Friday, April 29, 2016

I am not a wire whisperer: AJA Classes #3 and #4

With over 20 different classes, there are bound to be at least a few where I have less-than-spectacular results. Notice I avoided the word failure since that might imply a lack of learning. Such was Nicole Hanna's wire weaving class, which was the third class this year in my Art Jewelry Adventure. This is absolutely no reflection on Nicole. Her tutorial - both written and video were perfectly clear and understandable. The problem was with the student - moi! I don't have a natural affinity for wire and it's taken me years just to perfect a technique for making my own ear wires. And wire weaving is like ear wires on steroids. Just take a look at Nicole's beautiful design - stunning!

Nicole Hanna: Pocket Watch Design

I faithfully followed the tutorial but my wire weaves were sloppy and catty-wompus. Finally I threw in the towel thinking there are a zillion other creative techniques I enjoy and will focus on them. Here's the point where I called it quits. I call this Pocket Watch Ugh.

Pocket Watch Ugh
But not to be deterred, next up was Laurie Mika's Crowned Amulet Class. I am in total awe of Laurie Mika's work. And this class exposed me to two media I had never touched before: polymer clay and Shrinky Dinks. Now the name Shrinky Dink just brings a smile to my face and does nothing to conjure up the beautiful objects that Laurie makes with them using nothing more than a rubber stamp and some ink.

Here are the beautiful stamps I found by InvokeArts on Etsy. I will definitely use these again:

You stamp the images on the Shrinky Dink plastic, pop it in your toaster oven (only used for polymer clay) and watch while magic occurs. They curl up and frighten you half to death thinking they will never straighten out but once they bake for about 25 minutes, here's what you get:

Then Laurie talks you through building a frame for the image which you paint and adorn like so:

I just loved them. And then (cue scary music) I baked them. I guess my oven was running too hot because the sweet little wings on the left piece just curled up and melted, as did the frame itself looking like something out of Halloween15! Not so fantastic....

I think the Dream piece is salvageable - at least for wearing by me - and will look interesting on a ball chain or Silversilk. The frame did warp a bit but I'll just chalk that up to part of the dream motif.

So, in summary, I give both Nicole Hanna and Laurie Mika high marks for instruction and give me DNF/average scores for the final results.

I will share a bit of disappointment in the Art Jewelry Community. Although the web site has a general discussion board as does each class, not many students post pictures of their work or discuss their experience online. The online friends you make is something I have enjoyed with blogging and other challenges but we may have an especially small or shy class!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Andrew Thornton's Hidden Cove Challenge

This was my first Andrew Thornton challenge of 2016 and I was instantly drawn in by the blue color palette.

I really appreciated the packaging with the items neatly packed in two boxes instead of just their plastic bags.

Lots of goodies inside:

The dark blue cord and stone nuggets on the left provided my first inspiration for this braided nugget necklace. I made two knotted strands: one with the blue stone nuggets and another with white stone rounds from my stash. Then I braided them with the navy cord from Andrew's kit and used the cord to attach the braided strand to the closure connectors. This would be a great look for a jeans and tee shirt kind of day!

But there were still so many beads left! So next I focused on the seed beads and the variety package.

I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with these so I just started by making some components: peyote tubes, four beaded bead caps and a frilly surround for the large blue bead.

All those pretty shaped beads in the variety pack just shouted fringe to me.

That left me with the frilly bead, which I decided to turn into a pin.

Oddly enough, I didn't use the beautiful mystery component. I decided to make that in more of a copper palette.

You can visit Andrew's Facebook page or his blog to see the wonderful interpretations by the other challenge participants:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Expressions of sympathy

It's so hard when someone close loses a loved one. It seems that gifts of flowers are becoming more discouraged in favor of contributions to a charity. But somehow that doesn't seem as personal as I would like. I usually turn to some form of beaded gift as an additional memento, just to let the recipient know that I took extra time and care to create a memorial of their loved one.

