Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Rainbow of Color

Here's something that's been adding a huge amount of color to my work area lately. It's Friendly Plastic from the good folks at Amaco. Of course, I use Amaco products all of the time when I work with metal clay, but I have never tried Friendly Plastic.

My eye is really attracted to these luminescent metallic sticks. I've got a few ideas percolating for them, and I'm about to embark on my great adventure playing with a little more color than I'm used to using in my work. Cool! Color is good. I should have a few things to show you next week. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at my lovely materials.

If you are already a Friendly Plastic afficianado, remember there's still time to enter the Friendly Plastic Open Design Challenge! Hurry, though - the postmark deadline is November 6th. (Oh, and if you are already a veteran Friendly Plastic crafter, tips are very welcome on this end - be sure to leave me a comment! Thanks!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mister Postman

ps. One last bit of shameless self-promo from me. This is from a few days ago now, but here's what the postman brought me earlier this week.

Well, okay, he didn't bring the bobble head T-ball player - when the Short One saw my nice trophy, he insisted that I get down his special trophy and put the two of them together. As a set, they make a decent statement on our family interests, I think.

I find it curious that the necklace arrived back home from England on the same day that my advance copy of Enchanted Adornments: Creating Mixed-Media Jewelry with Metal, Clay, Wire, Resin & More (woo-hoo!) arrived, since the piece is related to both endeavors.

I have been reading Enchanted Adornments since it arrived, and yes, it was so worth the wait. (And I'm not just saying that because "Cabinet of Curiosities" is in the gallery). This is as beautifully-crafted a book as you are likely to see - just enjoyable to sit and flip through, apart from all the stunning amount of information that's packed into the book.

Don't tell my husband, but I've had this weird urge to kiss the postman - he's been bringing me so many goodies lately.

Shameless You-Know-What: Bead Trends

I just received the November 2009 issue of Bead Trends. I have a necklace in here using my tree pendant, some really stunning rough citrine chunks I found at Enbeadia and beautiful faceted lemon quartz from Ayla's Originals (one of my local go-to places for nice stone). The photography in this issue is, as usual, wonderful. I was afraid it would be difficult to capture the incandescent quality of the stone, due to its paleness, but the photographer did an excellent job, with nice close-ups of the stone and clasp. Thank you, Bead Trends!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Terrorific Tuesday, Finale!


Thanks for visiting the final installment of Terrorific Tuesday. Have a Happy Halloween, everyone!

Trick or Treat!
Frame and post it note holder dressed for Halloween

Costumed Kokeshi Dolls
Try out a Halloween idea for a traditional Japanese doll with Crafterella

Halloween Mask
Phyllis Dobbs created a fun and easy Halloween mask - great for adults and kids!

Fun Halloween Lanterns
Stephenie Hamen accessorizes plain paper lanterns with her paper punches.

Black Widow & Bloody Necklaces
Pattie Wack uses 3-D paint to create chokers that will creep out your party guests!

Tutu Cute Halloween Wreath
Vanessa creates an inspired wreath made of tulle!

Mad Scientist Party
Amy of Living Locurto shares a slew of fun ideas to host your own Mad Scientist Party.

Halloween Zombie Dolls
Crafty Chica shows how to add some zombie love to your decor!

Boopsie Daisy shares some of the wonderful Halloween dollies that she dreams up!

Crafty Chica's Ghost Story!
Kathy Cano-Murillo shares a haunted crafty tale!

Halloween Cone Witches
Make these cute little paper cone witches for Halloween!

Halloween Leftovers
Mel takes the leftovers from last week's project and makes a cool Goth choker!

Brenda Pinnick Halloween Owls
Seasonal Owls for Scaring or Delighting Trick or Treaters

The Impatient Crafter
Margot creates another spooktacular mixed media necklace with a bite.

Halloween Batty Windchime
Heidi Borchers creates a super cute windchime with personality!

Kitschy Kitschy BOO
Add some Halloween flair to your day with this cute kitschy bracelet and earring combo!

Simple Halloween Gift Tags
Studio Mama makes a strong impact with these quick and easy tags!

Strands of Beads
Melissa once again gives some pretty flower beads a Gothic makeover with this simple earring design

Costume Fun
Sharron Westerfield shares her passion for costume-making and the joy it brings her grandchildren.

Return of the Birthday Zombie
Candace is cracking herself up with this ghoulish gift box idea

Doodle Pumpkin
Swelldesigner a.k.a. Alexa Westerfield shows you how to make a fun pumpkin on the fly!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mom's Necklace

If anyone's interested, here's the necklace I made for my mother, complete with a photo of the Short One from his innocent, drooling days. The photo is just stuck in the box - I did not fill the well with resin, so the image can be swapped out easily at a later date, if desired. That's the theory at least - we'll see how well it all holds up in practice. The hexagonal slab-cut stone is ruby and the spacers are amethyst.

I received some nice surprises in the mail today, but I didn't have a chance to photograph them today, so I think I'll wait to show them off.

