It's my third year anniversary working with metal clay. Well, technically, I fired my first piece (the ring with the little rice-shaped bits inside in the above necklace) about three years and a week ago, but I finished this necklace on May 31, 2007, so I feel it's close enough. I always take a moment to reflect on the year's work. First, I wonder why I haven't made more progress than I have. (Don't you wish there were an extra five hours in the day? Or maybe that you had an extra set of hands? Me too.) Of course, inevitably, while I'm brooding the Short One comes up to me and says something like "Mommy, you're getting really old, aren't you?" and snaps me out of it.
Also, I actually have tried a few new things. I work on my own, more due to circumstance than design, so progress is pretty slow for me. Last year, I sat down, thought about it and decided what I really enjoyed doing was making the big showcase pieces, pieces that ideally stretch me a little creatively and technically. So I ended up narrowing my focus and spent the bulk of my available time making contest pieces this year. I'll be able to discuss several of these pieces in just a week or two, as judging will be over shortly. I can't wait! Now if only the price of silver would descend from the stratosphere...
Mostly, though, I think about what a great field this is and how boring my life must have been like before I had this creative outlet - sort of like before the Short One arrived in my life but less noisy (the metal clay doesn't constantly complain about what a bad job I'm doing and ask for more ice cream). Really, bead-making and beading are so satisfying that way, don't you think? Let's hear it for the power of the bead. (Oh, and another great year of working with metal clay, of course.)
To anyone living in England (esp. London or Oxfordshire) - have you seen this chocolate before? Can you tell me where I can buy it? My father's traveling to England shortly, and I'm sending him on a mission to bring back a few things for my son: 1. Cadbury Highlights 2. Cavalier No Sugar Added Belgian Chocolates and 3. Marmite. (Okay, the Marmite's for me, but still.) I figure that the Cadbury Highlights ought to be available at any Tesco or Sainsburys, but I'm not so sure about the No Sugar Added Belgian Chocolate. On the off chance that anyone is actually familiar with this brand, I thought I'd post a pic and ask. Any tip on where something like this might be purchased would be very welcome. Thank you!
I have to admit - I have a Kate McKinnon bias. I know I've said this a gazillion times, but just in case you don't already know - I was introduced to Kate's work by Sarah Moran, right before I started working with metal clay. I met Kate herself at the Bead & Button Show a few months later, just 2 weeks after I had started working with the material. I walked away from her booth with copies of her Annuals tucked under my arm (and a cute spinny ring with one of Sarah's beads on top on my finger).
These were the right publications at the right time for me. I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted to do with metal clay, but I badly needed some technical instruction. I basically used Kate's books (including her later published Structural Metal Clay), as well as two other publications, to educate myself in working with this material. And, frankly, they are still the basis of my education in metal clay. So I knew, as soon as she announced that Sculptural Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques and Explorations would be published, that I'd be in the market for a copy.
Kate is not only a skilled artist, she is also a very experienced teacher and a talented writer. As a result, the instructions in the book are very detailed and very clearly written. It's actually hard for me to describe how packed with information the book is except to say that words are simply not wasted in these pages. She not only provides step-by-step instructions, but she takes the time to explain why to do things a certain way and what the consequences of deviating from this way can be. She problem solves in a way that I imagine might come up in a live class but really rarely does in this type of book. Frankly, it's hard to select just a few points to highlight, but I'll give it a go.
I love the fact that the most basic issues are addressed in detail in these chapters. As anyone who has worked with metal clay knows - it can dry out quite quickly. She not only recommends her favorite storage method to keep the clay fresh over time, but instructs the reader on proper, minimal handling of the clay, and, again, why it's important to develop these handling techniques to extend the life of the clay to its maximum. Although taking up just a small section of the book, the topic is important, and it's clearly presented.
Now, I came to work with metal clay with a slight background in wheel-throwing (I was never very proficient at it, but I did take classes at a local pottery studio). I learned to work with clay in ways specific to stoneware or porcelain on the wheel. So, issues like the importance of compressing metal clay or maintaining a slow and even dry time to avoid warping made a lot of sense to me from from the get-go. Kate discusses the importance of these issues, which I think is a little unusual in itself. However, she also takes care to discuss certain differences in clay handling - such as the fact that you do not score a piece of metal clay before attaching it to a piece, in the way you would score a mug handle before attaching it to a thrown mug, or that water is simply not used in the same capacity or quantity when working with metal clay. This is useful stuff, whether you have experience in wheel-throwing or not.
