Monday, September 15, 2014

And the winner is....

(I was supposed to post this last night but my continuing bout with bronchitis and the incessant coughing I've been doing has made it very hard to concentrate. I am so sorry!!)

Congratulations to Tara Leiterman! You've been chosen to receive a free copy of Cindy Wimmer's terrific book The Missing Link. An email is on its way to you.

Happy Monday!

Until next time -

Explorations in Chainmaille: Scalemaille

Back at Bead Fest, I purchased a few chainmaille kits from HyperLynks.  There are so many weaves I want to learn and kits are the best way to do this.  HyperLynks carries a wide variety of kits and they all come with instructions, quality rings and findings.  You just need to supply the pliers.
They had a kit for a scalemaille bracelet and earrings (in an assortment of colors) and I knew I had to give it a whirl!  
The instructions were very clear and I was off and running in no time.  Now keep in mind, this is also rated as a beginner kit and once I got the hang of the pattern I whipped this piece up in an evening.  
I went a little crazy and didn't realize just how long I was making the bracelet.  Once I stopped, I noticed it was far too long for my tiny wrists.
I removed a section and finished the bracelet off with a lobster claw clasp.
The kit actually came with instructions for a more dangly pair of earrings but I decided to make earrings with the sections I removed from the bracelet.  

I highly recommend the kits from HyperLynks.  Next up, I'll be learning Helm's Weave.  Stay tuned for a blog post on that in the near future!

Happy Beading!

Diana P.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Making WoolyWire

I often get asked what goes into the creation of WoolyWire. What may on the surface seem like a simple product actually entails many steps, from processing the raw fiber to the final application on wire. I'm going to let my daughter Nellie Thomas - the creator of WoolyWire - describe the process for you in her own words. I think you will find it as fascinating as I do. ~ Karen

Obtaining and Preparing Fiber

The first steps involve cleaning and preparing fiber. Most of the fiber comes from wool, from sheep like the one in the photo below.  I obtain fleeces from fiber shows, and I also reserve fleeces every year from sheep that I know produce good wool. The ones I like to reserve are at Nistock Farms in Northern NY. My two reserved sheep are Pearl, a full-breed Cottswold, and Ash, cross-breed Cottswold / Border Leicester (I don't have pictures of Pearl and Ash, but below is a picture of Duke from the same farm). When sheering time comes, I am guaranteed fleeces from my reserved sheep. I also use other fibers, like angelina, bamboo, and silk.

Fleeces ready to be processed.

Once I have cleaned the fiber, I sort it and prepare it for dyeing. In addition to wool, I dye other fibers as well, such as bamboo and silk.

Next, I sort all my dyed work start assembling color and texture palettes. This is preparation for making an Art Batt...

Making a Art Batt

Here's a picture of my drum carder; the fiber is placed either in the tray in which the smaller drum will pull the fiber onto the larger drum or the fiber can be placed directly onto the larger drum. Typically finer fibers such as angelina, bamboo, or silk will be placed directly on the larger drum:

This is the fiber gathered in preparation for making the batt; it is helpful to plan a color scheme ahead and have all of your fiber ready next to the carder:

Here is what the fiber looks like once I have it all on the drum carder; it is a lot like painting!

Here is what the batt looks like having just been taken off the carder:

Here is the batt being prepared to be rolled for neatness:

Finally, here is the batt in its final stage, ready for spinning:

Spinning WoolyWire

I don't have a picture of the above batt made up into WoolyWire... but here is a different one I made and the Woolywire I spun from it:

My trusty spinning wheel... and my mom's pup Casey. =)

Next I felt the WoolyWire so that the fiber stays put on the wire. Then finally, comes cutting and packaging.  Lots of steps from sheep to final product, but so much fun to see the end result.  I especially love working with color. I hope you enjoyed this little behind-the-scenes glimpse of WoolyWire!

Quick and Easy Photo Editing

Somethings in the beady business are always evolving and changing for the better… I feel like just when I reach a point I'm happy with something, I come back a few days later to realize that there's one more thing I could do to make it even better. Right now that something is my shop and blog photography.

I'm in the process of adding a lot of new beads and components to my shop and re-photographing many of the older ones. There are sometimes slight changes in my bead-making technique or painting… or (very annoyingly!) one of my favorite polymer colors gets a remake by its manufacturer and I'm no longer able to create a color that I loved using… so it's back to photographing!

I do almost all my photography outside, only coming indoors and photographing by a bright window on the very coldest days of winter. Most of my photos need very little editing, but occasionally, try as I may, even going out at the same time every day, there are lighting variations in my photos that I dislike. Some would say that I should use a light box… and I know I could, but I will argue that the fresh air is good for me and I'm just not all that interested in making one… and have no intention whatsoever of buying one either.

So… I turn to my trusty Photoshop on these days and use it's magic…

Since I use a white background for most of my photos, making adjustments is super easy! And here's a peek at how I do it…

And you're done! Pretty easy, right?

See the difference? 

This little bunny was one of my most stubborn beads to photograph, ever!

And many photos don't take much editing at all, but I do like consistency. :-) 

And the end result…
a shop with more nice bright white photos… and a happy me!

I don't at all claim to be a Photoshop pro, and there may be other ways for doing these things (other Photoshop techniques, new camera, light box, etc, etc…) but if I can make it work for me, then so can you! And after all, if you make pretty things, why not show them to the world in pretty photos?!

What things in your creative process do you feel you are always working on? Are you like me and you keep striving for the best it can be, feeling like there's always another level to reach? Do share!

