Saturday, March 24, 2012

Shop Talk: Working with Polymer

For someone who says that they can't draw ... check out these designs! A friend and I started a dialogue many months back (someone I met on one of my many beading sites I regularly visit). I simply fell in love with the designs she creates.  

They are whimsical but thoughtful, play with fantasy but have such a natural look to them ... I just love them. She uses polymer clay and mixed media to create these pendants. The results are so unique and simply beautiful.

I bought one of her pieces from her Singing Cat Studio off of Etsy a few weeks ago (right). I wanted to try my hand at creating around one of her pendants.

I decided to use some stones a friend of mine handed me saying she didn't know what to do with them. They were natural aquamarine stones that ran in color from white, to pale blue to pale amber. I've never seen aquamarine in these colors, but I like that it is not the expected colors. I thought using these stones along with apatite rounds would create an interesting blend for the pendant.

In the spirit of mixed media, I added suede and a Mokuba ribbon. If you've ever been in the Mokuba show room in NY ... then you know it is like a candy store! It has rows, and rows, and rows of the most amazing, beautiful Japanese ribbon. I seriously had to restrain myself, and still I walked out with over $200 in ribbon!

The mixed media effect seemed to really pull out the complexity of the colors she used in the pendant.  If you'd like to see more of her work, or find out more about her check out the following links. I found a lovely interview of her from 2010 which talks about her hope of growing her Etsy shop, which I would say has become quite popular and successful. She also has a showcase of her work on flickr if you want to see more of her designs. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Beader's Block: Finding Inspiration

Do you ever get beader's block? Where you have one element, but just can't think of how to design around it?

I was having trouble trying to figure out how I was going to design a bracelet around this red fabric button. The color red was stumping me. I don't seem to use much red in my patterns, which I find strange since I really love the color. I went digging through my stash only to find that I did have a string of coral, but I wasn't sure the reds were going to work together. The coral is such a deep color that I worried it would completely overpower the focal button.   

I stared at the pile of coral for awhile. Sorting it by size, matching it to various other beads .... then I realized I could look for inspiration from my recent New Zealand trip. I got to thinking about the beautiful view of Auckland's North Shore. Each morning my sister and I would walk along beach looking for shells and checking out the sea life in the little estuaries that sit in the volcanic rock. You can see Rangitoto out in the middle of the Auckland Bay -- a dormant volcano -- that left behind all kinds of nature along the shore.

I went back at my stash to rethink what I should pair the coral with and ran across an old string of cowrie shells. One of my daughters used to love this necklace, but had long since abandoned it to one of my many bead drawers. Perfect!  I had my beachcombing idea.  I had also picked up a new pattern on my trip that I thought was a fun. It's called Garden Bracelet by The Bead Hold which I altered to be more of an underwater garden theme.
So without further ado, I finally have my 4th installment of the bracelets I'm designing for a friend who makes these beautiful buttons.  I'll be back with the 5th and final design shortly ... once I find some more inspiration.

1. Navajo: Miyuki seed beads, Beauty button
2. Elizabethan: black banded agate, onyx, Miyuki seed beads, Beauty Button
3. St Petersburg: Miyuki seed beads, Czech beads, Beauty Button
4. Neptune: coral, Miyuki seed beads, cowrie shells, Beauty Button 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Discovering New Zealand: Wearing Greenstone on St. Patrick's Day

Recently I was in New Zealand and stumbled upon an amazing spot called Cathedral Cove along the Coromandal Coast (just South of Auckland). 

There are stunning views from the cliffs that curve along the coastline, and equally stunning views just walking along the beach.  

New Zealand, like much of the pacific rim, was formed by volcanos and the landscape still reflects the cones left behind albeit now covered with giant ferns and native bush.

Some of these valcanos developed huge underground reservoirs of superheated water. There are a few fissures along this coast, one of which is a unique hot water spring that gushes right at the beach. A popular activity is to dig and create your own jacuzi-like pool for the day.  Not a bad way to spend a lazy afternoon.

