Monday, April 30, 2012

Blue, Green, and Copper Freeform Wire Cuff

Here is another freeform wire wrapped cuff, this one with green and blue beads that were just screaming to be paired with copper!
I formed the frame for the cuff from heavy, 12g square copper wire, and then started adding the beads in random zigzags from one side of the frame to the other, sometimes connecting the zigzags with another piece of beaded copper wire. I used round 24g copper wire for the beaded cross pieces.

The beads are a mixture of kiwi jasper, turquoise, matrix jasper, and various blue and green glass seed beads, with several shapes of copper beads and spacers interspersed.

I love freeform creating - it's a perfect fit for my personality: outside the box, with no rules! I hate rules! But whether it is freeform wire work or freeform beadweaving, the challenge is to always be thinking a couple of moves ahead, because even though it is "freeform," a little bit of planning is required, especially if you have certain elements that you know you want to fit into the finished piece.

Now, if I only had more time to express myself freely!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Freeform Wire Wrapped Bracelet

I combined a bead soup mix of blues, pinks, and neutral colors with Vintaj Natural Brass wire to create this freeform wire-wrapped cuff. The bead mix includes aquamarine rondelles; freshwater pearls in peacock blue, pink, and off white, and a mixture of seed beads and small Czech firepolish beads in pinks, blues, and bronze.

Freeform wire work is my preferred way to work with wire, because wire is not my friend! Wire likes to bend, break, and just generally be uncooperative when I work with it, so creating formal, structured pieces is a real challenge for me. I get better results when I either let the wire do whatever it pleases, as with this cuff, OR when I beat the wire into submission with hammers. Either way, I win!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wire-wrapped Briolettes

I was lucky to find some extremely vividly-colored ruby in zoisite (one of my favorite stones!) - these were briolettes, which is a difficult shape for me. These stones were the perfect size for earrings, so I did a coiled wire-wrapped cap and loop for these stones, and hung them from earwires.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I call this necklace "Calypso," because the brightly colored lampwork discs (aren't they fabulous?!) and the turquoise colored magnesite rondelles combined to remind me of those carefree, fun-in-the-sun days on a Caribbean island!

I think rondelles are my favorite bead shape to work with. I love stacking them, using them as spacers - just love them! What is your favorite bead shape? Can you pick one?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Blog Giveaway Revisited

You may recall that I recently hosted a blog giveaway for a cute pair of Vintaj Natural Brass Earrings with vintage Swarovski crystal embellishment.

On April 16, I announced the winner, but I unfortunately have not been able to make contact with her, so I summoned the random number picker again this morning, and we have a new winner: peaceyoga!

So peaceyoga - if you are reading, contact me so I can get your earrings to you, and I will also try to find you! Congratulations!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday Worktable

Still toiling with my Zombie Iolite Fringe Necklace. It is tough going, folks! Now I think I have a clue why it became a zombie in the first place!

This picture shows the current transition zone between full fringe (on the left), and where I left off 4 years ago:
My biggest problem is remembering how I was doing the fringe way back then - I study the necklace, and study it, but still don't feel like I am getting it right. I have completed about 2 inches, and if you really study it, you can tell the new part, because it is actually a little fuller than it should be.

I'm not really enjoying this, but this particular project is the worst of the zombies - the one I had dread in my heart for, so once it is done, and I WILL finish it, the rest will seem easy! It may just take several weeks, at the rate I'm going. But I haven't started any new projects, either - so that is a plus!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Wow - On an unrelated note, Blogger threw a new format at us this morning! Trying my darnedest to figure it out. I don't do well with change!

And speaking of change, I finally joined Pinterest yesterday. Not really thrilled to discover that almost all the possible permutations of my web identity, Sweet Freedom, were already taken - but I finally settled on SweetFreedomPin. It is what it is, right?

I had put off joining Pinterest for months, because of the whole Facebook association nonsense. You see, you must sign up for Pinterest through either your Facebook or your Twitter account, so they can "help you find friends." And I am not a huge fan of Facebook.

Not to mention, you must be invited to join Pinterest. Gotta keep out the riff-raff, right? Except it is ridiculously easy to get an invite, so, not so much with the exclusivity.

