Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Pearl of Great Price

If I love pearls so much, why do I hardly buy them anymore?

Their soft shimmer, their cool temperature in warm weather, their silky feel are wonderful. My first ring from my boyfriend in high school was a simple pearl ring; my husband's mother gave me a beautiful single pearl on a gold chain for my wedding; and my daughter has a single pearl that came from a ring inherited from my great-grandmother. My go-to earrings are simple dangles of Biwa stick freshwater pearls and tiny gold spacer beads.

I hardly buy real pearls anymore, however, including for my own beading. When I do buy them, they're usually on the clearance rack. I choose to buy them there not only to save money, but because I think the clearance rack is the last stop before goods are tossed into a box and shipped somewhere. I don't want those pearls to go to waste after everything it took to produce them.

A pearl is produced around an irritant within the soft tissue of a live mollusk. Like the shell of the mollusk, a pearl is composed of calcium carbonate, which has been deposited in layers. Because the most costly pearls are created in the wild without human intervention, pearls have come to signify a rare thing of great value.

Natural pearls (not formed through through human intervention) are very rare. Most of the pearls sold today are cultured or farmed pearls made by implanting tissue and possibly a form inside pearl oysters and freshwater mussels. That's why we can get the exotic shapes we see in stores: squares, coins, x's, hearts and so on. An implant is inserted into the living mollusk, which then coats it with nacre in response. Some very small oysters and mussels produce some very big pearls, relative to their size. Some types of mollusks survive the surgery to remove the cultured pearl and are put back in the water with a new form around which to create a pearl. Others are killed (and, I hope, used for food and other purposes) when the pearl is removed. Some types of mollusks are implanted with several forms at once.

More and more, I buy artificial pearls for my beading projects. In our eagerness for an affordable abundance of what was once a naturally-occurring gem, I'm afraid that we haven't weighed the costs of producing such an abundance. I consider any real pearls, natural or cultured, to be of great price and don't want to take for granted that a creature was involved in producing them and possibly had its life taken away to do so. I feel the same way about abalone and other shells; when I use them, I try to be mindful of how we got these gorgeous materials.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Second Take on Sara Rhoades' Award-Winning Design. . .

Wayyyy down below, I wrote about making my version of the grand-prize necklace in the Bead Star 2011 special issue. The original necklace, created by Sara Rhoades, is lovely!

This time around, I used natural polished hemp, hematite, turquoise, coral, freshwater pearls and turquoise-dyed howlite. What do you think?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This Little Light of Mine

I spend a lot of hours alone at home, where I edit, translate and write. Then I spend some more time alone making jewelry. I have a loving family and many wonderful friends, and I don't mind the hours alone; in fact, I appreciate quiet hours during the day. But I don't want to go too deeply into solitude. One way I stay connected with others is through my jewelry-making.

I derive a lot of pleasure from watching friends' faces when they accept a necklace I've made with them in mind. Really listening to people is such an easy and meaningful way to learn what they want, what they enjoy, how they see themselves, how they would like to be. . . and making a piece of jewelry that reflects these aspects of their personality can, in turn, bring them much joy and help them feel validated as they realize that someone hears them and cares about their desires.

Have you given someone a handmade gift that clearly made an impact on both of you?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Congratulations, Dellian!

Congratulations to new subscriber Dellian, who won a bag of beads in my new-reader contest! Thank you, everyone who visited my blog and subscribed or became a member!

I'm going to run contests like this periodically. It's a fun way to build communication, especially for those of us who work from home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Free bag of beads!

Yes, it's true! I'm giving a free bag of beads to one blog visitor! Here's how you can get in the running to win. Just do at least one of the following:

1. Join this blog, OR

2. Sign up for email updates, OR

3. Sign up to receive automatic feeds.

That's it! I'm not collecting email addresses to sell, etc. I want to boost my readership and get a wider dialogue going with other jewelry-makers.

I'll pick a blog visitor randomly. If you've already joined in some way, you're also in the running.

Thanks for visiting! :-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Working the 3 R's into Your Jewelry

I'm always on the lookout for interesting beads, components and materials to work into my jewelry. If it's something that has been recycled or an old item can be reused, all the better! A couple of summers ago, I stopped at a sidewalk bead sale in a little seaside town in Oregon. A strand of tiny red disks caught my eye, and the saleswoman told me they were made from old vinyl (or vulcanite) LP material. . . phonograph record vinyl! They'd been upcycled into shiny beads that formed a sleek, snaky strand.

I bought them and brought them home. Just the thought of reusing a material that had likely been stockpiled in warehouses for decades excited me. Eventually, when bead supplier Happy Mango Beads held a recycle-themed beading contest, I came up with an idea for those fantastic beads. I strung them (hundreds? Thousands?) on memory wire and included a few silverplated beads for additional interest. I simply formed loops at the ends to close the bracelet and added a dangle to one end. (You can also glue on end beads specifically made for use with memory wire.)