Our washing machine, which has been coughing away for the past several weeks finally gave up the ghost, so we had to take a trip out to the appliance store this evening. I was completely annoyed until I realized that I had spent slightly more on my last shipment of metal clay than the cost of the washer - which certainly says something about me and my priorities, but I'm not sure what. (Maybe that I need to get a less expensive hobby?)

Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deep Purple

I'm revisiting the whole floral skully theme for my last Terrorific Tuesday project. I don't actually have pierced ears, so I don't tend to make earrings all that often. However, I always like the small silver skull charms for earrings, so I thought I'd go ahead and make a pair.

The flower beads are actually leftovers from a project I did last year for Barb Switzer's book, earrings, earrings, earrings! (Softcover version). You can see the original project - a pretty, spring-themed bracelet and earring set - here. It's so easy to give these feminine pastel beads a gothic twist by adding a nice touch of black to the design (here, faceted onyx rounds). I topped it off with a couple demure dusky rose-colored pearls and my dangling skully charms.

That's it from me this year for Terrorific Tuesday! Happy Halloween, everyone!

Bead & Jewelry Linky Love

For many years, my friend Allison has held a pumpkin carving party for her adult friends. This has always been quite a fun event, but we've missed it since the Short One was born. We thought he would be old enough to attend this year (and, in fact, we had to pry this determined little fingers from her door and stuff him in our car to get him to come home with us afterward, he had such a fun time). Before we attended, I spent some time thinking of the best way to allow him to participate with the rest of the party. While he certainly has a fascination for all of those pointy saw-edged pumpkin carving tools, we didn't think it would be all that wise to let him near them. So the above was our compromise.

Another mom at a school pumpkin carve had used some curly pipe cleaners as hair around the rim of a carved pumpkin. I thought it would be possible to take the idea further and exclusively use pipe cleaners (and those lovely, non-sharp objects - pompoms and googly eyes) to decorate the whole pumpkin. The SO glued on the eyes himself and then indicated where he wanted each of the features. I punched small holes with the carving tool and we put the features on together. Not bad, eh?

I'll have my final Terrorific Tuesday project up later tonight, but here are your bead and jewelry links for the week in the meantime:

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean has a little Boo power going on for her in this hand made Halloween bracelet!

Katie's Beading Blog
Check out Katie's ideas on making your old beads new again- and make some affordable gifts along the way! Jewelry Making
After posting a new jewelry book review for a very cool mixed media book, Tammy is looking a head to other reviews coming up very soon.

Cindy Gimbrone aka the Lampwork Diva
Cindy's got some new findings from Ornamentea. What's she going to make with them?

Barbe Saint John - New Jewelry from Forgotten Artifacts
Barbe gets tangled up with Chain Style book review

Carmi's Art/Life World
Carmi decided to finally use her bead stash from Paris.

Jewelry & Beading
Little beaded flowers are addictive to make, and before you know it, you've got enough for a complete necklace!

Jean Campbell
Jean struggles through the creative process while bezeling some unusual crystal shapes

A Bead A Day
Does a simple design equal a "Zen" experience? Lisa would love to hear your thoughts on when simple designs are able to make an impact.

Art Bead Scene
You've heard of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Well, this Sisterhood shares bracelets.

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
The inspiration for Melanie's Machinery of Nature necklace comes from science, steampunk, and nature.

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Andrew revisits a bracelet design and creates six others.

Lorelei's Blog: Inside the Studio
Better get on board, Lorelei is having the last of the Enchanted Adornments giveaways. Leave a comment to play!

Strands of Beads
Melissa shows off metal clay goodies from Rings & Things

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Patina - yes!

Thanks, everyone, for your opinion on the box in a box pendant! Here's what I ended up doing with it - yep, I added the patina. I think it does make the sea glass look a little darker, but in the end I felt it was more important to add definition to the boxes. As far as the necklace is concerned, I couldn't resist my favorite pink and green color combo, with a little deep red thrown in for good measure.

It's pretty unusual for me to make a piece of jewelry just for myself - ironically, I don't wear a lot of jewelry these days - but I think I may just keep this one. It's tempting, if only to have a place to keep a photo of the Short One close to my heart!

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Terrorific Tuesday, Week III


It's time for Terrorific Tuesday!

Spooky Spider House
Silvia creates a miniature haunted house that is spooky and oh-so fun!

Witchy Embroidered Postcard
Sharron Westerfield brews up a whimsical witch postcard

The Impatient Crafter
Vintage plastic owls become the focal point of a charming necklace you can wear for Halloween and all year round!

Pumpkin and cat felt treat bag
Felt bag that can also be made as a wall hanging or door hanger

Cheryl Ball's Halloween Door Hangers
Create these door hangers from inexpensive gloves for Trick of Treaters

My Big Mouth
Make a creepy wire tree just in time for Halloween!

Mel's Day of the Dead Necklace
Linked chain, skulls and spiderwebs for Dia de los Muertos

Crafty Chica's Matchbook Shrines
Adorable little folding shrines that fit in your pocket!

Paper Pumpkin
Make a plump paper pumpkin from some strips of paper plus a little Halloween craftiness!

