Friday, 28 December 2012

Rhodendrons - OUT OF CONTROL!

My rhodedendron-flower necklace design got a little bit out of hand. I guess that's quite appropriate for rhodedendrons, which come into flower so suddenly and profusely that they almost seem vulgar in the sheer amount of pink and red blossom they suddenly produce from amongst their shiny-green leaves and then drop just as suddenly, covering the grass in a glorious carpet of discarded blooms.

This is how it all happened. You may prefer to skip the text and scroll through the pictures to see how the design got progressively OUT OF CONTROL, just like the rhodedendrons do in late spring-early summer.

I had been saving some large silver-coloured rings for ages and ages, having thought that they would be handy for making a multi-strand design. But what to put on each strand? I wasn't used to dealing with more than one strand at once. So I decided that the different strands would have different sorts of beads. I used my nectarine-coloured peanut beads for the first time and realised how cool they are. But I ran out of them too soon, which is where the grey flower-type beads came in.

Peanut beads are cool, especially in this nectarine colour
I chose some co-ordinating glass pearls for the bottom section, but then ran out of those too, so the last strand had to be rose-quartz nuggets with silver-cored seed beads. Then I added a few green beads in different shades, because that felt right for a rhodedendron necklace. You have to have leaves as well, you see. These things are important.

The red and pink rhodedendron-blooms wanted to join in as dangles, because it seemed such a waste of those big silvery rings not to have extra dangles hanging from them, and anyway they went with that nice pink ceramic pendant which wasn't originally going to be in the necklace but wanted to join in the fun. So, pink and red, yay.

Possibly, in retrospect, it was at that stage that things started to get a bit excessive.

Pink and red, yay.

But then, to top it all, I decided I wanted to add some extra green sections. Why? Just because it seemed to make sense together with the other green beads I had already put in.

Extra green sections. Just because.

By now the necklace had really and truly got out of control. At this point I just gave up so here it is in all its glory. It is long. And clanky. And, um, interesting. But it does look surprisingly good with drapey, loose-fitting clothes.

And, on the positive side, I now feel I have got red-pink-green out of my system (for the time being, anyway) and feel able to be a little bit more restrained for the next things I make.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone reading this :-)

Familyandfriends necklace
I bought this gorgeous ceramic pendant from MelonsBitz recently, and thought it would go perfectly with these lucite flowers that I'd found to remind me of the lovely weekend we spent earlier in the year with my youngest sister and her husband. The rhodendrons were in bloom, pink and red.

The necklace got more and more complicated in design, though - more of which later!!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Follow That Star

Today is the shortest day - or the longest night.

For me, this season is a time for reflection. About family, friends, old traditions and new beginnings. About love, faith and hope for ourselves and for the world. Each of us must follow our own star, even through the darkest night.

I was inspired by some slightly iridescent, deep indigo-coloured glass beads, which seem to me to have the luminous glow of twilight sky. The dark-grey seed beads are for the night sky, and the eighteen star-shaped bead caps, like the clasp, are "antique gold" metal (not real gold, alas). The colours have not really come out at all in this picture, taken in artificial light, but you can see the design pretty well, and the nice drape given by the flexible beading wire.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Femininity, pink, and power

 "Do the things you used to talk about doing but never did.
Know when to let go and when to hold on tight.
Stop rushing.
Don't be intimidated to say it like it is.
Stop apologizing all the time.
Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph.
Spend time with the friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down.
Stop giving your power away.
Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting.
Be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it.
Finally know who you are."

 - Kristin Armstrong.

Pink can be a problematic colour in some contexts, because it's so stereotypically feminine, and is associated with all sorts of expectations of stereotypical feminine behaviours - some of which this quote warns us to avoid. Many little girls my son's age appear at parties dressed entirely in pink, head-to-toe. And I know several women who avoid wearing pink because of the accompanying messages of little-girlhood. But, on the other hand, I also know some extremely tough and canny women whom I strongly suspect of deliberately wearing pink when they want to "fly under the radar" for their own strategic purposes.

So, anyway, this bracelet is a birthday present I made for my middle sister, who has always loved pink. It is based around some lovely handmade glass beads, which I've been hoarding for so long that I can't remember where I originally got them. I am particularly pleased with the way the small green accent beads have worked here.

