Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Valentine's Earrings

The good news about the cold January-in-Minnesota-and-I've-run-out-of-propane-in-my-studio-heater weather is that it gives me reason to sit down and make something with all of the beads I've been making. So, today I sat down and soldered some components for earrings and put a new pair together using the pink lampwork beads with the red heart murrini. There's been a second, finished pair sitting on my bench for about a week while I've been debating whether or not I wanted/needed to re-do them. The selection of small, red gemstones I have in my stash right now is limited, but I thought the bead was a dark enough blue-red to use garnets. I think that they do have the same hue, but until I had it together, I didn't realize the dramatic difference in value between the garnets and the lampwork. Right this moment, given that Valentine's Day is closing in, I think I'm going to list them as they are and, if no one buys them, then I'll do some surgery and replace the lampwork bead.

Valentine's Lampwork Earrings

Do you think the difference is too dramatic, or do you like it? Which is your favorite pair?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My New Bead Style: High Contrast Focals

When I was working in my studio on Sunday I took a break from all the red and white and made a high contrast flower focal. I think this style has been percolating in my mind for some time. I've been increasingly forcing myself to slow down and be mindful about defining and executing a unified design style. While I'm still playing around with a lot of different materials to figure out how I want to support the lampwork and metal that's at the core of my work, I've honed in on lines and bright colors as the two elements that dominate my best work.

High Contrast Flower Focal
On my Flickr photostream you'll see more views of this bead and notice that the back of the bead, where I put some small yellow flowers, left something to be desired. But while this one bead needs some work, I realized that I really do like this bead style a lot. So, yesterday I worked a little more on this style of bead. It's a challenge because the contrast of the colors against the black background shows everything. While that means glaring imperfection at this point, I'm dreaming of perfect sexy squggles on the horizon.
More High Contrast Focals

Obviously these beads don't, yet, represent perfection; but, now I have a much better idea of how to achieve it. Specifically, I need to find a better balance between the focal design and the coordinating designs and the colors of those designs around the focus and on the back of the bead. I also need to make the starting and stopping ends of the stringer work prettier, and just make the stringer work flow better and have consistent spacing. I think I'm already making progress there. The first bead I did was the "rainbow" bead, second from the right, and I think that one is the worst of the lot. The small round one was second, and I have to admit that bead looks a little confused. But the others look better, so I have high hopes for progress.

More High Contrast Focals
For now, I think I've got a good start. I do like the contrast; the way the black makes the lines look crisp and bold. It makes my heart happy :) So, what do you think? Can you imagine a jewelry design you'd use these in?

Thank for reading!

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Few New Beads

I thought I'd keep it simple today and just show you what came out of my kiln this morning. More Valentine's stuff. I know some people find it an irritating, commercial holiday, but since I'm one of those people that thinks of every day as Valentine's Day, I like having one holiday a year where having sweet heart beads doesn't make me seem too saccharine.

The latest batch of Valentine Lampwork Fun

These guys are on Etsy right now. Click on the images to take a look at the listings.

Monster Valentine

L.O.V.E. Valentine Bead Set

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Necklace Designs Using Julie Picarello Inspired Pendants

Last autumn I bought Julie Picarello's book Patterns in Polymer: Imprint & Accent Bead Techniques and excitedly made a fun series of colorful and textured pendants.

Julie Picarello Design Challenge

Once made, however, I was a little overwhelmed with what I should do with them. It ended up taking several months of thinking and experimenting before I ended up creating four designs. I tried to make them as different as possible to help me get a better visual sense of what was possible. Despite that, they all still have my signature elements of strong lines - whether straight or curved - and color.

Julie Picarello Design Challenge

This is my favorite piece. Here the lines are very strong and the color, other than the pendant itself, is more subtle seen only in the amethyst bead above the pendant and the charoite rondelles used in the toggle, creating a very elegant, sophisticated necklace.

