Friday, June 30, 2017

Artisans Create Together Color Palette Challenge: June 2017

Each month there are two great color palettes put together to inspire members of the Facebook group Artisans Create Together.  I don't always get around to creating something new for this design challenge, but this month I manage (although barely!) to make two designs for one of the color palettes.  Here's the deliciously soft and beachy color palette:

These aqua tones are some of my favorites so I had no trouble at all finding some gorgeous beads and focals to work with... pairing it down to something manageable was more of the problem!  There's a decent amount of soft neutrals in the inspiration collage to work with too.

My first design is in line with the beach theme of many of the inspiration photos.  I started with a cute seahorse focal by Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio.  For some reason, as soon as I picked the bracelet bar up I knew I wanted to try something with a length of 7 ply waxed Irish Linen that I had cut too short for a different project.  I had already tied a loop (that would have been for a button clasp) but I decided it could just as easily be the "ring" for a lobster clasp.  I added a couple of wire wrapped links on the clasp side to round things out.    

Next up I decided to play with an oversized ceramic pendant by Tracee Dock of The Classic Bead that I got in one of her destash bundles a while back.  I love the funky repeating floral pattern she used.  I had fun stringing an asymmetrical pattern of Czech glass beads... many of them a fortunate Bead and Button purchase!  I wanted my design to have pops of the cream from the pendant so I used the creamy flowers and a mix of rondelles that had some lighter neutral tones included.

I love participating in these challenges (I know, I know, you haven't noticed before!) because they give me some focus for my creative process and often force me to think about things in different and new ways.  If it weren't for this color palette challenge, who knows how long it would take me to get around to using these lovely art bead focals.  Thanks for stopping by and checking out what I've been working on today!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Insects! Art Elements June Challenge

The editors over at the Art Elements blog occasionally host themed challenges (as opposed to their fabulous Component of the Month challenges where participants get an art bead to play with).  The theme for June's challenge is Insects!

Cecropia Moth. Photo by Ashley Fly

I love how open ended this challenge is since the only rules are that you use art beads that relate to the theme.  I've got lots of good bug beads in my stash to choose from... bees, moths, butterflies, fireflies, ladybugs.  Oh my!  What to choose?  I decided to set the bees aside at least since that ties into this month's Inspired by Reading Book Club selection.  (If you're interested you can see those designs HERE.)

While working on a design for last month's book club, I ended up with a stringing pattern using labradorite and Czech glass that I liked but didn't work for the project I had in mind.  Instead of scrapping it, I decided to pair a sweet little firefly pendant from Green Girl.  Voila!   

Next up, another new necklace!  This one started with a small blue dragonfly pendant from Earthenwood Studio that I got in a mixed lot of beads from one of Andrew Thornton's destash events.  I guess I've just been in a stringing mood because I didn't even consider doing anything different for this one.  I had just gotten the perfect blue Czech glass rondelles at Bead & Button from Nirvana Beads that became the main component of my design.  I added in some darker blue Czech glass beads in a variety of shapes including a set of flowers with some brass accents in the mix.  

Last but not least, I also made a little pair of earrings for the challenge!  I made good use of some of new goodies from Bead & Button... an adorable pair of butterfly charms from Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio matched up with some wonderful disc beads by Heather Powers of Humblebeads.  Simple and sweet to finish things off!

This is a blog hop... stop by and see what all the participants came up with!

Sarajo Wentling - YOU ARE HERE

Art Elements Team

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Inspired by Reading: The Bees

This month's book club selection for the Inspired by Reading Book Club was The Bees by Laline Paull.  I really tried to get into this one... I gave it way more pages than I normally would before giving up... but after 170 pages I finally had to let it go.  For whatever reasons, the story of the lowly sanitation worker bee, Flora 717, just didn't do much for me.  To me it seemed like strange circumstances just buffeted Flora from one job to another in the hive... jobs that she should never have held.  Since I didn't read any farther, I don't know for sure, but it felt formulaic like she was just going to keep getting new part time positions all the way up the chain of command.  I also had a hard time with the mixing of what felt like authentic bee behavior with the anthropomorphisms the author gave the bees.  

