Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Flea Market for Life!

I know I've talked before about all the fun places you can find beads.  Bead stores, craft stores, and bead shows are great and all...but what I really love is the thrill of the hunt.  Digging through a pile of somebody's broken cast off jewelry is one of main ways I find new beads.  Once a month, Nashville has a HUGE flea market at the fairgrounds.  Vendors inside and out, selling anything from shabby chic reclaimed furniture, to coins and collectibles, to any bit of household kitsch you could possibly imagine...and then some.  Last month I drug my PiB Kelly for an exhausting day of rummaging, hunting, scouring for beads.  Join our adventure!
A few of my favorite flea market views.
I always try to arrive early, because shopping the outdoor vendors is no fun with heat exhaustion.  Housed in the fairground animal barns, these vendors often have large bins or sections of the table marked at $1.00...I always dig through these because you never know if you'll find a piece of broken jewelry you can salvage for parts.
Kelly shopping - check out all those skeleton keys!
I always bring a bag full of food and drinks - nothing puts a crimp in flea market shopping like low blood sugar or dehydration.  This trip we decided to pack a small rolling bag to share the load - we took turns pulling it around, and poking our finds inside.
Me, shopping away...definitely going for comfort over fashion...
As soon as the day starts to heat up, it's time to cruise through the exhibit halls.  These are full of more established vendors, higher priced antiques, and ready made goods.  I like to make a pass through the antique vendors in particular...again, because they will often clear out broken jewelry for really low prices.  If you can see past the grime, plastic baggies, and costume jewelry, you will find vintage treasures waiting to be ingredients in your next project.
Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to the flea market without spotting a few things you never thought you'd see.  A box of rusting springs, 5 for $1.00...somehow I managed to resist.  I'm still kind of sad the wood sculpture of a lion munching on an antelope was way outside of my budget...  See all those little baggies?  Those were half off the marked price...I found a broken strand of OLD coral in there, the real thing that can't be harvested from the Mediterranean any more...for $1.00.
Dismantling with our feline assistant.
After arriving home, we scrambled around to find grungy tools, empty baggies, and a piece of fabric, went out on to the porch (great way to keep shards of wire out of the carpet), and started taking everything apart.  Rotten threads, corroded wires, and grungy broken clasps go in the trash bag.  I like to sort everything by how difficult it is to take apart, then get to cutting the useful beads and components out.  Want to see the whole hoard?
My loot on the left, Kelly's on the right!
We both ended up with a TON of vintage glass beads to repurpose.  Kelly got some interesting metal pieces, and some fossils she had been hoping to find as well.  I ended up with quite a few partial strands of trade beads, and some loose wedding beads in really unusual patterns and textures.  
My non-bead finds...
I just can't leave the flea market without a few weird items.  This trip it was a small wood animal mask for the wall, a large bronze strike bell, two miniature pottery jugs, and a plaster doll bust.  Maybe she was a mold test in the past?  There's still clay embedded in the creases of her face...and I just love how the vendor tried to make her more appealing by giving her a hankie kerchief.

Even if you don't have a local flea market, there may be neighbor hood garage sales, charity rummage sales, thrift stores, or antique malls you haven't checked out lately.  I hope this inspires you to the possibility of finding beads in unexpected places.  Happy hunting!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

We interrupt out regularly scheduled posts....

... because we are nearing a milestone!

Our Facebook page "Art Jewelry Elements" is hovering at 1993 "likes"! To mark this milestone and thank all of our loyal readers, old and new... we are planning a giveaway. The numbers snuck up on us a bit - what with BeadFest, classes, travel, new jobs... its been a busy summer amongst the team.

So - without further ado: 

Facebook 2000 followers giveaway prize bundle!
We gathered pieces from nearly all the team members! I'm sure you will recognize individual artists work here. This ONE prize bundle will go to ONE winner. Its a true treasure.

How does it work? Watch this space! When we DO hit 2000 there will be a giveaway post. Then and only then will comments enter you to win. Today? We're just teasing you!

Don't forget! 