Polymer Clay Zombie
Candace's diabolical plan to populate the world with zombies continues!

The Impatient Crafter for iLoveToCreate
Make a retro style styrofoam ornament into a fab Halloween Party centerpiece! Madge shows you how using iLoveToCreate products!

How to Make a Spooky Spice Rack
Come make a spooky spice rack with Crafterella, she's sharing her unique labels with everyone!

Halloween Treat Tote
Conjure up a quick Halloween cupcake basket using new ScoreBoard dies!

Brenda Pinnick's Halloween Banner
A little scary, a little fun, this delightful banner celebrates all things Halloween. Made using Brenda Pinnick Sizzix dies, glitter and ribbon.

Creepy Candlesticks
Pattie Wack turns mini pumpkins into a boo-tiful Halloween lighting idea!

Strands of Beads
Melissa explores the holiday possibilities in a black and white checkered bead

Glow in the Dork Wall Hanging
Turn off the lights and have a laugh with this goofy wall hanging from Alexa Westerfield!

Picture Perfect Pumpkin
Vanessa Coppola turns a traditional pumpkin into a decopauged masterpiece!

British Bead Awards First Place!!

Oh my goodness! I was completely wrong in my post yesterday - I thought I hadn't placed in the competition because some other entrants were notified over the weekend, and I hadn't had any word. To my surprise, I just received an email from Bead Magazine. "Cabinet of Curiosities" has taken First Place in the metal clay category!

On top of that, "Eye See You" - my eye pendant - has taken Second Place in the Beyond Glass handmade beads and components:

Pardon the shameless display, but I'm so surprised! I'm off to do my happy dance. Please see my previous post for more information on these pieces.

As the SO would say, Hip-hip Hooray!

Monday, October 19, 2009

British Bead Awards Winner and Enchanted Adornments

I've been keeping this piece under wraps all year, but I think I can finally go ahead and share it with you. This is "Cabinet of Curiosities", my favorite piece of 2009. It's kind of a double whammy showpiece for me.

If you've been reading my blog this year, by now this style of focal - based on the cabinet of curiosity specimen box - will be familiar to you. This piece is special, though, because - although I'm revealing it late in the year - it was actually the first one I made, way back in January. Last winter, I was contacted by Cynthia and Andrew Thornton to create a work for the gallery of Cynthia's new book (available November 1st! I can hardly wait - can you???), Enchanted Adornments: Creating Mixed-Media Jewelry with Metal, Clay, Wire, Resin & More. This invitation couldn't have come at a better time for me. I had been casually contemplating cabinets of curiosities for a few months, but hadn't really got any further with the idea. I decided to put together a piece for Cynthia's book based on this concept, and this necklace was the result.

As I continue to find my footing stylistically, my specimen box pendant has been evolving over the year. However, I still love the way this first piece turned out - it's my favorite necklace to wear. In fact, I wore it to the Bead & Button show this year. It's a little different from "Natural History" and "Natural Selection", as it is not strictly, well, natural history-based. To imbue it with an element of mythology, I included both the staring eye (which is actually a German vintage taxidermist's glass eye) and the fantastic ceramic Beastie Bead by Diane Hawkey.

I've been missing wearing the necklace this summer, as it's been off in England being judged. I found out about the inaugural British Bead Awards right before submissions closed this year. I didn't have time to make a piece specifically for the competition, but I decided to go ahead and submit my favorite necklace and my eye pendant. Both pieces made the finals but neither placed (alas).

AMENDED: I just found out - I was wrong. I received an email from Bead Magazine this morning - the piece actually took first place for metal clay!!! And "Eye See You" took second place in the beyond glass - handmade beads and components division! I've never been so happy to be wrong...

Thank you to Bead Magazine for giving me the opportunity to present my work in this first year of competition.

And thank you to Cynthia and Andrew for inviting me to participate in Cynthia's magnificent new book! Less than two weeks now - have I mentioned that I can't wait?! (Have you ordered your copy yet?)

Thanks for visiting.

What's in a Name

Hello, it's me with yet another simple stringing project for you this week. As with last week's piece, my goal here was to create a non-traditional looking seasonal necklace.

My favorite bead here is the ceramic checkered bead by Joan Miller. For some reason, I always associate black and white checks with masquerades and elaborate costumes, so I thought it would be fun to use this in a seasonal piece, despite the lack of any really overt autumn or Halloween motif. I combined them with my second favorites beads in the piece - the black lucite roses, which are certainly nicely gothic and seasonal. I had a bit of difficulty photographing these beads clearly. They're marginally easier to see in this shot:

The beads at the back of the piece are lava (am I the only one who has trouble finding the stringing holes in lava beads? these took me about three times as long to string as they should have). The amber chunks seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that I look soberly at the photos, I'm not so sure. Hmmm.

Can you believe that Halloween is almost here? Tune in next week for the final Terrorific Tuesday.

ps. If you find the title of this post cryptic - it's simply a reference to the fact that I couldn't come up with a name for this piece. It's the No Name Necklace.

