Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Bead Soup Piece is FINALLY Done!

It's finally done! My Bead Soup piece is complete! I had so much fun making this piece, mainly because I used that gorgeous Venetian glass focal and a gorgeous Venetian glass clasp that I normally wouldn't use.

From the wonderful helping of soup I received from Ann Rishell, I chose the Venetian glass focal and clasp, the strand of beautiful white freshwater pearls, and two of the different types of seed beads.

I have been reading a lot of books about the history of England lately, and the two that I finished while working on this piece were a biography of Elizabeth I and a critical examination of the events and circumstances that led to the downfall and execution of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boelyn. Both were fascinating, and the whole time I was reading them, I was daydreaming about the clothes and jewelry that the English royals wore. That was when I took a good, long look at that Venetian glass focal and I thought how much it looked like a gem that wouldn't look out of place around the neck of a queen.

This is a closeup of this incredible sterling silver and glass clasp that was included in my soup. Now that I've used a clasp like this, I can see myself buying more of these to use in future designs! Oh, my!

Here's a not-so-good photo of what it looks like on a necklace bust. This piece was definitely a challenge for me. I didn't want the bare thread from the two double spiral ropes to rub up against the edges of the glass focal, so I had to figure out a way to get both ends into a set of tiny size 15 beads that I passed through the center of the focal bead. Finally, after quite a few pokes from my beading needles and a lot of swearing (!), I got it secured. And it looks marvelous!

I so enjoyed the whole bead soup swap party, I can't wait for the next round! I would definitely participate in this again, and I would really encourage anyone who is interested to sign up and give it a go. It was really a great way to stretch my creativity a bit and work outside my comfort zone with materials that I normally wouldn't choose. The best thing I took away from this experience is that now I feel like I've "discovered" a whole new set of materials that I enjoy working with.

And on that note, now that Colden is finally asleep and my indigestion from dinner has finally simmered down, I am going to try to get some rest!

My First Blog Giveaway!

So, I'm still finishing up my Bead Soup project(s), and I hope to have the first one finished by this evening! Ack! Nothing like a little excitement to totally mess up my week!

At any rate, I am going to start my first blog giveaway today. I will be giving away two sets of fused dichroic glass jewelry to two lucky people who leave a comment on my blog. The winners will be chosen using a random number generator from everyone who leaves a comment.

The jewelry sets that I am giving away include a 7 1/2" bracelet made with fused dichroic glass links and sterling silver wire and a pair of matching stud earrings. The pictures, unfortunately, aren't great, but the colors in the set above are full of greens, golds and a hint of turquoise. The set below has colors of silver and icy steel blue. When worn in the sunlight, you'll notice all kinds of sparkles!

You can also increase your chances of winning by posting about this giveaway on your blog and leaving a comment here with the link. You can also enter by Twittering (Tweeting?) about this giveaway and linking back to this post.

I'll use the random number generator to choose two winners from all the comments on Thursday, July 1 at 1:00 p.m. EST. Also, please make sure that you leave your email address so I can contact you for shipping information.

Good luck!

Friday, June 25, 2010

So, That Was a Surprise.

Tom's dad called up this morning and said that Sandy wanted me to bring Colden over because she brought something back from Reno for him. So, when Tom showed up home from work early because his back was going from bad to worse (and he shouldn't really have gone into work anyway today), we all piled into the car and went over to Oma and Opa's house.

So, imagine the look on my face when Kinsey, my 8 year old niece, walks out into the living room! THAT was what Oma brought back from Reno for Colden! We had all thought that she was going to come out with Kathy and Kady in July, but they decided to surprise us all and Kinsey came out two weeks early!

I don't know what I was thinking, but I was so excited to see Kinsey, and it was such a gorgeous day, that I decided we should bring Kinsey to the park with us. We had fun for about twenty minutes - it was just waaaaaay too hot to be running around at the park this afternoon, so we wound up back at Oma and Opa's house and we all got into our bathing suits, slathered on more sunscreen, and got into the pool.

It was a blast, until about four thirty when we came home, and I crashed big time. Colden fell asleep in the car in about five seconds, and he didn't even open his eyes when I picked him up and put him on his bed. I tried to get some beading done, I really did, but I suddenly felt so crappy and so nauseous and so overwhelmed that I had to lie down with Colden for a while. Tom's back hurt him so badly that he couldn't walk, so he had to stay in bed for most of the afternoon and evening, which meant that it was all me tonight. Which didn't really work, anyway, since I was so sick. I basically laid in bed with Colden and fed him his dinner without picking up my head.