I ran out of those recycled beads quickly because people loved that bracelet design. It took me a bit of searching to find more, but lo and behold, it was Happy Mango Beads that carried them. Turns out, these beads are made in Africa. When they arrived in the mail, they were bigger than I'd expected and pretty dusty. I just rinsed them under running water and let them dry on a towel before working with them. As I cleaned them, I thought about the folks who made them in Africa and wondered what their working conditions were.

Although the beads were much wider than the ones I'd initially used, I figured I could still make the same style of bracelet with them, but it would have a different look. I played around a bit and decided to go bigger. The result was a slinky, squirmy, voluptuous bracelet that begged to be played with. I used the same simple technique for both bracelets, adding end dangles with an African flare to this bracelet. The bracelet is fabulous and incorporates material that might have gone into a landfill if someone hadn't come up with the idea of turning it into beads. Yay!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Be Your Own Best Advertising!

As I was getting ready to go to the dentist this morning, I decided to wear one of my handmade necklaces (in fact, the turquoise and coral creation near the bottom of the page). I figured I could give my business card to the receptionist or hygienist if either woman complimented me on it.

The hygienist commented on it right away. I took it off to show it to her more closely. She held it up to her own neck in front of the mirror and commented on how many outfits it would go with. I pulled out my card with my Etsy shop address on it. She asked about the cost and then said she'd love to buy it but would have to wait until her next paycheck. I could see that she truly liked it. I told her if she really wanted it, she could keep it and pay me when she gets paid. She looked surprised, then doubtful. I said, "Hey, I know where you work." :-)

Easy sale, happy customer, happy jewelry-maker.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Think Inside the (Tackle) Box

Lookee here!

I was raving about my friend's wire-wrapping skills today as I looked at her hematite bracelet. Turns out, the "wire-wrapping" is a lure she got from her husband's tackle box. Brilliant!

Thanks, JennRoxB, for this tip and photo!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Accidental Beauty

A long time ago (one year? Two?), our daughter dug up daffodil bulbs from an abandoned yard and brought us a big IKEA shopping bag filled with them. I set the bag on the ground near the spot where we sort cans and bottles for recycling.

Occasionally I'd walk by the bag and remember that I ought to put those bulbs in the ground.

Then I forgot about the bag as it became hidden by blackberry brambles and long grass.

A couple of days ago, I was walking past the spot and glanced over. It seems the bulbs were determined to sprout and weren't waiting any longer for me to take action.

Has this kind of thing happened in your jewelry-making? I'd like to hear your story.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Try, Try Again

I was jazzed a few months ago when a Facebook acquaintance saw a picture of a necklace I'd made for a mutual friend and asked me to make one for her, too. Yes! Word-of-mouth in action!
I asked a few questions to make sure we were on the same page. The necklace I'd made for our mutual friend included steampunk elements and was about 52" long so the wearer could double or triple it. I'd used lots of upcycled materials in it, including chains from older necklaces and in various metal finishes.

From our Internet discussion, it sounded like she wanted a similar necklace but with turquoise and coral accents.

I made one over the next few days and mailed it to her.

I was pretty excited to hear about her reaction.

Well. . . We hadn't been on the same page. She didn't want steampunk. She wanted sterling silver. She's petite and wanted a much shorter, smaller necklace. She was sending me money (along with the returned necklace) to pay for my time and materials and asked me to make her something else.

After wiping my ego off the floor, I rallied and made a trip to a store one hour away for sterling chain, nicer turquoise chips and other special touches. In another couple of days, I mailed off a second necklace. THIS one was a winner. She thanked me profusely and told others about how much she loved her necklace.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Monday, and a happy vintage bauble mix

Yesterday I visited Baubles & Beads in Berkeley, California, for the first time. I'd driven by with my daughter almost a year ago and just missed their business hours, so this was a long-awaited treat.

Okay. . . I should insert the caveat that I've told myself NO MORE BEADS until I make several pieces from my enormous stash. But then I walked into Baubles & Beads and saw their display of vintage Lucite beads. Wow! Not only do they have a fabulous selection, but they offer packaged mixes of pre-wired Lucite baubles in different color families!

I confess: I picked up a couple. I also bought a few beautiful, clear blown-glass beads that look like big water bubbles. I have an idea for an underwater-themed necklace, and those could work as bubbles or fishnet floats.

Here's one of the Lucite mixes I bought, front and back. The other package is a turquoise/aqua mix. Baubles & Beads had a nifty necklace on display that showed one way of using such a mixture: They used a fairly heavy chain as the necklace base and hung the wire-wrapped baubles from the links, one bauble per link. Easy and striking!

Baubles & Beads is at 1676 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. They're on the web at BaublesandBeads.com. By the way, if you have a resale permit and purchase $50 or more in beads, they give you a 20% discount. Which means I went back and bought more beads before checking out. :-)

The necklace below is one I made one year ago, using baubles I upcycled from clusters of artificial grapes! It's basically constructed the same way as the samples I saw yesterday, except the weight of these "grapes" pulls this necklace into a more defined V shape.

