Sunday, January 31, 2016

Buried Treasure! (Or Use Your Stash)

The editors over at the Art Jewelry Elements (AJE) blog have once again challenged their readers to dig into our stashes of art beads (buried treasure!!) and make something to start the year off right.  Needing to get back in the creative groove, I eagerly signed up to participate and went digging into my art beads!

I created some of the designs for Heather Powers' Muffin Tin Challenge (you can see my post on that HERE) and some in hopes of getting published.  No matter the push behind their creation, I've managed to make a tiny dent in my art bead stash this month and I'm excited to share my creations with you!  

First up, a necklace that I made for submission to the Summer issue of Jewelry Stringing magazine for their "Papaya" theme.  The pendant is one I bought from Round Rabbit back in January of 2013.  The "Flaming Tangerine" color called to me but then it arrived and was a little brighter than my normal comfort zone... and so it sat.  The color theme for the magazine inspired me to finally use this bright beauty and, as luck would have it, I had some great beads to pair with it... most of them left overs from other projects.  There's some glass from the Halcraft Pretty Palettes challenge I participated in, some tiny coral Swarovski pearls from a necklace re-do project for my friend Angie, plus some faceted carnelian and rose quartz beads that I had picked up on a whim, and some fun seed beads I bought during the Bead Cruise last year.  I finally got brave and used the 5mm deerskin leather lace I bought from Nunn Design a while back.  I used a technique from one of their tutorials to punch holes in the leather and then stitch the ends together with waxed Irish linen.  I'll definitely be trying that again!

Next up, two variations on a theme using the adorable starfish beads I got from Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio.  The one on the left was another magazine hopeful that didn't get picked.  It has both blue (coated) and yellow quartz as well as some natural sapphire faceted rounds.  The one on the right was made for Heather's muffin tin challenge and has a mix of wood, recycled glass, and impression jasper.  I love how these turned out and I wish I had snagged a few more of those starfish at Bead Fest!  I'm hoping she'll be at Bead & Button this year because I'm determined to at least get there for shopping this year. 

My last piece for today is a necklace featuring a ceramic key pendant from Jenny Davies-Reazor that was in my gift bag on the Bead Cruise.  This is another project that I had put in my muffin tin but didn't finish until today.  I mixed brass and blackened findings (although it's hard to tell from the picture) for my beaded links.  Most of the beads are Czech glass but there's also some prehnite mixed in on the right side.  I finished the back with some sari silk in just the right shade of greenish yellow.  This is one that I'm definitely going to have to wear test.  I need to make sure that the pendant stays balanced hanging from the brass key... I really hope so since I like the effect.

I've still got a few more muffin cups filled with art bead goodness that I hope to get to very soon.  I mean, I've already pulled together almost everything I need to finish those pieces so I should just do it and get them cleared out of my mental space.  

Be sure to stop by and check out what everyone else was inspired to unearth from their treasure chests!

Niky Sayers

Melissa - Bead Recipes
Samantha - Wescott Jewelry
Mona - Bijoux Gem

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Introducing the Honey Do List!

I want to start off this post by saying that I'm an extremely lucky woman to have a husband who is my biggest cheerleader and supporter.  Eric has always had more faith in my talent and skills than I probably ever will and for that I'm so very grateful.  I love that he is interested in what I'm making or experimenting with and is always good for an opinion when I get stuck.  He's also the one who pushed me to make the leap to creating jewelry full time!

Well, apparently he's no longer content to watch from the sidelines... he's been itching for a more direct role in what I make.  He's been threatening promising for more than a year to start coming up with monthly design challenges for me and it's finally happening this year!    

Here's what Eric had to say about this first challenge:

For years I have watched Sarajo's growing skills in jewelry making.  I've seen her go from the excitement and nervousness of her first beading class, to selling her first piece in a local shop, to having her jewelry published in magazines.  Along the way I've hopefully encouraged her to embrace her hobby/career.  However, I've been plotting along the way to get her try new things and step outside of her comfort zone.  I've thrown down the bejeweled gauntlet this year with a series of monthly challenges for my beloved wife--The Honey Do List! 

The first challenge is a bit of a throwback.  In 2007, shortly after Sj started making jewelry, we visited the most magical place on Earth--yes, Disney World!  In the Germany pavilion at Epcot we closely observed a lampwork glass artisan crafting beautiful beads before our very eyes.  After striking up a conversation with the artist, my gregarious wife managed to get a look at her stash of beads and we bought several from her.  Most of these treasures have languished in the dark recesses of Sj's dragon's hoard for years.  I dug through them and pulled out this set as my first challenge.  Just do something--anything--with them!  

Not the best picture, but I almost forgot to get a picture of just the beads!

