Wednesday, March 26, 2014

We're All Ears: March 2014

Once again it's time for the We're All Ears challenge hosted by Earrings Everyday.  Each month the editors will share an inspiration piece on the first Friday of the month.  Anyone can join in and reveal a pair of earrings that they created on the third Friday of the month.  It's super easy to play along!  Here is what they shared with us this month:

Pen and watercolor by Beatrix Potter
from The Tailor of Gloucester from the collection at the Tate Museum
Can it get more sweet and adorable than that?  Like many of us, I grew up with the Beatrix Potter tales and just love the illustrations and the stories.  I'm a youth services librarian in a public library, so I have special affection for an inspiration piece pulled from a beloved children's classic.  (Although the practical side of me does wish that they would publish these books in a larger format...they are usually quite tiny at ???... but I digress!)

I decided to try something a little outside of my normal comfort zone this month and and work with fibers.  To play off the idea of the mouse's needle and thread I used waxed Irish linen.  I chose little Czech glass flowers in pale pink and turquoise to mimic the fabric in Potter's illustration and knotted them onto royal blue waxed Irish linen. (If I had any pink I probably would have gone that route, but I made do with the colors that I had on hand.)  I used a Czech glass cruller in deeper pink right under the ear wire to pick up the color of the thread in the picture.

At that point I thought I was going to be done, but the earrings didn't seem quite balanced.  My husband thought that the threads were too long and that part looked "too skinny."  To fill things out (and avoid cutting the thread off and the effort of attempting another round of even knots) I added a little daisy charm to each earring.  Well, that's enough talking... here's the finished design!

Thanks for stopping by my blog today!  You can check out what everyone else made over on Earrings Everyday HERE.

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Earring Monday Weeks 11 & 12

So, assuming that my efforts to schedule this post actually worked, I am aboard the 2014 Bead Cruise this week.  So, in honor of being out on the high sees (or maybe docked in some lovely tropical port) I'm sharing a couple of new beach themed earring pairs this week.

First up is a pair that makes me think of sandy shores and tide pools.  I paired some little lampwork beads from Tanya McGuire with sterling silver beads tiny silver plated shell charms from TierraCast.

My second pair this week features some large Czech glass "Groovy Rondelles" from Lima Beads.  The darker blue made me think of deep ocean waters and the ridges on the top and bottom remind me of waves or maybe ripples in the sand on the ocean floor.  I added some copper plated shell charms and niobium earwires to complete the look.

Thanks for stopping by!  I'm hoping that wherever you are, that you are starting to see some warmer weather... or even better, that you have escaped for a little vacation in the sun.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Setting Sail!

Hi everyone!  While I do have a couple of blog posts that I've scheduled for next week, it's going to be pretty quiet here on my blog for a bit.  Why? you ask...  Well, I'm going on a jewelry making vacation to the Caribbean!  Do not adjust your monitors, you heard me right.  My friend Kathleen and I are setting sail on the Bead Cruise with 48 other folks in just a couple of days.

I honestly can't believe that I haven't mentioned this trip here before... I guess that I've just been too wrapped up in other things and trying to get everything ready.  I can assure you that my silence isn't because of a lack of enthusiasm!

I had seen mention of the Bead Cruise in past years, but I think it was the series of post-cruise posts over on the Art Bead Scene blog last spring was what put me over the edge to decide to go in 2014.  I'm not going to lie, the giveaway ABS did with an extra gift bag from the cruise may have been the tipping point.  Don't judge me... there was so much beady goodness!!  You can see what I mean HERE.  

I'm looking forward to the three classes I'm taking over the course of the trip as well as the extra activities like the beading pajama party and disco-themed cocktail party.  Most of all, I'm looking forward to meeting some of my online friends in person for the first time and making lots of new friends that share a love of jewelry making.  (The relaxation aspect and warmer weather will be lovely too!)

I promise a full report on all the fun, friends, and beads when I get back.  Now I better get on with my packing!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jewelry Mojo Challenge Week 4: Findings

It's week 4 of the Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge that Heather Powers is hosting over on the Humblebeads blog (check out all the details for the challenge HERE).  This week's prompt is about making your own findings.  (For those of you who aren't jewelry makers, findings are things like clasps, earwires, headpins, and jump rings.  They are the backbone of jewelry and can be simple and unassuming or truly spectacular standouts in a design.