Friday, January 6, 2012

. . . And here is the knotted necklace, based on Sara Rhoades' gorgeous design in Bead Star

As I mentioned in my previous post, I bought the new Bead Star 2011 Special Issue magazine a couple of days ago. Featured on the cover is a grand prize design by Sara Rhoades. This necklace, which I call Turquoise and Coral Wanderings, is based on Ms. Rhoades' beautiful design.

In place of leather cord (called for in the directions), I used waxed cotton cord. I substituted black hematite beads for some of the pearl dangles called for in the directions as well, and I used small turquoise nuggets in place of turquoise heishi as used in the original. Other beads include white freshwater pearls, turquoise-dyed howlite, dyed coral slices, and three turquoise-dyed howlite daggers. Silverplated wire and silverplated headpins are used for wraps, and the clasp is a large silverplated lobster clasp.

This was a delight to make! Hats off to Sara Rhoades for her gorgeous design!

This version of the necklace measures approximately 22".

It's Knot So Difficult

I just bought a copy of the new Bead Star 2011 Special Issue magazine. Congratulations to all who won publication in this contest magazine!

Over the past two days, I've been working on the stunning necklace that won placement on the front cover. I'm about to glue the knots, and then I'll take a photo and post it. But I'd gotten all the way to the finishing knots when I realized that I didn't know how to make the called-for "surgeon's knot."

Of course I Googled it. I found a helpful diagram and am passing it along. If someone has a better learning source, please share it here!

How to tie a surgeon's knot

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Have you done a craft fair where the sales were pretty slow? Not just for you, but for other crafters around you? Have you tried bartering at the end of the day?

I sold jewelry at two craft fairs this Christmas season. Both had good turnouts from buyers, and I made quite a few sales. But I had so much inventory to pack and bring home at the end of the day that it looked like a daunting task. Also, I'd walked around the venues several times at each event and had seen a lot of beautiful creations I wanted to take home myself.

Later in the day at each event, I went to several women and asked them if they'd be interested in bartering at the close of business hours. Nearly all agreed. In exchange for pieces of jewelry, I brought home winter scarves made from upcycled sweaters; a sample of furniture paint and a how-to book; a pine cone topiary for my Thanksgiving table; fresh-baked cookies; pumpkin butter; cookbooks; a Christmas shadow box filled with jingle bells; vinyl lettering; and three sweet paper banners (see photo of one of them).

If you'd like to barter at a show, be sure to ask your fellow crafters quietly or when they don't have customers nearby. Barter at your posted prices so both parties know upfront what they can get for such-and-such an amount. Be sure to exchange business cards for future networking.

Maybe you can set up an event for crafters where all the business is done on a barter exchange! Try hosting an open house at your show where creative folks of many different stripes can set up their work and "shop" from everyone else's.

Have fun!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pandora Bead Earring Pattern

Here's a sweet earring pattern, courtesy of BeadStyle Magazine's e-newsletter. If you make a pair, send me your photo! I'd love to see what yours look like.
(Photo from the 10/26/11 BeadStyle Magazine newsletter)

Here's the link to the pattern; become a registered user of the BeadStyle Magazine newsletter to view the pattern: Easy, elegant pandora earrings - BeadStyle Magazine

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nifty beading table, custom-made

I received a wonderful gift for Christmas: a custom-made beading table!

My hubby made this after watching me drop beads and magnetic clasps between the sofa sections on many an evening as we watched TV. (There's still a silverplated magnetic clasp in there somewhere, probably stuck to the metal recliner mechanism.) It's just right! It has:

- a removable, Scotchgarded light blue felt pad to hold beads in place and show them up better in dim lighting

- two cubbies below for supplies

- slots to hold tools at the back of the workspace

- a nice height for me when I'm seated on the couch, and

- casters for wheeling around the house.

If necessary I can plug in my magnifying lamp and set it on the work surface.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Like a bridge over troubled waters. . .

Our family experienced a sad ending to 2011 yesterday with the news that a friend had passed away after suffering a head injury. While praying for his family and thinking of them throughout the day, I pondered whether we should go ahead and attend a New Year's Eve party at the home of friends. My husband and I discussed it and decided to go; the hosts are also connected to the friend, and it seemed right to gather with them. First we shared our grief; then we ate, played games and welcomed in the new year. At the end of the evening, we agreed that it had been comforting to share that evening with one another.

Spending time with friends can be a huge comfort and restorative. So can working with our hands. I turn to beading often when I'm feeling worried, hurt, unsettled. . . As a writer, I've often thought that some of my best work came out of times when I was experiencing angst, and I feel that way about beading, too. I've created some very special pieces for friends going through troubled times, as a way to reach out to them. The gesture of presenting them with a handmade gift makes me feel useful and helpful when I don't see another hands-on way to help lift their burden a little.

Does beading have this restorative effect for you, too?