Not liking (or finishing!) a book didn't stop me from playing along!  Just don't be looking for deep symbolism here!  Anyway, I have a bunch of bee themed beads in my hoard so it was a challenge to decide what to play with first... especially knowing I might not finish more than one design at this late date.  In the end, I chose to start by playing around with a little design set that I bought from Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio at Bead & Button this year.  There was actually a third piece to the set, a matching round bead, that I ended up not using in this necklace but I'm sure I'll eventually find the perfect use for it!

I had some copper wire that I had darkened with liver of sulphur a while back (memo to self... I need to patina another batch soon) that I used to make my wire wrapped links.  My design started with the ceramic donut from Michelle's design kit.  I knew I wanted to use it as a wire wrapped link so I dug around and found some yellow Mookaite coins to balance out that side of the necklace.  for the other side I did a mix of Mookaite faceted rondelles and smooth yellow agate rounds in a honey yellow.  I had a vision for the back part of the necklace to be strung with a mix of Czech glass and seed beads so I wanted something a little different for the clasp.  I decided to dust off my wire working skills and try my hand at a copper hook clasp.  I used raw copper and then antiqued it with liver of sulphur.  It's not perfect, but pretty good for a first try!

Next up: a necklace featuring a pendant by our very own Andrew Thornton he made for Allegory Gallery's Sweet Honey Challenge.  I love the way he created the effect of honeycomb dripping with honey in this polymer and resin focal.  I added a little raw brass bee that I "antiqued" with some black paint.  (I actually started out with a different, darker brass bee from Vintaj, but it didn't pop like this one does.)  As I was pulling beads together I thought that this would be a good time to use some little hexagonal hematite beads as well as some honey colored Vintage German glass.  I strung those with some seed beads and tiny Czech glass rondelles for one side and went with beaded links for the other. using Czech glass flowers and rounds.  I guess I was just keeping up the asymmetrical theme!  I love how this one turned out and I don't think I can bear to part with it!

I also whipped up a little seed bead and jump ring bracelet in colors that made me think of honey and a button that TierraCast calls "Flower of Life" but I think looks like honeycomb... especially in this gold plated version.  This one was made with some lovely metallic leather from Tracee Dock's shop Classic Elements.  These seed beads have the loveliest glow that I'm afraid my picture doesn't capture.

Thanks for stopping by to check our my latest book club creations!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Honey Do List: June 2017

Last year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... and we're continuing the Honey Do List for 2017!  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm hoping folks will continue to play along!  

Here's this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

This spring I've really been taking a lot of bird pictures and wanted to use one of these shots for this month's challenge.  I thought this rose-breasted grosbeak would be an interesting subject due to the stark black and white colors with a pop of bright red.  Try using this color combo for a piece!

It was so fun seeing this little guy at our friends' cabin... I had never seen a rose-breasted grosbeak before and he was so handsome!  I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do with this inspiration immediately, but when I finally had time to peruse my art beads, I found a sweet little ceramic robin bead by Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio that fit the bill.  The bird has loops on both the top and the bottom so I wire-wrapped some little Czech glass rondelles to a nest bead from Green Girl Studios to complete the pendant.  (If you haven't seen this little nest in person before, the back says "Home."  I just love that!)  

Unlike many of my recent designs, this time I decided on an asymmetrical design with beaded links.  I pulled together a collection of Czech glass and ceramic beads in reds and blacks along with some speckled white and grey brown ceramic beads that just happened to be called "Birch with Speckles."  How perfect is that for the birch bark our little grosbeak is perched upon?!?

I had grand plans of a second necklace with a more abstract response to the inspiration photo but didn't quite have the time to pull it together.  I've been hanging onto this "Fly Free" bird from Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati for quite some time.  I think that part of my brain block on it has been trying to decide what to do with the two loops at the bottom on the branch.  The fuchsia stripe reminded me in a way of the red patch on the grosbeak's chest and I thought that the cream/white strip with the dark background works with the birds coloring too.  This little pile of beady goodies is as far as I've gotten so far, but I hope to turn it into something soon.  I'll keep you updated!  Got a great idea for the bottom of the pendant?  I'd love if you shared!