Julie Picarello Design Challenge

I really like the simplicity of this design. The wire wrapped coiled bail is the most complex part of the design, meant to add just a little visual complexity to a design that is otherwise all line and color in the hand dyed leather cords.

Julie Picarello Design Challenge

This is a more complex version of the first necklace. More complex with a little more color to create a more playful design.

Julie Picarello Design Challenge

This design is all about color. I like using jump rings because you can introduce lines into the design, as well as color, texture, and movement. It all comes together to create a very dynamic necklace.

As you can see, I still have a few pendants left. I'm thinking incorporating one of those into a beadwork design. I'll still have to ponder what to do with the others. So, tell me - what do you think? Which is your favorite, or least favorite, and why? What should I do with the others? If you'd like to see additional views of these necklaces, just click on the images and it will take you to my Flickr photostream where I also have some more informal, full-view images of the designs.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Evolution of A Bead Design

I think the peacock bead I used in my Art Bead Scene challenge cuff this month turned out pretty well. Not perfect, but a totally respectable representation of a peacock. First of all, you can tell it's supposed to be a peacock. That may seem like ridiculously obvious criteria, but if I can show my 3-year-old a bead and he can tell what it is, then I feel like I've achieved a pretty significant milestone. The colors of the tail match the picture, as do the eyes in the feathers. That's another important criteria to me when making a bead that's supposed to be a part of a picture-inspired design. It looks like there are layers of feathers, and the bird is proportional, and the glass bead itself is shaped on the top to add visual texture to the feathers at the top giving the bead some depth and complexity.
Peacock Focal Bead
It wasn't always that way. It took me five attempts to get to this bead and the first four were ... well, crap. Obviously, as an artist, I know that's what it takes to end up with a final product you're proud of. But, I thought I'd talk a little about what I learned with each bead "failure".
peacock design sequence 2

The main challenge in the first four beads was finding a cane - a composite glass rod, made up of multimple colors of layered glass - that would produce the look I needed for the feathers.

Jessie Arms Botke
Black Peacocks with Japanese Persimmons - detail
c. 1940

At first I was concerned with getting the cream color behind the feathers, so I was using an ivory base for my cane and applied stripes of teal green to the cane to create the fringe on the feather. The trouble here was, first, that I didn't cover the ivory glass with clear before adding the green stripes and the sulphur in the ivory reacts with the copper in the green and creates a dark border between the two; so with the thin stripes of green the dark border consumes the green. After the first bead I knew that the way I made the cane wouldn't work, but I wanted to see how raking the cane once it was on the bead changed the way the feathers looked. As seen in the second bead, it did seem to make the feathers look more 'feathery,' but it also make them darker.
peacock design sequence 3
In successive cane attempts I tried making the stripes thicker and encasing the bottom layer of ivory, but that didn't end up changing the result because the green was still reacting with the ivory base, which also wasn't encased, which you can see in bead three. At the same time, the third and fourth attempts were geared at feather decoration and making the feather eyes look right because my attempt in bead two is something you wish you could unsee. As for the feathers, I was trying to use up the feather cane and ignoring that it wasn't what I needed.
Peacock Feather Cane

When talking to my husband, he suggested that I switch the colors; that the green should be the dominant color, and he was right. So, when I made my green cane, I encased it in emerald transparent before adding stripes of ivory encased in topaz transparent - so that they would not react together nor with my ivory base. While the ivory did end up disappearing in the final application, it did darken the glass where it was, so it helps create definition and variation that exists in feathers. I did add some of my old cane beneath to add some of the light feather definition you see in the upper portion of the feathers, but that ended up getting covered. Other changes I made in the last version was that the base ivory was encased to prevent reaction with any of the other glasses.

