach stone by Stone Studios Too.

This one came about almost by accident. I had cut out and textured a bunch of these copper flowers in a fit of floral obsession several months ago. These were lying on the table next to some textured copper washers I had wired some garnets onto for another project that didn't work out, and I thought, "Well, there it is." I made a focal section out of the three flowers, and attached them to the garnet rings.

I used a fifty-cent piece from Hong Kong, an old British halfpenny, an old half crown coin, a Danish 10 ore coin, and a little heart-shaped metal stamp to texture the flowers. I love these flat oval garnets, they're perfect for this kind of application. This is choker length.

This one came about solely because of a stubborn determination to use this chubby little ceramic focal. I had gotten it years ago at a bead show and had squirreled it away with the rest of my stash. The top-drilled holes were a challenge. I didn't want to just string it on some leather or something, I wanted to create a special frame for it. I was turning it over and over in my mind in my car as I sat at the park on my lunch hour one day, and sketched this out.
South China Sea
I created the curved pieces of copper when I got home. As I was trying to wrap them together I realized they really needed to be soldered together to keep them from moving. Sigh. My soldering results had been really mixed. So I gave it a try. It worked! It wasn't pretty, but I was going to cover the solder with a wrap anyway. The little dangling sea green donut is a recycled glass bead from Happy Mango Beads; the two little turquoise discs hanging from the clasp are lampwork spacers by Meital. The silk string is "fern green mist" hand-dyed and hand-sewn from Jamn Glass.

Lastly, this is a custom piece for my European friend (see my last post), designed around some fluorite we found at AAA Gems. The shape and color of the stones made me think immediately of leaves, and we both agreed copper would really bring out the greens the best. This was the second set of leaves I did (I didn't like the first set). They feature British coin textures and tube rivets at the ends. They are double sided (I tube-riveted two textured leaves together for each element--copper tube rivets, or eyelet rivets, from B'Sue Boutiques. Super easy to use!). My friend suggested combining the fluorite with green turquoise and I think it was a brilliant idea!

These little turquoise heishi discs are from Fire Mountain Gems. The ladder chain is from Chain Gallery.

I just love how this turned out. Sometimes you get lucky with some really nice colors on your copper after the liver of sulfur bath. I find I get the most colorful results when I use a weak, very hot solution, just dipping quickly in and out, between the hot solution and cold water, dipping, dipping, dipping until I like the color. Then neutralize and get it in the tumbler before it gets any darker.

I'm currently working on a project for my European friend using sterling silver sheet for the first time (oy! I have to pretend it's worthless or I choke.) I think it's going to be very cool.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Recent Work, and a New Friend

In case you were wondering, I am still here, and still making jewelry! Very very slowly. I have a new overseas customer I am collaborating with to produce some fun pieces, and we have many great projects lined up. For now, while I still juggle a full-time "day job" with my jewelry, this is the only custom work I am going to do--for my new European friend and patron! The materials my customer has chosen are so enticing to work with, I find myself much more drawn to working on her commissions than adding things to the shop. We seem to be very "simpatico" on many levels, so this is very satisfying work to do. My shop inventory has been dwindling while I work on these commissions...But I will try to add pieces here and there in the coming months.

This is a recent piece we did, based around etched lampwork from Radiant Mind on Etsy.

I wanted to keep with the color scheme in the lampwork--turquoise, amber and black--so I added Tibetan butterscotch amber (acquired in a trade with Lori Anderson--thank you Lori! the remainder will be for a matching bracelet. These were PERFECT for this piece), green turquoise heishi, matte amber and black seed beads, black leather and waxed linen, and a carved donut of golden horn I've had FOREVER. Silver seemed to be the way to go, so I added an Orca totem from Happy Mango Beads, and assorted sterling silver and pewter accents.

