Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bright, Shiny New Lampwork

I actually haven't been as busy in my lampwork studio as this post might suggest. Rather, I've just now gotten some time to photograph and post work from about two weeks ago. Regardless of it's age, I think these are lovely beads nonetheless, and worth showing off. I hope you enjoy!

Tidal Pool
Tidal pools are full of dense, dynamic, vibrant life, both visually and textural stimulating. This bead strives to capture that with a mix of densely placed embellishments of different textures and bold, vibrant colors.

Playing In The Summer Sun
Yellow, my favorite color, is so full of life, totally representative of the fun, busy days of summer. The playful, sinuey waves and coils of lime green evoke a playful sensibility, highlighted by the bright orange dots that accentuate the movement of the lines. Includes lots of bright hand pulled murrini.

Relaxing In The Summer Sun
This bead, unlike its yellow sister, is a little more mellow. The blue waves and coils are reminiscent of cool streams, and the green murrini dotting the bead remind me of an umbrella on a cool, fruity drink.

Spring To Life
The cool translucent aqua base color of this bead are soothing, liquid, like the thawing waters of spring. I love how the orange scrollwork and green handpulled murrini bring life and warmth to this bead.

Irish Hills
an organic base of many shades of green, embellished on the surface with golden stringer work and dots.

The Egg of St. Patrick
In my mind I'm trying to keep two holidays ahead, but I'm Irish, and my son's birthday is the day after St. Patricks Day, so it's a favorite holiday and I can't seem to move all the way forward to Easter. So, I've combined them.

Thank you for stopping by to take a look!


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

ABR Imagery Glass Shipment! Yay!

It's time to be honest here. I'm not in a monogamous glass supplier relationship. I get around. ABR Imagery isn't the supplier I usually solicit, but as I was looking around they showed me they had what I needed.

In all seriousness, ABR Imagery stocks every brand of borosilicate glass and there were some colors I wanted to try from a couple of the smaller companies. Most of the major suppliers ask that you buy a minimum of a quarter pound, which costs in the range of $15 to $22. What's nice about ABR is that they let you buy by the rod. Okay, so it's still on the expensive side. At my local glass store, at retail prices, I can get a rod of Moretti/Effetre COE 104 soft glass for $0.60. The borosilicate rods, depending on diameter, cost between $3 and $8 per rod. But, like any metal rich glass, like the soft glass rods available from Double Helix or Trautman Art Glass, sexiness comes with a price ... and it's totally worth it ... but sometimes you want to make sure it's as sexy as you imagine before you fully commit. Borosilicate glass has the ability to create magnificent visual texture and color inside a bead that it was impossible for me to resist. I've actually been doing hard glass for about 5 years now ... but only socially ;)

Borosilicate Spacers
A set of borosilicate beads I did last November.
They're still on Etsy if you like them!

So, here's the stack of glass I got from them. I can't blog about the order without at least showing you the glass. Boro COE 32-33 on bottom, three colors of Lauscha COE 104 glass on top.

Stuff from ABR Imagery

Normally a new shipment of glass, even boro, wouldn't be motivation enough for me to blog about it. I'd rather blog about what I make than what I buy. It takes the pressure off. But, part of what they shipped made me laugh so hard that I couldn't help but share. Sure, they'll sell you amazing glass, but the'll also send you what you *really* need ... adhesive bandages! And *stIckErs*. For FREE! These guys are mindreaders. Seriously. My husband almost had to go to therapy when I got hot glass shards down my cleavage - not once - but twice. Yeah. Second degree burns. Stickers? They just make me happy.

Stuff from ABR Imagery
TWO cases! These guys aren't messing around.
Stuff from ABR Imagery
Can you elite guess which is my favorite?

AwEsOmE. Right?! I totally feel like I scored. lol. We now return you to our regularly scheduled non-sexual-innuendo blogging.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Art Bead Scene February Challenge

If you recall from my insanity post, my sketch, while sketchy, proposed a rather elaborate necklace design for this month's Art Bead Scene February Challenge.

Sketch - Art Bead Scene - February2013

Art Bead Scene February 2013 Challenge

For the necklace components I'm focusing on the lines in the architecture. For the embellishments and focal bead I'm focusing on the tree and the pink blossoms.

