Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Beaded Kumihimo Rope with Fossil Turritella Agate Pendant

I taught a kumihimo class last Saturday, and even though I didn't want to start anymore new projects (gotta finish some of the ones I have going already!) - it is much easier to teach the class if I am actually creating a piece of my own, that I can use for demonstration.

Here is the piece I made - I chose this piece because I had the stunningly beautiful fossil turritella agate bead, just sitting there, and if no one else was going to appreciate it, I sure as heck was! This stone (comprised of agatized fossil turritellas, or sea-snails), is so gorgeous that I felt a simple beaded kumihimo rope would be perfect for it:

I decided to hang the stone from a front closure (of Vintaj Natural Brass) simply because I needed a little bit of variety from typical necklaces with a front pendant/rear closure.

I enameled a couple of cones to cap the beaded rope.

Here is a close up of this beautiful fossil gemstone:

I used size 8 seed beads for the braid, in gold-fumed gray and opaque sand:

It's available in my Etsy shop!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Freeform Peyote Collar/Neckpiece

I finished this necklace, finally, at 5:54 PM on Thursday (2 days ago)  - but didn't get a chance to take photos until just now.

Here's a photo of the neckpiece on Bessie Mae, my faithful sidekick mannequin:
I am so incredibly proud of this piece - I just hate that the gorgeous green sections in the back don't show. For that matter, the clasp is so pretty, I wish it was visible, too!

I went through a 3-week or so long period where I wasn't that thrilled with the piece - back before it was connected together, and before the embellishing.

Reminder of how it looked un-embellished:
This is actually the back of the finished necklace, and if you look real hard you'll see a few stray threads showing, because the beads just got so full during the stitching process that they wouldn't accommodate even one more thread pass during the embellishing - but it's the back, and after I cheated that first time and let the Fireline cross over a bead instead of passing through it, it got easier to do it a few more times. It won't show!

The sea of peyote just looks so plain - but I absolutely love the finished, embellished result:

During the embellishing process, I was able to add all the lovely gemstone, pearl, and glass accent beads that I had initially intended to work into the piece as I stitched, but it was too much trouble! I used embroidery techniques to create this deeply textural embellishment, which I envisioned as a series of twisting, turning, vine tendrils, snaking their way across the landscape of the piece.

Some close-ups of the embellished necklace:

 Here is the clasp:

And the clasp on the mannequin:

The necklace is comfortable and fun to wear, and I am pondering what to do with it. I have no where to wear it, and may put it in my Etsy shop. Maybe. Not sure I could actually part with it!

More about the creation of this piece - which was designed and created for my first Head-to-Head Challenge.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pomander No More

When last we talked about my DIY pomanders, (the pomander debacle, as I call it), it was a week before Christmas, and 3 of my original 10 oranges had escaped the green mold scourge, but weren't dehydrated yet:

I truly didn't hold out much hope for their survival, but placed them back in their spice-containing bags, and returned them to the closet.

On New Year's Day, 2 of these remaining 3 had contracted the mold, and were laid to rest. One remained, steadfastly, in its bag in the closet.

On Saturday (Jan 19), I pulled out the bag to check it, and noticed that the bag weighed next to nothing. This was new - and I figured the orange was now dehydrated, and maybe I had a pomander!

But, alas, this is what I discovered inside the bag:

This moldy yellow area was facing away from me in the bag - so at first I was really excited. But when I pulled it out and got ready to brush off the cinnamon/nutmeg/orris root mix that is coating it, I found the mold. Not the greed mold from the other 9, but a really nasty, sticky, shiny, yellow slime. Yuck.

Remember, this is what I was supposed to end up with:

To be honest, I think the above pic is not really a pomander, but an orange right after the cloves were inserted, because that orange is just too plump to be dehydrated!

Underneath all the spice mix on my 10th orange, the orange is shrunken and wrinkled. I am not going to waste time cleaning off the spices, since the whole project is a disaster. But, my moldy orange really smells nice!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Head-to-Head Challenge Reveal!