So, long story short, I will be a day or so late on my bead soup pieces - I'll finish them tomorrow morning after we get back from the chiropractor and post them later tomorrow night.

I also talked to the prosecutor this morning who is handling my uncle's murder from 11 years ago. He seems like a great attorney, very with it, and he was very up-front with me, telling me not to expect a conviction, but that since the guy they arrested for the murder has claimed that he was never in my uncle's house, his defense attorney is going to have a heck of a job trying to explain why the guy's DNA was found in the house at the crime scene.

So, lots of things going on, way too much for me to think about in any given hour. I am going to finish up a quick tutorial now and see if I can't get some decent sleep tonight.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I've Made a Decision

After much thought about where I am in my life and how much things have changed since I first hit the farmers' market circuit in 2008, I've decided that this summer, I won't be selling fused glass jewelry at my markets and craft shows. Instead, I'm going to focus on my beadwoven and bead embroidered pieces.

The reason behind this is simple: I just don't have the time to put into the fused glass jewelry anymore, and I would rather be doing the embroidery or beadweaving. I did pretty well with the beadwoven and embroidered pieces last summer, so I'm just going to keep moving in that direction.

And because I have some fused glass left over, I have to decide what to do with it. I don't know if I'm going to sell it on Etsy - I'm terrible at taking pictures of glass, so what I'll probably do is have a series of giveaways here on my blog during the months of July, August and September, and I'll also give some of them away as free gifts to anyone who makes a purchase from me at the farmers markets and on Etsy.

So, among the other things I have to do today, I have to finish my bead soup pieces and get ready to post those first thing tomorrow morning; finish up a few tutorials for; list the two embroidered cuff bracelets I finished this week in my Etsy shop; and make some time for a trip to the playground, because it is just soooooo beautiful out this morning! Ah, the life of a work-at-home mom!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Coming to Beadwork Magazine in December...

I kissed these pieces goodbye last week (or I think it might have been the week before, actually), sent them off to Beadwork Magazine's offices in Colorado for publication in the December/January 2010/2011 issue. I'm going to miss these two - I designed them both during the winter after I had Colden, when I was just starting to get back into my beading and designing.

Both of the designs were inspired by pieces of jewelry I found in the online catalogs of two auction houses - Sotheby's and Christie's.

The bracelet, made with Swarovski crystal pearls and bicones, I called, "Royal Right Angle Weave". I finished it with glittery, sparkling findings from Ezel Jewels - and I'm just NOT a sparkly kind of girl, usually! But I figure, just in case I ever get invited to have dinner with Queen Elizabeth in London or for the day that I get to walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards, this is what I'll wear.

The other piece is a Victorian Chain necklace, based on a piece of Victorian mourning jewelry. I was obsessed with making little peyote stitched rings, and I figured out how to stitch them to each other so that they are linked up as you stitch! A little technical, but lots and lots and lots of fun to do.

I was actually feeling pretty good today, until I got a couple of very stressful phone calls and I started to get sick again. I managed to eat some dinner, but just didn't feel up to going over to see Tom's dad with Tom and Colden after dinner. With Colden, though, all you have to do is say, "Want to go see Opa?" and that's it - he's done. He's got his sandals in one hand, his hat in the other, and he's looking around for his big, green bouncy ball to take over there and toss into the pool!

So, for this evening, I think I'm just going to sit back and chill out and watch a couple of movies and maybe do a little more beading. I've decided not to push myself with the farmers' markets this summer, and I won't do my first one until the weekend of July 4th in Keene Valley. This will give me a little time to make a few more pieces of inventory, get some new fabric for new tablecloths, and try to get my displays a little better organized.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Listings on Etsy and Bead Soup Swap Blog Hop Party!

Okay, that's a really long title.

Yesterday when Colden went down for his nap, I FINALLY got around to listing some of my new finished work on Etsy! Yay! Here are the items that I listed - if you click on the picture, you'll be taken directly to that item in my Etsy shop:

First, this was one of two handmade recycled glass and stoneware cabochons that I bought at Bead Fest Philadelphia last summer from Kristie Roeder of Artisan Clay. This one was totally my colors - I loved the warm browns with a little hint of yellow. I stitched a peyote bezel around it and then added a bail in the form of a peyote stitched tube. I threaded a few strands of imitation suede lacing and hand dyed silk ribbon through it, but those can easily be removed and replaced with a chain, silk or satin cord, or piece of leather.

