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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Components as Inspiration

I was super excited to be contacted by Steven Weiss at Beadsmith.  They have a new line of clasps, Elegant Elements, and he asked if I might like to design using these clasps. Then, my work (and that of other designers) would be featured as a sales strategy for the new clasp line.  The product line was GORGEOUS!  And I said "Yes!"  Although I quickly discovered many of the other participants are my beading heroes, and I hoped I would find myself adequate to the task.

I have only just met Steven Weiss "electronically," but I am going to go out on a limb here and say the guy is a public relations and advertising genius.  This was a really brilliant way to collect great photos of the clasp line in action and I suspect most of us are really happy to be involved in the project.  A win-win situation if ever there was one!

I chose two beauties from the wide range of Elegant Elements clasps.  The first one I wanted to work with was a three-strand, golden nest box clasp, with snowy white pearl eggs.  I thought this piece could serve double duty, since the February Etsy Beadweavers theme is "NEST."  My first thought was to create a similar beaded nest for pearls to rest in, but after a couple samples, I found my work didn't really allow the clasp to shine.  The clasp is a soft, pale gold and although it has beautiful leaf texture, it's very subtle and super organized.  My samples were VERY textural, and one was a little disorganized, and neither suited the clasp.
I decided I needed to let the clasp lead the way for me, as I often do when I find other components I want to work with, so I analyzed it's basic design.  It sits neatly flat, and the pearls sit up off the delicate, flat, highly organized nest to be featured in their little bezels. So I began a search for flat, golden, subtly-textured components that might allow me to provide contrast to big egg-shaped pearls.  I bought some golden shadow rivolis, and those were lovely, but I really wanted something metallic to go with them.  Then one night in a parking garage in South Minneapolis, the answer jingled out of the payment station in the form of a gold one dollar coin.  I had just read an article about the reducing of production of these beauties, because they are not highly circulated, and considered to be an expense our government can eliminate.  But I just loved it.  And lo and behold, it was flat, pale gold, and delicately textured.  Just what I had been looking for.  But coins in jewelry?  And then the idea of a "nest egg" occurred to me, and it seemed perfect design concept for both of the tasks at hand.

I bezeled the coin and dashed off to the bank for more.  Turns out several different presidents are featured, as well as Sacajawea, but I liked the lady liberty backs, so I chose the ones with the best looking "tails" and got to work.  With several coins and rivolis ready I played with placement, and found a way to organize a triad of each (half dozen packaging, just like the clasp) to allow for a place for some of my big freshwater pearl drops to sit, and joined them together.  I played with several edge details, including tiny leaf shapes, but they still felt overwhelming and out of scale with the clasp, so I just netted in some bicones and found that to be appropriately scaled and detailed.

 I broke the edge detail to allow some of the pearl eggs to drip out of the nest as fringe, and to allow for a soft three strand pearl neckstrap, which joined both the focal and the clasp with big pearls again, to help keep the clasp focused as a major player in the design.

Although I frequently let components speak to me in my design process, I had never before considered the possibility of allowing a clasp to dictate a design. This line is more than worthy of  that kind of attention and I am really looking forward to working with my second clasp.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Serendipity for my Sister

Two years ago, my sister gave me three cabochons for Christmas.  She told me that my mother loved one of them, and she loved another.  I made my mother's favorite into a necklace for her 87th birthday.

Last summer, my sister told me that what she most wanted for her December birthday and Christmas gift was "her" cabochon, transformed into a piece of jewelry.  I got it out and was not particularly inspired, but decided I would make a start and see what happened as I went along.

It's a Payne's gray and creamy white stone, maybe something like Dalmation Jasper but the domed surface was pitted and I was having a hard time with that.  I tightened the bezel on the front side and flipped it over to work the back.  EUREKA!  The back of the cabochon is a nearly perfect image of the mountain that my sister and I grew up on in Helena, Montana.  Had she seen this?  I had certainly not. It's the view from my parent's house front yard, on the North slope of Mount Helena.

