Saturday, March 31, 2018

Art Elements: Theme of the Month March 2018: Nests

Over the years I've been chosen as a participant a few times for the Art Elements (formerly Art Jewelry Elements) Component of the Month. With this month, they've discontinued the COM and reimagined it as a theme of the month instead that is open to all art mediums.  I'm pretty excited to see what everyone dreams up!

For this very first Theme of the Month challenge, they have chosen nests to inspire us.  With Spring seemingly right around the corner, this is just the perfect choice!  Nests symbolize home and also make us think of birth and new beginnings since they are where birds lay their eggs and begin raising their young. 

My first thought was to (finally) circle back to some of my half finished polymer clay projects from Heather Powers' Inspired by Nature Retreat last fall.  I had made a pendant and earring charms that featured nests with little eggs inside.  I didn't complete any of the pieces from this part of the workshop, but I enjoyed the technique and bought more of the paints I would need to finish up and make more things in the future. 

I broke out my paints and worked to make this set look better.  I'm still not 100% sure I love how the painting turned out, but I think I'm going to have to call them good enough.  Thoughts?  Obviously, I still haven't actually turned them into jewelry... baby steps!! 

Next up, I decided to use a pair of adorable nest charms from my friends at Green Girl Studios.  These guys are just so cute and tiny... I love them!  I used some polymer clay beads that I made with some scrap clay during a class on last year's Bead Cruise and Czech glass flowers.  It's hard to see in the photo, but I topped the stack off with some tiny plated hematite beads. 

I'm not super impressed with my output for this challenge... so many cute nest beads that I didn't get around to playing with this time!  It's been a wild and crazy month so I should probably just be happy that I got anything made. 

This is a blog hop.  Check out what everyone else made:

Guest Participants-
Sarajo - you are here

 AE team members-

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Inspired by Reading: The Valley of Amazement

This month's Inspired by Reading Book Club selection was The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan.  I for one, was not amazed.  After slugging through it for most of the past month, I finally gave up on reading it at about page 300... way more than my usual 50 page deadline for a book to hook me.  Seriously, I gave up about half way through.  If I hadn't stopped when I did then I'd probably still be trying to finish this time next month!

For whatever reason, this one just didn't grab me.  I think that part of the reason was that I didn't find any of the characters particularly like-able.  Also the fact that so much of the story revolves around one of the main characters, Violet, being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery.  Yeah.  That probably has something to do with it.

Anyway, I was still determined to make something this month.  So, since I didn't finish, I went a little vague in my design direction.  Thinking about the name of Violet's mother's first class courtesan house, Hidden Jade Path, I remembered some lovely Jadeite carved flower beads that bought in my very first year of beading.  I'd had them in one of my bead boxes with a Rhyolite (I think!) pendant that I've also had for quite some time.  I obviously had long thought that they would play nice together, but just never got around to doing anything with them.  (I know you've heard this story from me before!)  They have to wait no more!

Rounding out the design, I used some Burma Jade rounds that I bought three or four years ago from Dakota Stones.  Because they were individually knotted, I'd just never taken the time to cut them free until the past week.  I'm really trying to be good and balance my time between making new things and getting my ridiculously messy studio under control... wrangling these little guys was part of last week's work.  I knew that I wanted to string the beads (the idea of doing a zillion wrapped loops just wasn't exciting me!), but I wanted to jazz it up a bit.  So, I turned to yet another neglected element in my hoard of jewelry making supplies... my collection of Vintaj filigree and embellishments.  It took a little bit of wrangling to get the deco vine pieces to work the way I wanted them to as connectors, but I'm glad that I didn't give up on the idea!

There was a lot of exposition about the way the courtesans would work with the jewelers to get better jewelry sets as gifts from their suitors and patrons, so making jewelry for this month's book seems even more appropriate than usual.  I'm hoping that next month's book is more to my liking!  Better get to the library to grab it before I head out on the Bead Cruise.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Honey Do List: March 2018

This marks the third year that my husband Eric has been giving me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... it's the Honey Do List 2018!  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 with us!  

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

I decided to go with a monochromatic shot this month, as winter drags on.  This picture of a window was taken while on a walk through D.C. last summer.  Let's see what you can pull off with this unusual inspiration!

As soon as I saw this photo, I thought of some one of a kind patinated charms by Inviciti that I had managed to snag.  (I'm usually WAY too slow to snag the OOAK pieces from Vincent and Nooma!)  I love the rustic finish on them and the orange with black peaking out (and even the shape) reminded me of the bottom center two panels.  In keeping with the shapes and angles in the photo, I chose some English cut beads and some square plated hematite spacers.