This was the other recycled glass and stoneware cabochon that I bought from Kristie. It's in colors that are so outside my comfort zone, I just had to buy it to see what I could do with it! An artistic challenge to myself, if you will. I actually had to go and BUY beads that would match it, because believe it or not, I didn't have any cylinder beads in my stash that actually matched the colors in the cabochon. I couldn't believe it, and it took me weeks of trips to the bead store with that cabochon to find the right colors!

The next piece that I finally managed to finish this week was one that I actually started last summer while sitting at a farmers' market. It was a new market for me, and it was excruciatingly slow, sales-wise. So instead of stressing out about it and sitting there twiddling my thumbs, I broke out the beads and started working on this exquisite piece! The center stone is a piece of brown gold stone, and it is accented with lengths of vintage brass chain and more faceted brown gold stone beads.

In case you don't know what brown gold stone is, it is a man-made "stone" that is made with glass and copper shavings. The copper shavings are sprinkled into molten glass, and when the glass cools, the copper shavings take on the same sparkle as real gold. I could easily stare into the depths of this focal cabochon forever, which is why I named it, "Hypnotize Me".

Have I mentioned that I'm addicted to those wonderful handmade stoneware cabochons by Lisa Peters Art? I think I might have said something about it before.

This cabochon necklace is called "Blue Moon", and it was made by stitching a peyote bezel around this gorgeous textured midnight-blue cabochon. The texture on it reminded me a little bit of steampunk/Beadpunk, so I decided to accent it with some wide-link gunmetal colored chain that I actually had purchased for use on another project! I made a peyote stitched toggle clasp for this one using the same cylinder beads that I used for the bezel.

And continuing with the industrial/handmade theme, another gorgeous cab by Lisa Peters is the focal point of this piece, called "Progress Marches On". Again, I used some gunmetal colored chain as fringe and for the strap. I also found some gorgeous vintage German glass pyramid beads that I used to attach the strap to the cabochon.

The industrial look of the cabochon, and the fact that it is handmade and not mass produced, made me think about what "progress" really means, particularly in the light of the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf. I started to think, "What is progress? Is it doing something just because we can? Or is there another layer to it, where we should be thinking about the long-term ramifications of an action on society and industry?" Just a few deep thoughts for ya there...

And, last but not least, The Philosopher is finished, twisted fringe and all! This one had me inspired from the first time I looked at it while I was watching the series "Medieval Lives", written and hosted by former Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones. In Medieval times, doctors, philosophers, alchemists and scientists were all collectively referred to as "Philosophers", and the original title for J.K. Rowling's first book of the Harry Potter series was "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone". (It was changed to "Sorcerer's Stone" in the U.S., most likely because readers would be confused by the reference to a Philosopher.)

At any rate, the medieval philosopher worked to find what was called The Philosopher's Stone, a magical stone that had the ability to change base metals into gold. It would also create a magical substance called The Elixir of Life which they believed when drunk would render someone immortal.

I thought to myself as I looked at this cabochon, if ever there were a Philosopher's Stone, surely this is what it would look like. Awash in mystical symbols with tiny hints of gold and a beautiful, soft mother of pearl glaze, it made me believe in the power of magic.

So, that's what I've been doing with myself this week. In addition to cranking out these finished pieces, I've also been putting the finishing touches on a series of simple embroidered cuff bracelets with gemstone cabochons and working on my Bead Soup pieces! Lucky for me, I don't have to reveal my Bead Soup Swap pieces until Saturday, so I still have another week to finish them. Good thing, too, since I need to spend a good part of this week trying to finish enough inventory so I don't have an empty table at the Keene Farmers' Market next Sunday...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Continuing the Beaded Cabochon

Okay, back to stitching on this cabochon to make it into a necklace...

Because it is too difficult to edge the cabochon properly with just the peyote bezel, I add a round of some other type of large(r) accent bead. For this piece, I chose a strand of grey freshwater pearls, because I thought they picked up the subtle colors in the cabochon rather nicely. To stitch them around the cabochon, I use a method I learned from Jamie Cloud Eakin: you string the beads around the cabochon and then stitch in between each one to hold it in place. I find that it works to create a very smooth, even row of accent beads, and it works great when I use it for other kinds of bead embroidery.

And this is what the back looks like after all the stitching is done. Can you even see all those tiny stitches from the bezel?

So, speaking of tiny stitches, the next step is to pick out a piece of Ultrasuede or Sensuede that matches the piece. I glue the cabochon down in the center, but I will leave the edges unglued so that it's easier to get the needle through the Stiff Stuff and the fabric. The edging is usually stitched using size 11 seed beads - I try not to use cylinder beads if I can help it, mainly because I just don't like the way that they look. The stitch I use for the edging is a variation on brick stitch, which is the first off-loom beadweaving stitch that I mastered all those years ago, and still remains one of my favorites.