The picture the design is based on is:

Heijinja, 1941
Tōshi Yoshida
Woodblock Print

From my insanity post you'll also remember that I've overloaded myself this month. I just feel horrible that I didn't find more time for this project before the deadline because there were so many interesting elements that I wanted to bring from the print to the necklace. What I have so far is the unembellished core of the design:

Art Bead Scene February 2013 Challenge

Part of the reason I didn't find more time for this project was that I was pretty mentally overwhelmed by the idea of constructing the architectural connecting components. It was a labor intensive process of carefully measuring the square wire, carefully filing the corners so they'd be sharp and tight (which they weren't always), soldering the joints, pickling and cleaning, soldering on the loops, pickling and cleaning, measuring and filing the wires for the interior detail, and soldering once more. You'll, perhaps, understand why I opted just to keep the heat patina as the finish. :) Rust-orange enough for my willingness at the time.

The further frustrating part was that I didn't really have the colors I wanted for the lampwork focal bead (which arrived ... yes, today), so I didn't even work on refining the design to more accurately portray the tree and colors from the print.

In the end I don't want to come off as totally negative about this piece. I am still excited about the core design. I think it does a good job of combining the bold architectural elements of the print and combining them with the softer, more organic elements we see in the tree and background. The fringe, in soft pinks and some sage green, will further enhance that softness, once added. Like anyone, I suppose, I'm just frustrated that I couldn't bring the vision together before the final deadline. In the end, I'm comfortable serving as a cautionary tale.


So, here's what it looks like now that It's done.

Art Bead Scene February 2013 Challenge
From this view you can see the whole necklace including the back. I used a simple hook clasp and added just a few Swarovski as fringe to embellish the back.

Art Bead Scene February 2013 Challenge
Here's a look at the front of the necklace as it hangs. I really do love what the fringe add to the necklace. It softens the hard lines of the copper connectors so much.

Art Bead Scene February 2013 Challenge
Here's a close up view of the architectural components I fabricated for this design, made out of square copper wire and copper sheet metal.

Art Bead Scene February 2013 Challenge
And one last view of the whoe thing from the front.

So, how'd I do?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kicking It Into High Gear

Oh, the things we do for love! Today I have to finish up work for two deadlines tomorrow. One is the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge. The other is the jewelry I'm donating for my son's preschool fundraiser taking place Saturday.

The most important thing I've ever made,
for whom I make so many other things ...

I feel like I have a brain block about the fundraiser. I really have no sense about who the audience is, other than the parents, like my husband and I, have to pay school tuition and probably aren't in the market for anything too extravagant. Grandparents, neighbors, and friends will also be there, but my only clue about what to make for them is that they're voluntarily coming to a fund raiser.

Given that I've been making the letter initial beads for the project I initially planned for the event, I am going ahead with that idea. I'm nervious about it, though. Even though I offered a pendant giveaway on this very blog I didn't get any responses about the merit of the idea or the style of the beads. It's a little embarrasing. At this point I'm just going to assume that no one saw the post and hope for the best. I don't want that to be the only donation, though. I'd like to donate a bracelet and some earrings, too, but ... what? Do we all have that anxiety, when we know that what we make needs to sell, that we freeze and doubt we know how to make that perfect, creative piece? No? Just me, huh? Okay. I'm comfortable with who I am.

Personalized Letter Initial Pendant and Necklace
Sterling silver chain, findings, fine silver wire, and headpins complement this customizable letter initial pendant - available in your choice of letter and color. The handmade lampwork focal bead is accented by a cluster of fine gemstones in complementary and contrasting colors. Comes with a sterling silver maker tag.

UPDATE: After some pondering, and calculating the retail price of the sterling option, I think I'm going to do that style necklace in base metal. It's still pretty, and trendy, but thirty dollars less. I also made an option with no gemstone cluster, which knocks off even more labor cost and some material costs, which is priced at less than thirty dollars total. I just feel like a preponderance of people are making jewelry desisions based on style and value more than whether they have higher quality materials. What do you think?