I have been stitching, and stitching .... and I'm still not finished. But here is my head-to-head challenge piece as of 30 minutes ago:

It's hard to tell from this photo, but the piece isn't fully embellished yet; I'm going to run through a chronology of the creation of this necklace, so if you want the gory details, keep reading!

It all started on October 14, when my friend Sonya and I were sitting around, trying to think of something new to tackle. We thought freeform would be interesting, and we added a slight "twist" by deciding that the finished piece should include this ceramic bead:

I got off to a LOT of false starts.

Picking colors and beads was the easy part (for a change). For each color, I chose delicas, 11/0s rounds, 15/0 rounds, 8/0 rounds, 6/0 rounds, 4mm cubes, 11/0 triangles, Czech firepolish beads, and more.

This is the template I drew up for my neckpiece - showing the size, shape, and color placement I envisioned, as well as the center placement for my orange ceramic triangle bead:
Paper template
Template detail

Everything I have ever read about freeform recommends putting your chosen seed beads into a bead soup, so that you truly choose them randomly for the design. I actually balked at this for 3 days, because I don't like my beads all mixed together! But I finally did it, and then laid out my beads in the way I saw them going into the design:

But then the trouble started.  I have made several freeform peyote bracelets, but never a necklace. When I make freeform peyote bracelets, I start stitching at one end of the bracelet, and finish at the other end; meaning, my stitching goes back and forth across the width of the bracelet, not the length (I hope that makes sense).

Everything I had read about freeform peyote tells you to stitch the other way - across the length of the design, adding width as you go. So, even though my brain was screaming that this would never work, I decided to try it this way, and strung up all the beads I thought I would need for the base row around the neckline. Laying all the beads out in piles like this on the template was to help me know when to pick up a new color - since the template was actual size, I could see that I would pick up about an inch of orange, and inch and a half of blue, etc. These beady piles would keep my stitching on track, and my colors in the right place. Allegedly.

I could get a few rows stitched, but just could NOT figure out how to increase the length of the work symmetrically so that it would grow from 17 inches long (the inside length) to 24 inches long (the outside length). So after several days of trying (and many yards of Fireline wasted) I finally decided to do it MY way. (the pic above actually shows one of my attempts to stitch across the length of the necklace)

So, now that I would be stitching along the width of the piece, color by color, I could put away all the beads except for the color I was stitching. Whew! I can't tell you how many times I bumped this set-up, sending all the beads spreading out into other sections, requiring much wasted time, re-sorting the seed beads. Plus, it was horribly time consuming to pick up and take home with me, or to try to work around if I had to stop working on this to do something else. I dumped each pile into its own little bowl, and breathed a sigh of relief!

Then I discovered that I just canNOT stitch from bead soup - I absolutely needed to know whether I was picking up a delica, a 6/0, or whatever - it makes a huge difference! Certain spaces will allow for one size bead, whereas other spaces need another size or shape. So I had to sort all my bead soups before I could stitch. For some of the colors, I had chosen 5 or 6 different colors of delicas, and these I didn't sort further: it was the size and shape of the bead that mattered, not the color. But when I'm finally done, I can't wait to sort them ALL and get them back in their rightful containers. Bead soup bugs me!

Finally, by November 10, I had the ends stitched. (I had spent many sleepless hours pondering the design and creation of this neckpiece, and realized that if I wanted symmetry, it made the most sense to stitch the piece, simultaneously, in 2 halves, and then join them in the middle.) Here is my progress on November 10:

As I said earlier, I had chosen a lot of beads for this necklace, and my plan was to incorporate the bigger "focal" beads into my work as I stitched. But after working these 2 gorgeous copper-colored freshwater coin pearls into my ends, which required much tedious increasing and decreasing, I abandoned that plan, deciding that I would just go back and embellish the whole necklace when I finished the peyote. Y'all know how I love to embellish! I wanted to abandon the plan after I added the FIRST copper pearl, because it was such a pain in the ass to add, but I wanted my 2 sides to match!

