Monday, August 31, 2015

My First Bead Fest: Part Two, Shopping and More!

Welcome back for part two of my Bead Fest wrap up!  (If you missed it before, you can read about my adventures taking classes HERE.)  While the chance to take some great classes was a big part of the draw, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't excited about the shopping opportunities that awaited me.

As I mentioned before, I've never been to a major bead show... just the smaller local shows in the Twin Cities.  While I certainly enjoy my local shows and appreciate having them within 45 minutes of my house, they are just so MUCH smaller.  The shows I've gone to before have either been in a school gymnasium or the ballrooms of a mid-sized hotel... big enough to have some interesting things but not so large or overwhelming that you can't see everything you want to in a few hours.  Bead Fest was a completely different animal!  Here, the Expo portion of the event covered two exhibit halls of the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center (the third hall contained most of the classrooms).

All those tiny square on the right half are booths! So many beads!!
It's been a busy summer and I decided to go to Bead Fest fairly late in the game so I didn't really do much (or any) pre-shopping planning.  I figured I could just wander the floor without a real plan and see what I could see.  With all the classes I was taking I wasn't sure how much shopping time I'd even have to shop... as it turns out, I had plenty of time to do some serious damage!

Even though I had a full day class on Friday, apparently Bead Fest has a mandatory 90 minute lunch break for the all day classes to ensure that students have an opportunity to shop.  As soon as I finished the morning's project to my satisfaction I made a quick stop at the concession stand for lunch and stared out into the mass of bead vendors and shoppers while I ate, already feeling a bit overwhelmed.  As soon as my belly was full, I made a bee line for Artisan's Alley where many of the art bead makers are clustered together.  While I didn't do any real planning or shopping lists ahead of time, I knew that the main thing I was looking for were gorgeous art beads.  I also figured that the earlier I shopped, the better my selection would be.  (Shop early, shop often... right?)

I headed straight for Heather Powers' booth with a little detour to say hi to Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio and snatch up some of her pretties.  I didn't have a ton of time (and of course there was lots of chatting with Heather, her aunt Rosanne, and my friend Terri) but I did manage to amass quite the collection of Humblebeads!  My apologies to the shoppers who came after me!
So... I might have gone a little overboard on the Humblebeads! 
Having spent most of my lunch break pawing through Heather's gorgeous beads, I didn't have too much more time for shopping but I did do a quick browse through more of Artisan's Alley to get a lay of the land.  As I was wandering down the aisle I heard a voice behind me say something to the effect of "hey, I know you."  I turned around to find Jenny Davies-Reazor and her lovely booth (which she shared with Lesley Watt of Thea Elements).  I was thrilled to finally meet Jenny in real life since I've enjoyed following her posts on her own blog and Art Jewelry Elements over the years (I've even won some of her components of the month!) and we are both in the Inspired by Reading Book club.  I didn't have too much time to chat, but I did manage so snatch up some of Jenny's lovely firefly pendants before I headed back to class.  After my class wrapped up, I was able to get back into the Expo and do some more shopping.  I swung back by and picked up some more things from Jenny and Lesley.  By that time, Lesley Watt had arrived so I got to meet another artist that I have been following online.  She came from all the way across the pond in England to be at Bead Fest!  I stocked up on more pretties from both Jenny and Lesley and even got to see some of my Bead Cruise friends before it was time for me to drive into Philadelphia for dinner with my librarian friends and bring Kathleen back to our hotel.
Ceramic, bronze clay, and polymer yumminess from Jenny Davies-Reazor and Lesley Watt.  (Jenny's are the pieces on the right hand column plus the other firefly pendant at the top.)
I have to admit that it was sort of amusing to see the same deer caught in headlights look on Kathleen's face as I had probably been wearing the day before when we wandered into the Expo after our morning class on Saturday.  We took a somewhat more systematic approach to tackling the exhibit hall, although we did make a serious tactical error right off the bat.  We were sitting right by Nirvana Beads when we were eating lunch so we decided to go ahead and start with them since I knew I needed to bite the bullet and do a wholesale order with them.  Seems logical, right?  WRONG!  I ended up with at least ten pounds of Czech glass that I then had to carry around the rest of the day.  Live and learn!