Once you create your Pinterest account, Pinterest helps you find friends by instantly importing all your Facebook "friends" and making you a follower of all their Pinterest boards and pins. Gee - thanks, Pinterest! I spent about an hour unfollowing all of them, so I could at least decide for myself whose stuff I wanted to see more of. Then I drilled down into my account settings, and discovered I could disconnect Pinterest from my Facebook and Twitter accounts (DONE!), so why all this necessity to sign up through these social networks? Oh yeah, to help me, Yeah, that's it.

I have played around with Pinterest for a day or so, and discovered some neat photos and ideas. And I have created boards, and pinned things, and repinned things. But I still don't really get it: Pinterest is essentially a big, interactive virtual scrapbook, very similar to Flickr, but with none of Flickr's pesky attention to copyright and ownership. You can search for content, Like photos, comment on photos, and follow other users on both sites. But on Pinterest, you can also "repin" a photo to your own "board" (making the difference between Liking and Repinning murkily silly). On Flickr, the content you upload must be your own - on Pinterest, they mention this in the Terms of Service, with references to the DMCA (the Digital Millenium Copyright Act - Google it!), but it is so easy to "pin" photos from anywhere on the web without permission, that I suspect there are many copyright violations occurring. Heck, I didn't ask permission for the photos I pinned and repinned - I assumed that if the "Pin It" function works, I must have permission. No? Well, that seems wrong .... on the part of Pinterest and the designers of the "Pin it" functionality.

I know that photos of my work are being pinned from this blog and from Etsy - my web analytics tell me so! I (wrongly) believed that once I joined Pinterest, a simple search for my business name would reveal these pins. So wrong on my part! Because while the photos are attributed by a clickable link back to the site they were pinned from, this is not searchable text, and few pinners type photo attribution into each pin's text button.

My web analytics had cued me in to this particular pin last night:

This one really bothered me! I have obscured the pinner's identity, though I don't know why. She has pinned my photo of my Japanese Lace Earrings, with the caption "Can I figure out this pattern?" And mine is not the only jewelry design she hopes to "figure out."

Unfortunately, my iPad wouldn't screen cap this for me last night, so I had to search for it on the trusty old PC this morning, and I just couldn't find it again. Because it isn't attributed, don't you know.

So I turned to my friend, Google - and found this extremely helpful, informative site. The author gives detailed, step-by-step instructions for how to find which of your photos have been pinned, and how to get Pinterest to remove them! Good reading.

I looked at photos of mine that have been pinned on Pinterest, and the overwhelming majority are complimentary. Not that the one I've shown isn't complimentary - this is a gray area. There is a difference between admiring my work and blatantly declaring your intentions to copy it!

My photos and text are mine - and I love for you to look, but please, don't copy!

And follow me on Pinterest, if you are so inclined. Would love to see you there!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Morning Humor

I found this very funny, probably because I have the sense of humor of a 12 year old, lots of the time:

I didn't even know you could buy toilet paper on Amazon! And I would be afraid to order anything from anywhere if I lived in an apartment building - wouldn't you?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Knotted Silk Earrings

Naturally, I had to make matching earrings for yesterday's red and black knotted silk lampwork necklace.

I used my magic coffee stirrer again to make sure the silk cord between the 2 jet bicones at the top of each earring was the same length. I like this alternative to headpins, because the earrings have so much more mobility. I may just have to make more earrings like this!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Knotted Silk Necklace

Knotting - how do you feel about it? I know it has a place, protecting pearls and other fragile beads from damage, for instance, and I know how to do it, but I just don't care for it. But I've done it quite a few times; here is one necklace I knotted:

The cutest ever red barrel-shaped lampwork beads - I picked these up at a show, and I sure wish I had more of them, in more colors! I love them!

I paired them with jet Swarovski bicones, Bali-style sterling silver daisy spacers, and black silk.

This is a very quick and easy necklace style to make! Know the secret to ensuring all the segments between the beads are the same length? Coffee stirrers! The ones that look like skinny drinking straws: just cut one to the segment length you desire, and slide it on the silk, tie your knot right above the straw opening, then remove the straw, put your beads on, tie the next knot, and put your straw on again before tying the next knot. Repeat until you have your desired length. Voila!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Want to win an Inspiring Book?

There's a new blog in town, and they are giving away Irina's Inspirations for Jewelry - a fantastic looking book that I hope to win, so please don't enter their giveaway!

But do hop on over to Art Jewelry Elements, and check them out! You'll find some interesting goings on over there!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Silver Lining

I am still smarting from my discouraging day at the torch on Sunday, both literally (my burned finger!) and figuratively, as the whole business with the peeling enamel is really getting to me.