The first pieces I did for her were variations on older work I had done. This is based on a piece I had done a few years ago with aqua agate and silver. Here I used copper, obviously, and added one of my copper hearts:

This was also a variation on an earlier piece, just slightly reconfigured:

We did coordinating bracelets for these, and for one other piece:

I did some other pieces that were largely copies of older work, so I won't share those here. But I think from here forward everything we do will be new, original pieces. Our aesthetics are very similar, and she gives me great latitude with our designs, so it's very enjoyable! We have some fabulous fluorite and ametrine stones to work with, as well as lampwork glass from Naos Glass, an assortment of feathers and hearts (my customer is partial to hearts) by Kristi Bowman, and a couple of resin and coin pendants by Lorinda3LJewelry on Etsy. I am itching to get busy!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Glories of Raku

Velvet Plum Wine
This is the first piece I have ever done with raku pottery. This is a button by Duane Collins. I couldn't believe the depth and iridescence of the finish when I got it, it's phenomenal. It's like layers and layers of glass, plus pearlescence. It also reminds me of a shimmery, deep-pile velvet. I love the deep colors in this one--plum, merlot wine, a little violet, even a flash of intense, earthy red. I had my hoard of pearls from Fire Mountain Gems, and the "copper peacock" stick pearls were like nature's version of this raku, so I had to put them together. I added a splash of garnets, and of course antiqued copper. I love how moody and luxe this is at the same time. I have two more raku focals and I can't wait to use them! One is a more subtle, jammy color, and the other has a more urban feel with a copper/red fire.

A real pleasure to design around! This is available in my Etsy shop.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Soldering Maiden Voyage

A couple weeks ago, I soldered for the first time. I just did some simple connector rings in brass and copper,  and this is how they turned out:
Not too shabby!

I was going to do it with my Gentec mixed fuel torch, but the oxygen tank was leaking badly where the regulator screwed onto it and I couldn't get it any tighter so I ditched that idea for the moment and just used a skinny MAPP canister with a Bernzomatic torch head on it. I usually use the Fat Boy canisters for annealing and making ball headpins and stuff but Home Depot was out of those and only had the skinny ones so that's what I've been using. It turns out the skinny ones are slender enough for me to hold in my hand. I had my boyfriend unscrew and reattach the oxygen regulator to the tank on my Gentec torch and he got it seated much better--I think I didn't have it threaded quite right. But I've been chicken to retry it.

I used Firescoff ceramic flux spray and brass sheet solder from Unkamen Supplies for the brass rings--it matches the brass perfectly, it's very yellow, and is easy to melt. I tried both copper color solder from CoolToolChick supplies and silver solder on the copper rings, also using the Firescoff. The copper solder was really only slightly less silver than the silver solder but it seemed to antique better and it's nicely camouflaged in the rings above. It was very hard to cut--I had to use heavy-duty wire cutters. I also tried the copper solder from Unkamen Supplies but I couldn't get it to work. I think it was too fine a gauge.

I was going to try the paste flux I got too, but I couldn't get the lid off. Had to have the boyfriend do that too so that will be something for the future.

I pickled the brass rings above twice to get them back to the yellow brass color--first in hot Sparex to get the black residue off, and then in a mixture of three parts hydrogen peroxide to one part white vinegar, heated on low on the stove in a glass pot, to get the pink color off. After scrubbing them with steel wool and fine sandpaper, they were back to a mellow gold color. Then I antiqued them in ammonia fumes, buffed up the high spots, and tumbled them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Knot Afraid

Irish Waxed Linen
I have been collecting small quantities of Irish waxed linen in assorted colors from White Clover Kiln, in the hopes of one day having some ideas for using it, but I've been chicken to try any new techniques. I liked that I could buy small quantities of this, to experiment, before committing to yards and yards (they come in 5- and 10-yard cards). My knotted pieces in the past have been very basic, with only overhand knots between the beads--I find this difficult to do well! Getting the knots right up against the beads is a challenge and my fingers get very sore (I use a sewing needle to push the knot up against the bead). I have also been less than thrilled with the results, since the cording itself is nearly invisible in such pieces, as the knots tend to be rather small. (The bracelet below was done with brown cording, using overhand knots--but you can barely see it!) I do love how it drapes, though.