Despite how this looks, I did leave some Czech glass for other shoppers!
We wandered around the show mostly aisle by aisle, stopping whenever something caught our eye.  I'm pretty thrilled with my Bead Fest shopping finds... although a tiny bit embarrassed that I bought so much!  We kept running into friends from the Bead Cruise... thank goodness Diana Ptaszynski actually thought to take a picture or I wouldn't have a single people picture from the show... just pictures of my class projects.

Reunited and it feels so good...  Kathleen, Diana, and myself with Jenny photobombing us!
Here are most of the rest of my Bead Fest finds... Now I need to sit down and start creating with all this yumminess!  I stayed pretty true to my plan of mostly getting art beads (I love seeing everything in person and picking the "best" ones) and things that I can't easily find at home...  Well, and Czech glass... but I've been looking for a good wholesaler that would work for me for a while.  As you can tell from my pictures, I bought a lot of charms for earring pairs (you know earrings are my favorite to make!) as well as matched bead pairs.  

I found lots of great wood beads and some funky barkcloth beads.
Clockwise (mostly) from top left: ceramic from White Clover Kiln, polymer clay from Staci Louise Originals, lampwork by Alice St. Germain, pewter and bronze from Green Girl, and more ceramics by Firefly Designs
At the end of the weekend I left Philadelphia happy and tired and with a very heavy backpack filled with new beads.  I feel so re-energized to get back to my bead table and making fabulous new designs.  One last thing... Did you notice how I titled these posts "My First Bead Fest"?  Oh, yeah... I'm totally going to go back!

Kathleen took a quick selfie of us on the shuttle back to the airport after dropping off the rental car.  So glad I got to see this lady!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inspired By Reading: The Night Circus

I've been looking forward to the Inspired by Reading Book Club reading this month's selection, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  This was the one that I recommended so I'm hoping that most of the group enjoyed it.  I think I got wind of this title before it was published (I was still working in the library and regularly read review journals and such) and was first in line for my library's copy when it came out in the fall of 2011.  That was a long time ago so Eric and I listened to most of it on a road trip last month and finished it up driving back and forth from Minneapolis during the Fringe Festival.

This book totally captivated me from the start (both times!) and I enjoyed getting caught up in the magic.  I will say that I had a harder time tracking the jumps in the timeline when we listened to it.  I seem to remember having a similar issue when reading the first time, but I could just flip back to a previous chapter to double check the dates.

I love the idea of a truly magical circus that arrives without warning and is only open from sundown to sunup.  Morgenstern describes the circus in such rich detail that you could almost see, smell, and taste its wonders.  The story has a fairly large cast of characters but, instead of getting them confused, I felt they were all fairly distinct and I enjoyed seeing how the author wove various threads together as the story progressed.

Part of what inspired me was the color palette for the circus (all white, black, and shades of grey) and the addition of red in the outfits of the circus's devotees known as the reveurs.  I wasn't entirely sure what to do with those thoughts until we bought a new board game called Tsuro over Fourth of July weekend.  The advertising insert inside the box had some really great images including some circus tents in white and a reddish grey.  I decided to see if I could cut some of those pieces out and put them in bezels covered in resin.  The more I look at it after the resin went on top of the pendants the more brown it looks, but you still get the idea of the circus I guess.  I started working on three circus tent bezels but only got one completely done before time ran out.  I'll go back and keep working on them when I get around to pouring more resin.  My favorite of the three is the one on the right in the picture below but the resin didn't behave on my first try.  Thank goodness the paper underneath wasn't a casualty!

The two that got away....
For the necklace with the one pendant that I actually completed, I made wire wrapped bead units with moonstone, smoky quartz, faceted pyrite, and an owyhee jasper cube to pull the colors out of the pendant.  I thought the facets in the pyrite echoed the girders in the pendant.

Not a great picture, but there's no light today.  I'll try to update with a better one when we have sun!
The small circles I cut out for coordinating earrings look more dark red and white/light grey so I decided to dangle dark, pomegranate colored Czech glass rondelles from them.  I like the slightly asymmetry of the stripes and think they feel kind of mod.