As a little P.S. to this post, we just saw a rose-breasted grosbeak at our backyard bird feeders this past weekend for the first time!  It was almost like he was reminding me to get to work on my project!

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Art Bead Scene: June 2017

June's inspiration artwork for the Art Bead Scene challenge is a gorgeous riot of color!  This drawing done in pastels by Odelin Redon is called Profile on Red Meanders.  For some reason, it reminds me of the crayon resist artwork I got to do in elementary school... you know where you paint over your crayon drawing with black paint and the paint doesn't stick to the waxy crayon marks.  It goes without saying that my childhood drawings were not nearly this sophisticated, but the contrast of the black with the super vibrant just took my brain there.  But I digress!  You can read more about the artist and the artwork over on the ABS blog HERE.  

Profile on Red Meanders
formerly Jeanne d'Arc
Odelin Redon, 1900

I ordered the little booklet that the ABS did for this year's challenges so I'd been percolating several ideas for this one for some time.  I had several promising options, but narrowed it down to two projects in the end.  (I'm thinking some of the others will get made in the very near future before I forget what they were or lose the beads in messy workspace!)

A while back I won some adorable and super colorful polymer clay charms made by Susana Paredas of Earth Expressions by participating in a challenge in the Artisans Create Together Facebook group.  The bright colors were perfect for this challenge so it was time for them to become earrings!  I added a collection of Czech beads in greens, purples, and fuchsia to make a fun dangly design.

My second design is a far more subdued take on the inspiration artwork.  It started with a pendant that I made playing with a Mokume Gane technique with polymer clay that I learned on this year's Bead Cruise with Eva Sherman.  In all honesty, my mix of colors didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped/envisioned... I'm still getting the hang of picking colors for maximum contrast!  Nevertheless, it ended up being a happy accident that the colors I chose went well with this month's artwork.  I picked a dark purple, a light purple, green, and a light coppery color to go in some copper plated bezels and bracelets from Nunn Design.

My colors all lined up and ready to go!
Lucky me, I picked up some medium sized English cut Czech glass in a lovely mix of metallics at Bead & Button that included purples, golds, copper, and green shades... a perfect compliment to the pendant and the artwork!  I added in some plated hematite cornerless cubes, metallic O-beads, tiny copper colored Czech glass, and some seed beads to string this necklace.  It was hard for me to capture the metallic shimmer of the pendant but, trust me, it's there!  

Here's a closer look at the pendant and beads!
I made two different pendants with these colors but haven't had time to finish the necklace for the second one yet.  The pattern is much tighter and chaotic feeling on the second one.  I've been kicking around some ideas for a multi-strand design for the other one.  Here's a tiny sneak peek at what I'm hoping to do... stay tuned!

A design waiting in the wings...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

We're All Ears: June 2017

Summer is finally here... and with the warmer weather many buggy friends have arrived.  Some not so welcome (mosquitos, ticks, ants) and others that bring a smile to my face every time I see them.  This month's inspiration for the We're All Ears challenge from the Earrings Everyday blog is one of those friendly bugs... the firefly or lightning bug (which is what I always call them.)

By Bruce Marlin - Own work BY-SA 2.5Link
Erin mentioned in her blog post that she's only seen fireflies a few times in her life.  At first I was a little shocked and taken aback by that... I mean they were all over the place when I was growing up in Alabama!  But then I stopped and thought about it and realized that I really have only seen them maybe twice in the 17 years I've lived in Minnesota.  I guess I just didn't think about it since the mosquitoes make it unpleasant to be out at dusk.  I just assumed that they must be out there... but I think we may be too far north for these magical little critters to thrive here!

I feel like the picture above is what summer nights of my childhood felt like... just a vast expanse of flickering fireflies.  I know there were really never quite this many, but things just feel different when we are children.  My friends and I spent countless hours chasing lightning bugs, holding them in our hands mesmerized by the flickering light of their tails, bringing an unlucky few home in jars to light our bedrooms.  

