Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blog Hop: Bracelets for Hope

I'm participating in the Global Genes Project to help raise awareness of kids living with rare diseases, disorders or conditions.  The GGP is asking 7,000 jewelry designers and artists to volunteer and donate a 'blue-jean' inspired bracelet.  The bracelets go to the  families as our way to show our support for these families and their childrenThey asked us to use the color blue so it matches blue jeans. The collection below is my contribution:

1. Spring Flowers: blue glass bead flowers on a sterling silver chain
2. Beachcomber: handmade silver bead chain with aventurine and onyx
3. Evil Eye Wrap: Turkish evil eye glass beads and beach glass
4. Chevron: Swarovski crystals and Miyuki seed beads 
5. Sapphire: Miyuki seed beads with vintage button
6. Blue India: Swarovski crystals, lapis, Bali beads and silver with knot slide clasp
I hope the mothers of the children find some inspiration from our small gift to them. For all my fellow artists participating, check out the rest of the sites:                              Elysian Studios  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shop Talk: Russian Influence

When we were traveling in Finland and Estonia, I had hoped we'd be able to get over to St Petersburg in Russia. But we ran out of time, and so it will have to be on our next trip. We will absolutely be back to this part of the world. It is beautiful. Additionally, one place that draws me to return is wanting to visit the Hermitage Museum. I always find inspiration for jewelry designs wandering museums like this, and they have quite a collection of jewels at the Hermitage!

There is a lot of jewelry history in St Petersburg going back to Peter the Great who in 1719 organized a collection of the state-owned antique jewelry (back to the Byzantine time) within something called the Diamond Fund. The jewels were kept in a strong room in St Petersburg at his Winter Palace. Jewels, and jewelry seem to be deeply rooted in Russian heritage.  And one of my new favorite stitches is something called the St Petersburg chain (right).

The stitch has become popular in recent years. Many Western beaders taught themselves the stitch by studying the illustrations in Russian- language beading books. How cool is that!

The versatile pattern comes in a single chain, double chainRussian eyelets or ladder. My version is a ladder stitch, but I've only just gotten started with this stitch. I have so many colors and pattern possibilities running through my head. I'm sure I'll be back.

So for the on-going bracelet project, bracelet #3 uses the St Petersburg stitch. Of course the highlight and focal point to the piece is a Beauty Button. We will add this one to our growing list of bracelets for the March auction, which we will donate to Breast Cancer Research.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Covert Jewelry Making: Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day.  It's so romantic.  A day dedicated to that special someone in your life. A day to tell them how much they mean to you, and a night to think of nothing else. 

So when my friend's husband asked if I'd make her a black pearl bracelet, I happily agreed. She is one of my favorite people to design for. Everything looks amazing on her, and she is always so complimentary of my designs. And well, who doesn't like that!

I knew she had been wanting this bracelet, and I had a good idea of what she was after.

She had originally said she wanted Tahitian pearls, but I went out to price them and whoa ... "how much do you want for them?" I asked at one shop.  I knew they were going to be expensive, but I had not expected a strand to cost well over $1000. Plan B. I suggested that freshwater black pearls would be a great option. Unless you're really looking for the difference it is hard to tell.  Tahitians have more of a green hue, where the freshwater has more of a purple. But honestly, I had to place them side-by-side for him to see the difference.  The entire strand of freshwater cost in the neighborhood of $30, and still amazingly beautiful. 

I added silver disc beads to space the pattern and a favorite marcasite clasp.  The marcasite gives it just that little touch of sparkle without going over board (top, left). 

However, I know that my Designer friend likes her bling.  And so I did make a second version (right) to show her husband... just in case a more elaborate bracelet was what he was after. I created clusters and strung it with seed pearls set with an antique pearl slide clasp. Simple in its own way, but is much more of a statement. He did end up choosing the single strand (the first version), which I recommended. So I'll find out tomorrow if my friend liked my covert jewelry making project of the month. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shop Talk: Artistic License

I mentioned in my last blog that I am working on a project with a friend from Israel. She sent me a stash of beautiful handmade buttons, and I'm getting to work on creating bracelets for each one. The next bracelet was designed to bring out the cross-hatch pattern in the button (left). The button is such a rich color with the black and gold tones. I decided to use one of my favorite patterns. It normally calls for only one "S" stitch across the top, but I added a second to bring out the cross hatch.

I'm always playing around with recipes in the kitchen, and I have a tendency to do exactly the same thing with a beading pattern. Once I've mastered it ... I take a little artistic license to the colors, the sizing ... and well pretty much anything I can tweak as long as I don't lose the general integrity of the piece.

The first version I made of this bracelet (right) I tried to stay close to the pattern. The central bead in the pattern was a green turquoise with gold bead accents. So I guess on second thought, even with this one I took some artistic license because I thought the green on green color gave it depth and the pearls added just a bit of elegance.  I laughed when one little girl commented on my post to Beading Daily, she said she thought it looked just like a caterpillar.  I do have to agree with her.

The two bracelets certainly have their own style. The cross hatch (above) and rich colors has almost an Elizabethan look to it. I do love how the cross hatch stitching completely changes the focus of pattern. I think this version is growing on me. 

