Sunday, January 31, 2016

Buried Treasure - the "Use your stash" reveal!

Treasures inside, savvy? 
The first reveal of 2016! 

We all unearthed treasures in our hoards, stashes, treasure troves, inventories... now its time to see what wonder we have created. Please join us and out guests this month. 

AJE team:


Friday, January 29, 2016

Beading Library Staples

I'm writing this on a work day - as I'm snowed into my apartment on this lovely January morning.  I'm fully stocked for a nice laid back day:

  • left over pizza in the fridge
  • hot almond chai tea in hand
  • cuddled under quilts
  • cat on my belly...
What else could one want for an unexpected day away from the office?  Oh yes, a fully stocked library of bead books!
If you've been beading or making jewelry for any length of time, I'm sure you have a bead library too!  In fact, even if you're a complete beginner, you probably have a few books or magazines already!  Books are one of the best sources of education and inspiration, so today I'm going to share with you a few of my favorites.  I reach for these books any time my muse has taken a vacation...I flip through their pages and become inspired by all of the colors, textures and shapes, stitches I haven't yet mastered, components I haven't worked with (but probably have stashed away somewhere).  
The History of Beads by Lois Sherr Dubin 
The History of Beads has been part of my collection since highschool.  Originally published in 1987, in 2009 Ms Dubin revised and expanded her original writings to include new archaeological findings (ie really OLD beads).  If you are at all interested in the impact of beads on human culture and society through the ages this book needs to be a part of your collection.  It is so amazing to me that simple objects with holes in them have been so integral to humanity since the beginning...I mean, we're still obsessed with them!
North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment by Lois Sherr Dubin
Also by Ms Sherr Dubin, North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment, is a huge tome.  Full of fantastic full color pictures of works by tribes all over North America.  As a seed beader, I have always been intrigued and inspired by Native American work.  No, my style may not really be reflective of the aesthetic, but of the creative philosophies?  Yes definitely.
The Beader's Color Mixing Directory by Sandra Wallace
Ok, I know you're all probably aware that color is hugely important to me in my creative process and in my finished work.  There are several other color books out there that are directed towards beaders, but this one is my favorite.  The first chapter is all about color theory, and how it applies to beads.  There are a few simple projects, but my favorite thing about this book in particular are all of the color combinations.  The middle of the book is full of 2 page spreads all revolving around a color scheme or theme.  The author has photographed multiple pieces of beaded jewelry that fit into each theme, and broken down the colors contained in each piece so it's really easy to recreate the look of the color scheme, no matter what you are making.  If you are struggling with combining seed beads, struggling with how the beads look different when they're playing with each other, rather than solitary in their packaging, this book might help you!
The Beader's Floral by Liz Thornton and Jill Devon (Amazon link, but you may have better luck purchasing through a UK bookseller)
\The Beader's Floral is one of the very best flower beadwork books that I have found.  I discovered this book when I was hung up on a flower idea in my head...and just couldn't get my thread and beads to make what I had dreamed up.  Not only is this book full of wonderful instruction to make a variety of flowers out of a variety of stitches...but it spurred me to think about the flower in my head differently.  Eventually, with studying this book and experimentation (though no more frustration), I finally figured out exactly how to translate the flower in my head to beads.
Contemporary Geometric Beadwork volumes 1 and 2 by Kate McKinnon
Over the last several years, Kate McKinnon has done something truly amazing with and for the beading community.  She has collaboratively compiled a collection of techniques that allow us to make fantastic, soaring, architectural geometric beadwork...and explained it in such a way that my logical yet freeform brain can work with.  I love that these are truly technique books - if you want instructions for a project, you will not like these books.  If you want to grow your technique vocabulary and learn how to experiment with more geometric shapes, these books are what you need.  I also love Kate's writing style - somehow she manages to write about beads and beadwork in a similar way to how I talk in my head about them.  Maybe someday, my writing will catch up with hers!
Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading by Karen Williams
Freeform beadwork is a hard concept to teach.  A lot of beaders get entrenched in symmetricality, instruction, and doing things "right".  For me, freeform beadwork happens after you have learned a library of techniques and are able to let go and experiment.  A lot of times people ask me how they can learn freeform - there are so few books and tutorials out there.  When Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading arrived in my mailbox, I was ecstatic to find that I finally could recommend something to the next person that asked me about freeform beadwork.  Ms Williams thoroughly describes and illustrates her process with gorgeous photos and techniques...and then branches off into interviewing and showcasing other artists and their individual freeform processes.  Some people plan ahead, some people draw sketches, and some people just have an idea and run with it.  It is so wonderful to have several people describe their own approach in one book, I would highly encourage you to seek out this book just to read those parts!
Outside the Box by Laura McCabe
Confession...I might have a eensy teeny weeny beadfangirl crush on Laura McCabe and her work.  Actually a HUGE one, so when I discovered her self published (print on demand) book Outside the Box, I ordered immediately.  When the diminutive book arrived, I dove right in to discover that this book is not only a fantastic showcase of Ms McCabe's work and the evolution of it, but also of her inspirations and influences.  After thoroughly showing how each of these interests has affected her work, she encourages the reader to self discover their own design influences, to seek those things that inspire your creative side, and to embrace them whole heartedly.  I think this awareness of influence, evolution and inspiration is the main thing that makes each of our art so distinct from the next person.
500 Beaded Objects and Showcase 500 Beaded Jewelry, both part of the Lark 500 Series
I think there is probably at least one book in Lark Publishing's 500 Series that any creative person would enjoy.  From teapots to tables, ceramic to paper, these books are purely inspirational eye candy.  These are my favorites, Beaded Objects and Beaded Jewelry.  Visitors to my apartment can usually find one of these volumes in my bathroom, perfectly situated for bathtub browsing or late night insomnia relief.  Any time I need inspiration, I just track down these books (because they're rarely on the bookshelf) and delve into the amazing showcase of color, texture, technique and shape that has been collected between the covers.