The metal beads and components are all plated silver, so the bracelet feels pleasantly heavy and substantial on the wrist. The silver reflects the shine of the handmade beads, the glass pearls and the pear-shaped crystal. The clasp does look rather excessively huge on that shot above, though, because of the foreshortening. So, in the interests of accuracy, here's another picture of the design.

It is nice to make jewellery as presents. It always seems to turn out very different for different people.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Garden necklace

 I've been working on this necklace a while, but have only just recently put it all together with the help of a lovely clasp from Tanzee Designs that seemed just perfect for the design. What I like about it is that the beads in it remind me of my friends and family, or places that I've enjoyed visiting.

The dragonfly charm is from Kerrie Berrie Beads in Brighton. The little iridescent flower and the butterfly beads are from The Bead Master, Sydney. The green seed beads are (I think) from BeadWorks. The wooden beads are from The Bead Shop in Brighton. The turquoise beads are from Hobbycraft in Solihull. The ceramic disks are from a vintage necklace which I got at our local antiques fair. The cobalt blue foil beads and the red cloisonne beads are from PJ Beads. The metal filigree beads, and the large bead with the white background, are from the haul donated by my running friend.

I made the necklace in sections, with short stretches of beading wire attached at each end to the metal components (clasp parts or the filigree beads). Before, I'd worried about attaching beading wire to simple (non-wrapped) wire loops because the very thin beading wire might escape from the gap in the wire loops. However, I think with the weight of this necklace it will be ok. The crimps are the part of it most likely to fail. We'll see - the necklace is going out on a test-wear today!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Exciting new toy: hammer and block.

Yes, I know I'm several decades behind the rest of the world, but look, this is really exciting for me, so humour me here... I have got myself a hammer and block.

I have always loved the look of hammered spirals of silver wire. They look all uneven and handmade and interesting. When making jewellery, you're fighting a constant battle to differentiate your work from all that cheap, mass-produced stuff (some of the mass-produced stuff isn't even that cheap, but it's still not very well-made when you look carefully at it). Otherwise, really, you might as well shop on the high street and have done with it.

Investing in a hammer and block was a bit of a risk, though, because I obviously can't afford actual silver wire, so I have had to use silver-plated copper instead. And I was really worried that the copper would show through the silver-plating after hammering, thus rendering the hammer and block a total waste of money.

So tonight, slightly more noisily than I'd have liked, I made a "sampler" section of chain (just three beads on three pieces of wire, plus a practice connector at one end that you can't really see in this photo).

These beads were upcycled from a vintage necklace (where "vintage" = "found in local charity shop"; we're all about reducing our Bead Miles, round here).

Night photography + macro = camera shake. But you get the general idea.

If I hammer with the flatter part of the hammer, at least, you can't really see the copper wire showing through the silver.

I wonder if the copper might show through if I try adding texture - that might be actually quite a cool effect. I'll have to experiment with that one.

I'm quite excited about this: I've learnt a lot about design (especially colour) since I last did any real wire-work, so it'll be nice to compare with my older blog posts to see how my approach has changed since then. Watch this space!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Time out - followed by "time in" again

We've been having a few problems round here lately. I've had a lot of stress at work and I have had to take some "time out" from beading because there didn't seem to be enough hours in the day (you know the feeling?). But yesterday I was able to re-start making things again, just for a few hours, and it was GREAT. I felt so calm and happy to be able to think about crafting problems rather than those seemingly-insoluble problems I've been battling with at work.

The problem I've been enjoying thinking about is: what to make my youngest sister for Christmas? She has just got a swanky new job and asked for some bracelets that could look sophisticated enough to wear for work - not too chunky or dangly.

I'm not sure I've found the solution yet, to be honest, but I wondered about using seed beads. I haven't done any seed-beading for ages so I started with a simple spiral rope. I was aiming for a wave-ripple effect with a palette of blues (in four different tones and surface effects), and this worked quite well, but the bracelet ended up being a bit casual in the overall effect. So now it's time to go back to the drawing-board for her present! But hey, it's a start, after a long break. In my experience getting started is the important thing, so much so that it almost doesn't matter what you do.