Personalized Necklace with Initial Lampwork and Gemstone Cluster

Personalized Necklace

initial beads

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

As is perhaps obvious by the fact that I'm posting my project in the afternoon of reveal day, rather than midnight the night before or early in the morning, the most challenging part of this project - the first real freeform peyote project I've ever done - was the (seemingly?!) prodigious amount of time that it took. Even now I feel like I could spend a lot more time on it. I was perhaps overambitious by doing a necklace rather than a bracelet, true. But, the reason I undertook this challenge was because of some beautiful borosilicate space pendants I've purchased from the talented Ian Graber. I have a vision of what the designs need to be, and at their core they're freeform. I can safely and happily tell you that I learned a tremendous amount from this project.

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

The necklace design started with the netting you see around the focal bead. Since I was just playing around with some extra beads as "practice," I thought I'd do a little bracelet before starting the "real" project. Just this small section taught me a lot, like how different sizes of beads work together and how tricky it can be to make something flat. It was the effort to try and turn this into something usable, and the unexpected amount of time that it took, that turned this into my project: a purple and green vineyard theme with vines and leaves with some shimmering apricots and gold. A hidden magnetic clasp serves as the closure for the necklace.

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

This is the front of the lampwork focal bead I created for this project. I was already more than half done with the project when I made this bead, so I knew the colors I needed, shape and size. I used an organic bead design to go with the organic feel of the necklace.

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

This is the back of the focal. I just didn't like the stitching on this side of the pendant as much as I liked it on the front. The bead itself is attached by a string of beads running through the hole in the center of the bead, loose enough that I can turn the bead in the stitching to show either side.

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

I used some simple leaf fringe to make the transition between colors a little less jarring. I think this worked pretty well as a transition and added important detail that really cemented the theme of the necklace.

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

Finishing the ends and adding the clasp was why I wasn't able to post the project until now. It doesn't look like much, but from two thin flat sections of peyote stitching, I knew I wanted an integrated clasp that looked like it really belonged to the project and none of it was started until this morning. Five hours later .... I guess I need to figure out how to stitch faster!

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

The clasp closed.

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

Another detail view of the leaf fringe I used as a color transition.

Freeform Peyote Choose Your Own Adventure Reveal

One of the few other details I included was a dyed mother of pearl bead that went with the necklace. I created a peyote bezel and stitched in between some of the vines.

So, there it is, my first freeform peyote necklace. I like the way it turned out ... you know, for a pile of leftover beads. And I did learn a lot about the need for preplanning, the amount of time (and Fireline!) the stitching takes, and the nature of the beads and the way they work (or not) together. What do you think? What's your favorite part? What do you think it still needs?

A huge thank-you to Karen and Mandi for hosting! Thank you for stopping by!


Friday, February 22, 2013

Bead Banner: I Think I've Got It!

I'll spare you the iterations of the banner between the last versions I showed you and these, where I desperately tried to keep the text in the banner. If you enjoy seeing failed design, I did upload those versions to my Flickr photostream.

I still think that, out of all the versions with the text, the last one I showed you in my last post was the best. But, you were right, it looks cleaner without. So, here I present my two new banners. One for the front of the table, and one for the side ... or somewhere else. Do they look okay? Please tell me they look okay!

banner revision 7

banner revision 8

Or does it look better with the business name repeated again over the pink bar like in the top banner?

banner revision 9

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bead Banner Revisions

So, after dropping Sawyer off at preschool this morning I started working on some revisions of my poster. Fortunately I've gotten some input and, if Sawyer takes a miracle nap, I can work on some versions without the descriptive text this afternoon. The idea is to turn that into a handout available on the table. Thank you for the advice, Bobbie!

We'll start again with yesterday's version:

Bead Show Banner

After some thought I realized the logo and the description text belonged together as a group. That allowed me to create two, more visually coherent, groupings of focal beads. I also played with placement of my name and website URL:

Banner Revision 1

I admit that putting the drop shadow on the logo was a bad idea, so I took that off right away. I still wasn't happy with the placement of my name and website URL. I moved the Autochthonous definition and pronunciation moved to decription.