And there you have it beadzillas!  My favorite bead books for a snowy (or any other) day!  Are these volumes in your library yet?  Is my bookshelf missing something?!?!  Please do share!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

February Component of the Month

Here in New Jersey the sky is that sad gray tone and the massive snowfall from the weekend isn't quite the bright white it once was.  I thought we could all use a COM that had some bling to it to brighten the winter.

For February, I made some bright aluminum & crystal rivoli chain maille Phaedra components.  The Phaedra design was created by Karen Snyder. You can read all about the design on a prior post I wrote by clicking here.

Want to play along? Here are the rules…

  • I will giveaway 1 Phaedra component (chosen at random) to each of the 2 winners selected randomly from those who leave a comment below this post. Your comment MUST include your EMAIL AND BLOG 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 2 winners will be announced on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016.
  • This giveaway is open to US and international countries, but please be aware that these will be posted from the US and international addresses will have longer postage times… sometimes up to 3 weeks.
  • The blog reveal will take place on Sunday, February 28th, 2016.
Good luck!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bead Studio Redo

Since we moved in to this house a few years ago, I've been using the smallest bedroom as my office.  Unfortunately, I'm a messy person and over time the mess had gotten so out of control that I was working on a small space on the floor.

Old messy office
At one point, I had the room somewhat cleaned up enough to sit at the desk again.  That didn't last long.

So Colin and I sat down one day and discussed swapping my office with the guest room.  The guest room only gets used a few times each year so it seemed a waste of space.  We pulled all the furniture out and repainted the guest room a soothing blue (it was an ugly yellow).

We then made a few trips to IKEA for some new furniture, including this great desk!
IKEA desk
I'm hoping to be able to keep this one relatively clean (hahahahahahahaha).
Scenes from the desk area
On the right side of my desk, I have my vintage dress form and some jewelry hangers.  I'm still loading lots of jewelry on them but they are a fun way to keep everything visible.  I also like to keep special trinkets and gifts on my desk.  They make me happy and keep me inspired!

New bead storage
Also to the right of my desk is one of my new bead storage units.  These are two Alex units from IKEA stacked and they hold three bead tray inserts in each of them.

A peek inside the ALEX units 
I spent several hours emptying all my bead boxes and filling tray inserts.  I also have my leather, ultra suede and photo cubes stored in this section.

More bead and craft storage
On the other side of the room are even more bead and craft supply storage units.  If you're wondering about the giant pig, it's a vintage chalkware piggy bank.   One of my favorite weird finds.
Scenes from the cabinets
This is the area where I keep all my art beads, cabochons, resin, paper crafts, rubber stamps, fabrics, ribbons, millinery and more.

Commercial and handmade rubber stamps

Ooooooo beads!

Organizers and printing area
I'm still working on getting all my organizers and artwork hung on the walls.  There are still shelves waiting to go up and decorative tiles and framed prints.  There's also a pile of boxes on the floor waited to be sorted.  Once all of that is taken care of, I'll be ordering a small recliner and footstool.  That will be my place to do bead embroidery or read my craft books.

I can't wait for the room to be finished.  I now have the type of office that inspires me instead of making me want to turn and run!

