Friday, July 31, 2015

July Component of the Month reveal!

July was my first go at hosting a Component of the Month and it has completely flown by as summer always dose!

What I always love seeing with the Component of the Month is how one piece can be used in so many different ways to create something truly unique to the maker and because of this I am so excited to see what everyone has crafted using my little coins! 
Now won't you join me with a cup of coffee and more then likely a bar of chocolate while I go and see the treasures that these talented lot have come up with.....

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tutorial - Beaded Spiral Wire Bangle

Today I'm sharing with you another design featuring one of my favourite fusions - macrame and wire work which combine to create this lovely rigid beaded Bangle. You can adapt this to your own style with your choice of beads and can also change the weight of the piece by using a heavier gauge wire

2mm copper wire
0.60mm copper wire
Focal bead, accent beads and spacers
Copper head pin
10mm heavy gauge closed jump ring
Cutters round nose pliers
Bench vice

Note: This bangle measures 6 1/2 inches (2 1/3 inches diameter). You will need to adjust your wire requirements for the finished size you require and to take into account the size of the beads you use.

Step 1
Cut an 8 ½ inch length of 2mm copper wire. Add the focal beads, centre on the wire and mark the position with a sharpie. Remove the beads and secure one end of the wire in a bench vice.

Step 2
Cut 2 3ft lengths of 0.60mm copper wire. With one length and working from a mark out towards the end of the core work a macrame half square knot spiral pattern until 1 ½ inches of the core wire remains. Use 2 pairs of pliers to pull the wire taught. Instruction for a macrame half square  knot can be found here.

Step 3
Remove from the vice, wrap one of the wire tails around the core 3 times and trim. wrap the second tail it over the first and trim. 

Step 4
Add the central beads for the central section, return the core wire to the vice and repeat steps 2 & 3 on the other side,

Step 5
Add a bead to each end of the core wire and turn a simple loop.

Step 6
Take a 10mm copper jump ring and place it over the close tips of a pair of round noses pliers. Open the pliers to make an oval jump ring.

Step 7
Gently shape the bangle over a mandrel then open the loops one at a time, attach the jump ring and close the loops.

Step 8
Make a beaded dangle and wire wrap to attach to the oval jump ring.

Step 9
Use Liver of sulphur to patinate, polish back to your preferred finish and tumble if desired.
And there you have your completed bangle...

Heart  bead by Josephine Wadman Designs
Mini melon beads by Pebble Dreams

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and if you give it a go don't forget to share your makes with us on the AJE Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tutorial Review - Gwenbeads

I haven't done a tutorial review in quite a while and I just had to tell you about this one.

I love when beadwork excites me.  I have to be honest I have not been on a tutorial buying mood in a long time.  Mostly because I went nuts when I first started beading and bought all I could.  Also sometimes I just do not have the beads on hand to complete the project.  This one was different.  Gwen of Gwenbeads uses beads most of us have on hand when writing her tutorials which is spectacular in my opinion.

 In this tutorial by Gwen has taken stitches I love so much Right Angle Weave and Cubic Right Angle weave and combined them in a fun new stitch path that has me buzzing.  It is called a Honeycomb weave.
This was not only a fun stitch to learn it has actually gone fairly quickly during the time I have to bead.  Gwen's instructions, diagrams and pictures are spot on and really give you the confidence to continue stitching.  She is also one of those extremely supportive designers that will be there if you have questions or problems while stitching.

I was hoping to have my first bracelet done for you today but plans did not work out so here is a picture of what I have completed so far.

I am also going to explore not only this tutorial with new beads and different sizes I plan to take this one so much further.  Thank you Gwen for inspiring me and getting me excited.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BeadFest 2015!

It's that time of year again when the AJE team swings into final preparations for BeadFest in Philadelphia... except that this year, it appears we've changed things up a little. I'm the only one teaching (for the first time) and Jenny Davies-Reazor is the only one vending. The others are just coming to play, which is a refreshing change (for them) from the annual craziness that usually accompanies BeadFest prep (you can read a bit about last year's preparations here, here, here and here).

Susan Kennedy's prep from last year

Or at least I hear it's a refreshing change. Because since this is my first time teaching at BeadFest Philly, I'm obsessing a little about making sure I'm completely ready.