This bead design may be something I revisit in the future and continue to fine-tune. But the take-away from this experience that I wanted to share is, if a bead design doesn't work out for you, learn from it, practice other things, come back and keep at it. A 'failure' is only bad if you don't learn from it. We all know that's true in life, and it's also true in lampworking!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bead Soup Blog Party

If you've been reading my blog lately, then you may have seen the Bead Soup Blog Party badge on the right hand side margin. Well, ladies and gents, TODAY IS THE DAY!

I don't know if I'm supposed to post what beads I've picked out, so I won't, but they're ready and include a variety of my lampwork!

Here are the colors,
here are the colors,
here are the colors,
and I am so

Click on the image to go to the sign up at >

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beaded Connections - FRINGE

Hey Party People. Me again. It occurred to me that I promised this for today. Since only about four people have looked at Beaded Connections - Part Two, it sort of fell off the radar (despite it being on my blog topics list). Nevertheless, a promise is a promise. Two posts in a day. Yah Hoo!

Beaded Connections FRINGE Tutorial

Make Sure Your Prices Include Etsy and PayPal Fees

I know that many of you reading this are fellow crafters and artists. As I was calculating the price for a new pair of earrings it occurred to me that I have been absorbing my PayPal and Etsy fees in my profit. That's not smart. Hopefully you're more saavy pricers than I've been; if not, let me share my finds with you!

Click on the image to go to the site.

This is a two part calculator by fellow Etsian, Gred Ledet. In the top section, Reverse Etsy Fee Calculator, you enter what you need to receive (net) in the top box and the calculator automatically tells you what you should charge (gross). In the second, Etsy Fee Calculator section, you can do a couple of things. First, you can skip the first section and just enter the price you already calculated for your item and see what your profit will be after shipping and handling costs, postage, and material costs. For me, I put in the price I got from the top section and it tells me what profit I'm really going to make after paying for the costs that I usually absorb, like postage and shipping supplies on high-price items; which is additionally a reminder that I should just include those in my price.

If you're just interested in knowing what your PayPal fees are going to be, like if you need to invoice someone directly for goods or services, he has his PayPal Mobile Calculator, too.

There's another calculator I found that's a little simpler and more straight forward to use, to make sure you're charging enough (gross) to earn enough money to cover your costs(net). It's from Craftybase, which sells inventory and sales software for crafters.

Click on the image to go to the site.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Radio Silence ... and A New Bracelet

In yesterday's post I announced that I'd offer a free initial handmade lampwork pendant bead to one of you bold readers who would give me some feedback on my design. I was so excited! I thought, this will be great. I get something and you get something. And then ...


Apparently I need more feedback than I realized! Alas. Well, sincerely, please do take a moment and jot down a comment. I really would appreciate it. If you don't want me to put you in the drawing for the free pendant, just let me know. I'll only weep a little!

In the meanwhile, since the A, B, and C beads didn't turn out the way I wanted for the pendant project for the fundraiser, an idea for a bracelet sprouted in my head. A, B, C, in primary colors ... that's SO Schoolhouse Rocks! So, I created an apple enameled toggle, added some matte blackstone beads - just like the old school blackboards - and voila!

Alphabementary Bracelet

Alphabementary Bracelet

Alphabementary Bracelet

Despite what I perceived as a design imperfection in those beads, in this bracelet I think they're perfect. Just a little wobbly, just a little formal ... just like when you're first learning to write. What do you all think? I've uploaded it to Etsy and see if people pay attention to it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Newest Lampwork and Free Lampwork Opportunity

My habits at the torch clearly label me as something other than a professional lampwork artist. That my best lampworking comes out of a design challenge attests to that. Also, the fact that I spend more time experimenting than producing does, too, I think. That I am both a lampworking and jewelry artist is something I love, but when I look at the sum total of saleable beads that come out of the kiln in an average week, I am reminded of and humbled by my limitations. After last weeks productive (in my world) Valentine's Day bead haul, I figured that I'd have as much to show off this week and had planned that to be the subject of today's blog. Oh Planning, you're so funny!

