Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Drove of Hares

I've been really excited about our first Component of the Month Theme Challenge!  Rabbits have always had a presence in my life - from breeding Angora's for fiber when I was a child, to fostering indoor rescue rabbits as an adult, to collecting every soft floppy stuffed bunny I can find.
Me, age 10, with two of our baby Angora rabbits.
To inspire myself for the hare challenge, I raided my stash for all the hare and bunny beads that I've gathered over the years.  I'm sharing them with you today, but don't forget about the reveal blog hop on Tuesday, March me, you will want to see what everyone has been up to!
Stone rabbit fetishes - carnelian, sodalite, picture jasper and moss agate.
I love carved stone animals - and this little carnelian rabbit is one of my earliest acquisitions.  Anytime I find a selection of them in a shop, bunnies are the first thing I look for!
Old bronze Chinese rabbit seal/stamp, and a modern pewter button.
A few years ago I bought a lot of old bronze Chinese seals on Etsy - and this little rabbit just happened to be one of them!  The pewter button was a gift from a friend...and reminds me that I really need to get some Green Girl Studios rabbits!
Porcelain spiral hare cab by Laura Mears, prancing hare raku lentil by Blue Berri Beads, Chinese porcelain love bunny.
Laura Mears has become so popular it's really challenging to purchase her components...but it was so worth it when I managed to snag this gorgeous hare!  Our own Caroline recently sent me one of her raku hare lentils too - I'm loving every artist's interpretation of these animals!  
Carved bone rabbit head, leaping hare shell cabochon, carved bone bunny bead, Chinese lampwork albino rabbit head.
I love the detail that bone allows in carving - this carved bone rabbit head ended up being the inspiration for my entire piece this month.  The shell cab reminds me of the white bunnies in Goodnight, Moon...perhaps an idea for a piece in itself!  And someday the albino rabbit head will be a Alice in Wonderland inspired necklace...oh, speaking of everyone's favorite fictional rabbits...
Laser cut wood by PorkChopShow.
This selection of Alice in Wonderland illustrations (and a vintage bunny too) are laser cut wood from PorkChopShow on Etsy.  He has a great selection of weird and whimsical images...but I couldn't resist the Alice pack!  Someday I will make awesome necklaces out of all these cabs!  Can't you just see the heraldic White Rabbit with a fringe of red hearts?
Sneak peek of my project this month...
I hope you will all be around on Tuesday to check out everyone's wonderful creations!  I know I can't wait to see what everyone has been up to!

Until then, 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

April Component of the Month Giveaway!

Hello everyone! It's time for another Component of the Month giveaway and I'm so excited to be hosting for April's challenge! Up for grabs are my brand new little wood heart beads!

I hand shaped each heart in polymer clay and carefully stamped both front and back with a weathered wood impression that I made a while back.

On the side, to make them extra special, I carved the word "love".

I painted them in my favorite rustic copper brown color and a brand new color: sea-washed grey, to mimic the look of driftwood. Perfect to add a touch of woodland charm, sea-worn shabbiness, and rustic beauty to your new jewelry creations! Each one is about 18mm by 23mm long.

Want to play along? Here are the rules…

  • I will giveaway 1 heart bead in the color of your choice to each of 3 winners selected randomly from those who leave comments below this post. Your comment must included your EMAIL address so we can contact you should you win.
  • Please — only leave a comment if you can commit to creating a finished piece and blogging about it on the reveal date.
  • The names of the 3 winners will be announced on Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
  • This giveaway is open to US and international countries, but please be aware that international addresses will have longer postage times… sometimes up to 3 weeks.
  • The blog reveal will take place on Thursday, April 30, 2015.

Good luck and happy creating!

Rebekah Payne

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lampwork Tutorial: Faux Aqua Terra Jasper!

Waaaay back in the beginning of 2009, I saw a photo of a jasper called aqua terra!  I loved it.  I had to make it into lampwork beads!  This is a photo of the first set of Silvered Aqua Terra beads I sold on etsy in January 2009!

My first Aqua Terra beads on Etsy, Jan. 2009

I thought today I'd give you a tutorial of how to make your own, if you're a lampworker!

Materials Needed:

Rod of Light Ivory (Effetre)
Rod of Light Teal (Effetre)
Sheet of Silver Foil
Marver of your choice
Bead Press of your choice

First, cut your silver foil.  I cut the sheet in eighths.  This gives a nice portion of silver foil for an 18mm size bead.
Cut your silver sheet into eighths.

Next, get your bead press ready.  In this example, I am using a Zoozii's straight-sided lentil press, the middle 18mm size.
Get your bead press tool ready!

First, wind your footprint onto your coated mandrel.  Wind it on and hold it above your press, to make sure you are slightly smaller than the diameter of the well you are using.
Gather your glass on your prepared mandrel.
Check the fit of the glass in the well.

I usually roll the gather of glass in the well to make sure there's enough/not too much glass and to get the general shape of an olive. If you need to, add or take away glass.
Add more glass if needed.