When we bought these beads back in December 2007, I had just barely started beading.  I think I had taken just one class (maybe two) and had no skills to speak of... especially when it came to wire work!  I had made a few simple strung necklaces and some earrings that had just a basic loop and that was really it.  Knowing that I didn't yet have the talent to do much with them, nonetheless I bought a small collection of 6 or 7 focal beads and coordinating accent beads.  I felt a bit extravagant (after all, even the lampwork beads were at Disney prices) and unworthy of my beady treasure trove.  Over the years, I bought some other beads to possibly go with my Disney goodies, but have only made something with one of them so far... until now.  I'd like to think that my skills have developed at least a little bit in the last 8 years, maybe this challenge will inspire me to tackle the rest! 

Initially the purple-grey tones in parts of the focal were kind of throwing me off... then I decided to ignore them!  I was thrilled to discover that I actually had the perfect gemstone beads to go with the mix of oranges and white in the main bead.  I picked out pairs faceted beads made of red agate with snow caps for the bulk of the beaded chain then added in tiny tangerine Czech glass rondelles to go in between.  I kept the focal pretty simple, just using a bead cap to the top and using a fancy copper head pin that I added patina to with liver of sulfur (making a mess in our kitchen in the process!).

In retrospect, neither set of accent beads was really a perfect match for the pendant so I didn't try to make earrings to necessarily go with the necklace... although the colors certainly work well.  I had fun pairing one set of lampwork beads with some swirly copper plated bead caps that remind me of the movement in the focal.  I also made good use of some vintage glass teardrops that I got from one of Andrew Thornton's destash events.

I actually had two sets of accent beads to go with the focal but I got too excited and whipped up a pair of earrings before snapping a shot of the whole set.  Oops!  Here's what I made with that extra pair.  I used more of the red agate with snow caps here paired with some other copper and copper plated findings.

Thanks for visiting!  Stop back next time to see what Eric adds to the Honey Do list for February!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Inspired by Reading: The Magicians

It's January and that means that, after taking a little break for the holidays, the Inspired by Reading Book Club is back in session!  Our first book of the new year was The Magicians by Lev Grossman.  It's the first book in a trilogy and I'm interested in tracking down the sequels soon. 

The story opens with Quentin Coldwater and his best friend heading to a college admissions interview that ends up going very wrong and sets some unexpected events in motion.  Quentin ends up literally stumbling onto the grounds of Brakebills Academy where he discovers that magic, like in his beloved childhood book series about the enchanted land of Fillory, is real and that he possess abilities himself.

To me, the whole Fillory story line felt very much like the author wanted to use the Narnia books but wasn't allowed to do so.  I mean, a family of children temporarily without their parents who find a magical world through a portal and become kings and queens there but are never allowed to stay?  Instead of a majestic lion you have the rams Ember and Umber.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the storyline and remember wanting to find my own passage to Narnia as a child, but it all felt a bit too derivative for me.  I wish he could have come up with a magical world that was more original and his own thing.

I always struggle to say enough about the book without giving too much away... there's nothing worse than spoilers!  I'll leave it at this:  this first book in the series follows the characters through school and back into the real world where most of them find themselves pretty lost and adrift until Adventure (yes, with a capital "A") finds them and turns their lives upside down.  I'm curious where the sequels will take the story next.  If anyone has read them, I'd love to hear your thoughts on if it's worth continuing.  Now onto my creation for this month!

With a lot of things on my plate right now, I didn't really leave myself time for anything too ambitious.  Naturally, this means I started thinking earrings!  Early on in my reading, I was struck by the description of the Brakebills crest known as the "key-and-bee."  "Each jacket had an embroidered coat of arms on it, a golden bee and a golden key on a black background dotted with tiny silver stars."  Here's my interpretation!

Since I own practically every charm that Vintaj makes, I knew that I had a couple of different bees and keys to choose from.  Now, unless they are buffed, they aren't exactly gold, but I'm going to call it close enough since I don't really use gold.  I made some alterations to the "Queen Bee Connector" and paired them with my favorite key charm (yes, I have a favorite!).  For the black background I chose an Arte Metal blank and added silver "stars" using a fun technique from Heather Powers' new book Beautiful Elements.

I've got two more challenges to finish before the month is up, so I'm off to work on those...  Happy reading and beading, everyone!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Muffin Tin Challenge 2016

I've been a little quiet on my blog and, until the last few days, in my studio.  We've been dealing with some health issues with my sweet little studio kitty that have taken up a lot of time and emotional energy.  The upside is that I've been wanting to keep a pretty close eye on her this past week which means lots of time downstairs in my studio!  She's healing up well from her surgery, but now that the bandages are off we have to keep close watch to make sure she doesn't chew on her stitches. 