When this challenge was announced overachiever me wanted to try and make some little firefly charms out of copper sheet using Heather Powers' "metal sketches" technique and some patinas.  Realistic, time crunched for two trips in two weeks me said "Shut up, that's not happening!"  Sigh.  Maybe I'll give that idea a try down the road when I have time on my hands.  *Laughs hysterically.*

Rational me remembered that I had a strand of little green and gold Czech glass ladybugs in my stash.  (At least I think they're ladybugs since I have the same shape in red with black... but I'm not sure why the bead makers decided on this particular color combo.)  I dug the little guys out and made the executive decision that they would have to work as fireflies... maybe they're just short!  

The first design that came to mind involved having the little buggy beads dangling from some sort of flower.   The flowers are mostly white with faint touches of color so I added more of the green in the centers.

The second pair of earrings didn't end up the way I was initially imagining them, but I like the end result so much better!  I thought I could pull something off where I had little piece of waxed linen with seed beads tied to the ends hanging behind, and reaching below the bug bead.  I made one that way and it just didn't sit right and I wasn't loving it.  The earring design was fine without that but lacked something.  I rummaged through my tubes of seed beads and found some in a similar green that, thankfully, fit onto the topmost jump rings.  A small touch, but it gave the needed pop the design had been lacking.

I don't often work with gold, but it just seemed the right thing to do for both of this month's pairs because of the gold in the bug beads.  I also thought the tiny gold filled bead underneath the bug was reminiscent of the firefly's tail.

In other news, I also made a firefly necklace the same weekend that I made these earrings.  You'll have to wait to see that one though until the reveal for the Art Elements June Theme Challenge.  Find out more about that HERE.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Water & Fire Mystery Challenge Competition

The latest installment for the Allegory Gallery Design Challenges is another mystery competition, Water & Fire!  This time there was an added twist... instead of just one kit, there were two... and you didn't know which kit you would receive unless you decided to buy two.  I decided to roll the dice and see which kit I would get... and it was Water for me!

Wanting to make sure that I actually used the special "mystery component," a polymer clay pendant made by Andrew Thornton, I started with a necklace.  The focal is just lovely with waves in blue and gold (or is it more bronze??), but I didn't love the way it looked with most of the beads in the kit.  I did pull out some small glass rondelles from the kit, but what really caught my eye was a bag of leftover beads from a class project I never finished with Heather Powers on a past Bead Cruise.  I picked out a great mix of Czech glass, freshwater pearls, and crystal from that kit and added in some other Czech glass beads and seed beads from my stash to create a strung necklace that (I hope) lets Andrew's pendant shine.

Next up, a little collection of earrings I made!  There were lots of bead pairs that were just crying out to be earrings... so who am I to deny those beads their destiny?

The first pair I made used some fun faceted drops that are (I think) vintage plastic or lucite.  I added some brass bead caps to the bottom to make them a little bit fancy and paired them with some coordinating green crystal and Swarovski pearls for some fun dangles.  The second pair here is probably my favorites.  As soon as I saw these tube beads (again in plastic or lucite) I knew that I wanted to do some fun wire wrapping around them.  I used a pair of adorable glass shells to dangle from the bottom of the wire-wrapped tubes and finished things off with niobium ear wires with bright copper accents.

For my second two pairs of earrings, I moved away from warmer metals to use sterling silver.  The pair on the left is pretty simple... just a pair of lucite (or plastic?) drops and some glass rondelles from the kit.  I just added the silver plated bead caps.  Next up, something a little outside my normal design comfort zone... some three tiered dangles!  All the beads are from the kit here.  I'm so happy that I had some matching ear wires embellished with Swarovski crystals to finish these off.

Life has been crazy busy with our trip to Milwaukee for Bead & Button (expect to hear more from me on that super soon) and other general life llama drama, so I didn't get as much made from this kit as I had hoped.  I'll leave you with the wisp of an idea for a second necklace... hopefully I'll get this one made in the near future.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Inspired by Reading: Mistborn

This month's Inspired by Reading Book Club selection was Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.  This book is the first in Sanderson's Mistborn series and I've been meaning to read it for a while now.  (I read Sanderson's young adult book The Rithmatist and really loved it... his Alcatraz books, not so much.)  

