Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Inspired by Nature Retreat 2017

I meant to write this up sooner, but I feel like I've been running nonstop since I got back from this amazing three day retreat with Heather Powers in South Haven, Michigan earlier this month.  I still wanted to do a little mini wrap up of my weekend reconnecting with my beady friends, learning new things, and just generally getting inspired!

If you haven't heard of the Inspired by Nature Retreat, it's the brain child (love child??) of Heather Powers of Humblebeads.  This was the 7th year of this event that is held in Heather's home town each October and my second year attending.  The last couple of years the whole event has been held at the Riverbend Retreat Resort set on a large piece of property along the Black River.  It's the perfect place to get back in touch with nature and your creativity!

After having some travel glitches last year, I decided to drive to South Haven this year.  Luckily for me, a fellow jewelry maker who lives on the East side of the Twin Cities was interested in road tripping with me!  A long drive is always more fun when you aren't alone!  Anyways, I picked up Anna Pierson of SagaHus and we set out on our adventure.  The first leg of our journey took us as far as the Chicago suburbs where we met up with two other retreat goers for a beady slumber party at Monica Pena's house before making the rest of the journey on Friday morning.  Having our priorities in order, Anna and I did stop for a wine tasting along the way to South Haven!

Day one of the retreat started out with getting settled in, getting our goody bags, and doing our charm exchange (so great to see what everyone came up with!).  Our first project started with making some fun polymer clay molds that we would then use to make polymer clay beads later in the day.  While I found the process fun and interesting, my results were mixed.  I learned some things that I think will make any future attempts go smoother, but mostly it's about practice.  Heather's beads are always so perfectly shaped and even.  Mine turned out a bit more on the lumpy gravy side!  

The top picture shows some of my molds.  The bottom are beads before painting.
We didn't completely finish with this project before it was time for our early dinner reservation in town at Taste... painting would just have to wait!  After dinner it was still a little light out and the weather was mild so we took a little stroll down to the pier and lighthouse.  It was lovely and a little magical to see the sunset over Lake Michigan!  After dinner and our stroll, we kept working on our polymer clay beads.  Some of us actually got painting done, but not this girl.  I work a bit too slowly!

Most of the group after dinner!

What a view!  I'm so glad that we took that walk.

After a good night's sleep and a filling breakfast, we were all ready to begin our next big project on Saturday.  Today was the day for the star of the show... Heather's amazing faux tin process!!  For obvious reasons, I can't share the magic of the process, but I did want to show you a few pics from the day.  One thing that I can attest to, is that having a good file made all the difference working on these components.  I have always hated filing... like, hated with a purple passion!  I can't honestly say that it's my favorite thing, but at least I'm now able to file metal edges smooth without wanting to bang my head agains the way!  No more spending stupid amounts of time filing metal only to to find that I've somehow managed to make it sharper!  (Seriously, don't ask me how, but this was apparently my super power in the past.)  Anyway... pictures!!

Are you good with puzzles?  Making the most of the space I had on my copper sheet!

My bracelet bars:  These are the only pieces that I got completely done... filed and sealed.  

We had a decent amount of down time during the faux tin process, so I finally got back to painting my beads from day one.  I didn't finish the process, going back to sand and add more paint is still on my post-retreat to do list.  You may sense a theme here...

These still need sanding and maybe some metallic accents!

Dinner was pizza and salad at the cabin.  We all hung out chatting and continuing to work fairly late into the night.  Several of my cabin mates toddled back to our little cabin for night caps of wine and cappuccino (not at the same time!).  

Sunday funday and we still had more to learn and make before heading home!  First up, Heather taught us how to do some cool braiding with leather and a lucet (i.e. an amazing fork that Jesse, aka Mr. Humblebeads, made for each of us to keep).  Getting this braid started was tricky for this girl who has never known how/been able to braid anything ever!  I'm so glad that I stuck with it through the awkward first stages because the end result is amazing.  I had some issues finishing the braided ends and Heather had to help me.  If I can't figure out how to do it all pretty on my own, I do have a back up plan that involves bead caps.  Stay tuned... I'm going to try it again very soon!   

The beginning stages of my braid on my trusty new lucet fork!

Forks up!  All hail Mr. Humblebeads!!
I'm really very proud of the finished bracelet... and not just because it's the only thing I actually finished at the retreat!  In all seriousness, for me it's not about how many finished pieces I leave with, but about what I learned.  By that standard, this year's Inspired by Nature Retreat was a huge success!  Anyway, back to the bracelet... other than Heather's disk bead and the jump rings, this piece is totally hand made by this girl right here.  This is the first time I've managed to make a toggle bar that I'm completely happy with... and I think I've learned the secret to making more in the future.  

The finished product!
Running behind a little bit, we ended up having lunch and then doing one last quick project before hitting the road.  Heather taught us how to use the Now That's a Jig system to make a really cool focal for a charm necklace.  We all had 20 brand new charms to choose from to decorate the pendant so the hard part was deciding which ones to use since they were all so fun and fabulous!  I'm excited to say that I went home with one of the scratch n' dent jigs that we were using for class so I'm eager to play some more with my new toy.