My bullet journal overfloweth
The good news is that I'm excited about the workshops I'm teaching - they're fun and two of them are a really good fit for people who just want to get started with metals. While I was discussing all this with the other AJE team members, they thought it might be a good blog post so... here you go!

Friday, August 21 - Roll Printing and Keum Boo

I've written before about my love of roll printing and especially the patterns that are available from Rolling Mill Resource. Tracy was kind enough to help me put kits together for this workshop, which is going to incorporate roll printed designs with keum boo - one of my other favorite techniques.

The addition of 24k gold to sterling silver makes such a statement - and it's surprisingly simple, too. I'm looking forward to introducing folks to the process, which will really just scratch the surface of the possibilities it offers. It's a great workshop for people who want to get an introduction to some of the characteristics of sterling silver and two simple processes for embellishing it.

Saturday, August 22 - Welcome Home Jewelry

My friend Gail and I designed this jewelry set for our very first Roadhouse metals retreat last year - and if I'm being honest, it sort of kicked our butts! I've reworked the design a bit to make it a little less intimidating and now I think it's a fun project for either a confident beginner or someone with a little bit of soldering experience under their belts.

We'll also be making earrings to go with this pendant, so students will learn a cool method for creating embellished earwires and will also have the opportunity to set small stones in bezel cups. It's a good multi-technique project for anyone wanting to up their metals game.

Sunday, August 23 - Chain, Chain, Chain!

I adore this project - so simple and easy, and such an elegant result! We'll be introducing fusing principles with an easy pair of earrings, just to get everyone started, but the star of the show will be this embellished loop-in-loop chain bracelet.

I've heard this called by all sorts of other names, but I just call it embellished loop-in-loop - and since I'm a sucker for handmade chain, I make this one a lot because of its ease of construction and elegant profile. And the little balls... well, you all know I love balls. This is a perfect project for someone with absolutely no experience, and students will leave with two finished projects!

So are you planning to come to BeadFest this year? If so, I'd love to meet you and say hi - and since there are still spots open in these workshops, we could even have a little playdate if you'd like! Don't forget to stop by Jenny's booth and ogle all her gorgeous work - I'm sure she can even arrange for you to take some of it home with you as your very own.

Hope to see you in Philly! Until next time....

Monday, July 27, 2015

Scenius: or creativity ricochets.


Nope, I didn't misspell that. Its part "scene" and part "genius". Its a unique description of a healthy art sharing/viewing/inspiring/creating environment. Its something we have here at AJE.

In a recent post Jennifer reviewed "Steal like and Artist" by Austin Kleon. His "Scenius" concept is explained in his follow up book - Show your Work.

.."scenius"... Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals - artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers - who make up an "ecology of talent". If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as "lone genius" were actually part of a "whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other's work, copying from each other, stealing ideas and contributing ideas." Scenius doesn't take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that good work isn't created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.
What I love about the ideas of Scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don't consider ourselves geniuses. Being a valuable part of a Scenius is not necessarily about how smart or talented you are, but what you have to contribute - the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start...."( A. Kleon from Show your work)

Here are a few Scenius examples from the team: 

Lesley (and Diana & Linda) took my mixed media amulet class at Bead Fest last August. Combining a polymer base with a metal tab setting - its a combination of techniques that isn't new, but creates new connections. Lesley found it inspiring, and goes into details in her Mixed Media Mojo post. And Melissa gave it a try as well... I wonder if that piece ever was finished? (I do hope to have a tutorial available soon... ) While this example does involve a classroom setting - my love of tab setting was inspired by Melissa Manley, my friend and uber talented metalsmith. So - you see? Nothing is created in a vacuum! Ideas grow and evolve...
1. Jenny's class sample. 2. Melissa's WIP. 3. Lesley's variations on a theme. 

This past April, Caroline wrote a gorgeous post regarding her current inspiration form the Far East. Rebekah was inspired by these carved beads to create a frame of sorts to showcase her polymer heart bead. (The April COM in fact.) She said her process went like this: " I want to frame the heart focal... trees! Carve trees? ... Caroline trees!... hmm. birds in trees... carve a new stamp..." You can see the fab results below in her carved wood thrush "frame" titled Forest Song.
1-3 Caroline's carved porcelain beads, netsuke inspired. 4&5. Rebekah's carved frame featuring her wood thrush carving. 

