Thursday, February 26, 2015

30 Words: A Skinny House

One of the skinniest houses 
in the world...  
I could live with 
having to suck it in to 
move around my furniture if 
I could just stay where it’s 

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, pop on over there to see her post for this week as well as links to the 30 Words from everyone else.

I took this picture when the Bead Cruise docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  This is La Casa Estrecha, The Narrow House in Old San Juan.  At five feet wide, this bright little gem is one of the narrowest houses in the world.  It stretches 36 feet back and is two stories high.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Art Bead Scene Challenge: February 2015

This month's inspiration for the Art Bead Scene challenge is Amapolas, a lush watercolor illustration by Edward Julius Detmold.  You can read more about the artist and the artwork HERE.  I was really taken by these lovely poppies and the matching butterflies frolicking among them.  I love the look of poppies and have a few different beads that would be perfect for this challenge.  There's so much detail in the painting and so many the shades of red, coral, and pink... it's so yummy and lush!  Just one problem... I was a little short on time this month with the Bead Cruise and other things on my plate.  I was worried, and a little sad, thinking that I would have to sit this challenge out.

Amapolas, 1913
Illustration published in "News of Spring and Other Nature Studies
By Edward Julius Detmold
While taking a brief break from doing what felt like 1,000 loads of post-vacation laundry, I did take some time to gaze at my art beads and contemplate if I could pull something off.  For now, I have to postpone any super elaborate designs but I just couldn't skip this one!

First, I ended up grabbing two of the super cute poppy Humblebeads that Heather Powers made for this month's challenge.  I was lucky to snag these little beauties while on the Bead Cruise.  Erin Prais-Hintz inspired me to use a little Vintaj deco rivet that I had never really noticed before in my design.  She used them in one of her We're All Ears designs last November and you can see her pretties HERE.  I don't know why I never paid this rectangle piece any attention before since I regularly use several other deco rivet designs in my earrings, but that's how it goes sometimes.  Thanks for the great idea, Erin!

Determined to do something more than just a pair of earrings, I grabbed one of my beloved lampwork glass poppies from Tanya McGuire and whipped up this little necklace by wire wrapping it to a Vintaj brass ring.  I added some butterfly charms and a small Czech glass flower dangling from chain to balance things out (I wanted the poppy slightly off center).  I finally used my brand new two hole metal punch to add the holes in the brass ring!  

I couldn't end this post without sharing this necklace that I made last year when Erin Prais-Hintz invited me to be her Pretty Palettes partner for the Halcraft blog.  The pendant is by Skye Jewels and is just perfect for this inspiration piece!  You can see more about it HERE if you are interested.

Monday, February 23, 2015

New Earring Monday '15: Weeks 7 & 8

Welcome to New Earring Monday, everyone!  I'm just back from the Bead Cruise (more on that here soon), but luckily I had made up some extra earrings beforehand so this post would be already to go.

These little guys aren't anything wild and crazy for me, just more fun with happy papers and UV resin.  For a couple of these (the ones with the darker purple, pink, and yellow florals) I used the decorative portion of some flyers that were left over from a fall luncheon event that some of the local boutiques put on.  I loved the colors and the design so I asked folks to save the extras for me to play with!  (See, this totally justifies my hoarding tendencies.  Right?)

I made these up to put in Unearthed Arts before Valentines day... thinking florals, reds, pinks, and purples.  Here are some of the coordinating necklaces too!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

We're All Ears: February 2015

Erin Prais-Hintz has outdone herself with this, the one year anniversary of the We're All Ears challenge over on the Earrings Everyday blog!  Erin discovered Malaysian artist and photographer Lim Zhi Wei who combines watercolor illustrations with fresh flowers to make these amazing flower girls.  I think we all needed this burst of color as winter continues to batter much of the country!  Here are some of my favorites:

I had grand plans for playing with some new floral earring designs for this month's challenge, but with the Bead Cruise right smack in the middle of the month and a million and one details to take care of prior to my travels, time just wasn't on my side.  One of the things that gobbled up some of my time is actually an exiting announcement... some of my earrings are going to be carried by a great boutique in the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport... Uptown MN!  In particular some of my earrings incorporatng FLOWERS!  So I sort of killed two birds with one stone this month and am sharing a bevy of Czech glass flower and brass flower earrings that I made for the boutique for the challenge.

This is a blog hop so head on over to the Earrings Everyday blog to see what everyone else made in response to the amazing inspiration we were given HERE.  I suspect that this month's creations will be amazing and I can't wait to hop around myself when I get back from my trip.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Blueberry Cove Beads: Beads by Subscription!

