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Friday, February 22, 2019

Icicles for the Neck!

I designed "A Hazy Shade of Winter" originally for an Etsy Beadweavers Challenge, many years ago, and sold the resulting work promptly.  I have always wanted to replicate that piece.  I wanted it for myself!   In the process, I have written a tutorial and assembled kits for you too.

The glorious stick pearls that make this necklace look so lush and wintery are sadly becoming harder to find than they used to be.  Most pearls are grown in China, and according to one supplier, the Chinese government is taking increasing control of the pearl industry, deciding what will be grown, and in what quantity.  I tell you this because I do not know how many more of these kits I will be able to assemble.  I have worked through my own stash, and managed to produce 32 kits.

Let me tell you about the Midnight version first, because the Dusk and Dawn colorways both employ the same design ideas.

 The piece was inspired by the Paul Simon song, but the elegant poetry of the title was most exciting thing in my mind as I worked.  The fact that where I live has experienced a freezing Polar Vortex and set an all-time record for the most snow ever in any Minnesota February has helped and encouraged the imagery along.

I worked to make all components take a supporting visual backseat to the pearls and the focal piece, a button cut from the mussel shell that grows these pearls.  As you can see below, they have fantastic nacre, and beautiful rainbow effects and shine.  Each one is unique and I have really hunted to find the best of what is available.  I have the buttons in two sizes, 7/8" and 1".  I am planning to pack 7/8" buttons with the Dawn and Dusk kits and the 1" buttons in the Midnight kits.

I LOVE the big 6/0 beads in the Midnight yoke.  They are a Miyuki Jet Matte with a rainbow finish that has a HUGE color range.  There are teals, blues, purples, hints of green, and a little bronzy brown too.  I wore this necklace yesterday with a coral sweater, and it worked beautifully,  I think the possibilities are endless.
Partnering with the matte beads in both the yoke and bezel are shiny transparent Black Diamond AB finish beads used as thread covers in the yoke and in the fringe.  The transparency provides a hint of the dripping snowmelt that creates icicles in eaves and branches, along with the drop beads I have hunted down for each color way.  In the Midnight, the drops are Black Diamond AB.  You can either position the AB finish mostly up where it will be a bold part of the whole, or down, so it behaves more subtly.  The tut tells you how to get either result.   I also adore the drops I found for the Dusk version.  The supplier calls them "Moonlight" and although they are Czech pressed glass, I think they have a lovely feel of Moonstone or Opalite. Some are translucent and a few, milky opaque. 
 And then, there are the stick pearls themselves.  I have organized and strung them all into sets for you,  gradated in length, and matched in pairs for drill hole depth.  Each set contains 7 sticks strung together for the focal fringe, and two sets of 6 sticks for each side of the yoke.  I worked hard to make the best possible sets out of the materials in my hands, and I hope you'll love them!

A bit more about the Dusk colorway. I try to design jewelry that can be work by normal people in their daily lives.  I realize that this is a little more statement necklace than I usually design, but for me, Dusk is the demin version of the piece.  Not to say it could not be worn for a dressy occasion!

But it pairs quite nicely with my stone wash jeggings and a soft blue sweater, and looked good earlier on a grey knit dress.  There is lots of this beautiful soft blue in the stores right now.

Which brings me to the Dawn colorway. Because OMG, there is so much of this glorious orchid color in the mall windows that I am having a really hard time walking there without drooling. This sweater was a closeout at Nordstrom a couple weeks ago, but honestly, there is something of this color in every store, including Gap, and menswear shops.  And it truly is the color of many beautiful winter dawns.

And while I think the piece looks great on white and cream, it is really just perfect on this glorious orchid.  There are some deeper richer blue-pinks around in the stores too, and I think they might be equally delicious. I am having a really hard time taking a good photo of this color because of the drop beads. They are Alexandrite Czech drops.  Their particular magic is color-changing in different lighting situations.  In daylight and incandescent, they are dreamy orchid.  In flourescent light, (and in my light tent, which has new, fancy "balanced fluorescent lighting") they are lavender.  In fact, my camera just does not want to see them another way, no matter how I set my white balance.   They end up looking like this:

The lavender look is not bad, but it's also not what my eye sees, and I want to make that clear. So please, do not judge harshly because of my incompetent camera work.  This color is my personal favorite.  Like the Midnight version and the Dusk version, the yoke and bezel are matte rainbow beads and the fringes are transparent orchid, with the same focus placed on the beauty of the pearls accomplished.  There are enough different soft blue pinks in the necklace to make it wearable with quite a range of those colors.