Have you recently redone your studio?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dimple making pliers - a tutorial

You know when you are scrolling through the Internet and you see a cool tool/thing that you would love to have a play with so you add it to your amazon wish list and then you add a million other things that you don't want to forget about and then Christmas rolls up (and in the same week it's your birthday too) and surprise, you get some very random gifts!!?? No, just me then?
Well this year I got a wonderful collection of eclectic items that left my family some what perplexed as to what they were for. One of the items I got.... Dimple making pliers!

Dimple making pliers
I had seen them used in beautiful designs like this stunning "Fire and Ice" ring that the talented Jenny Davies-Reazor made in an Art Bliss class taught by the amazing R. Salley and thought they look cool, I would like a pair of those!

Jenny's beautiful ring
The first thing I did when I opened these was to head straight to YouTube to see how to use them/what to do with them, and here is what I found....

Looks simple, so now to turn this into a cool design!

Dimpled Earring Components
What you will need....
  • Copper sheet (I used different thicknesses from 0.8mm - 0.4mm all worked well but the thiner was easier to add the dimples to but some what flimsy)
  • Some form of cutting the sheet metal Disc cutter/saw/sharp scissors (I used all of these)
  • Silver jump rings (you can make your own or use pre made)
  • Soldering equipment (although you could just use a hole punch in the top of the shape if you don't want to solder them)
  • 400 Sand paper and a nail buffer
  • Vintaj metal paints
  • Sponge
  • Metal spray sealer
Cutting your shapes
  • First cut out your desired shape, here I have made discs but I also made tear shapes, bars and holly leaves (hearts would look super cute, but I ran out of metal).
  • If you are making your own jump rings do that now, I make mine on bail making pliers and just saw them off as I need them.
  • Sand the edges of your metal shape so there are no sharp edges and so that the metal is all clean for soldering
  • Using solder paste (and all your health and safety equipment) carefully solder the jump rings into place. If you are not using jump rings make a hole in the top of the shape with a hole punch or drill bit.
  • Using your 400 grit sand paper key up/clean the surface of the metal ready for painting
  • Use your dimple making pliers to add texture to your shapes (I rather like the half off the edge ones)
  • Cut up a sponge into inch sized pieces
  • Apply the paint to the sponge (here I use two different colours on one sponge for a nice blended look) 
  • Dab the sponges onto the metal making sure you get a good coverage and wait for it to dry throughly before painting the back of the piece
Removing the paint
  • Set the paint with a heat tool and once compleatly dry remove the paint from the high spots using some of the sand paper and then buff with the nail file for a beautiful shine
  • Seal front and back of the piece with several layers of metal sealer and once fully dry make into earrings....
There are so many different shapes, colours and designs that you could make with these, you could also leave out the paint and set small colourful stones on them.

Friday, January 22, 2016



No not the shuttle.

As I was drafting my post I had two different subjects going through my mind.  The first was talking about how the beads are just not talking to me right now and what I do to attempt to jump start my mojo.  The other is the trend of picking a Word Of The Year.   I was having a hard time picking so I am just going to talk about them both.  I started this year thinking my word would be appreciation.  As you read this post you will see that it changed.

Like I stated the beads just are not talking.  I have ideas but as I try to make them work they are not working out like in my mind.

See what I mean and it is not like I don't have enough beads.

As you can see I have a pretty decent stash.  And like so many of you I have looked at my stash and said to "if I just order these I can get it done", however I am discovering that it is the easy answer.  All those beads you have already purchased because you just had to have them are sitting there waiting. Waiting to be discovered, waiting to be used.  As we are face uncertainty both personally and globally I need to make this a stash only year.  I need to challenge myself and discover just how artistic I can be.

What do I do when the beads are not talking?  Well first I organize everything and I mean everything.  I love art in many forms.  Before I started beading I loved cross stitch.  So as I was organizing I also rediscovered my stash, and also realized I am a stash builder.  I need to get back to finishing these projects.

Then I organized my quilting stash and rediscovered I really miss it and I have a stash for it....

Rediscovering both quilting and cross stitch still wasn't quite enough to get the mojo moving so before Christmas I was seeing what my teammates were doing with needle felting I needed to give it a try.  I found I really like it and I can follow what ever idea I have.

I have also made a sad attempt at making a cabochon

The one thing I need to be very careful of is to not get myself in a stash building mode.  I have only purchased the very basics.

I have been really enjoying needle felting and manipulating the fibers I am feeling so creative but still the beads are being silent.  When I was looking for the supplies I made a trip to a local wool shop called The Woolery on Main Street.  While I was there something else struck me.  She had an amazing display of Wool Hooked Rugs.  I know the first thought for some of you is the yarn hooking thing but this is so much different, it uses strips of wool fabric to create beautiful pictorials.  I was so amazed by them I came home and called my friend Maria and we both agreed we needed to take a class together.  My daughter was so sweet she gave me a certificate for the class for Christmas.