Tomorrow is the COM reveal with Linda's fall oak and acorn!
Friday is the launch of our latest Theme challenge!

Stay tuned!
Until then...
Jenny and the AJE team.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What is Hubble?

No I am not going to be discussing the Hubble Space Telescope.  Although It would be cool to look up all the pictures and dream about what is out there.  I am actually talking about a new stitch by Melanie de Miguel of Beadschool.

I was very intrigued when this book first came out.  A new stitch is rare to see. I have not yet gotten my hands on it but lucky for me I do have a subscription to Beadwork Magazine and they had a feature on this new stitch in the October/November issue.

As I looked at the stitch I did realize I have seen a similar stitch in Beth Stone's Seed Bead Stitching called a quad stitch.  A stitch she stumbled on while teaching her daughter the tri-stitch. However, the connecting thread path is very different with the Hubble stitch.  Let me assure you that you WILL need to purchase either the book or this issue of Beadwork to learn it because the key to it is the unique thread path connection. It also resembles the Right Angle Weave stitch at first glance but that is only at first glance.

I started out with the basic stitch and there is some getting use to tension and thread path.

Tension is the key.  Too much and it does not sit properly and too little makes gaps between connections.  Once I got the hang of it as many of you know I love taking knowledge that someone has shared and make it mine so I played for a bit.

As you can see I made a rope.  I almost gave up but once I found the trick to stepping up to the next level I really enjoyed it.  Then of course I would need a pendant to go with it.  And as per my usual style I did not make it an easy choice.

I love this pendant by Melissa of MelismaticArtJewelry.  It was a Component of the month piece I just couldn't figure out how to showcase it.  Now I will not tell you this bezel is perfect but I learned so much that I will be trying again soon.

After making the pendant I loved the combination of the matte and shiny beads so much that I tried something different from the original rope.

I really love this.  The small change in bead size created a cool texture to the rope.

"Hubbling" has many possibilities.  As I learned I have thought of a few things I would like to try with it.  If you give it a try have lots of patience.  Tension will test you but once you get it I think you will find that it is fun. At first it is not a quick stitch but I am sure once you get into a rhythm it will go faster.  For example with a rope it will take longer than a Russian Spiral but not as long as Cubic RAW.   It has a fabric type feel that is nice to wear when you are looking for that softness and feminine feel.  Give me a shout if you try it I would love to know what you think.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Planning a Weekend Art Retreat with Friends

planning an art retreat weekend

If you've ever been to a conference related to something you're passionate about (or even just mildly interested), you will know what it feels like to leave there buzzing with excitement. Unfortunately the "conference high" can only sustain you so long before you're back somewhere close to baseline. And gee, wouldn't it be nice to get together with other creatives sometimes to just learn from and inspire each other without spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars? The AJE team was kicking around our own little art retreat, but we quickly realized trying to get everyone together at once was a logistical nightmare.

Karen offered to host us in small groups at her cabin in New York. Except life threw her a curveball and she ended up employed in Pittsburgh and was going to have to back out of hosting the groups. I REALLY wanted it to happen, so I was like "hold on! I have a lake house that can easily sleep 3 people (besides my family) with a perfect space for doing art stuff. If you all are willing to come to northeast Indiana (possibly too big a hurdle to overcome....), I will host it." The first small group all agreed to it and then I decided I should probably break the news to my husband....heh. 

Let me tell husband? He's an amazing cook. If he's willing to cook, I'd rather eat whatever he's making than any restaurant meal. So I told him we would be hosting some crazy bead ladies and we needed a hunky chef. He's like "where are you going to find one of those?" He's funny too. 

art retreat weekend book binding

Once I knew he was on board with it, we started planning the specifics. Here are some tips for planning your own weekend art retreat:

-small groups. Planning for more than 4 or 5 would be a logistical nightmare and more than I personally could have handled. 

-an easy way to organize the retreat is to create a private group on Facebook

-create a document for techniques each person wants to learn during the art retreat that someone else in the group can teach. We did bookbinding, bronze clay, and bead embroidery. We had lampworking as a back-up option if we ran out of stuff to do. 