And that is the back of the cabochon after the edging is complete! More tiny stitches.

A funny story about those tiny stitches: last summer, I did a big craft show down in Glens Falls through the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council, and I had a woman come up to my booth who started admiring the bead embroidered pendants and neckpieces I had on display. She turned one over to look at the back and asked me what kind of a machine I used to do the stitching. I wasn't sure I understood what she meant, so I told her that all my work was done by hand. She said, "Right, but what kind of machine do you use for the stitching on the back of the pieces?" Turns out she was a professional seamstress, and she was absolutely positive that I used some kind of sewing machine to get those stitches so tiny and even! I was totally flattered when she didn't believe me, and since I just happened to have a piece that I was working on at the show with me, I did a few stitches to show her my technique. She was absolutely amazed, and I felt pretty good about hearing those things from a professional seamstress.

So, next up, I will add the fringe and the strap, and I'll post the final pictures of the piece when I get it listed (for a very limited time) in my Etsy shop before it heads down to Houston, Texas for ApolloCon!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Staying Afloat...

Sort of. This pregnancy is whupping my butt, not the way it did when I was pregnant with Colden and I was so sick I couldn't move without dry heaving, but I'm just completely exhausted with this one, and by the end of the day, feeling pretty sea sick as well. It's been a struggle to keep up with things, but I know that in another month or so, I'll be back to my old self and then I can get on with it.

In the meantime, we had our first doctor ultrasound today, and everything looks perfect! The baby's heart rate was 136, which the tech and the midwife said is just what it should be, and the ultrasound tech said that my "little grain of rice" was measuring at around 8mm. All I could think was that 8mm is the size of the Czech fire polished beads I just got from Artbeads! So at least I have a reference for the size.

I'm still working on the embroidered cabochon necklace, so I'll finish that when I get more photos..

And on the subject of staying afloat, I've got one week to finish my Bead Soup Swap projects! I decided to go ahead and make two pieces from the materials I received from Ann, and here is a little teaser at what I've been working on for the first piece:

I've been watching Terry Jones' series, "Medieval Lives" a lot lately, and I'm fascinated by that time period. I've also been reading lots of books about English medieval history, books about Anne Boeyyn and Elizabeth I and the Tudors. So I thought I'd try to invite a little bit of that into this piece with the freshwater pearls and that absolutely yummy Venetian glass focal bead.

Tonight, Tom took a very cranky Colden over to Opa's to give me a break and so he could make some pickled eggs without me getting sick from the smell of cooked eggs and hot vinegar. (Just thinking about it is making me a little seasick!) Colden absolutely did not want to nap today - no matter what I tried, he wasn't having any of it. So by the time they left, he was just having a little kid meltdown because he was exhausted. I thought the poor kid was going to fall asleep on my shoulder while I was making my broth and noodles.

So with Tom and Colden gone for the evening, I'm in my pajamas, watching Jim Carey movies and slowly eating my dinner. I may either continue beading on that project, or I might just design a few new charted patterns or I might just go to sleep... The sleep sounds most attractive right now!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Making a Cabochon Into a Piece of Jewelry, Part 1

So, here are the photos I said I'd take and post.

Once I decide which cab I'm going to work with, I glue it down onto the Stiff Stuff. Then, after I've picked out the color of Delica with which to make the peyote stitch bezel, it's a matter of doing beaded backstitch around the entire cab. In this case, that took quite a while:

Ya see all those teeny, tiny little beads? Yeah, I stitch them on two at a time. I find that it works better than stitching them in threes or fours when I'm doing a peyote bezel, because after you complete the first row and pass your needle through the very first bead you picked up, all the beads are in the perfect position for the peyote stitch - the beads can move exactly the way they should, and that makes the bezel tight and neat.

After the first row has been stitched down, I can start working the rest of the bezel. Sometimes, like in the case with this cabochon, when that first row seems to take forever, I keep reminding myself that it's actually the first two rows that I'm laying down.

The last row of the bezel is usually done with size 15 beads, and in this case, I chose a gold-plated bead to bring out some of the little gold accents on the cab. This is one of my favorites in the last batch that I bought from Lisa earlier this year, and as I was working on it, the perfect name came to mind: The Philosopher. (Admittedly, I was watching Terry Jones' "Medieval Lives" series at the time, and just happened to be watching the episode of the same name.) But it fits, doesn't it?