One of the reasons I really covet this book is because it emphasizes work-hardening metal clay. For someone like me, whose education in metal clay is solely from books, it was hard to find instruction on this issue, specifically as it applies to metal clay. (In the end, I attended an introduction to metalworking course at my local art center last fall, to try to get the answers I needed on this and related subjects.) Kate covers work-hardening for a variety of forms, including a simple method for work-hardening rivet posts which was completely new to me - and I can't tell you how happy that makes me.
I also enjoyed her coverage of domed shapes - discussing cases in which it's better to fire the shape flat and then dap them and other cases which really require shaping the clay on a form before firing.
Finally, of course, Kate continues to cover metal clay safety issues comprehensively and clearly. For more information on this, please visit my related post, here.
Really, though, all of the above is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a ton of good information in this book (including a few points that had me tearing my hair out, as I spent too much time and wasted too much clay taking the long way around figuring them out on my own). I highly recommend this book. Buy it from Kate (she will include a free additional project if you buy it directly from her), buy Sculptural Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques and Explorations from Amazon - but just buy it.
Seeing as how we're pretty much drowning in jewelry at my house, I'd been kind of thinking lately about what constitutes an important, or valuable, piece of jewelry. Ultimately, I had to conclude that the most important piece of jewelry in our family is not, in fact, my wedding band (an obvious choice, I think) or my engagement ring, or even the ring that my mother gave me on the birth of my son.
No, the really important piece of jewelry isn't mine at all. Rather, it's the medical I.D. bracelet that my son now wears. It's unassuming and plain stainless steel but, although we hope he'll never have to rely on it, potentially vital to my son's well-being. It made me think about other types of "functional" jewelry like, say, dog tags, pill box necklaces or teething necklaces. As adornment goes, these are all very understated but all important in ways not necessarily connected to their aesthetic appeal.
So I was wondering: do you have any "functional" jewelry in your life? What jewelry is important to you and your family? Something functional? Something sentimental, like a necklace inherited from your grandmother? Please share!
My friend Merrilu and I like to walk on Wednesdays, while the kids are in school. This morning, she suggested we walk down at the beach by her house, which is where she usually collects sea glass. She wasn't a-kidding! Look at the treasure we found during our almost two hour walk. I think I have enough sea glass to keep me going for the rest of the year now, not to mention little tumbled pieces of shell, a few cool stones and that piece of driftwood. Yep, there's treasure everywhere, all right. A happy day.
I found this in my son's cubby at pre-school. Cute, eh? Lagging behind, as I usually am in these trends, I just found out that these items are the hot new accessory for kids (so naturally, I wanted to share, for anyone else who might not have tween kids in the house). They're called Silly Bandz and come in all shapes and colors for easy stacking on the wrist (or wherever).
The band was a gift from his school (I believe - they've been studying Australia all month), but I found out about them through Lark Books' brand new website and blog. It doesn't officially launch until June 7, 2010, but you can visit them (and learn more about Silly Bandz) here.
So, as I was saying yesterday, while the Short One and I were visiting family in Oklahoma, I had the chance to do a little shopping. Now I love a good name and nice beads and this store has both. Don't you love "The Wild Hare Beadery"? I wish I'd asked the owner the origin of that particular name. This above image - which I also love - can be found on the reverse of the store's business card.
There has been a bead store in the same physical location on Campus Corner near the University of Oklahoma for a number of years, but it's changed hand several times. The new iteration is the Wild Hare, which opened last August. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of unusual strands there and ended up coming home with several lovely ones (which I received as a gift from my father). These are my favorites:
Dainty cut and tumbled turquoise from Afghanistan. Similar to the type of Roman glass beads that are so popular nowadays (and that I love), these beads were re-cut from other ancient objects. They were tumbled and have a beautiful matte finish that just begs to be touched. The store has a nice selection of turquoise, generally, from Chinese turquoise to a few really lovely strands of Royston turquoise that I was hard pressed to pass up (but ultimately did in favor of the above). (I also found dyed magnesite in this section, properly labeled, and at an affordable price.)
Here's my other favorite strand from the store:
It was hard for me to capture the lustre of the shell in these photos (see the close-up, below), but there are actually green abalone shell - glued back together and drilled.
I love their smooth, organic shape - kind of like a seed pod, but with that nice green lustre, and, of course, light as a feather for the size of the bead.