-create another document for what supplies and equipment are needed and who will bring each item 

-create a document of activities to do locally in case everyone gets bored with doing art stuff (not bloody likely, but I suppose it could happen). As a side note, Justin Bieber showed up to our little Indiana town that weekend and we discussed trying to stalk him. We decided bead embroidery was way more entertaining. 

-as the hostess, I was concerned about food allergies and preferences. I got a list of those and gave them to my chef. 

art retreat weekend breakfast

-the chef also worked as the bartender. 

art retreat weekend libations

-speaking of the chef, if you don't have someone willing to help you out with food prep, have simple meals and snacks on hand. For dinner we went out one night and ordered pizza in another night because the chef had to work his day job a couple of the days. 


-enlist your teen daughter (or some other human within proximity) to take a group photo

art retreat weekend participants

-as the hostess, I was also concerned about comfortable sleeping/bathing arrangements. I tried to make sure there were enough towels, pillows, blankets, toilet paper, soap, etc and made sure everyone knew where to get extras if I wasn't available for some reason (which, strangely enough, I had to leave early one morning to drive the 45 minutes to our house in Ft Wayne to deal with a mega wasp infestation...another story for another time.)

-I also wanted to make sure the space we were working in was comfortable and had enough space for everyone to spread out. Because we were using our 3 season room that doesn't have any type of temperature controls, and summer finally decided to start Labor Day weekend, we had fans going and the door open from the house to the 3 season room. We always use a folding 6' table in that room, so I brought up a 2nd one from the Ft Wayne house so we had more space to work. 

planning an art retreat weekend

-if you can convince a Virgo to attend, who also happens to be a teacher, she will make sure everyone is organized and on task and keep things moving (thanks Jenny Davies-Reazor!) 

art retreat weekend learning bead embroidery

-if you can convince a Brit to make the trip, the chef will make an effort to recreate a traditional English tea. Except I'm not sure anyone actually drank tea during tea? 

art retreat weekend tea

-if you can convince Karen to come and teach bronze, you get to play with her amazing handmade molds. It was like getting to be Karen for an all too brief glorious hour or so. 

art retreat weekend bronze clay

Everyone worked together to make it an absolutely perfect weekend. You can read more about our weekend in Jenny's post about learning to use bronze clay and Lesley's post about her inspirational three week visit to the United States

Monday, September 21, 2015

Vacation Inspiration

They do say that a change is as good as a rest and of course, the whole point of vacations is to provide us with a respite from the daily grind and help us recharge our batteries. Having just returned from  three weeks in the USA spent in the company of some of my fellow AJE team mates I can tell you that vacations can also be a huge source of inspiration.

My trip began in New Jersey With Diana Ptaszynski and the day after I arrived we set off for Bead Fest in Philadelphia - this was my second visit to the show and it was great to catch up with beady friends again and meet new ones. It's hard not to inspired amidst so much talent and so many gorgeous beads and of course I bought lots of them!

Tracey Seder Donaghe, Diane Hawkey, Staci Smith & Joan Miller, Maku Raku
Lisa Peters Russ was selling there for the first time and I was excited to meet her and get my hands on some of her work....I was not disappointed since she  had a huge array of beautiful ceramic pieces with the most gorgeous glazes.  I was particularly drawn to these stunning round cabochons but since they are bigger than anything I work with in my jewellery designs I was at a bit of a loss as to what I would do with them.

Lisa Peters -Russ
Every time I passed Lisa's table they would pull me me back to look again until finally I was struck by an idea to use them in mixed media wall art with textiles and metal or maybe Polymer clay. This was a bit of a bolt out of the blue since I've never really considered myself to be a mixed media or a wall art person but how great is it to pick up someones work and have it generate completely random ideas in your own head?

There are literally hundreds of workshop at Bead Fest so while there I took the opportunity to take a class with Cooky Schock to learn how to make these lovely braided wire bangles.