November 14:
The pieces have grown from 3/4" wide, to about 1-1/4" wide. They don't quite match, but close enough. They desperately want to increase, and just get wider and wider, so I have to keep reining this in by doing some compensatory decreasing.

The photo above is the one that I photoshopped for my November 14 blog post:

November 16:
I used my paper template constantly, making sure the pieces I was stitching stayed on track. The blue section on the right (above) got a little off track - I decreased a little bit too much, so it is slightly narrower than the template. But I decided to live with it (I desperately wanted to rip out the stitches and correct it!)

November 20:
The blue sections are done, and I'm moving on to the purple. The sections are taking a little longer to stitch - they are wider, and longer, but I still think I'm making good progress.

December 7:
3 weeks have passed. It is taking way longer to stitch these pieces - one row is taking almost 30 minutes! Crazy! The outer edges of the neckpiece are now so much longer than the inner, that I have to add many beads (increase) as I stitch towards the edges. I developed what I call an "island swirl" technique to add these sections of increase, and sometimes these little islands of peyote that I add take the stitching a little beyond the edge of the template. But a little bit over the edge I can tolerate. Unfortunately, the pic above shows a swirl that just got too far beyond the edge for me (blue arrow), so I slept on it, and decided to take out this section. Spent 2 days undoing it. Oops. Setback.

At this point, I took a break from working on the neckpiece body to attach the clasp, because the clasp plays such a role in determining the final length and fit of a piece. I had allotted about 1.5" for the clasp when I drew the template, with no thought to what clasp I would ultimately use. I found a Swarovski Cosmic Square that matched perfectly, and used square stitch to attach it to one end, and stitched a peyote toggle bar for the other side:

December 14:
The purple section on the right is finished, and I'm working on the left-sided (as you look at the pic) purple.

December 19:

The purple sections are done, and I'm transitioning into the orange. This pic above actually shows some of  my island swirls for increasing; here is a close-up:
I lay the stitching on the template, and note where the outer edges need to be wider than the inner edge. Then I string enough beads to outline this area that needs to be increased, and bring that strung loop of beads around to the piece and attach it. I just start filling in the inside of the loop until it's full. Then I weave the thread out to the leading edge of the piece again, and resume regular peyote.

It's taking so long to stitch each section now (the edges are now about 4 inches wide) that I'm starting to despair about the deadline. I decide the project must come home with me on the weekends (especially since the next 2 weekends are long holiday weekends!)

December 29:
I have been stitching everyday (!) and have just now finished the transition zones between the purple and orange. Now I'm scared about finishing by January 14.

Here is where the beads will go:
Here is what I'm thinking: The orange section is actually smaller than either of the purples, and there's only one of them. Plus, the donut and the triangle take up a lot of space - so less peyote! Well dang, I'm almost done. I'm thinking.

But see where the inner purple/orange edges of the neckpiece (above pic) have deviated off the template, and into the area occupied by, oh, say.... a human neck? That's gonna be a problem! (When I finally notice it - I didn't notice it for the first few days of stitching on the orange section)

I started stitching the orange section, and after I had stitched about 1/2 inch onto each side, I "tried it on", thinking I was ready to start connecting the beads. But for some reason (e.g. those edges I mentioned in the last paragraph), I still have a lot of stitching to do before I can even think about attaching the focal beads.

January 8 (6 stitching days until the reveal!):

Sonya came by to visit, and I hid my work from her, but held up the ceramic triangle, to show her I hadn't even worked it into my piece yet (!) - I'm pretty sure she was horrified. As was I. This was beginning to look like it would never be finished!
Late that afternoon, the edges were finally close enough to attach the sponge coral donut! Tomorrow, the triangle! {this pic show the challenges of increasing in this piece - note how the purple/orange transition section is only 3/8 of an inch wide along the inner edge, but 3 inches wide at the outer edge - huge difference! All that difference was created with my "island swirl" increases.}

Can you tell how much wider the front orange section is, from what was allotted for it on the original template? - Yikes!