When I was at Bead Fest last weekend, I ended up doing a big wholesale Czech glass purchase from Nirvana Beads.  One of my favorite finds were some red and black flowers that look like poppies to me.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to use some of those for a second pair of earrings in honor of the red flowers (or other items) that the reveurs wore to indicate their devotion to the circus.  I mixed in some hematite, black crystal and silver findings to keep with the appropriate color scheme.  (Now that they are made I realize that my steam punk costume with it's black and white time piece print corset and black and white striped bustled skirt would be the perfect starting place if I find the circus one day and become a reveur myself!)

I had lots of ideas this month... As I was punching out pieces, I realized that there was also a section of cool swirly clouds that made me think of the cloud maze tent inside the circus, so I punched that out too!  I kept this one pretty simple and went for a charm style.  I added a little urn charm that made me think of one of Widget's jars of memories that Bailey found in his little tent... maybe that's the container that held Bailey's memory of his tree.  I added a couple of other beads including an iridescent faceted bead that was included in a lot with a strand of moonstones from Andrew.

All of the designs here will be available for sale during this year's Art Wander studio tour at the end of September.

This is a blog hop.  Please stop by Andrew's blog HERE to see what everyone else was inspired to create!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My First Bead Fest: Part 1, the Classes!

True confession... Even though I've been making jewelry for about 8 years and live within driving distances of one of the biggest bead shows in the country, I had never been to a major bead show before last week.  For the last three or four years I have wanted to make it to the Bead and Button show in Milwaukee but the timing just never worked out.  (Next year... it's gonna happen!)  Anyway, when I discovered I couldn't attend Heather Powers' Inspired by Nature Fall Retreat this year due to a scheduling conflict I decided that I would fly to Philadelphia for Bead Fest instead!

I'm not sure if I would have made the leap without the encouragement of some of my beady friends, but I'm so glad that I did!  Many of my friends that I've made on the Bead Cruise were going to be there as well as lots of folks I know from the online world of Facebook and various blogs.  And as another added bonus, my friend Kathleen was also able to take the train up from D.C. to join me.

My sweet husband really encouraged me to sign up for as many classes as possible since I was taking this trip in lieu of a weekend workshop.  The shopping (I'll cover that in a second post!) was just an added bonus.  I took two shorter classes (3 to 4 hours each) and one full day class.  Kathleen and I also did one of the 45 minute beginner classes but I'll be sharing that project in my next New Earring Monday post.

I flew out on Thursday morning and chose a flight time that should have given me plenty of time before my class that night.  My flight got delayed a bit so I ended up having to rush more than I would have liked, but at least I made it to class on time! I started class a little flustered but settled down once I started looking through all the gorgeous stones to pick the perfect one for Kim St. Jean's Armature Pendant class.  I was a little nervous having never really used a butane torch before, but Kim is a fabulous instructor and I was soon torching away!  We used copper wire and brazing rods to build an armature to hold our chosen stone.  (I picked a lovely green druzy!)  

My armature pendant: Before and after!
I LOVE my finished piece and can't wait to get it strung on some nice leather cord or something so I can show it off.  I really enjoyed learning this technique and can see how useful this will be for me.  I have some rustic ammonites that we bought at some caves years ago and now I finally have an idea for incorporating them into finished jewelry.  Since I don't do bead embroidery or any sort of fine stone setting, cabs have never seemed very appealing to me.  Taking this class certainly opens up some possibilities for what I could do!

Day two of my Bead Fest adventures was mostly filled by a second class taught by Kim.  (When I was first deciding to go I asked for recommendations for instructors and she was high on the list.  An added bonus was that I didn't need to bring any tools since there was no way I was going to be able to sneak a butane torch onto the plane!)  Anyway, my day two class was her Air Chase Cuff and Necklace workshop... this was an all day class and it was AMAZING!

We turned copper pipe and copper sheet into finished pieces that look like a million bucks (in my opinion anyway)!  See for yourself below...  I'm still not sure if I'm going to wear my pendant in the vertical position or add another hole and wear it horizontally like I have it in the picture.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  I'm leaning horizontal at the moment...  I can totally see myself making more of these cuffs.  I love the look and the process of all that hammering is sort of therapeutic.  It's just not the right project for a day you're working on a headache!