The store also had a second whole room devoted to glass and some estate pieces, but I had to close my eyes at this point, since I had already determined to take the turquoise. I understand from the owner that they do not advertise. I very much enjoyed browsing around there and feel that I came home with some unusual treasure. So, if you find yourself in the area and feel the need to bead, be sure to stop by The Wild Hare. It's located at 319 White Street in Norman, Oklahoma. 405-447-5929.
After a several month sojourn in one of the Short One's toy boxes (a strange and murky journey, for sure) the Rings & Things Russ Troll Bead was recently seen conferring with a few colleagues in our house. (Personally, I like the idea that Russ Nobbs may have a secret identity as a beading superhero - Beadman? The Green Bead? Nah...)
The SO and I have just come back from our trip to Oklahoma, which will probably explain our recent brush with tornadoes. It was very pleasant and included a jaunt to the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, which the SO always enjoys. The museum is a really nice size for the SO's age and the children's science book selection in the gift store is first rate.
I found a very nice, and relatively new, bead store there, near the University of Oklahoma campus - I should have pics of some of my finds there later this week. I also had a chance to check out Susan Lenart Kazmer's great new line, Industrial Chic, at a local Michael's (which I find hard to do at home, as the closest Michael's is a decent drive and the SO tends to run around like a little Tasmanian devil in the store, making it difficult to look at anything), which ditto.
In the meantime, please don't forget to vote in the Bead Star contest! Here are your bead and jewelry links for the week.
A Bead A Day Lisa explains her thoughts behind part 1 of a new bracelet project.
About.com Jewelry Making Tammy recently took a trip to the Bahamas and discovered some souvenir pennies in her purse. They were so bright and shiny they had to be turned into jewelry.
Art Bead Scene It's the fifth month anniversary of the ABS Carnival Blog! Come see how we've grown!
I was reading blogs tonight, when i suddenly realized I never posted my links for this week. My apologies to my fellow bead bloggers. It's been a busy week, but of course that's no excuse...
(Meanwhile, since I've been thinking about flowers and skulls again, I thought I'd re-run this bracelet I made last year - I love this piece (if I may say so myself). My fine silver skull charm and button, but the lucite roses really make it - I have them in a charcoal black color, too. They are just the best!)
I just received my advance copy of The Best of Step by Step Beads. That's my necklace on the cover, I'm so very pleased to report. Although I came up with the concept of "Java Jive" first, the actual necklace was largely designed around the festive set of lampworked beads by Jenn Kelly of CaliGirl Art Glass. This was my second attempt to use these beads. Want to see the first? Here you go:
Pretty horrible, eh? Especially given the high quality of the components (the pendant in this necklace is by the fab Alicia Abla, even). I had been designing jewelry for about 4 months at the time I strung this piece back in 2007. I made it originally to enter in Art Bead Scene's Monthly Challenge.
Even at the outset, I was pretty dissatisfied with this design and stuffed it into my beading drawer (I only had a few small drawers of beads back then - oh, those were the days) then promptly forgot it. When I started sketching the concept necklace "Java Jive", I remembered Jenn's beads, unceremoniously cut the original necklace apart and ended up combining them with my own simple fine silver components and the super-cute lampworked coffee bean beads by Kristine Dery of Krissy Beads. Ultimately, I came up with a new design that I liked so much I actually wore it myself (and still do). The project appeared originally in the January 2009 edition of Step by Step Beads and was my first placement in an Interweave Press publication. I can still remember how exciting it was to receive copies of that issue in the mail. (I know, I know, it wasn't actually all that long ago, but it seems like a long time now...)
Anyway, I think this is a decent example of the rewards of going back to the drawing board when you're not happy with your work. While we may enjoy believing that great designs spring fully formed from a designer's head like the goddess Athena, fully armed and ready to do battle, in practice (for me, at least), this often doesn't happen. As I've said before, everyone has their bad design moments - some more than others, sigh. It's important to recognize them, think about them and strive to move beyond them - which, of course, everyone does, eventually. Please don't let these times get you down - they are, like everything else, part of the process and a learning experience.
As for me, I couldn't be happier with the end result of my struggle to showcase these lovely beads. It's also nice to be able to raise my glass one last time to the excellent Step by Step Beads. My editor told me that they refer to the cover shot artists as their "cover girls", and I'm so happy to be joining the ranks of them here.