I'm a big fan of all things wire as you may know and this techniques adds nicely to my repertoire but as you can see from my class attempt I need a little's not difficult but it does require some concentration to get an even tension but I will get there eventually.

The second week of my holiday was spent with Jenny Davies-Reazor  and was always going to be full of creative play... you can't stay with a talented artist and teacher like Jenny and not take the opportunity to learn something new. Jenny has been adding more and more bead embroidery to her work this year and since I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with seed beads I wanted to have go at bezeling cabochons. With Jenny's guidance I managed to create this pendant around a shell fossil and a Labradorite cab. It seems I like my beads to sit very close together - too close in fact so the edging on this piece puckered a little but for a first attempt I was pretty pleased.

Jenny also showed me how to make this beautiful 'Silk Road' bangle - another one of Cooky's innovative designs. I just love this - it's so easy to take the basic design and really make it your own by the way you embellish it.

Phot courtesy of Cooky Schock

It's rather fortunate for me that Jenny also lives close to Marsha Neal Minutella - a ceramic artist who has fallen in love with needle felting since she started working at Sarafina Fibre Art. I was hoping to be able to get in a Visit to Sarafina and maybe do some felting with Marsha and lucked out on both counts.

We went to see Marsha at Sarafina and I was just blown away by the work of artist and owner Sara Renzulli who not only creates incredibly realistic 3D sculptures but also in effect 'paints' with felt to create the most amazing wall hangings... How could I not be inspired!

Stunning work and way, way beyond my ability but when Marsha invited round for a pumpkin making session I was totally up for it - she made it all seem very easy and we had great fun picking out fibres and stabbing away watching balls of wool turn into these lovely little pumpkins.

Photo courtesy of Marsha Neal Minutella

I was so happy with mine and I think I may have found a new addiction. In fact I know I have as I made Jenny take me back to Sarafina's before I left so I could buy  just a few supplies...

Jenny and I also took some time out from our creative play to seek out inspiration elsewhere with  a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the 'Impressionists' exhibition - sorry, no photography allowed there but I did manage to sniff out some beads and some pottery that took my fancy.

We also visited the 'Torpedo Factory Arts Centre" in Alexandria - an amazing place full of artists studio's and galleries representing a diverse range of style and media.

And it didn't stop there...for the last leg of my trip Jenny and I hit the road to meet up with two more of our AJE team mates Jen Cameron and Karen Totten at Jen's house at Lake James, Indiana. It was a long 10 hour drive punctuated by frequent stops for coffee and, towards the end sugar but it was so, so worth it. Jen's house is in a beautiful location which in itself inspires...

We basically spent the labour day weekend sharing skills, bouncing ideas around and of course - playing with a few beads. Jen and Karen were also keen to learn how to bead bezel cabochons and I happily set to work on my second, more intricate piece using one of Lisa Peter's cabochons and some extra stitches Jenny taught me.

Another of Jenny's many talent's is making hand made books - she taught me one Japanese stab stitch technique last year and I've made several more since then. We were all keen to have a go this year and tis time Jenny showed us another technique using Coptic stitch. Everyone's books turned out beautifully and I will certainly be making more...

Over the weekend we also had a bronze clay session which Jenny wrote about in her post last week and with Cooky Schock's kind permission I was also able to  demonstrate the wire braiding technique for the bangle I made at Bead Fest.

On top of all this creativity, Jen's husband James spent the weekend literally catering to our every whim...meals, snacks, cocktails and all top quality. So we played, we ate, we drank - a bit, we laughed a lot and had a thoroughly good time and speaking for myself, the time I spent with these funny, warm and talented ladies was both a pleasure and a privilege.

Looking back on my three weeks I can safely say that I enjoyed every minute of it and the people I shared it with and the places I went left me with a head full of ideas and a real hunger to get stuck into some new work. So what have I done about it since I got home a week ago..? Well unfortunately not too much since I'd barely set foot off the plane at Heathrow before I went down with an awful cold and throat about post holiday blues! I have managed to do a bit more  bead embroidery though - I re-did the edging on my first piece (I'm a bit of a perfectionist) and started work on some new pieces....