I also found a wonderful local gallery called Moko that specializes in Maori designs. Moko is the Maori custom of tattooing, but with special meaning. The tattoos represent the individual's ancestral links, social structure and tribal affiliations. So each tattoo is unique to the wearer. I was told that New Zealand is the most tatooed nation in the world, which did not come as a surprise.

The gallery is full of art, jewelry and unique sculptures. The set below are large cement balls resembling tennis balls, or baseballs if you prefer, with an inlay of paua shells.  
These are roughly the size of exercise balls ... certainly one of the more unique sculptures I've ever seen. I spent most of my time looking through the jewelry, and specifically the greenstone. I just can't get enough of this stone! It is a jade, but it is unique to New Zealand with deposits of black flecks that I find striking. As you might image, I did plenty of shopping while in New Zealand for beads and carvings. What self-respecting beadaholic wouldn't?  I'm wearing my greenstone today to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, New Zealand style.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Discovering New Zealand: Bone, Stones and Shells

Several of you know that I've been traveling for a few weeks and have gone quiet on my blogging. All for good reason. I've been down in New Zealand visiting my sister who lives there. It's been 10 years since my last visit, so in some ways it was a whole new experience. 

I love exploring places, and nothing is better for me than starting at a local museum. It is a great way to ground youself in the culture, history and with any luck the jewelry. New Zealand is a jewelry jackpot. The native Maori are creative and prolific in their designs and use of symbols. The eternity twist design (pikorua) represents the lasting bond between two people in life. Even though people may move away, their paths will cross again --whether friendship, love or blood. 

I spent hours in the museum looking at the designs and various materials the Maori use to create jewelry. The large twist (above) is a natural New Zealand greenstone (similar to jade) and is simply stunning. It is scarce and expensive, so I didn't buy much of this stone. But I did pick up a few pieces. I couldn't help myself!

Over my few weeks there, I looked in local bead shops, galleries filled with original style and of course the Auckland Museum.  I was in search of materials to bring home with me to create a series of New Zealand inspired designs. There was no shortage of paua shell (left) which is New Zealand's version of abalone but with much deeper, richer colors. It came in all shapes and sizes. And I included a few simple shell beads to use as accents in patterns.  I also found bone carvings (above right) that I picked up with native New Zealand designs. The one above is called Hei-Matau (or fish hook), which means prosperity. Fish were so plentiful to the Maori that the simple ownership of a fish hook meant prosperity. 

I took lots of pictures, and have lots of ideas running through my mind about this stash. I'll post again soon to give more background and history on the meaning behind the symbols.  I can't wait to get started!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Do Overs: So What is Upcycling?

I have come across the term upcycling a number of times from my Etsy crowd. I see shops that sell upcycled products and blogs that talk about the things they make from upcycled materials.

So what exactly is upcycling? I set out to see how a product qualifies as being upcycled.

The concept was first talked about in 1994 by Reiner Pilz, a German who was upset that local demolition teams were not using reclaimed materials, but were instead smashing them for someone else to use in recycled products. He called recycling 'downcycling' because the materials are reprocessed, use a lot of energy to create and add to pollution. He noted that we should be 'upcycling' which reclaims existing materials in their current form - no manufacturing or process needed.

I went back through my items to see what I might classify as 'upcycling,' and found that I was upcycling some of my pieces.  I save earrings when I've lost one of the pair, I reuse charms from other pieces and I've recently starting including sea glass in settings.  One of my best tools is a silver polishing cloth.  Mine is black from use, but I have 'reclaimed' many a silver chain and pile of charms with this handy cloth.
1. Reclaimed silver chain, reclaimed silver cross in heart charm
2. Sea Glass with silver wire wrap on reclaimed silver chain
3. Reclaimed cat's eye earring, filigree, silver chain and clasp

AntiquityTravelers on Etsy