Rebekah Payne

Friday, September 12, 2014

Digging Into The Bead Fest Stash

Anyone who has been to a big bead show knows the excitement of coming home with a handful or a truckful of new beads.  Well maybe not a truckful, but lots of new treasures.  For a few days you just stare at them lovingly and fondle them tenderly.  But eventually the urge to create overcomes you and you start to dive in.

I was exhausted after Bead Fest and spent a couple of days mostly alternating between bead fondling and napping (wherein I dreamed about beads and beady friends). But then the creative urge surged again and I was off and running.
Earrings by Linda Landig Jewelry, Beaded Beads by Sue Beads.

So this week I began wondering what my fellow AJE team members had been doing with their new Bead Fest treasures.  I hope this bit of eye candy will inspire you to pull out your own new (or old) beads and give yourself the gift of some creative time.

Lesley went on an earring making binge!
Earrings  and bronze bead caps by Thea Jewellery. Teardrop headpins by Sue Beads. Enamel pieces by Ann Gardanne.  
Melissa made these striking earrings for our August Component of the Month Challenge.
Earrings and textured copper components by Melismatic. Leather feathers by Tree Wings Studio. Headpins by Glass Addictions. 
Jenny also combined her metalsmithing skills with some Bead Fest treasures.
Riveted and impressed copper by Jenny Davies-Reazor.  Pewter drops by Green Girl Studio.
Diana fed her passion for chainmaille by stocking up on supplies while at Bead Fest.
Bracelet by Suburban Girl Studio, with a chainmaille kit from HyperLynks.
 Have you been to a bead show recently?  What was your favorite purchase?  What did you create with it?  Do tell!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Autumn, Acorns and Oaks

Since returning from my vacation to the USA ten days ago I have noticed a certain autumnal feel to things here in the UK...the days have been sunny and warm but there is a definite freshness to either end of the day and nature is beginning to signal autumns arrival. This really is my favourite time of the year so I'm definitely ready for the change in seasons.

I've also been photographing seasonal acorn and oak leaf beads this week and it got me thinking about these natural forms we seem so attracted to and  I thought it might make for an interesting post. Well it didn't take much googling to work out there is an enormous amount of information on the subject - much more than I could ever do justice to here. So instead I've included some fairly random but interesting snippets and I've added some links at the bottom should you wish to find out more and of course, I've included some lovely examples you might want to use as inspiration for your jewellery designs.

Detailed of carving on choir screen, Lincoln Cathedral
The Oak Tree and acorns have long been venerated in many cultures as symbols of power, strength endurance and nobility. Many rulers wore crowns of oak leaves to signify their connection to the gods and oak crowns were presented to victorious Roman generals on their return from battle. Oak leaf regalia is still used as a symbol of rank and leadership in the military today.

The oak is is also often  linked to legends of deities that typically had control over thunder, lightning, and storms. The Celts, Romans, Greeks and Teutonic tribes all had legends connected to the mighty oak tree. Druids held rituals in oak groves and believed mistletoe found on oaks to be evidence of a god appearing there via a lightning strike. In Norse legend, Thor sat beneath an oak to shelter from a storm and it is a custom in some Nordic countries to place an acorn on a window sill as protection from lightening strikes. In Classical mythology, the oak was a symbol of Zeus and his sacred tree.
In Celtic symbolism the mighty oak embodies wisdom through it's towering strength and it's size was seen as a clear symbol of this and therefore to be honored. The wearing of oak leaves was also a sign of special status among the Celts and is often depicted in the images of the 'Leafman' which we see today.
Laurels Fairy Doors on Etsy
Because the acorn only appears on a fully mature oak, it is often considered a symbol of the patience needed to attain goals over long periods of time and the need for periods of rest or dormancy. Small but hardy It represents perseverance and hard work in alignment with the seasons hence the saying "mighty oaks from little acorns grow"   

During the Norman Conquest, the English carried dried acorns to protect themselves from the brutalities of the day. Considered to be an emblem of luck, prosperity, youthfulness and power, the Acorn is a good luck symbol which also represents spiritual growth. There was a custom in parts of great Britain for young girls to wear an acorn around the neck as a talisman against premature aging.

I happen to live near to the 'New Forest' which became a hunting ground for William the Conqueror of the aforementioned Norman conquest and some of the people who live there are still entitled to certain 'verderers'  (commoners) rights. One of these called "Common of Mast' occurs during the autumn 'pannage' season and at this time New Forest Commoners can put their pigs out to forage freely on acorns and Beech masts. This free feast fattens the pigs up nicely but also provides a valuable service by clearing acorns before the ancient breed of New Forest ponies can get to them...while harmless to the pigs acorns are potentially deadly to the ponies.

These symbols have also been used in more modern concepts as with this commemorative Olympic £5 coin featuring a depiction of an oak leaf and acorn with the London 2012 logo incorporating the Olympic Rings.

’The common English Oak and acorn are powerful symbols for strength and endurance. The quotation “To strive to seek and not to yield”, is by Lord Tennyson and many Olympic and Paralympic athletes share these qualities in their plight for glory.’
Shane Greeves, Designer
Royal Mint

So there you go - a few interesting facts about oaks and acorns and they are of course beautiful in their own right and a great source of inspiration for designers as you can see here (click on the images for links)...

Some of my own interpretations to be listed shortly..
Cabachon by Sculpted Windows on Etsy
Enameled oak leaves by Gardanne Beads on Etsy
J Davies-Reazor on Etsy
Gwydion's Garden on Etsy
MoosUpValley Designs on Etsy
Kristi Bowman Designs on Etsy
JettaBug Jewellery on Etsy
Angelas line on Etsy
Blueberri Beads on Etsy
Suburban Girl on Etsy
Resource links:

The Gossiping Goddess