Funny Face cab by Diana Ptaszynsksi, Lampork cab by Susan Kennedy, Ceramic feather cab by Caroline Dewison
Obviously these new found passions mean that I had to do a bit of supply shopping but happily that was easily done from my sick bed!

I'm on the mend now though and looking forward to getting back into the studio and using my vacation inspiration to kick start some new work. Do your holidays inspire you..who are the people and what are the places that fuel your creativity?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ceramic Art York

I’m playing roving reporter for today’s post… I decided a while ago, I wanted to explore creating larger work and have been waiting patiently for a ceramics show to happen within a couple of hours of where I live so I could go and check out the whole scene. Looking at people’s work on the internet is good, but there’s nothing like seeing something in real life to really appreciate the depth of glaze, texture and skill that goes in to creating beautiful works of art. 

A few months ago, I read about Ceramic Art York, a showcase of some of the best contemporary ceramic artists from the UK and beyond, to mark the opening of a new permanent Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) at the York art gallery. I booked a ticket immediately.

On Entry I received this beautiful program featuring all of the makers.

On Friday morning I set off up the M62. Other than it being one of the worst motorways in the country, it’s a beautiful drive. I couldn’t take pics on the road, but here’s a couple of the views you get to take in along the way.

Scammonden bridge

Across the moors.

The weather is notorious up on the moors and changed from blazing sunshine to low cloud, but by the time I arrived in York, the sun was shining again. 

York is a beautiful city, full of history and amazing buildings, so I took a detour on the way there to check out some of the sights. 

Micklegate Bar - The main medieval entrance to the city of York.

Ancient wood beam & brick building.

York Minster.

And after getting a bit lost and finding my way again, I arrived at the marquees in the museum's 10 acre botanical gardens. 

Ceramic Art York exhibition marquees.

Rather than babble on about how brilliant and lovely and amazing everything was, I will let my pictures do the talking! I've included links to each of the artists below their pic if you'd like to find out more...

Ashraf Hanna -

Chris Barnes - 

Clare Wakefield -

Debbie Barber - 
Jin Eui Kim -

Karin Hessenberg -

Kathleen Standen -

Lara Scobie -

Peter Beard -

Chiu-i Wu -

Lisa Katzenstein -

After a few laps and chats with some of the makers, who were all lovely, I decided I couldn’t go home without a souvenir or two. First up I visited Peter Beard and bought a copy of his latest catalogue and some postcards. I would have loved to buy a pot from him, but I don’t think the kids would have been impressed with eating beans for the next 6 weeks! I’m just going to put the postcards up on my shed wall and use my imagination.

Catalogue & Postcards from Peter Beard.

These reduction fired beads were from London based Karen Bunting.

Beads by Karen Bunting

And I couldn’t pass by the book & tool stand, run by the Craft Potters Association, without a good browse. Here, I purchased Kathleen Standen’s ‘Additions to clay bodies’  It’s a really informative book, full of unusual techniques to create texture in your work. (Kathleen made the stunning buoy vessel pictured above.)

Bookshop & tool purchases.

And I was good in the tool section, and only came away with a couple of serrated ribs.

I’m currently obsessed with reticulation glazes and have been doing some actual testing to try and create interesting surface textures, so seeing Paul Wearing’s beautiful bowls, I knew I had to have one. 

Paul Wearing and his beautiful work.

Paul is based in Cardiff and takes his inspiration from urban and rural landscapes. I could have taken everything on his display, but I settled for this bowl. 

Paul Wearing glazed bowl

The base is just as stunning!

It’s beautiful, the more I look at it, the more I see. The depth of the texture and colours is incredible, I’ve stared at it for hours!

Loaded up with my purchases, I took a slow stroll back through the gardens, around the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey.

St. Mary's Abbey

Another view of the remains.

And then it was back on the M62 for home.

I had a wonderful day. It was so inspiring to meet some of the leading ceramic artists and to see their work up close, every piece was simply outstanding. And although I still have a long way to go, I’ve come away eager to continue on my own path to creating something worthy.