Seedy beady wonderfulness
To explain the interesting mossy background in the picture: today my son and I went to a birthday party. It was one of those parties where the whole class (and a good number from the class above, too) got invited to a big party in the village hall where they had balloons, music and organized games, and it was CRAZY loud. My son didn't react very well to all the noise and commotion, and he needed quite a lot of input from me. We ended up having to have a "time-out" outside for five minutes - I didn't frame it as a punishment or anything, it was just so that he could calm down and have a bit of quiet. When we were outside I realised how tense I'd been and how he must have been reacting to that too.

While we were waiting, I took a quick picture of the seed-bead bracelet on the mossy wall. It was then that we both realised that it wasn't in fact the end of the world if he couldn't manage to take part in every single noisy game. I think he also realised that he hadn't let me down or anything, and that I understood how hard he'd found it. After that, he asked to go back to the party and, curiously, he behaved much better.

So: time-out can be a good thing. For grown-ups as well as small children.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

"I'll come to supper in a minute, I've just got to finish this drawing!"

My little boy has suddenly started to enjoy drawing. He draws with fierce concentration. It turns out that the reason he likes to hold his pencil in his fist is that he clenches it so hard that his hand muscles get achy!

I can't believe how recently it was that his drawings were just scribble.

This is a Diplodocus, whose neck is so long he can bend it right under his legs and peer up at you

This is an unnamed dinosaur with scaly skin

This is a knight on his horse

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Scared of the dark? Well, maybe just a little bit...

Upper image: Jolly Pumpkin (from a photocopied sheet). Lower image: Friendly Ghost (drawn by my son).
Now I'd never really liked Hallowe'en: I was rather a timid child with absolutely no desire to go into all that scary stuff, Things that went bump in the night and so on. Thinking about it now, though, I do wonder about this, because I used to love folk tales, ancient myths and legends, the bloodier and more magic-soaked the better - Greek, Norse, Irish, English, Welsh, and anything else I could find - with their glimpses of different, alien worlds and ideas.

My problem with Hallowe'en was, basically, that it was so very ugly: if you were a girl you would probably end up as a skinny, warty witch with missing teeth and birds-nest hair. As a whole, the concept did not seem to have much to recommend it from the point of view of a skinny, gap-toothed kid who had veruccas from the swimming-pool and hair that would never behave itself, no matter what you did with it.

But now? I see my four-year-old son and his need to tell stories through play on topics which puzzle him, things he needs to figure out in his head. Often these are the dark things that grown-ups don't like to talk about, like violence and death. So it's not at all contradictory that my son is scared of the dark, but that he loves Hallowe'en. He is mightily puzzled by death, and he loves ghosts. He particularly likes friendly ghosts (see his drawing, above - isn't it great?).

I now understand that we all sometimes need space to tell our stories about the scary stuff, to be able to look the Thing that goes bump in the night straight in the eyes and say F*** YOU.

And my hair still will not behave itself, no matter what I do with it.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

In Which We Discover That Tiggers Do Not Like Carrots

So, my son's class at school has done this amazing thing and helped to sponsor a Bengal tiger in Nepal.

In return, they were sent a small cuddly tiger, and so the children are taking it in turns to take Little Kamrita home with them for the weekend. We had the honour of being the very first family to host Little Kamrita, so we decided to take her to the museum so we could help her learn all about different sorts of animals (they have a whole floor dedicated to natural history - fantastic!).

Rather happily, the natural history floor also happens to house the museum cafe. Because Little Kamrita was our special guest, we treated her to a cafe-latte and a slice of the cafe's excellent carrot cake. Although then "we had to eat it for her because her teeth were rather new..."

Here is Kamrita saying with regal hauteur: "Carrots? Carrots? We are a tiger!" Sorry, ma'am.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Confusion about amber

So I'm coming to a few decision-points in my life.

As I don't seem to be able to make a decision, I've made a necklace instead - mainly upcycled from that haul of assorted costume jewellery that my marathon-runner friend gave me a while back. The theme is amber. It is quite a heavy necklace because the blue glass pearls and the amber glass focal are both pretty heavy, and there's a fair amount of metal in there too. The disc-shaped spacers are dark-brown wood, although in this picture they look almost black in the sunlight. They go well with the amber.