Banner Revision 2

That description text ... I still feel like I want it there, but, just as Bobbie commented on midnight's post, it makes everything seem too busy. So, here I've decreased the font size. My intent is, if people are interested in the Lampwork Glass Beads and the pictures, they'll come closer and see what the rest has to say. I did want the text to look artistic on it's own, even if you don't read it, so I kept it in the same general orientation and place.

Banner Revision 3

So, what does everyone think of these changes? Better? Enough? I'm going to go pick up my little one and I'll be back.

Head Down, Tail In Gear

I am trying very hard not to slip back into my tendency not to blog, but hopefully after my last post you all have an idea of what I've been up to. The project consuming most of my non-mom-time has been trying to get ready for the March bead show. It's not the nearest deadline, but it's the biggest. So, I've been plugging away at making beads. I'm also trying to take advantage of a half-price sale to get a banner printed, since I don't have one yet. So, I've been working on getting good photographs of my best representative work and creating a banner design.

The banner design has been tricky because I don't want my banner to be the same as everyone else's (who does?), but obviously it still needs to be clean, effective design. My tendency is more to go crazy creative. The result makes sense to me ... not so much to everyone else. In case you have banner-creation in your future, one web page that I found inspiring was 20 banner samples from Creative Overflow. I liked it because it had visual examples rather than the basic, pure text admonishments: keep it simple, less is more, keep it organized and structured, balance text with images, make sure the text is visible and readable. Important, core advice, to be sure. The visual examples are so much more helpful!

I still have a couple of days to get my art in, so I'm going to put myself out here and ask for some constructive criticism. My thoughts were to have a central focal point that clearly told the people why they should come over. The photos are meant to support that. Then, if interested, they can read the rest ... like what about my unpronouncable business name makes it worth keeping. What do you all think of this? What would you do to make it better and why?

Bead Show Banner
If you click on the image, which will take you to my Flickr Photostream, you'll be able to see the full readable 100dpi image.

Also on my list of things to-do, I forgot to list that I also have my son's preschool fundraiser coming up, and I've also been working on donations for that. One of which is creating a set of initial focal beads for personalized pendants. I've been about half-way done for three weeks. Yup.

The Freeform Peyote Challenge reveal is also this weekend. And my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are coming for the weekend. And I still need to clean. If I can manage to keep my maniacal laughter of insanity on the inside, that'll be a start.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Shopping

I realize that, at the time I'm writing this, Valentine's Day is all but over. I hope that you've all managed to have, at minimum, a non-annoying day and my wish is that you had much, much more fantastic day than that. Today my husband had off of work, and with my 3 and 11/12ths year-old son at his grandpa's house, next door, I took the opportunity to run some errands and actually spend some time with my handsome man.

Of course, at least one of my errands happened to be jewelry-related. I bought a bunch of Swarovski crystals from a local bead store that's going out of business. I do think it's sad that local retailers have so much trouble competing with the prices of online suppliers. Take, for example, that even after a 40% off discount I calculated that I still paid at least a cent or more per bead than the exact same crystals at Artbeads.

When the beadstore where I worked went out of business I remember asking why the distributers and manufacturers didn't try harder to provide competitive pricing to physical stores. You'd think products would sell much better, at the same price, if people could see and touch them in person. It seems like that's not economically feasable. Stores have to cover their operating costs, and manufacturers can't give away the farm, or won't ask online retailers to take on the cost of providing physical samples. So, really, the only alternative is for online retailers to offer products with prices low enough where the perceived value is high enough that people don't mind significantly if something they buy isn't perfect. In the end it's us, the consumers, that are driving this trend. So, tell me, why do you buy your supplies where you buy them?