The team does love animals. From Karen's Bear totem pieces, and my Mythic Nature series... and you have seen the hares form the AJE themed challenge in March! The themed challenge, in my opinion, reinforces the Scenius concept. Lets share inspiration, references, techniques. We each came up with pieces that exemplified our own styles. There isn't any over sensitive fussing about ideas "stolen" - a hare is a hare is a hare! If they are well sculpted, and recognizable there will be similar elements.

Here are 2 animal pairings. Caroline's bronze head made me want to "up my game" in porcelain. Lesely's sculpture from a pottery class inspired Diana's bead!
1. Caroline - bronze hare 2. Jenny - porcelain hare 3. Diana - porcelain hedgehog 4. Lesley - hedgehog sculpture. 

There are numerous examples here and on the blog of our "mind(s) connected to other minds" but from my point of view I continue to see Caroline and I bumping heads creatively! (All in a good way!) Her post on the hollow lentil shrine beads blew me away... and I was working on my own shrine beads in polymer at the time. (I'm still finessing ideas. Maybe a class at a future Bead Fest? ) In true "Scenius" fashion the peyote surround on the hare shrine pendant was inspired by seed beads used in a similar fashion by the incredible Gina Dunlap.
1-3. Caroline's sketch and 2 hollow lentil shrine beads  4&5. Jenny's polymer shrine bead prototypes. 

Caroline's silhouettes are screen printed from her original drawings. They are delicate and ethereal, but also bold and strong... They turned me back to revisit my animal silhouettes... still a WIP, coming soon.
top: screen printed beads and vocals by Caroline. bottom: copper silhouettes for MM pendants on Jenny's workbench. 
I think "Scenius" is a great way to describe the creative community at large. We are artists, designers, creators. We are friends with other artists, designers, creators. We are constantly inspired and influenced by things we see, read, study, learn... and all of these influences trickle down into our selves... where the Muse draws upon them. A melting pot of ideas. I personally embrace this interconnectedness. I am confident, and comfortable in MY style, my work and know I can be influenced in a healthy, honest and ethical way by my peers.

Here's to wishing everyone finds their Scenius group in life, and let the creative ideas ricochet!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It's a Boondoggle!

This week, I thought I would do a 2nd attempt at kiln enameling and started cutting out a boat-load of copper shapes.  While cutting copper and dreading the epic fail I think kiln-enameling holds for me, I got distracted by some fold-formed shapes on Pinterest,  I have only touched the surface of foldforming but I have the bible...Charles Lewton-Brain's book, Foldforming.  I have done the simple folds to make cute leaves, hearts, and components like my fold-formed hoops in the newest Easy Metal publication  from Interweave, but I wanted to try something new.

Fast forward to the book and finding the page about what he calls "Boondoggle" OMG, doesn't  this take everyone back to childhood summer camp or vacation bible school?  I was intrigued and decided to play!

Remember making cord/plastic lanyards or keychains? This is the same technique, only in metal. Charles doesn't go into detail in his book about the procedure, as it is out there in  the realm, but I documented my steps. Sorry for some blurry photos :(

Materials/Tools required:
Copper sheet (I used 24g but you could go smaller)
Flat nosed pliers
2nd pair of any type of plier
hammer (any type)
rubber or rawhide mallet
small torch for annealing
steel block
metal shears

Steps 1-4

  • Cut copper strip to desired length and width; shape ends if desired
  • File/sand edges until smooth to touch
  • Anneal with torch 
  • Fold over ends
  • Interlock as shown and pinch tight

Steps 5-8
  • Start folding metal over onto itself
  • Squeeze tightly after each fold
  • Continue until there is no more left
  • Once the cube gets to big for your flat nose pliers, switch to tapping with hammer
Steps 9-12
  • Align the shape with hammer as necessary
  • Anneal with torch and pull out tabs on the ends
  • Using pliers, holding the tabs on the ends, pull apart.  Twisting as you pull adds more dimension.
  • Shape on mandrel
Pickled and ready for use!
As you see, I didn't quite have enough to complete a bangle bracelet, but think I will add chain and a clasp!  I really like it and think smaller segments for earring components would be very cool! So many possibilities.