But what does amber mean, really?

Amber with red means: wait, but get ready to go.
Amber after green means: go, but get ready to stop.

Argh! It's too confusing! Am I coming or going?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

That blue. It gets in everywhere, you know.

I realised recently that I didn't have enough green necklaces! Which was clearly a serious deficiency, especially as green is one of my favourite colours. To redress the balance in my life, I decided to make a green necklace. However, it turns out that there is quite a lot of blue in there too now. I don't know how this happened, but blue often creeps into my jewellery when I'm not looking. How does it do that?

Here, you can see the necklace all draped over itself so you can see some of the beads in close-up. There are some gorgeous big green lentil-shaped glass beads from Yum Yum Beads in Leeds, the last of my white-on-grey-with-white-core spotty beads from the late lamented Bead Hive in York, some vintage acrylic ridged beads from the charity shop, and some actual real cracked agate from Ilona Biggins. Also some black Czech glass cubes from Preciosa, and some bright turquoise oval glass beads which I got on holiday last year in a knitting shop (as you do). Most of the rest (various small blues, and two silver foiled beads) are from the Brighton Bead Shop.

Here's a picture of it all laid out and looking a bit more necklacey. And really quite blue. Oh well.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Friends, flowers and tattoos

One of my friends from work is going through rather a rough patch at the moment, and I wanted to make her a bracelet to show my support for her. I took it round to give to her at the weekend.

It's mainly greens and blues, with a dash of orange for contrast. It has lots of natural motifs because I often see her wearing clothes with this type of design (although not bracelets, of course, because we're not allowed to wear bracelets at work). And when I gave it to her, it went with what she happened to be wearing that day!

In other news, one of my other friends is planning to leave her job in order to re-train as a tattoo artist. Good for her!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Blue sparkles

It turns out I have quite a lot of blue beads - but they don't seem to want to go into a big piece all together. I have however persuaded them to go into a pair of earrings, where they are moderately happy. My wirework is continuing to improve - slowly.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Stealth earrings and grey hair

I wore these little earrings for the first time today. They are a nice weight and length but it turns out that  the grey glass dangle at the bottom is quite a disturbingly similar colour to my hair - so they are maybe just that little bit too subtle. AKA - Stealth Earrings!

Still - if I'd done these again I'd have liked to try a more vivid colour on the dangle part, to match the vividness of the blues on the connector part. Either light blue crystal, or a contrasting colour in opaque like orangey-gold. As I don't have either of those things, these earrings are just going to have to stay stealthy, at least for the time being.

An alternative strategy, of course, might be to dye my hair a colour other than grey!

Monday, 20 August 2012

More things that grow

I like flowers and organic-type designs, so here's another one. All in all I am pretty happy with this design: like the plants that inspired it, it grew gradually and took a while to reach its final form. I decided not to use a headpin for the bottom dangle because this way I got to use the same wire for the upper and lower sections. I quite like the slight asymmetry between the two sides: it stops the earrings looking mass-produced.

Luckily the sun came out just as I took my photo, so you can see the faceted green beads quite well here.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Is this better?

I wasn't too sure about the mix of metals in that pair of earrings I showed you yesterday - so I popped into Yum Yum Beads (as I happened to be in town) and got some antiquified earwires instead.

What do you think? Better? Well, I think it's an improvement.

And then I used those brass earwires to make two new pairs of earrings. They were meant to be one super-dangly pair, but they decided they didn't get on so well with each other and wanted to be two separate pairs of earrings instead.

Well, it's cruel to force the two sets of beads together if they are happier apart, isn't it?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Hurrah for Someone Else, and their garden

So there I was, all stressed about school uniform (of all things!) and we were also mega low on groceries, so I decided to do something constructive and go out and get those groceries - the essential ones, anyway.

Outside, the sky was a deepening purplish-pink towards the horizon, and the last of the golden light was gently glowing on the golden fields; the leaves were dark against the yellow stone of the old houses, with splashes of rich colour from the garden flowers.

Basically, quite a few people round my way have really nice gardens.

Needless to say, my own garden seriously needs taking in hand - but I prioritise looking after my gorgeous little boy while holding down a more-than-full-time job. My garden trails well behind, a straggly and unkempt third.