I have a distant memory of seeing something on Facebook (probably in one of the many jewelry making groups I'm in) about a bead subscription service.  I was a little intrigued but, like with so many other things, it just slid off my radar and was forgotten.  Then I read Lorelei Eurto's blog post reviewing the first installment of Blueberry Cove's bead subscription... and, after seeing the fun assortment of goodies, I had to try it out!  You can see her review (and find out what was in the first box for comparison) HERE.  I immediately rushed to the Blueberry Cove Beads website and got enrolled as a late Christmas present to myself to ensure that I didn't miss the next box.

The premise is simple:  each month Isobel, the creator and founder of Blueberry Cove Beads, curates and sends out a special box of beads and findings centered around a theme to each member.  Members get a shipment of beads each month for the cost of $22 plus $5 shipping.  Once you've enrolled, your credit card will be automatically billed on the third of each month and they aim to ship packages out soon after.

After signing up I eagerly awaited my first shipment... Box 2.  Once it arrived in my mailbox I couldn't wait to rip into the package to see what was inside!  I opened it up to reveal a black satin drawstring bag with a cute wooden tag with their logo engraved onto it and a post card announcing the Art Deco theme and providing some additional information including details for the monthly challenge (more on that below).

 Here's what I found inside that mysterious bag:

Overall, I think that Box 2 was a nice selection of items.  The black glass cubes might be my favorite items and there were a generous amount included!  I'm also pretty smitten with the cool green glass triangles with gold edging... I think they are going to pair nicely with the Vintaj natural brass I work with so often.  Some of the items aren't quite to my normal taste, but with a mystery collection I think that's to be expected and not a problem for me.  Whenever I end up with something a little random I tend to see it as a challenge... a make it work moment if you will!  I find the idea of getting a totally unexpected grab bag of beady goodness exciting.  

Isobel provides a more detailed, descriptive list of the exact contents and materials for each box on her website.  You can see the list for Box 2 HERE.  A minor quibble for me is that I'd really like to know exactly what I'm working with so I can share that information with my customers.  For instance the two pendants in the second picture are listed as "diamond-shaped silver pendants, 24 mm" but that doesn't tell me what they are made of... are they pewter? silver plated? something else?  This might not matter to a lot of folks, and it isn't even a deal breaker for me, but it could be for some folks.  I appreciate that she's also put up some information on the Art Deco style on her blog for those who are interested in learning more about the inspiration for the month's collection.

Each month, along with the collection of beads and findings, Blueberry Cove also issues a challenge to its subscribers.  This month's challenge was right up my alley... make some earrings using the bead frames from the package.  I ended up making two pairs (for now).  For the first I pulled some of the black glass cubes (I still think they look more like crystal) along with some square silver plated spacers inside the bead frames.  I had a heck of a time trying to find a combination of beads that would fill the space precisely, and I still ended up with a little bit of give, but it was close.

For my second pair, I decided to break out the waxed Irish linen and see if I could make something work.  My thought process was that I assumed, correctly, that it would be a little more forgiving of a technique than what I tried for my first attempt.  I had some random red Czech glass beads already out on my bead table from another project and with Valentine's Day right around the corner, the red just made sense.

If you love the idea of beads and findings coming straight to your door every month and are ok with the mystery of not knowing the theme or contents of the boxes then I would recommend you give Blueberry Cove Beads a try.  I think that this could be really fun (and affordable!) for jewelry makers who are new to beading or who don't have easy access to a local bead store.  It's also a great way to shake yourself out of your comfort zone and try new materials, shapes, colors, etc.  If you are interested in subscribing, or want to give a subscription as a gift, you can do that HERE.

I already have some ideas for future projects using the contents of my first Blueberry Cove Beads subscription box and am looking forward to finding out what Box 3 will contain soon!

Monday, February 9, 2015

New Earring Monday '15: Weeks 5 & 6

Welcome back to New Earring Monday!  I'm not too much of a hearts and flowers girl normally, but I decided to give some Valentine's Day/love themed earrings a try for this week since a certain holiday falls on Saturday.  (Apologies to my sweet and understanding husband that I won't be spending Valentines Day with him this year, but will be setting sail with a gaggle of beady friends on the 10th anniversary Bead Cruise instead!)  I ended up getting in the spirit and going a little overboard with the hearts!