I have talked with Barbara Lewis, the queen of Torch Fired Enamel, and she has explained that the likely culprit is the beads themselves, and in particular, zinc solder.

I was so fond of these beads - their shape, and their wonderful textural design. But if you look closely, you can see that these are seamed beads, and Barbara tells me that zinc solder is used to solder the 2 halves of the beads together, and ALSO to attach all the little bumpy designs. And when the torch hits the bead, the zinc solder flows over the entire bead, and the zinc is incompatible with the enamel. Hence, the peeling.

According to Barbara, even beads that are sold as 100% copper, if seamed, may be soldered with zinc solder, and will not work for torch firing enamel. And there is no industry requirement for this zinc to be disclosed, so it's OK to call them 100% whatever. Sigh... seems like all components should be disclosed, right?

And as far as my peeling copper washers, Barbara tells me that the box may say copper, but there is actually huge variability in the metals that make up washers, so some incompatible metals are probably lurking in them, too. Sigh....

And my copper pendants? Probably just not heated hot enough to grab the enamel. It's tricky, when the entire piece won't fit in the flame all at once. And these were pretty small pendants, too - so I need to be extra careful, since I love making the big statement pendants!

But here's the silver lining:

Remember my headpins and twisty tendrils, last seen buried in vermiculite in the cooling crock pot?

They turned out OK. Not great, but OK (so maybe it's a bronze lining, not a silver one?)

Twisty tendrils (not twisted yet - but nice and soft from the heat of the torch, and ready for twisting whenever I am!):
Detail of twisty tendrils:

I pickled them, removing all the firescale. I have some really nice colors here! Even the flame orange did well, and it is typically a very "shocky" color, tending to shatter from thermal shock as the temperature changes rapidly in and out of the torch.

Closer examination reveals scattered flakes of blue enamel when I move the headpins and tendrils, so at least one of the cobalt blue ones is peeling. And a few of the foxglove (purple) ones got vermiculite stuck in them, so apparently I need to flame anneal those a little longer before sticking them in the vermiculite. Also, there is a lot of nice patina on the unenameled copper, but I really didn't want any patina, just shiny copper! But that's OK. And I had a hard time controlling my enamel immersion on the twisty tendrils, especially when one leg of the tendril was longer than the other: I have enamel going further up the tendril's legs than I intended; I wanted it just on the balled ends. Oh, well, something to work on next time.

Biggest problem? Getting a nice sized ball to form on the ends of the wire - really need to work on this!

And here's hoping I can find a good source for compatible beads!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Worktable

Ah ... the day-to-day fun of owning a bead shop.

My plan was to continue fringing my Zombie Iolite Fringe necklace today - it is all laid out on my workbench, waiting for me... but the FedEx guy met me at the door this morning, carrying a 60 lb box of beads, which I will spend most of today inspecting, inventorying, and pricing. Then I have to find a place to display them!Yikes!

I may not get to do any beading today.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Torch Firing Enamel, or Oops, I Did it Again

On Sunday I got together with Kris and Sonya, the friends who road-tripped to St. Petersburg with me to attend Barbara Lewis' Torch Fired Enamel Workshop.

This is my first torch set up on Sunday:
This is the classroom area of the bead shop, and that is my pal Stumpy over in the far right corner - Stumpy comes in handy for all the hammering we do in Cold Connections.

This was a nice set up, and would have worked well, except Sonya didn't have one of those nice pinch clamps that I used to attach my torch to the table, and her C-clamp wouldn't fit over the large lip of the table. So we packed up everything and relocated to the front of the shop:
You can see we have our vermiculite crock pots, and our Barbara Bibles, and we are finally ready to fire! I sure wish I had enough room to leave everything set up; the setting up process is time-consuming!

Bailey settles in, again, next to my second torching set-up. He is a patient boy, and looks very interested in the whole enamel immersion process!

If you look on the near corner of my silver, heat-resistant work surface, you can see 3 strands of Metal Beads in the little silver tray. These are some test beads I purchased at Hobby Lobby, and you know how I know they are metal? Says so, right on the package!
Unfortunately, the manufacturer doesn't see the need for any further disclosure of vital information about these beads. Too bad, as we shall see.