Originally, I thought that I'd use the art beads from the next two pairs of earrings in one extra fabulous pair... that turned out to be a little much and a bit too long for my liking, so I decided that they would be two separate sets!  I think I made the right decision.  The first pair features some yummy, crusty, rustic looking lampwork by Donna Millard paired with Czech glass and brass on some of my favorite Vintaj Natural Brass ear wires.  The second pair are all about the goldenrod colored sari silk "cocoons" by my friend Anna Pierson of Saga Hus with some star cut Black Gold Amazonite.

Not wanting it to be all earrings all the time this month (not that I don't love me some earrings!), I also whipped up a necklace and earrings set.  I'm thrilled to have found the perfect project for this great geometric pendant by my friend Tracee Dock of The Classic Bead!  Actually, all the beads and the clasp in this necklace have been hiding in my stash for quite a while, so I think that this design perfect for the intent behind the Honey Do List.  I used a fun strand of square Czech glass beads and some Wooden Jasper rounds with brass findings.  The earring drops are deep maroon Mookaite.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Art Bead Scene Challenge: March 2018

This month's inspiration for the Art Bead Scene Challenge is Red Tiger Lilly of Southern India by Marianne North.  It's a much needed reminder for me that spring will (eventually) come... even in Minnesota.  I need all the reminding I can get when it's literally snowing on the first day of "Spring."  Sigh.  The artist was an English Victorian biologist and botanical painter who set out at 40 to travel the world, studying plants and accurately painting them.  You can read more about the artist and artwork over on the ABS blog HERE.

Title: Red Tiger Lily of Southern India
Artist: Marianne North
Date: 1878
Medium: Watercolor

I didn't feel like I had a ton of options in my art bead stash that were really speaking to me for this challenge.  Luckily, I got my March Simple Truths Sampler in the mail from my friend Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati and decided that I should just make something with her sweet earring charms right away!  As I played with different combinations of beads to go with the charms, I ended up settling on two variations on the same theme using coordinating Czech glass, rhinestone rondelles, and brass.

Not quite satisfied to leave things there, I grabbed a Green Girl Studios lotus flower pendant that I had been thinking about using this month.  As I've mentioned before, I've spent a lot of time lately organizing and putting beads away.  During that process I rediscovered a strand of multi-colored dyed fire agate rondelles that felt pretty perfect for this challenge.  I decided to let the gemstones pretty much speak for themselves with just tiny charlottes in grey separating them.  To give a little more visual interest to the design, I wire wrapped some links with tiny Czech glass flowers in purple and green and placed the clasp on the side of the necklace instead of the back.

Thanks for stopping by today!  Here's to getting some more Spring-like weather soon!!

Friday, March 16, 2018

We're All Ears: March 2018: Black & White

For this month's We're All Ears challenge over on the Earrings Everyday blog, Erin Prais-Hintz has encouraged us to go monochromatic and work in black and white.  Challenge accepted!

I started out with a couple of pretty simple pairs that are kind of variations on a theme.  The pair on the right features some melon style beads from Golem Design Studio and recycled glass teardrops.  The pair on the left has ceramic beads by Earthenwood Studio with black crystal teardrops and earwires decorated with Swarovski crystals for a little extra bling.

I wasn't sure that I'd manage to make more than those initial pairs, but my husband's renewed interest in miniature painting (for which he uses part of my bead table!) has encouraged me to spend a little more time working on jewelry making in the evenings.  While he was busing painting a couple of ??, I managed to whip up a third pair.  This one is more cream and black, but I'm going consider it close enough for government work!  I've had these cool little links from Earthenwood Studio for quite some time now... always assuming that they would eventually become earrings.  I added dangles with some of my much coveted (and hoarded!) fluted ? rounds fancied up with some brass bead caps.

Again, I thought I was done making for this month's challenge but I was wrong!  I spent the better part of two days working on getting beads and supplies put away and organized.  While I was putting some of my newer goodies away I spotted a few more possibilities and rewarded my hard work with a little jewelry making play time!

I'm glad that I kept going since this next pair is one of my favorites of the bunch!  These are all about polka dots... although the spots on the onyx rounds are tough to see in the photo.  The tube shaped beads make me seriously happy with their happy spots.  I'm not sure if they are bone or horn, but I love the effect!