Making my own findings is definitely on my list of things I want to achieve.  (Why buy it if I can make it and it would be great to say that something is 100% handcrafted.)  I'm not sure that I have the skills (or all the tools!) to do this in a real way...yet.  I will eventually get there and I think I see some classes in my not so distant future.  But for now, I'm going to try my hand some fairly simple (I hope!) clasp designs that don't require anything I don't already have in my arsenal.

Since I already had Cindy Wimmer's book The Missing Link out on my bead table from last week's challenge, I decided to try a couple of the simple clasps she explains in the front section of that book first.

First up was the simple hook clasp.  The directions called for 18 gauge wire, so I figured that was a safe place to start.  This hook design uses a doubled over piece of wire and, as you can really tell in the picture on the left, I had some trouble keeping the two sides even.  This seemed especially tricky when trying to get the small curl on the unbent end looped with my round nose pliers since they are tapered.  This could be a flaw not just with me but in the directions, but I can't really tell.  My second hook turned out a little bit more even. It's not quite the shape I was going for, but I think it's actually usable!

Next I decided to give the S hook clasp a go even though I didn't have the 16 gauge wire that the project called for...what the heck, I'd try it in 18 instead!  Again, not amazing results, but I only gave it one try.  I had a tough time using the bail making pliers so get that second side curved properly (the side on the left of the picture).  This will clearly take more practice (and the correct supplies) to master!

My original thought for this challenge is actually the last one that I tried.  I stumbled upon (and promptly Pinned) a cute spiral clasp and leaf charm over on Lima Beads back in August of last year.  Fellow customer SquirrelGirl, aka Angela, shared a design she had used in one of her pieces and it looked like an achievable (and cute) project to try.  So, now that Heather has lit a fire under me with the Mojo Challenge, I'm going to do it!  (FYI, you can see Angela's instructions HERE.)

The clasp was not quite as easy as it looked.  I was doing fine until the step where I needed to curl the wire around to form the hook.  As you can see it went a little wonky.  At this point, I was a little frustrated with wire working and didn't attempt the leaf charm or another try at the clasp.  This result will just have to do for now!

I decided that the most usable of my efforts was that second hook.  I paired it with one of my classic hoop links that I made in Week 3 to form the two halves of my clasp.  Since I was working in copper for my clasp, I added in a copper pendant that I had embossed and painted a while back with a combination of blue and teal.  I pulled a variety of glass beads in colors to compliment the pendant and started putting things together.  I added a little dangle from the hoop and here is my completed project!

30 Words: Mermaid Toes

Toenails fit for a mermaid wannabe 
(everyone knows real mermaids don’t have feet!)
ready to set sail on the high seas.  
Ocean blues and tropical flowers
 ready to see sun.

The premise of 30 Word Thursday is simple... take a photo, write 30 words (no more, no less) and post it each Thursday.  This is a blog hop hosted by Erin Prais-Hintz over on her blog Treasures Found.  Click HERE to see her post for this week as well as links to everyone else's 30 Words.

Ok, this is a terrible picture of my feet, but I'm just so excited to be heading off on the Bead Cruise next week that I couldn't resist!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Art Bead Scene Challenge: March 2014

As I eagerly awaited the reveal of the March inspiration for the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge, I was hoping for something that really screamed Spring.  Like many other folks, I am so sick and tired of this eternal winter we are having and want to surround myself with images and dreams of flowers and new greenery.  So, I was initially a little disappointed when I saw the choice.  What?  Snow???  No more!

Birds On Riser, 1944 

by Adolf Dietrich

Oil on wood
You can read about the art and the artist over on the ABS blog HERE.  The more I looked at the painting, the more I came to terms with it (much like how I view the weather outside my window).  After all, there are birds, lots of birds, and that is an early sign of spring.  Plus, the reality is that here in Minnesota we won't see anything even approaching spring for another month or more.  Sigh.  Time to suck it up and find an appropriate art bead.

I had several really nice contenders, but I decided to go with this great ceramic bird pendent from Tracee Dock at The Classic Bead.  It's actually one that I bought when I visited Kansas City last year and got to meet Tracee in person.  The soft colors of the glaze work well with the colors in the painting and have a cool, early spring feel.

While the birds do have some color to them, I decided to focus more on the icy blues and tans in the painting.  The pendant is a larger scale so I knew I could pair it with some decent sized beads.  I pulled together a mix of black tourmaline amazonite, ceramic beads from Gaea, an enameled filigree bead from Andrew Thornton, and a couple of other odds and ends.  Vintaj natural brass is my usual go-to metal and it worked really well with the colors in the painting.  This was also a good opportunity to use some of the larger sized etched chain... it's not every design that can hold it's own next to that!