I hope you'll love this design and these kits.  As I have said, I don't know how many more of these I I'll be able to create.  I do want to mention that I have one strand of bright gold sticks, and I am planning to make a few, maybe 5? kits from those this fall.  They look like honey or amber to me, and I might pair them with some purple for autumn.  I also have just a few pale pink sticks and a pale gold, and MAYBE enough grey sticks for a couple necklaces, but I may have to switch for keshi pearls to make that all work.  But my point here is, don't wait, these may not last very long!

Happy Winter!  It's been a fun one here, with crazy cold and tons of beautiful sparkly snow, and all that really made creating this tutorial and these kits special for me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

An Early Start on the Holidays!

You might think that publishing a new holiday project in January is poor timing on my part.

For the last few years I have been beading ornaments for my son.  This year, I created something I thought might be tutorial and kit worthy.  And I have learned that I rarely return to an idea with as much gusto and joy as I have when it is fresh.  SO I have seized the idea, and written, and kitted, and here is Holly Bauble.  You might choose to think of it as an early start on next year's decorating and gift making.

Because as usual, there are many beads in the project, I have created a set of kits for three different colorways. Each has a white background that helps the bauble stay visible against the green holiday tree and in low light, although each white is different.  The bauble is an upside-down pyramid shape, with a double layer fringe tassel.  If you are not a fringe fan, there are some tips in the tutorial that make working with the long strands a bit easier.

The original tradition Christmas red and green version, I am naming for my own location in Minnesota.  It features a vibrant Christmas red Swarovski round bead (Light Siam) for its berries and two of the greens actually have forest in their name.  The white is a clean snow with a lovely luster.

The second colorway features Indian Pink Swarovski berries, and it feels tropical to me.  The pink calls to mind both coral and flamingos, hence its name.  I like the pastel softness, and all the beads in this version have a rainbow finish.  It has a lovely shimmer, almost like a heat wave.

The final colorway available is done with matte white beads to make the luminous, silver-lined holly graphics pop off the surface.  It has a very contemporary vibe, and seems dramatic to me, so hails from Hollywood. The Swarovski Fuchsia berries and cool emerald greens lift it out of the ordinary.

The tutorial is 11 pages, includes the usual row-by-row, step-by-step illustrations, with photo support and text that moves bead by bead, and also offers layout charts. The weaving is Peyote, with Herringbone corners and an intermediate level project.  If you have made triangles before, the start is a little different, but not terribly challenging.

I have made several kits in each colorway, and will launch these kits on Saturday the 12th of January, 10am, CST, along with the tutorial.  I'll add a link when they go live.

I plan to re-visit this design and try some different graphics, hopefully a poinsettia version and maybe a snowflake too.  But I won't do that until late fall.

Please do not worry, I am still working on the pearl icicle necklace, but sourcing has slowed me down a bit.  It is coming.  I promise.  I personally want one, while winter is still in full swing!

Hoping your holidays were happy, and that the new year brings you all peace, joy, and plentiful opportunities to bead.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Designing Jewelry with Clothing in Mind

Since my background is costume design, I often think about how the jewelry I design will be worn.  Sometimes, when I afford myself the luxury of working with something special from my stash, I design in a way specific to the clothing to be worn with the piece.  I just spent a week of evenings, making myself something to wear for Thanksgiving.

I had 4 pieces of Owyhee Jasper from my favorite lapidary; a gigantic square, and three oval cabochons.  Owyhee is sometimes called Picture Jasper and often has landscape imagery.  I thought mine had warped imagery. like something you might see through a fisheye lens.  The phrase "The Sky is Falling" kept running through my mind as I bezeled it in one of my favorite Toho colors, #721, Oceanic Metallic. It has a cool blue silver, plus some earthy bronze and copper beads, and the mix seemed perfect for the stones. It was a monster bezel, with a base row of 124 beads, 31 Aikos on each side. Those of you familiar with my post on square bezels might appreciate that info! You might even check the math.  As usual with bezels, I worked the back first and then set in the stone and wrapped the sides, with reasonable ease, given the size.