I did make SOME. But, in my grand style, these are still in the experimental stage. These are 15mm red rounds with white stringer work, featuring a heart and lines extending from the hearts like a hug. I do like them enough, however, to continue making them, so that's a net gain in my book. I think I'm leaning toward leaving the design raised instead of melted in. I don't know that I'm ready to deal with white stringers thin enough to still look defined once they're melted in.

Valentine's Day Rounds

I made a small set of spacers to go with. I think I'm going to make a necklace with these this week. I'm already sketching out a design.

Valentine's Day Rounds

The ADD in me reared it's ugly head, though, and instead of continuing to work on that design, my brain said, "ST. PATRICK'S DAY RULEZ!" (yes, with the irreverent 'Z'). So, I started on that, too.

St. Patricks Day Lampwork

I figured I'd go with it and also made a St. Patrick's Day themed toggle to add to my new toggle collection, which is now available on Etsy.

St. Patricks Day Toggle

Finally, I'm working on some designs to auction off for my son's preschool spaghetti dinner fund raiser. I thought bright lampwork pendants with an initial and some hearts would be really cute and appeal to proud parents of young preschoolers. I sketched out a whole alphabet of modified block script letters ... I think you can see here how that turned out. By 'D' I realized I needed a new direction and am pleased with the way that and 'E' turned out. So now, once the ambient temperature in my studio raises above the current -12F, I'll had out and finish the alphabet like that.

I thought I'd ease you into it ...


Can you all please leave me a comment and let me know how do you think the holes should go? Across so they could be worn on a necklace cord or bracelet, or up and down so they can hang like a pendant? You can also mention any other feedback you think would be helpful (having read, of course, what I already mentioned above). I'd like this to be a popular item, for the fundraiser's sake. I'd love your input! Here's some added incentive: out of all the comments I receive by February 22, I'll randomly select one person to receive their own initial pendant with their choice of color and letter!

Bright Block Letter Pendants

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Cuff For Art Bead Scene's January Monthly Challenge

Art Bead Scene Monthly Challenge: January 2013

Today I finally finished the cuff that I started planning when the Art Bead Scene blog announced their January Challenge. It features Botke's 1940 oil painting Black Peacocks with Japanese Persimmons.

Jessie Arms Botke
Black Peacocks with Japanese Persimmons
c. 1940

I'm almost embarassed to admit how long it's taken me to get the focal bead the way I wanted it. I'll write a post about it later in the week, but for now let it suffice to say that getting the bead right was the most time consuming part of this project.

Art Bead Scene Monthly Challenge: January 2013

I actually had the leather base cuff on hand because I've wanted to start using some leather carving in my work. I sketched out the feather pattern and traced it onto the leather and cut the design into the leather.

Art Bead Scene Monthly Challenge: January 2013

I used a small awl to punch small holes around the section where I wanted the focal bead so I could add some beadwork representing the ferns and feathers in the painting. Then I painted the eyes of the feather with the colors found in the painting and painted a leather dye the color of the dark ground onto the rest of the cuff before sealing the whole thing.

As I've been working on perfecting a design for the peacock focal bead, I've been making small lampwork beads to use as persimmons, but it wasn't until after I finished beading the center portion that I decided how I wanted to bring the persimmons into the design. Since the back of the cuff was barren I thought that was the perfect place to add some embellishment without detracting from the focal area.

Art Bead Scene Monthly Challenge: January 2013

I like that, although the beaded persimmon tree is on the right side of the bracelet, when you close the cuff, the persimmons can be seen from the left, just like the painting. Finally, once all the beading was done, I lined the cuff with dreamily soft deer leather in the same color as the pathway in the painting.

I've posted the bracelet for sale on Etsy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

412 Beads On Their Way To A New Home

The eBay auction for my 412 Bead Extravaganza is now over and the beads have a new home. Whatever the outcome of an auction, I'm always in a better mood once they've ended. At it's core an auction is really all about drama and I hate drama. I'm a read-the-last-chapter-first kind of girl. I like to know if all the fuss is going to be worth it. There's so much in life that we have to roll with that I like to have a pretty strong grip on the rest, at least without driving everyone around me insane. Yet. Nonetheless, eBay auctions are a great opportunity to give bead stashes a new home, so Yay!