It's a strange thing. I was thinking, just literally a week ago, that it would be nice to find one of the classic subway tokens lying around somewhere to make into a pendant - and made a mental note to check my older jewelry boxes and other places that might have that type of accumulated stuff. Then, me being me, I promptly forgot about it.
Cleanup day in our neighborhood was this past Saturday, and my husband and I were moving our old loveseat, which I'd owned for over a decade and which had seen better days, to the curbside for pickup. When we came back, I found what I thought at first was a coin left over from my husband's days of traveling to China on business in the doorway. In fact, it turned out to be the genuine article - a New York City Transit Authority token. Apparently, it had been stuck in the loveseat's cushions for the past decade. The weird thing is, I bought the piece of furniture after moving to D.C. - but it was at a time I was still traveling to Manhattan fairly frequently. What are the odds?
It's been a long time since I've had a Rings & Things post here - which basically means that I've been sitting on a hoard of gorgeous goodies from the company for ages. I feel it's past time to share, so here's part of one of the bags that has been sitting on my desk. (I say "part" because I became so excited to use some of the beads, that I forgot to pause long enough to take a group shot before starting. Yes, I am the epitome of "professional"...)
I find the bobby pin blanks strangely compelling for one with too-tightly cropped hair and expect to experiment with those shortly. In the meantime, anyone who knows me, knows that I love skull beads, so there was no question that I would drool over the lovely calaveras lampwork beads and silver-plated charms.
Since floral motifs go hand-in-hand with these skulls and since I have always loved the "Pushing Up Daisies" theme (see my necklace here, for an example), I thought it would be fun to play around with these beads and add some brightly-colored plastic flowers and rings from my stash. Here's the result - a cheerful, long and dangly charm bracelet:
I really like the way these skulls look, hanging from daisies all in a row - and the bright, candy-colors of the plastic beads actually work well with the floral design of the more monochromatic calaveras. I think they also work well individually:
Here's a single skull and daisy hanging from a chain. Cute, eh? As you can see, the overall shape and construction of the focal works quite well with both the lampwork beads and the silver-plated charms (there is also a gold-plated version of the same charm available). I don't actually wear much jewelry myself (ironically), but I think I'll be wearing this necklace around a lot, this summer.
So there you have it - two fun, simple projects for skully lovers, like me. As always, thanks so much to Rings & Things for giving me the opportunity to play with their wonderful products.
Please note: Several of the products mentioned in this post were promotional gifts from Rings & Things for review and/or design partnership purposes.
The Short One made me this nice present for Mother's Day yesterday. "It's a beanbag!" he said. "I drew a butterfly on it!" Well, I can actually see the butterfly (upside down in this photo), and the beanbag ought to make a nice potholder, too. We had a nice day yesterday, with a Peking duck brunch at Mom's favorite Chinese restaurant and Dad even cooked dinner (Chicken Provençal, from the excellent Two Dudes, One Pan: Maximum Flavor from a Minimalist Kitchen - our current favorite cookbook). I hope you had a nice Mother's Day, too, regardless of whether you're a Mom or not.
Here are your cool bead and jewelry links for the week:
Beading Arts Cyndi has launched the first installment of her brand new e-book on bead embroidery...and it's free! Hurry over for your copy!
I just received my advance copy ofEasy Beading Vol. 6: Fast. Fashionable. Fun. in the mail today. My project, "Branch Out for Fall", appeared originally in BeadStyle magazine in November 2008. The necklace incorporates one of my Autumn Tree pendants:
This design was one of the first I ever made in metal clay and the project was the first one I ever sold to a magazine, so it remains a favorite.
If you are a longtime reader of this blog, you probably already know this, but for anyone else - it was the positive reception to my early work by the editors of BeadStyle magazine that really encouraged me to continue designing and working with metal clay. So, as you can imagine, I am so pleased that they selected this project to include in their sixth "best of BeadStyle" volume.
This is a hefty tome, full of beautiful projects - many by names you will already know. I tried to pick out a few favorites to highlight here, but there are too many - Jean Yates' "Linked Barcelets", Jane Konkel's "Fashionista Frida", a ton of beautiful pieces by Rupa Balanchandar, including one of my personal favorites, "Tibetan Prayer Wheel Pendant", work by Lorlei Eurto, Heather Powers, Susan Kennedy, Nina Cooper, and on and on!
