Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Off I go

Going to visit friends and (hopefully) pick up some new vintage beads. I'll be back next Thursday. Have fun!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Talented friends

I just listed two bracelets on Etsy that I made with Melanie from Earthenwood Studio's beads.

I adore her work. So many of her creations are colorful and fanciful, earthy, steampunky... I love her imagination, and how she continually finds new symbols and creates new pieces of art.

I made this bracelet for a friend of mine, and I ended up making a second one, just because I liked the first one so much.

It's awesome to have talented friends. It's great to watch them grow as artists. And it's even more awesome when they make beads that you can play with as well!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Where there's a want, there's a product

I have a selection of fantastic vintage Japanese glass links from the late forties/early fifties. They're flat and rectangular, with a floral design. The flowers are hand painted, but many of the colors are faded at this point.

I've always loved making earrings out of them, but it can be tricky, because the holes are a bit further from the edge than I would like. In some cases I've had to handmake French hooks because the loop on regular French hooks isn't large enough to accommodate the hole.

Recently I was going through my bead stash, and found the links again. "I would love to make earrings with these," I thought. But I remembered that they required handmade hooks, and so I put it off yet again.

A few days later I was paging through Rio Grande's extensive catalog when I noticed large loop French hook earrings.

Problem solved!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reexamining priorities

This week I've been pondering things. Big things. I've been wondering about my life, my business, my dreams, and my goals.

Some changes are around the corner, most noticeably a house purchase. Which makes me wonder how to sustain my business and even grow it. Questions have been buzzing in my head. Possible paths grow and diminish. I keep poking around my bead collection and my show inventory.

I hope that the way forward will reveal itself in five foot high blazing letters, but the reality is that the best path is probably hidden by brush, or in a different direction entirely.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Artistic cross-pollination

Right now I'm working on a commission for a musical artist whom I've never met. She called me to give details about herself, and I have a basic idea worked out and will be putting it together as soon as the chain I've ordered arrives.

It's always interesting to speak with someone who creates. This is why I've enjoyed blogging here so much; I've amassed a small list of fascinating artists, and I'm quite happy to read their daily tales of inspiration, creation, and washing the dog. To live in the creative realm takes courage.

What was interesting about the conversation is that she mentioned beekeeping as a matriarchal Celtic occupation, and it suddenly dovetailed with a song by Tori Amos that I love very much called "the Beekeeper." The words and thoughtful comments of another artist often stay with one, but not always as spoken; sometimes the subconscious current is what is the most important. Right now I am exploring locks and keys and feminine archetypes like mermaids and Medusa, but next week I might trip down the bee path. All because of chance encounters.

I have always liked Andrew Thornton of Green Girl Studios. I've met him at many shows and have had fun conversations (though short, unfortunately) with him many times. His entry of today revealed a gorgeous floating island painting. I remember seeing a beautiful landscape once with numerous floating islands, connected by bridges, with waterfalls surrounding them like veils. This painting made me think of that. Another chance connection that will spend time in the subconscious until it's ready to bloom into something new.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Finding time to create

It can be very frustrating to find time to sit down and actually design jewelry. The balance is rather delicate...too much time on the computer, too much time packing and shipping, too much time monitoring eBay, and it all adds up and I find myself at the end of a week where I haven't created a single thing.

I don't think I'll remedy this soon, either. Instead, my focus this week will be on my website, which has been sorely neglected. I need to work on getting photos together and going over the descriptions. I wish I had worked on it sooner, but setting up the Etsy shop took time, and I'm always working on eBay listings.

Hopefully I'll have some good news soon. If I can get the website open, it would be nice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why I love glass

I can't tell you how many times I've been to a show and had a customer pick up a strand of beads, ask what they're made of, and then drop them like a hot potato when they find out they're "just glass."

Glass has a long history. The Romans made beautiful glass objects, and made many innovations in the shaping and working of hot glass, including blown glass, mold-blown glass, cane glass, and mineral additions to create new colors of glass.

The Italians took glass to new heights, creating intricate layered beads and aventurine glass, in which copper is suspended within the glass to create a sparkly look.

Glass is available in many colors, which are created by altering the mix slightly, and adding mineral elements. Red, for example, is the most costly glass color to create, as it involves adding gold.

Creating glass colors is just as much an art as creating glass objects. Each color requires a "recipe" of sorts and experimentation as well. I have bought many beads that contain two-tone German glass from the fifties and sixties, and often it is impossible to recreate these colors nowadays. Either the recipe has been lost or the two colors that need to combined have different coefficients of expansion, meaning that they expand and contract at different rates and will not form a stable finished product.

This color is very nearly what is referred to as a "moonglow" color, which has clear and pastel opaque glass mixed together and appears to glow:

Here is another beautiful color combination of light pink and beige (these are modern flower beads made with vintage glass in a vintage mold):

Swarovski, which is incredibly popular right now, is glass with lead added to increase the clarity and create lots of sparkle when faceted.

These are tiny lampwork beads, barely a quarter of an inch long, that were created on mandrels with a handle at the end. The hot glass would be "wound" around the mandrel, which is why they are commonly called wound beads. It's almost impossible to find lampwork beads this small today. These are vintage Japanese from the late forties/early fifties.

I have long had a passion for glass. Glass beads can be a thing of beauty. In the end, it's the look and feel that matter most. Whether glass, semi-precious stone, pearl, paper,'s all in how you use it, and whether it speaks to you.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Finding inspiration

I am a beader who doesn't make beads, which means that I often look to others for inspiration and beautiful images. These Frida Kahlo components were fantastic, and I had such a wonderful time matching crystal colors to them. The artist who makes the components is terrific--she even creates images on the back by hand. I always adore artists who are aware of the special needs of jewelry designers. When I find components that are mirror-imaged I always jump for joy.