So these earrings are officially inspired by... Someone Else's Garden! Thanks to all the anonymous gardeners for providing me with joy and inspiration from your carefully-tended, cleverly-planned gardens.

The metal is antique something (brass?) - it's softer metal than the silver-plated copper I usually work with, so I had to have a few goes before I got the wire-wrapping right. The hand-decorated white beads feel cool to the touch, so I think are glass. The large pink leaf-shaped Czech glass beads are fairly translucent when held up to the light, and also reflect light from their surface, so they don't dominate the earrings when worn. The larger, clear-looking beads are actually very pale blue faceted Czech glass, and all the seed beads have a golden core so there are little highlights of gold when the light catches them, like the last of the sun's rays catching the edges of the leaves in the garden.

So there's lots of movement and sparkle in these earrings, but the antique wire stops them from being overly gaudy.

I like them. They will remind me of long summer evenings and the tangled, unruly beauty of things that grow.

Sunday, 29 July 2012


My lovely friend gave me a huge stash of broken costume-jewellery that was left-over from a fundraiser she was doing for her local cancer charity.

It's a real treasure-trove! There's a huge range there, from plastic kitsch to art-glass beads.

I am going to have fun making it into something wearable again.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Still Here!

I've had a major work deadline recently which kind of took up all my headspace.

But last weekend I took my little boy to the Leeds City Museum which was surprisingly good - especially the animal gallery with stuffed animals, fossils and bones - including the Wortley Hippo, part of a dodo, and even some fossilised dinosaur poo. On the upper floor, they have the Ancient Worlds exhibition, including some good specimens of ancient Egyptian beaded jewellery.

And yay! I have my own bead-related news! We recently took a trip to the Birmingham Bead Shop which is in the Custard Factory, a very cool place. And I bought some lovely beads, including some volcanic lava beads and some extremely cute porcelain owls.

Watch this space for, you know, actual jewellery.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Summer stacking bracelets

I had lots of fun looking at the Wrapped Stacked Layered Bracelet Challenge blog-hop recently - it was so inspiring seeing all the creativity out there. But at the time I really didn't think I could ever make anything co-ordinating without becoming excessively matchy-matchy, which really isn't my look. There was also a lot of stuff with sari-silk and highly complex designs which were clearly waaaaay beyond my capabilities. But! But! Look at what I made!

This is the story of how it happened. It was sunny, and I was off work, and while my little son napped sweetly on the sofa, I started to dismantle a Christmas necklace I'd made. I loved how the silver beads in that Christmas necklace were now starting to get a little bit tarnished - you can't see it so well in these photos, but they're not shiny-bright silver any more, they look a little bit speckly and battered and altogether much more interesting.

Suddenly I realised these slightly-tarnished beads really, really needed to go with some animal-horn beads that I'd bought ages ago in Brighton. The bracelet wasn't quite long enough, so I added some colour with lampworked, green-blue little glass beads and some subtly speckled dark-green ones. Because the lampworked beads are handmade, they suit the irregularity of the horn beads.

I liked this so much, I immediately decided to make another with the last of my turquoise-y beads (also slightly irregular in size), with a red Czech glass heart for colour-contrast and some interesting brassy beads that had come from a find some time back from the antiques market. The technique I used for the heart dangle was the same one that I discovered worked well for the re-done leaf-dangles.

Then I realised these two bracelets could actually go together! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!! Now I can stack and layer!!! (Although, I still can't wrap with sari silk, mainly due to not actually having any sari silk, but that's a whole other challenge, right?).

And the weight of the dangles means that if you wave your arms around a bit, the bracelets tend to align with each other in the same way each time... which is kind of satisfying.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Fun with negative space

When I made these earrings I thought that the leaf-dangle parts needed re-working. The leaves were too thick to attach easily to jump-rings, so I decided to use wire instead. After a small amount of experimentation I figured out a figure-of-eight method for attaching them. I am pleased with how this turned out - this way of doing it somehow suits the shape of the leaves.

I enjoyed taking pictures of the different shapes the earrings made with their different sections. You cannot imagine how restrained I am being by only posting one of these.