I made it to a local bead show about a week ago, so I thought I'd flash my new stash acquisitions. I say "local", but it's just far enough away that this was the first time for me to make the trek out there, although I believe the show has been going on for a couple years. Two of my friends, Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio and Diane Hawkey, were exhibiting this time, and I decided it would be nice to see them before the Bead & Button Show - and it was!
I came away with a cool ceramic lock, flower button and skully focal from Diane. The skull bead appears in BEADS2010, along with some of Diane's other beautiful work. The photo is not terribly clear, but I believe if you click on it you will get a closer look at the beads, especially the skull.
I also bought one of Melanie's gorgeous resin-filled ceramic bezels - Dawn, from Chelsea's Beads - one of my go-to local bead stores - spotted it while we were chatting and insisted that I take it home with me. So really, I had no choice but to add it to my stash. Right? Right?
I also managed to pick up several clasps at Saki Silver - I love their work, beautifully detailed yet clean in design. I was so inspired by one of the silver clasps I bought that I used it just a few hours later in a design I ended up submitting to Bead Star. The one in the photo is from their line of shibuichi.
Those green stone beads are actually tumbled emeralds, if you can believe it. Kathy at A/D Adornments has the best eye for stone. I was so depressed when she told me last year that she was getting rid of her inventory of stone strands. Nevertheless, I still found these at her booth last week (the exception to the new rule, perhaps), and I'm completely smitten by them. Being tumbled, they have a wonderful texture - they pretty much beg to be touched.
Finally, being the, uh, generous person that I am, I helped Robert Jennick destash. He had a wonderful basket of beads from his personal collection set out at his booth, and I couldn't help but drool over this very beautiful strand of natural purple spiny oyster spikes. The color is quite vibrant in person and the shape of each bead is gorgeous.
As you can probably tell, this was an exceptionally nice show. Although it wasn't large, all my favorite people and vendors were there. I am a little worried, as the show didn't seem as busy as it ought to have been, but I hope it continues to have success in the future. I will certainly make an effort to go again in the fall.
The next show I attend will be the big one - Bead & Button! How about you?
Happy Free Comic Book Day, everyone. This was the first year we took the Short One over to a local comic shop to celebrate and pick up the DC Kids sampler - highly satisfying for the SO, especially since he managed to score a few (pre-school appropriate) superhero action figures (Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel) during the visit, too. As part of his continuing obsession with all things superheroes, the SO has just started "reading" (ie., we read them to him) the DC Super Friends and the Tiny Titans which last involves stories of the Teen Titans as kindergarteners. I have to say, so far we've been pretty happy with these titles that are, well, aimed at kids the SO's age - the language is clean and reasonably well-written, the story often has an uplifting message (with good friends you can do anything, etc.), they're not really violent and the characters all look very friendly, even the villains. I hope you're enjoying your Free Comic Book Day, too - er, whether you read comics or not.
Anyway, here are your bead & jewelry links for the week. Happy weekend, everyone.
Beading Arts Here's a quick little tutorial on how to create a barnacle texture with seed beads!
I am an intellectual property lawyer by training and have a background in English Renaissance literature. I love science fiction. I primarily watch Sesame Street these days and find myself humming "Pop Goes the Weasel" at odd moments (guess why). I can happily eat ice cream in the middle of winter when the wind chill is 20 below 0. I have been making beads and designing jewelry since 2007.
2010 - Winner, First Place, British Bead Awards, Other Finished Bead Jewellery 2010 - Winner, Second Place, British Bead Awards, Metal Clay Jewellery 2010 - Winner, Second Place, Bead Dreams, Metal Clay
2010 - Grand Prize, Gold Medal Winner, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, Metal Clay, Metal Beads, Wirework and Chain Jewelry-Making Contest
2010 - Finalist, Bead Star, Stones, Plastics and Designs with Heart Categories
2009 - Winner, First Place, British Bead Awards, Metal Clay
2009 - Winner, Second Place, British Bead Awards, Beyond Glass, Handmade Beads and Components
2009 - Winner, Second Place, Bead Arts Awards, Necklace
2009 - Finalist, Bead Dreams, Metal Clay
2008 - Finalist Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Beading Contest, Metal Clay
2008 - Finalist, Bead Star, Pearls
A word about copyright
As indicated in the copyright notice, the contents of this blog are copyright by me. To the extent that instructions to make jewelry, beads, knit items or other instructions are included in this blog, they are free for you to use to make the projects for personal use. They should not be used for commercial purposes, ie, to make items for resale.