Here is the class project

I am so excited to give this a try.

What does all this have to do with my word of the year you ask?  Well as I was thinking about all of this it changed.  I still plan to appreciate what I have but I now have a year of discovery in front of me.  So my word is now Discovery.

plural noun: discoveries
  1. 1.
    the action or process of discovering or being discovered.
    "the discovery of the body"
    synonyms:findinglocation, uncovering, unearthing
    "the discovery of the body"

So this year I am going to appreciate the stash I have and discover what I can create with it and if I get stuck I will be able to step away knowing that I have other discoveries to make outside of beads.  They are still my first passion but sometimes it is okay to take a break.  What do you do when the beads are not talking?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Guest Blogger Karen Snyder: I Made It. Now what do I do with it?

Hello AJE world! My name is Karen Snyder and I’m the jewelry designer/maker behind O. Sebastian Chainmaille Jewelry. I’m so thrilled to have been invited to do a guest blog post for AJE. I’m a wife, mother of two, and have been making jewelry for about 15 years. I started with simple stringing because I wanted to make myself a bracelet that would actually fit (5 ½” wrists here). About three months after making that first, simple strung bracelet, I came across an article in a jewelry magazine that showed a necklace made from chainmaille. It was a mixed weave of Byzantine and Queen’s Link (also known as box chain) and that was all it took – I had to make that!

My first project was made in sterling silver because it was incredibly cheap to buy the wire back then (about $7 an ounce if I remember correctly). I coiled the rings myself around a plastic mandrel and then cut each and every ring with flush cutters. I was so proud of the finished piece but even more importantly, I was completely hooked on chainmaille. I spent the next several years searching for information on weaves to conquer and eventually bought the equipment to cut jump rings with a rotary tool. I’ve been in love with the art form since I found it. As I began to understand the mechanics of working with rings, I began to design original pieces.

Designing within the maille medium is pretty challenging because what I see in my head does not always translate into what is possible with rings and pliers. Most of my designs start with an idea in my mind and I usually start with an array of rings in different sizes and gauges and fiddle around until I get something close to what I’ve envisioned. Sometimes this goes pretty quickly. Sometimes, as in the case of my Phaedra© captured rivoli design, it takes six months of trial, error and pages of note-taking.

I’ve learned to write down what I use in every attempt so that I don’t repeat attempts and have a clear “recipe” for what finally does work. Sometimes I simply sit down with a bunch of rings and start playing with how to interconnect them. I often do this when I’m blocked for ideas or am just worn out from doing long or repetitive projects. I also find myself inspired by certain weaves when I learn them. The way the weave moves, the way the rings are oriented or even something that I find displeasing about a weave can trigger ideas of what else could be done with it.

One of the most interesting facets of maille, to me at least, is that there are “chain weaves” and “unit weaves.” Chain weaves are a series of steps repeated over and over to form a chain, as in the photo below.

Unit weaves are a series of steps that produce a piece that can certainly be linked together into a chain but can also be used as a focal or a design element. I find that I am constantly asking myself what I can do with those chainmaille units.

Maillestrom is an example of a chainmaille unit:

Phaedra© is also an example of a chainmaille unit.

Yes, they make beautiful pendants. Yes, you can make them in their smaller sizes for great earrings. But that’s not particularly creative, and most of us who make jewelry enjoy being creative.

So I decided to challenge myself with my own designs to see what I could come up with beyond the basic pendants and earrings.

A choker is a good idea because people have different length preferences and this single unit makes a great focal for a choker. I always have pre-made chain around for a variety of uses.

Several smaller units linked together make a pretty focal for a longer necklace.

Several of the large units make a gorgeous statement bracelet.    

Experimenting with different metals and patinas creates completely different looks for those who don't prefer a shiny silver.

Leather is very hot in jewelry right now, and chainmaille unit pieces make a gorgeous statement for a leather bracelet.

For the person who loves the pure luxury and richness that sheet maille gives, a focal in a different weave breaks up the weave and adds additional interest.

I had quite a bit of fun going beyond simple pendants and earrings with these units! Instead of stopping when I had a finished piece and adding a bail or ear wires, I pushed myself to get even more creative and it was incredibly satisfying. I hope you will have the same fun, satisfying experience with the techniques you already know!

Maillestrom tutorial
Maillestrom tutorial plus kit
Phaedra© tutorial
Phaedra© tutorial plus kit