Full disclosure: I finished this at home after the retreat.
One last item before we all finished loading our cars and headed out... the group photo.  It was cold, windy, and a little rainy so we all huddled (for warmth and to fit!) on the porch while Jesse snapped the picture.  What a fun group of ladies (and one lad) to spend the weekend creating and laughing with!  Thanks to all (especially Heather and Jesse!!) for another wonderful event!

End of retreat group photo:  Can you tell it was a tiny bit windy??
Not wanting to lose momentum after I got back home, I sat down to finish filing and sealing the faux tin earring charms that I had started at the retreat and get the earrings all finished up.  I love how these little cuties all look.  The last pair is a keeper for me since I discovered that they were a great match for a newer top in my closet.  Now I have to get brave and decide what I'm doing with some of the larger "tin" pieces that came home with me.  Hopefully you'll see some necklaces and other goodies from me before too long.  

My keepers.
It's not done yet, but I had a third piece from one of the patterns and I know what I'm going to do with it.  My plan is to rivet the smaller faux tin piece to some of the etched metal that I did at Bead & Button.  Here's a sneak peek:

Thanks for stopping by and following along with my Inspired by Nature Retreat exploits!!  If you have the chance to take a class with or attend a retreat with Heather, you should totally make it happen... you won't regret it. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Honey Do List: October 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:

Last month I took an insect photography class at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum so I figured one of those shots would be a good bet for this challenge.  The day of the course was insanely windy so taking pictures of moving insects atop briskly moving flowers was a challenge!  Luckily I got at least one decent shot of a Painted Lady butterfly...now take the idea and fly with it!

Just a few weeks ago we had Painted Lady butterflies all over the place.  I'd go for a walk and accidentally scare up droves of these little guys ahead of me.  I really like the picture that Eric got of the butterfly with its proboscis extending into the pale yellow flower.  It's pretty but not super showy with its wings closed.  This seemed like a good opportunity to use some of my more neutral toned butterfly components.

First up, I chose a pair of butterfly charms by Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio in a rich butterscotch and really dark brown.  I wire wrapped some Czech glass crullers with a nice Picasso finish with some topaz crystal rondelles and coordinating metallic fire polished round Czech glass.  The charms are so rustic so I liked the addition of a tiny bit of sparkle!

As luck would have it, I scored several butterfly inspired pieces from the talented and lovely Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati in a special Art Bead Scene Lounge Facebook sale last month.  One of the sets of earring pairs was pretty perfect for this challenge.  Since they were pretty tiny little charms, I didn't want to add anything too large... but I also felt like it would be a cop out to just add ear wires!  I added some small plated hematite, Czech glass, and garnet beads separated by gold plated spacers to pull out some of the many colors in the petite charms.  These are long and skinny and absolutely elegant!

Another goody that I unearthed while looking for art beads for this month's various challenges was a wooden tile by Skye Jewels.  I bought several from Marie a few years ago in a destash including one with a yellow/orange butterfly.  I didn't have her drill most of them (including this rectangular tile) so I had to do some searching to find a filigree that would work wrapped around it.  I chose to string the necklace mostly with a mix of Czech glass and a few pearls with small sized hematite, garnet, and smoky quartz beads as spacers.

Lastly, as a sort of bonus, I made one more small pair of earrings with some teensy brass butterfly charms and some of the beads I had spread out on my bead mat for this challenge.  While not an exact match for the necklace, I think they coordinate pretty well and could easily be worn together.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

We're All Ears: October 2017

The inspiration for this month's We're All Ears challenge over on the Earrings Everyday blog is all about the moon.  Ok, it was actually supposed to be the Harvest Moon but I used some creative license and went with the moon in general... mostly because I didn't have anything that felt harvest-y.

Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash

I started out looking for art beads to use... not feeling confident that I had anything at all.  Surprise, surprise!  I actually found a set of moon and star charms from Michelle McCarthy of Firefly Design Studio.  I paired them with some chunky faceted chalcedony, Czech glass, and, for sparkle, crystal studded rondelles.

Never satisfied with making just one pair for this challenge, I put on my thinking cap and came up with a second design.  I had a pretty tiny scrap of etched copper left over from a past project... just enough to cut two very small crescent moons from it.  At first I was thinking that I would rivet the crescents to a larger "full moon" made from hammered Arte Metal circle blanks.  (I used two different sizes of my ball peen hammers to get the "craters.")  With how tiny the copper pieces were, I felt like I'd end up covering up most of the shape.  Plan B to the rescue!  I ended up just punching one hole in each copper crescent and then using jump rings to hang them in front of the circles.  Above my dual moons I wire wrapped some moonstone beads with matte bronze Czech glass spacers.

Don't forget to stop by the Earrings Everyday blog to see what everyone else was inspired to make HERE.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Art Bead Scene: October 2017

Seriously, how is it already October?!?  We've been on the run (and now I'm heading out to a jewelry making retreat in Michigan) but somehow I managed to get something made for the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge.  You can read all about the art and the artist over on the ABS blog HERE.