Kathleen arrived in town Friday evening and we were able to arrange having dinner in the city with some of our other librarian friends (and their family too).  After filling up on delicious pizza at Earth - Bread & Brewery Kathleen and I headed back to the hotel to rest up before our Woven Bracelet class with Ronda Stevens the next morning.  I would like to improve my wire working skills but I'm not convinced that wire weaving is necessarily the technique for me.  Those of you who know me in real life know that I'm a little tightly wound... that seems to translate to my jewelry making.  I grip my pliers too tight, get a death grip on my hammers, and, as it turns out, pull my wire weaving way too tight too.  

My wire weaving in process and the completed bracelet.
I ended up with a decent bracelet that I think I will wear now and then (y'all know I'm not a bracelet girl!) and had a good time doing it, but overall this just wasn't a technique that got me excited to do more.  But that's what is so great about taking classes and trying new things... you get to try something new to see what you do like and then take the elements that speak to you and incorporate them into your work.  On the other hand, Kathleen really liked this project and plans to play more with this technique.  I can't wait to see where she takes it!  

Kathleen's bracelet... her's is much more relaxed and lacy looking.
I have an IOU from Eric for my birthday and I now have a good list of tools and supplies on my wish list.  I think this girl is getting a torch and all the accessories so that I can start using my new found knowledge and hone my skills!  Stay tuned for more of my Bead Fest adventures when I share my experience on the Expo floor and show my gorgeous bead finds. 

Update: You can check out part two of my Bead Fest adventures HERE!

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Earring Monday '15: Weeks 33 and 34

August is speeding by like nobody's business.  I can't believe it's almost September.  I just got home from Bead Fest Philadelphia (my first time attending!) and I might be having a bead hangover today.  I'll be sharing more about my experience in the upcoming days but, for now, it's time for New Earring Monday!

For this installment, I decided to play with some fancy brass bead caps that have been languishing in my stash.  I bought them thinking that they would make great cones for multi-strand necklaces (and they still will!), but for some reason they caught my eye when I was thinking earrings.

I did two versions in two different colors... a darker purple for the simpler version, and lighter purple for a two-tiered pair.  I was somewhat limited in my color choices for these since I don't have many 10 mm Swarovski pearls in my stash.  I finished both pairs off with little plated hematite spacers at the top of the cones.

Ignoring the color, which version do you like better?  The short and simple or the two-tiered?  I'd love your input since I'm officially in full production mode for the Art Wander studio tour.  Your thoughts will help me decide where to focus my attentions.  I'm thinking I'll add a few more colors of the pearls to my next online bead order so I can add more variety.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

We're All Ears: August 2015

Once again, Erin Prias-Hintz has outdone herself providing us with awesome earring inspiration!  This month our prompt for the We're All Ears challenge was a selection of photos of Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona.  You can read more about the sandstone canyons and see more pictures over on the Earrings Everyday blog HERE.

Just one of the gorgeous shots to inspire us!
USA Antelope-Canyon" by Lucas Löffler - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

It seemed like a no brainer to me to go straight for my gemstones this month.  Carnelian, mookaite, jasper, oh my!  There were so many gorgeous stones calling to me that I had to make a few pairs this month.

My first two pairs are playing with some funky copper colored connectors that I picked up on super clearance at Michael's.  I wasn't entirely sure what I would do with them when I bought them, but earrings were high on my list of maybes.  There were two different lengths and finishes (the other was a antique silver look) and I decided to try both out.  The first pair I made combined the short version with some Venus Jasper rounds, plated hematite, and Czech glass.

Despite my husband's reservations about the size of the longer bars, I decided that they could still work for the right woman.  (I think these would look particularly fabulous on someone with super short hair to show them off and let them swing!)  This time I kept the dangles a little more compact and just used some faceted mookaite rondelles with copper plated spacer beads.  What say you guys?  Too long?

My second set of earrings started with some matte finished carnelian beads that I picked up on my trip to Asheville, North Carolina this spring.  I thought the colors were a perfect complement to the the inspiration photos.  When I was playing with different bead arrangements and asked my husband for advice, unsurprisingly, he gave his usual answer... do both!  So I did.  Sort of.  The first pair I just wire wrapped as is and popped on some ear wires.  For the second pair I added another link with some stone that was described as "red wood lace stone."  Looks like a jasper of some kind to me.