All in all, it took me almost three hours to get this far in the process. Lucky for me, Colden had a good, long nap that day!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hello, my name is Jennifer...

And I'm addicted to Lisa Peters Art cabochons.

They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery, right?

This is what it looks like during the first stage of my creation using a ceramic or stoneware art cabochon. I usually glue them down to the Stiff Stuff in one big batch, so as to avoid opening and closing the glue a billion times. Then I spread them out with my collection of Delica cylinder beads to try and find the right color for the bezel. Sometimes the colors jump out at me right away.

The larger cabochons in the picture will be turned into pendants with attached necklaces. The smaller cabs (which in this photo are mostly square shaped) will probably be used for bracelets.

I've started working on one of the large hex-shaped cabochons and I've been photo-documenting it the whole way so that I can share the process on the blog here. As I was stitching it yesterday, I came up with a name for the final piece, and a fantastic description for when I list it on Etsy....

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Newly Listed on Etsy: City Life Cuff Bracelet

This is another cuff bracelet I made using one of Lisa Peters' gorgeous stoneware cabochons. I am absolutely in love with Lisa's work - her colors, textures, shapes and glazes just enthrall me and they really set off my creative spark!

You can see the listing in my Etsy shop by clicking on the picture!

I've decided to make a photo journal of how I create these pieces. Each one is created one at a time, is a one of a kind piece of art jewelry, and takes between several hours and several days to create. For now, though, here's how I make each of these bracelets:

The basic process I use to create these bracelets is the same as for all of my bead embroidered jewelry. It starts with a cabochon and a piece of Lacy's Stiff Stuff. I glue the cabochon to a small piece of Stiff Stuff and then stitch a peyote stitch bezel using Delica beads and size 15 seed beads to tighten it up. The glue is basically a temporary hold - the beaded bezel is the thing that will keep that cabochon in place over the life of the piece.

After the bezel is finished, I add one or more rows of accent beads around the cabochon. These can be anything from a size 8 or a size 6 seed bead to vintage glass beads or maybe some glass Druks. I look for beads that will accentuate the cabochon and will also create a smooth line around the cabochon and it's bezel.

Once the accent beads are attached, I end the thread and carefully snip the excess Stiff Stuff away from around the cabochon. Then I pick through my stash of Ultrasuede and Sensuede fabrics and find a color that I like to match or contrast with the cabochon. I glue the cabochon to a small piece of fabric, trim the excess away, and then start the edging around the cabochon with size 11 seed beads.

This whole process of attaching the cab, stitching the bezel, and backing and edging the cabochon can take anywhere from two to six hours, depending on how much embellishment I add to the cabochon.

The next step is to measure and cut matching pieces of fabric for the bracelet form. I usually cut the fabric about 1/4" larger than the cuff form to give myself a little bit of wiggle room when I edge the cuff, and also to prevent my thread from running against the metal cuff form. If the thread rubs against the bracelet form with every edging stitch, it can weaken the thread and the overall integrity of the bracelet.

The top piece of fabric is usually cut a little bit longer than the back piece - this is to accommodate the beaded cabochon, which I attach to the fabric by stitching it. I usually make two or three rounds of stitches down through the Stiff Stuff, the backing and then the fabric for the cuff to make sure that the cabochon will be held securely in place.

Gluing the fabric to the cuff is a little tricky - it is necessary to keep the fabric from sliding around too much while I'm edging it, but if I don't get it centered just right before the glue dries, then there's a chance that my edges won't line up and the whole thing will be a mess. Practice makes perfect!

After the glue has dried, I use a variation of brick stitch to edge the entire cuff. It's the same stitch that I use to edge the cabochon, and I usually use the same color seed beads for a more uniform color scheme.

I have two types of cuff bracelet forms that I like to use. The first type of form that I ever used was a lightweight aluminum cuff form that I got from Dick Blick Art Supplies years ago. They have since stopped carrying them, so if I want to continue using them, my husband and I are going to have to start making them ourselves!

The other type that I started using in the last two years or so are the wonderful brass embroidery blanks from Diane Hyde of Designer's Findings. Diane has an incredible line of brass embroidery blanks that include cuff bracelets, neckpieces and pendant shapes that can be used for both pendants and necklace and bracelet links. They are inexpensive, sturdy and give the bead embroidered work a substantial feel. I'm totally addicted to them!

So, I hope I haven't lost you with all the writing here! I'll do this again, but with pictures sometime later this month.