The Dilemma

So, you may recall I had this box pendant a few weeks ago that I made for my mother. Well, she did decide she wanted a photo of the Short One in the smaller box, so I finished it for her that way. However, I liked the way the sea glass looked in the pendant, so I made another one, above.

So now I'm trying to decide - patina or no patina? I kind of like the way the sea glass pops against the unpatinated silver. However, I don't think the design or the "floating" nature of the interior of the box is as clear without the patina. What do you think? Any opinions? Here's a photo of the other box for comparison

(Oh, and I did put a nice-sized square bezel on the back of the box to put in a photo of the Short One on the reverse side.)


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bead & Jewelry Linky Love

It's getting to be that time of year again. It just occurred to me today that the Short One has a Halloween party to attend this Thursday, and I still haven't finished his costume. Gah. As you can see, I completely threw over the idea of designing a hat pattern, knitting and felting it, in favor of a quick trip to the fabric store (and I ended up not even sewing this. After making the pattern, I made my long-suffering mother sew it up before she left for home). I don't even feel guilty about that decision. Well, not much. It certainly was a lot quicker! Now for the quiver with bow and arrows...

The SO always has a busy social calendar during Halloween. He got invited to a party on the 31st - and apparently the parents are also supposed to dress up, which, although entertaining, is a nuisance to me right now given that I haven't even finished the SO's costume. I put my thinking cap on and have decided that I'm going to sew a few felt leaves on a couple brown shirts so H. and I can go as Sherwood Forest. (H. pointed out that we can also call SO Legolas and go as Ents that way. If you don't get this, don't worry about it - we are Lord of the Rings geeks in this house.)

On other fronts, I actually wore one of my necklaces this weekend, as we were meeting up with friends whom we haven't seen for several years, and I wanted to show them what metal clay looked like. The SO saw this and commented: "Mommy, I didn't know you could wear the necklaces, too!" It's a sad (but true) statement on the fact that I make a lot of jewelry, but I don't actually wear much!

Oh, and before I get to the beady links, please note that my friend, ceramic artist Melanie Brooks (of Earthenwood Studio), is having a big sale right now! Go here to shop.

Carmi's Art/Life World
Carmi makes some resin filled embellishments quickly!

Jean Campbell
Jean reviews Wendy Ellsworth's wonderful new book, Beading--The Creative Spirit.

Cindy Gimbrone aka Lampwork Diva
There's a new addition to the Heartz n Skullz Family. Come check out the new Skully Bowz!

A Bead A Day
Do you have a distinctive style or do you go where the wind blows you? Lisa would love to hear about your design process.

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
Melanie heats things up with some fire inspired crystal and porcelain beads in her newest necklace from her Art Beads crystal week

Barbe Saint John - New Jewelry from Forgotten Artifacts
Barbe gets a mini artpiece from Artbeads. Jewelry Making
Fall is in the air, at least in some areas of the world, so it is time to think about making fall jewelry.

Lorelei's Blog: Inside the Studio
Lampwork glass beads always end up in Lorelei's work, and she passes on links to one of her favorites!

Art Bead Scene
ABS shares a motherlode of giveaways for October.

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
See what Andrew whipped up when he sat down in the studio after a dry spell.

Jewelry & Beading
Cyndi shares the instructions for a special necklace that she made for a friend, called "The Fourth Day of Creation"

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean is wowed by the plethora of activities a beader can find this weekend, both online at Earthenwood Studio and also at the supergreat classic, Soft Flex Glass Art and Bead Festivals!

Strands of Beads
Melissa shares her new work, "Natural Selection", that placed Second in the Necklace category of the Bead Arts Award 2009

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Anyone Attending the Big Bead Show??

Given the time difference, I've probably left this too late, but - I have a question for my readers living in England. Is anyone going to the Big Bead Show in Sandown Park tomorrow (Oct. 17th)? If so, if you could leave a comment or email me at - I have a question for you. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The jig is up.

Way back in the mists of time when I called myself a knitter only and not a beader, I collected buttons. Much as I think that the right clasp for a necklace can make or break a design, I have always felt that the right buttons make or break a piece of knitting. I don't care how beautiful the knitting, or how beautifully finished a piece of knitting is - if it has the wrong buttons, it won't look good. As a knitter, I always bought buttons in certain quantities - the number I would need for a cardigan (of my preferred length) plus one extra, in case I ever lost one from my garment.

I have a fabulous button collection - I won't even attempt to deny it - and each button has it's own provenance. The photo ab0ve represents just a portion of my hoard, and I pretty much remember where I purchased each set. The very first year I attended Bead & Button, I bought buttons only - the collection in the bottom right hand of the photo is from that trip. They are all carved from Baltic amber. The ceramic celadon ones in the lower left hand corner I actually made myself, back in the days I took classes at a local pottery studio. The owner was reluctant to allot me kiln space for buttons, but he let me fire them on top of one of my unglazed plates. The horn and shell buttons in the center I purchased from one of the large London department stores during a trip to England with my mother. This was a very important trip for me not for what happened during the trip, but more for that fact that my then-boyfriend discovered that he missed having me around, and I think decided at that point that maybe getting married would be okay after all (H. will probably deny this, but a woman knows - wink).