Hopefully this time next month, we will be seeing some real changes in the weather.  For now I just have to be happy with the fact that some of our snow mountains are finally starting to melt!

Monday, March 10, 2014

New Earring Monday Weeks 9 & 10

It's a good thing that I've set this earring challenge up for myself because I need to keep on making new things at a steady pace.  There are some exciting things coming this spring and I need to make sure that I have enough stock for them all!

Since Mother Nature refuses to release Minnesota from her icy grip, I decided to focus on some more springy designs for this week's reveal.

First up is a pair that features some cute little polymer clay discs from Heather Powers of Humblebeads.  I got these as part of a set that I used in a bracelet last month, now your earlobes can get in on some bright fuchsia love!  I chose the white and fuchsia striped ones with the great lime green on the ends (I do love me some green!).  I added in a foliage inspired bead cap and dangled a little trio of Swarovski crystals and a little glass leaf on the bottom.  (Eric says they remind him of little eggplants, LOL!)

My second pair is all about new spring foliage.  I matched up some cool green mosaic-looking mystery beads (they came from a thank you mix so I have no clue what they are made of) and little fern charms in brass.

I hope you enjoy this little taste of spring things to come... at least I hope Spring is really coming!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Jewelry Mojo Challenge Week 3: Back to School

It's Week 3 for the Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge that Heather Powers is hosting over on the Humblebeads blog!  You can read all about it HERE.  This week's challenge is all about trying a new technique and making something using what you've learned.  It's all about putting yourself out there and trying something new... whether it be from a book, online tutorial, or taking a class.  Heather is totally right that learning something new is a fabulous way to get that creativity going.

I decided to finally get brave and try out a couple of wire links from Cindy Wimmer's wonderful book The Missing Link.  I put this on my Christmas list after reading positive reviews on both the Love My Art Jewelry and Art Jewelry Elements blogs.  I read a good portion of the book right away but still haven't actually tried any of the links.

Seeing as the thickest wire I currently have in my possession is 18 gauge, I looked for the easy level projects that called for that gauge and didn't look too scary.  You've got to start somewhere, right?

I decided to go with her "Classic Hoop" link since it seemed a likely candidate to do ok without a tumbler to harden it.  I followed the directions, but when I took the link off the Sharpie (using that as a mandrel) and tried to finish the wire wraps, things went a little sideways on me.

I'm not sure if it's because the wire I'm working with (18 gauge, Vintaj Artistic Copper from Parawire) was too soft a material, or if it's just my underdeveloped wire working skills at fault.  Not only did my circle get all bendy in the wrapping process, but when I hammered out the large side of the hoop, it stayed much thinner than in the pictures.  (I've numbered my attempts in the collage below.)

So, back to the drawing board for a second attempt.  This time I decided to try leaving the large side of the hoop on the Sharpie while I started the wire wraps.  My second try looked pretty darn good!  I decided to make another one, hoping for a nice matched set.  Well... number three ended up a little bigger than the previous try.  It was enough of a difference that it was noticeable and not what I wanted for my project.  So I cut another length of wire and tried again.  Luckily, my next attempt was pretty similar to number threes.  Woo hoo, I had my "matched set" for the project that I had envisioned.

I knew from the start that I wanted to make earrings.  I figured that my links might not be sturdy enough for making an actual chain without tumbling them (although, I think this design probably would be fine).  I kept it pretty simple just attaching the wrapped loops to earwires and dangling little lampwork beads from Beadygirl Beads off of the hoop.

I clearly still have a LOT to learn when it comes to even simple wire-working, but you have to start someplace.  If anyone has ideas of where I may have gone wrong, I'd appreciate hearing them.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

30 Words: Ceiling

Not the ceiling you’d expect to find 
in a grocery store... 
Not in America anyway.  
What is your history?  What were you before?  
A bank? Government building? 
Something else entirely?

The premise of 30 Word Thursday is simple... take a photo, write 30 words (no more, no less) and post it each Thursday.  This is a blog hop hosted by Erin Prais-Hintz over on her blog Treasures Found.  Click HERE to see her post for this week as well as links to everyone else's 30 Words.

This photo was taken in a grocery store in Northern Ireland in 2011. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Enchantress of Florence / Difficult Loves- Inspired by Reading Book Club

It's time once again for one of my favorite monthly design challenges... the Inspired by Reading Book Club!  This group was founded and organized by Andrew Thornton and you can read more about the group and see the rest of the 2013/2014 booklist HERE.  He recently announced the lineup for 2014/2015 and you check that out HERE.  Anyone can join... just read the month's book and create something, anything to share on the reveal date (usually the last Wednesday of the month although we sometimes switch things around like this month with two reveals together).