I've been a great fan of both Erin Siegel's and Lorelei Eurto's knotted pieces, especially since the cording itself plays such a prominent role in the design. I've enjoyed looking at Erin's work on Flickr, and was greatly inspired by the many pieces using cording in their book collaboration, "Bohemian Inspired Jewelry." I was tickled to see how many macrame knots were used--my Mom and and I were macrame-ing fools in the70s, and in my elementary school years I could have done macrame in my sleep! Our plants never lacked a jute hanger. After procrastinating for way too long, I thought I could probably dredge up that muscle-memory and use macrame in my designs. I thought I would give square knots a try first, with my little collection of Indonesian glass beads from Happy Mango Beads. I was thrilled to discover how easy it was!

This one features a stoneware button from Kara Nina, Indonesian glass in mauve from Happy Mango Beads, and assorted seed beads from Fusion Beads and bought locally.
Grape and Melon
I built this one around a cute wooden flower button from Shop4Craft, and paired it with crow beads in an "oil slick" finish from Fire Mountain Gems, glass seed beads in rose, textured brass "cocoon" beads (based on a tutorial by Kharisma Sommers), and one of my textured brass charms.
Briar Rose
For this one, I really wanted to use these red beads from Happy Mango. I combined them with cording in teal, and silver and gunmetal accents. I was thrilled that one of my little stoneware charms from Karen Totten worked into it so nicely! Little pewter sun beads from Happy Mango, and silver and gunmetal buttons from Lyanwood.
Cherries and Blueberries
This was the very first one I tried--I used brown waxed linen since I had a lot of it, because I thought there was a good chance I'd be cutting it up! I tried half knots on the loop closure between the seed beads--that took a couple tries to get it right. The striped beads are, of course, Indonesian beads from Happy Mango, and the little flower charm is too. Metal button from Lyanwood. In each of these, I covered the knot at the neck of the beaded loop with one of my rolled tube beads--I kind of have an obsession with covering the mechanics of things. ("Don't pay any attention to the man behind the curtain!!!")
Gypsy Girl
These are a perfect project to do in the car on my lunch hour--I'm looking forward to using more of my Happy Mango stash--these Indonesian beads have just the right size holes for two strands of waxed linen--and more colors from my mini-stash of Irish waxed linen. I have tons of buttons still, and linen colors I haven't tried yet.

And, once you feel confident with your Irish waxed linen and want to really commit to a color, you can get whole spools in selected colors from Jewelry Accord, or you can try a palette of four colors for inspiration!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Use What You Have Pt III/Fun With Earwires

I was musing in the car the other day about my strands and strands of tiny top-drilled gemstone teardrops which I have so far found mostly useless. I wondered if THIS might work:
Tangerine Dream
I played with it in the car, and I almost had it. Fiddled with it some more at home, and eventually figured out how to wrap it so it would stay put and look good. (Hopefully I'll remember how I did it later...) Tumbled this pair for hours and the design was solid.

These are carnelian teardrops with faceted red/black agate rounds.

I also did up a pair in amethyst:
Purpophilia extremesis
It was a bit of a challenge finding drops that were roughly the same size, but it's kind of a rustic design anyway so there's some leeway.

I have lots of glass drops too that are more uniform--looking forward to giving those a try too!

I love the immediate gratification of earrings.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Creative Bead Chat

Hey Everybody! Today is "Administrator Day" at Creative Bead Chat, a Facebook group designed for lovers of beads and makers of jewelry! In just a short time, it has grown to 1,091 members. The administrators are Melinda Orr, Karen Totten, Marla James, Marla Gibson, and myself. Giveaways and sales (me too! come join the group and get my coupon code, and enter one of the fabulous giveaways!) are happening today in honor of our fearless leaders--you can learn all about it at Creative Bead Chat! So come and join!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Use What You Have Part II

Still working my way through my stash. Nothing revolutionary here, just antiqued metal and pretty colors!