Even after I started beading, and even though I love using buttons as closures on jewelry as well, my button stash was sacrosant, as I never wanted to break up a set and not be able to use it on a nice piece of knitting (and let's face it, I protect my hoard of stuff better than any dragon). But, well, last night, I was putting together a design, and, as is often the case for me, I couldn't find just the right clasp. I debated, I hemmed, I hawed, but ultimately I broke into the button box and - sure enough - the perfect button for the piece was lying right on top. And it does, in fact, look beautiful on the necklace. Sometimes you just have to let go, right?

So, again, this is just a suggestion to you (and a reminder to me), when looking for the best closure for a design, try unexpected places - you might be pleasantly surprised by the results. And button-hunting is so satisfying in itself - from rummage sales to fabric and notions stores, bead stores, knitting stores, all the way up to gorgeous art buttons and the high end button emporiums like Tender Buttons (in New York - there used to be one in Chicago, too, on the Gold Coast, but I'm not sure it's still there) - there's always a beautiful button to be found somewhere!

Thanks for visiting.

Terrorific Tuesday, Week II

terrorific tuesday week 2

Another week! Another helping of Halloween goodness. Check out what the fabulous crafters from all walks of life are up to this Terrorific Tuesday for the second week of October!

This little light
Light up the night with this cute pumpkin votive holder from Kat the Fearless Crafter.

Sugar Skull Bracelet & Bats in the Belfry Choker
Candace is having way too much fun with shrink plastc! Check out these fun and charming crafts on the Spirit Clay blog.

Dollar Tree Decorated Lights Tutorial
Come and decorate some Dollar Tree Skulls with Crafterella, don't forget your sharpie markers!

The Impatient Crafter for iLoveToCreate
Whip up a Halloween Invitation that's a real 'hoot' with Madge in this project for iLoveToCreate!

Spooky Halloween Coasters
Cheryl Ball of Still Crafty After 50 shares some fun, funky, and spirited coasters!

Halloween Treat Bowl
Create a fun and festive treat dish with Inspired at Home!

Strands of Beads
Melissa creates a whimsical seasonal necklace based on the theme "pushing up daisies".

Basic Black Box Meets Pumpkin Patch
Whip up Halloween favor boxes in minutes with brand new Sizzix ScoreBoard dies.

Mummy Mannequin
Create a mummy that will be a memorable accent at your Halloween party with Pattiewack!

Munchkin Mama's Crispy Peanut Butter Balls
Munchkin Mama has a great recipe for no bake peanut butter balls that the whole family will want to make!

Witch Parking!!
Make a "Witch Parking" sign on the Mucky Finger's blog!

Vintage-Inspired Halloween Tree Topper
Shannon shows off her new Halloween tree topper, inspired by vintage crepe paper crafts!

The Impatient Crafter
Make a whimsical and elegant Halloween necklace with Madge!

Jack-O-Lantern Waterfalls
Studio Mama shows you how to make some fun and festive earrings for the Halloween season.

Glow in the Dark Jewelry
Use glow in the dark polymer clay and rubber stamps to produce eerie Halloween jewerly.

Crafty Chica's Paint Drip Pumpkin!
A loca idea on the fly turned out muy fantastico!

Free Printable Halloween Cup Sleeves
You’ll be a hit with these labels for hot beverages at your Halloween party.

Scarecow Sweatshirt
Sharron Westerfield shares a cute scarecrow sweatshirt she made from a fun downloadable pattern from Janome!

Halloween Ribbon Brooches and Fascinators
Alexa Westerfield a.k.a. Swelldesigner whips some quick and cute Halloween accessories!

R.I.P. Skeleton in Coffin
Guarantee a spooktacular Halloween Party with a skeleton in a coffin treat filled centerpiece!

Happy October Kewpies
Find inspiration in this colorful and cute candy corn Kewpie photo from Boopsie Daisy!

If you would like to join in the fun next week, e-mail Alexa at and put in your subject line "Terrorific Tuesday". She'll get you added to the group!

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Good Things in Small Packages - Metal Clay Tools

I recently received yet another generous $50.00 certificate from Rings & Things to select some products of my choice to try out in my home "studio" (I use that word very loosely). You may recall the last time I had this wonderful opportunity, I used it to run barefoot through their book collection. This time, I decided to boldly go where I had never gone before, and checked out their supply of metal clay tools.

Yes, you heard right - this was my first time exploring their metal clay section. Can you believe it? Silly, right? I am a creature of habit - there are a few stores from whom I buy tools, and, for whatever narrow reason, I don't tend to step outside of my comfort zone and look elsewhere. While I doubt that will change (being a creature of habit), Rings & Things is definitely now on my go-to list of places for good quality metal clay tools.

The photo above was my top score from Rings & Things. They look like clay cutters (or Klay Kutters, as Kemper calls them), and they are. However, they are not the standard packet of graduated circle cutters. These are actually packaged as a Rose Cutter set - with circle sizes from approximately 0.5" to 1.5".