This is a blog hop... make sure to pop over to the Earrings Everyday blog HERE to see what everyone else dreamed up!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Art Bead Scene August 2015

The inspiration for this month's Art Bead Scene challenge is a sandpainting weaving by Navajo weaver and Medicine Man Hosteen Klah.  You can read more about the artwork and the artist over on the Art Bead Scene blog HERE.  It's pretty fascinating stuff and I know I won't do it justice trying to summarize!

Summer Thunder
BHosteen Klah
Weaving, Wool
I really try to find art beads in my own stash for this and other monthly challenges instead of shopping with them in mind.  Not that I never run out to buy one or two things that I'm in need of to finish a design, but I really try to use challenges as a reason (excuse?) to use some of the things I already have.  It's the kick in the seat that I sometimes need.

Anyway, with that philosophy in mind, the color palette was a bit of a challenge for me.  Brick red isn't heavily represented in my bead hoard, and what I do own mostly didn't lend themselves to the inspiration artwork this month.  I was thinking that I might give up when my eyes rested on some Victoria Red enameled filigree beads from Painting with Fire Studio.  Eureka!

The beads are a little bit bigger than what I would normally wear as earrings, but not crazy huge so I went with it.  I added some Red Creek Jasper dangles and a bird charm to bring in some of the ? colors and the bird motif from the weaving.  

I thought I would stop there, but then I decided to go ahead and use the third (and last) enameled filigree bead to whip up a coordinating necklace.  I have a compulsion to match so I try to make sets when I can.  I whipped up a little chain fringe dangle and wire wrapped the enameled bead with some more Red Creek Jasper, and blackened accent beads.

Monday, August 10, 2015

New Earring Monday '15: Weeks 31 and 32

Good morning everyone!  I have to admit that I'm a little groggy and more than a bit off my game today after having spent the last 11 days attending the Minnesota Fringe Festival.  We saw 42 1 hour performances along with a touring Broadway Show (Kinky Boots) over the course of this year's fest.  Too many late nights out on the town seeing live theater, eating out, and hanging out with friends didn't leave me with much time for making jewelry but I did manage to get my earrings made for today.

This week I'm revisiting the use of decorative chain in my earring designs.  I've been meaning to make more earrings with this stuff since I bought it, but just haven't managed to circle back until now.

My first pair features some little lampwork beads by Tanya McGuire.  I kept these really simple just wire wrapping the lampwork with some gunmetal beads and leaving the leafy chain unadorned.

Next up, I played with adding some additional beads to the leafy chain to switch things up a bit.  I used some little lucite flowers and crystals in shades of pink to give a pop of color.  I thought it would be fun to have the chain dangling from inside some floral bead caps.

My second pair serves a second purpose beyond my personal earring challenge as well.  I have been receiving monthly bead boxes from Blueberry Cove Beads for a little while now.  Each month they issue a challenge to subscribers to make something with a particular item from the current box and share it.  Participants get a chance to win the next month free.  This month's challenge was to use the lucite "cherry blossoms."

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Inspired by Reading: Swamplandia!

So, let me start off with a confession... I did not actually read this month's book club selection, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.  In my defense, I did try when it first came out but, despite the quirky and interesting premise, I just couldn't get into it.  I know I should probably have given it another try for book club, but with everything else I had going on, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  It's pretty seldom that I abandon a book (seriously... it took me over two months but I did finish The Children's Book!) so I'm going to stand by that decision.

I still don't know why I couldn't get into the story since it sounds like something that would be up my alley.  Here's the book description from Amazon:  Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree has lived her entire life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades. But when illness fells Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, the family is plunged into chaos; her father withdraws, her sister falls in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, defects to a rival park called The World of Darkness. As Ava sets out on a mission through the magical swamps to save them all, we are drawn into a lush and bravely imagined debut that takes us to the shimmering edge of reality.

You may be wondering... if I didn't even read the book, why is there a blog post about it today?  The truth is that I hate missing out on a challenge... especially my favorite ones!  I couldn't resist making something alligator inspired!

I had picked up some pewter rings that have a texture that reminds me of reptile skin that seemed like  a perfect starting point... I made some dangles from dyed fire agate that felt a little bit alligator and a lot swampy.  I kept them pretty simple adding blackened and dull silver findings.

This is a blog hop too... please stop by Andrew's blog HERE to see what people who actually read the book had to say about it and what they were inspired to make!