For 1 of the 3 test strands of Metal Beads I purchased at Hobby Lobby, introducing the beads to the flame resulted in a beautiful, yet ominous, flame out:
Impressive, right? This bead withstood the flame well, but never, ever stopped flaming! I kept pulling the bead out of the flame, inspecting it, finding no damage, and putting it back in the flame. After several long minutes, the design on the bead eventually started to disappear on the side closest to the flame, and when I looked at the bead closely, the shape had deformed ever so slightly. And then the bead started to put out really noxious black smoke, and the experiment was over!

I moved on the the next test strand, some cute little 1 cm cube beads. These immediately started to melt in the flame. Here are the 2 TFBs (Total Failure Beads):

The larger round bead on the left is the one that flamed out, and the 2nd pic shows the side of it that was closest to the flame, where the design has started to fade.

So I moved on to the next strand, some really pretty beads I call "squash beads" because they remind me a little of summer squash. They have a cool textural pattern, and didn't melt, or flame out, and so I was finally ready to enamel!

I enameled the heck out of this strand of beads - trying different colors, including cobalt, peacock (my favorite!), jungle green, buttercup + sunset orange, white + egg yellow, foxglove (which will always be "digitalis" to me), and some I've already forgotten. I heated the beads, immersed the beads, fused the enamel, dropped the beads into the vermiculite, and just kept going. A torching machine!

I also did some bead caps, and a few copper beads I had lying around the shop.

Then we all decided to move on to making enameled head pins and twisty tendrils. We quickly re-read the proper procedure, and started cutting wire, drawing beads, and immersing. I made as many of these as I could before I ran out of wire, and my crock pot full of vermiculite was getting pretty full, anyway, so time to move on to the next project!

my enameled headpins and twisty tendrils in the vermiculite crock pot

I had prepped some copper blanks and copper washers on Saturday, and I started heating these and applying enamel. The washers were thicker than the materials I was used to heating, and they took a little longer to bring to a glowing red state. The pendants were slightly larger than beads I had been enameling, but no larger than the pendant I made in Barbara's workshop in March. I had to struggle to get the pendants to heat evenly, but I finally did. Then I decided I wanted to apply millefiore and cat whiskers to my pendants, and I learned just how tough this is! I was holding the mandrel with the attached pendant in my non-dominant hand, applying my glass embellishments with my dominant hand, and everything was shaking and trembling and falling off the pendant. At some point, I reached over to try and steady the whole thing, and stuck my right hand right into the flame. That was stupid.

Time was running short, so we started packing up and tearing down. I left all my beads and pendants buried in the vermiculite, and all my headpins and twisty tendrils buried in their vermiculite in the crock pot, and went home.

So to recap - lots of beads, etc., cooling in vermiculite, sight unseen.

Casualties on Sunday?

Bead-shaped burn in the carpet, courtesy of a flying, flame-hot bead:

Bead-shaped burns on the oak table, courtesy of a rolling flame-hot bead:

Flame-shaped burn on my index finger (same finger I burned doing this last month!):

I knew this burn was a doozy almost the minute it happened, both because of the intense burning pain (duh) AND because of its location. Since it is right over my knuckle, I knew it would suffer from the repetitive bending at that joint.

The picture above was taken yesterday morning - just 12 hours after the "incident." The blister has formed, and is pretty tense.

Sure enough, by mid-afternoon yesterday the blister had already burst from ordinary use of the finger:

You can see a very small opening in the blister right at the joint.

By this morning, this is how this burn looks:

Nice, huh? It really needs to be debrided some, but it was hard enough taking pictures of my own right index finger (I am right-handed), holding my cumbersome camera upside down in my left hand, trying to press the shutter! I don't think I can manage to debride this burn by myself.

But forget about the burn! I woke up all excited about seeing my treasure haul from Sunday!

These are my headpins and twisty tendrils - they still need to be pickled to remove the fire scale:

Nice color, and one headpin at the lower left corner has vermiculite stuck to it. I haven't tested them to see if the drawn beads are secure, and if the color is secure.

Then came the disappointment:
These are my squash beads - the enamel is coming off ALL of them. The 2 beads at the lower left are what these beads looked like before enameling.

Here is a close-up of the cobalt squash beads:

Here are my bead caps and 2 small copper beads:

Again, the enamel is coming off all of them except for one seafoam beadcap.

Here is a very small copper bead:
The color is adhering, but it is splotchy. I don't know if another coat is the answer or not.