Title: Madame De Pompadour
By: Francois Boucher
Date: 1756
Medium: Oil on Canvas

I love the colors in this painting are so luscious!  The composition isn't totally up my alley, but I can roll with it.  As I was looking through my art beads, I gravitated toward a fancy flower pendant by Nancy Adams of Round Rabbit (boy I miss her beads now that she's not selling ceramics anymore!) that I've been holding onto for a long time.  I added some fancy dangles made from Czech glass flowers and lots of brass bead caps to the pendant.  For the body of the necklace I used more Czech glass in shades of teal/turquoise and pink as well as some vintage lucite.

If Madame De Pompadour wasn't wearing that pink ribbon around her neck, I think this necklace would be a fine replacement!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Inspired by Reading: The Marriage of Opposites

I skipped last month's Inspired by Reading Book Club, but I'm back in action for the September selection!  This month we read The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman.  I'd never ready any of Hoffman's adult books before... only one or two of her young adult titles.  It took me a little while to get into the story, but I'm so glad that I stuck it out.

The novel tells the story of Rachel, a young Jewish girl growing up in the early 1800's on the island of St. Thomas and follows her and those close to her through to her old age.  There was much beauty in the story as well as sadness and the frustration of coming up against society's rules and norms which are often so very unfair.  Rachel is such a strong, stubborn, and resilient character albeit often prickly to those she cares for the most.  This is a story filled with love, loss, and longing that was wonderful to watch unfold.  I loved how the stories of the characters ended up being even more entwined than you first thought as the lives of what seem like secondary characters come into view.

Despite a lot of lovely imagery and language in the novel, it took me awhile to decide what themes or images from the book I might use as a jumping off point for my creation this month.  I eventually settled on the idea of the Flamboyant Tree whose branches and flowers were repeatedly mentioned.  (I honestly wasn't sure if it was actually a real thing until I did a Google search!)

Flamboyant Tree or Delonix Regia
So just last week, and not for the first time in my beading life, I fell prey to not paying attention to what size something bought online actually was.  Shocking, right??  I've always loved the gorgeous pinks and oranges of Patricia Healey's copper and am particularly fond of her flowers.  So it seemed like a no brainer to snatch up one of her flower pendants that was on last chance clearance at Lima Beads (with an additional 10% off no less!).  But here's the thing....  55mm is HUGE!  Lol.  I'm sure none of you would have been surprised by the size when you opened up your package, but I sure was!  Ooopsie!  But no matter, I knew that someone out there would favor the bold design that this powerhouse of a pedant would need.  The color and flower shape were perfect for a flamboyant tree inspired design... I regret nothing!!

I dug into my box of orange beads and found a good number of chunkier carnelian and Czech glass beads that were contenders for the design.  In truth, I probably could have gotten away with even bigger beads, but this is what I had on hand!  I ended up using carnelian nuggets, faceted rounds in two sizes, and smooth rounds... so many yummy shades of orange, dark red, and peach.  

Not being super knowledgeable about plant life, I also wanted to see what the Bougainvillea flower looked like.  I found a picture where the blooms were just a wonderful mix of bright colors.  Most of what I saw were the pink to purple flowers, but this picture was perfect for the Golem Design Studio bead that I was thinking about using!

I decided to make a variation of a design that I've done before with the carved almond beads from Golem.  (I'm seriously addicted to their amazing designs and COLORS... so yummy!!)  I picked up a strand of this shape in what they call peacock in a mix of orange, pink, and purple.  Despite the name of the pattern, I think looks like flower petals in this color way.  I made a chain tassel and added tiny Czech class beads to the end of each piece of chain in complementary colors.  Sometimes I leave the chain plain for this style of necklace, but I wanted the extra pop of color for this one!

One of the other thoughts that had been vying for my attention while I read the books was the mention of moths beating against the windows.  This imagery came up several times, and though not in any way really central to the story, it stuck with me.  And, hey, a good excuse to pull out my moth beads!  It seemed appropriate to grab one of the small moth pendants by Lisa Peters Russ that I bought from Allegory Gallery after seeing them in a Facebook post (or it might have been a video).

I grabbed three of these cuties, but chose to work with the one with touches of palest green and tiny specks of what I would definitely call "haint blue."  Because of the diminutive size of the pendant, I tried to give it a little extra punch with some beads dangling from lengths of chain that sit behind the moth.  It was fun to pull out some of my tinier gemstones for this design like some AB vessuvianite, prehnite rice beads, faceted smoky quartz, and some Czech glass.  I finished the back with a bit of ribbon in shades of green.

Usually after a big show I go into a sort of jewelry making hibernation period.  I work so hard heading into a show that I'm just done for awhile afterwards.  I'm thankful for book club getting my mojo back way quicker than normal!


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Inspiration for the Honey Do List: October 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:

Last month I took an insect photography class at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum so I figured one of those shots would be a good bet for this challenge.  The day of the course was insanely windy so taking pictures of moving insects atop briskly moving flowers was a challenge!  Luckily I got at least one decent shot of a Painted Lady butterfly...now take the idea and fly with it!

The reveal date will be Monday, October 23rd.  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 October 25rd 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 sjdesignsjewelry@gmail.com  The more the merrier, so I hope you'll play along with me this month!