The January selection for the book club was The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie.  I was intrigued from the start by the idea of the Enchantress but, boy, does she take a long time to show up!

I will be the first to admit that this title ended up being a little bit outside my comfort zone.  While I agree with some of the conversation over on our group's Facebook page that there is a lot of rich imagery here, I just couldn't get the plot to really gel for me.  There were so many threads to the story and so many names that I just found myself glossing over things in many places.  By the end of the book I appreciated how all the threads came together, but this isn't a book that I'll be rushing to recommend to folks.

I was really struck by the idea of Argalia the Turk, the mighty warrior with his secret, more feminine side.  I loved the idea of this tough man who insisted that all his underthings be embroidered with tulips and had tattooed tulips all over his body.  I had an idea for doing something with the either the Vintaj Flourish petal or bead cap (maybe even both) since they look so much like tulip petals to me.  Unfortunately, I ran out of time to mess around with that idea but maybe I'll revisit it a a later date when I have more time to fiddle with it.

So, onto plan B.  Luckily, I had an embossed Vintaj copper blank that featured part of the design from the India Archway die sitting around from my last big round of playing with my BigKick.  I had used a mix of fuchsia and orange paints that fit with my idea of the colors of India.  Once I wrapped a piece of filigree around my painted square I had my pendant and my starting place for my design.  

Per my usual process, I pulled out a ton of possible bead choices that fit with the colors of the pendant.  Once I whittled things down, I had some fun and bright dyed howlite rondelles, some fushcia cyrstal rounds, and some bright orange Czech glass.  To keep things from being over the top bright and to bring out the copper tones from the pendant, I added in several sparkly goldstone rounds.  (FYI both the goldstone and the crystal came from some of Andrew's destash events.)

I didn't want to totally abandon the idea of flowers... I used a couple of different flower beads as well as a variety of bead caps that had a flowery feel to them.  Wire wrapping a little orange glass flower to the jump ring above the pendant gives it a little something different than what I've done before and I hope that the lucite flower dangle that I added to the clasp helps balance out the design.

February's selection is collection of short stories, Difficult Loves by Italio Calvino.  The stories were written in the 1940's and 50's and are translated from the Italian.  I don't know if this makes sense or not, but they felt translated to me... that there was something in the prose that just felt foreign to my American ears.

The cover of my copy was NOT this attractive.

I didn't even try to read them all (I'm never going to be a huge short story fan) but the ones that resonated the most with me all came from the "Riviera Stories" section of the book.  Many of them were tinged with just a touch of magical realism that hooked my imagination.

I chose to make something in response to "The Enchanted Garden."  In this story, two children sneak into a garden through a hole they find in the hedge.  Once inside the garden they pick flowers, swim in a pool, and eat tea and cake before sneaking back out.  Before they leave they also spy a pale boy inside the house in a beautiful room filled with collections of butterflies on the walls.  The children are unable to really enjoy the experience because of the shadows cast by their fear of being caught.

I ended up making two necklaces that are variations on a design that I call my "Secret Garden" necklaces.  For both of them I drew on the colors of the swimming pool and added flowers and in one case a leaf for the garden itself.  One of them features a butterfly charm for the pale (sickly?) boys collections and the other has a bird in flight for the sparrows that the children spook on their way into the garden.

I think it was the act of crawling through the hedge into the enchanted garden that really caught my attention.  As a child my friends and I had a whole world carved out in the space that ran between our backyards and the yards on the street behind us (We called it the T section, don't ask me why).  The neighbors directly behind my house had a thick boxwood hedge that did have a hole in it where we would crawl inside and could see their gardens and pool.  There was no hole in that fence for us to crawl through, but the idea just felt so familiar to me.

This is a blog hop.  Please take some time to see what everyone else created over the last two months!

Sarajo Wentling  (that's me!)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Challenge of Music

Welcome to my entry for the Challenge of Music blog hop that Erin Prais-Hintz is hosting over on her blog Treasures Found.  You can read more about the genesis of this challenge and a pretty amazing organization called Music and Memory on Erin's blog HERE.  When Erin revealed this challenge, I was intrigued by the idea of a significant song inspiring a piece of jewelry.  I totally get that music can actually transport you back to a very specific time and place in your life... letting you relive old memories for a few moments.  