A friend gave me a remnant of cute scrapbook paper with little hearts and cupcakes all over it.  What was left over was way too small for her uses, so she gifted it to me in hopes I could find a use.  Happily, some of the little hearts were just the perfect size for earrings!  I had intended to make two matching pairs, but two of the pieces didn't turn out.  (It happens some times.  You can read about how to avoid and fix UV resin mishaps on my post from last week HERE.)  Anyway, I ended up with a mis-matched pair instead!

In rooting around in my disaster of a studio area, I stumbled upon some little glass hearts that I had gotten with an order from Andrew Thornton ages ago.  In a fit of inspiration, I knew just how I wanted to use these little red hearts.  I fished out some of my smallest Vintaj brass blanks, added some extra holes and then had some fun with my new Bridgette set of letter stamps from ImpressArt that Eric bought me for Christmas.  Here are the results!

But wait, there's more!  I also remembered that I had some little TierraCast heart charms in both silver and copper plate hiding in my mess of metal components yet to be put neatly away.  (Amy Alessio's post last time actually reminded me of them with her cute Valentine's Day earrings!)  I figured if ever there was a good time to use these little hearts, it was now.  (As a bonus, now I have one less thing that needs to be put away!  Score!)

I think the glass in these two pair look a little like hard candies!

All of these little earrings recently made their way to the gallery at Unearthed Arts where I hope they will be a fun Valentine for someone special!

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Misadventures in UV Resin: Or What to Do When Good Resin Goes Bad

I really enjoy playing with UV resin in my jewelry designs... if you've been following me you've seen several posts to this effect including one that gives an overview of the whole process that you can check out HERE.  As with anything, sometimes things go a little awry.  My husband is fond of saying "natural product, results may vary," and while that's true, sometimes the results just aren't acceptable.

Take for instance this little guy:

See how at the top it's oddly shiny, almost silvery?  Through some trial and error, I've discovered that the resin layer was basically pulling away from the sealed image underneath... probably due to my starting with too thick a layer of resin.  Another common issue that I've had is air bubbles appearing from nowhere and ruining a pendant or other piece.  This can happen even when you think you've been super careful and removed them all.  Frustrating!

Sometimes you can fix the problems that arise just by adding another layer of UV resin and curing again.  This often works when you've had air bubbles that are open at the top or other  surface imperfections like dimpling.

Unfortunately, sometimes the problem just isn't fixable.  Maybe you've got an air bubble completely trapped in the resin, or maybe you've got the silvering affect like in the picture above.  Either way, no amount of extra resin layers is going to fix what has gone wrong.

While I've gotten better at being patient and using VERY thin layers of resin, things still sometimes go wrong.  I thought I'd share a couple of tips and tricks that I've learned along the way in hopes of helping other jewelry designers problem solve and even salvage what you might think was a lost cause!

  1. Make sure you have no air bubbles before you try to cure your pieces.
    • I usually start by running the tip of my metal awl around the inner edges of my bezel.  It sounds weird, but tiny little bubbles sometimes like to hide sneakily in there and this can help draw them out.  
    • Next I run a lit match over the top of the piece to pop any visible air bubbles.  This sometimes draws out some of those sneaky ones that you don't see.
  2. Keep a VERY close eye on things when you first put them under the UV light to cure.  
    • Even when you think all the air bubbles have been popped, I've found that they still sometimes try to form around the edges of the bezel.  If you see this start to happen or see the resin start to separate from the sealed image, pull your piece out IMMEDIATELY and try to peel the resin out of the bezel.  This can usually be accomplished without ruining your sealed image underneath.  
  3. When imperfections do sneak through, see if there's a creative way to mask them.
    • Think about if there's a way you can add something on top of the imperfection to hide it.  I've used small flat backed crystals or metal charms in an extra layer of resin to some good effect.  If you use charms, just be careful of how you place them so that UV resin doesn't get under them where the UV light can't reach to cure it.  Here's an example of a pin I just made where I had that shiny thing happen in one little area.  I've circled the spots where you can just barely see some shine:  

  4. Don't throw it away!!!
    • Even when you think all hope is lost and there is absolutely no way to salvage a metal bezel, you don't have to toss it.  Try this trick:  in a small saucepan no longer used for food, bring a small amount of water to a boil.  Add in your ruined bezel and turn the heat off.  Let the bezel soak in the hot water then carefully fish it out and the resin should have softened enough for you to remove it.  (I used my handy dandy awl for this too!)  Those little bezels are not cheap, so this is a good trick to know!

Do you have any other tips and tricks for dealing with UV resin?  I'd love to hear them because there's always something new to learn!