This first pair has a set of teal gear links from Karen Totten that I've been hoarding. Lampwork spacers in burnt pumpkin from The Spacer Shop, topped with little Hill Tribes sterling silver leafy caps.
Pumpkin Pie and Deep Blue Autumn Sky
I love violet with amber tones. These subdued beauties (that's how I like to think of my beauty, subdued) combine iolite, tiger eye, and Czech glass in "Alexandrite Fire", with some antiqued copper. 
Eye of the Violet Tiger (I know, it's a stretch)
I love these Czech wheel beads--they remind me of suns more than wheels. I adore this deep tangerine color. In fact, I adore them in many colors as you shall probably see. More iolite here, with dark garnet Czech glass.
That Wheel in the Sky Keeps On Turnin'
This pair sports a set of hoarded Karen Totten stoneware fabulousness--I LOVE those tiny charms! Perfect size for earrings, and they're featherlight which is also great. I've paired them here with more iolite--faceted this time--and Czech glass in "carnelian." Antiqued copper.
Pretend this has a great caption
I picked up a strand of these muted kelly green chubby crosses from Magpie Gemstones. I just love dyed howlite. There's something sort of medieval about the style of the cross--and of course they make me think of tic-tac-toe, Switzerland, and the Red Cross too! I paired them up with flat round peacock pearls, and Czech glass in a Picasso-teal finish. All in all, with the green, something vaguely Irish Monastery about them, if perhaps a little more cheerful.
Happy Hour at Inishmore
I began this pair below with silver filled earwires adorned with Czech glass in "light topaz." I love the delicate straw color. Like whiskey with way way WAY too much water in it. I wanted to keep it kind of tone on tone, and I had a little strand of orange tinted citrine I had never used, so that came next. Amber seemed too bright and nothing else was speaking to me, so I strayed from the straw hues and threw in some pale amethyst.
Sweet Nothings
More chubby crosses, southwest style (being a child of my times, and apparently not very deep, whenever I see southwest crosses I immediately think of the massacre scene in Kill Bill II where poor Beatrix Kiddo and her wedding party are decimated by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad):
Thinking of David Carradine
I started a lot of these with the beaded earwires in my hand, scrolling through Design Seeds palettes. Sometimes I riffed off what was on the screen, and other times I was inspired to go off on  a tangent. The ones below were me going off on a tangent. It seemed an unusual combination, so I just went with it. Dark amethyst Czech glass, followed by amber, ending with aquamarine.
Tangential Tendencies
Some of these beads are from the very first (and very large) batch of stuff I bought from Fire Mountain when I started this "hobby" back in 2008. I am darn proud of myself for using them, considering how stale they are. Haha.

I also made 12 more pairs of bead-wrapped earwires in brass, copper, and mixed metal over the weekend--on the boat! Turns out you can make a limited amount of jewelry on a boat; the boat just can't be moving, you have to be rather careful, and you have to choose something small and simple to work on because there's no room for crap on a boat. Fortunately the marina where we keep our boat is very, very calm and protected. Otherwise I would have barfed and there would be beads in every nook and cranny of the boat. Along with said barf.

So those 12 pair of earwires will be growing up soon and you'll probably have to look at those on here too. I also hope to do some simple bracelets soon with more of my stash (maybe using some of the same palettes here), and I am waiting for beads to come from Israel (I ordered those a long time ago so I'm not cheating) for a large custom order I am trying to finish. I will share some of those pieces with you after the customer has them in her hot little hands. I also have hopes to make a couple necklaces with some Duane Collins raku. And some Kristi Bowman buttons. Someday. I'm going to try not to hoard them.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Autumn Dragonfly
I dropped by to chat with my financial adviser the other day. I had a little savings, and wondered if I should be using it for something instead of just letting it sit (like maybe paying off my car). We chatted for a bit ("Cash is king," she said--meaning hang onto it if you got it), and we talked about my jewelry, i.e., my jewelry supply collection. I explained that making jewelry was really just an excuse to collect jewelry-making supplies, and that there was not one single aspect of my jewelry-making that could be construed as a "business." Especially the "income" part. She paused a moment, and asked: "Well, why don't you try running it as a business?"


Well I have been reeling ever since. What. A novel. Idea. Like a business.