And how wonderful is it that she works just as hard on the back (that might not even be seen) as the front? Attention to detail always impresses me.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Still spiraling

Still a bit under the weather, and continuing my hermit behavior. I've made a cute necklace for a friend, and I'm going to try to work on some new earrings today.

Nautilus beads rock.

Also, serendipity can be a wonderful thing. I was about to order another pound of 20 gauge sterling silver wire, and found about ten ounces of it in my wire box. It was half-hard (I usually buy dead soft), but still, this means I don't have to order it, which is a great thing. I think I bought this when silver wire was still $5-6 an ounce.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Those special beads that are dear to one's heart

A few years ago I purchased a huge lot of vintage Czech crystal as a closeout. At the time, I was quite worried about the purchase. In general, I like to diversify, and I like to buy little pinches of things first to see if they'll sell before I commit to buying it all. However, this was before I started that buying philosophy, so I bought it and then thought, "What have I done?"

I've been listing four lots of them each week on eBay for the past three years. I originally had five containers of them; four containers of beads on strands, and one container of loose beads.

Earlier this year I transferred the container of loose beads into a smaller box.

This week I sorted everything in the box and ended up emptying it. I've divided the last of it into lots for eBay, and bagged the rest for my dollar bags at shows.

It's kind of bittersweet, really. These beads are from a different time. They're vintage Czech, hand faceted, in opaque pastel colors, some with AB coatings. I only have two shapes, rounds and bicones.

Here's an example of the pretty robin's egg blue:

Another example

Yes, some of them are faceted a little wonky, and some of them are chipped or have bubbles or other imperfections. But I've really grown to love them over the years, and I was a little sad as I bagged up the last bag. They're very special beads and they've definitely resonated with a lot of my customers. I'll miss them very much when they're gone. That's the bittersweet nature of vintage beads--once they're gone, they're gone.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Shells and spiraling inward

I've been home all week, as a kind of antidote to having been gone for 120 days of the first half of the year.

I have been under the weather, but I've still managed to work on some things, most notably my Etsy shop. I've added jewelry and beads there, which makes me feel like I've accomplished something. However, my work on my website still is lagging. I think that will be my weekend project.

I have made jewelry this week, which is very nice. Mostly nautilus bracelets.

I just can't seem to get enough of these nautilus beads. They're made in the Czech Republic with modern molds and vintage glass. The colors are fantastic. Unfortunately, I've run out of my favorite color, but the others are great, too. Even the fire-polish beads in between them are made of vintage glass.

Whenever I get a new bead that I really like, it ends up in nearly all my designs at first.

Hopefully I can continue in my creative hermit mode for a few more days at least!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Righteous jewelry.

This turned out almost exactly as I had hoped:

I'm almost a little sad about attempting to sell it. It's not often that I think of something and it nearly makes itself. I especially love the pearls in this piece.

The mermaid is from Green Girl Studios.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

And the experimentation continues.

So I found these awesome beads made from vintage glass, and I made totally awesome plans for them. They reminded me of seafoam, and I thought they would be perfect to pair with the sea charms I've just bought.

So I made a charm bracelet, which I posted before:

I wasn't happy with that one, though. The awesome beads just don't do very well in this sort of design; they stick up here and there. Plus, I didn't like the look of the charm chain.

So here is attempt #2, which was a little better but not quite right:

This chain is better, but still not quite right, though it does give it more freedom of movement. The long links aren't great--I wanted to add more little "sand" (picture jasper) rounds, but they look funny. I think I'll remove the two that are on this bracelet and sell it.

Attempt #3:

This makes me the happiest, though it still isn't perfect. But it's good enough that I will make a few more just like it for Etsy. I think the charms look a little long and lonely while it's being worn, which bothers me. But nothing I picked to help offset this really worked. If I add too many dangles to the oval links, they'll hang the wrong way because of the weight. I'd have to add something that was just the right length, because otherwise they dangle right next to the bead in the link, and that doesn't look right either. The other thing I don't like is the strict design--it's hard to make bracelets of differing lengths because of the oval pieces. I'll have to add small links of sand rounds to make it work.

Sometimes it takes a while for a piece to look "right" to me. That's part of the reason why I don't make a lot of new designs; this finicky design process really makes me obsessive. And I also keep thinking in the back of my head, "I could have made twenty pairs of earrings by now!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Today I'm taking more pics of jewelry and beads, hoping to find a setup which works. I've taken a few pics already through the doorwall, but the sunlight isn't strong enough. I might try a different window. Unfortunately, we only have two windows, so I have to cross my fingers about this.

I'm also hoping to look around and find some interesting settings for cabs:

They're approximately 12 x 9 x 4mm, and I'm hoping that it's a common enough size that I can somehow find funky vintage-style findings that will accommodate more than one. Like five. And while I'm at it, I'd like the Good Witch to come down and flick her wand and clean the kitchen.

I think that if I can find a funky setting for these, I might be able to sell them as part of a pendant. You see, I have pounds of these in several colors, and though they are selling, they aren't selling quickly enough for me. If I can find another product to incorporate them into it could be lots of fun. Maybe I can offer two kinds--do it yourself, where you buy just the loose cabs and the setting, or premade, where I put them in. I have a bezel pusher somewhere around here, and I suppose I need to find that as well...

Monday, September 1, 2008

A few more vacation pics...

These were all taken at Heritage Gardens in Cape Cod. I really loved taking pictures of the flowers; I have only taken pictures in my mom's garden before, so this was a pretty new experience for me. Y'all can tell that I was testing out my macro lens, I'm certain.

And here's a windmill for good measure.