Once you have enough glass, leaving enough room to add a little bit more, make your initial press.  Don't do it so hard that you break your bead release.
Check your glass in the well again.

You do not have to press your glass into the lentil shape if you think you have enough glass - if you aren't sure you can press the shape.
Press into your shape to make sure you have enough/not too much glass.

At this point, you can take your glass blob back to an olive shape, As you can see, I have my silver foil all ready and waiting for me!  Next, you want to slightly heat your glass and roll it in the silver foil, making sure to go all the way around the glass.
 Wrap your glass with a piece of silver foil.

Next, burnish in the foil.  Burnishing is rubbing the foil into the glass so it sticks very well.  You can do this with a tile, a marver, or your torch mounted marver.
Burnish the silver foil into the glass.

Then, you want to put your blob back in the flame, and you slightly melt off the silver foil.  This is what it looks like after you burnish and put the glass back in the flame.
Melt the silver foil into the glass at the top end of the flame.

Now, you want to add some squiggles of light teal.  As much or as little as you want, keeping in mind you are going to have to press the glass again and don't want to have too much.  You can always add more teal, it's harder at this point to take it away!
Add teal glass to silvered glass.

Melt in the teal and press the bead again in the bead press.  You can see from the photo below that you will have some chill marks (chill marks are the marks you get on your bead when you press it, and as the bead cools very quickly in the press, you get marks from the press).
Press your bead, check for chill marks.

Flame polish your bead to get rid of the chill marks.  If you flame polish too heavily and lose definition on your bead, you may want to heat, press again, and then flame polish again.
Flame polish bead, put in the kiln!

This is the finished bead!  Of course you can do these beads in many shapes, as I show below.

 Bicone-shaped aqua terra beads
 Lentil-shaped aqua terra beads
 Ribbed round-shaped aqua terra beads

If you aren't a lampworker but love these beads, I have them available in my etsy store, and I'll be happy to make you some if they sell out!

Thanks for checking out my tutorial today!

Susan Kennedy
SueBeads Etsy Store
SueBeads Web Store
SueBeads Blogspot

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Simple Leather Bracelet Tutorial

A little while ago my fellow AJE team mate Caroline sent me some gorgeous Greek cast metal closures and charms with a lovely verdigris patina. They just screamed out leather bracelet and I thought I share this simple summery design with you today...

Mykonos cast hook and eye clasp set
Mykonos Charm (optional)
7" 6mm leather cord (or length to fit wrist)
2 x 14" pieces copper wire 18SWG/16AWG
1 large hole bead
Flat/round nose pliers
Wire cutters
Clear Epoxy adhesive
6mm mandrel/knitting pin/leather scrap

Step 1
Take one piece of wire and wrap around your mandrel 10 times making sure it's not too tight so that you can remove the wrapped piece from the mandrel and get it onto the leather.

Step 2
Using round nose pliers take the end of the wire and begin turning a coil in the wire. Transfer to flat nose pliers and continue coiling until you have 3 rings.

Step 3
Continue wrapping the wire around the mandrel until the coil is level with it. Press the coil flat against the wrapped wire as shown. Trim the tail end of the wire on the underside with the coil on top.

Step 4
Repeat steps 1 to 3 to create a second piece that mirrors the first.

Step 5
File or sand out any tool marks and use LOS to oxidise both pieces together with a jump ring if you're using a charm. polish back with wire wool, tumble or polish.

Step 6
Thread the bead onto the leather and thread a copper element on either side. Make sure the focal element is centred then gently press the ends of the wires on the underside into the leather to stop any movement, taking care not to mar the leather on top.

Step 7
Use epoxy adhesive to glue the closure fittings onto the leather taking care to line the hook and eye up. Leave to dry.

Step 8 - Optional
Use the jump ring to attach a charm to the eye section of the clasp.

And that's all there is to it...

I actually decided that this particular charm was a little too large and I left it off so this is my finished bracelet...

I've been wearing this since I finished it and it's very comfortable. I really like it as it is but if you want to add a charm there are smaller versions available like these cute little shells.

Supplier list
Mykonos components - The Artisan Bead Compan
6mm leather cord - Cords and Wires
Lampwork Bead - Studio Juls     
Copper wire -  

Happy creating!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stepping out of my comfort zone just a bit.

There have been an abundance of amazing posts from our team so I was getting a bit nervous about keeping up with the high standards you are used to from us.  Funny thing is I have been worring about this measuring up thing in all aspects of my life and it is even getting on my own nerves.  No more of this and to really put a stamp on this I went out of my comfort zone with beading with the help of the new Beadwork magazine.

I saw this piece designed by Lanai Kinsky. frankly I have been wanting to combine beadwork and metal for a long time but if you know anything about my ventures into anything wire related you know this really tested me.

I knew instantly that I already had the focal key but not this type.  At Beadfest I was lucky enough to snag one of Jennifer's keys.  I have actually loved each and every one she has shown even when she said she didn't.

First test was to break the "bead ban" and get the supplies needed.  It was easier to say yes to these supplies because I do not own chain, links or clasps like these.  Waiting is the worst part when ordering beads isn't it?