January 9:
The triangle is hanging by a thread (or two) - but it's attached!

Increasing around the triangle:
I wanted to create a peyote "frame" around the triangle - the beads would follow the shape of the triangle bead, but not touch it. Nailed it!

January 10:
Wow! I finally completed the "base" stitching - the front is way wider than I planned, but that's OK. Tomorrow: embellishing.

I guess I should know by now, everything takes longer than I plan on.

I started the embellishing on January 11. I couldn't start working on the embellishing until mid-afternoon, because Sonya spent the morning with me at the bead shop. Had to keep my project under wraps, don't you know.

Stitched for 4 hours that afternoon, all day Saturday, all day yesterday, and 2 hours this morning. By last night, I had accepted that I wouldn't be done by today's reveal, because I stitched for 10 full hours yesterday, and only got ONE purple section embellished. Ridiculous! And I still have the whole orange section plus the other purple one to go!

So, I'm almost done - probably 3 more days of finish work to go. I'll show the finished necklace when it is.... finished.

The embellishment is fun, but tedious. Partly because of deciding where each embellishment will go (requires thinking and planning!), and largely because the dang thread gets caught on every single piece of this neckpiece that it could possibly get snagged on, and I spent many, many minutes untangling it.

The embellishment is adding some beautiful texture, interest, and sparkle to the peyote "plainness" that I see when I looked at the piece on  January 10. It's a little hard to see the actual embellishment in the pics (it just blends into the piece perfectly), but if you compare before and afters, there's no question that there has been a change.

Embellished side:

In the pic below, the blue section is embellished, but not the purple:

Unembellished front section:

On a mannequin:
You can see the embellished purple section on the left, and the plain one on the right.

And here is the neckpiece, flat, again:
Wow - that was a long post. Back to stitching now!

Thanks for reading along! Now head on over to Sonya's blog to see what she's done with her orange ceramic triangle!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Well, this is horrifying

And yet it made me laugh. Out loud.

I monitor the stats for this blog - watching for search terms that bring people here, primarily. Referral sources, too. And I have seen some really bizarre Google searches bring people here over the years - I wish I had kept a list!

This morning, when I checked my stats, I saw that someone had landed on my blog (this post, in particular) after searching Google using this phrase: "table set up for Baptism". I instantly knew they had been sent to my post on my trip to Florida learn Torch Firing (enamel), because Baptism is not a term I have a lot of call to use on this blog! And that trip was literally a Baptism by Fire, since I came home with a second degree burn as a souvenir (and some enameled beads, too).

So I decided, just for fun, to see what else came up during a Google Image search for "table set up for Baptism". Imagine my surprise to see that the photo I took of the class set-up for the Torch Firing, with the huge white tables, and all the propane torches, was the number one hit. All those pink and white and frilly, balloon-festooned, cupcake-covered party tables, and then mine, with all the propane torches and mandrels (skewers?) No wonder people click it - they must wonder what kind of horrible Baptism rituals we are doing on that sacrificial altar!

I researched the phrase just now, trying to nab the link for this post, and the photos have shuffled around again, and mine isn't number one anymore. :(

You guys need to click the link and then click my photo, and bring me back to number one! Leave a comment on that post - that raises my ranking even higher! I want to be the number one Baptism table again!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! and reflections on last year

I am not the New Year's Resolution type. I don't believe putting things off (going on a diet? Start today - don't wait until the weekend's over, or the Holidays are over - quit procrastinating!) I don't believe in saving things up for one particular day of the year, and then putting a bunch of promises out there - if you have goals, go for it! No time like the present!