 Yeah, it's possible to have a lot of fun with negative space on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Wirework and purple

Had a trip to London and had fun nosily looking at people's jewellery (although of course I had to pretend I wasn't, because you're not supposed to look at other people on the Tube).

I saw a gorgeous necklace made of turquoise seed-beads - it looked like a kind of coral reef. I wonder if I can make one like it somehow. It would be a lot of seed-beads, though, and take a long time.

Anyway, these earrings are a further attempt at non-messy wirework.  On those terms they were fairly successful. They were impractically long and kind of heavy for all-day wear, but I like all the beads in them and I am pleased with my wirework which is getting a bit neater. Maybe to make them a bit more wearable I will rethink the leaf-dangle parts. The blue-grey Czech glass beads right at the top are particularly nice, I think - you can't really see them in this photo but they are very pretty.

Won't post much more on this because it's late and I need to go to bed!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

When problems are successes, and successes bring problems

This weekend my parents came to visit. I wanted to give them some things which my son is too big for, in preparation for the planned visit of my sister, her husband and her baby (the youngest grandchild) next month. Next month! I'm getting really excited now and am counting down the weeks as they pass!

My mother brought me the necklace which I'd given her for Christmas, asking for a small repair - which was, happily, accomplished within seconds (it was not so much a repair as, shall we say, an optimisation). Actually I was pleased because the fact she noticed the problem and wanted it fixed is a sign she's actually been wearing it. She is not normally a very necklacey type person so this is a great compliment. In other words, very existence of the problem-that-needed-fixing meant that the necklace was in fact a success.

I made this necklace with Acculon beading wire (tiger-tail) because this bead shop, where I did a lot of my Christmas shopping, has loads of very nice beads but not the largest range of beading wires. But tiger-tail is actually not a bad choice for this necklace: it's so stiff that it holds its circular shape really well, and the beads are pretty light so the wire doesn't get kinked by their weight.

My parents also baby-sat my son on Saturday so that I could go to my friend's hen party, which was held at her new house. She lives in a tiny village on the top of a hill that rises all by itself out of the plain, topped by an actual Norman church, with green fields stretching all around as far as you can see until they merge softly into blue hills far in the distance. You approach the village down a single-track, winding road, with beautiful long-maned horses kept tethered by the roadside, grazing happily on the lush grass - honestly, it's just like a village in a fairy-tale. And her house is almost at the top of that hill, with wood flooring, white walls, lots of space everywhere, and very simple classic decor. It's really lovely.

I think I might have mentioned something along these lines to the bride-to-be, but she just laughed and said "well, it's so big that it takes ages to clean!" To be fair, I do agree that this is a major disadvantage of living in a big house. Even fairy-tale princesses have their own problems...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Little bird(s)

For these "little bird" earrings I decided to use my 0.8mm wire instead of 0.4mm, and to keep the wire-wrapping under rather firmer control this time! I've actually had these little red-white-and-blue millefiore glass beads for a while, and was wondering how to use them - and these cute little bird charms just seem to go perfectly. I think all the different components of these earrings in fact came via Beads Unlimited, although they were bought at different times, some online and some in the actual shop. Because I do like my bead shopping!

The brown beads, which are Czech glass, are shot with a yellow-brown shade, rather like tiger's eye quartz. It doesn't come out well in the first picture, so I took another photo using a different view. I like the contrast with the intense turquoise - it suits the time of year.

"Little Bird" is also a splendid song by Annie Lennox from the early 1990s  - see, the early 1990s weren't universally dreadful for music, were they? In this video, she was clearly having enormous amounts of fun hamming it up, and it didn't appear to matter a jot that she was seven months' pregnant at the time. Annie Lennox is, in general, extremely cool - musician, mother, political activist, charity campaigner... And her music reminds me of when I was young and firmly believed that women could do anything they liked in the world, as long as they really tried. That was highly naive, of course, but it was nice to grow up with that belief for a little while. And it's a good philosophy to have for oneself, anyway, even if it's not always strictly true in the real world.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Messiness: only to be attempted after mastering tidiness

I've seen lots of examples on others' blogs of "messy" wire-wrapping. Here's an example, by someone far more competent than me. It looks deceptively easy (sigh). But it's a lot harder, in the same way that playing jazz- piano is a lot harder than a nice regular bit of Haydn.