Now, don't get me wrong - I have a circle template, and I use it all the time. However, in my opinion, there are some things for which a cutter is just more convenient (like making chain). I own the standard Kemper Circle Kutter set, and I also have a graduated biscuit cutter set that I use for larger sizes. However, there's a gap of 1"-1.50" sized circles between these two sets, and I'd thought for a long time how convenient it would be to have cutters to bridge the gap - but I'd never actually seen any (or contacted Kemper, or any other clay tool company, to determine if they were actually available - which would have been the smart thing to do). So, in short, I'm completely thrilled to have this new set of cutters.

The next big surprise for me, looking through their tool section was finding this brush:

This is one of my favorite finishing tools. It is a double-sided stainless steel brush with one angle-cut and one straight-cut head. Each head is a narrow .13" across. I prefer a scratch finish on my pieces and own a number of brushes (and am always on the lookout for more). This one is excellent for getting into tight corners, etc. In my experience, not all metal clay suppliers carry this brush, so I was happy to see it here. I actually purchased two of them with my certificate, but the other one has already been put to hard use, so I just photographed the new one.

My third discovery were these intriguing sheets:

These days, I make the majority of the stamps I use with a linoleum cutter and rubber carving blocks. These blue thingies (to use a techinical term) are actually rubber carving sheets - with a difference. They have colored layers to help the carver measure depth - one side is blue, one side is green and the 1/10" center layer is black. They are also a very generous size at 5 7/8" x 3 7/8". I like both of these traits very much. I am also seriously interested in how durable the sheets are (I tend to be pretty hard on my stamps), but, of course, I haven't owned them for long enough to know for sure how hardy they are - although, the sheets seem fairly resilient. I'll get back to you on this issue.

Next, I turned to carving and shaping tools. This is always a difficult area for me, as I really have to use carvers and shapers for a while before I decide whether I really like them (and, frankly, I often end up using sort of jury-rigged items as tools). Rings & Things had a few different sets to explore. I decided to try out this set of wax carvers and spatulas by Eurotools:

I found this selection of different tips to be very intriguing, so I indulged. However, to be perfectly honest, at this time I've only used a couple of the spatulas, so I can't really comment on the set as a whole yet. I've liked what I've seen for far, though!

Finally, I ordered that staple in any metal clay enthusiast's bag of tricks:

Yes, liver of sulfur. My supply was getting low, and I needed more - as simple as that - and Rings & Things delivered (thank you!).

So, in short, I had a fun time rummaging around the metal clay tools section at Rings & Things. The only caveat I have about the whole experience is that it did take me some time to find certain items. For example, stencils and cutters are actually classified under the polymer clay section on the website. However, they are cross-referenced in the description of the metal clay section - just be sure to read the text at the top to find all of the links relevant to metal clay.

So, if you are a metal clay enthusiast, I do recommend checking out the tools that Rings & Things carries, if you haven't already done so. As for me, I'm off to experiment with my new bag of goodies.

Thanks for visiting.

Please note: the products mentioned in this post include promotional gifts from Rings & Things for review and/or design partnership purposes.

Bead Trends - Shameless Self-Promo

Yes, it's true - even more shameless self-promotion from me. I have a seasonal bracelet design, using one of Sarah Moran's beautiful boro beads and my skully charm, in the Oct. 2009 issue of Bead Trends. This piece is a personal favorite - I originally created it for an Ornament Thursday blog round-up, using the theme "Brew". I really like the beads used to create this piece, especially the blood-red shell pearls - they're so sleek and shiny, they look lacquered. I have a few from this strand of pearls left, and I've been hoarding them - since October has rolled around again, maybe it's time to use them...

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Daisy, Daisy

Last October, I had a project in Step by Step Beads entitled "Pushing Up Daisies". It juxtaposed one of Joan Miller's beautiful skull beads with cheerful ceramic daisies that Melanie Brooks at Earthenwood Studio kindly made for me in custom colors. I really loved this combination, and I decided to re-visit the whole idea again this year.

Although the image of a skull and rose is a common dramatic theme, something about the combination of a skull with a sweet summer daisy is so incongruously light-hearted that it really appeals to me. This time, I used whimsical ceramic beads from Jennifer Heynen of Jangles and one of my own small skully charms to create the piece. An onyx rectangle pulls the focal together, which is then simply strung with yellow jade barrels. I like the contrast of the subdued, fine silver skull with the cute, floral element and the bright colors of the other beads.

So there you have it - a nice, non-traditional take on the season. Thanks for visiting!

Bead & Jewelry Linky Love

As you can tell from the photo, there's been a lot of hard work going on at our house this week. This is the Short One's first year of pre-school, and we are constantly entertained by what he brings home each day. (Sadly, my handwriting doesn't look much different. I'm hoping that the SO will do better at penmanship than I ever did.) I do wonder at the significance of this set of words, but the SO isn't talking...

I hope everyone had a good weekend! Here are your intriguing bead and jewelry links:

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean is swooning over the newest Crystallized Innovations from Artbeads!