I have found that for me, making a promise to yourself (which is basically what a resolution is) can be fraught with peril, figuratively speaking - because I tend toward obsessive thinking, and I feel like I've let myself down (failure!) if I don't follow through and keep my promises. And sometimes a simple promise starts out looking like one thing, and then takes on a life of its own...

So, it's a brand new year, but I don't celebrate by making a shiny new list of resolutions.

That said, I DID resolve last year to be a better blogger. And I have been - at least as far as sheer volume of posts. I blogged everyday last year, and sometimes twice a day. Now, as far as content? Only my readers can decide whether I succeeded at being a better blogger in that respect.

Reflections on a year of daily blogging:

Blogging everyday definitely made me more productive. I wanted to have something useful to say everyday, and since this is a blog about jewelry design, that meant getting busy and producing some designs! I made a lot more things this year than any year before.

Another way daily blogging made me more productive was that I found myself setting goals, and putting them out into the universe - so I felt like I really needed to follow through - which was great, as I followed through on lots of things I might have otherwise let lapse.

But this goal setting also let to one of my disappointments: one goal I set for myself, and really wanted to achieve, was to revive at least one of my Zombie projects every week. I have been piling up unfinished projects for years, and I need to either finish them, or take them apart and recycle the ingredients into new projects. I thought it would be smart to tackle the "biggest" Zombie first - the one I dreaded most, and knew would take the most time -but I never dreamed it would take over 3 months to finish! I love the result, but didn't love the process! And it took the wind out of my Zombie sails - I just didn't want to tackle another one!

Zombie No More: The Iolite Fringe Necklace

Part of that came from sheer fatigue. But part of it came from the realization that every project I do seems to take way longer than I anticipated, and I felt a bit hopeless when I looked at the remaining boxes of unfinished projects! It was pretty easy to forget about them, shoved in their dark cabinet, where they still remain today. And, let's be honest: part of not wanting to tackle another zombie came from the huge volume of bright & shiny NEW projects that distract me everyday!

So, I need to accept that I CANNOT DO IT ALL. (Boy, wouldn't THAT make a great resolution? If I was the resolving type, that is...)

But, I want ALL THE BEADS. I want to make EVERYTHING! I want to beadweave, and do chainmaille, and metalsmithing, and enamel, and so on. I want to do it all! But I need more time!! And lots more money...

Another benefit of daily blogging? I love having this online "diary", where I can go back and look at everything I've accomplished and been through (I lost my precious Gumball this year). I also learned some new things - I traveled to Florida and learned how to torch fire enamel, and I took a webinar on the Picasso glass fusing technique (and also learned how to etch glass, which was really cool!) I taught myself wet felting! I taught myself to Zentangle!

My little Gumball

I met some really nice people through blogging - I have some of the nicest commenters and bloggy friends! And I have even gotten to meet some of them in person!

But here's the thing: somewhere along the way, my goal to"be a better blogger" morphed into "you must blog everyday." Unfortunately, my brain can be very obsessive with little details like this. So despite all the benefits, a year of daily blogging  made me resent blogging daily. It never got easier to blog, but it sometimes felt like a chore. There were days I just didn't feel like blogging, and days where I was racking my brain to think of a single thing to say. Along about, say, September, I just wanted to skip a day - but I kept saying "you're so close..." (obsessing about the daily thing).  By December, I wanted nothing more than to Just. Stop. Blogging. But there was no way I was going to bail - the year was almost up (obsessive, much?)! But I had gone on record with my blogging goal, and was committed to meeting my goal!

Thing is, I don't want to be a blogger who designs jewelry. I want to be a jewelry designer who blogs!

So here's the deal - I'm letting myself off the hook.

I am not going to blog daily.

I will blog when I have something interesting to say, or something new and shiny to share.

I AM going to try to tackle the zombies again - but no promises - I may do one, I may do ten, I may do more - but no pressure. This is supposed to be fun!! If it stops being fun, you're doing something wrong!

And I want to keep learning new things.

How about you? Are you the resolution-type? What's on your agenda for 2013?