I think most of us have made rosaries and below are two recent rosary creations. The first is a traditional chain linked rosary with an Our Lady of Guadalupe centerpiece I found on Etsy. The second design is so unique and is by Ruby Lockwood who provided a tutorial on how to make this beaded rosary on YouTube. Beware - it takes about 10-15 grams of 11/0 beads and a good amount of time but I love the appearance.

Ruby Lockwood Tutorial

But I think my very favorite is the Charlcie's Cross tutorial I purchased several years ago. Here are two color-ways I recently made:

I have made this design many, many times. The Juelle's Design tutorial doesn't call for a backing but I always stitch the final cross to a piece of Nicole's Bead Backing and then cover that with a piece of Ultrasuede which I stitch to the bead backing with a brick stitch. This along with a decorative jump ring I add to the top gives the cross more body so that the recipient can hang it on the wall. My finishing touch is a little charm stitched to the center.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bargain Bead Box: Jury's still out....

I bet some of the readers out there will remember these:

For those of you too young to remember, these are the old-fashioned version of loyalty points, typically given out by grocery stores and gasoline stations. My mother would buy so many groceries each week, she'd come home with a fist-full which I would get to lick and paste in collection booklets. After you saved oh.... about 100 books, you could redeem them for something cool.

I got the same sense of excitement waiting for my first Bargain Bead Box (aka B3) to arrive. I first learned about B3 from a couple YouTube video mavens who were reviewing their packages. For $15.95 each month, B3 sends a surprise collection that arrives not in a box but in a snappy teal envelope. Inside are three smaller bags labeled 1, 2, 3.

Each shipment comes with a description of what's inside along with the retail value.

Here we see the description for February:

And for March:

The boxes are curated around a particular type of bead or theme and the theme for February was Queen of the Nile including a healthy assortment of lapis lazuli and lapis-like items along with gold tone findings.

The gold tone findings kind of threw me off since I am mostly a silver girl. And I didn't get any rushes of inspiration to run into my bead room and make up the beads. On the whole, the beads were nice and I will likely use them at some point. Not sure about the findings yet.

Then the March box arrived and I felt a little better.

As you can see, it contained lots of silver findings and a varied assortment of pretty green beads. You may not be able to see them real well but the first bag contained some darling shamrock charms and, if I hadn't been committed to another project, I would have made something for St. Patrick's Day. Oh well - next year.

Would I have bought any of these items if I had been shopping on my own? Probably very few but I do think it's good to shop outside your comfort zone occasionally and broaden your beady horizons. You can discontinue the shipments any time you like so I'll probably keep them coming for another month or two before deciding.

That little girl with the S&H green stamps really enjoys seeing what arrives in the postal box each month!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spiky wonders

We just had the opportunity to host some guests who were marveling at the rugged scenery out our back door. They were hoping to see some desert critters and were about 12 hours too early to witness these visitors to our watering dish.


These odd looking creatures are javelina and, if you're wondering what that is - they are a peccary. Now do you feel enlightened? While some people think they are wild pigs, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission says they are hoofed mammals originating in South America. All I know is they are the reason we have to keep bungie cords on the lids of our garbage cans, else they will topple them over and leave a big old mess in our side yard. I think they look like porcupines on legs and love how they travel in herds, usually with a baby or two bringing up the rear.

So in the spirit of all things spiky, I thought I would share a necklace that was actually years in the making. Well, not exactly years in the making but at least four years between when I got the beads and when I used them. They were part of a surprise bundle from A Grain of Sand who was offering a special in 2012 and, for $100, you received a huge box of all things beading for three months in a row. It wasn't my best beading purchase. I got a lot of stuff that I didn't use, most of which has gone on to some other beader's stash. These sea urchin spikes came from one of the shipments and, according to the package, were made popular by the show Project Runway.

I took one look and put them in the bottom of a drawer only to stumble upon them the other day. Something possessed me to give them a try and here's the result.

Javalina Necklace

I spaced them with some really cool 4mm rounds with a rough brown coating and then finished them off with some chunky spacer beads that was part of an impulse buy from Michaels. Think I will name this my Javalina Necklace.

Do you have any stories about using materials you thought you'd never use?

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