The challenge that Erin gave us was to pick a significant year in your life and then to choose a song from that year to help tell your story.  My problem was that I couldn't get a song and a year to gel.  Let's face it, it isn't always what is new or popular that resonates with a particular time... for instance, the Beatles makes me think of my high school years not the 1960's (when I wasn't even born yet!)  With so many other commitments and projects on my plate, I had actually decided to just sit this one out.  That is until the morning before the reveal (nothing like waiting until the last minute, right?) when I just happened to catch a song on the car radio that, in combination with a pendant I had just received in the mail, sparked my imagination for this challenge.  

What was this magical song you ask?  Why it was November Rain by Guns N' Roses.  The moment I heard the opening notes of a song I haven't listened to in years, I knew that this was my song and the Jade Scott resin cloud I had just bought was my focal.  I waited until the song (all eight minutes and 57 seconds of it) was over and then literally ran into the house to double check when the reveal was, gulped when I realized it was the next day, and then sped off to start my project.    

Here's a link to the music video if you aren't familiar with the song (or if you need to have a nostalgic moment like I did).  

November Rain is from Guns N' Roses 1991 album Use Your Illusion I but it wasn't released as a single until June 1992.  The song made it to number 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 list and has the dubious honor of being the longest song to make it to the top 10 of that chart.  For my purposes, I'm going with 1992 as my year.  Even though it hadn't made it radio play at the time I'm going back to, it was on heavy rotation on CD and mix tapes in my teenaged world.    

If I'm honest, the most accurate title of my blog post would probably be something like "November Rain or Surviving the (melo)Drama of Teenaged Love."  Without going into too much detail to protect both the the guilty (that would be me) and the innocent (my high school boyfriend at the time), I'll keep this as brief as possible.  Basically, I'd been dating a really nice guy for a while (my first really serious boyfriend) and decided in all of my infinite 17 year old wisdom that if I couldn't see a long term future that I should break it off.  So I did.  And was instantly remorseful.  I begged him to take me back (there was lots of playing of We Can Work it Out by the Beatles... oh my but this story is cringe worthy) which he eventually did.  We dated a little while longer and then I broke it off again (after meeting someone else that I wanted to date instead... more cringing).  

To sum it up, there were broken hearts, angry words, and lots of tears.  Yup, all the makings for your stereotypical teen drama.  Unfortunately, in this particular drama I was the villain.  I was a total jerk to someone who deserved far better.  This was the first time that I'd found myself on this side of the break up...twice in a row no less...but it wouldn't be the last.

I played this song (and Don't Cry from the same album) quite a few times during this whole saga while crying bitter tears.  I thought I wanted to be on my own and independent... but I really didn't.  I was a serial dater and was no good at not having a boyfriend.  I sometimes still need the reminder that it is ok to be by myself sometimes.  Even in the most wonderful relationship (and I'm extremely lucky to have found the right special someone) you need your own space, your own time, your own interests.  That's not just ok, it's important.    

Here are some choice lyrics for your pleasure (if you don't want to spend 9 minutes watching the video above in all its cinematic glory):

We've been through this such a long long time
Just tryin' to kill the pain

But lovers always come and lovers always go
An no one's really sure who's lettin' go today
Walking away

Sometimes I need some time...on my own
Sometimes I need some time...all alone  
Everybody needs some time... on their own
Don't you know you need some time...all alone

Now that you know the ugly truth about my teenaged self, I hope we can still be friends. I like to think that I've grown up quite a bit in the last 22 years and am (mostly) less of a jerk than I was in the spring of 1992.  So, after all that talking about music and memories, I guess I should show you what I made.

I'll be honest, I went pretty literal with my creation, but seeing as I made it less than 24 hours before the deadline... I'm pretty pleased with the result.  As I listened to Use Your Illusion I on repeat (yes we own it) I started to create.  I began with my new Jade Scott resin cloud pendant knowing that I wanted to dangle some Labradorite teardrops from the bottom.  I mixed in some smaller rough cut rondelles to mix it up and keep it from getting too busy.  I went with all gemstones and stuck to mostly muted colors in grey, pale green, and light aqua.  There is a lot of Labradorite throughout the necklace as well as green fluorite, apatite, aquamarine, pearl, and tourmaline.
I think that this necklace is going to be a keeper for me.  A reminder of emotionally rainy days but also, cheesy as it may be, that clouds do have silver linings.   

Please take a peek at what the other participants came up with over on Erin's blog HERE... I'm excited to see what musical memory lanes they take me on!