Go have fun!

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Journey - Part One

The AJE team has been talking about their creative journeys recently.  We've each been looking back on our early creative endeavors and reflecting on early work we liked or disliked, how far we've come and even things from the past that might be worth revisiting.  Many of our members have pursued other art forms besides jewelry components and jewelry design.  We ended up generating a rather large collection of old pictures and related musings.

I will be sharing our journeys in my next two or three posts. Since you are also on a life journey, I hope that some of our reflections might inspire some reflection on your part as well.  What sparked your creative impulse?  How has that impulse expressed itself in different forms throughout your life?  Where do you think the path you are on might lead in a few years?  Are you open to new directions?

Karen Totten
Karen has been involved in creative endeavors all her life.She was working primarily in pottery when she needed to have surgery on her hand. In her words:
 "These were made with my handmade stamps. I made stamps initially for pottery, then when I couldn't throw (pots) for 6 months due to hand surgery, I made these beads to keep myself entertained. That's how I got into beads, it was an accident. Lesson: ya never know what is around the corner; go with the flow and you find new work, new discoveries."
"I had an unexpected discovery (while looking through these old pictures): pretty much all of it (Karen's early jewelry components) was hand formed or stamped from my own hand formed stamps. I had an impression I'd used commercial stamps with my clay - but that was more the case with my bronze work. However, I did use commercial cutters for some (my favorite cutter was a very old ruffled pastry cutter from my grandmother (I used it to make all the gear links and other shapes)."
" Porcelain with melted glass chips and various glazes"
 "Earth and Sky Wrist Amulet - Here's one that I made from hand carved leaf, flower and spiral stamps, in a terra cotta style with underglazes and a clear crackle gloss glaze over all. Very early piece yet I like this style and looking at it now I want to make it again!"

Jennifer Cameron 
Jennifer first bead wasn't too bad for a beginner.  I took a lampwork class once and believe me, my first bead did not look like the one pictured below! This bead is from 2005 and Jennifer wire wrapped it into a ring.  The ring was the first piece of jewelry she ever made, also!
Here's another view.  She says she can't remember if she followed a tutorial for the ring or just made it up herself.  The ring is not especially stable or well made, but she still has it.
Next up are two beads Jennifer made at about the same time as the ring.  She describes the one on the left as being ugly.  It was the first encased bead she ever made.  The bead on the right is "very large, very wonky, off center and totally scorched!".
Here's an early floral bead.  It has a nice "dimple" at the hole.
Leopard designs.
Jennifer says she likes the colors she used in this one, but that "it's a very ugly shape. And chunky.  Not very nice."
 Melissa Meman
First up is my very first lampwork bead ever, wire wrapped into my first piece of jewelry ever. I made it into a ring that I still have to this day. No, I don't wear it. - See more at:
 Melissa began here jewelry journey by making wire wrapped, beaded chains, like this early bracelet.
Or these earrings.  Of course now she makes not only jewelry, but also a variety of jewelry components.
Niky Sayers
First up is my very first lampwork bead ever, wire wrapped into my first piece of jewelry ever. I made it into a ring that I still have to this day. No, I don't wear it. - See more at:
First up is my very first lampwork bead ever, wire wrapped into my first piece of jewelry ever. I made it into a ring that I still have to this day. No, I don't wear it. - See more at:
First up is my very first lampwork bead ever, wire wrapped into my first piece of jewelry ever. I made it into a ring that I still have to this day. No, I don't wear it. - See more at:
First up is my very first lampwork bead ever, wire wrapped into my first piece of jewelry ever. I made it into a ring that I still have to this day. No, I don't wear it. - See more at:
Niky got her jewelry making start with PMC, before the prices for silver went through the roof. She says that she was "..seduced by the possibilities..." of  Precious Metal Clay.  Here are three of her early pieces.

Niky goes on to say, "I still really like these pieces, I like the simplicity of them and the sparkle and I loved how easy metal clay was to work with!
I hope you have enjoyed this little bit of reminiscing.  All of us are on a journey.  None of us can know where it will lead us, but we can savor the trip.

I'll share more early work in my next post.  Till then, enjoy the trip!