I decided to experiment with a similar technique for my new pair of earrings, using 0.4mm silver-plated  wire. I think I can say, with fairness, that the results were mixed. It does kind-of work, but not if you look too closely, especially with a Macro lens :-D

It might have gone better with thicker wire - but I wanted the earrings to be delicate and pretty, not all chonky-like.

Clearly, further practice is required!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Two heads are better than four

It's been a really rainy week here. Occasionally, it's been sunny in the morning, just to fool you into putting fine-weather clothes on, and then as soon as you leave for work - that's it! It's set for rain for the rest of the day. I didn't even go out for a run tonight: I like running in light rain, but not when it's absolutely tipping it down. The raindrops cover my glasses and I end up running into lamp-posts and the like.

Anyway I decided I needed a bit of cheering up - so here are my Happy Earrings!

They're made from a mixture of factory-made beads (on the top half of the dangle; the interesting rhomboid-shaped ones are Preciosa Czech beads) and hand-made beads (on the bottom half of the dangle - I like the irregular shapes of those ones at the bottom). It's a bit of a random selection, but I really liked the way the colours and textures went together.

I wanted two dangle sections for swinginess, and because the beads are so non-matchy I wanted to make each section out of the same sort of wire. In the end I went for the easy solution: I took four headpins and beheaded two of them! What do you call a headpin without a head? A pin, I suppose...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Baby steps, baby blues

I do like blues. Did I say that somewhere already in this blog? Never mind, it's true.

These earrings are made from two sweet, slightly-mismatched little Czech glass hearts, paired with little crystals that my sister gave me. I named my son after her, by the way. Or I named her after my son. Or something. I think actually time short-circuited itself somewhere because I get those two names mixed up all the freaking time, even though I actually know they are different people.

Anyway, enough talk about baby names and back to the earrings. For a change, my wire-wrapping here was actually quite neat (woo! maybe I am getting better at this wirework thing after all - baby steps!). I made these earrings small and light because these sterling earwires can be a bit bendy and I didn't want the earrings to fall out and get lost.

My next aim is going to be to try hammering wire to make it stronger. The problem is, most of my wire is silver-plated copper, and I predict that it might look rather rubbish when hammered. Maybe I need some different wire... Hmm, I can feel a shopping trip coming on!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Stoney asymmetric necklace

This is the necklace I worked on for ages - I mentioned it in my post "On having things in progress".

This is made from a combination of handmade beads (the opaque purple and green beads, the gold-streaked black beads, and the lampworked spotty bead on the dangle section) and high-quality Czech beads (the green hearts, the crystals, and the purple veined cube beads). The two long silver beads are upcycled from a very special, handmade, baby-safe necklace which I used to wear a lot when my son was very small. I guess that's why I spent so long trying to get this right.

I like the design of the main section - it has a nice heavy, drapey feel - but I am not convinced I have got the dangle section quite right; it has to be light enough not to pull down too much on the main section, but interesting enough to balance out or complement the main section. I wonder now whether just a single silver charm pendant might have been better. Still - I can always wear this for a bit and switch the dangle section for a new pendant (possibly a handmade silver one I bought on Folksy ages ago) pretty easily, since I just used jump rings to attach everything.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The funky dangly earrings

Right... have had a chance to quickly photograph the funky dangly earrings.

The leaf charms were chosen by my sister when we were shopping in Australia, so of course they were the most important part of the earrings and I designed the rest of the earrings around them. The vivid turquoise and contrasting red are inspired by the bright colours and crisp dark shadows you get in Australia.

I originally planned three-section earrings with the leaf at the bottom, for maximal dangliness, but then I thought it would be nice if the leaves could hang as a backdrop to the three (brass / twotone / turquoise) beads, which looks a bit more organic and informal. Above that, in the top section, I reflected this arrangement but I substituted turquoise crystals for the brass beads, because crystals catch the light so nicely on earrings as they swing around.

I'm pretty pleased with these, they hang nicely... I will ask my youngest sister whether she would like these for her birthday, since she chose the charms herself.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

On having things in progress

I like having things in progress. Although, also, I like finishing things. This invariably creates a tension which I'm not very good at resolving.

This is what I have got in progress at the moment.