A Bead A Day
Do you buy beads for their "coolness" factor? What is your definition of "cool" when it comes to beads and jewelry?

Lorelei's Blog: Inside the Studio
Come join in on the fun of the 6th Enchanted Adornments giveaway, it's FROGS! Ribbit!

Katie's Beading Blog
Katie's mixing polymer clay with beads again - check out this new design!

Jewelry & Beading
Bring home a souvenir, and figure out how to wear it!

Jean Campbell
Jean shares her delight with Cynthia Thornton's new book, "Enchanted Adornments"

Earthenwood Studo Chronicles
Melanie brightens up her beading palette with some spring colors for her second Art Beads crystal blog post

Cindy Gimbrone aka The Lampwork Diva
Cindy shows off her new buckle charm necklace but what should she name it?

Art Bead Scene
The October Art Bead Scene Challenge gets folksy. Jewelry Making
Tammy has taken her net and collected some butterfly crafts for you in plenty of time to participate in The Butterfly Project at the Holocaust Museum Houston.

Strands of Beads
Melissa is proud to be Soft Flex Company's Spotlight On... Designer for October!

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bead Arts Awards 2009

I have been sitting impatiently on this news for a while, but I can finally now formally announce that my piece, "Natural Selection", won Second Place in the Necklace category of the Bead Arts Awards 2009. The piece is part of the evolution of my "Cabinets of Curiosity" concept and is made from metal clay, and mammoth bone beads (remember those?) with specimens such as a fossilized walrus tooth and a shark tooth, a gorgeous fossilized sand dollar and various urchins, ammonites, trilobites and geodes.

I distinctly remember reading about the winners of the 2008 award (you can download photos of last year's winners by going here - I'm completely in love with Michelle Prosek's "Koi" which took First in the Beaded Object category) and thinking how nice it would be to earn a place among them. I just received my advance copies of the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Step by Step Beads, which publishes the winners of the Bead Arts Awards, and it's hard to express just how happy I am, seeing my piece in the showcase.

I had a lot of scheduling issues this year, and I haven't been able to spend as much time beading as I would like. This spring, I made a decision to forego (most) magazine submissions, cut back on blogging and anything else bead-related, in favor of working on two big pieces, namely "Natural History" and "Natural Selection", above. While there are things I would do differently in retrospect (and will do differently next year), making these pieces and entering the contests was a big learning experience for me - a good one.

I think I'm making progress, and I can't ask for more than that! Thanks so much to the folks at Step by Step Beads and the judges of this year's contest. You've really helped make this year a good one for me.

(Oh, and if you're wondering - we refer to "Natural Selection" as "The Breastplate" at home - it's huge. I designed it to be worn by someone with a longer neck than me - who would actually look good wearing a strapless black dress. Sigh.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pssst - a sale going on (for Chicago-area beaders)

Just a quick tip for anyone living in the Chicago-area who doesn't already know - Chelsea's Beads is having a 50% off all pearl and stone strands sale right now (until Saturday).

Chelsea's is my go-to store for last minute-project beads and findings. I had to stop by there yesterday for some wood beads to complete a design. I ended up walking out with what I needed for my project plus this beautiful strand of chunky green garnet. (No willpower, that's me.)


Welcome to Terrorific Tuesday!

Terrorific Tuesday 2009 week 1 by swelldesigner.

Terrorific Tuesday has officially started! Wait for more wonderfully crafty links throughout the month of October.

Studio Mama Blog
Creep out your friends with this Leatherface- esque collection of eyeballs strung on hardware!

The Impatient Crafter
Halloween is right around the corner and Madge kicks off the season with a stunningly spooky mixed media necklace and a bonus short story sure to send shivers up your spine!

Living Locurto
Kids will love dressing up this cute doggie in different costumes with this Halloween Doggie Dress-Up Free Printable!

Sharron Westerfield
Create an adorable jack-o-lantern baby bib for your favorite little one!


Join Crafterella in making your own spooky Mantipi specimen jar (with tutorial) using polymer clay.

The Fearless Crafter
Welcome your guests with this cute and creepy Spooky Spider Wreath wreath!

My Big Mouth
Craft a mini Halloween candy dish that looks like Frankenstein

Strands of Beads
Melissa creates a simple skully necklace to celebrate the season.

Kate Pullen, the Rubber Stamping Guide at
Create a Halloween pyramid box perfect for use as a Halloween favor box or as an unusual decoration.

Allee Marderosian for iLoveToCreate
Take your look to the Darkside with these Twilight Romance tees, perfect for Halloween festivities or everyday adventures!

Candace Jedrowicz - Spirit Clay
These sparkly Candy Corn Riot earrings are made using real candy corn! No kidding!

Brenda Pinnick
Brenda uses her Sizzix Die to create a batty neck piece you'll want to sink your teeth into!

The Impatient Crafter for iLoveToCreate
Madge shows you how to make a super cute Halloween tote in this week's I Love to Create post!

Crafty Chica
The Chica, ILoveToCreate & Craft Zine have teamed up for a skullerific Dia de los Muertos Shrine Contest!