At the Twin Cities Bead Bazaar a couple of weeks ago I snagged a handful of gemstone links and charms... including a little pairs of black rutilated quartz charms.  I paired them with some faceted rutilated quartz rounds and silver plated spacers.  I like the elegant look of these!

Last but not least, I played with some vintage black and white beads that I bought from Vintage Bead Vault on Facebook.  I snatched these beads up because they were shapes I'd never seen before and I thought they'd play nicely together.  I have to laugh, because I was totally thinking flowers when I made these earrings, but when I took this photo I realized that they totally look like little mushrooms.  Now I can't un-see them!  LOL.

This is a blog hop... stop by the Earrings Everyday blog HERE to see what everyone else was inspired to make!  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Artisans Create Together Color Inspiration Challenge: March 2018

This month's Artisans Create Together Color Inspiration Challenge is perfect for the month we celebrate St. Patrick's Day... it's all green all the time!  I'm definitely a girl who loves green (especially lime-y shades) so this is right up my alley.

I'm not sure if this first design plays strictly by the rules... the challenge says "your choice of accents... Black, Grey, Cream, Gold?"  So I'm interpreting the question mark to mean that I can choose a less neutral accent color!  When I first grabbed this adorable butterfly with flower charm pendant by Lesley Watt out of my art bead storage, I really had intended to keep it pretty monochromatic.  Honestly, that's normally how my brain wants to work!

As I pulled bead possibilities out onto the bead board, the sea of green just wasn't doing it for me.  Now with the variations in the glaze, I really could have gone with a more brown or rust color... but clearly I didn't go that route!  I knew that I wanted to use some Czech glass flowers in my design to play off the whimsy of the butterfly's swirls... some cobalt blue ones just cried out to play.  Who am I to argue with the beads? 

Next up I made a multi-strand bracelet based on Lorelie Eurto with a lentil bead from Golem Design Studio in several shades of green. I used a dark green waxed Irish linen, a variety of Czech glass beads and seed beads in a variety of greens.  I also found a China Chrysoprase large hole round bead and some recycled glass to anchor the design. 

Not quite done playing with green, I made a second bracelet featuring a polymer clay link by Summer Wind Art that my sweet husband gave me ages ago.  Seriously, sometimes it takes me a LONG time to decide what to do with something... or to stumble across the right challenge to make me want to use it!  This time I grabbed some matte jade rounds as well as some ivory colored Czech glass melons to start making beaded links for part of the bracelet.  I never think to do more than one strand when I'm doing links, so I wanted to try adding chain into the mix this time to shake things up!  I used a Czech glass maple leaf with copper accents and a smaller matte jade bead to dangle off one side.  I'm pretty happy with the movement in this piece.  I'll have to remember to try this sort of look on future bracelets!

Thanks for stopping by to see my sea of green for this month!  Now I'm off to raise a glass of (not green) beer!  Cheers!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Tassel Time!!

When life hand you lemons, make lemonade!  I had made a couple of new necklaces last month to submit for a section in a beading magazine.  Sadly, neither option was accepted, but the upside of that is now I can share them with you instead of keeping them under wraps for 6 months!

The theme for the section was tassels... tassels of all kinds were welcomed... chain, leather, ribbon, etc.  For both of my creations, I chose chain.  I really have been enjoying making chain tassels of all kinds for a while now, so I took this opportunity to explore that idea a little more.

My first necklace is a variation on the piece I made for my big sister for Christmas last year.  For this new version I used an adorable almond shaped bead by Golem Design Studio with red tulips and little blue flowers against a pale blue background.  I used lengths of leafy chain and what I refer to as a lily of the valley bead cap to make the tassel base and then added in lots of tiny Czech glass and crystal dangles.  To keep the chain from being boring, I made links with some Czech glass in coordinating colors.  This will be heading to Unearthed Arts soon to hopefully find a happy home.

In case you missed it on Instagram, here's my sisters set... done in Auburn colors of course!

My second necklace features one of my coveted polymer clay creations by the talented Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati.  This focal bead was for the Art Bead Scene's monthly challenge from April 2015 when the inspiration artwork was a self portrait by Frida Kahlo.  So much lush detail in this little masterpiece!  While the tassel itself is just two types of plain brass chain, I had fun layering a variety of bead caps and a large Czech glass flower on top.  The body of the necklace features a variety of Czech glass beads in soft pastels to match the focal.