I do buy most of my metal, gems, findings, stringing materials, and tools online. I usually buy enough that I can get wholesale pricing for a lot of those things. When I'm buying things like gemstones, where I don't necessarily get wholesale pricing, I appreciate that I can shop around fairly easily at a huge selection of vendors. Like most women, I don't just buy things willy nilly. I try to get pictures as true to life as I can find. I look for things like whether I'm getting the strand in the photo. But, you can never be completely sure of what you're getting, so ultimately you need to ask if the price worth it if the strand isn't exactly as you see. For example, before Valentine's Day I was looking for bright red Rubies. I found some that were totally natural Bermese rubies at what seemed like a reasonable, for what I wanted, $10 per inch. When I got them what I had in my hands were very dark rubies. Indeed, when I double checked, the written description did say the rubies were dark blood red. I was frustrated. For seven inches, that was a lot of money to spend on something that wasn't exactly what I wanted. Will I use them? Yes. Individually, and surrounded by lighter stones, they still look pretty good. But it was still a shock, not seeing what I expected. But, despite that surprise, I still feel like I got a decent deal, and I know I could never find untreated Burmese rubies in a retail store at anything near that price. Rubies! Honestly, how sexy would it be to say that there were genuine radient, translucent rubies in your design?! Obviously I think it's amazingly alluring.

I buy most of my seed beads and Swarovski in person. Usually I'm working no a project where I need to color match, and those two things are my go-to products for adding instant, precise color to a project. That I need to see in person. Fortunately I have a local supplier, someone that's been in the business forever - making and selling - and knows how to get the lowest possible prices, and she has a broad selection of all the essentials professional jewelry artists need; she doesn't carry the trendy stuff, just the things she knows we have to buy. It seems like she'd honed on on those things that we're likely to run out of and need to get in a pinch. And while her shop is on a busy street and it's easy to get to, it certainly isn't in an exclusive neighborhood. So it seems like there's a tradeoff between less walk-in traffic and not needing to compensate for outrageous rent. Because she's so, so knowledgeable and her prices are the most reasonable in town, word of mouth keeps her in business, but even then I know it's tough business.

But, there is still a market out there for physical shops. What is it about the local shops you frequent that keeps you coming back?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Multitasking The Insanity: What's On My Table

Why is it that you don't realize you might have enough on your plate until after you've accepted one project too many? Is it just something women do? Is it because I'm too unfocused, or too focused? Is it because I'm being too ambitious or too insane? Is it all the same thing?

Now I have no doubt that all of you talented readers would be able to handle what's on my plate with much more finess than I, and probably have much more going on. But, for me, in addition to the demands of home, this amount of work has me a little worried, because I know I need to do my best on all of it and I'm questioning my ability to handle it. So, in order of nearest to farthest deadlines:

Peyote Freeform Challenge - in Progress

My Freeform Peyote Challenge piece. Still early in progress.
Due: February 23

Originally I was going to be working with:

Freeform Peyote Project

But I'm still way too intimidated about doing justice with that amazing borosilicate focal pendant by Ian Graber that I haven't started working with any of those beads yet. So, instead, I just started using beads I had left over in my bead dish. At one point I actually believed I was just clearing out the dish, getting a little freeform practice in the meantime, for the real project. I don't believe that anymore.

Sketch - Art Bead Scene - February2013

Art Bead Scene February 2013 Challenge
Due: no later than February 26th

The picture the design is based on is:

Heijinja, 1941
Tōshi Yoshida
Woodblock Print

For the necklace components I'm focusing on the lines in the architecture. For the embellishments and focal bead I'm focusing on the tree and the pink blossoms. As I'm making it I can share an observation with you, from a process perspective. Making jump rings with square wire isn't as straight-forward as with round wire.

Making Jump Rings with Square Wire

To keep the same face of the wire upward I needed to use a square nose pliers to hold the wire straight as I wrapped. This process is, however, very illustrative of how much wire can twist, and therefore work harden, as you work it.

Sketch - Shared Table for Bead Show

Making lampwork, displays, samples, and jewelry for a bead show
Due: March 16th

My Bead Soup From Kristin

And, of course, the Bead Soup Blog Party
Due: April, 6th

So, am I imagining it, or is this a little insane? For the bead show, which is the part that has me the most intimidated, I was planning on bringing my Etsy stock and putting the store in vacation mode for that weekend. Even still, I have a LOT to make. Arrrgh. I guess I better stop writing and start working!