Alexa Westerfield a.k.a. Swelldesigner
Inspired by her love for True Blood, Swelldesigner takes a stab at bloody white pumpkins!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bead & Jewelry Linky Love

Here's another of the Short One's abstract masterpieces. To be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly sure this is right side up - but don't tell the SO I said so.

Unfortunately, we are all a bit under the weather here. After a short fever earlier this week, the SO started developing a nasty cough Friday night and has passed on whatever ails him to both of us. 'Tis the season, eh? It's the only part of this time of year that I don't like (read previous post for things I do).

Still, even a bad cold shouldn't keep us from our beads, right? Here are your intriguing bead and jewelry links for the week:

Jewelry & Beading
Have you ever thought about trying glass fusing? The talented Wendy Talaro shares a fused glass primer this week!

A Bead A Day
Have a favorite piece of day-to-day jewelry? Lisa shares hers and reasons for leaning toward practicality. Jewelry Making
Tammy offers you two simple ways to become part of the on-line jewelry making community.

Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean recalls and reposts a recipe for some cool October earrings, now that there is a chill in the air!

Lorelei's Blog: Inside the Studio
Lorelei is hosting a Necklace Round Robin, come check out the necklaces as they transform!

Earthenwod Studio Chronicles
Melanie begins her celebration of a week of crystal pendants with an autumn inspired fairy butterfly necklace

Cindy Gimbrone aka The Lampwork Diva
Take a walk on the dark side and see what kind of jewelry Cindy comes up with.

Jean Campbell
How do you use beads to decorate your house? Check out these photos of Jean's beady household decor.

Art Bead Scene
Take a tour with the Art Bead Scene. We've got places to go and beads to see!

Barbe Saint John - New Jewelry from Forgotten Artifacts
Simply Gemstones book review

Carmi's Art/Life World
Carmi creates a new necklace with heart shaped resin pendants she made.

Strands of Beads
Melissa blogs about an intriguing new blog by lampwork artist Sarah Moran

Feathers and Fangs

I love this time of year. Sweater weather starts (in some parts of the world, at least), the leaves start turning brilliant colors, and we all start preparing for my favorite holiday - Halloween! It's a time of year just begging for over-the-top jewelry designs, including those incorporating skull designs - one of my favorite motifs.

So, to kick off Terrorific Tuesday this week, I created this simple stringing project. This necklace is sort of this year's version of "Bite Me". I fell in love with the ox-blood faceted glass beads I used in that project and picked up a ton more when I was in New York earlier this summer. This time, I added visual interest with my small skully token and marquis-shaped onyx beads. Mixed faceted black glass and one my all-time favorite sterling clasps by artist Robert Jennick completes the look.

Don't forget to visit on Tuesday for the full list of crafty Terrorific Tuesday links.

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Soft Flex Spotlight On... Designer

I am so pleased to announce that I am Soft Flex Company's Spotlight On... Designer for October 2009. Each month, Soft Flex profiles a different designer and basically gives each the opportunity to write a little bit about his or her work. Don't laugh, but - despite my general capacity to blither on and on ad naseum about, well, stuff - I actually found this assignment a bit tough, because the opportunity is so open-ended. I think (I hope) I didn't embarrass myself (too much), though.

The article is available here. Thanks so much to the good folks at Soft Flex for giving me such a wonderful opportunity. You make me feel like a star!

The Finish

Despite the fact that I make my own components for many of my necklaces, I always seem to be short on clasps. I have this tendency to design my pieces - and then lack a solid clasp to finish the piece. Silly, really. Anyway, I thought I'd just fiddle around and make a few new ones, although I don't have any specific design in mind for them, at the moment.

I've been using a lot of simple square sterling toggles in my work lately, and I like their clean, geometric look. So, this time, I threw over my usual preference for circle clasps and spent some time with your basic square and rectangle shapes, instead. I like the results, although, looking at the photo now, the one on the left looks downright sooty, rather than nicely patinated - I'll have to fix that. My favorite is the feather one in the center (the toggle bar is supposed to be a twig, but I'm not sure that actually comes through adequately).

Now my challenge is to see how well they wear. Hmm, maybe it's time to design a few new necklaces...

On other fronts, I can't believe it's October already - ack! This is one of my favorite months, but I have tended to view it's arrival with some trepidation in recent years - as it usually means the clock is ticking to get the Short One's Halloween costume ready. I have surrendered and decided to use felt fabric instead of knitting his Robin Hood hat. It galls me, but I'm just not experienced enough with felting knit hats to get the right size and shape, and at this point, I don't have enough time to experiment with it. Oh, well, I doubt it will matter to the SO.

On a more positive note, Swell Life designer Alexa Westerfield has decided to hold Terrorific Tuesdays again this month. Yay! If you are unfamiliar with this gathering - it's a Halloween-themed crafty blog round-up. I had a great time participating last year. For an example of Terrorific Tuesday projects from 2008, go here. (If you would like to see the rest of the projects from October 2008, they are available in my blog archives.) Look out for Terrorific Tuesday, starting next week!

Thanks for visiting!