What does that have to do with the Muffin Tin Challenge?  Nothing!  Except that I had plenty of time to get the challenge done this weekend.  Heather Powers of Humblebeads issued a challenge on Saturday at the end of a sale she was doing on Facebook.  Get out your muffin tins, fill them up with beady goodness (roughly one project per muffin cup) and make at least six projects by the end of the day today.  Never one to miss a good challenge (or a good prize!) I had to play along.  Here's my muffin tin when I started:

As of mid-day Monday, I've completed 7 projects.  One of those is for another challenge, so you'll have to wait to see that one!  I'm going to keep working my way through the contents of the other cups, but I wanted to share my progress so far.  There is no light to speak of today, so my photos are a little sad...  I'll try to get better pictures if when we see the sun again.

First up, a pair of little hoot owl necklaces that are variations on a theme.  I bought these little ceramic owls on our trip to Asheville, NC last year and had a general idea of what I wanted to do but didn't have all the other elements just yet.  Fast forward to BeadFest in August when I found a ton of great wood beads including these little "logs" that were just the perfect perch.  I grabbed some fun decorative leaf chain to round out the rest of the pendants.  These woodsy necklaces will soon be flying into Unearthed Arts in Waconia!

 Next up, I've got another long necklace with a ceramic pendant.  For this one I made a fun fringed cone dangle with some swingy chain.  I think that the ceramic bead looks like some sort of alien pod... but in a good way!  I have more of these beads so I may play around with some variations on this design.

Of course I had to whip up some earrings to round out the muffin tin challenge... I love me some earrings and they are fast and fun to create.  The first pair reminds me of some big, rough cut rubies but the Czech glass is far more affordable!  I paired the English cut glass with some fun brass charms.  Next is a pair of feather patterned beauties from Humblebeads paired with copper colored filigree drops.  The final pair is meant to accompany a necklace that is still just an idea sitting in one of the remaining muffin cups.  It's a mix of brass and Arte metal with some of my new favorite Czech glass beads.  They are pretty long, but that seemed to be a theme here. 

If you've never tried this method, the Muffin Tin challenge is a fun and easy way to work through a bunch of projects quickly and to get your creative mojo going.  You front load most of the decision making as you fill your muffin cups up so you can just focus on putting your new pretties together!  Give it a try sometime!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Art Bead Scene January 2016

The Art Bead Scene is kicking off the year with an inspiration that is right up my alley!  I was so excited when the month's challenge was revealed and it was Landscape with Stars by Henri-Edmond Cross.  The yellow stars against the blue sky just makes me smile!  I love how the sky is almost childlike above the more realistic looking trees.  You can read more about the art and the artist on the ABS blog HERE

Landscape with Stars 
by Henri-Edmond Cross

Watercolor over graphite on paper
Date: ca. 1905–1908 
Image Credit: 
I immediately thought of the firefly pendants that I bought from Jenny Davies-Reazor at BeadFest last August.  While fireflies are much more summery phenomenon, I don't really find this artwork particularly wintery.  My favorite of the firefly pendants that I bought happened to be the best match for the artwork so this is probably going to be one that I keep for myself.  Never fear, I still have two more to play with!

I had lots of fun gathering beads to pull out the colors in the pendant.  I had a crazy number of choices on my bead mat for a while, but I narrowed it down to a mix of Czech glass, lapis, natural sapphire, and yellow quartz.  I also worked one faceted hessonite garnet into the design to pick up on the reddish color of two of the fireflies.  (That color really isn't in the inspiration artwork, but I'm taking some liberties!)

I feel like I'm finally getting back into the swing of things as far as creating.  I'm looking forward to some good studio time this weekend and hope to have more new designs to share with you soon!  Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, January 15, 2016

We're All Ears: January 2016

This month's We're All Ears challenge is jumping on the Pantone Color of the Year bandwagon... Erin has challenged us to make earrings using hues from the spring color forecast... not necessarily just in shades of Rose Quartz and Serenity.  I think I've said it before, but I'm really not a huge fan of this year's Color(s) of the year.  I just don't get the appeal of baby pink and blue together, but I love a challenge so I'm going to try and play along! 

When I was digging through my "craftermath" for my late entry for last month's challenge I did find a few beads that I had set aside for earrings that sort of work for this challenge.  A while back I had been playing with some Vintaj brass pieces and little pearl dangles.  I had started sorting sets of coordinating pearls from a mixed strand but then, as things tend to go, I got distracted and moved on to other projects.

I made use of one of those little sets that were in shades of pinky-purple and blue.  The colors aren't perfectly "Rose Quartz" and "Serenity" but I think they're close enough to count!  I was originally thinking I might add some paint to the the brass pieces, but I ran out of time and energy.  Anyway, less is often more!  