As you may know, I hate trying to summarize books... I'm just a "I loved it" or "I hated it" sort of reader for the most part.  So this time I'm totally cheating in that I've edited down a bit of the book description from Wikipedia.  (Bad librarian, I know.)  Anyway, the Mistborn series is set in a roughly medieval dystopian future on the world Scadrial, where ash constantly falls from the sky, all plants are brown, and supernatural mists cloud every night.  The "Lord Ruler" has ruled over the Final Empire for a thousand years as an immortal tyrant and god.  Under his rule, society is stratified into the nobility, believed to be the descendants of the friends who helped him achieve godhood; and brutally oppressed peasantry, known as skaa.
Central to the Mistborn universe is the presence of magic. The most widely known discipline of magic is called Allomancy, which allows users to gain magical powers by swallowing and "burning" specific metals to gain supernatural abilities. Some of the metals used this way include pewter, tin, gold, copper, bronze, steel, iron, and brass.  Normal Allomancers (Mistings) have access to one Allomantic power, but an incredibly rare subset of Allomancers, called Mistborn, have access to every Allomantic power.  Two of the main characters of this book, Kelsier and Vin, are Mistborn.  This first book in the series chronicles an unlikely band of thieves, led by Kelsier, working together to raise a rebellion and overthrow the Lord Ruler and the Final Empire.

I knew that I wanted to do something to play off of the various metals that the Mistborn and Mistings use to activate their various powers.  I wasn't sure exactly sure what I was going to do, but I was assuming that I would do some sort of mixed metal creation.  That's not how things progressed though!

I found a focal in my stash by Green Girl Studios that made me think of the swirling mists in the book.  Bingo!  I decided to orient the cloud focal sideways and make a slightly shorter necklace.  At first I had the misguided idea that I would string a pattern of beads on one side (attached with a jump ring) and then tie strands of black waxed Irish linen on the other side.  Well, let's just say that didn't work out!  (Although, happily, I was able to use the pattern of beads that I had spent so much time figuring out on another necklace that will be shared for a different challenge later in the month... here's a sneak peek though.)

That idea scrapped, I went with plan B and used the waxed linen on both sides of the necklace.  I cut three long strands of the black linen and tied to the pendant with a lark's head knot, repeating the process for the other side.  I wanted the black strands to represent the ribbonlike strips of cloth that flow from the shoulders of a Mistcloak.  Along the lengths of the waxed linen I then tied little groupings of seed beads in various metallic colors and finishes to represent the various metals burned by the characters.  Now I didn't keep strictly to the actual metals used, but instead chose six different colors that worked well together and with the pewter pendant.  To break up the runs of knotted seed beads, I slid some silver toned corner-less cubes over all the strands.  To finish it off I simply tied on a fun toggle clasp at the back.  

Thanks for stopping by to check out my newest creation!  Now it's back to work for me... lots to do before I head to the Bead & Button show!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

June 2017 Inspiration for the Honey Do List

Last year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... and we're continuing the Honey Do List for 2017!  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm hoping folks will continue to play along!  

Here's this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

This spring I've really been taking a lot of bird pictures and wanted to use one of these shots for this month's challenge.  I thought this rose-breasted grosbeak would be an interesting subject due to the stark black and white colors with a pop of bright red.  Try using this color combo for a piece!

This was a fun bird to have spotted on a visit to some friends' cabin last weekend!  I've never seen one these little guys before but he was hanging around the feeders for a good part of the day on Monday.  I've got to put on my thinking cap to figure out what I'm going to make...     

The reveal date will be Monday, June 26th.  To make it super easy for you to participate and share your creations, I'll set up an Inlinkz link up so folks can add their blogs as they are ready.  Just stop by my blog starting on June 26th and join the fun!  I'll leave the link up open for a while... so you have plenty of time to add your links.  (Last month's is still open... check it out HERE.)  No blog?  No worries!  Feel free to send me a picture of your creation and some brief comments and I'll happily share in my blog post.  You can reach me at  The more the merrier, so I hope you'll play along with me this month!