Tell me what you're working on!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Bead Soup: So Good You Can Taste It

As I sat looking at my Flickr photostream in preparation for this post, looking at the pictures of my bead soup from Kristin again, i couldn't help but begin to imagine all of the wonderful possibilities. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I love these colors - the monochromatic coral color scheme, these textures, these shapes ... and I love that they give me an opportunity to explore my wilder side. Since I started doing the Art Bead Scene challenges in December I feel like I've gotten very familiar with the boho style aesthetic. Obviously it's hugely popular right now, despite the fact that I was largely oblivious to it. Ironically, while the Bohemian style originates from a region in Germany, I credit my Germanic heritage for the anal-retentiveness that guides my style choices, steering me away from the earthier aesthetic and techniques that the Boho style encompasses. Now I feel like I have an opportunity to jump in, because these are the perfect materials with which to begin:

My Bead Soup From Kristin

So, let's start with the supporting beads. Here are some neutral peachy, tan peanut-shaped seed beads. These are great for spacers, fringe, or to add to a beaded element. While I didn't want a specifically seed-bead-focused project, I am a seed beader when the mood calls, and these will be a fun addition.

My Bead Soup From Kristin

In the same colorway is a lovely selection of pressed glass beads. I think the golden shimmer makes them really special. They'll play a leading role in some way; for me, they're a little too big for fringe. (I *love* the texture and movement of fringe.) Whether they'll fit into my design using the main focal bead or clasp, or not, I still need to decide.

My Bead Soup From Kristin

In addition to these light peach-colored beads, Kristin decided to spice up the mix with a great selection of coral colored beads. Below, we have some crystal pearls. They have the bright colors and clean lines that's usually part of my trademark designs, so I have a natural affinity toward them. They're small, though, so I can use them as accent or fringe beads, which will help me avoid completely reverting back to my natural style.

My Bead Soup From Kristin

Kristin may have to correct me on these, but to my eye they appear to be a really lovely variety of coral and apricot colored rhodochrosite disc rondelles. These are a shape I always gravitate toward because of the dynamic way they can be used. They add a small sliver of color between darker beads when strung, they also work well as fringe - not only when they're strung vertically, but also when they're used like a briolette and hung with the hole oriented horizontally. If that's not enough choice to fill your mind with wonderment, then you can also use them button-style as an embellishment on a wire, beaded, or fabric base.

My Bead Soup From Kristin

This next group is a really fun collection of beads. Some barrel shaped, apricot colored coral; a really unique shape for this kind of bead. Again, these beads are going to have a central role in some way, given their size and color. There are also some really lovely coral colored baroque pearls. These are usually drilled through the center of the long side. I've always found that awkward in my work, so I've become really adept at drilling pearls, giving me a huge range of possibilities for these - using them as-is, or in new ways. In a biased, glass-loving-girl way, the sand-etched and drilled glass squares in coordinating apricot and coral have a special place in my heart. Kristin will have to tell us, but it looks like they might be from Taylor's Falls, MN? Again, like the disc shaped rondelles, these work great as really unique embellishments that you can use in a lot of different ways.

My Bead Soup From Kristin

At this point, as if I weren't already feeling a little embarassed wondering if I didn't send enough, Kristin also sent me an uber-sexy selection of silk and cord. Oh, the possibilities! My head is brimming with ideas. So. Many. Ideas.

My Bead Soup From Kristin

Like the purpose of salt in food, I've always felt that you don't properly appreciate the color in a piece of jewelry if you don't have the neutral tones of metals to set them off. So, here Kristin has given me a superb selection of antique silver and gunmetal spacers, floral end cones/caps, and the pièce de résistance is the love clasp. Have you ever seen anything like it? I haven't and I really admire the creativity behind it! Breathtaking!

My Bead Soup From Kristin

So, you've seen the clasp. You know what's coming next. The focal! And what a focal it is! A carved and drilled stone in the shape of a heart with four drilled stone pebbles and one drilled stone link. For me, these are the most inspiring, and I'm already imagining a bracelet using that link.

My Bead Soup From Kristin


I do want to reassure you all that I promise to do my very best to make the most beautiful jewelry out of these pieces that I can. I don't want to let you down. I will be revealing what I make in the second reveal, on April 6th. But, in the meantime, I'll still be blogging, and I'd love it if you stopped by from time to time. I'll be checking out the blogs of the other challenge participants, too! See you there!

Thank you for stopping by!