1. I am making a pair of funky, dangly earrings using brass, green, turquoise and those cool two-tone glass beads which I seem to be slightly obsessed with at the moment.

2. I am designing an asymmetric necklace with a sort of stoney, organic, irregular feel. This is taking a while because the design is more challenging than most of the ones I've made before. I keep trying to improve it, but I've hit a kind of block with it.

3. I am also starting to design another pair of earrings. I can't quite get them right, either. This is taking a long time, which is annoying.

4. I am tidying out the spare room. This is also taking a long time. It's like an archaelogical dig, except of course much more emotional.

5. I am cooking the potatoes.

It is good to cook the potatoes sometimes. It gives you a sense of achievement.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Wibbly wobbly seed beading attempt

I made these earrings following a pattern in (I think it was) Bead and Button. My son had the idea of displaying it hanging from the hole in a CD, which made a nice picture. But I did take another photo to show you the lattice-like back of the earrings, too:
I am not sure what the Bead and Button beaders would have thought about my efforts here - these certainly aren't as neat-looking as the ones in the magazine. In fact, I would say that my attempt is distinctly wibbly wobbly, although luckily you can't tell that so much when looking at them from the front. Also, somehow they did not turn out exactly as I had thought they would: when you actually wear them, they are rather too unsubtle. I think in retrospect maybe a more interesting colour for the crystals would have been better; also, possibly not using sixteen crystals per earring might have helped too!

Trouble is, it always takes me so long to do seed beading that now I want to keep these earrings just to prove that I finished them. So here they are. Wibbly wobbly beading and all.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Spring flowers bracelet

The spring flowers are coming out in force now around our village, with profusions of golden daffodils. I've got a few pieces on the go at the moment; this is the only one I have actually finished so far! I designed this bracelet around a lampworked focal with pale pink and blue "flowers" beneath the surface against a dark blue background. You can kind of see it in this picture here, but in real life it has a lot more depth to it. I am ashamed to say I can't remember where I bought this bead; I think it was from someone at the Bead Fair. Now that I'm blogging, I'm going to try and keep better notes of who I buy my beads from!

I used a dark-pink glass pearl and a bright blue bead to match the colours in the focal bead. Previous bracelets that I had made from beads of this size had suffered somewhat from lack of flexibility - in retrospect, they might have been better strung on elastic rather than beading wire. So this time I decided to use a mixture of different small "spacer" beads between each of the larger beads: tiny glass pearls, gold-coloured spacers and glass beads with a peach-coloured core (from Viking Loom again, did I mention this is one of my favourite shops in the world?). So of course I had to use my last gold-plated clasp to complement the gold spacers. The warmth of the gold also goes very nicely with these shades of pink.
I found two pink lampworked beads; their weight balances out the lampworked focal so that the bracelet hangs evenly. I added in a couple of very pale pink glass beads, and two trios of iridescent leaf-shaped beads (which are a similar dark-blue shade to the dark blue background in the focal).

With the small spacers in the design, the bracelet is quite drapey and feels nice to wear; I was careful not to put too much tension on the beading wire this time. The colours also work well; the bright blue really "pops" out amongst the pinks and golds. It is quite good for a bracelet to have the different shapes and textures of the beads: you can fiddle with them during boring moments!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Doesn't this make you want to make polymer clay beads?

Rebekah at Tree Wings Studio is doing a giveaway of some of her polymer clay beads. They are so gorgeous! My favourite is her "sleepy woodland creatures" set. Don't they make you want to make polymer clay beads yourself? But you know, I remember trying to make beads out of Fimo when I was a kid, and they never came out anything near satisfactory.

From Rebekah's giveaway at Tree Wings Studio
But! That was in the days before the internet! A quick googlesearch (and I'm posting the links here for my own reference) reveals several websites with tutorials and instructions for making polymer clay stuff, from a basic intro to polymer clay, a description of basic bead-making, a blog with lots of clear tutorials, and even a polymer clay "encyclopedia". Gosh there is a lot of information out there... but look! there's even a guild of British polymer clay artists!

Well, this is all very exciting, and I might get into polymer clay one day, but I'm getting waaaaaay ahead of myself as I also love glass beads and the way they both transmit and reflect light. Back to the beading table...