As I worked on the bezels, I decided a long gray sweater dress (a gift from The Best Man Ever last Christmas) would be the perfect thing on which to display the stones, and got out a dress form and the sweater to start working on layout.  The sweater had some interrupted X cables, and I turned the large square sideways and added folded warped squares to each end to emulate the cable shapes.

I planned to create interruptions between X shapes in the jewelry, and hunted through my stash for some likely candidates for creating the breaks.  I also liked the long vertical line of cables at the center front of the sweater, so decided the featured part of the necklace would be a long fall, that included the largest cabochon.  I liked the gentle shock of the soft turquoise green Czech rounds to help with the break illusion, and placed the smallest oval at the bottom of the fall, also vertically arranged.  I put the largest oval at the top of the fall, and arranged it horizontally.

I always think that the best necklaces are sympathetic in shape to the garments they are worn with, and given the oval soft curve of the neckline, I wanted to emulate that curve in the yoke.  Using the largest oval as a junction between the long fall and the soft oval curve, I created what I think is the best part of the necklace,  I love the negative space in the conglomeration of connections there, and I am pleased that the beautiful shape is revealed against my skin.  I plan to work that idea further and use it for a Spring project tutorial.  It seems very floral in character, like three petals to me.

I liked the square cab at the edge of the sweater, half on and half off my skin.  I had only one medium sized oval left, and needed another couple to carry my idea of interrupted X shapes forward, so found two smaller oval Jasper beads and bezeled them.  You see those at either side of the base of the neck.  And since there was a landscape idea in the Owyhee, and the flowery central connection, I used some flower and leaf beads to create the interruptions in the yoke. I also added them as a triangular drop component at the bottom.  I may remove this bit.  It's not bad, but I am not in love with it either.  I do like the proportion it gives to the length of the drop. I am super pleased with the sympathy between the shape of the neck edge and the necklace yoke.

Finally, I used the last of the ovals as the center back element, with a dual clasp structure.

I do like the drop component here at the back, but I might flip the bezel the other end up, so the landscape is supported by the orientation.

So lucky me, I've got new jewelry to wear for the holiday!  And a good idea for a Spring project to boot!

When I was first making jewelry, and opened my Etsy shop, I spent some time trying to "make things I thought people would like to buy".  I quickly found that a better strategy was to make something I wanted to wear.  The sales followed.  I find the same thing to be true with designing for tutorials.  I find my best ideas in making things for myself, not in trying to create something I think someone else might like to make.  So sometimes, playing with beads specifically for my own use, produces the best design ideas.

As soon as all the leftovers are put away, I will get back to work with my stick pearls, and still plan to release that new project for you in either late December or January.

I hope you have lots to be thankful for while you eat your turkey next week, and good friends to share with.  Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Oh!  Did you notice my photos look different?  I have a new set of little studio lights and am learning to use them.  They are brighter and cooler than what I am used to, and I know my white balance is not what I want it to be yet.  I have a warm bias that is not quite satisfied.  Plus, I still have some shadows to soften, but I like the new setup.


Friday, November 9, 2018

A Final Selection of Grapes

I hate to clog my blog with pictures of focals, but it's the easiest way for me to tell you about what is available in detail.  I have what I think will be my final set of Grape Caramel's Claws necklace and a few Caramel's Acorn Earrings kits releasing today, Friday the 9th of November.  I am calling this the final set, because I have used my very last silver melon beads for these kits, and they are getting very hard to find!  And the focal beads are a challenge too. 

So, without further ado, here are the last 8 focal beads for the Grape colorway.

 I love the diagonal lightning bolt inclusion in focal A.  
It has a crystalline structure almost like a geode.

 Focal B is a nicely mottled pattern with some dark and some light color.

Among the lighter focal beads, C is slim and flat, and will show off the bezel shape nicely.
 Focal D is dramatic, with some typical agate markings. 
Slightly out of oval, (slightly smaller on one side) but will sit nicely in the bezel.

 Focal E has nice dark color with a little rusty coloration, and some minor pitting.

Focal F has some nice pinky coloration and an interesting fracture line.

 G is the most simply patterned of the group, with deep rich purple color.
Just slightly smaller on one side than the other, but will work in the bezel.