After the findings arrived I had to get over the fear of using them.  I am someone who worries about every little edge on beads and if they will snag the thread and how many passes I will need to make to make it secure.

Working with Lanai's pattern was a bit of a challenge too.  Because of publication restraints there are key hints and tips that can not be included.  Once I figured them out on my own these components were a breeze to stitch up which was really good as I had the stomach bug while making it.  Only able to sit upright for long stretches.

Here is my finished piece.

So what did I learn?  First I like chain.  I will have to get more.  Second I really really like long necklaces.  I think they can dress up a plain t shirt and honestly they make me smile.

Have you ventured out of your comfort zone lately?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Recommendation: Maker Magic by Connie Fox

If you've spent any time in Facebook groups or other online jewelry forums, you've probably encountered a post from someone who feels their work has been copied. These threads usually get pretty passionate, with most commenters jumping enthusiastically and firmly onto one side or the other of the discussion - and sometimes things get downright ugly. Add to the mix that there is rampant confusion about copyright issues and what is or isn't protected, and it's clear we would all benefit from learning how to develop our own unique voices.

Is there such a thing as "too unique"?
Earlier this year, AJE team member Karen Totten did an excellent and comprehensive post on the idea of "style" in art jewelry. It kicked off a series of conversations among AJE team members about how we came to our respective styles and what we do to keep them from becoming static or stagnant. I'll be honest: I've really struggled to find a style that isn't derivative of the work of other metalsmiths out there. I know what I'm drawn to, but I'm not often sure why. And as I've written about before here and on my own blog, the prospect of writing an artist's statement induces a near-immediate rush of anxiety, mostly because the "why" of my work isn't always apparent to me.

So I was very much looking forward to this year's Roadhouse Arts spring retreat, because we invited master metalsmith Connie Fox to join us for a two day design intensive, based on her new book Maker Magic.

I was not disappointed. In fact, the process of walking through these exercises and explorations turned out to be incredibly personal, not just for me but for all the participants. We cried and laughed and shared stories and started examining the things that spoke to us, in our work and in the work of others. 

By the second day, we were trying our hand at new creative exercises and dipping our toes in the water of new awareness. Why do I love foldforming so much? Why am I helpless against the pull of certain shapes and forms?

And the result, for me, was a piece that didn't look anything like work I had done before, but that felt personal. In fact, a friend of mine looked at the piece and said, "Oh my gosh! It looks like you!" There could not have been any better compliment.

Obviously, the experience of several days in close proximity with other creatives is going to be very different than reading and working through this book by yourself, but don't let that stop you. Over the course of 17 chapters, it will escort you through several exercises to help you identify what type of designer you are. Do you plan out every design before you tackle it or do you just jump in and go where the muse and materials lead you? Do you work best by yourself or are you energized by talking through your process and ideas with other artists? Is your work quirky? Serious? Playful? The answers to these questions will help you figure out what process helps you get to your best ideas.

From there, you get to figure out where your inspirations lie and what you want to say about them. This has always been the tough part for me, but Connie shares very practical skills and methods for getting you past any paralysis or awkwardness, as well as a thorough (and not at all dull) explanation of design elements and language. The best part of these approaches is that they can be applied to specific projects, not only a body of work. For example, in the space of just an hour, I had the beginnings of a whole new way to describe and explore my work and my aesthetic, which was pretty exciting. But if I have a killer cabochon or component that I'm just dying to do something special with, I can apply these techniques and skills to brainstorming ideas specifically to that project - I can dial it in. And like anything else, the more I exercise these skills, the more natural a part of my process they'll become.

I have a much better idea why these shapes appeal to me and how to use them well.
Connie shows us how to pull it all together by walking us through the processes she followed on three of her own pieces. I found this particularly interesting, since I'm such a fan of her work, and it helped me to have concrete examples of how process can come together in different circumstances and with different intentions. It also helped me see that a disciplined approach to design and making doesn't have to be boring or constricting - in fact, it creates a kind of freedom that is exhilarating! The book concludes with tons of links and recommendations, which makes it tremendous reference. I bought it after the retreat and downloaded it to my iPad, which is often in the studio with me, so that I can refer to it.

And so, back to my original point: we all start out learning by copying the work of others who are more advanced than we are. We take a class or buy a tutorial, and we are really happy with how the project turns out, so we start collecting more tools and techniques. But if that's where we leave it, we never really come into our own - our work just ends up looking a lot like the work being produced by other makers. How can we break into new territory, develop our own voice, create a style that really looks like us and not everyone else? It's a process, and it takes practice and discipline (there's that word again!) and more practice. It takes failing. It takes evaluating what you produce without emotion. It takes time, and effort, and intention. Are you ready?

Start with this book. I highly, highly recommend it. If you've had any kind of formal art education, a lot of it will be very familiar to you - but for many others of us, who came to making later in our lives or via circuitous paths that included other lives, other careers... well, this was new and exciting territory for me, and it fed a part of me that I didn't even know was hungry.

Until next time -