What are your thoughts on the tassel trend?  Any favorite materials for tassels to make and/or wear?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Artisans Create Together Color Inspiration Challenge: February 2018

It's been a little while since I designed specifically for the Artisans Create Together Color Inspiration Challenge.  And with the crazy February I had, I didn't quite make the deadline.  Since I had already pulled together the beads to make something it only made sense to finish and share.  Better late than never, right?

I remembered that I had a pink and cream colored pendant from one of my insane Bead & Button Shopping sprees with Golem Design Studio.  I sometimes overlook this collection of pendants, but now was the perfect time to work with one!  I gathered a collection of Czech glass in pinks, cream, and silvery grey (I'm such a sucker for that Mercury Glass finish!) and some peach moonstone star cut beads that were a nice match to the peachy-pinks of the pendant.  I had originally thought I'd use some of my rose quartz stash but it was too pink of a pink... if that makes sense!  Anyways, here is what I came up with and finally pulled together last night.

I didn't make this next one specifically for this challenge but wanted to share it anyway.  It was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Stringing Magazine and remains a design that I'm super proud of making.  It features a lovely polymer clay poppy pendant from Humblebeads, faceted sapphire and sunstone beads, and a luscious length of salmon sari silk.

Now I'd better get started on the March palette before another month slips away from me!! 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Inspiration for the Honey Do List March 2018

This marks the third year that my husband Eric has been giving me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... it's the Honey Do List 2018!  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 with us!  

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

I decided to go with a monochromatic shot this month, as winter drags on.  This picture of a window was taken while on a walk through D.C. last summer.  Let's see what you can pull off with this unusual inspiration!

The reveal date will be Monday, March 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 March 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!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Inspired by Reading: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Between the holidays and a book that I didn't feel like re-reading, I've taken a couple of months off from the Inspired by Reading Book Club.  It feels good to be back in action for our February selection!  This month we read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by first time author Natasha Pulley.

I was really expecting this novel to have more of a steam punk feel from the cover and description...  maybe the octopus on the cover reminded me of the Order of the Brass Octopus from the Parasol Protectorate series!  Set in Victorian London with some flashes to Japan as the modern period is just beginning, the book revolves around a trio of characters unlikely to end up in the same circles.  The book opens with Thaniel Steepleton, a clerk for the Home Office discovering a gold pocket watch clearly meant for him in his room.  There is much mystery around the origins of the watch and what is meant to do... as it does not seem to be an entirely ordinary watch.  The titular watchmaker is Keita Mori, a Japanese immigrant who possesses mechanical abilities years beyond any one else.  The third main character is Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist struggling to find her independence in a world not quite ready for that.  I don't want to give too much else away and ruin the story for anyone.

Steampunk or not, there was plenty of gears and clockwork involved in the story making me think of a pair of mis-matched porcelain charms by Joan Miller with gear decals.  At first I was considering wire wrapping some sort of gemstone beads above Joan's charms.  As so often happens to me, when I was looking for something for a different project, I stumbled upon the perfect "cocoon" links from my friend Anna Pierson of Saga Hus.  The brown fabric is a perfect match for the gears and the blue dots add a touch of whimsy.

This next pair of earrings has an unexpected connection to the book by way of Katsu the clockwork octopus.  Sound strange?  Yup.  It is.  When Eric and I were shopping Michelle McCarthy's booth at Bead & Button last summer, he apparently added some things to my basket without me knowing.  One of those items was this little pair of octopus charms... I didn't know I had them until I started putting my beads away after we got home!  After reading the book, it seems almost like they stole into my basket on their own like Katsu creeping into Thaniel's dresser!  Ok, maybe I'm reading too much into it but it still cracks me up.  Fancy wire wrapping is still a little outside my normal comfort zone, but I do like the look so I stretched myself and tried to channel my inner Loralee Kolton for this pair!  (Seriously, if you don't know Loralee's work, check out her Etsy shop HERE to see her amazing designs!  She's got a major knack for wire work and combining components in wonderful ways!)

Ok enough rambling!  I paired the cute little octopus charms in a soft grey-green color with some Labradorite coins.  I wanted to hide the wire loop on the charms and add a little more interest to the whole design.  Taking a page from Loralee's book, I did some messy wire wraps with tiny grey charlottes around the loops.  I think the messy, not exactly matching wraps speak to the randomness of Katsu's workings.

I have a cheap-o "brass" octopus necklace that I bought years ago when I first read the Parasol Protectorate series that I've been meaning to take apart and use the pendant.  Unfortunately I ran out of time and that got put back on the back burner for now.  Oh well... I'll eventually get around to it!  For now I'm going to cuddle up with next month's book!