So I have been playing a little game with myself called "Use What You Have." The rules are that I am not allowed, for the foreseeable future (I haven't yet defined the time period further), to execute any jewelry ideas that involve supplies or tools I do not yet have. The challenge, if you will, is to create something from the colossal pile of crap I already have. It's actually been really fun, like a puzzle, and I love puzzles. Kind of like MacGyver. ("Your challenge, should you accept it, is to create a pair of earrings using only elements from this ginormous basket of assorted gauges of wire of all kinds, these storage units full of tools half of which you don't even know the purpose of, and these 20 containers of beads.") The earrings above were one of the first pair I did as part of my new "game." I've had the amber forever, the dragonflies almost as long, but I confess I recently acquired (before the commencement of my game) the Czech glass (along with about 20 other colors of Czech glass). The items below are also part of my game:

The Raven
I've had these carved horn feathers forever, and this is the first time I've ever used them. Ditto for the lampwork spacers, and I think I used two of the little striped glass beads in another pair of earrings. I've been too phobic to use my sterling silver because of the cost (I always choke because I'm trying to be too careful), but I decided it won't have cost me any less (money's already gone) just sitting there so I might as well use it, and if I have to waste a little pretending it's copper (so that I don't choke) then so be it--better than letting it sit there. So I'm getting all extravagant with my hoard of sterling silver. And I'm not allowed to buy more (according to the game rules) when I run out. I'll just have to use copper and brass.

Half and Half
I've been hoarding these wonderful two-tone tablets by Kelley Wenzel forever, waiting for just the right design. Then my game began, and I thought, "Screw that, I'm usin' 'em." Et voila. AND sterling silver--am I a daredevil or what? I love how these turned out (with more Czech glass from my pre-game splurge--I'm determined to use as many of those glittery little babies as possible. I like them on earwires.).

Robins' Eggs. But Sort of Flattened.
I've had these nifty ceramic beads since my first (and so far, last) visit to Hobby Lobby. (It's like 8 hours away, which might be a big reason we're not on food stamps.) I used them in earrings once before, and really liked them, so I used some more. (I'm really getting the hang of this frugal, ascetic thing.) I used them with yet more of my new Czech glass beads stash, and some little papyrus charms I have also had forever, since buying them for some mysterious future purpose.

Verdigris Medallion Lariat
These are more of my stash of brass leaf medallions (had them forever) from Happy Mango Beads, treated with a traditional verdigris patina. I've attached them to some deerskin lace in cocoa, with both nickel and sterling silver accents, and blue sky jasper (had it forever), ebony wood (had it forever), and spruce tint lampwork (had it forever). I'm so proud of myself. (This is a lariat, which I've been wanting to do--you just tie it loosely.) Went hog wild with the sterling silver wire again--but holy crap, fourteen 3" long 20-gauge ball headpins really adds up.)

And of course I had grown instantly bored with my button pieces as soon as I had gotten the hang of them (and had amassed quite an impressive collection of disc beads.) But then THE GAME began, and I was obliged to start using my stash of disc beads. The turquoise ones seem quite popular, so I did this little variation, that has a second strand with a little gingko charm:

Southwest Gingko
I have a couple ideas for tomorrow, for using more "stuff I've had forever." I also have sort of a loose goal to try to make one thing a day. Not sure how long that will last. Tomorrow I will try to post about the pearl hoard I got with my Bead Trends gift certificate.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Verdigris Leaf Medallion

Verdigris Medallion
I've had a strand of these Ghanaian brass leaf medallions from Happy Mango Beads forever. I've used them here and there in their natural finish. When I started using patina solutions, it occurred to me to try some of them on these medallions. They took the patina beautifully--every color I've tried, the medallions just soaked it up and looked great. I used a traditional verdigris solution on this from Miss Fickle Media, and sealed it with Vintaj Glaze and a layer of Renaissance Wax. It's very durable.

I combined it with round 2mm leather cording in antique brown from Leather Cord USA, little African jade roundels, recycled glass barrels in sea green (also from Happy Mango Beads), a Czech glass wheel in blue-green, and one of my round coin-impressed charms.

I have two more of these medallions in this color that I am working into a lariat-style necklace. I hope to have that done in the next few days!