Dramatic agate markings for Focal H, and deep purple color,
with some steely gray beneath the purple. Minor pitting.

So, there they are, the last of the grapes!

And outside my window, some serious inspiration for my winter project!  

And a sneak peak at some of the material I am working with...

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Blue Sage Caramel's Claws

When I was at Dakota Stones shopping for focals, the Red Creek Jasper had a very different look than previously, with very little copper, ochre or olive, but I did find some nice pieces that work well with the Sage colorway.  I am sharing those focals here, because I can provide larger, clearer images than in my Etsy listings.

These particular stone beads are mostly usable on both sides and some are completely different on each side, a bonus for you.  You can choose your preference, based on your own wardrobe needs, or just fall in love with one side or the other.  I show you both sides of each piece below!  There are just 8 of these kits.

Here goes:

A lighter side (with a few silvery clouds in the sky) and a darker side!

In this case, both sides are very similar.
The first side mostly dark (nice bezel contrast), with a second side that has interesting landscape color and markings.
These two sides are totally different.  The first is similar in color to my sample, kind of khaki,
and the second side is deep teal and midnight dark.

Both sides have a little patterning, the first more, and the second a little less, It has a small, flat spot on the upper right edge at the back side, but im my experience, it would not affect the bezel shape.

Both sides have a little fiery patterning, and remind me of the sky above a forest fire at night.

Beautiful patterning on both sides of this bead, the first bold and the second more soft.

This final focal bead is soft and pale, very sky-like to me.  An almost perfect match for the bezel beads.
I really like the range of options here.  Choosing a dark or contrasting focal means the bezel is a featured bit in your composition. Selecting a lighter bead means the piece becomes more an organic whole.  Both can be lovely!

Available in my Etsy Shop on Saturday, October 13th, around noon CST.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Red Porcelain Jasper

I have had a quiet week after my South Dakota Black Hills vacation.  It really put me in mind of Autumn, seeing the beautiful colors and feeling the nip in the air.

I have had some requests for more Caramel's Claws kits, and bought some more of the oval beads that serve as the focal.  I found a Jasper suited to a Pomegranate colorway, and want to finish off the last bundles of acorn melon beads, so I made up a sample, and liked it.

The Pomegranate melon bead is translucent, very much like a pomegranate seed.  The Red Porcelain Jasper is sometimes brick, sometimes burgundy red.  The stone reminded me of a favorite pair of red suede boots that are so neutral I can manage to wear almost any red with them.

I chose the most brick-like color for my sample, as always, trying to save the very best focals for you. I cannot get the color to display quite exactly as it is, REDS ARE HARD FOR ME TO GET PHOTOGRAPHICALLY PERFECT! so let me just say these are redder than brown for sure.  Here is the new Pomegranate, (with it's brick focal) next to the original bronzy-brown Cinnamon colorway.

Taking all of the ovals into consideration, I designed a pretty neutral red frame and neckstrap. Some of them have quite a bit of creamy pattern, some are mostly red, and some, mostly porcelain, which I think would look spectacular displayed in this red frame on a winter white sweater.  So without further ado...

Dark with subtle shading

Smooth and deeply colored

A bit of landscape patterning.

Dark with a lighter marking.

This focal bead is Apple Jasper, a slightly more true red with woodgrain markings.  A thinner bead which will display a bit more of the bezel against the surface of the focal.

Interesting markings nicely placed.

I love the landscape rock look of this piece.

Reminds me of Picasso cubism.

Deep burgundy wine hints, and lots of creamy softness.

For some reason, this one reminds me of a calico cat!

Neutral beige with hints of grey and cream.  Reminds me of marble.

Love this one!  If no one claims it, I will make it up for myself! Porcelain indeed.

Having beads set aside for (or left over from) a kit project sitting around in my stash does no one any good.  So this week I am working on getting what I have into kits that you can use.  I know some of you already own more than one colorway of this design.  Please do not feel obligated to make a purchase.  Some of my clients are SO supportive, and I truly appreciate you all!  I''ll put these, and whatever else I manage to get kitted this week, in my Etsy shop on Saturday around noon CST.

I am working on a new icy, wintery piece featuring mother of pearl for you.  I have a final dancewear project to finish first, and the holidays to prepare for and enjoy, but please, know it's coming!