The beads are going to live a happy life with the lovely and talented Ashlee from Get Wired Jewelry. I'm really excited to peek and see what she makes!

Sending 412 beads to their new new home

All the beads carefully wrapped in tissue to prevent scratching. I put the headpins in corrugated cardboard sections to make sure the metal doesn't get damaged.

Sending 412 beads to their new new home
Getting ready to wrap up the small packages into one large tissue-wrapped bundle.

Sending 412 beads to their new new home
Wrapping the bundle in layers of bubble wrap.

Sending 412 beads to their new new home
And the bubble-wrapped bundle is carefully packed into a snug (!) box.

Sending 412 beads to their new new home
The bubble wrap package adorned with a message of appreciation! Thank you, Ashlee!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beaded Connections - Part Two

Here is the pictoral tutorial on making the basic connections in my beaded connections necklace that I posted on Monday. If you're also curious about how I added the fringe, I'll blog about that next Thursday with other tidbits in-between now and then, like my cuff for this month's Art Bead Scene challenge, which I've almost finished, and freeform peyote challenge that I just joined. For a sneak-peek at that, check out the banner in the right-hand column!

My eBay auction is minutes away from ending, so I should head over there and see if I need to weep or cheer! Cross your fingers!

Beaded Connections Tutorial

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Before You Wonder Whether I Sold Out

You may have noticed that I have ads on my blog now, one on the right panel and one under each blog post. Since, at present, I'm primarily a stay-at-home mom, I figured it was time to start increasing my streams of revenue. Now that Sawyer's in preschool a couple days a week, and I've finally figured out how to be productive in that time, I thought I should finally give myself a reason to commit to regularly posting on my blog.

When I applied to have the AdSense ads on my blog, I understood it would be a long term proposition. And while I'm very proud to report that I've made some money already, it's the kind of money that helps me to understand how long term this is going to be.

Oh. Yeah! A big $0.02. Not just $0.01, but $0.02.
Try not to bombard me for tips and advice all at once, okay?

While I am prevented by my contract from clicking on ads myself, if one should look interesting to you, please feel free to click away. While you do, I'm going to start looking at house ads for the Hamptons. Yeah, I totally sold out.

The house? Oh, no, this isn't the house. This is just the studio. Studio and gallery. Yup.

Home by Project Greenhouse.
Designed by architect Edvin Karl Stromsten

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Meanwhile, Julie was coloring.

Just a little something to hold everyone over until Thursday. I don't know if you've had a chance to cruise over to my Flickr page, but if not, I've posted a couple of Coloring Worksheets.

color scheme coloring worksheet

See, I don't only talk about Pinterest

So, the deal with these was that I wanted a way to visualize color schemes; me and needing-to-hold-it-in-my-hand. I also knew that I wouldn't really get a sense of a color scheme unless I used it on more than one pattern and, depending on my mood, in different ratios. I was probably, also, trying to procrastinate from doing something else at the time.

While I love, love, love looking at different color schemes, ala Design Seeds, I often find myself wishing that they showed those colors in different relative percentages, and even interacting with each other. I recently acquired the Color Inspirations book, by the community, and I love it for exactly that reason; that it shows color combinations with different color proportions.

Margie Deeb, a queen of color, talks a little about the idea of color dominance in the January 2008 issue of Margie's Muse. If you look at the issue she dedicates to selecting palettes from Modern Art, you'll see that she selects a dominant color(s), several coordinating colors, and a couple accent colors. Each group has a corresponding proportion of color. So, my coloring sheets were a way to look at each color combination from several different perspectives, in different proportions, layered and unlayered.