One thing that consistently brings a bracelet together for me is the button.  I actually tend to design around the button -- to bring out the colors, shape or style.  I have a huge jar of buttons that people have discarded, and I've collected through the years.  I have one or two of each button, and while that isn't enough for sewing it is a wonderful variety for beading!  

My friend's buttons have found a very good home. I am a self professed button collector.

To give you a sense of the versatility this pattern has, I've posted a few of the versions. I have used different colors, bead sizes and top stitching.  It amazes me how different each one looks.
1. black banded agate rounds, onyx rounds, Miyuki seed beads, Beauty Button 
2. amethyst rounds, crystal gem cuts, mat Miyuki seed beads, antique silver button
3. adventurine rounds, grey freshwater pearls, mat Miyuki seed beads, antique button
4. rose quartz rounds, red freshwater pearls, mat Miyuki seed beads, rose button
5. black banded agate rounds, freshwater pearls, mat Miyuki seed beads, antique button
6. adventurine rounds (2 sizes), mat Miyuki seed beads, freshwater pearls, pearl button

I discovered this pattern a few years back in Beadwork Magazine. The pattern is called Crystal Helix by Barbara Falkowitz. This particular edition is probably one of my most used pattern books.  The pages are dog eared and I've got sticky notes all through it. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Inheritance: What Our Mothers Give

I suppose this should be written closer to Mother's Day, but Mothers have no time or boundaries.  I read a wonderful blog this weekend from The Gossiping Goddess who not only shared amazing photography from Southern England, but did a beautiful remembrance of her Mom who past a year ago.

It got me thinking about the anniversary of my Mom's passing a year ago March.  It has taken awhile to organize my emotions about it, and well, that will likely be a work in progress for some time.  But in honor of my Mom, I'd like to help someone else honor their's.  

I recently connected with a lovely woman from Israel who has an on-going fund for breast cancer research dedicated to her Mother.  Seems very timely with the recent dust up about the Susan G Komen controversy.  No matter which side of this debate you're on, what really matters is making sure the people who are still with us, that mean so much in our lives, get the help they need. 

When I saw that she had created her Facebook page, her Twitter and her Etsy for this cause with a portion of her Beauty Buttons going to this research, I felt compelled to ask how I could help. She jumped right in and sent me samples of her beautiful, custom, handmade buttons (right).  And as my first piece I created a bracelet (top left), which we will auction off to raise money for the cause.  We'll be sending details in March for anyone who would like to participate, so check back.

My Mother passed due to a rare condition called PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy).  Little is known about it, or its origin. But as a memorial to my Mother, I'd like to honor her by supporting research and causes for all Mothers. In hopes that they are with us longer. My Mom gave me independence, curiosity and a strong sense of perseverance. If your Mom is still with you, remember to tell her how much she's influenced your life. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Do Overs: Pearls & Suede

I've told you all about my Turkish friend I ride the train with every morning on my daily commute into New York.  She, and another friend of mine (a Designer) often flip through magazines and catalogs on our hour-long ride each day. We talk about jewelry, current styles and of course the celebrity gossip of the week.

One morning my Turkish friend flipped past a pretty pearl bracelet in the Sundance catalog and asked if I could make a similar bracelet for her?

It was a Southwestern pattern with freshwater pearls, suede and silver (right).  I never seem to copy any pattern exactly ... I usually add my own flare and interpretation to a piece.  

In this case, I did not use any of the silver chain. Wow has silver become expensive lately! But taking out the silver worked in my favor for this pattern. My friend doesn't like 'heavy' jewelry, and so I am forever trying to 'lighten' up the pattern for her.  She has a bit of a Goldilocks thing going on ... "too much, too little, not enough, can you take that out." Over time I've gotten better at knowing what she'll like, but I still take plenty of pieces apart when designing for her!

With this bracelet, I really liked the pearls and suede together. Somehow it makes a very dressy piece wearable on a day-to-day basis (top, left). I used an antique silver button to give it that Southwestern touch. I confess, I wore it to work a few times before I gave it to her just to see how 'wearable' it was (shhhh, I didn't tell her).  I got lots of compliments, but still have yet to make a version for myself.  Perhaps someday when I have a spare moment .... But this one went to my friend who declared it 'perfect, and exactly what she wanted.'  Phew

She then wanted a necklace, but this time with all the silver. The silver on the bracelet has a cluster of little silver circle "stamps" attached ... which would make a necklace ridiculously heavy.  So with the necklace I took even more creative license.  I used patterned connectors (to dress it down a bit), created my own wire wrapped pearl chain and added another light-weight alternating silver chain for contrast. She doesn't like things too "matchy-matchy" and it couldn't be too heavy. What I showed her was simple, and hung right at the collar bone ... just as she asked. Again she declared it perfect.  I was batting 1000 on this one!  For the earrings, the first version I added suede with the pearls.  But my batting average plummeted.  I didn't even take a picture of them because we both agreed it was simply better to start over.  She decided that she might like a black pearl instead.  I went back to a simple drop earring, which she liked much better.  So only had to 'do over' 1 out of 3.  Not too bad.

AntiquityTravelers on Etsy