 It has the right shape and proportions, the tree line is nearly visible in the markings, and the color placement makes it look just like the real mountain does about this time of year, with a beautiful frosting of snow.
Flat side of the cabochon, the Mt. Helena image!
I decided that the piece could be reversible, in case it was the front of the cab Cara was loving, and so designed a woven bail that would allow for "reversability."  Then I decided to add some branch fringe, again, in a reversible way, so that it might look as though you were viewing the mountain through frost or snow covered trees and shrubs.

As I worked the fringe, I have another EUREKA moment.  The fringe looked like the branches I was hoping for, and it also resembled ROOTS.  MY roots.  My SISTER'S roots.  Simply amazing to me how a duty can become beauty, and touch your heart with a little effort, confidence, and faith.
The "right" side of the cabochon, with the pendant on the twisted 8- strand neck strap.
I first strung an 8-strand necklace for the pendant to live on.  Well, no.  FIRST I tried to make a bead crocheted rope.  For a couple of days, and many online tutorials, and many different sized and colored beads, and with tremendous frustration, I tried to make a bead crochet rope.  Apparently, being able to crochet has little to do with bead crocheted rope.  This is the first thing I have tried to do with beads at which I have achieved a complete and total FAIL.  I will not allow this to remain something I cannot do, but with a deadline looming, I strung an 8-strand necklace for the pendant to live on.

Because of the breadth of the bail, the strands had to be twisted to look nice and I didn't love that.  SO, I looked up Heather Collin's brilliant and easily comprehensible tutorial for cubic right angle weave, and made a second strap, which I liked much better!
On the CRAW rope, Mt. Helena side visible..
I'll send both necklaces, since either could be worn by itself, or with the pendant.

I know Cara does not read my blog, so I think it's safe to publish this post at this point, but please don't spoil the surprise.  Don't share this post with Cara until December 24th!

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What it Took...

... to make my Arabesque Hearts and Flowers Necklace.

Some materials:

1 8.4 carat Rhodocrosite Teardrop Cabochon  12.00
1 pair Rhodocrosite Cabochons                        20.00
1 piece Pink Bead Backing                                   .65
1 piece Gold Ultrasuede for backing                    4.00
2 2x2mm Gold Filled Crimps                                .30
2 3mm Gold Filled Jump Rings                              .40
22 4mm Swarovski Rose Champagne Bicones      5.50
1 tube 24k Rose Gold Plate Delicas                    15.25
1 tube Nickel Plated Size 11 Seed beads                4.00
1 pkg Size 8 Green Iris Teardrop Seed Beads        2.00
6 tubes Size 15 Japanese Seed Beads                     9.80
1 tube Size 15 24k Gold Czech Charlottes          17.00
1 tube Size 13 24k Gold Czech Charlottes          15.45
4 tubes Size 8 Seed Beads                                    17.00
1 Gold Filled Toggle Clasp                                    9.50
4 bobbins Nymo in 4 Colors                                 5.00
1 spool 10 lb test Red Power Pro                        14.95
1 spool Crystal Fire Line                                    16.80
1 spool Fine Gold Extreme Soft Flex                 25.50

I didn't use up all of each of these items, but I made a just under $200 expenditure to have each item needed at hand to make the necklace. 

Plus some tools:

Needle nose pliers, crimping pliers, beading needles in various sizes, tailors thimble, awl, card stock for making patterns, Lazer shears for cutting the fishing lines, beading mat and tray, bead scoop.

Plus some time:

Usually I keep meticulous track of time, but this time (because I started so late and worked so fast) I have to guess, about 12 hours, but I suspect that is a conservative estimate.

Plus some experience:

Which enabled me to know that what I designed originally could not be finished in time to make the deadline for completion, so I adapted and adjusted my design to allow me to complete it in the time I had available.

Plus the inspiration:

 I got from watching my Etsy Beadweavers teammates post their entries for this challenge, and after deciding that I just didn't have time to do this, re-deciding that I REALLY wanted to make my own response to the challenge of "Arabesque Style."

Tomorrow is the last day of this challenge and if you have not already done so, please visit our Etsy Beadweavers Team blog, and choose your favorite entry of the many delightful interpretations on display and VOTE!