Coloring Worksheet 2

So, take some time to play with colors. The coloring worksheet method is perfect for on-the-go-fill-in-the-time exploration, but remember to take some time out to experiment with color in your own medium, too! Maybe this will help jumpstart some new combinations!

coloring sheet - 3 styles of 6 color squares

Monday, January 14, 2013

Beaded Connections - Part One

I should say, first off, that I don't consider myself a beading expert. I started doing seed bead beading about five years ago after taking a class with the owner of the shop where I was teaching at the time. Since then my interest in seed beads has increased as I've learned more stitches, connections, embellishments, and other techniques. It's a great way to inexpensively introduce a lot of color and texture to a design.

For me, it's a great experimental medium. If I think of a design I want to make with wire and soldered connections, sometimes I'll work it up with seed beads before I do it in metal and wire, to see how it looks, how it's likely to hang, and whether it's likely to be comfortable. Mind you, I'm just aware as anyone else that metal densities and properties are very different from those of seed beads, but using something like upcycled plastic and seed beads give me a feel for things that I have trouble imagining in my head all at the same time, like drape, relative and absolute size, and color. I'm visual and kinesthetic and like to have something in my hands as I consider how I want to execute the final version.

All that said, I definitely believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and worth learning to do better. I don't see seed beads as a transitional medium alone. I also believe in a strong grounding in the basics and thinking about what you want to do before you do it, which is exactly the reason I make models of work before starting a complicated piece. I don't think that knowing only one way to do something is sufficient when your goal is creating serious art and durable, timeless jewelry. So, while the necklace I'm showing you is an experimental piece, there are some important take-away points; specifically about different kinds of connections and the way they work differently ... even if it's not a piece I'd feel comfortable selling.

Again, this started because I was wondering if there might be a different way to connect the components I loved from Clafoutine.

Being lazy any not wanting to get out my polymer clay and make comparable pieces, I took some plastic circles that I cut out from a thick piece of plastic packaging from some sippy cups we once bought for our son. It had been such an unusually substantial kind of plastic, and so colorful, I knew I had to find another use for it someday. At least this is one case where someday actually came.

The seed bead idea came because I tend to regard wire as scared, so I don't like to 'waste' wire, even craft wire, on something I don't know I would use in my work. Once I decided I wasn't going to be using wire and decided on seed beads, I knew that it would be different than using wire, and worth exploring it its own right.

I'll get into the hows of this necklace later this week (probably Thursday, when Sawyer is with Grandpa), but for now I want to show you the two kinds of connections I used in this necklace, how they worked, and their pros and cons.

The first thing I did was lay out some pieces like the Clafoutine necklace.

To get a better feel for the wire connection she used, I connected the elements using a similar strategy: string beads across the front where the elements meet, and bring the seed beads across the back between the holes.

Then I went FRINGE CRAZY! I mean, that's the benefit of using seed beads, right? Man, I love fringe. Plus, it gave me a reason to use more plastic disks.

Here's what I noticed about this kind of connection. First, the main disk didn't sit flat, it's bottom tipped forward. Now, with a wire connection you could adjust the wire for that, but ultimately I think it suggests the type of connection is less than suitable. So, one "con". However, using seed beads, it did give the opportunity for me to connect fringe on the back of the disk so that it would hang under the disk. I'd consider that a "pro". One other observation is that this kind of strung-all-the-way-through connection makes all of the elements it connects hang fairly stiffly together. For a front, focal portion of a necklace that may be a stylistic advantage. Of course, the degree of stiffness is something that requires awareness on the designer's part so that it doesn't make the design brittle or damage the components. So, for seed beads, in a less than serious application, ultimately it's not a terrible way to go, and isn't a terrible way to go with wire, either; I just don't think it's the best way.

Here is the second, "staple," connection that I tried with this piece. It allows just as much color, but it gives the piece much more flexibility. More about how to put all this together and, specifically, about this kind of connection, later in the week!