Peacock washers:

This is the second attempt on these same 2 washers. Sonya and I caught on to the fact that the enamel popped right off our washers, and I pulled mine out of the vermiculite and redid them.

Here is my foxglove pendant:

And here are the other 3 pendants I did:

The fronts of these look OK, but enamel is peeling off their backs just like the sunburns I used to get growing up.
So, to say I am discourage right now is an understatement. But I am ready to try again, although I need to do some research and see what's going on, and beads are too expensive to keep ruining!

I read the troubleshooting info in Barbara's book, and I didn't drop any of these on the floor, so that isn't it. Maybe the beads are incompatible with the enamel - but that doesn't explain the situation with the washers and the copper blanks. The only thing I can figure out is that the beads, washers, and blanks weren't uniformly hot enough, but I was doing the same thing I did at the Florida workshop, where I never had this result. Weird.

Also need to check Barbara's website and see if she carries asbestos gloves.

Monday, April 16, 2012

And the Winner is....

My first blog giveaway has come to a close, and the random number generator has chosen the winner!
And the winner of these Vintaj Natural Brass and Swarovski earrings is..... Ann!
Ann - please contact me here or on Etsy and let me know how to get these earrings on their way to you!

UPDATE 4/26/12: I have been unable to contact Ann, so the random number generator chose a new winner this morning.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mysterious color-changing beads

Yesterday, I told you about a new, square stitch pattern I had worked with. I actually made 2 bracelets with this pattern; one purple, and one olive green, but the big difference between the two was the size of the Delica I used to stitch the design.

But the wider bracelet, the one made from size 8 Delicas (DBLs) didn't start out to be green, at all.

These are the DBLs I chose for this particular bracelet:
There are actually 2 different colors mixed together here - the solid black arrows near the bottom of the picture are pointing to the DBLs that I call "raku". The vendor calls this color "matte metallic blue iris" - and that hits 3 of my personal seed bead buttons: I am a sucker for metallics, for mattes, and for ANY color with "iris" in its name! So I couldn't wait to work with these beads! Look at the pretty blues, mauves, roses, greens, and bronze in these beads! Delicious! And, some of my favorite colors to work with, of course... 
The open arrow in the pic above points to the second tube of beads I added to this mix - a matte blue DBL that matches the blue in the "raku" DBLs perfectly. Right?

Until I started stitching, that is:

I mixed the beads together in one big pile, and started pulling them randomly as I stitched. By about the 3rd row, I noticed that all the "raku" DBLS were turning green or brown, but I kept stitching, thinking that I just needed to work up more of them, and their gorgeous raku-ness would blossom. After I had about an inch stitched, I convinced myself that something was wrong with the beads, like maybe they were mislabeled - I don't know what I was thinking. But I ripped out my stitching, sorted the two colors (Fun!) and put the raku ones back in their tube, and grabbed another tube of the same color. And started again.

Same result.

This really had me stumped. You can see the solid blue matte DBLs easily - amid all those olive green and coppery brown beads! Where did all the blue and the burgundy go? What was I doing wrong?

So I took the bracelet apart again, sorted the beads, again, and started over - for the last time.

I finished the bracelet, and had to change the size 11 seed bead I had chosen for the picot (my original choice was a vivid metallic burgundy seed bead that really highlighted the burgundies and roses in the pile of raku seed beads), and I chose an olive green 11 for the edging.

And I probably should have pulled out all those matte blue DBLs, and just gone with the greeny coppery brown ones ("matte metallic BLUE iris", remember) - but I didn't. This color combo is fine, but I just think I would like all the brown-green beads by themselves, better. Maybe next time!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Tale of Two Delicas

These bracelets were made from the same pattern, and are both 8 beads wide - but look at the difference!

The top bracelet was made with size 8 Delicas (DBLs), and the bottom one with size 11 Delicas. Huge difference, right?

The stitch is square stitch, which gives nice, even coverage, much like peyote. And like peyote, it is time-consuming, in fact, I find it takes even longer to cover the same amount of space doing square stitch, and uses a whole lot more FireLine, because you are going through each new bead, as well as a bead from the previous row, more than once to create each stitch. But this certainly gives a very stable, locked-in stitch (as I found out when I had to take apart the greenish bracelet several times during its construction, but more about that tomorrow!)

I like this zigzag pattern a lot, and as much as I like big jewelry, I actually like the thinner, purple bracelet better - I don't know why! How about you - which do you like better?