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

We're All Ears: December 2015

Yeah, you read the title correctly... this is my very belated entry for the December We're All Ears challenge over on the Earrings Everyday blog.  Well, another month went by where I just couldn't get it together for We're All Ears.  December is always super busy, but some extra challenges got thrown our way right when the this challenge was due.  That's just the way it goes sometimes.  I was really inspired by the December challenge so I wanted to share my efforts... better late than never!

We were basically challenged to take pictures of our "craftermath" (all that beading goodness that never gets put properly away after a creative session) and make earrings with what we found.  Within the allotted time frame, I did take pictures of my beady mess and started sorting things for possible earrings... I just never got around to actually making anything until after Christmas.  What I found as I started sorting was that what I have is less craftermath (although there certainly is some of that!) and more half thought out projects that got abandoned.  So... here's where I started:

So far I've managed to finish 8 pairs of earrings... not too shabby of an effort!   

In this first set I've started with a variation on a design I've made in the past.  I had a strand of the ocher colored maple leaves sitting out (I had cut the strand for my guest post on the Earrings Everyday blog and never put them away) along with a matching pair of the oak and acorn decorivets that look a little more rusty than the Arte Metal from Vintaj normally does.  Next, there's a pair with some C-Koop charms that I've had for more than 5 years (there's a matching pendant that will hopefully soon be a necklace to go with these!).  I kept these pretty simple and just added some Czech glass and crystal rondelles in coordinating colors.  The last pair includes some beads that have been languishing on my never-used-anymore bead board.  I inherited the barrel shaped beads when my mother in law gave me all of her old beading supplies when I took up the hobby back in 2008 or so.  They were sitting in one of the wells of my bead board along with at least one of the blue flower beads.  The barrels have a Picasso finish with a lot of blue in it so I thought this was a great match.  While I did have a short length of copper plated chain that gave me the idea for the design, I ended up pulling a finer chain out to use instead.

Keys seem to be the theme of the next two pairs of earrings!  Although you can't really tell from the photo, the pair on the left features copper blanks that I textured with a texturing hammer.  They are leftovers from some play I did at a class this summer.  I kept it simple and added some Vintaj Arte Metal key charms and called it good.  The pair on the right puts some etched brass luggage tag blanks to use.  I probably made these several years ago when I first got my BIGkick machine and then set them aside... possibly because they weren't a perfect match but I really don't remember.  I added some speckled blue ceramic beads and brass plated spacers to complete the design.

This final set of earrings are obviously variations on a theme.  I had etched or embossed then painted all of these brass and Arte Metal blanks when I was prepping for the Art Wander in September but ran out of time to complete them.  As so often happens in my studio space, all the unfinished projects got swept aside when I was cleaning up and forgotten.  I finally took the time to dap and seal the blanks and allow them to become earrings.

Even though I'm super tardy, this was a fun way to jump start my new year.  It felt good to complete some half-finished projects and use up some supplies that needed to be up away.  My studio is still a disaster, but I feel like I've got the energy to start tackling that space.  I'll keep my muffin tin handy for now to collect any other possible projects as I begin my clean up... I'm sure I'll be sharing some of those soon!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hopes and Goals for 2016

Welcome to a bright, shiny, New Year!  I hope that the first couple of days of 2016 find you happy,  healthy, and off to a great start!  I'm really not someone who puts great stock in New Year's resolutions, but the start of a fresh year does seem like a good time to take a step back and think about my business goals for the next 12 months.

  • Revitalize my Etsy shop and add listings regularly.
  • Pursue more teaching opportunities.
  • Expand my local jewelry sales through additional consignment and/or wholesale locations, trunk shows, and more!
  • Continue to pursue having designs published.
  • Put more of the techniques I've learned over the past two years into regular practice... and hopefully learn some more new things! 

In addition to these official goals, I plan to continue working on some goals from years past.  Things like getting my bead stash more organized (I dream of a day when I can actually find the supplies I'm looking for because they are put away where they belong!) and participating in lots of fun design challenges (look for a new monthly series where my husband sets a challenge for me to complete).

I know I said that I don't make resolutions, but I'm going to make one this year.  I WILL finally finish all the repairs and special projects that I have for friends who said "no hurry" and get those pieces back to their rightful owners.  And as auxiliary resolution, I will never ever accept a special order or repair again without a timeline (even if it's completely arbitrary!) because I have learned the hard way that without a hard deadline, I just won't get that type of work done.  

I'd love to hear from you...  Do you make resolutions or set yearly goals for yourself or your business?  I'd love to hear what your hopes, goals, dreams, or resolutions are for 2016!  Here's to what I hope will be a great year!  I'm off to start working on some of my goals!